Saturday, July 24, 2010

Books for July

  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - This book is difficult to describe without resorting to spoilers early on. It tells the story of the West African trickster god Anansi and his offspring living in the modern world; Charles "Fat Charlie" Nancy, Anansi's son, heretofore a nondescript accountant placidly betrothed to a nice girl named Rosie, suddenly finds himself saddled with an annoying twin brother, mixed up with an embezzling scheme and traveling to the Dreamworld, after his father dies.

  • Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden - Third of the series about the founder of the Mongol empire, as he expands the empire westward into the Arab lands of Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad. After the Shah's death, his son Jalal Al-Din escapes only to resurface and show Genghis' Mongol warriors their first defeat in battle. In revenge, Genghis demonstrates new levels of depravity as he decimates the Kwarezmian empire before heading back East to quell signs of rebellion among the Xi Xia. The only bad thing about this book was coming to the end, knowing there were no more enemies to face, and no more lands to conquer.

  • How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor - Georgina Hayes has been living in the car with her Mama and little brother Toby ever since her Daddy ran off and the landlord kicked them out.Then one day, she she sees a poster with $500 reward for a missing dog, and gets an idea: she'll steal a dog and then use the reward money to get them back into a real place to live. Georgina's voice is real, and her story makes you ache for those stuck in a situation like hers. It's a fast read, with plenty of unexpected turns as Georgina's simple plot gets more and more complicated. "Sometimes, the more you stir it, the worse it stinks."

  • Armegeddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut - A posthumous collection catalogued as "literary essays" but it mainly consists of short fiction, and is mainly about war. The best stories include "Guns Before Butter", about a punishment detail of US POWs in Dresden, who spend all their time writing out recipes for the first meal they will have when they get home, "The Commandant's Desk", about life in occupied Czechoslovakia, and "The Unicorn Trap" which has one of the best openings I've read in quite a while:
    In the year 1067, anno Domini, in the village of Stow-on-the-Wold, England, eighteen dead men turned this way and that in the eighteen arches of the village gibbet. Hanged by Robert the Horrible, a friend of William the Conqueror, they boxed the compass with fishy eyes. North, east, south, west, and north again, there was no hope for the kind, the poor, and the thoughtful.

  • The Interpreter by Suki Kim - Debut novel by a Korean-American set in New York City. Suzy Park's parents were shot at point-blank range five years ago in their fruit-and-vegetable store, apparently a random robbery, leaving her and her older sister Grace alone and estranged. Suzy is a courtroom interpreter who stumbles across some unpleasant information about her parents while working an unrelated deposition. This leads her into the Korean underworld to uncover the truth about her past. The characters are full and complex, Suzy's depression painted in fine srokes, the author's eye for telling detail unerring.

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