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What Are You Reading? (2011)

This is the 2011 thread. To see what we're reading now, please visit (and post) on the 2012 thread.

Have you noticed that, even with the Internet of Infinite Possibilities, it's sometimes still hard to find a decent review of the book you just finished? Or maybe you just want to talk about it with someone else who's read it, but all your friends are either troglodytes or cats?

Yeah, us too.

While we do occasional book reviews, they're not our main goal. But we love to read, and we know you do too. So we can all use this thread to talk about what we're reading, and why we love it. Or why we don't.

Do you want to see a particular book reviewed? Let us know in the suggestion box!

This is the 2011 thread. If you want to hear about what we were reading, check out the 2010 thread here. (It was getting really long!)

49 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Hi all,

This is our new 2011 What Are You Reading? thread. The previous thread was getting extremely long, so we're going to do a new one each year.

You can still find the old 2010 thread via a link on the Book Reviews page, but please post new comments here.

I'll start things off:

I just read Dune. Anyone else out there a fan?

Paul Kelly said...

Hi Josie. I've got Dune sat on my bookshelf right now. I know it's supposed to be a classic, but is it worth reading? I'm currently reading "Sarem" by Edward Rutherfurd. It spans a hundred centuries of English history, and covers the building of Stonehenge and the construction of Salisbury Cathedral. It's one of those fiction wrapped around history type novels.

Mark Greig said...

Paul, Dune is a good book and I think you'd enjoy it. Although it’s best not to have expectations too high, despite its classic status I’ve always thought of Dune as one of those books that is so highly recommend it inevitable disappoints no matter how good it actually is.

Billie Doux said...

Dune is such a sci-fi classic. There's so much that's cool and fascinating about it. But it often felt too pretentious. And the later books in the series did nothing for me.

I just finished Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder -- Daniel gave it to me for Christmas. It's a somewhat confusing but definitely readable time travel book and I think it's the start of a series. I may have gotten confused not because the book is confusing, but because my eyes start to glaze over when anything involving real, heavy-duty science is discussed. I'll probably get the next book, too. If there is one.

Josie Kafka said...

Ditto to what Mark and Billie said.

You've read the Wheel of Time series, right, Paul? Throughout Dune I was struck by how many of the major themes of that series were taken from Dune...although, since I tried WoT first, Dune felt like plagiarism, even though it came first.

I have a lot of problems with the book, but as soon as I finished I wanted to read the sequel. (Then the holidays intervened and there were 75 people in the line at the bookstore.) It's a great new world to get lost in, however hackneyed.

Jess Lynde said...

I agree with Billie that Dune is pretty cool, but often felt pretentious. I thought it was difficult to wade through at times, but have positive memories of it, overall.

So, I've started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm about 150 pages in and I'm wondering when it gets good. Does it just take awhile to ramp up, or am I already supposed to be enjoying the heck out of it? I'm finding the two main characters interesting, but I keep falling asleep when the details of the Vanger history or the Swedish financial system come up. Should I hang in or just give up if I don't like it at this point? Because, quite frankly, I don't have a lot of time to read and I don't want to waste it on a book that keeps putting me to sleep.

Josie Kafka said...

I'd give it 50 more pages, Jess. I really liked the characters, but the plot does get bogged down in minutiae and boilerplate action-adventure. If the characters aren't keeping you excited by page 200, it might not be for you.

Billie Doux said...

What Josie said, Jess. I felt the same way about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- as in, come on, is something going to happen? And then it got really good. Unputdownable. But it might not affect everyone that way. (Then again, maybe it does; it's been on the bestseller list forever.)

Jess Lynde said...

... so it took until about p.300 before I thought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo became a real page-turner. But in the end, I'm not actually sure I liked it all that much. It just (finally) reached a point where I had to know what came next, so I kept reading. I haven't decided whether to continue with the trilogy yet. If I do, it's gonna be awhile.

Josie Kafka said...

Jess, there's a great parody of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo here:

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2010/07/05/100705sh_shouts_ephron

Jess Lynde said...

That was really funny. It perfectly highlighted a number of things about the book that bored or otherwise irked me. Tee hee!

Unknown said...

