Some Completely Unrelated Reviews of Good Books . . . and Some Bad

Right.  Let’s save the best two for last.

First, a good one: The Rude Pundit’s Almanack is a hell of a collection of essays and blog posts by Lee Papa, who blogs under the sobriquet of the Rude Pundit (whom I have written about before).  And he is refreshingly rude.  He accurately calls out the liars and the hacks on the right wing who are fucking up this country for their own political gain.  He doesn’t hold back.
I love it.
About Bobby Jindal, gov. of Louisiana, who once thought about running for President:
He’ll lose when everyone realizes that Stephen Hawking has a stronger spine.
On Dick Cheney:

In 1990, when he was George Bush the Smarter’s secretary of defense, Cheney was an advocate for the policy of arming the “rebels” in Afghanistan.  Also financing and arming the mujahideen was a Saudi from a wealthy family, Osama bin Laden, who got fighters from mosques around the globe.  So Dick Cheney and bin Laden once, more or less, worked together.  After the war with Afghanistan helped destroy the Soviet Union, various mujahideen groups became the Taliban and Al Queda.

In other words, Dick Cheney’s actions led directly to 9/11.

The fact that Cheney is a free man, decaying from his dessicated heart to his gout-ridden legs in his huge houses paid for by oil profits, speaks of just how feckless and corrupted our body politic has become.

And about Glenn Beck’s ghost-written holiday story:
I would rather have my balls waxed by a beautician with hooks for hands than have to sit through Glenn Beck’s performance of The Christmas Sweater again.
Yeah, that’s good shit.
The Rude Pundit’s blog is here.  Follow the links to buy the book.
*   *   *

Here’s a weak one: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory.  Loory is a hip, current writer, which means he’s glorified by the literati in NY and LA and small presses that publish writers no one has ever heard of.  Reviewers on Amazon even compare him to Ray Bradbury.
No.  Wrong.  Bradbury has always known how to tell a solid story.
Solidity is definitely missing here.
This collection contains some good ideas — and Loory can certainly write, I’ll give him that — but every single story reads like flash fiction, like they were written on the spur of the moment, with the germ of an idea, but then they eventually lead to nothing of importance, usually providing resolutions that are unsatisfying, to say the best. The title is derivative of the classic television anthology series, the Twilight Zone, and its “middle ground between light and shadow.” 
This collection is the Twilight Zone for the ADHD generation.  Short attention span fiction.  Light, shadow, and nothing of substance.  You have been warned.
*   *   *
This one had so much promise . . . so why was I so bored?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a quirky little novel, published by the quite respectable publisher of absolutely gorgeous books, Quirk Books.  The book design is beautiful and impeccable.  The photographs, strange and wonderful, used throughout the novel, are well-integrated into the text.
I love books that combine text and art, and I keep waiting for one that will absolutely enthrall me.  This one gave me hopes — the story of a boy looking for the truth of his grandfather’s past on a Welsh island.  Combine a coming-of-age quest with good graphic design, and I’ll give you a shot.
Unfortunately, the novel itself left me cold, and I had really wanted it to kick my ass.  I go into novels — every damn novel — with the expectation of, “Okay, here I am.  Do me.”
The story here, however bordered with the sparkly trappings of magic, oddity and wonder, is told in the universally-weak language of telling, not showing.  The opposite is a mark of excellent storytelling — a good writer shows or evokes, not merely tells.
This is a long story that needs so much development.  Instead, it’s told in shorthand, perhaps for a juvenile or non-discriminatory audience.  I can’t recommend Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for any reader looking for the next novel filled with Harry Potter-like wonder and magic.  And that’s a shame, because I really thought it had a shot.
*   *   *
This one is for men who like to read.  Ladies, you can read and enjoy this, too — but I’m talking to the boys out there, especially the ones who read before they go to sleep.

The Gentleman’s Bedside Companion is a compendium of facts, information and trivia written in fifteen-minute snatches — just enough for a guy to read in bed while he’s waiting to fall asleep.  From quoting the Batman TV series of the ’60s to the story of heroin, from a glimpse at great war movies to the Best Ever Book Titles (such as The Day Amanda Came and Invisible Dick).

There’s so much here, and it’s all fun.  Enjoy — and get a good night’s sleep.

*   *   *

These last two will keep you up reading way past the point of no return.  Finish the books, call in to work, and sleep the rest of the day.

The Magician King is Lev Grossman’s sequel to The Magicians.  The first book was Harry Potter for grown ups.  This one reminds me more of Michael Moorcock and J. R. R. Tolkien mixed together with some realistic New York snark and an anti-Hogwarts magic school.  It continues the story of Quentin’s inner turmoil as a man, magician and king — king of Fillory, a Narnia-esque land of enchantment — and the journey he undertakes to save his friend, Queen Julia.

But you and I know that journeys and quests are really about the journeyer, and The Magician King is the story of Quentin’s all too real ennui in fantasyland — and how he grows to become the hero he always wanted to be.

I liked the first novel better than this one — beginnings and origin stories are almost always better than the second book in a series — but I’m waiting for Book 3 nevertheless.

*   *   *

Anno Dracula is a sprawling evocation of the Ripper’s London, built upon the idea that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a nonfiction book, and that the immortal vampire lord succeeded in conquering England.  Dracula has become the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, and vampires and humans across the world mingle like hunters and cattle.

This is novel set the stage for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in that author Kim Newman took the general conceit of an alternate sequel to Dracula and populated his bloodworld with numerous vampires of fiction and film.  Count Iorga is here, as is the original Nosferatu; Barnabas Collins does things his own way across the pond, and Lord Ruthven seeks power and prestige in the court of Dracula.

This is a wonderful novel, one of the best vampire novels since King’s ‘Salems Lot.  You can get it here . . . and just for curiosity’s sake, here’s the Italian cover.

One thought on “Some Completely Unrelated Reviews of Good Books . . . and Some Bad

  1. Excellent book review, though I won't read any of them. Saw a note about how many books you read this summer…and thought you should follow it.
    Now do a review on YOUR books and make the public crave them.


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