December 3rd, 2016

kitty, reading

Books #81-82

Book #81 was "California" by Edan Lepucki, as an audiobook. I think I ran across this on a "best books of the year" list, and later found out that Stephen Colbert had plugged it and helped make it very popular. Some people have criticized it, saying it would never have become a bestseller if not for Colbert, but I think it mostly deserves it. Frieda and Calvin are living in a near-future U.S. where the environment has gone to hell, the economy is collapsing, big cities have devolved into chaos, the rich have built walled communities, and terrorist groups have staged violence to protest the growing inequality. Frieda and Calvin decide Los Angeles is too dangerous and have moved out to the country to live off the land. Things go reasonably well for them for about two years, but then Frieda begins to suspect she is pregnant, and becomes anxious about the thought of giving birth and raising a child alone in the wilderness. The couple sets out to see if a nearby community of others who live off the land will be welcoming. The community is thriving on a model different from the rich, walled communities and seems ideal in many ways, but it is harboring dark secrets. I won't say more because it would include major spoilers. I didn't think this book was perfect, and it left a lot of loose threads at the end, but I did really like it. It's less a near-future dystopia and more a meditation on marriage and the secrets people keep, even from the ones that we love most. I listened to this as an audiobook read by Emma Galvin, and, sadly, I didn't love her as the reader. I like the timbre of her voice, but the cadence was off. She pauses in weird places where I'm sure there wasn't a comma in the text, which has her coming off as a female Capt. Kirk at times. I'd recommend this as a paper book instead of listening to the audiobook if you're picky about your audiobook readers.

Book #82 was "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco. I'd read his earlier novel, "The Name of the Rose," many years ago and always meant to read more by this Italian author. He died earlier this year so I bumped up this novel on my "to read" list and am glad that I did. The premise of the novel is that the protagonist and his friends at a publishing house in Milan start specializing in authors writing on occult and obscure topics, and the three begin to make a game out of creating their own conspiracy theory that they call "The Plan" by mish-mashing cabala with Rosicrucianism and mystical strains of Islam, witchcraft, Knights Templar and other bits of arcane knowledge. They think of it as a joke, but they realize someone is taking their Plan seriously when people start to go missing. This book is over 600 pages, but it took me three weeks to read it for reasons beyond the page count. In the first 16 pages, I already had an entire page of notes of vocabulary words, phrases, people and places to look up. The man's novels are NOT easy reads, but I didn't mind it. Sometimes I want a challenging read. I enjoyed this and plan to read more by Eco.

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Midnight Beast

Book #61: Far from True by Linwood Barclay

Number of pages: 517

The second book in Linwood Barclay's Promise Falls trilogy opens with two characters attempting to sneak their friend into a drive-in cinema. However, there was no way I would have guessed how the story would continue, as the characters promptly witness the cinema screen collapsing, killing four guests. This is another act by the unknown person committing hostile acts connected to the number 23 (the cinema screen comes down at 11:23pm, or 23:23 in 24-hour time), who is now turning to terrorism.

From this point, several plot strands start, with the main one (at least according to the plot synopsis) concerns one of the victims, who is found by his daughter to have had a secret love den in his house, from which it transpires he was a swinger, and that he also kept a large number of homemade porn DVDs, one of which has gone missing.

This plot makes the book feel like erotic fiction at times, but the novel also continues the mystery connected with the number 23, introduces the fact that there is apparently a serial killer at work, and adds a storyline about the character of Sam Worthington being blackmailed by her ex-husband, who is attempting to regain custody of their son. The plot also involves subjects such as rape, corrupt politicians and the very current issue of Islamophobia.

The story has a similar format to the original, as it switches between third person and first person narrative, which this time is from the point of view of private investigator Cal Weaver.

I overall enjoyed this book, despite having to try and follow a lot of subplots; it seemed to go at a quicker pace than the first book. While there were the usual plot twists, with most things not being as they first appeared, everything did make sense in the end. While a lot of the storylines felt separate to the first novel, you shouldn't skip ahead to this one, since it contains several plot spoilers for what has gone before. Having seen that the trilogy's final book is named "The Twenty Three", I am excited to find out what the relevance of the number is and who is behind it.

Next book: True Friendship - Vaughan Roberts