Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Partial Reading List

As usual this list probably isn't "complete," but I'm sure it's fairly close. This year I've put my favorite books in red and added a few words about them.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
For some reason I read a great a bunch of books set in Spain (Barcelona in most cases) this year and they were good for the most part. This one was far and away the best - it was a book about books- how could it not be good?!
  • The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel by Ildefonso Falcones
  • The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald
  • Money Shot by Christa Faust
  • A Touch of Death by Charles Williams
  • The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain
  • Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas
  • Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas
I don't know what my expectations where when I started the first of these two books, but I was really impressed by the end of it- great writing and a central character who was really compelling. I was pleasantly surprised when the second book featured the same character.
  • The Last Match by David Dodge
  • The Girl Hunters by Mickey Spillane
  • The Snake by Mickey Spillane
  • The Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane
  • Some Danger Involved: A Novel by Will Thomas
A historical detective novel set in 19th century London and written by somebody whose a huge Sherlock Holmes fan? Yes, please! The writing is not on the level of David Liss or Caleb Carr, but the storytelling is engaging enough that I've already ordered three of his other books (see below).
  • 2666 by Roberto Bolano
I have two things to say about this book. First, I'm proud of myself for getting through it. Like some of Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco's books it was hard work. Rewarding, but hard work. Second, when a book-snobby acquaintance (certainly not a "friend") recommended it to me in her normal high-handed manner I was able to smile and say, overly politely, "Thanks, but I've already read it."
  • Heyday by Kurt Andersen
There's very little, book-wise, that's more rewarding than taking a flier on a $5.00 discounted book at Barnes & Noble and having it turn out to be a great read- which this was. Sadly, it appears that he's only written one other similar novel.
  • The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Art of Noir by Eddie Muller
  • A Touch of Death by Charles Williams
  • The Corpse Wore Pasties by Johnny Porkpie
  • Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake
  • Memory by Donald E. Westlake
A truly compelling read with an ending that was absolutely uncompromising. I was almost mad at the author for the ending, but once I calmed down I realized it really couldn't have ended any other way.
  • 361 by Donald E. Westlake
  • Nobody's Angel by Jack Clark
  • Murder is My Business by Brett Halliday
  • Baby Moll by John Farris
  • Fifty-to-One by Charles Ardai
  • Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich
  • Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips
  • No House Limit by Steve Fisher
  • Kill Now, Pay Later by Robert Terrall
  • Slide by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr
  • The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block
  • Lucky at Cards by Lawrence Block
  • Branded Woman by Wade Miller
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
I liked it. My brother in-law (the chef) liked it. And he likes the Stooges and the Ramones. 'nuff said.

I'm actively reading...

  • To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas
  • Meet Me at the Morgue by Ross MacDonald

I'm still pecking away at...

  • Europe by Norman Davies
  • The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Epiphany

I've realized why nobody listens to me: there are no consequences.

That may have to change.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Once and for all.

I know this makes people think, I don't know- that I'm a robot, that I was raised by a Luddites*, or that I suffered some sort of trauma(s) as a youngster, but...

1. Despite being a very early reader (before I started kindergarten) I did not like children's books as a child (or now for that matter). Please stop asking me if I read "The Aventures of Honker and Pinball in the Land of Candy and Unicorns," or whatever- I didn't. Would you like know what I read? Here's an instructive anecdote..

The scene: The gift shop at historic Gettysburg Battlefield as my grandmother puts a book on the checkout counter c. 1975.

Clerk: "And who is this for?"

Gram: "It's for him." Pointing down to me (though not too far, she was only 5'0" tall)

Clerk: "Oh. You know this is not a children's book, don't you?"

Gram: "I do, but it's the one he wanted."

Clerk: "I think he's going to have a hard time with it..."

Gram: "I don't think so- why don't you ask him a few questions about Gettysburg- or the Civil War in general?"

I'll stop here and summarize by saying the clerk got "pwn3d." (That's what the kids say, right?)

(A very similar scene took place at the Museum of Science in Boston around the same time, but involving a book about dinosaurs that had more text than pictures.)

2. I don't like holiday TV specials- regardless of the holiday. The only reason I've seen any of them is because my younger siblings always wanted to watch them and we only had one television when we were young so I was left with no choice. What's that? "What about A Christmas Story, surely you liked that!?" Nope, not at all. You'd need a gun or a lot of money to watch it again.

