Friday, September 28, 2012

The Magic of Oz (Oz #13) by L. Frank Baum

It's interesting that the two Baum books that I own are The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is the first Oz book, and this one, which is one of the last.

Many characters that I never heard of (the Tin Solder, Tick Tock, The Glass Cat, The Pink Kitten, Trot, The Wooden Saw Horse and more) were introduced in the books in between and all make an appearance here. This isn't a real issue but is a little like when they have all the Dr. Who's in a special episode. It tends to clutter up the action.

Overall the story and the methods the heroes use to overcome their obstacles and enemies are creative and fun. The birthday party in last chapter is the exception and can easily be skimmed over.

Frank Baum's writing is interesting in that can be alternately be very good and rather mediocre. It feels that once he wrote something once, he never went back to tighten it up. He could very insightful about human nature and also totally naive or at very least simplistic.

Overall I quite liked it.

My two Oz books will be set free, going to my sister for my niece and nephew.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Camus Part Deux

I wrote about reading Camus a few posts ago.

I have been inching through The Plague for about a week now. I'm on page 95 of 245. It's time to give up. Nothing much has happened nor do expect anything interesting to actually happen.

Reading this book seems pointless and it's tedious. If this was a 145 page book, like The Stranger, I would have gone on, but this with 150 pages to day, this journey is going to end 2/5s of the way through.

I am going to liberate all three Camus books that I own. I've already decided I'm not going to read The Myth of Sisyphus and other Essays. My brother will get first crack at them. Any he doesn't want will get donated to the Free Library's used book sale. I just found and downloaded a PDF of The Stranger to my hard drive. So the one I liked, I still have, but sitting dustlessly on my hard drive rather than taking up space in my office.

Next up, an old friend Robert Campbell. I read a lot of  Campbell's stuff in the early 90s. He had two series of books. One based in Chicago and was rather light hearted mystery fun. The other was more hard broiled and set in Los Angeles, aka La La Land. I have one of each that I haven't read yet.

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews

Another solid one from Donna Andrews. Very entertaining, amusing, with well developed characters. Once again the murder, while plausible, comes out of left field.

This book I bought for Maureen as an Xmas present, so it is not mine to set free.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I am almost finished with the first section of bookshelf. 44 fiction books written by authors with last names beginning with A through Ce. I had probably read over 1/2 the books already so I didn't have to re-read them.

After criss-crossing through the shelf, I am now reading straight through alphabetically. I will likely criss-cross again when the mood hits. I mention this because I am now reading Albert Camus's The Plague. BTW the smart way to pronounce his name is Al-bear Kah-moo.

Many people have read Camus. Most because it was assigned to them. I am quite aware that almost nobody reads Camus if they don't have to. I am only reading Camus now because I bought this used copy eons ago. It's on the shelf so I have to read it.

I bought this book because I was young and I wanted to be smart and read smart things and Camus was a "smart" author. This book probably cost me less than a dollar so it didn't really cost me anything to put it on the shelves with my other books.

I ask myself now, would I ever have picked this off the shelf if I didn't have to? Am I a snob for even having it on my shelf in the first place?

The only rule of this project besides reading all of our books is that if I don't like it after the first chapter, I don't have to finish reading it. That said I am enjoying this book. Despite the premise being a downer and it not being an easy read, I am making strong progress through it.

Thinking back now I have memories of voluntarily reading Camus's The Stranger when I was younger and enjoying it. So maybe I'm not a snob.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Due to mis-shelving on my part, I read this book as part of the A to Ce trek.

This is one of Maureen's books.

The Time Travelers Wife (not to be confused with a movie of the same name) is a well written easy read. A unique and well executed premise with well thought out consequences, fully drawn characters - this book has it all.

The premise is original and the author does a great job of thinking out all of the mechanics of it and finds several very interesting scenes from it. The writing is so breezy that it is an enjoyable journey through time. The novel progresses almost totally linearly in calendar time which isn't totally linear for the characters. This creates a Pulp Fiction type out sequence story line which keeps things extra interesting.

My only complaint that it is a little too long. It could be wound a little tighter.

I may always recall reading this book on the beach at Rehobeth Beach Delaware.

Far Flung: Stories by Peter Cameron

Peter Cameron prose doesn't bowl you over. He is stealthier than that. The stories, much like Hemingway's, might not hit you at the moment, but have a way of creeping back into your brain. That's when I know I've read something good.

The stories here mostly all deal with travel or distance, usually both geographically and inter-personally.  Cameron is a great short story writer. The characters and story develop fully in a short time. This was a good read.

This book was published in 1991. It's amazing how far technologically we have come in that time. These stories exist in a time before the World Wide Web and the ubiquity of cell phones. I am more used to reading of the present or of the far past (Dickins, Christie). For me at 47, reading of the stories from the near past was a little strange, but not in a bad way.

My copy cost $4 and was bought new on clearance from some book store. This book is out of print. New copies start at $99 on Amazon. Crazy. Mine, which is in great shape and a first edition, might be worth $20 if anyone decides they want it.

Lately as I have been reading a book, I have been decided whether to set it free. Many of them have been in my possession for too long. This one is going to be listed on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Naked Sun (Asimov's Robot #3) by Isaac Asimov

I must of picked this up at a thrift store or similar cheap place for used books. Who knows how many years this has been in my possession.

The Naked Sun (Asimov's Robot #3) by Isaac Asimov

A really nice thing about my read every book we own project is that I get to discover masterpieces hiding in place daylight on our book shelves. And The Naked Sun is a masterpiece.