Hey all,

I just started reading I Shall Wear Midnight after finishing Unseen Academicals last week. Both are from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

I just started so it's a bit early to get a feeling of the book. The main character, Tiffany Aching, isn't one of my favorite Discworld characters (the books featuring her are mostly aimed at a younger audience) but it also features the Feegles, which is always a plus.

Unseen Academicals was maybe not one of the best books in the series, but it sure was enjoyable. The basic plot is that the wizards of Unseen University need to participate in a competition of "Foot-the-Ball". But since the game is pretty brutal as played in the streets, they are forced to create a new set of rules for the game. At the same time we meet four youngsters who work behind the scenes of the University (a cook, a servant girl and two candle drippers) and get a glimpse of UU that hasn't been seen much before.

As usual, Pratchett manages to find a balance between fantasy, modern life, common knowledge and comedy, as is the standard for the discworld novels.

Mark Greig said...

Finally finished reading The Hunger Games. Took me a while to get into it but once they entered the arena and the games started I was hooked. Looking forward to Catching Fire.

Jess Lynde said...

I just finished Catching Fire last night. I burned through it in two days. Unlike the last popular book I tried, I found The Hunger Games series immediately gripping. I attribute a lot of it to the difference between a story based in the real world, which the author largely assumes we are familiar with, and one based in a world that's only vaguely familiar, which the author knows we need to be fully introduced to. And I just liked the basic a premise for The Hunger Games a lot better (especially the disturbing similarities to the style of modern reality programming). I guess I'm just more of a sci-fi/fantasy girl than a crime thriller/mystery girl.

Time to do dive into Mockingjay!

Mark Greig said...

I was in my local Waterstones today and they had a sign up saying A Dance with Dragons was coming out in September and to pre-order now. Anyone know if this is official? Has Martin actually finished the book?

Josie Kafka said...

That's great news if it's true, Mark, but I don't think we should get our hopes up. (I've been burned before.)

Martin's website doesn't seem to have any new information. Amazon.com, hilariously, says the release date is August 2008. Ha!

Mark Greig said...

Amazon.co.uk is a little more optimistic. They've already got both the hardback (Sep 29 2011) and paperback (Sep 27 2012) up for pre-order.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin has finished the book and the publisher is just waiting until Game of Thrones starts before they announce anything so they’ll get maximum exposure.

Mark Greig said...

Just finished reading Catching Fire and although it occasionally suffered from a mild case of middle book syndrome I thoroughly enjoyed it. Time to get started on Mockingjay.

On an unrelated note, has anyone read The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie? They’ve got all three on special in Waterstones and I’m curious to know if they’re worth reading.

Mark Greig said...

Just this minute finished Mockingjay. Wow, simply brilliant. I’m probably one of the world’s laziest readers but I raced through this, just couldn’t put it down (really helped that most of the learners were off this week so I had nothing to do at work but sit around and read). The only thing I didn’t like was the central love triangle but that’s simply because I inherently hate love triangles.

Going to get started on The Redbeast now and find out if all Paul’s gushing about Jo Nesbo is justified.

Mark Greig said...

Its official: A Dance With Dragons will be published on July 12 this year and be more than 900 pages long.

Josie Kafka said...

Mark, you just made my morning!

Woo! And, can I say, Hoo!

Sooze said...

Wow, some great ideas here. I am very excited for Game of Thrones on HBO, so will have to start reading the Song of Fire and Ice series soon. I have been reading a lot of "young adult" series lately, even though I am in my mid-40's. There is some great stuff out there. I just finished Hunger Games and will move on to Catching Fire once I get back to the book store (I have a bad habit of blowing through books so fast, that I often read them again...thus, I need to own them - a good excuse to own the books). I also just read Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. Here are some other "young adult" series that I really enjoyed: the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix, the Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon, The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D'Lacey, The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore (book 3 isn't out yet), and of course The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paeolini (WHEN is the last book coming out???). I also really enjoy anything Arthurian...I like to compare different takes on the story. I recently read the Mary Stewart series, since that was a famous one. I LOVED Bernard Cornwell's series The Warlord Trilogy. By the way, if you like "Historical Fiction", he's a great one. He has several wonderful series The Grail Quest and Saxon Stories. He goes into detail for the war scenes, which may turn you off, but his characters and the stories surrounding them (and how they are connected to the historical battles), will pull you right in. I have now just started Jack Whyte's series The Camulod Chronicles, which is the Arthurian Legend, starting back in 365 AD...and following Arthur's (supposed) ancestors, and the creation of the Sword. Cool stuff. There are 9 books in this series, so I think I'll be busy for a while. I'll be checking back often to see what other books I should add to my list!

