If you haven't been paying attention to my reading page lately (and let's face it...who does?), I've been a bit of a machine lately. Sometimes it seems like I can only read for a few minutes at a time, but apparently it adds up. And I'm still getting in the occasional marathon here and there.
Right now I'm working through The Amber Spyglass, which is the third book of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I originally started reading it just to see what the fuss was about when some religious groups wanted a boycott of the movie version of The Golden Compass. I almost didn't continue after I read that book--I found nothing scandalous in it, and the story didn't really grab me and pull me in. I hate to give up on a story once I've started it, though, so after taking a short break, I recently jumped back in with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. And I'm glad I did. I liked The Subtle Knife quite a bit better than The Golden Compass, and The Amber Spyglass is even better yet. I'm starting to see where some of the furor is coming from (although, still, it's clearly a work of fiction, so come on, people...get a grip), and most importantly, the story and characters are both getting really interesting. I mean, I wouldn't put it on the same plane as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, but it's definitely a worthwhile fantasy read.
Speaking of Harry Potter, I recently finished a long-awaited re-read of that entire series. Each time I read it, I grow more and more impressed with J.K. Rowling's skill as a writer. I couldn't believe, this time around, how funny these books are in spots, even after I've read them several times. And the character interactions, particularly among Harry, Ron, and Hermione, are just dead-on. This was my first time reading Deathly Hallows since my initial time, when I finished it in twelve hours in order to keep my wife from attacking me with her fingernails in order to get her hands on the book. Although I liked it well enough the first time, I liked it even better this time. Maybe that's because I didn't rush through it, could actually savor it a little bit, put it down from time to time to ponder or let things sink in. I think any issues I have is that I wish there was more, and that would probably be the case no matter how long the final book was. Especially re-reading all seven books in a row, I get totally immersed into that world, and it feels a little bittersweet (and a little strange) to come out of it. I'm looking forward to the encyclopedic material Rowling has promised to publish at some point, just to fill in some of the gaps. I definitely put this series up there with Star Wars and The Dark Tower as towering epics that I'll continue to revisit all my life.
I also recently finished 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. It's a collection of short stories, many of which have the trappings of horror stories, but I wouldn't really call most of them horror stories. You'd just have to read it to see for yourself exactly what I mean, I guess, and I would highly recommend that you do. I wrote a review over on Library Thing if you're interested in something a little more in-depth, but suffice it to say that this isn't a book that should be written off by non-horror fans. If you like good short fiction, check it out. I'm very excited to read more from Mr. Hill (you'll notice a link to his blog/website over on the left). I recently got his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, which I'll be starting just as soon as I finish up The Amber Spyglass.