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My current reading

I hope that you don't construe this list as some sort of "recommended reading" list. I just like to share what I'm currently reading. Lots of it is trash!

Current Book: The End, by Lemony Snicket

Oh, it's so sad that this series is ending!! Maybe now that all thirteen are done, I can get them all together and spend a week reading them all at once.

The Ruins of California, by Martha Sherrill

The Ruins of the title refer to a family whose last name is Ruin. The main character is Inez Ruin. Her parents are divorced and much of the book involves her juggling her relationships with her two parents and the different identities she needs to take on to deal with the two families. The book covers the majority of her childhood, from around 6 (I think) until she is college age. But for the most part it doesn't seem too disconnected or jumpy, as some books can when they jump forward in time so far. I really liked this book.

Snobs, by Julian Fellowes

The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman

The Algebraist, Iain Banks

I chose this book purely because of the title. Sadly, there is no algebra in it, but it is still pretty good. It's the type of science fiction that is immensely satisfying because its world is so complete and full. You can become completely submerged in this alternate reality. Also, I wouldn't classify it as a comedy (like Hitchhiker's Guide or something) but there was a lot of humor that supplemented the drama. The only thing that I didn't like was that there was a villain whose actions were so foul that I sometimes felt sick reading about him. I understand that the author wanted to make the threat real and visceral, but I think that could have been accomplished without being so graphic. Fortunately, those scenes were a very very small part of the book.

The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler

I almost never read nonfiction, but I picked this one up at the library. It's the stories of girls who got pregnant in the era before Roe v Wade, especially the 50's and 60's, but who couldn't or wouldn't get an abortion. Many of the girls were coerced into giving their children up for adoption. In fact, the rate of premarital births given up for adoption rose to 40%! It's heartbreaking and eye-opening to read about the pressures they were under and how much many of them regretted the decision to give up a child. I've heard a lot about the negative consequences of banning abortion and the horrors of illegal abortions, but I'd never even thought about the difficulties faced by women who gave their children up for adoption.

The art history mystery series by Iain Pears

I love these books. They may not be heavy literature, but they are fun, entertaining and well-written. The mysteries are almost secondary to the descriptions of the settings (Rome, usually) and the characters' relationships. I frequently laugh to myself while reading them and have grown attached to the main characters.

The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman

I had to get this when I read that it is to atheists as the Narnia books are to Christians. But like the Narnia books, I think it can be read as an enjoyable story, not just as propaganda. It is the first of a trilogy and the best of the three. Set in an alternate Earth, very similar to our own, the story involves a young girl who has to rely on her skills as a liar and a sneak to save the world.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Another one I picked up at the library on the same day as the Capek book (see below). I must have been in an odd mood that day. I've read this twice, but the last time was probably in 1990 or so. So it seemed about time to read it again. I was actually pretty disappointed. Somehow I remembered it as the really awesome book, but now it struck me as immature and misogynistic. It seemed really dated, like it was really a product of the past and no longer nearly as clever as it thought it was.

The Absolute at Large, by Karel Capek

I'd read RUR, the book in which Capek invented the word 'robot', years and years ago. But I just picked this one up at the library on a whim. It's definitely worth a look. The book is pretty funny, if you have a strange sense of humor, which I guess I do. I don't want to describe it too much, because I'll give away all the surprises!

The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler

This book was fantastic. I was worried that it was going to be a little smarmy, what with the title and all, but I should have known that Karen Joy Fowler could never by smarmy. All of the characters are well drawn, not caricatures, but real people. You can read this book without being a big Jane Austen fan, but I found that it made me want to go reread all of my Austen books. Also, Sarah Canary, also by Fowler, is one of my favorite books. Those of you who think that Jane Austen is too girly could maybe try Sarah Canary instead.

The Hippopotamus Pool, by Elisabeth Peters

Italian Fever, by Valerie Martin

Mary Reilly, by Valerie Martin

Symmetries of Culture, by Washburn and Crowe

The Monkey's Raincoat, by Robert Crais

The LA Times recommended this book, so I thought I'd give it a try. The author was described as a worthy successor to Raymond Chandler. I adore Raymond Chandler so I was excited to read this book. But I think the direction that the noir detective drama has gone in the last 70 years is just too much for my delicate sensibilities. There was too much gratuitous violence and killing -- I was really put off. Philip Marlowe was never so quick to pull out a gun or beat someone up.

Death's Jest-Book, by Reginald Hill

Yet another mystery. Reginald Hill is my favorite mystery author, by far. But I would not recommend this book as an introduction to his works. It depends too much on the events of previous books, and almost feels like an afterthought or continuation of the last book, Dialogues of the Dead. Overall, I still liked it, but there are much better Reginald Hill books out there.

The Magician's Assistant, by Ann Patchett

After reading Bel Canto earlier this year, I was totally blown away. So when I saw this in a used bookstore down in San Diego, I bought it. I started it on the plane back from Atlanta. So far it is completely absorbing, but very sad. After the main character's husband dies, she finds out that he has family that she never knew about. I had to fight back tears on the plane (or maybe that was just due to lack of sleep at the conference!)

Update: Well, I didn't finish this book. I'm not sure why. I really liked it, but somehow I just got distracted. Maybe because school started and I got all wrapped up in other things. I will definitely come back to this book someday.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susannah Clarke

I love this book. I became completely immersed in this incredibly detailed and intricate world. At 800 pages, it's a little daunting. In fact, the first 100 or so pages were a little hard to keep on with. But the reward when you persevere is great. The story is essentially of two English magicians who are both friends and rivals, and their efforts to bring magic back to England.

The Slippery Slope, by Lemony Snicket

The tenth book in the Lemony Snicket books "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is just as good as all the others. I love these books. Every time I get one from the library, I devour it in an afternoon. The main characters are the Baudelaire orphans, who are in a constant quest to evade the clutches of the evil Count Olaf.

The Ghostwriter, by John Harwood.

This was a really good book, a mix of a mystery and old-fashioned horror a la Edgar Allen Poe, with supernatural overtones. The main character is trying to find out what sort of mysterious calamity happened in his family before he was born. He has to piece together old letters, photos, and strange manuscripts to figure it out. In the meantime, he falls in love with a pen pal and is also trying to find her. Highly recommended.

Oblivion, by David Foster Wallace

I really want to like this, because I like David Foster Wallace so much. But my attention span isn't what it used to be. I took it back to the library without finishing it. Shame.

Summerland, by Michael Chabon

A friend recommended this book to me. I found it in the children's section of the library, which surprised me. It's a cute story, and I like a lot of things about it. The story manages to weave together folk tales and fairy tales from many different cultures into one unified world, which is a nice trick. What started to bug me was the extreme reverence for the game of baseball. People who know me know that I love baseball, but this was just a little too much.

M is for Malice, and N is for Noose, by Sue Grafton

The Sue Grafton mysteries are reliably entertaining. They are pretty well written, and they just fly by. Perfect airplane book. Great for curling up on the couch with for a lazy afternoon.