Books I read last month…

1Star Road – Matthew Costello and Rick Hautala

A former rebel leader, now working for the World Council, is tasked with traveling to a distant world and offering his former cohorts clemency and, hopefully, an end to their protracted rebellion.  To get there, however, he must ride the mysterious Star Road.

I was really looking forward to checking this one out, especially after reading this in the synopsis: “His fellow passengers on Star Road Vehicle-66 are a suspicious group, all with their own hidden reasons for traversing the star road.”  I was expecting an intriguing cast of colorful characters, each with a hidden agenda that would keep me guessing.  Instead, I got some fairly straightforward personalities and not much in the way of engaging  secrets.  Some promising ideas here and a great extended action sequence involving alien reptilian predators, but ultimately undermined by stock characters and an oddly clipped narrative style.

1American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Shadow, our protagonist, is released from prison early so that he can attend his wife’s funeral.  On his way back home, he is approached by the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job working for him.  And so begins Neil Gaiman’s head-spinning masterpiece about life, death, faith, and deific survival.  An epic narrative that twists and turns, confounds and surprises.  To quote my second grade teacher Mrs. Vowels: “It’s time to put your thinking caps on!”

1NOS4A2 – Joe Hill

I’ve read Joe Hill’s work in the past and enjoyed it, but have never really LOVED any of his books- until this one.  With N0S4A2, Hill finally comes into his own with an unsettling story about missing kids, a dark fantasy land, and a creepy yet surprisingly nuanced villain.  A standout read.

1Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Heralded for being incredibly inventive, this book opens with a scene as hoary as time travel fiction itself (the old “If I could go back in time and kill Hitler” chestnut) and ends with a scene that, quite frankly, doesn’t make a lick of sense.  But, in between, you have a very well-written and engaging book that isn’t quite as clever or original as many critics would have us believe – unless, of course, you never saw Run, Lola, Run which uses the exact same convention.

1The Lives of Tao – Wesley Chu

An ordinary schlub is enlisted by an alien parasite in a civil war against a merciless enemy.

A fun read and one I would have enjoyed a lot more had I not got stuck on one egregious logic lapse early on.  The bad guys are incredibly powerful, yet can’t be bothered to fork over twenty bucks and do a license plate check on our hero’s abandoned car and thereby learn his identity.  Of course, their doing so would have meant their discovering his whereabouts early in the narrative, which would have deep-sixed the majority of the story involving Tao’s secret agent training, his roommate, his job, and love life.  Amusing if you’re not too analytical a reader.

1Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief – Lawrence Wright

A history of scientology and its frighteningly far reach.  Terrifying.

1Hang Wire – Adam Christopher

Our sleepwalking protagonist’s somnambulist sorties appear to coincide with a rash of recent murders.  Is Ted Hall responsible?  Or does the serial killer’s true identity lie within the ranks of the circus rolling through town?  The answer may not surprise you, but it confused and frustrated me.  Very weird – and not necessarily in a good way.  Though fast paced, at times it reads as if it the entire novel was written in one furiously inspired sitting.


The Echo – Jame Smythe

A sequel to The Explorer, a novel that started strong before devolving into silliness, The Echo offers an equally promising start before essentially covering familiar territory.  It feels more like a re-do than an actual sequel – but, having said that, it IS superior to the original.

1A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

Interesting discussions of time, life, and death in this novel about  a woman in Canada who finds the diary of a young Japanese girl when it washes ashore one day. My biggest issue with this book is that the writings of the young Nao don’t read like the voice of a 16 year old Japanese girl. They read more like what a 50-something year old North American writer would think a 16 year old Japanese girl would sound like.  Young Nao is impossibly erudite and profound throughout but then, at one point, expresses a desire to visit Tokyo Disneyland so that she can shake hands with Mickey-chan because they are kindred spirits.  Also, the late foray into meta-supernatural territory feels like a misstep.

1Warlock: The Complete Collection – Jim Starlin

Adam Warlock’s swan song is one of my favorite single issue comic books, so when I came across this at my local shop, I had to pick it up.  Jim Starlin’s complete run on the celestial hero has a definite 70’s vibe, at times trippingly delightful, and at times cringingly silly (I’ve got two words for you: Space Shark!).  Recommended if you’re a fan.

1Love Minus Eighty – Will macintosh

After running down and killing a jogger, the guilt-ridden driver takes to visiting his “deceased” victim at a cryogenic dating facility where dead women are kept in stasis for future resurrection, provided a prospective suitor is willing to foot the bill for the pricey process.

Provocative and smart, it’s a novel chalk full of moral and ethical complexity. Eventually, however, the fascinating premise is stretched a little too long and thin.

19 thoughts on “March 16, 2014: My February Reading List – Capsule Reviews!

  1. OT: Is anyone watching ABC’s (in USA) new drama series, “Resurrection”? If so, are the Scientologists running ads with it in your area?

  2. Books I’ve read this month: NONE.
    Books I’ve read in Feb: None
    Books I read in Jan: None

    You get the pattern here. LOL

  3. What ever you do, don’t enter alien in the search area here,I never did find what I was looking for ,,again. Yesterday I entered a book title in search to see if you had read it, you had mentioned it at the end of a post,asking if others had read it, so now I lost the date I saw it on and did not write the name down, way back in 2007 easter I think. I think I am losing my marbles, I am reading Life after,,wish I had seen your comments b4, thats a lot of wasted pages…. but thanks for sharing more books..