Thanks for letting me clear that up. Now let's talk about something interesting!

*this could be partially true- Thanks, Dad! ;)

The worst "season" in New England

It's right now, that time after all the leaves have fallen, it's become bitterly cold, and there's no snow on the ground.

"Bleak" is the word that comes to mind.

I thought of this while driving this morning and seeing a few stray snowflakes in the air and that made me think that all it would take was a thick carpet of fresh snow to make this one of the best seasons of the year.

And the scales fell from my eyes...

I realized this morning that I work with one of the least sincere people I have ever met.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Christmas Betting Line

That's right, it's the fourth annual Christmas List odds!

Last year was my best so far: 5 correct predictions, 2 incorrect predictions, and one "push."

One change this year: instead of doing proper "odds," I'm going to go with percentages- anything above 50% means I think I'll get it, anything lower than 50% means I don't think I'll get it.

So here's this year's list and my predictions:

Four books by Ross MacDonald, all will be available at Amazon starting on Dec. 7: “Blue City,” “Meet Me at the Morgue,” “The Three Roads,” and “The Ferguson Affair.”

100%: I won't get them all, but I'll get at least one.

Peerless 76950 2-in-1 Shower System (Chrome)

20%: There's always a chance, but it's a little pricey, non-essential, and frankly, who wants to be the person who buys somebody a shower head for Christmas?

Magic Chef .9 Cubic Foot Microwave Oven in Red (MCD990R)

50%: I'm hedging on this one. Mom's been good about stuff like this in the last few years (the George Foreman grill from last year being a good example.) so it's "possible," but perhaps not "probable."

Indoor/Outdoor Digital Thermometer

100%: Of all the things on the list this year, this is the lock. Not expensive, practical, and easy to "farm out" to a relative or friend who has no idea what to get me.

“Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood” for PS3

50%: This one is tough I've been right and wrong about PS3 games in the past. What I do know is that if I do get it my brother will be the one who buys it for me.

PlayStation “Move” Starter Bundle

65%: Two weeks ago I would have said maybe 30%, but my Mom asked me some questions about it at Thanksgiving, so I'm inclined to think she might make it happen.

Gift Certificates to any of the following: EMS, REI, Old Navy, Borders, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IKEA, Marshall's/TJMaxx, iTunes, or Target.

100%: I'll get at least one from Amazon and I WILL NOT get one from IKEA- Mom had a bad experience with them last year.

“The African Queen” BluRay Disc.

70%: I feel pretty good about this one- it's the only movie on my list and I always seem to get a movie from somebody.

Post-It notes in assorted colors/sizes.

100%: Lock.

Room credits for the cruise.

75%: I not only think I'll get these, I'm going to say that I'll get them from at least two people.

Roadpro 12V, 2 Outlet Platinum Series Fused Cigarette Lighter Adapter.

100%: Cheap and practical, another gift that is easily farmed out.

“Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul” (CD)

100%: My spies tell me it was already purchased.

Pure Komachi 2 Series 8” Bread Knife (Orange)

50%: I split the difference because I'm sure I'll get a bread knife but I'm not confident that I'll get this one- even though it's under $10!

Salomon XT S-Lab 3 Sneakers (size 10)

0%: Not a chance in hell- too expensive- but you've got to take a chance, right?

Iomega eGo 1TB USB 2.0 FireWire 800 Desktop External Hard Drive, Mac Edition - 34794

15%: This is another one that I probably won't get, but if I do, my brother will be responsible.

I'll be back in three weeks with the results!


I finally got around to getting it from Netflix and I have two things to say about it:

1. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a movie this bad.
2. I can't remember the last time a movie was so bad that I didn't bother to finish it.

I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

You're killing me people, KILLING ME!

I am trying to sell a few items on Craigslist and doing well- I've sold two of the four items and gotten what I feel to be a fair price for them. There is, however, a slight problem...

On two different occasions I've been contacted by interested parties who, after I suggested places to meet and make the exchange, sent me an email that went something like this-

"Oh, you live in Shelbyville, Connecticut? I thought you lived in Shelbyville, Rhode Island!"

Okay, here's how it works on Craigslist: When you search for an item in the "classifieds" section it returns the results for your local Craigslist, then below that- and CLEARLY LABLED- it shows you similar items from bordering/nearby Craigslist localities.

In short, learn to READ!