Sooze said...

OK, sorry, my italics didn't work on the book titles...

Josie Kafka said...

Sooze, what a great post!

I'm glad you reminded me about the sequel to Incarceron, too. Off to the bookstore I go...

morgan india said...

I'm reading Highrise by J. G. Ballard for my Lit. Theory class, and as an avid reader whose mother has over 400 books for me to choose from, this book is completely ... mind- boggling. From what I've been able to grasp, it's about what would happen if people relied solely on technology to function and what would happen if the technology failed in a 40 storey highrise building with over 2000 occupants.
I definitely recommend it to everyone who likes to think about the story afterwards. Although I've found parts of it quite distressing.

Mark Greig said...

Now that we’ve finally got a genuine release date set for the next one I’m putting everything else aside and diving into A Clash Of Kings. Even at my slow rate I should be all caught up by July.

Sooze said...

Final book of the Inheritance Cycle: November 8!!!!

Sooze said...

So, I watched the 15 minute preview for Game of Thrones (WOW.CAN'T.WAIT.), went out and bought the first book...and I must say...HOW did I ever miss these books? They are right up my alley. The only excuse I can come up with is I got married in '92, had my first in '93, and somehow slept-walked through the 90's??? At least I wasn't suffering, waiting for the next book for 5 (6?) years like the rest of you ;-)

For those of you who have read them...can my 6th grader read them? She loves this genre too - but my understanding is that there are "mature themes" that may not be appropriate? I know I can't let her watch the series based on the reviews I have heard and HBO's "no-hold-barred" on content.

Jess Lynde said...

I think the sex and violence in the books are rather explicit for an 11- or 12-year-old. They wanted to do the show on HBO in part because of the "no-holds-barred" attitude towards content, so that they could be truer to the books. It wasn't just a funding issue.

My suggestion is to read the books for yourself, then decide what you are comfortable with for your own 6th grader.

Sooze said...

Thanks Jess. I will do that...but I have the book and she was begging me to read it first. Now I definitely know to say "no" until I can read it myself.

Josie Kafka said...

I've been re-reading all the the Heinlein novels.

I think I might be alone in saying this, but I really enjoy To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

I still don't fully understand The Number of the Beast, though...

Begin Spoiler Space










At the end, it's strongly implied that the plucky band of oversexed heroes have been manipulated by a more advanced version of the company that we meet in "--We Also Walk Dogs." However, it's never clear who hired them. Is it paradox? That is, did Hazel, Zeb, et. al. hire them themselves (in their future timeline to manipulate their past timeline) so that they'd eventually discover the beautiful anarchy of Tertius, where they meet the "Dogs" folks?














End Spoiler Space

Billie Doux said...

Josie, I have always found The Number of the Beast confusing and I always thought of it as the book where Heinlein started losing it. I heard somewhere (I don't remember where) that Heinlein was going a bit senile at this point and that his wife didn't edit NotB like she did his other books, so that might be why. That's not an answer to your question, but it might be a partial explanation.

Mark Greig said...

Only a week to go now before A Dance with Dragons is finally published (unless you're one of the lucky ones in Germany who got their copy early). I just finished Steel and Snow, the first half of A Storm of Swords, and I loved every page of it. My favourite of the series so far. Hope the second half is just as good.

Josie Kafka said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Mark. I had the 20th written in my planner. Hooray for a new book next week!

I've been re-reading whatever I have around the house, and it's just not satisfying. I hope A Dance with Dragons is absurdly long.

Mark Greig said...

1040 pages according to Amazon. Might need to invest in a power loader just to pick the bloody thing up.

