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2010 Book Reviews

April 4, 2010

Apparently, my book numbering system went awry somewhere.  My notes indicate that An Echo in the Bone is #1, and the second Frankenstein book is #3.  I think I may have missed a book.  S’what I get for putting it off.  Whatev.  Let’s just pretend Frankenstein in #1, m’kay?

2. An Echo in the Bone (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon

One  of our grad students spotted me reading this and commented that she  didn’t like that last two books.  After a bit of talking to her, I think  I understood why.  There’s not as much sex in the later books in the  series.  Which is a negative, as far as romance novels go.  But these  aren’t romance novels.  Not really.  When I worked in the used  bookstore, we used to call these “incidental romances.”  Sure, there was  a romance in there.  And usually, some sex.  But they were just minor  notes in an otherwise complex plot.  As the Outlander series progressed,  the “romance” aspects of Gabaldon’s books got more and more  incidental.  Sure there’s a few steamy scenes, but to be honest, the  tonsillectomy was described in far more loving detail than any of the  sex scenes.  Since said tonsillectomy was being performed on an 8 year  old in 1779, I really appreciated the detail which indicated the degree  of research Gabaldon put in.  There were a few times where the plot  consistency skips (a character will talk about something with someone,  and then during a convenient plot moment, completely forget that they  already knew about the subject at hand), but for the most part it’s  fairly impressive how Gabaldon manages to keep all the twisting threads  of plot together.

This is a series I’ve recommended to a lot of  women, and rarely had them respond negatively to it.  Usually, they  complain that it’s too long, or too complicated, which I don’t see as  being negatives.

3-5 Deadly Décisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, by Kathy Reichs

The TV series “Bones” is based on the novels of Kathy Reichs.  But make no mistake, this is not your made for TV Bones.  She’s older, with an ex-husband, a college age daughter, and struggles with alcoholism.  Reichs has stated in interviews that the Temperance of the TV show is a much younger Bones.  Reading these books reminds me that I really should stop reading authors I like back to back.  Having the plots of each novel close enough to remember really brings out the flaws in an author’s style.  Kathy Reichs, for instance, bends over backwards to bring Detective Ryan into the picture.  In Grave Secrets, she bent the story so far that I actually said “Really?  Really?” out loud.  Fortunately, I was walking and reading at the time, so most of the people who heard me probably thought I was weird enough already.  That said, the books are really, really good.  The science is interesting and explained both in scientific terms and in terms which can be understood by the layman (usually Detective Ryan).  She even has the science occasionally mislead the investigation, going against the CSI tendency of having science always provide the exact evidence needed to solve the case.

6. Makers by Cory Doctorow

Makers is one of Cory Doctorow’s spins into a technological dystopias.  It is set in an all too plausible near future where technology has become so disposable that advanced electronics are literally piling up in trash heaps around the country.  And our two heroes are diving in, creating new and wonderful things out of the trash.  They are accompanied by an intrepid reporter turned full time blogger, who is telling their story to the world.  Makers is much like your typical Doctorow novel in that it sometimes spins off into some seriously weird and wacky whatifs.  And those whatifs are occasionally hard to follow.  You may come away in the end wondering what the point of the whole thing is.  And in the case of makers, that sort of is the point.  It’s just life.  It’s two crazy guys, coming up with wild and wonderful things, and sharing them with the world.  Rather like Doctorow does, actually.

There is really one off putting part of this book, though.  Smack in the middle of the book, there is a surprisingly long and explicit sex scene.  There were no sexual interactions prior to that, and most of the other sexual interactions after that were described in terms of the two characters leaving or entering a room together, so it felt pretty out of place.

7.  Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Like Makers, I downloaded Little Brother via my Android Word Player ap, which has a Creative Commons library.  I think I need to go out and actually buy a copy of this book, though, because it is amazing.  The future in which this book is set is not only plausible, but frighteningly so.  I now understand why many people in the Bush years found this book so compelling.  Some of the actions committed by the government in this book echoed just a little too loudly with some of the things that our government actually did.  Oh, sure, they did it to foreign guys, terrorists, Not Us.  But they did them, all the same.  The methods used by the kids to try and circumvent the government were interesting to read about, and much like the Kathy Reichs science, were described in a way that was easy to understand by techies and norms alike.

A1. Bone Harvest by Mary Logue

This was actually a very good  story, despite the constant irritation of “Girl Cop, OMG” moments.  I  felt that the amount was a little excessive for a story set in 2002,  even if it was in a small town in Wisconsin.  This is definitely a  “soft” mystery.  Despite the terrible 1952 murder that serves as the  driving force behind the attacks happening in 2002, there’s really not a  whole lot of grit to the story.  The characters were mostly  interesting, the mystery wasn’t too complex, and the author does a very  good job of painting the scene for the reader.  There are a lot of  characters, though, and the author jumps from scene to scene, which  sometimes left me wondering which murder suspect she was talking about  at the time.  I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any other books in this  series, but I probably won’t hunt them down, either.

A2.  The Society by Michael Palmer

This book also suffered from “OMG Girl Cop!”  Two books in a row on the subject, and you’ll understand why I switched the another genre in my audio books.  The story in this one was just convoluted enough to keep the reader (or in my case, the listener) guessing, but eventually, it really only came down to one possible suspect, and I felt that the main male protagonist was particularly blind for not realizing it.  The author even has him spend a good bit of time suspecting the other person in a similar position of trust, and just blindly ignore that all of the signs which point to Person of Interest A also point to Person of Interest B.  Also, while I generally like Michael Palmer’s work, he really needs to work on his female characters.

A3.  Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

If you’ve never read any of Christopher Moore’s work, you’re missing out.  He’s a really greater author who writes about the lives of perfectly ordinary people caught up in absurdly supernatural situations.  Island of the Sequined Love Nun is no exception.  The main male character may be a shlub, an alcoholic, and a womanizer, but he’s our hero, damnit, and he’s the only one we’ve got.  The misadventures of Our Hero, his trusty sidekick, and his trusty sidekick’s talking pet bat are entertaining, poignant, and above all hilarious.

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