My first time reading an Isaac Asimov novel and wow!... what a writer! Asimov invented the sci-fi mystery sub-genre after hearing it couldn't be done.

There seems to be confusion as to whether this the 2nd or 3rd in Asimov's Robot series. Goodreads says it's number 3; Wikipedia says it's number 2.

It does appear to be second of three novels featuring Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw. Baley is a NYC detective in his 40s. Olivaw is a robot that he has been partnered with once previously. 

Set 3000 years in the future, they are sent to one of the colonized planets to investigate a murder. The colonized planets have become much wealthier and more powerful than Earth and look down upon the inhabitants of Earth as inferior.

A totally masterful work. I liked the subplots and how Asimov shown a light on them. Asimov knew his readers were reading for leisure. When a character or subplot comes back around, he reminds us of what we read earlier. Much nicer than having to constantly page back looking for what I've forgotten. 

The story, the plot, the characters, and the settings are all excellently constructed and presented. As I was reading it, I was blown away by how good this book is.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

My read every book we own project continues with one of Maureen's books.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

I read this because we had it on our shelf. It's very much a women's book; men can enjoy it too, but probably no where near as much.

 ** spoiler alert **

It ends with a big Sixth Sense kind of twist. I'm not too sure how I feel about that. We really don't get "I see dead people" like clues so it seems a bit unfair.

The ending did solve 1/2 of the mystery of who is/are Towner and Beezer's father(s)?

It is well written and executed and I did enjoy the journey. It made me really want to see Salem and the rest of New England.

As I say, this book leaves me with mixed feelings. And if anything can make you feel something, then the artist has done their job.

Monday, September 10, 2012

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

My read every book we own project continues. There is no mystery as to where this book came from. I bought this and another Donna Andrews book as an Xmas present for Maureen a few Xmas ago.

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

If you like the Stephie Plum books (and I do), you'll like Meg Langslow stories too. The same easy, breezy writing style with interesting and likeable characters and lightly humorous situations.

Long story short, a female blacksmith and her professor fiance buy a small farm in a town filled with eccentric people. Most of the town is engaged in an Xtreme Croquet tournament when the narrator literally falls over a body.

There didn't seem to be a lot of clues to ponder to figure out who the killer was, so as a murder mystery, I don't know if it holds up, but it was a very pleasant journey.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Book of Illusions and In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
After being left disappointed by the conclusion of The Music of Chance,  I am happy to say that  this is a very solid one from Paul Auster. 
The story, which is really quite epic, held together well. A college professor loses his wife and children in a plane crash. After dwelling in misery and depression, the narrator finds himself laughing for the first time in a long time. The cause of this laughter is Hector Mann, an obscure, long forgotten silent movie comedian. The narrator then travels the world to various film archives where copies of Mann's movies have mysteriously resurfaced. The story continues from there.
I enjoyed the unfolding of the tale and where it led. Auster pulls together a lot of different things, such as French writers, and finds interesting interconnections. 
One complaint is that this book might be a bit overlong. Not a lot, just a bit.

In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

I love Paul Aster and wanted to love this one. I gave up after the first chapter. Reading about a post-apocalyptic world doesn't interest me. If that interests you, I'm sure you will dig it as Auster is a great writer. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

There is no mystery how this came to be in my possession. This was an Xmas present from my brother who was living in New Orleans at the time.  My copy is even signed by the author, which I didn't notice when he gave it to me years ago.

This is a book of very well written stories with shades of Kafka. The writing is concise yet full. An easy read but deep and fulfilling. Great stuff. The stories are only as long as they need to be, some of dozens of pages, some only two.

I put off reading this one because of the gory title, I shouldn't have. The title story is actually near the end and not really all that gory.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1) by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1) by L. Frank Baum 

I read this as part of my project to read every book we own. I'm going shelf by shelf, which are arranged alphabetically by author. I put off reading it because it's a children's book and I'm an adult. While it reads like a first novel, it is great fun for all ages.

My copy has great illustrations, which definitely added to the experience.

I haven't seen the movie in decades. It will be interesting to re-watch it soon and see how it was changed for the big screen. There definitely are differences.

We have one other Oz book, The Magic of Oz. I look forward to reading that one and I won't be putting it off.

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

The Read Everyone of the 1000s of Books We Own Project continues.

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

This book was a tough read. The story kept my interest but the writing could have been done with a lighter touch. Nobody wants to read a book filled with simple sentences, but conversely trudging through paragraph length sentence after paragraph length sentence is a slog. You need to mix it up a little. Based on just this novel which isn't fair, Allingham was a good writer but no Steinbeck or Hemingway.

A nice thing about being alive right now is through social media, you can share what you are reading with your friends. I have been using Goodreads to keep track of the books I have been reading. My friend Joanne Countryman noticed I was reading this one. She loves the Campion books, which inspired me to keep reading to the end.

Arriving at seems to be around the middle of the Campion books, I have some curiosity regarding the story arc of Albert Campion, but I have a 100s of other books on the shelves to finish before I go looking for more.

There is a little bit of a mystery of where this book came from. Maureen tells me this book isn't her's. Normally there are clues as to how a book came into my possession. There is no price tag nor a used book store stamp on it, so I have to assume it was bought new. Since I never heard of Margery Allingham or Campion before reading this book, I find it unlikely I bought this book for myself or as a gift for Maureen. Maybe it was a gift (my brother perhaps?).