Over the past month I've actually got some reading done...so here are my thoughts on the pages I've turned.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold - This was a very well done book. It's another teen book - like Twilight, which I liked, which may say something about me, I'd prefer not to dwell on it - but Sebold does an excellent job creating a world of the dead for her main character while still keeping her tied to the living. The upcoming movie probably won't hold a candle to the book, but they never do. Another reason I liked the book was for selfish reasons - the scenario of telling a story of a death and its repercussions told from the point of view of the dead person was an idea I have toyed with myself. And yes I came up with it before Desperate Housewives. Wow...I'm not gaining any man points here am I? Anyway, heartily recommend the read.
Dearly Devoted Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay - By now many people know Dexter because of the Showtime series, but it was a book before it was a TV show. And the first two Dexter books were very good. The third one, which came out after the first season of the show, seemed almost like Lindsay was desperately trying to make a break between his Dexter and the one on TV, and it didn't quite work. This book was a little better, and a good story - hey, stories about a serial killer with a conscience can't be all bad - but it still didn't live up to the quality of the first two novels. I hate to say it, but with the success of the previous novels and whatever Lindsay is bringing in from the TV show and complementary Dexter stuff (dolls, mugs, whatever else), the writing may be suffering a tad. I am heartened by the fact four was better than three; perhaps the next novel will be back to the same place as the first two. If you like Dexter it's still worth reading. If you haven't read Dexter before, start with the first novel.
The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown - Brown crafts a story that is always thought provoking. The minutiae of one of his thrillers may not be altogether believable, but there is little doubting his history and research, plus his ability to put that research into a mass market story - he does it well. And it's entertaining. At times I thought the characters got bogged down in details that didn't fit the speed Brown has set - I mean, the whole book takes place in a matter of hours, right? - but it makes you think. Did you have any idea noetic science is a real science? Did you know theories about collective thoughts creating real impact on reality is something being researched today? The concept of it is fascinating and if proven could really turn the world on its head. I'm also fascinated by the history of the Masons, and may do further reading of their history at a later date. The book itself was decent - I kept the pages moving - but some of the details that stuck out (and proved to be real upon further research) were the most fascinating parts.
Alex Cross's Trial, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo - When I first picked this up I expected it would be a story where Alex Cross - Patterson's famed hero of many novels - would somehow find himself on trial. Instead, it's apparently Alex Cross writing a book called Trial. Who knew? The story is very intriguing, set in the deep south during the early 1900s where a white lawyer is sent down there to research lynchings. It's a good read, a painful read, and it's also something that prompted discussion in our house (we do Book Club type readings a lot - get a novel from the library and each read it). However, the Alex Cross part of this story just bugged me. Cross "writes" an intro to the story talking about how it's from his family history, but then at the end it never comes back to Alex. You can guess but never find out how the Crosses in the story are related to him. Honestly, you could drop the whole Alex Cross link and the book would stand on its own much better. Still, a good read. And as always with Patterson, a fast one.
Ford County Stories, by John Grisham - I enjoy Grisham. I think the first one I read is A Time to Kill and I've read just about all of his others, usually thoroughly enjoying them. This collection of short stories I didn't need. By Grisham's own admission these are stories that didn't have enough depth to make them novels and have just been sitting around for years. Apparently Grisham is big enough he can now publish whatever he wants. However, just like with all those albums of 2Pac's that came out after his murder, that doesn't mean they SHOULD be published - there is a reason they never got to the publishing stage in the first place. Perhaps this is too harsh on Grisham, because some of the stories are okay, a couple even decent, but as a whole it seemed like kind of a waste of time. I finished most of the stories with a shrug, thinking, why did I bother? Why did he bother? Then I got a little angry for having been lured into reading. I would recommend passing.
I, Alex Cross, by James Patterson - Again, this was Patterson with Cross - this time as the main character once again - and it was entertaining. I read it in little more than a day and enjoyed the story. However, you have to remember what you are getting into with a Patterson novel. At the time of reading the story is great and flows well, and you enjoy it. However, a few hours later - just like with a movie that doesn't give you all the details - you realize you are left with questions about things that just don't seem to fit. Like, what was the point of those characters watching his house? And why leave the reference with a bad guy knowing something about Cross, when it never comes to any fruition and the character simply disappears? And why create an off-main story distraction for Cross when it never affects his work on the case as a police detective? What's the point? As a young writer (and by young I mean new, not necessarily in age) these are the things you are taught to stay away from because it detracts from the reader's enjoyment of the story. However, apparently when you get to be X amount of successful commercially (like a Patterson, or a Grisham, or someone on that level) you can apparently do whatever the hell you want. And yes, I know all of this about Patterson and read his new books anyway, so I really can't complain about it - just pointing it out as a warning to other readers who may expect more. It's entertaining, fast, and enjoyable - like a Bruce Willis movie. Just don't expect more than that.
