After reading ttthhh123's entry I decided to power off my phone and try a boot at normal battery charge (80%). First try, and it failed to boot past the "Google" and hard buttons lit. Several battery re-insertions and reboots later, got a successful boot.
So it's not just a matter of full discharge of the battery... in actuality I don't normally power down the phone, but a fully discharged battery powered down the phone for me, and then I encountered the boot problem.
A shared experience for several of us (anupam, TribalGeneral, ttthhh123 and me) is that we also had the freeze problem before 2.3.4.