Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading Roundup

I've got a baseball game queued up on my oh-so-loved so I'm ready to finally catch up on what I've been reading lately. In no particular order:

Title: Moneyball
Author: Michael Lewis
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc (2003)

I don't think there are words to express just how much I liked this book. I think I liked it so much because I have an interest in baseball but even without that interest it's still good. The book is about the general manager of the Oakland A's, Billy Beane, and his unconventional way of running a baseball team. When the book first came out there was much to-do between the Old Skool and the New Skool of thought re how to assess baseball talent. In fact, it might be what partly inspired one of my favorite blogs which is, sadly, no longer active. (The archives are super awesome though so it's worth perusing.) Two major selling points here have everything to do with Lewis' writing. First, he seems to realize that the material with which he is provided by baseball folks is a friggin' gold mine so he stays out of its way and lets it speak for itself. Second, Beane has quite a temper which renders him slightly ridiculous on the page. Lewis handles this perfectly and keeps what might be a very wearing aspect of Beane's character completely under control. Very highly recommended!

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Title: The Merlin Conspiracy
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (2003)

This is a cool set-up of alternate realities colliding and I definitely enjoyed the world but I continue to not understand why I don't like Jones' books more. I haven't read very many but I keep going in with very high expectations due to her fan base and then not really enjoying the stories all that much. Any Jones' fans want to set me straight? Or at least recommend some favorite titles?

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West
Author: Hampton Sides
Publisher: Doubleday (2006)

This is an absolutely fantastic book about US Expansion into the West centered around Kit Carson's lifespan. He is the thread that binds the timeline of the book but there is much more here than a straight-up biography. The scope is impressive and wonderfully handled. Very highly recommended for anyone with an interest in American history.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Title: A Bride for His Convenience
Author: Edith Layton
Publisher: Avon (2008)

The difference between Layton's Signet line and her Avon line is so huge that I'm stunned these books are by the same person. I was lured into another of her Avon's due to the close-out sales at Borders but I am now firmly committed to not even being enticed by a FREE Layton Avon.

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Title: The Two Minute Rule
Author: Robert Crais
Narrator: Christopher Graybill
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2006)

Dr M and I listened to this one as we drove to SoCal and back. This is one of Crais' titles that does not include Cole or Pike. I liked it well enough but was most impressed with Crais' ability to depict a loser as a sympathetic protag. He depicted the character that is nearly impossible for me to get behind and did it in such a way that I was almost converted. In the end I didn't wish the protag ill but I really didn't wish him well either. Criminals and dead-beat parents are very, very hard for me to want to stick with as a character.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: The Amulet of Samarkand
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Hyperion Books (2003)

This is the first of a trilogy centered in a world with magicians. This one is set in London and a magician in training calls a djinni before he's allowed to. The djinni, Bartimaeus, is an absolute gem of a character but I don't think I'll be reading further in the series. I'm fairly anti-series right now anyway (what has happened to the stand alone?????) but the entire time I was reading I couldn't ever shake the annoyance of how sucky all the female characters were. The two main characters had a fairly small realm of activity that was male-dominated (which is fine, that was the set-up) but whenever this small realm would brush up against female characters they were all so one dimensional. meh.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: The Spellman Files
Author: Lisa Lutz
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2007)

This is a neat hook featuring a family of private investigators. The only problem was that the family drove me nuts. If the main character (eek, I've forgotten her name) was doing her thing and interacting with non-family members I enjoyed myself. Whenever the family was around (which is a lot, it's sort of the point of the book) I was annoyed or bored.

rating: no idea, how do you rate a book when you liked half the words and really disliked the other half?

Title: The Thief-taker's Apprentice
Author: Stephen Deas
Publisher: Gollancz (2010)

I don't know if this one is available in the US on anything other than Kindle (or poss other e-formats?) just as fyi. This is pretty standard fantasy fare with a thief-taker adopting a local hooligan as his apprentice. What is not standard is the pace and build of the story. Refreshingly done. Also, Syannis (thief-taker) is hard core. He's not one of these final-speech-giving, motive-recapping, dilly-dallying types of enforcers: when he comes, it's with the thunder and it's awesome!

rating: 3 of 5 stars

What have you been reading lately?


  1. Good book wrap-up of books, Rachel. I enjoyed THE TWO MINUTE RULE, a little more than you, but it's great you two listened to the audiobook on your recent roadtrip. I like Christopher Graybill's narration. You've got me curious about MONEYBALL, too. Thanks, Rachel.

  2. I also thought the narration is good. I'm really understanding why so many people say that an audiobook can be made or broken by the narrator.

    Definitely give Moneyball a try. I think you'll really like it.