Sunday, February 03, 2008

January Book Mountain

I've started to feel a bit more overwhelmed than usual lately. I suppose that's the bad news. But the good news is that I have so many really good books on hand to read that I'm tempted to start a new one almost every evening. In fact, I'm reading eight books at the moment, the number at which I usually top out when I start to get this feeling.

The stack to the left represents books that have come into my world in the last three or four weeks that I have not yet finished or, in most cases, even started. Some are from the library, some were purchased at local bookstores, and others are ARCs received directly from publisher reps. I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as "too much of a good thing," so I find it comforting to have a huge TBR stack around while, on the other hand, such a big stack can give me a sense of being overwhelmed...if that makes sense.

The book at the top of the stack is an audio book called Lamb by Christopher Moore. It is subtitled :"The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" and some might find it offensive. I wasn't sure what to expect myself but I've found it to be both very funny and very touching. I'm listening to the book on my commute to work and I've found the first three disks (of twelve in total) covering the lives of the two boys from age five to thirteen to be fun.

The Good Liar is a thriller by Laura Caldwell that I received for review and I'm about half way through it as of this morning. It's a complicated story full of issues that sometimes make it hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, an intriguing story and a first class thriller up to this point.

I also received a review copy of a beautiful little book by Sam Beeson called The unValentine about a little girl who absolutely hates Valentine's Day guessed it. Jesse Draper contributed paintings that catch the mood perfectly and there are even a few "unValentine cards" at the end of the book that can be torn out and used.

Re-reading Walking Across Egypt reminded me of how much I enjoy Clyde Edgerton's writing and I found a copy of In Memory of Junior through Book Mooch. It arrived just yesterday, in fact, and I'm looking forward to it. This one is about a handful of old folks who are preparing their final resting places and winding down their lives. As one of the characters says, "You're history longer than you are fact."

I read an article on "alternate history" last week, a genre I very much enjoy dipping into from time to time, and saw that Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle was highly recommended. This one is set in a 1962 America that lost World War II and is jointly occupied by Japan and Germany.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn is a Victorian mystery ARC that I received a couple of weeks ago. I'm about 70 pages into it but I'm still chuckling over its opening paragraph: "To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." I think this one is going to be fun.

I've also received a copy of Jason Wright's The Wednesday Letters that I'm hoping to finish and review before February 14. It's the follow-up to Jason's Christmas Jars that I read and reviewed late last year. I've heard, and read, good things about this one.

From Random House comes an ARC called My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells. This promises to be a suspense novel about a subject that bothers me more than most anything in the world: child snatching. I have a hard time reading about this kind of thing but I want to get it reviewed here before its February 19 publishing date. The cover already has me spooked.

Jeffrey Ford's The Shadow Year is another thriller that I received in ARC format. This one is to be published in March and is a story of growing up in small town America in the 1960s. It involves the disappearance of a sixth grader and how events impact one boy and his older brother. I'm looking forward to this one, too, despite the fact that the plot seems to involve another child snatching.

How's this for a change of pace? Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage is a new dual-biography of the two that I found at the library yesterday afternoon. I was intrigued by the way that these two worked so well together and I've seen great reviews of the book so I'm looking forward to it.

To Live's to Fly by John Kruth is a new Townes Van Zandt biography that was sent to me as a review copy. I'm a big fan of Van Zandt's music and want to learn more about his tragic life and his death at an early age. He is tied quite closely to Houston's music history and I hope to learn more about the man and his accomplishments.

I became a big fan of Geraldine Brooks last year and I've been looking forward to People of the Book since I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Well, since it is on the Barnes & Noble bestseller shelf at 40% off, and since I had a coupon for 25% off of the remaining 60%, I couldn't resist. I bought it yesterday but will be holding off on reading it for a while, I think.

I started Theft of the Master yesterday morning and, although I'm only 30 pages into the book, I can already see that this is going to be a fun ride. It involves Hitler's art thefts and what happened to much of the art in the decades following World War II. This is Edwin Alexander's debut novel and it has a special feel about it. Even the book itself feels more physically substantial than what is offered by most publishers today: its pages are printed on heavy stock and it is a much heavier book than it would appear to be at first glance. If the first 30 pages are any indication, I'm going to enjoy this one.

Mark Frost's The Second Objective is a World War II novel based on the historical fact that Hitler sent up to 80 assassins disguised as American soldiers into France in the winter of 1944 in an attempt to take out the leadership of the Allied forces. I enjoy this kind of military thriller and I'm appreciative that I received a review copy of this one or I otherwise might have missed it. I'm about 200 pages into the book and it is getting harder and harder to put it down.

The article that lead me to Philip K. Dick's book also led me to Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois. How about this for a plot? The 1962 Cuban missile crisis was not averted and Russia and America practically destroyed each other in nuclear war. America is still devastated, under martial law, and totally dependent on European friends for economic support. Kennedy is reviled by all and when the truth about the war starts to come out in 1972 people begin to die again. Can't wait for this one.

John Hart's Down River is the story of a man who returns to his hometown years after he is narrowly been acquitted of a murder charge. Everyone in town is convinced he was guilty of the murder and, when dead bodies begin to show up after his return, the whole town seems ready to blow up. I read about this one in a magazine and the library held it for me until I picked it up yesterday morning.

And, finally, there is Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, a chunkster of 614 pages about the Viet Nam War experience. This one received great reviews in several magazines I read and I'm hoping that it is even half as good as I've been led to believe it is. Vietnam War novels give me the creeps sometimes but I think this one will be really good...another from the library.

Well, I need to get off the internet and open up a good book. Wonder which one it will be?


  1. I read Resurrection Day when if first came out and really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to his newest. I've not really found my way into any of his other stories.

  2. i'm so jealous, what a great bunch of books! saw you're reading "in cold blood" ... looking forward to reading your re-thoughts on that one, as i'll be getting a copy soon.

    btw, thanks for coming by my blog. the dodo says hi :)

  3. You're in for a real treat with Philip K. Dick's Man In The High Castle.

  4. Looks like a bunch of good reading! I've heard so many conflicting viewpoints on Tree of Smoke, that I'm not sure whether I do or don't want to read it, so I'm eager to hear your thoughts on it.

    I like to have a nice TBR stack awaiting me at any one time, but I definitely agree that there comes a time at which it has the potential to become overwhelming. Mine has reached just that time, and I fear it will soon topple off of my bedside table and bury me in my sleep. What am I still doing here? Shouldn't I be reading? ;-)

  5. I'm looking forward to that one, Elizabeth. The plot line really has me thinking of all the possibilites...

  6. Aloi, I posted my thoughts yesterday on "In Cold Blood." It was my second re-read for 2008 and it was a good reminder of why I read so much in the first never know where the next gem will be found.

  7. Glad to hear that, Bybee. I have read very little of Dick's work and don't know how I missed this one for so long.

  8. Meagan, I'm starting to hear some mixed comments about "Tree of Smoke" and that's caused it to slip to the bottom of the stack, at least for now. I'll probably give it a shot sometime in the next two or three weeks, though.

    I love having stacks of books around the wife does not agree, great housekeeper that she tends to be. :-)