I'm officially back on track for my goal of reading 52 books this year! My nightstand this month has hosted a wide variety of genres, from Irish detective mysteries to graphic novels to science fiction, it's been a full month. Here's a quick overview.
I was really, really conflicted about this book. Although I read it very quickly, it took me a considerable amount of time to decide if I thought it was a 2-star book or a 4-star book. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for now and going with a 3-star rating, simply because it did hold my attention and keep me interested. The problem with this book isn't necessarily that it's trying too hard -- Lord knows how many authors do -- but that one feels the author is constantly winking at the reader, trying to remind the reader of how clever he is. And I'm just not convinced that it worked.
I realize that my review really doesn't tell you anything at all about the book itself, so here's the long and the short: Cloud Atlas is a collection of six stories that take place over a span of 3 centuries interwoven together in a way that shows how the main character of one story affects the protagonist of the next. Like a matryoshka doll, Cloud Atlas takes you through the story within the story down all six levels, and then back out again. Every story is written in a different style, and while I found some of them harder to get through than others, I did appreciate each story's "voice" fitting the time period.
I'm sure you'll hear a lot of hype about this book over the coming months, as the movie adaptation is due out this fall. If the movie trailer catches your attention, give the book a shot. If you can forgive the author's occasional self-imporance, I think there's a decent story in there.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell -
I do love a good tragedy, and Tana French never fails to make me want to blow my brains out in the best way possible. This is the fourth book in her Dublin Murder Squad detective series, in each of which she tells the story of a lead detective in an Irish police force as they try to solve a particular crime. This book focuses on a triple-homicide in an abandoned housing development: A man and his two children are found murdered, with the wife as the sole survivor of the attack. Dublin Murder Squad's top detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and his rookie partner are put on the case, and things slowly unravel from there.
I loved French's first three books, and she didn't let me down on this one either. If you like mystery books, definitely start with In the Woods and work your way through the series. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Broken Harbor, by Tana French -
Jericho is one of those TV shows that I've been aware of for a while, but never had the time to check out. The first season premiered in 2006 and was cancelled after lackluster ratings. The fans convinced the network to bring the show back, but it was finally put to rest after another half a season. Earlier this year, I finally got the chance to watch this show on Netflix and really enjoyed it. It's the story of a nuclear attack on the United States as seen through the eyes of a small Kansas town. The first half of the season, in fact, the viewer is kept as in the dark as the town is and the details are slowly revealed as news makes its way to the town.
Jericho Season 3: Civil War is the continuation of the the Jericho story and picks up directly after the events of the TV show's second season. This isn't some fan fiction; It was actually written by the TV show's writers. I've never been a big comic book guy, but I was interested in knowing what the writers had planned, so I gave it a shot. Overall, there wasn't a whole lot of meat to the book -- and maybe that's just how comic books are? -- but I did enjoy seeing where the show was going. If you saw the TV show and are hungry for more, it's worth a read. Otherwise, there's not a lot of point in it.
Jericho Season 3: Civil War, by Don Shotz -
The author of this book happens to be my second cousin, and he recently had his first book published. I never really gave bridges a whole lot of thought, but I'm a little more knowledgeable about them after having read this short book. Having spent a few years living in Chicago, it definitely put the subject matter in a light that made it a lot more interesting. If you've ever wanted to know about the history of the various types of moving bridges in America, this is a great short read on the subject.
Chicago's Bridges, by Nathan Holth -
I love Philip K. Dick as much as the next guy, but man are his books hard to get into. I love his short stories (Paycheck, The Minority Report, The Golden Man), but his full-length novels are just really hard for me to work through for whatever reason. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the book that the highly-successful 1982 movie Blade Runner was based on. There are quite a few differences between the movie and the book, but the basic premise of a bounty hunter chasing down a group of six androids illegally on Earth remains. There are lots of philosophical questions about the nature of existance, but overall I was just kind of slogging through the book. Dick does short stories really well, but it seems like when he tries to devote more than fifty pages to a story it gets kind of rough.
Earlier this month I decided to go camping. Just me and my dog, Gus. I recognize that some may find the idea of camping in the woods without any company other than your dog a horrifying thought, but to me it sounded like a perfect 24 hours; No obligations, no distractions, just relaxing in the quiet of the outdoors. The only advanced technology I took with me was my circa 2007 phone-calls-only cell phone and my second generation Kindle. I planned to spend at least 75% of my time reading by the campfire, so I wanted to make sure my Kindle was loaded with some books appropriate for camping with one's best four-legged friend.
The Dog Stars the a post-apocalyptic story of a man and his dog who live in an airplane hangar in Colorado. For the nine years since a superflu wiped out 99% of the world's population, they've spent their days taking daily perimeter checks in a 1956 Cessna plane. Their only company is their gun-nut neighbor who helps them defend their land from the occasional roving gangs.
While there's nothing amazing here, it was a good read and really enjoyable. After setting up camp and getting a fire started, I sat down and read through the first 60% of this book in one go, stopping only to roast a hot dog or throw another log on the fire. If you're up for yet another post-apocalyptic journey of self-discovery, you could do a lot worse than this book.
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller -
After tearing through The Dog Stars in my first day camping, I moved on to another story about a man and his dog. In 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a cross-country roadtrip with his French standard poodle, Charley, in an attempt to rediscover the America that he had lost touch with over the years. Appropriately, my opinion of this book matches nearly exactly with Steinbeck's experience on the road; We were both excited and eager at the beginning, and slowly lost interest over the course of the journey. There are easily a hundred quotables here, but the overall journey grew somewhat scattered and tired almost as quickly as it began.
Overall, though, I did enjoy the story and the writing. Travels with Charley serves as something of a bookend to Kerouac's On the Road. Written nearly ten years earlier by a man thirty years younger, it's full of excitement and hope that only a man first discovering America, without any expectations, can have. Travels with Charley, on the other hand, is scattered with disappointment at not finding what was expected.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck -
After the somewhat disappointing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I felt like I had to get a few of Dick's short stories back into my system. This collection features some of my favorites, including Beyond Lies the Wub, Paycheck, and The Minority Report. Great collection, if you haven't read much of Philip K. Dick's work, this is a great introduction.
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, by Philip K. Dick -