Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon – A decent book, but compared to others by him I was disappointed. In the past I’ve found it a delight to pick up one of his books every day, as I’m reading it. He writes colorful and eloquent descriptions of things, which I just love. Here, there was exactly one of those moments. That’s mainly why I was disappointed. In the larger story, he brings us to a neighborhood in San Francisco that’s maybe getting a little run down, and a celebrity wants to revitalize it with a huge shopping structure, but the people who live there don’t want it. This is the central point around which we meet two families. The husbands are best friends who run a (vinyl) record store together, and their wives run a mid-wife business together, one has a teenage son and the other is pregnant. One family black and the other is white. Both men are screw-ups in different ways, and crazy shit starts happening to them, around them. The main point is that the shopping center is going to put them out of business if it happens. How they deal with this and family issues, an estranged father, the death of a close friend, etc… is what drives the story. It’s largely a character study in my opinion. Lots of interesting characters, real people you might know and how they deal with life and mistakes. It’s drawn out in a lot of detail through the bulk of the book, and then the wrap up seems very sudden and clipped. I still like the author and will happily read more of his work, but when recommending him to a friend I would point them at something else.

Agents of Hel – book review

Agent of Hel trilogy by by Jacqueline Carey. Book 1: The Gone-Away World coverDark Currents, Book 2: Autumn Bones, and Book 3: Poison Fruit. – We’ve had a hot summer and as a result we’ve spent a lot of time in the one room in the house where we have a little AC unit running. I got bored with aimless internet wandering and picked up the first of these books, which sucked me right in and I didn’t stop until I had finished all three. Compared to other books I’ve read by Carey these seems pretty light. I still loved them, it’s just that you would never read the entire first Kushiel trilogy in one month. Those are bigger books and the stories are more dense and vast in scope.

Anyway, here we have a young woman, Daisy, living in a mid-western town thick with paranormal activity. She works for the police as a clerk, but is also the mortal agent of the local ruling deity: Hel. She’s charged with keeping the peace in Hel’s territory. She teams up with humans and monsters alike to keep the peace as best she can. The world is well developed and the characters are interesting. Some hiding their non-human side where others can’t. Daisy’s got the latter problem. She’s hell-spawn and she’s lived in this little town her whole life. She has a tail and temper, neither of which is easy to hide or keep in check. My favorite thing is the ghouls. I’ve never seen anyone really develop a ghoul class of character before, and nothing like this. Here we have mostly men, but some women, who were very religious and pious people who died in a fit of high emotion and did something terrible. Stranded between heaven and hell they become an immortal creature that cannot die, and who must feed on the emotions of others. Some will just say they are emotion-vampires, but that doesn’t at all do it justice. Every time they die they get cast back again from heaven, reborn, all injuries healed, and stricken again that they are forsaken by their god. This if far more complex than most blood suckers. There are also werewolves hiding in this town. They like to be as secretive as they can. Of course we get a nice love triangle for our hel-spawn girl with a werewolf and a ghoul. Keeping things as complicated as possible on a personal level while she’s also trying to solve murders and such. All a great ride. Since I read them so fast, I’m sure I’ll read them again at some point.

Game of Thrones B1

Listened to the audio book for The Game of Thrones (Book 1), which was exactly like watching the show. It didn’t feel like anything was different or that there was anything extra. Not that I noticed anyway. I enjoyed it.

The Gone-Away World – Review

The Gone-Away World coverThe Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway – Marvelous book. I immediately got Mike to read it because I wanted to talk about it. The story is set in a strange world and at the beginning things are odd enough that you just have to let it wash over you for awhile. It’s starts with the main character as an adult, and a catastrophe has occurred in the world. Then you go back and learn about him and the world when he was a kid. It goes back and forth a bit until it all crashes together and rolls forward. It’s so unique that I can’t find a good comparison. The closest would be reading China Mieville’s books. Similarly you have to be to roll with the weirdness until it starts to make sense. Once it clicks you feel like you’ve been access to the secrets of the universe. I love that! Oh, and once reached that point, it’s only just begun.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Review

The Yiddish Policemen's Union coverThe Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon – Highly Recommended! Chabon is a wonderful wordsmith. He comes up with some of the most fantastic turns of phrase, which made this book a delight to read, despite the setting, theme and depressed lead character.

This book is set in an alternate timeline where the Nazis won WWII and Jews had a rough time finding places in the world where they could live. Some of them landed in Alaska. The main story is set in this community in the modern day, and the lead character is a divorced, depressed, alcoholic police detective investigating the death of a junkie, which he believes was murder. As everyone tells him to stop looking into what’s obviously just an overdose, he gets more determined that he’s right. It’s an incredibly engaging story, and as I mentioned his very sentences can be a delight to read.