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Monday, March 01, 2010

The State of Book Chase

My version of a "state of the union address" for Book Chase:

I'm at the tail end, I hope, of one of those low energy periods I seem to go through two or three times a year. This one has been worse than normal because I've also been fighting a bad sinus infection for the past two weeks and I'm still only at about 90%, healthwise. The good news is that it doesn't take a whole lot of energy to read - as long as I can stay awake. The bad news is that it does seem to take a lot of energy to write about what I've read or what else is going on all over the world of books. I have literally crashed during the last three weekends and can barely remember doing anything other than hanging around the house and sleeping an amazing amount of hours.

I'm about 70% of the way through Matterhorn, a 570-page Viet Nam War novel, and I've reached what seems to be the book's major climax, leaving me to wonder what the author has up his sleeve for the final 175 pages. I'm to the point now that I have an emotional attachment to several of the book's secondary characters and it is painful to watch them drop one-by-one during a totally useless asault on a numerically superior NVA unit. This one will almost certainly be one of the best books I read this year. I know that already; it is only a question of what happens in the last section of the book as to where it will rank on the list. This one is due to be published sometime in April 2010.

I'm also reading an e-book thriller about genetically altered animals that are to be used as a kind of military weapon - against whom and by whom, I'm still not sure. It's the James Rollins novel Altar of Eden. This one is short on character development and long on shoot 'em up action, not exactly the kind of thing I prefer, but easy reading and fairly entertaining through its first half.

I did make it out to the library on Sunday afternoon (just before the hockey game that broke my heart) where I picked up my reserved copy of the new Anne Tyler novel, Noah's Compass. And, of course, I couldn't resist reading the first two chapters last night because I find Anne Tyler's novels hard to resist. She writes about real life but populates her novels with some of the most eccentric and memorable characters being created in literature today. This one is about a 60-year-old school teacher who suddenly finds himself without a job...perfect topic for today.

While at the library I picked up three audio books (I've returned to listening to a book on my commute now that I have a working CD player in my car again) and I'll be ready to start one of them by the end of the week, I think. I'm afraid I won't be able to get them all done in the allotted six weeks, but I couldn't resist bringing them all home at once, anyway:

1. Drood - by Dan Simmons - explores "the unsolved mysteries" of the last years of Charles Dickens (beginning in June 1865, I think). Dan Simmons writes long books so it is no surprise that this thing weighs in at 24 CDs and 30 hours of listening time.
2. Child 44 - by Tom Rob Smith - is one I remember hearing great things about when it was first published but, for whatever reason, I never got around to reading it. Maybe this audio book will do the trick. It's a lightweight compared to Drood, coming in at only 11 CDs and 12.5 hours.
3. Just After Sunset - by Stephen King - is a collection of short stories, one of which I read several months ago and enjoyed. I haven't been much of a fan of Stepehn King novels for a long time but I still enjoy his short stories, so this one might get the first nod. It is 13 CDs and almost 15 hours long.

I'm also expecting review copies of The Scent of Rain and Lightning, a thriller by Nancy Picard, and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, yet another novel about the Alcott family - and I have a copy of The Samaritan's Secret, an Omar Yussef mystery by Matt Beynon Rees that I'm really looking forward to reading (Yussef is a detective who works in Gaza - great atmosphere and timely stories).

On top of these, I have recently received four others in the mail that I find intriguing:

1.Top of the Order - a book in which 25 writers pick their all-time favorite baseball players and tell why they chose them.
2. Ordinary Thunderstorms - a William Boyd thriller set in London
3. Far Cry - John Harvey's latest crime thriller (scheduled for publication on June 15). John Harvey is absolutely one of the finest crime/detective writers working in the U.K. today and he has been for quite a number of years now. If you don't know his work, you should take a look.
4. Lay Down My Sword and Shield - a new edition of the James Lee Burke book in which he introduced Hack Holland to his readers - way back in 1971. I read this one sometime in the '80s but remember very little about it so it will be like reading a brand new James Lee Burke novel. Sweet, that.

That would be enough of a challenge if I didn't also have at least six review copies left over from last year that I still haven't read. I'm going to get there, though.

Dang, life is sweet. I wish I had the energy to enjoy it.
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