Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.

Books Eaten In 2011

2011

JANUARY

The Midnight Mayor: Or, the Inauguration of Matthew Swift— Kate Griffin
Second in the series — go check out A Madness Of Angels for backstory, but this one’s even better.

Carrie — Stephen King
An oldie but goodie. And surprisingly short, after not having read it for 20 years.

The Girl Who Played With Fire — Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander is who I want to be when I don’t grow up.

Faceless Killers — Henning Mankell
On cover: “Sweden’s Greatest Living Mystery Writer”. That’s because Stieg Larsson is dead. As is this crappy book.

Jane Slayre — Sherri Browning Erwin
Not as great as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but worth the read.

Double Take – A Memoir — Kevin Michael Connolly
Try cutting your body in half. Then go live in it. And just try to be as cool as this guy.

One-Night Stands With American History: Odd, Amusing, and Little Known Incidents — Richard Shenkman and Kurt Rieger
Interesting if you’ve never read 50 of the hundreds of books about America’s “secret” history. Unfortunately, I have.

The Politician — Andrew Young
Bottom line: John Edwards is scum on the bottom of a scumsucking scum-eater. And not to speak ill of the recently-deceased, but Elizabeth warn’t hardly no angel, either.

FEBRUARY

Relentless — Dean Koontz

Genuinely funny and scary at the same time.  I want to be part of the Greenwich/Booms.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Vol. 1

Sooooooooo long.  And so little of actual Mark Twain.  All the same, know I’ll be getting Vols. 2-infinity.  Sucker, sucker, sucker.

LATE FEBRUARY TO JULY (had a “real” job, couldn’t catalog)

Exley — Brock Clarke

A kid searches for the author that will bring his comatose dad back to life.  Funny, but deeply sad.

The Savage Detectives — Roberto Bolaño

Aside from Lorca, Garcia Marquez, Allende, and Junot Diaz, can someone please tell me why everyone hypes Latino/a writing?  I expected “Infinite Jest” — and got “Infinite Boredom” instead.  Both of which had no endings.  Read 2666, my ass.

Executive Orders — Tom Clancy

I had nothing else to read at the time.

Hollywood — Charles Bukowski

Chuck nailed the tsuris pretty spot-on.  And I loved the “I’m-not-even-trying-to-write-a-plausible-pseudonym” thing.  Mack Derouac?  Francis Ford Lopalla?

The Continental Op — Dashiell Hammett

I could read this a hundred times.  The scene, the slang, the force of character.  Maybe the only book in history not written by William Goldman that actually makes you want to write movies.

Rise To Rebellion — Jeff Shaara

The kickoff to the Revolutionary War.  Everyone else picks it up with the first shots fired at Lexington.  Shaara shoves the timeline back — and well.

Sleepwalk With Me — Mike Birbiglia

So fucking funny, I finished it in a day — then was mad because there wasn’t any more of it.

Ayesha — H. Rider Haggard

Early-20th century sci-fi, and a sequel to She — which kinda sucked, since I hadn’t read She.  Obviously I was missing a lot of backstory, and just like bad movie sequels, felt I couldn’t reap the full weight of the story without having “seen” the first text.

When The World Shook — H. Rider Haggard

Interesting how here and in Ayesha, women are held up as gods.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…  Though also, this guy can’t finish a book to save his goddamned life.

In The Garden Of Beasts — Erik Larson

How to be a U.S. Ambassador to Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich.  Or more accurately, how to be the daughter of said Ambassador.  You probably don’t want to sleep with all those Nazis and Communists, hon.

Portrait of Myself — Margaret Bourke-White

An especially inspiring autobiography by a flat-out amazing woman, for her time or any other.  Like to think I would’ve been as brave as she was, but… damn.

And The Devil Will Drag You Under — Jack L. Chalker

Interesting 70’s sci-fi, with an alcoholic devil and the Apocalypse on the way.  Not to mention a rather prescient view of fundamental Islam set in an alternate reality.

Test Pattern — Marjorie Klein

In 1954, a girl discovers she can see the future in the family’s brand-new TV — but only in the test pattern — while her family falls apart.  Funny, and deeper than you’d think.

Dark Matter — Peter Straub

Definitely propels you along, gives you the crawlies, but the conclusion kinda left me flat.

The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd — Richard Zacks

As far as I know, the definitive word on the real Captain Kidd.  Three word summary: he got screwed.

Mrs. Jeffries Takes Stock — Emily Brightwell

Clueless Scotland Yard inspector has his crimes solved for him by his household servants.  Corny premise, but the book actually works.  And well.

41 Stories — O. Henry

Worth it just for the introduction to the real O. Henry.  And then there’re the stories, which bat about .800.  The other 20% you can see coming from a mile off, which always dampens my enjoyment.

The Woman In The Dunes — Kobo Abé

About as kill-yourself-depressing as you can get, without getting up and looking for razors.  But brilliant.

