Monday, February 19, 2007

Good Books I've Read This Year

My favorite so far is "The Keep" by Jennifer Egan. A story about two cousins renovating a mysterious European castle turns our to be a story written by a prisoner in a prison writing class, then turns into something else. I often find stories within stories to be annoying and pointless. In this case, the author pulls it off so skillfully that it adds mystery and really pulls you along. I am also annoyed by stories that either leave you hanging or over-explain everything. Egan finds just the right balance for my taste. A wonderful read. I remember liking "Look at Me" by Egan, but "The Keep" is even better.

I ordered "Arthur and George" by Julian Barnes from the library, and when it finally arrived I couldn't remember anything about it. I started reading, gradually realizing that something about Arthur (referred to only by his first name) seemed familiar - and suddenly realized that he is an actual historic person. So is George, although I hadn't heard of him before, and all the incidents in the book are based on fact. I found the story fascinating. If you want to read it the way I did, don't read the back cover or flap, as it will give away who the characters really are. The story involves crimes, courts, families, love, and racial prejudice. Parts of the story are hard to put down - I stayed up too late reading this one.

"Poison Study" by Maria Snyder begins with a young woman about to be executed for murder. Instead, she is offered a job as a food taster for a political leader. It is a romantic adventure in a fantasy setting complete with magic, swords, and evil aristocrats. Will the pretty, plucky heroine defeat said evil aristocrat with the help of her brave friends? Well, of course, but it is fun to see how it happens. The second book is "Magic Study". Not quite as good, but still a fun read.

"His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik is another fun read, "Eragon" meets "Master and Commander". It takes place during the Napoleonic wars, with the exception that in this world, units of dragons from France and Britain fight in the air above the naval fleets. A naval officer captures a dragon egg from a French ship and accidentally bonds with the newborn dragon. This requires him to leave the navy and join the very different environment of the dragon corps. Imagine Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen's "Persuasion" transported to the world of Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" and you'll get a taste of this book. I've also read the sequel "Throne of Jade" and am saving the next installment for a trip in March. This is perfect airplane reading - light but compelling.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I have had Arthur and George in my "to read" pile for a while now. Your post has inspired me to pick it up soon (have about four others started right now).