September 22, 2014

Recent Reads

129. The Heist (Gabriel Allon #14)
I'm a huge Gabriel Allon fan, but I humbly disagree with many of the rave reviews of this, the 14th book in the series. 

Can it really be summer without time spent with my fave Mossad assassin and art restorer? I think not. Every year I have the publication date marked in my calendar, and eagerly await the new release of one of my fave characters in a contemporary series. As I look at my reviews of the previous books in this series, I see that my ratings have been dropping, but how can I resist attending the reunion of the Barak team every summer?

This one is the worst in the series so far. It is rather formulaic and the writing seems rote. The characters are recycled without any additional depth added. The story is almost the same as a couple others in the series, just updated with Syrian troubles. I almost did not finish it, and that makes me sad. If you have yet to read about the exploits of the man named like an archangel, I would highly recommend reading some of the earlier books in this series. But skip this one.

And yet. I'll be waiting to see if there is a new installment next July. Come on Mr. Silva, give this junkie a good fix. Please. Rating: 2 stars.

130. The Polysyllabic Spree

Book blurb: In his monthly column "Stuff I've Been Reading", Nick Hornby lists the books he's purchased and the books he's read that month - they almost never overlap - and briefly discusses the books he's actually read.

This little collection of essays is a delightful read. Some people can vegetables, the rest of us hoard books. If you are the type of person who buys books whenever you walk by a bookstore, because even though you have 1000 or so unread books on your shelves at home, you are concerned about the coming apocalypse and are never sure that you have enough reading material to get you through those dark days ahead, then this is perfect book for you. Reading each short essay is like having a drink with a literate reader friend, and every essay adds more books to that pile you must someday read. 

Funny that I have yet to read any of the author's novels, but there are 4 books in this essay series, and I plan to slowly savor my way through them all. Rating: 4 stars.

131. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Book blurb: Sum is a dazzling exploration of funny and unexpected afterlives that have never been considered–each presented as a vignette that offers us a stunning lens through which to see ourselves here and now.

What do you think happens when you die? Do you believe in an afterlife? Well, I'll bet that you have never considered the afterlife scenarios explored in this little book. This book is what you get when an incredibly imaginative mind ponders the afterlife. Each story is about a page or two in length, and this is one to read slowly, or read aloud and then discuss. Some of the stories are just OK, hence the deduction of a star, but I highly recommend this gem of a book. Rating: 4 stars.

132. 11/22/63

I've spent the past two weeks walking about a hundred miles while listening to this audiobook wonderfully narrated by Craig Wasson, and for the majority of those 30 hours and 44 minutes, Stephen King had me enthralled with this yarn. He would have made a great traveling bard in the land of ago.

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Humans have probably been asking ourselves that question ever since we conceived the notion of time. I think we all believe that knowing what we know now, we would be better, braver, more courageous. I'm not so sure.

This is not a horror story, nor is it a science fiction one. Sure, there is time travel - but basically there is a portal in the pantry of an old diner that lets one step back to September 9, 1958. Same place, same day, same year, every single time. There is no dial you can move to switch things around. Enter Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who steps through and has the chance to change lots of things, including trying to stop the assassination of JFK. Note that he gets there in 1958, so has several years to kill (hah!) while waiting for the main event. There is a lot of time spent on him trying to build an ordinary life while waiting, and some of that strained my patience. King is wordy, as usual, and there could have been some editing that would have made the story tighter in my opinion. I did like getting to know the various characters in the story, but felt that the ending was rather rushed compared to the sedate pace of the rest of the story. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable yarn, well worth the time. Rating: 4 stars.

No comments: