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Tuesday, May 31, 2005
50 Book Challenge Update
Continuing the 50 Book Challenge...

6. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
I've enjoyed Card's historical novels based on characters from the Bible and his SF novels. So, you'd think a combination of the those in an alternate history story about Christopher Columbus would pretty much be can't miss, right? Yeah, not to so much. I liked what Card was trying to do in his story about C0lumbus and his motivation for exploring and finding the New World, but the book never quite caught my attention in the way other works by Card has. This was not the page-turner I'd hoped it would be.

5. The Breaker by Minette Walters
Outside of Elizabeth George, I'd have to say Minette Walters is my favorite mystery writer currently publishing. The Breakers is one of her earlier works and one that I really enjoyed. Two boys discover the body of a nude woman washed up on shore. Later her young daughter turns up by the side of the road alone. Turns out the woman was raped and then killed and the daughter abandonded. One of the things I love about a good mystery is when you have a good gallery of suspects--all of them with a very good motivation for taking out the victim. And in this, Walters delivers. She also creates some good characters over the course of the story. And there are red herrings left and right. While this is not one of her best--I think Fox Evil and Shape of Snakes are in that category--this one is still worth the time.

4. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
I've tried to get into P.D. James' mysteries in the past and always walked away from them less than excited. But, yet I keep plugging away. And I'm glad I did, finding this little gem. Cordelia Gray inherits a detective agency when her boss passees away and is hired to find out why a rich, young gentleman killed himself. Intriguing and suspenseful as Cordelia slowly gets closer to finding out who done it and invites danger upon herself. Turns out it's not suicide but murder and the reasoning all makes good sense. The best P.D. James novel I've read so far.

3. A Study in Scarlet/The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The first two stories that introduced the world's most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet is an intriguing beginning though you can tell its one of Doyle's first efforts in writing. We meet Holmes and Watson and see him solve a case. A lot of the story takes place in a flashback that explains the current mystery. So, that is a bit frustrating if you're looking to see Holmes in action. But I can see why Holmes caused such a sensation when this novel was first published and why his popularity endures to this day. The Sign of Four is a better Holmes story and feels more like a Holmes story than A Study in Scarlet. We really see Holmes come into his own here and some of the character quirks that make Holmes Holmes appear here.

2. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The fourth Sherlock Holmes novel and probably the least well known. That said, it's still a great story and one that may be underrated by fans out there. I'd argue there is more of what makes a good Sherlock Holmes story here than in Hound of the Baskervilles. We certainly see more of Holmes directly involved in the story and solving puzzles than we do in Hound. The story does feature a flashback to explain the current mystery and the continuity of the Holmes canon comes into huge question here with the explanation that Moriarty is behind this, thus making it dubious that Watson has never heard of him later in the chronology. But looking past all of that, the story is a good one and the flashback is well written and entertaining.

1. Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin
This is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster at the movies--it's just best if you turn our brain off and just go with it. And it starts off so well. Ashley Spencer is a junior in high school and seems to have it all--great family, standout soccer player, boyfreind, friends, all of it. Until one night, her home is invaded by a killer who takes out her dad and her best friend. Ashley then decides to go to a private school to try and move on and her mom is killed and the dean who was nice to her put into a coma. Turns out the alleged killer is a teacher on campus--a former best selling author who is teaching creative writing. He has apparently written a novel in which the crimes are detailed, thus once Ashley sees him over her mother's body with a bloody knife and this evidence comes into play, he's suspected of being the killer. The killer is captured but then escapes custody and so Ashley drops out of school and goes into hiding. And this all happens before the midway point of the book. Then, we get a whole lot of revelations that come out of left field and make you go, "No, but seriously..." as the pages turn along, each one more dramatic and implausible than the last. Again, if you turn the brain off and just go with the story, you're going to feel a lot better about this. And the identity of the real killer and the resolution to the serial killer aspect of the novel....well, I won't give it away, but it's pretty much a huge disappointment. The twist and turns of the story come so far out of left field and get no set-up that I was left not turning the pages in a desire to see who the real killer was but to see just how absurd the next plot twist could be.

0. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover
I bought the novelization of the movie a month or so ago and was very good about not reading it until after I went to see the movie. In a way I'm glad I'm did, but in a way I'm sorry I didn't read it first. It helps fill in some gaps in the movie better. For one thing, it's easier to understand the internal conflict that leads Anakin to the Dark Side here. Also there are a few more establishing scenes of characters and their motivations here that help make things a bit more crystal clear as to why things have to happen the way they do. This novelization did what a good novelization should do--made me want to go back and re-watch the movie with the understanding of what unfolded in the story here. Stover does an interesting thing--he will take a pause in the action to examine who the characters are at that moment. One of the best is the early examination of the hero status Anakin and Obi Wan have achieved in the course of the war and how they're seen as the calvary almost when thinks look bleak. It makes Anakin's fall to the dark side that much more tragic as the book unfolds.

Well, that completes 50 books...but I will keep on counting what I've read beyond the fifty.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/31/2005 09:53:00 AM | |
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