Reading: 2019

Titles Read = 160

Sputnik Caledonia — Andrew Crumey (+)
Possibly the most realistic and straightforward novel by the author, with only a little theoretical physics and alternate reality thrown in. I note from some comments that many readers were presumably ignorant of the author’s work and I therefore very much suggest reading all of his earlier works.

The Neon Jungle — John D. MacDonald
Florida. Drugs. Who knew?

Cakes and Ale — W. Somerset Maugham
Fun insights into the literary world of the time.

Until Proven Guilty — J. A. Jance
Police procedural (AKA Mystery) genre. Entertaining but so-o-o-o full of clichés.

Against the Day — Thomas Pynchon
Possibly the best worst book I ever read. Perhaps too complex (reminds me of reading Gravity’s Rainbow many years ago). My favorite trop wasthe popular musical The Burger King … sublime yet meaty.

The Vicomte de Bragellione — Alexander Dumas
Excellent and seldom read Dumas: the first volume of the third part of the d’Artagnan series (Ten Years After which follows The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years Later).

Authority — Jeff Vanderveer
Volume 2 of the Southern Reach trilogy. Somewhat entertaining .. somewhat strange

Catch and Kill — Ronan Farrow
Hard to believe there is such a great deal of sleaze in the world (and that hardly touches on Der Drump).

Mysteries of Udolpho — Ann Radcliffe (+)
The best part is the juicy prose. Today’s readers probably would not have the patience for a novel such as this.

Nana — Émile Zola (+)
Nana, daughter of a washer woman, becomes a famous, wealthy, sought-after courtesan in Paris. Good story and Nana gets her comeuppance in the end. Surprising nudity throughout: no wonder Vizatelly used the big blue pencil.

Swamp Sister — Robert Edmond Alter
Just for fun.

The Water Knife — Paolo Bacigalupi
The United States is collapsing for lack of water.

Robert B. Parker’s Kickback — Ace Atkins

Solstice — Joyce Carol Oates

It’s Solved By Walking — Catherine Banks (*)
I really liked this little play involving the character of Wallace Stevens.

The Last Coyote — Michael Connelly

The Mine — Antti Tuomainen

The Swimming-Pool Library — Alan Hollinghurst (+)
Gay, graphic, fascinating.

Jackpot — Bill Pronzini

The Part of Me That Isn’t Broken Inside — Kazufumi Shiraishi
As a fan of Michel Houellebecq and Debbie Downer, this novel was choice.

The Big Money — John Dos Passos
The final volume of the U. S. A. Trilogy. Read it all. It’s great  American literature: traditional and experimental at the same time.

The Monk — Matthew Lewis

The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexander Dumas (+)
Big, fat: a classic and a great story.

The Recognitions — William Gaddis (+)

Wolf Solent — John Cowper Powys (+)

Blowout — Rachel Maddow (+)
Lots to absorb here and very nicely presented. If you didn’t think you were being screwed by the fossil fuel barons before, maybe after reading this book you will find it very uncomfortable to just sit and take it. Putin is surely a thug and it is interesting that little Donnie aspires to be just like Putin.

Angels On Toast — Dawn Powell
My second by the author: not my style.

The Girl from the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia — Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Pleasant, informative, shocking. Noted a phrase from the author’s observations on her education in journalism that seems to apply to the GOP today: “In any case, the department’s main concern was to instill in us faithful interpretations of the Party dogmas. We were being trained to become ideologically sound ignoramuses… .”

Edwin of the Iron Shoes — Marcia Muller
The first Sharon McCone. Plot okay; prose iffy. I’m sure the author improves.

Cold Dish — Craig Johnson
The modern western? Good stuff. The television adaptation was excellent also.

Beasts Head for Home: A Novel — Kōbō Abe
Early Abe. Realistic treatment of the situation of China after the Japanese. Personal with the history only background.

Strega — Andrew Vachss
I know many, often female, readers who would balk at this novel (which thematically is common for the author): it is raw, sexual, and most of all deals with the predation of children by sick monsters. But it delivers.