Under the Dome, by Stephen King - I'm a sucker for a King novel. He was down for a bit (I call it a post-Dark Tower finale letdown), but his most recent effort is very, very good. And crazy long. Most books that are 1100 pages are obviously overblown, but King does a very good job not bogging a story down. He presents many, many different characters and outlooks on a story, but does it in a way so they don't get all boggled up in your mind. When a new character is introduced King spends enough time with the newbie so the reader gets a strong sense of who this character is - then when he comes back to them 60 pages later the readers isn't flummoxed by wondering who the hell this person was and have to flip back. I hate that. Wifey hates that. You probably hate that too. The premise of the story is a classic "what if" scenario: What if a giant dome suddenly appeared around a small town? And what if that town was run by someone who was completely full of himself and a somewhat religious zealot? And what if there was a giant meth lab? Just what would happen to those people caught under the dome? (I love the way this story came about - throw out a crazy idea and discuss how people would deal with it - I may try this.) It's a Lord of the Flies type play out of the scenario (at least, from what I know of that book - I haven't read it; maybe I should) and while some of it is predictable, much of it is not. Yes, 1100 pages is long and the story can be wacky, but it's also completely believable (you know, given the premise of the dome and the people presented) as to how it could play out. And it's a page-turner. People can accuse King of a lot of things, but you can't ever say his stories are dull or they are poorly constructed. Thumbs up.
I may have missed one or two...I wish the library's website told me the books I had borrowed in the past so I could use that as a reference. If I remember them, I'll just insert them and you'll never know the difference. As for my next book, it's Omnivore's Dilemma...yeah, it's on a different level than these previous ones listed here. As expected, so far it's mildly depressing along with being informative. Good stuff.
Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 - This is the new version, with Denzel Washington and John Travolta. I was entertained, but it wasn't anything special.
Angels & Demons - A nice companion piece to reading The Lost Symbol, the movie was interesting but fell far, far, far short of the original novel. Tom Hanks simply does not work for me as Robert Langdon. That was a casting mistake. Of course, it - and The DaVinci Code - made hundreds of millions, so my opinion probably doesn't matter.
The Ugly Truth - This was entertaining, actually. Thought not a new premise - guy and girl fall for each other while one setting up the other with someone else - it was still amusing. The restaurant business meeting scene will no doubt entertain many.
State of Play - This movie I thought was pretty good. Sort of like All the President's Men, but with more violence. Russell Crowe gave a pretty good performance of a gritty news guy who disdains new media (i.e., blogs and the like), but also proved himself to be nimble and adaptive when the story demanded it. The veteran and the new young blogger falling for each other isn't something I think is believable, but it was entertaining.
Spanglish - For some reason I thought this was going to be funnier, probably just because it had Adam Sandler. Still, it had funny spots and Sandler does a fairly respectable job as a chef while also trying to handling his crazy wife and find common ground with his new help that doesn't speak English. Tea Leoni does a pretty good job playing a crazy upper class suburban housewife - crazy probably doesn't do her justice.
Julie and Julia - As a foodie and someone who blogs - sometimes about food! - I had to see this, right? To be truthful I wasn't all that excited about it, but after seeing I understand why so many loved it. Heck, I loved it, but probably for other reasons. The concept of Julie's blog about cooking through Julia Child's book in a year is pretty fantastic, and I plan on reading her book (and maybe her blog too) when I can. It's that kind of focus in a blog that can really lift it to where it becomes a big, mainstream draw. Mine? Probably not so much. Too scattered. Food, football, beer, stuff that pisses me off - how would you market that? Really, how? If you can tell me I will be very thankful. (!) Anyway, the movie was interesting, and the extras on the Blu Ray were cool too. If you have it, make sure you do the Scrambled Eggs for Daphne recipe - they were pretty damn good.