Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday Book Notes

Here on the weekend, I thought I'd make a few notes on some of the books I've read recently. 

Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog series, books 1 & 2 (The Power of the Dog and The Cartel)

I guess you'd call this historical thriller fiction, centered on Art Keller's nearly one-man war against Mexican Drug cartels, a war made personal by his relationship to the Barrera family going back to Keller's early career. It's an expansive, sprawling story told not just through Keller's POV but also many other characters, civilians and drug dealers and mafia men. The first book was solid, but I felt like it really hit its stride in book two, with the characters feeling more rounded out. From what I could tell with my limited knowledge, it seemed like this was a meticulously researched novel, weaving in real events and people with the fictional cast. Listened to the audiobooks, solid narration. 

Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer (book 3 of The Stormlight Archive)

This is a re-read, getting ready for the newest volume, which I've requested from the library. Could be a bit of a wait for this popular series though. I remember being very favorably impressed with this third book in the series, and this re-read only confirmed that for me. The fantasy elements are big and cool and fun, with an interesting system of magic that we're getting deeper and deeper into. But what really makes this book work are the characters--not only because we know them so well after a few thousand pages of storytelling, but also because of how they drive the story and how they have significant choices to make. 

Masha Gessen's Surviving Autocracy

Written last spring, this is not only a great reminder of the myriad abuses of the Trump administration but also a sharp analysis of how it works, how it relates to other examples of autocracy that it seems to have used as a playbook, and how people have and continue to resist it. Also, as we appear to be moving on from Trump, Gessen's book points toward the weak points that the last four years have exposed in both our systems of government and in our culture more broadly. 

Currently Reading

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Ever since reading Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer, I've had an interest in fairy stories. This is maybe a little too romancy for me, and I think part of the problem was that I didn't really buy the development of the relationship, but still, it's been a decent read (I'm about 3/4 of the way through). Audiobook.

The Baron of Magister Valley by Steven Brust

It's taken me a little while to get into Brust's newest, but at maybe 15-20% in, things are starting to click for me. This is another of the Paarfi novels, which makes for some fun writing (if you like the over-the-top send up of 19th-century literature along the lines of Dumas). I bought the hardback, because that's the kind of trust I have in Brust. 

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

I got a friend of mine turned onto the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and talking with him about it got me wanting to re-read the series. I'm probably slitting my attention too much, and this keeps getting pushed to the back burner, but this series is just so good. 

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

I read this pretty quickly over the summer (audiobook), and now I'm coming back and re-reading it more slowly, just a little bit at a time, day by day. Well, most days. I'm trying. 


How about you, dear reader? What have you finished lately and what are you reading now?


  1. I spent the better part of the winter reading Kate Quinn's Empress of Rome series. It starts with the Year of Four Emperors and goes through Hadrian. I absolutely loved the characters and felt very sad when I finished the fourth book. I actually *miss* having the characters in my life! I accidentally read the second book first, but it makes sense to read them as she has them on her website. I didn't read Book 3.5, and it sounds like most of that was put into Book 4.

    Now I'm reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and although it's interesting, I sense I would appreciate it much more if I had a better sense of Nigerian history.

    1. Those all sound interesting, I'll have to check them out. Thanks for sharing them!