Machines Like Me — Ian McEwan
Interesting. History is recognizable but shaken up. Albeit a story about machines existing with people, it is also a dissertation on what is moral for humans. Best part: Jimmie Carter defeated Ronald Reagan (and Margaret Thatcher lost the war in the Falkland Islands).

Motherland Hotel — Yusuf Atilgan (+)

Pusher — Ed McBain
It was always a joke between my wife and I: as the opening credits to Miami Vice played on the TV one of us would ask what this new episode was going to be about and the other would quizzically ask, “Drugs?” Then we would both laugh and laugh.

Hard Case Crime: Passport To Peril — Robert B. Parker
Cold war espionage. Note: note Robert B. Parker the thug.

Number One Chinese Restaurant — Lillian Li
Engaging but formulaic. A good example of creative writing school results.

The Natashas — Yelena Moskovich (+)
Excellent. An apparently simple narrative that refuses to follow the tired old rules of the novel. Artistic, political, human, with a touch of magic.

The Water Sprit — I. J. Parker

Home Movie — Moxie Mezcal

The Mugger — Ed McBain
87th Precinct.

The Wanderers — Richard Price
Yes, I saw the movie long ago and the incidents in the book are repeated on film but possibly with a less random representation. Is it another “better than the book” movie? Don’t know for sure so read the book and watch the movie.

Birthday— César Aira

Oroonoko — Aphra Behn (+)
An African prince stands up for his dignity despite being shipped to Surinam in chains, and it is recognized by the author. Moving.

The Confidence Man — Herman Melville
Reminds me of reading Plato. Fun source of spurious arguments: snake oil at its best.

Hark — Sam Lipsyte

Wonderland — Joyce Carol Oates
Rich, full, tedious. Hey, Wonderland is the shopping mall … with zero significance.

Tidings of the Trees — Wolfgang Hilbig

The Naked Eye — Yoko Tawada
Clever references and associations with the films of La Deneuve.

The Dead Girls — Jorge Ibargüengoitia (+)
Mexican whore houses and dead bodies. Excellent.

The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir — James Brown
Hollywood, drugs & alcohol, a couple of rejection slips, a couple of suicides. A fictional recreation of real events and emotions,

The Lonesome Bodybuilder — Yukiko Motoya
Interesting, if often twisted, short stories.

The Concrete Blonde — Michael Connelly
Harry Bosch balancing a serial killer, a love affair, and a courtroom trial, not to mention inklings of his past and his mother’s murder.

Odditorium: A Novel — Hob Broun
Tough one here: Is Broun’s novel more coherent and cliché free than Sean Penn’s Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff? Some have asked but I’m fairly certain that the Odditorium is simply the State of Florida.

The World of Henry Orient — Nora Johnson
Touted as the female version of Catcher In the Rye. Really? I remember seeing the movie adapted from this novel many, many years ago. Do you miss Peter Sellers?

Cockroaches — Jo Nesbo
An early Harry Hole. Uneven but with some very exciting episodes.

Cop Hater — Ed McBain
The first 87th Precinct. A few holes in the narrative but a good start.

The Occasional Virgin: A Novel — Hanan al-Shaykh

Devil In a Blue Dress — Walter Mosely
The first Easy Rawlins novel. The hook here for me is the L. A. background but the characters are very strong too. I’ll read more.

The Nickel Boys — Colson Whitehead
This one caught me up immediately since it started in a familiar town. The story was engaging if a little predictable. I thought the author’s writing style might have been a little more raw and violent to better depict the horrors and injustice being explored.

Cockroaches — Scholastique Mukasonga
A must read. Too many Americans and other readers are unaware of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda, centered on the extermination of the Tutsi. This memoir tells several stories: First, it is Africa and life in Africa is a different world (do you guard your niblets against marauding monkeys?). Then there is the genocide and the personal experiences and history of the narrator. And finally there is the ease with which this blot on humanity can be appliquéd over current situations around the globe … even in America.

Train Dreams — Denis Johnson

The Amboy Dukes — Irving Shulman (+)
WWII in the gang-ridden ethnic neighborhoods of East New York. Powerful. Would make a good movie or Netflix series.

Gasoline — Quim Monzó
Short fast fun. Some themes to consider but not too deeply.

The Charterhouse of Parma — Renate Stendhal (+)
Here’s the problem: This novel doesn’t relate to modern readers … but it is so good. This one might qualify for that problematic consideration as being for academics only.

The Death of Virgil — Hermann Broch (+)
Too many words! Boring but full of things to ponder.

Women In Love — D. H. Lawrence (+)
One of those novels that sucks you in, rolls you in a bed of luxurious language, and leaves you gasping for more. Then again, like a delicious chuck of chocolate, how many bites do you take after the sweetness as overloaded your senses?

1Q84 — Haruki Murakami (-)
When Haruki Murakami was new and fresh, his novels were excellent, if highly flawed, reads. Now he’s famous and only needs to string together a bunch of hackneyed themes, throw in an extra moon and way too many pages, and his novel is lauded as Murakami’s Magnum Opus. Little people? Give me a break!

Roxana — Daniel Defoe (+)
Classic Eighteenth Century, fiction. Defoe gets a lot of credit for his subject and makes many shocking (for their time) points, but like all of his works they get bogged down in itemization—Crusoe’s tools saved from the shipwreck, the fate of families from the Plague, and how much money “Roxana” was squirreling away after all those jewels and dresses came her way. You should read this but it isn’t Joyce.

Nostromo — Joseph Conrad (+)
Excellent. The story of corruption,  dictatorial excesses, and the results of capitalistic greed seem somehow to expand beyond the geography of this small fictional country to the south.

Cathedral — Raymond Carver (+)
Definitely a superb writer of short fiction. These varied stories are rich and rewarding.

The Violated — Bill Pronzini
Not-the-Nameless-Detective but a good serial rapist narrative … actually multiple narratives.

The Snatch — Bill Pronzini
The first novel of the Nameless Detective series.

Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot — Ace Atkins

Modesty Blaise — Peter O’Donnell (-)
Not that it was that bad but rather that I didn’t enjoy it. Modesty Blaise was a British comic strip from the 1960s that was adapted into a series of books (prose, not illustrated). Think of Modesty as an early incarnation of Laura Croft only clearly dated and not as exciting as Emma Peel.

Faceless Killers — Henning Mankell
Watched this one on PBS. Worth reading.

Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice — Michael Brandman
More Jesse Stone with a Hollywood connection. Lots of different plots here.

The Man Who Died — Antti Tuomainen
A Finnish author to savour. Mushrooms, Samurai swords, and poison: a good mystery.

The Screaming Mimi — Fredric Brown
A vicious dog., a naked woman, and a ten inch statue dumbed the Screaming Mimi.

Killing Orders — Sara Paretsky
Vicky gets sprayed with acid, her home gets torched, and gets very pissed in a less than feminine manner. But she survives and solves the mystery. What a woman.

Doctor Zhivago — Boris Pasternak (+)
Broad scope. Easy reading (other than Dostoevsky, all Russians are a friendly reading experience: they are masters of prose). Still not super-impressed fifty years later.

Eyes — William H. Gass (+)
An imaginative and well crafted collection of the author’s shorter fiction. Gass takes an unthinkable subject and makes it entirely believable.

Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues — Michael Brandman
Jesse Stone. Could this be a novelization of the television show with Tom Selleck? Tom gets an acknowledgement.

Last Stop Tokyo — James Buckler
Fast paced. Not bad.

New York Dead — Stuart Woods
The first Stone Barrington.

The Star of India — Carole Bugge
Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at it again. Interesting note: Dr. Watson’s second wife has now died … coincidence?

The Transmigration of Bodies — Yuri Herrera (+)
Violence in Mexico. Raw.

Dutch Uncle — Peter Pavia
Hard-boiled Miami.