The Sorrows of Young Werther — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

See above.

Full Dark, No Stars — Stephen King

Don’t get me wrong — love the novels — but King as short-story-writer surpasses all aspirations to which I might foolishly cling.

The Camel Club — David Baldacci

Better than Executive Orders; more 3-D characters.  Still have no plan to read either author again.  Unless all the other books in the world burn up.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest — Stieg Larsson

Waited as long as I could to read it — like saving a piece of chocolate cake in the fridge, knowing it’ll never go stale — but finally gave in to temptation.  Except… there was barely any Lisbeth in it.  It was mostly icing, no cake.  Still yummy, but… you want the cake, y’know?

Those Guys Have All The Fun — James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

A history of ESPN.  Except for the manipulative backstabbing politics, sounds like it’s great.  Oh, unless you’re a woman.

Bossypants — Tina Fey

I want to be Tina Fey if I ever do grow up.

——————————————————————

MY CHELSEA HANDLER BINGE

Are You There, Vodka?  It’s Me, Chelsea — Chelsea Handler

I wish Chelsea were my very own foul-mouthed, big-boobed nugget.  I’d put her in my pocket and make her humiliate people all day.

Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me — Chelsea’s Family, Friends, and Other Victims

Of course, sometimes the humiliation can get uncomfortable.

My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands — Chelsea Handler

Unless she’s the one being humiliated.  Kinda makes up for it.

——————————————————————

Black House —  Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman is maybe my favorite book of all time, so its sequel had to fill giant shoes — and it did, as Newt from “Aliens” said: “…mostly.”  Though toward the end it felt like they were just hurrying up to get the book finished by deadline.  Which sucks.  I blame it on Straub, since King can write 500 pages a day.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier — Ishmael Beah

Unbelievable (in the sense of, “I don’t want to believe this.”) story of a child soldier from Sierra Leone.  Had to force my way through it, since it gave me stomach-aches.  But am now more educated about the country and its troubles.  Still, “owie.”

Twilight — Stephenie Meyer

The movies twang my 14-year-old girl parts.  The book garrotes my 36-year-old writer parts.

You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom — Phil Rosenthal

A rather not-in-depth look at the guy who created “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  Rosenthal’s funny in and of himself, but would have preferred to have heard more about the show.  Though did admire his balls in getting it done the way he wanted.

Game of Thrones — George R. R. Martin

Well, crap.  This book was so good I had to go buy the next two volumes at Ralph’s this morning.  Yes, Ralph’s.  So thanks, HBO.  I can now get my fantasy fix while buying chicken pot pies.

AUGUST

A Clash of Kings — George R. R. Martin

Second in the series.  Feels a bit interstitial, but with enough movement to keep you hooked.  Am now official junkie, knowing I have about 1800 more pages to read in the series, and still gonna do it.  Total literary hophead.

Storm of Swords — George R. R. Martin

Third in the series.  Best by far.  After you’ve invested 3000 pages in a story, a character dropping dead or being murdered takes a totally different toll than when it happens in a 300-page book.  No wonder they made it a series.  NO ONE could make this a movie and do it any justice.

The Devil’s Candy — Julie Salamon

About the making of “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and how everything can go horribly wrong in Hollywood.  So real, I spent half the time feeling nauseous, and the other half of the time high-wire tense about what I was going to fuck up next.  Like being on a set, only without getting paid.

Umney’s Last Case (short story) — Stephen King

An amusing, slightly unnerving short about what it means to be an author whose characters are so… alive.

Cycle of the Werewolf (short story) — Stephen King

Interestingly constructed, in that it divides its chapters into months, with (in the beginning) the only connective tissue being the wolf itself.  The further on in the “year” you go, though, it starts to feel like a real King book.  Only disappointed because it felt too short.

SEPTEMBER

Catherine the Great — Henri Troyat (translated by Joan Pinkham)

(Obviously) about the Empress of Russia.  As it’s the first book I’ve ever read about her, it seemed unsensational, and appropriately academically-detached, if not forthright (or even focusing on) the misery of the serfs populating her empire.  Need something to compare it to.

A Feast for Crows — George R. R. Martin

Fourth in the series.  Though I hate to admit it, this one didn’t wow me.  ((SPOILER!  LOOK AWAY!  LOOK AWAY!)) No Bran, no Jon Snow, no Tyrion… just a bunch of moving pawns on a chessboard.  At least there was Arya and Brienne and Jaime — though I hate to admit it, I’m starting to warm to that bastard. ((END SPOILER!  LOOK…  UH… STILL LOOK AWAY!))

A Dance with Dragons — George R. R. Martin

Fifth in the series.  Better than the last, but feel like he’s getting sloppy with the actual writing.  Had great Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya, and Tyrion — but feels like we’ve been waiting for the end-all battle forever.  (Or five books — whichever comes last.)

