Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow - It took me a long time to get into this story. The first few chapters were tedious and chock full of detail that didn't seem relevant. Once I got past page 75 or so, I could barely put the book down, it was very fast paced. I don't know that I would read anything else by this author, though, that first 75 pages was a slog.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi - ** spoiler alert ** I really really REALLY wanted to like this book. I bought it because I met the author, who I liked, and it won the Compton Crook award at Balticon. So I tried very hard to like this, especially since as I was reading it, it was winning all sorts of other awards, such as the Hugo. But I just couldn't get into it. There were too many characters, and storylines, and so much world-building, and all the characters were having enormous personal and professional conflicts, and then also there was political intrigue, as well as environmental destruction via both disease and global warming, and it was just too much for me, jammed into one book. I ended up not caring about any of the characters, which turned out to be okay, since they all ended up dead. The one interesting guy, the disease-creating genetic engineer, appeared on about 4 pages. There was no real wrapup of the title character's (the windup girl) storyline. Is she military? Are all the windup girls military? Was all the explicit sexual violence necessary? (No. No it was not.) Is there actually another city full of free windups or was everyone lying to her?
I really wanted to like this book, but I found it a chore to get though, with an unsatisfying conclusion.