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — Bobby Henderson (+)
Is this a humorous play on the foibles of organized religion or is it a deadly serious treatse that shreds every religion, historically, spiritually, and gastronomically? Is it satire or exposé, fluff or truth?

God In Pink — Hasan Namir
Getting to be a common theme: outcast (gay) in a rigid religion and oppressive society.

Between the World and Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates (+)
A personalized essay on the black experience in America. Powerful.

The Corpse Came Calling — Brett Halliday
Married? A thug?

House of Fallen Trees — Gina Ranali
Was it the house or the trees? Fairly traditional spooky (not Bizarro).

A Japanese Schoolgirl — Yoko Kajihara
A Japanese boy is cut in half by an oncoming train. Was he pushed or was it suicide?

Tinkers — Paul Harding
You can fix a clock but you can’t tinker a tinker.

Flood — Andrew Vachss
Hard ass.

Nemesis — Joe Yogerst
Not that great but a lot of fun, especially for an old San Diego boy. So if you are interested in San Diego history and geography, Wyatt Earp, quaint sexual depictions, and a bit of gruesomeness,, this one’s a good choice for entertainment. Note: the first “murder” took place only a few blocks from my home, when I was a wee bairn.

Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland — Ace Atkins
An improvement. Still with that Spenser vibe but not as forced as in the earlier novel

The Bishop Murder Case — S. S. Van Dine
I didn’t realize how early in the history of detective fiction Philo Vance slotted.

Stick Out Your Tongue — Ma Jian
Short stories centered around Tibet by a Chinese author.

When Red Is Black — Qiu Xiaolong
A good mystery and plenty of insight into life and politics in China.

The Famished Road — Ben Okri (+)
Definitely worth rereading for all the phantasmagorical symbolism. This is not a straight narrative.

The Woman In White — Wilkie Collins
It’s curiously refreshing to read a narrative that projects a life long gone and a prose style long forgotten.

Honeymoon To Nowhere — Akimitsu Takagi
This type of Japanese murder mystery is all talk and no action. The details of logic and the thoroughness of analysis are impressive but somewhat tedious.

Bend Sinister — Vladimir Nabokov

The Black Ice — Michael Connelly
I grew up visiting Tecate and Calexico/Mexicali so there was some personal pleasure in this story about drugs coming in from Mexico. Not sure if the treatment of Mexican officials and citizens is a tad suspect or if it is simply the exposition of facts. Recommendation: Watch Orson Wells’ film Touch of Evil.

Throwaway Daughter — Ting-xing Ye
The Chinese orphan grows up in Canada and returns to China to find her birth-mother. Heard it before? This one has a few complexities that make it slightly more interesting.

I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You — Yumi Sakugawa
Delightful little graphic story. Not to be missed.

Alan Quatermain — H. Rider Haggard
The old hidden civilization at the end of an underground river story capped by brutal mayhem.

Bodies are Where You Find Them — Brett Halliday
Cute twist but too obvious.

Monsieur Pamplemousse Stands Firm — Michael Bond
Some of these stories are a little thin.

Murder and the Married Virgin — Brett Halliday
Mike Shayne. Beaucoup de decent detective fiction in this series.

The Calcutta Chromosome — Amitav Ghosh
A lively, intertwining narrative with an admirable blend of historical events and modern sensibilities .. all in India. Reads like a good mystery. Nicely done.

The Brief History of the Dead — Kevin Brockmeier
Fictional representations of a world after death seems to be a thing nowadays.

The Black Echo — Michael Connelly
Enjoyed the Amazon series Bosch immensely so this is a natural. Very good with several understandable variations between the teleplay and the books.

Newcomer — Keigo Higashino
Good detective story with a few twists.

Maestra — L. S. Hilton
Hype suggested a heart-stopping thriller. Reality was lots of decent porn passages and a goodly number of gory bodies. Otherwise the same old story.

Monsieur Pamplemousse On Location — Michael Bond
Will Pommes-Frites have his paw prints enshrined outside the Chinese Theater?

 Zero Cool — Michael Crichton
Crichton wrote several detective/caper novels under a pseudonym. Forgettable.

