I have not gotten to posting reviews of the books I've been reading lately, and so I thought I do a more general post on a few books. Awhile back I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michal Chabon. Unlike The Yiddish Policeman's Union, which I couldn't get in to, I really liked AAKC. It is not genre fiction, but it has at least 1 element that seems a bit on the magical size. The real pull of the novel is the characters, who are deep, interesting, and empathetic. The Golden Age of Comics angle and New York City in the 30s through 50s adds to a rich setting. In short, I recommend it for non-gene reading.
Speaking of non-genre, I'm currently reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Follett is known for his thrillers, but Pillars is a departure for him--and it has become this most popular book, even making to Oprah's book club. According to the intro, the book rose out of Follett's interest in English cathedrals and how they were build. The result is a novel that would probably be billed as historical fiction, but which reads like a fantasy. No magic in this one, but 1000 pages of interesting characters, cool settings, and even a bloody battle or two. My guess is that "Oprah" readers may not like this one too much (my wife being one example), but fantasy readers would get a kick out of it.
I also read a portion of a fantasy that I picked up at the bookstore. It shall remain unnamed because I have nothing good to say about it. It is discouraging that genre books like this continue to appear on the scene. The book is filled with "beginning writer" mistakes, trope plot lines, tired characters, and pacing that could really use a shot of adrenaline. It is sad that books like this get published while better books languish on agents' desks.