On The Shelf

Similar to In Theatres, here I will chronicle the books (not school related) that I read over the course of this year. Unlike In Theatres, though, not all of these books will have been released in 2010. I’ll try to be a little more in depth with my reviews here, if only because I know it’s easier for someone to burn two hours watching a DVD than sit down and read a whole book. Leave any comments or reading suggestions below!

The Gathering Storm
by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
**** out of *****

The Gathering Storm is the 12th book in Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, a fantasy epic that’s been written over the last 20 years. Jordan, unfortunately, was stolen away from the world last year. At the time, no one knew how The Wheel of Time would end. Originally, book #12 was supposed to be the last.

Jordan’s successor, Brandon Sanderson, was hand-picked by the late-author’s wife. Sanderson, a fantasy writer himself, set about finishing the series based on a plethora of notes left by Jordan. In the end, it was decided that the “final” book of The Wheel of Time would be separated into 3 volumes. The Gathering Storm, then, is the beginning of the end.

If you haven’t read any of The Wheel of Time, I highly suggest it. It is not your standard fantasy fare. Jordan’s world is rife with struggle, political power plays, war, love, comedy and the essence of humanity. Readers often call the three-tome saga The Lord of the Rings an epic. By comparison, this series is 4 times as long, and still going. There are no dwarves, elves or wise old wizards, just some of the best writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring.

Boomsday
by Christopher Buckley
*** out of *****

Boomsday is a comedy written by Christopher Buckley. For those unfamiliar with Buckley’s work, he is the author of Thank You For Smoking, which was later turned into a film starring Aaron Eckhart and Rob Lowe.

This novel is about Boomsday, the day when the Baby Boomers qualify for Social Security. This satire centers around a young PR executive named Cassandra, who is furious that her generation will have to work twice as hard to pay off the Boomers’ social security checks and rising debt. She uses her blog to incite her generation to assault golf courses and retirement homes, and then to suggest a cure to the nation’s woes: Voluntary Transitioning. (I promise I won’t use my blog in the same manner).

Voluntary Transitioning, or voluntary suicide, allows the Boomers to choose to off themselves in exchange for tax breaks and a rescinding of the estate tax. In stead of collecting social security checks and golfing for 20 years after retirement, they can kill themselves and pass their nest eggs along to their children tax-free. Everyone knows its absurd, and would never happen, even Cassandra. She just wants to use this drastic measure to push the debate. The comedy comes when Cassandra’s political pals truly start to push the debate, and Voluntary Transitioning takes center stage on the national agenda.

I highly suggest this book to anyone who already finds politics hilarious. It’s a quick read, and I won’t be surprised when it eventually gets adapted to the silver screen.

I, Alex Cross
by James Patterson
***1/2 out of *****

I, Alex Cross is the latest installment in James Patterson’s detective series featuring Washington, D.C. detective/psychologist Dr. Alex Cross. The series revolves on Cross, who has a specialty for hunting down serial killers and other manner of high-profile criminals. Cross lives in Southeast, D.C., is a boxer, and fancies himself a Dragonslayer. He’s an African-American, which plays a large role in how he approaches his job and his family.

In this installment, Dr. Cross investigates the gruesome murder of his estranged niece. The investigation works its way from the woods of Virginia where her body is found (in a bag, since it was put through a wood chipper) from the halls of power in Washington.

I’ve been reading the Cross novels for a long time. They are quick reads and make great fare for vacations and other trips. The 3-6 page chapters Patterson uses makes it easy to pick up and put down at will, but you won’t want to.

Pirate Latitudes
by Michael Crichton
*** out of *****

Pirate Latitudes is, likely, the last novel published by Michael Crichton, who passed away in 2008. The novel’s manuscript was found, in complete form, amongst Crichton’s things, and subsequently published with his family’s consent.

Pirate Latitudes is a straight-up swash-buckling action-adventure. It is a welcome departure from the usual sci-fi and philosophical questions that Crichton addressed in past books. Crichton had a knack for writing novels that could easily translate to the screen; numerous of his books were developed into films, like Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Sphere, Congo and The Andromeda Strain. I can see this film easily being adapted to cash in on Pirates of the Caribbean’s success.

The story revolves around Captain Charles Hunter, an English privateer, born in Massachusetts Colony, and residing in England’s Caribbean outpost, Port Royal, Jamaica. Hunter, with Jamaica’s Governor’s assent, sets out with his pirate crew to raid a Spanish settlement on a nearby island. Their goal? To capture a Spanish treasure ship in the island’s bay. While the attack on the Spanish fortress is action-packed, it is just the beginning of the crew’s tale. They must survive capture by a Spanish villain, a sneak attack on an island fortress, battle with a warship, a run-in with cannibals, a hurricane, and much more!

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
by Mohsin Hamid
***1/2 out of *****

This is more of a novella than a novel. It’s a quick read that I highly suggest you pick up. The entire story is told in first person, as if the character, Changez, is telling his own life story to the man he is sharing dinner with. It’s at one a unique and refreshing form of storytelling that I enjoyed immensely. Changez, a young Pakistani man, tells his life story to an American man, even pausing his tale to comment on the comings and goings of their Pakistani market setting. Changez story is one of suspense. He relays how he went from a promising Princeton graduate to what he is today, and how love, family, and 9/11 all played roles in developing who he is. Again, I highly recommend this book.

A Civil Action
by Jonathan Harr
**** out of *****

Currently Reading
Fool
by Christopher Moore

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