Charlotte Temple — Susanna Rowson
Clarissa Harlowe light.

Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace (+)
Excellent for sheer volume, complexity, and endnotes. It’s the story of a tennis academy on the hill and an AA facility at the bottom of the hill. Obviously loaded with symbolism.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair — Nina Sankovitch
Carefully manipulated memoir using the common “book-a-week” crutch to provide structure. Read this one to understand that “It’s All Fiction.”

Zero History — William Gibson
Good, if you like this sort of thing. This was the last book of a trilogy … thank goodness.

Wolf Hall — Hilary Mantel
If you have studied the history of Great Britain, this novel will add little other than tedium.

Strangers On a Train — Patricia Hightsmith

Will Warburton — George Gissing
The author’s usual observations on the vicissitudes and pain of life. Nice story. Good author.

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff — Sean Penn
I wanted to hate this one but it actually has an interesting and fun approach to the narrative. Was Candy any less scattershot?

The Years — Annie Ernaux (+)
Memoir, history book, insight to the human condition, excellent!

Crossing — Andrew Xia Fukuda
I confused this book with another of a similar title. Although well done for a juvenile, this was therefore disappointing.

I’ll Sell You a Dog — Juan Pablo Villalobos

The Decagon House Murders — Yukito Ayatsuji & Soji Shimada
Ten little Indians and Halloween meet and form a literate mystery .. maybe.

The Rain Ascends — Joy Kogawa
What if your Dad was a pedophile?

Diary of a Fat Girl — Moira Mugwani (-)
Basically a decent young adult. Shallow and not very insightful. Low rating was not because it was so bad but rather because I had wasted my time reading it.

The Frolic of the Beasts — Yukio Mishima

The Big Blowdown — George Pelecanos

Taduno’s Song: A Novel — Odafe Atogun

The Incendiaries — R. O. Kwan

A Man’s Head — Georges Simenon

Death of a Red Heroine – Qiu Xiaolong
Three books in one: Social history of modern China, a touch of Chinese (and International) literature, and a good old mystery.

Houses — Borislav Pekic

The Locusts Have No King — Dawn Powell

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World — Steve Brusatta

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free — Charles P. Pierce

Slow Boat — Hideo Furukawa
Short, fast moving, a little meta.

The Aeneid — Virgil (Fagles)
A Classic for sure. The basic story is this guy escapes the destruction of Troy and at the bidding of a goddess sails to Italy where he slaughters the people there and founds what will become Rome. Fagles is a prose translation, albeit somewhat poetic; I probably would prefer Lattimore.

Love Is a Dog From Hell — Charles Bukowski
Poems. Some even good. Bukowski is an interesting fellow and not a bad writer.

The Atheist’s Bible — Joan Konner
A wonderful collection of quotations ready made for the literate atheist.

The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse — Daphne Lamb

A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig — Charles Lamb
Some so-so essays but a couple of really good ones.I love this genre.

Masks — Fumiko Enchi

Maigret In Antwerp — Joe Richards

Loups-Garous — Naatsuhiko Kyogoku

No God But God — Resa Aslan
Good overview and history of Islam.

Maigret At Fouquet’s — Robert J. Courtine

A Visit From the Goon Squad — Jennifer Egan

Streetwise — Mohamed Chaukri
Autobiographical novel following up For Bread Alone.

Empire V — Victor Pelevin

The Ghost In the Shell — Tow Ubukata
Four short novels concerning future enhancements to humans, both physical and mental.

The Virgin of Flames — Chris Abani
An engaging story of a near future in East LA. Better than most.

Maigret and the Murder in a Minor Key — Murielle Wenger (-)
Unfortunately, most derivative (copycat) novels tend to emphasize the identifiable themes and motifs of the original. Half the work is done without requiring an ounce of imagination from the new author. However, this can be allowed if iit frees up the new author for an explosion of intricate narrative and intriguing discourse; unfortunately that was not the case in this friendly but flawed copy of a Maigret novel.