Sunday, February 13, 2011

Books I Have Read Since Christmas

Book 1 - Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer, America's Deadliest Serial Murderer, Ann Rule. Ann Rule's extraordinary writing once again takes a gripping true crime drama and takes it over the top from absurdly creeping to downright horrifying. Not skimpy on the harrowing details, this account is not for the faint of heart. [4.5/5]

Books 2-5 - Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Volumes 1-4, Rick Riordan. During this second read-through, I remembered what I loved about the series in general, although I did feel that it seems to take an unnaturally long time for Percy to reach the camp and get the Book 1 plot rolling. The first one-third of the book is merely back story and introduction to the Olympian world. When viewed with the entire series arc in mind, however, this is understandable. As Book 2 is my least favorite of the five-volume series, I was not expecting to particularly enjoy reading it again. It's short, the plot is not super-involved, and the characters barely grow. Nevertheless, there are redeeming qualities. For one, the chapter titles become even more clever. Second, this is the book in which the Party Ponies first intervene directly in the story. Book 3 feels like little more than a plot device to advance the overall overarching plot: the internal plot of the third book is not memorable. In Volume 4, both Percy and the plot come of age. It is by far my favorite of the series. [4/5]

Book 6 - If You Really Loved Me, Ann Rule. Nobody writes true crime like Ann Rule. Despite the fact that every single one of her books make my skin crawl and my blood boil, I keep coming back for another horrifying stranger-than-fiction case. [5/5]

Book 7 - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne. To everyone who recommended that I read this book: thank you so much. And you owe me a box of tissues. In all seriousness, I appreciated the angle from which the story was told, and although the story can by no means be described as "emotionally satisfying," it is nevertheless emotionally appropriate. Although there are significant problems (I believe) with the plot from a historical perspective, I do appreciate the author's skill in forcing the reader to piece together the story almost completely by inference. [3.5/5]

Book 8-10 - The Hunger Games, Volumes 1-3, Suzane Collins. The first two volumes are well-crafted, fast-paced thrill rides. Although the plot twists were not always pleasing, it was at least enjoyable to have a book take me by surprise. In the third installment of the Hunger Games, the story took on a nightmarish and borderline melodramatic quality that, although not completely unpleasant, made me enjoy this book somewhat less than the first two; however, I have the feeling that I may have read the entire series too quickly (in eighteen hours) and may have been delirious by the time I finished the third. [4/5]

Book 11 - The Bride Collector, Ted Dekker. After a steady diet of Ann Rule's faithful portrayals of actual serial killers, FBI agents, and detectives, I find Dekker's tale to come across as more than a bit melodramatic. I haven't read much Dekker, and my complaints about his books have not been altered by the reading of The Bride Collector. He may be an excellent plotter, but his writing tends to be prosy, his dialogue unbelievably stilted, and his characters emotionally immature. [2/5]

Book 12 - King of the Castle, Victoria Holt. I just love these cheesy old gothic romances, although this one didn't pack the same punch that some VH books do. [3/5]

Book 13-15 - The Little Lady Agency, Volumes 1-3, Hester Browne. I so very rarely read chicklit that I don't have much basis for comparison, but I will say that although the story's a bit unbelievable, the characters are endearing. Hester Browne's turn of phrase is often delightfully refreshing as well. If the second installment feels like a bit of a let-down, keep reading: the third brings a satisfying end to a well-developed, unexpected chick-lit trilogy. [3.5/5]

Book 16 - The Necessity of Prayer, E.M. Bounds. Although clearly writing within the framework of Wesleyan theology, EM Bounds has much to offer on the fervency of prayer in the life of the Christian, and how prayer relates to various Christian virtues. [4/5]

Book 17 - Four Views on Hell, contributors: John Walvoord, Zachary J. Hayes, Clark Pinnock. I found most helpful the responses and rebuttals exchanged among the authors. [4/5]

Book 18 - Dark Canyon, Louis L'Amour. Interestingly enough, this is the first L'Amour I've read in which I've was less than pleased with the writing. Everything happens "suddenly." That's fine as a plot device, but the word "suddenly" does not need to be used every time something sudden happens.

Other than that, this is as enjoyable as any other L'Amour out there. Perfect comfort escapist weekend reading, and short enough to be read in one or two sittings. [3/5]

Book 19 - The Grand Miracle, C.S. Lewis. I very much enjoy the "light touch" (as the author himself describes his style) Lewis employs to discuss some very deep truths indeed. If you've read no Lewis, this would be as good a place to start as any, although if you are not a Christian, I suggest you begin with Mere Christianity. [4.5/5]