  4. Sad to see your review on Star Road. It sounded so promising. Perhaps I should take it off my Amazon list…

  5. I want to read more books, but there really do not seem to be very many real good ones out there, compared to the schlock. Thanks, Joe, for pointing out some of the good ones.

  6. Joe, another possible alternate job would be book reviewer. You have a great capacity to read so many books and keep the compelling facts, characters and overall synopsis of each distinct. Do you take notes after reading each book? I admire your discipline to capture the gist of each story.


  7. Oh, and most recent book read is, “Lines of Departure”. Current book (that is taking me months to read) is Krauthammer’s “Things That Matter” which is a compilation of his many columns with added commentaries. I enjoy reading it, but it isn’t “light going” and I’m often challenged by obscure references and vocabulary. That is one smart man, I’ll say.


  8. Now that’s impressive. I am always reading a book, but I get nowhere near 11 in a month.

    I read Joe Hill’s “Horns”. I found it entertaining, but I can’t pay it more praise than that. It’s apparently going to be a movie with Daniel Radcliffe.

  9. 2014 seems to be the year of anime sequels Joe, with Sword Art Online 2 coming in July now, they recently announced Durarara!! Season 2 for this year too.

    It covers the second arc of the light novels. Not sure if you’ve seen this series though, mentioning encase you have.

  10. Firstly, I would consider alpaca farming. It is usually a co-op deal, with their fleece sent away for processing while the farmers sell the end result (sweaters, yarns, shawls, blankets, baby clothes, etc) which is an amalgam of all the fleece sent to that particular co-op (such as the AFCNA). Coincidentally, I had just gone to our local alpaca farm on Saturday and purchased this softer-than-eiderdown little guy (for those who understand, it’s a way to love a baby alpaca…):

    AND secondly…just days away from the first day of Spring, we awoke to this:

    Needless to say, I’m hunkering down inside, cuddling up with my teddy, and taking a nap! 🙂


  11. @ Tam Dixon – Nope. Instead I made a good 2 hour nap! 😀 Keep in mind that I went to bed after 3 am last night/this morn, so I needed the nap…and so did the cats, it seems…though they kept fighting over who got to sleep in the ‘sweet spot’, which today was right up against my shins. The loser got to sleep up against my tummy (which made him the winner in my book 🙂 ). Usually I’m in such a position that one gets behind my legs/butt while the other is against my tummy, but the way I laid across the bed (I can’t take naps in a normal position, otherwise it’s ‘sleep’ 😉 ), there wasn’t enough room behind my legs. That, and my butt woulda blocked their view of the birdfeeder right outside the window, and they couldn’t have that.

    Tonight I’m making either chili or tacos…leaning towards the latter. It’s still snowing, though it was supposed to end 4 hours ago. Two days from now we’re supposed to get rain, and it’s going to be in the 50s by week’s end, so this is gonna be a weird rollercoaster of a ride weather-wise this week.

    I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, mainly because of this:

    I ordered some of their blends, and though I prefer to cook with fresh spices, these blends are really good – and a bit different from what you find in the store. I’ve been making home fries in the morning with peppers and onions and red skin potatoes sprinkled with a combo of their Mediterranean blend (kitchen karma) and their seasoned salt – soooo yummy! I special ordered their Cloud 9 chili powder (which hasn’t appeared on the site yet), so want to try it in either tacos or chili (it is good in grits, which I discovered on Saturday… 🙂 ).

    Okay…mom-in-law just called, so gotta be the good daughter-in-law and run! 🙂


  12. Das, sorry for your crap weather, I would send you some FL sunshine to melt it, but all we had today is rain and storms,,come on spring! Joe I am still searching, my mind and the old posts, sorry, I can’t think more than alien, maybe after a nap.

  13. Thanks for the rewievs joe. Of this i only read Love Minus Eighty definitely idont not like it. The final part perhaps its worse than the rest but in general do not catch my interest . I try with NOS4A2 – Joe Hill.

    Im curious about the Star Road case ( i dont think in read this and your word is gold for me than not is good) but i have to add my strong feeling than since Rick Hautala a well stablised horror writer, die in march 2013 and Matthew Costello for me at most is a for hire writer (in the worst sense of the term). i suspect Hautala died leaving just started the book in part and with some idea of ​​where you wanted to finish and just a hasty way to sell and cover costs. And this should be noted.
    Some publisher dont respect the work of live writer how much the died ones.
    RIP Rick

  14. I think I’m not the fastest reader. Or maybe I’m just a busy mom. But I may have to check out that Joe Hill novel!

    Ugh.. scientology. It’s extremely scary. They’re buying up tons of land here. Plus people who have worked near their building in St. Pete have told me über scary stories about them. They very well may be the cult above all other cults. At least the dorks at Westboro Baptist are CLEARLY insane and wrong. With Scientology they seem to suck in intelligent people. And they’ve amassed a scary amount of wealth and power. *shudder*

  15. Das: A nap? Sounds like the perfect day! I’ve been thinking about getting a spice grinder myself after watching Amy Thielen on Food Network. She cooks Minnesota comfort food and some of the dishes look great. Sunday’s show was on horseradish (a food I don’t normally eat) but she made it look interesting. Also, Amy did a show on roasted honey garlic cloves that she served with a wilted salad that looked simple/easy/good. I digress, anyway Sunday’s show had toasted coriander (ground) that she mixed in homemade cocktail sauce (oh yum!):

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.