Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Best of 2019

I read 63 books this year; I struggled a bit to pick a top ten, but my top five all blew my mind in different ways, and could be recommended to anyone wanting a fresh read.  Enjoy!

Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

The Ready-Made Thief by Augustus Rose

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

 Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen

My Sister is a Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris

Orson Welles's Last Movie by Josh Karp

Monday, December 30, 2019

#63: The Ready-Made Thief by Augustus Rose

A troubled teen runaway runs afoul of a vast, baroque conspiracy in Augustus Rose's debut novel The Ready-Made Thief.

Every once in a while I come across a novel that is completely fresh, and this one is it; it has the trappings of a contemporary thriller, but has at its core the work of avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp, and delves deeply into his works.  There are unsolved codes, hidden rooms in art museums, a deadly secret society, and more, all cleverly tied to some of his famous pieces.

Contemporary influences include the dark web, the rave scene, and the sex traffic world.  It wraps up in an appropriately hazy fashion.

I can already think of several people to recommend this one to, and got it in just under the wire in 2019, having been gifted it for Christmas.  Recommended for readers wanting to hit genre beats in an unusual fashion.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

#62: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Multi-talented actors and married performers Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman riff on life, marriage, and fame in The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

Your interest in this will be measured by your interest in their careers, especially in the TV shows Will and Grace and Parks and Rec.  Both had fan-favorite roles in their respective programs.  But their theatre and personal lives are as interesting.

I listened to this on audiobook, performed by the couple, and I can't imagine actually reading it; it seemed like they were riffing and chatting during most of the recording, which added to the enjoyment.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library and consumed it quickly.

Monday, December 23, 2019

#61: The Devil's Dollar Sign by Joe Millard

The Man with No Name is hunting bad guys and gold, while an alleged preacher--who has a gun hidden in a bible--hunts him in return in Joe Millard's The Devil's Dollar Sign.

Millard wrote a series of spin-off novels from Sergio Leone's Man with No Name film trilogy featuring Clint Eastwood, and these paperbacks seem somewhat elusive in the wild.  I was happy to find one in a three-for-a-dollar bin at a flea market in Frankfort, Indiana.

I was a bit disappointed in the story.  The protagonist really doesn't act much like the Eastwood character, and the book feels overwritten; but perhaps I was expecting a more laconic experience that would mirror the movies. 

The over-the-top trappings of the spaghetti western are more or less intact, however, with not only the gun-toting preacher but a murderous Apache chief and a mysterious hermit who might not be as crazy as he seems.

I would be inclined to pick another up if I found one for collectability but found it only an average western that I read quickly over holiday break.

Friday, December 20, 2019

#60: The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

In late 60s Baltimore, a woman leaves her husband and becomes a newspaper reporter, finding herself in the middle of two murders--one a white child and the second the young black woman of the title-- navigating both the men's world of the newsroom and the attentions of two killers in Laura Lippman's The Lady in the Lake.

Lippman paints on a broad canvas, vividly recreating a time and place, with a vast cast of characters-- from reporters to cops to waitresses to the victims themselves, and even a famous Baltimore Orioles player of the era. 

To me at least, this constantly shifting POV diffused the narrative a bit, and the story seems to more or less wrap up about three-quarters of the way through.  But I enjoyed the setting and storytelling well enough to seek out more from Lippman.

I listened to a good audiobook read of this on loan from the Henry County-New Castle Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.