Blockade Billy (short story) — Stephen King

(Short story “Morality” included, though I’d already read it).  A nice bit of candy to crunch, but nothing substantial.

OCTOBER

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse — ed. John Joseph Adams

Attention: if you are in any way depressed, this book is what they call (in therapist circles) “a trigger.”  Make sure you’re ready to handle a good dose of fatalism, cynicism, and downright disgust with mankind and the world at large.

Chronic City — Jonathan Lethem

Claustrophobic at times — intentionally — Lethem builds up some great characters before shredding them to pieces.  A little too semiotic-y and arcane name-droppy for my taste, I liked it, but didn’t really enjoy it.

The Snow Tiger — Desmond Bagley

Kind of like “Law & Order,” in that the entire book is framed within the milieu of an Inquiry, yet consists of 1/3 Inquiry, 1/3 flashback, 1/3 present-day.  Not difficult to follow, but the structure may be the best thing about the story.

——————————————————————

MY HALLOWEEN BINGE 

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus — Mary Shelley

Surprised to find that 97% of the story has focused on the doctor, rather than the monster he creates — not to mention that the monster is SO FAR from the grunting monosyllabic image we’ve received through pop culture.  Much better than any of the movies that’ve been made from it.

Dracula — Bram Stoker

How come nobody told me this novel was like 400 pages long?  And that 99% of it is set-up?  And that the 1% ending is totally unfulfilling?  Anyway, if you want a book where women are paragons of virtue and men are paragons of virility — with no room for ambiguity — this one’s for you.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson

Man, what a rip-off!  Everything comes to you second- or third-hand, with only one first-person narrative from Jekyll at the end.  Unhappy.  Very unhappy.

——————————————————————

Jesus Potter Harry Christ — Derek Murphy

Look, I don’t wanna rain on anyone’s parade, but this title is so misleading, I was nearly apoplectic.  It should have been called A Book About Jesus And The First Wikipedia Page On “Harry Potter”.  This is NOT a comp-lit book.  It is a religious doctoral thesis that exploits the Harry Potter name to reach a larger audience.  Shame, shame, shame!

Alien Contact — ed. Marty Halpern

Short stories about aliens by authors including Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.  In one word: fabulous.  A definite must-read for anyone interested in yufo’s and alf’s.

NOVEMBER

Last Words — George Carlin

The only bad thing about this book is that it reminds you the best comic of the last fifty years is dead.  The rest is cherry fucking pie.

The Eyre Affair — Jasper Fforde

In an unfamiliar almost-real-world, LiteraTec (Literature Detective) Thursday Next does battle with arch-criminal Acheron Hades and solves crimes we haven’t even thought of yet, including being transported into Jayne Eyre and changing the ending.  This series is my newest addiction (thanks, @libellus!).

Lost In A Good Book — Jasper Fforde

Our heroine Thursday Next continues her story (and a whole bunch of other stories) in Book 2.  I don’t want to SPOILER anything, but suffice it to say that *major* plot developments occur and aren’t even close to wrapped up by book’s end — — as if Fforde’s publishers told him, “Okay, now we can make it a series!  So stretch it out, and don’t worry about an ‘ending,’ per se”.  Entertaining, but slightly frustrating in that regard.

The Well of Lost Plots — Jasper Fforde

Third in the Thursday Next series.  Losing faith.  Not only has the entire situation changed (in terms of which world the book is situated in), but the tone of the books has changed, too, into something along the lines of, “Look how clever I am!”

Something Rotten — Jasper Fforde

The last Thursday Next book I’m ever reading.  I officially give up.

DECEMBER

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — Ransom Riggs

Great concept, with real old-time photos the author used to form his plot.  An interesting read, the book leaving off with room for a sequel.  Highly recommended.

Arabian Nights — trans. Muhsin Al-Musawi

Maybe not a thousand and one, but certainly enough to occupy you for a while.  The way the stories were intertwined made me think of how oral histories were passed down before written language, and how important it must have been to fit them all in one greater narrative (the Sultan and Scheherazade) in order to keep them organized.  Entertaining, though in parts repetitive.  Also interesting were the details describing wealth and ornament — like reading a Tiffany’s catalog.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption And Pee — Sarah Silverman

I liked Sarah Silverman, then I didn’t.  Then I did, then… for some reason I didn’t.  Then I did, but… you get the idea.  Now, I’m not so fence-sitty.  I like her, and the self-effacing way she talks about her life (underneath the arrogance — which I know doesn’t make sense, but read the book and you’ll get it) makes you realize that, underneath all the poop and vagina jokes, she really is just a nice Jewish girl from Connecticut.


Comments

2 Responses to “Books Eaten In 2011”
  1. Great, now I have even more books to go on my to-read list – it’s already over 300 books long at Goodreads.com!! 😉

  2. Kinda relieved to find someone who had the same issues w/ Tuesday Next as I had. It’s always frustrating when you give up a series because it’s not the series you started, yet everyone else is still raving.

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