Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monday reading

Monday reading challenge:

Secret of Lost Things: I finally finished this novel. I'm not sure what it Is about the plot or prose style, but this took awhile to read. Basically, it's about a teenager's experience leaving Tasmania to come to New York, where she goes to work at a bookstore not unlike the Strand and becomes entangled in a quest for a long-lost manuscript. The plot sounds a lot more exciting than it is, but Sheridan Hay has a talent for details, and she captures the spirit of being a New York outsider just when the city was about to rebound (a few years after I left). Also, the portrayal of the store, here called the Arcade, is intriguing and amusing. The problem is, it came out about the same time as The Thirteenth Tale, a novel with a better plot, and it seems to have been overshadowed. The novel in some ways is open-ended (aspects of the mystery remain unresolved), and how lonely would an 18-year-old who's 5'10" and has an Australian accent be?

Road Trip of the Living Dead: I had read about 110 pages of this novel and put it down because it crossed my gross-out threshold. So after I finished "Secret," I decided to finish this one off, too, as part of the challenge to clear books off one's shelf. I had enjoyed, in a summer-reading way, the first book in the series, "Happy Hour of the Damned," as part of my mild flirtation with urban fantasy. That book was pretty funny, and while author Mark Henry purposely makes sick humor out of a zombie's lack of regard for human life, I was able to handle the mayhem. Not so with "Road Trip," which has a particularly gory moment at a new-Nazi bar in Idaho. Also, the main character, Amanda Feral, a zombie ad-agency head with a flair for style and mommy issues, seemed clever in the first, but now her asides (and frequent postmodern footnotes) are getting a little tired. Anyway, I did make it to the end; the gore didn't let up, but it didn't bother me as much as it did a couple of months ago. The ending is all right (there are a couple of OK plot twists), but I don't think I'll be reading the third in the series, "Battle of the Network Zombies."

Tortilla Flat: I finished listening to this. Unlike Steinbeck's Cannery Row, which I enjoyed reading in 2007, Tortilla Flat lacked a strong central character (Danny, the owner of the house where his friends gather and crash) didn't seem to be well-defined and proved peripheral to the episodic action. What may have seemed charming in 1935 seems arch now. But that's just my opinion; I could be wrong. Still, I like the pre-World War II California atmosphere, before. By the way, I loved the National Steinbeck Center when my family and I visited Salinas in 2000; I regret never having gotten back there.

Now reading: The Afterlife. Yep, I'm reading a 1994 collection of John Updike short stories, which is some ways is like looking at photo albums full of beloved, departed relatives. Updike's death saddened me a great deal. Death was a frequent them in his work over the past 15 or 20 years.

Now listening to: The House of the Seven Gables: Get on with it, Nat! I'm listening to it because I never read it, and I visited the House of the Seven Gables (minus a few gables) in August in Salem, so I figure now's as good a time as any.


Anonymous said...

Heard so many great things about "Secret of Lost Things" but I have yet to read it myself...I really need to!

Marie said...

It took me forever to read Secret of Lost Things also -- it just seemed to drag out for me but I did finish it and I liked it overall.