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Malcolm Sage
Herbert George Jenkins
Some Do Not...
Ford Madox Ford, Max Saunders

The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries)

The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson Good mystery and adventure with well-rounded characters. Satisfying light entertainment.

Dimension of Miracles

Dimension of Miracles (Ace SF, 14860) - Robert Sheckley

Dimension of Miracles is a bit fun, often very absurd, but not particularly engaging. For all the similarities, it is surprising that Douglas Adams never read this prior to writing the Hitchhiker's Guide. It even has one of the problems of Adams' series - that the main character is almost entirely acted upon, an unwitting bystander in his own story, rarely the actor. Adams overcame this by making Arthur Dent funnier and surrounding him with outlandish characters and situations. Sheckley provides the outlandish situations, but doesn't come through with the rest. He makes a last gasp at something profound to wrap it up, but it was all out of sorts with the rest.I have just listened to this as an audiobook and rarely have anything to add about that, but this time I was incredibly impressed by the abilities of John Hodgman as a performer. Yes, that John Hodgman. I have enjoyed his writings and podcasts in the past, but I thought he was kind of a one-trick pony. I'm very pleasantly surprised with his versatility with characterization in this book.

Light in August (The Corrected Text)

Light in August (The Corrected Text) - William Faulkner Faulkner disappears into so many voices, it's just amazing. Light in August is violent, gritty, caustic (sometimes), and substantial. Its scope of meaty topics is very broad (racism, puritanism, nationalism, alienation) despite circling the events in one small Southern town, told from multiple perspectives, all presented sympathetically and invisibly. You never see Faulkner behind the words, even with the third person narration. That seems a tough trick to me.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower - C.S. Forester Does exactly what it's supposed to: entertains and engages, moves quickly. I may read another.

House of Earth: A Novel

House of Earth - Woody Guthrie House of Earth is probably a high 3, but I just can't imagine recommending it to anyone. It's a very original novel, and an interesting one, but the characters are so annoying as to be nearly unsympathetic.

John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End - David Wong First abandoned book of 2013!Viscera! Ooze! Gore! The more, the funnier! (I guess?) Author's favorite adjective?: "retarded". I abandoned this one after the fifth instance.

Don Quixote (Penguin Classics)

Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría, John Rutherford, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Very pleasantly surprised by how engaging, sympathetic, and modern this novel is! I would jump right in to a sequel of equal length.

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood It was interesting to read this so soon after The End of the Affair, just for how each had me pondering the sometimes conflicting goals of romance and religion.

How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants

How to Sharpen Pencils - David Rees, John Hodgman Consistently very funny, humor ranging from silly to profound. Rees actually has some valuable statements regarding craftsmanship that I could envision in cross-stitched samplers.I am sickened by the number of mechanical pencils on my desk.

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars - Paul  Collins I liked it well enough. I guess.

Dear Life

Dear Life: Stories - Alice Munro You can't say 'meh' about someone who writes as sparingly beautiful as Munro, but Dear Life is nearly devoid of moments. (I was stuck thinking "moments of ....?" and had to just stop at "moments.") There just isn't much there beyond Munro stringing along nicely constructed paragraphs. What I hope is that these are glimpses of characters and stories, continuations of plots she's already covered, for those steeped in her literature, like the bonus DVD of her career. Maybe it's a little love letter to Canada, but if it is, well, um, it sounds like a lovely quaint place. (And I'll just leave it at that.)TOB judges, if this is up against a novel that knocks it out of the park, don't award extra credit for having a powerhouse name on the dust jacket.

Building Stories

Building Stories - Chris Ware Completely captivating and almost completely cheerless, Building Stories is so uniquely and beautifully put together that it's hard to knock it too much for its hopelessness. I even almost want to add a fifth star.I read from smallest to largest piece, went back and read the last page or few panels of each and feel like there really was no wrong way to go about tackling it. A couple of the pieces might be recommended as the anchor solely for their ability to leave you on a higher note, but just barely.I'm eager to see this match up against any of the more traditional novels of the Tournament of Books in March. It's hard to predict.


Arcadia - Lauren Groff There are some lovely scenes in Arcadia but the overall is a bit overworked and uneven. Bit as a boy is an interesting character, but the progressive jumps by decades are jarring. It was very hard to stay connected to the story.

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel - Jess Walter There's nugget of a novella in the midst of this that is really intriguing - the story that takes place in 1962 on the Italian coast. If this novel were just that story, I'd rate it quite a bit higher.The added characters and their stories are more than just padding, I think. To some extent, it seems an attempt to emulate Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I almost [almost] hated. Like that book, there are a few nasties in Beautiful Ruins who have to have their story told. The bigger problem, though, is that the purpose of all these extras is to model the reactions the author wants the reader to have. Pasquale has a 50-year-old tale to tell that is so poignant that the Hollywood-types listening are gob-smacked. Characters are moved to tears by a play they watch. A character reads a lone first chapter and then weighs in on its glories. All of these things would be directed at you, the reader, instead of other characters if the author were more confident in the power of the work. It's akin to rambling through an anecdote, finishing with "I guess you had to be there", and finding a witness to corroborate how wondrous the event had been. In the 2013 Tournament of Books, Beautiful Ruins should fall to any of the competitors I've read so far.

Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller My wife reads a lot of romance novels and I, never having read one, had been casting about for a prime example of the genre. And then this hit the list for the 2013 Tournament of Books - a pre-bodice bodice ripper! A tunic ripper?I did a couple of things I try never to do. I read a review or two in the middle of the book and I also did just a touch of research in halfway through to see how much foundation there was to Miller's version of the romantic elements of the book. (I hadn't encountered the Iliad since high school.) I think it validated why I try not to do either of these things. The reviews that complain about deviations from the Iliad were silly. (One even called it 'derivative' which is precisely and exactly true but not valid as a criticism. Hope they took those hacks Shakespeare and James Joyce to task for the same!) And while there is a heck of a lot of invention on Miller's part, I believe this is both a good thing and not in conflict with the mythology she drew upon.But, none of that really matters. I believed in the characters and their romantic attachment. It's a great story with a classic tragic hook that is pretty timeless. I'd have given a full complement of stars if it had hit my heart a little harder than it did. Most of my connection to the story was more intellectual than emotional.

HHhH (French Edition)

HHhH - Laurent Binet I've never read a novel like this. Binet, writing himself, his research process, and including the rationale behind his edits, yet manages to complete an enthralling history that moves. Also, not that I've said enough about the book, but this will be the best Tournament of Books ever.