Josie Kafka said...

I'll just use my minions.

Ben said...

It was interesting reading you guys' views on the Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. It took me a while to get into it too, but then it reaches a point where it really is unputdownable. The second book is better, being more entertaining and pretty good throughout. The third book however I kind of gave up on. I completly lost track of who was who; every chapter would switch to about ten different charactors, and tbh it was very politcal and kind of boring.

Tom L said...

I'm currently reading "Tell Me Your Dreams" (the Brazilian Portuguese translation of it) by Sidney Sheldon and I'm loving it. Sheldon certainly knows how to hold ones' attention. By the end of chapter one, I was hooked.

Stephen said...

I have just started reading the last in Philip Reeve's "Mortal Engines Quartet" and would definitely reccommend the series.

Don't be put off by the fact it is classed as children's fiction, it is more complex and well-written than a lot of adult fiction!

It is set in the distant future, where cities are no longer still, and are now huge machines trailing the scarred remnant of Earth preying on smaller towns. Although the mechanics of the cities is much more technically advanced than how we are now, it shows how humanity has gone downhill since we ran out of the earth's natural resources.

It really creates an entire world, some great characters, and the story has some serious twists and turns!

There are plans to make the first book in the series, "Mortal Engines" into a film, although these are in the very early stages, but if it does happen I really don't think it will do the books justice. In the books, the cities and technology always come second to the character drama, but the film will most likely turn it into some sort of "Transformers"-like blockbuster, all about cities fighting each other.

Paul Reed said...

Just started Stephen King's 11.22.63. Anyone else read it yet?

Billie Doux said...

Paul, 11.22.63 is at the top of my Christmas list. I'm hoping to be reading it in a couple of weeks.

Paul Reed said...

Well, I hope you've been a good girl this year, Billie. Otherwise you'll have to write your own book with the piece of coal Santa brings you ;o)

I'm only 76 pages into 11.22.63, and already it feels like a potential classic. There are still 650 pages for all that to change, of course. Hopefully it'll be more a Duma Key/The Stand/Pet Sematary than an Insomnia/Desperation/Rose Madder.

Josie Kafka said...

Paul, Billie, Everyone: 11/22/63 is awesome. I've been meaning to post about it for days but kept forgetting.

In case anyone is wondering, it's a Stephen King novel about time-travel and the Kennedy assassination. If only there were more cats, all of my favorite things would be front and center.

But it's also an incredible love letter/hate letter to King's childhood, in a way. There's one passage that reminded me of 9/11 in a way that nothing else has since. (I won't say more because I don't want to spoil early 1960s history.) King did an incredible job.

Rish said...

I am kinda surprised there there are no Dan Brown or Harry Potter reviews.

Paul Kelly said...

Finally finished 11/22/63. I've hardly looked at the book since buying it, but I had a full day off yesterday and burned my way through over 500 pages. It definitely dragged in places, but the story itself was incredible. King's characterization wins the day every time. How he can make you care about characters in such a short space of time, I have no idea. Within ten pages of him introducing Mike Coslaw I was bawling my eyes out. I half guessed the ending - which felt satisfactory from a reader's (if not the character's) point of view. This and Duma Key have been up there with King's best. Here's hoping Dr Sleep is just as successful.

Josie Kafka said...

Paul, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!

I hadn't heard about Dr. Sleep. Exciting.

Sooze said...

Because I am a fan of Bernard Cornwell, and saw that the 4th book in his "Saxon Tales" series is out ("Death of Kings"), I stumbled upon this little interview between George R.R. Martin and Cornwell. I really liked their correlation between historical fiction and "fantasy"...no wonder these are my two most favorite genres.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Death-Kings-Novel-Bernard-Cornwell/dp/0061969656/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_h?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308417693&sr=1-1bernardcornwe-20

You have to scroll down a bit before you get to the interview.

Sooze said...

Oh, and Billie, I guess it is time for a 2012 thread? Although, I never finished my 2011 reading list!

Josie Kafka said...

Oops! The 2012 What Are You Reading? thread is now available and linked in all the right places:

http://billiedoux.blogspot.com/2001/01/what-are-you-reading-2012.html