Friday, September 22, 2017

Impossible views of the world, by Lucy Ives



I was captivated in the first few pages by the author’s distinctive style.  Her sentences are complex and her descriptive writing constantly surprises with unusual comparisons and word choices.  Evidently, she is a poet and it shows.  This is her debut novel.  However, by the end of this hybrid mystery/mid-life crisis/critique of art collecting and collectors/expose of the corrupting influences of corporate sponsorship of the arts/etc., etc., I was thoroughly weary and longed for a simple declarative sentence.  Stella Krakus is a curator at a major art museum.  The mystery of her colleague’s suicide, and what led up to it; her troubled relationship with her controlling mother; her awful relationship with her soon to be ex-husband; and her romantic entanglement with the heir apparent to the directorship of the museum got all jumbled up in the plot – not to mention a subplot set in the 1800s -- and I arrived at the denouement clueless as to what had actually transpired.  Maybe it was just me, but I found the novel pretentious and twee.  Perhaps I’d like her poetry better.  293 pp.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chasing Space

Chasing Space: an astronaut's story of grit, grace, and second chances / Leland Melvin, 241 pgs. Read by Ron Butler

This wonderful memoir tells the story of the only person who has caught a pass in the NFL and in space. Leland Melvin has a wonderful attitude and a great life that has taken him around the world on earth and above it.  Taking inspiration from his parents who always encouraged him to succeed in school, in sports and in life, he made the most of his abilities and achieved great things thanks to second chances.  If he at first did not succeed, sometimes is was other people who believed in him and provided those chances.  This is very inspirational and will make you feel like a slacker for not doing more with your life and getting an official portrait with your pets.

It's All in the Timing

It's All in the Timing : Plan, Cook and Serve Great Meals with Confidence / Gail Monaghan, 312 p.

A very useful and accessible cookbook that's organized according to menus for different occasions.  Main dishes, sides, salads and desserts are assembled as part of a bigger menu, with instructions on how to plan ahead and sequence preparation.  Instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the book is well-indexed.  Photos are nice but not plentiful; unlike some cookbooks whose primary focus is aesthetic and aspirational, Monaghan is more focused on the how-tos. Many of the recipes are intensely flavored, so plan accordingly.  Recommended.

My Antonia

My Antonia / Willa Cather, 272 p.

The first title in our new Classics Book Club, to be discussed September 19 at 2pm.  After reading it I have no trouble understanding why this novel is a true classic of American literature, and why so many people have already told me it's one of their favorite books.  Jim, the grandson of successful Nebraska farmers, grows up alongside Antonia, the child of impoverished Czech immigrants.  They have a lifelong connection which survives differences of class, language and religion.  This is a beautiful but not idealized portrait of rural and small town American life at the end of the 19th century.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly: a Detective Sean Duffy Novel / Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle, 319 p.

The sixth (and I hope not the final)  in the Detective Sean Duffy series; these audiobooks, wonderfully read by Gerard Doyle, have been my car companions for months now.

In this title:

Two men have been attacked by crossbows, one fatally.  This is certainly not the paramilitaries' normal MO, but one always has to consider the connection.  Police at the Station is great reading: the novel opens with Sean being led to his own execution.  And if that weren't bad enough, he's having women problems once again, and his higher-ups in the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) seem to have it in for him too.

In all Detective Sean Duffy novels:

  • checking under the BMW for mercury tilt bombs
  • a fabulous supporting cast, including Sergeant Crabben (Crabby), Duffy's dour Presbyterian sidekick, and attractive neighbor Mrs.Campbell, perpetually horny because her husband is either away or depressed
  • an encyclopedic display of musical knowledge
  • a shocking amount of alcohol consumption, even for Ireland
  • hilarious dialogue
  • a terrific sense of place

In the Morning I'll Be Gone

In the Morning I'll Be Gone: a Detective Sean Duffy Novel / Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle, 315 p.

The third in the Detective Sean Duffy series; these audiobooks, wonderfully read by Gerard Doyle, have been my car companions for months now.

In this title:

Sean is recruited by MI5 to track down IRA operative Dermot McCann, a recent escapee from the Maze prison, and a former schoolmate of Sean's.  In order to find Dermot, though, Sean must first reconnect with Dermot's family and that of his ex-wife, a woman Sean has history with as well.  An especially well-constructed plot and great suspense.

In all Detective Sean Duffy novels:

  • checking under the BMW for mercury tilt bombs
  • a fabulous supporting cast, including Sergeant Crabben (Crabby), Duffy's dour Presbyterian sidekick, and attractive neighbor Mrs.Campbell, perpetually horny because her husband is either away or depressed
  • an encyclopedic display of musical knowledge
  • a shocking amount of alcohol consumption, even for Ireland
  • hilarious dialogue
  • a terrific sense of place

Citizen Vince

Citizen Vince / Jess Walter, 293 pgs.

Vince runs a credit card scam.  He is also a donut maker.  He learned that skill after being sent to training when he entered the witness protection program.  Of course he started up his credit card scam too...I mean, a donut maker doesn't make enough money to pay off debts etc. Life is going pretty good until another wit sec guy shows up and tries to kill Vince.   Vince heads back to New York to figure out how to get the "hit" removed. Turns out, this guy is really into killing people. In the middle of this drama, Vince gets his voter registration card. Something about getting that card moves him to think about politics, voting and the idea of civic duty.  Vince starts to see things differently and begins to think he needs a fresh start.

I think I've done a poor job of summarizing this book but can't say enough about how much I enjoyed it.  Vince is such a wonderful character, flawed but thoughtful.  Sometimes I think that there are a lot of similar books out there but this one is special.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street

I Hear the Sirens in the Street: a Detective Sean Duffy Novel / Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle, 256 p.

The second in the Detective Sean Duffy series; these audiobooks, wonderfully read by Gerard Doyle, have been my car companions for months now.

In this title:

Duffy and Crabby find a torso in a suitcase in an abandoned industrial park.    This would be OK, except that now they have to find out who it belongs to, how it ended up in the suitcase, and, well, where the rest of it might be.  Nothing is quite as it seems in Northern Ireland in the early 80s, not even John Delorean, whose car factory seemed for a time to promise salvation to the local economy.  And why isn't patho Laura Cathcart returning Sean's calls?

In all Detective Sean Duffy novels:

  • checking under the BMW for mercury tilt bombs
  • a fabulous supporting cast, including Sergeant Crabben (Crabby), Duffy's dour Presbyterian sidekick, and attractive neighbor Mrs.Campbell, perpetually horny because her husband is either away or depressed
  • an encyclopedic display of musical knowledge
  • an shocking amount of alcohol consumption, even for Ireland
  • hilarious dialogue
  • a terrific sense of place

The Cold Cold Ground

The Cold Cold Ground: a Detective Sean Duffy Novel / Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle, 320p.

The first in the Detective Sean Duffy series; these audiobooks, wonderfully read by Gerard Doyle, have been my car companions for months now.

In this title:

It's 1981, and Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland is in the thick of 'The Troubles.'  Sean Duffy is the lone Catholic officer at his station and the only Catholic in his housing estate on Coronation Road.  But he has his massive LP collection, his vodka gimlets, his ciggies, and his wicked sense of humor to keep himself sane(-ish).  His case involves an apparent homophobically-motivated serial killer who makes arcane classical music references and commits unfortunate acts with severed body parts.  Still, it's hard to believe any murder in greater Belfast is wholly unconnected to those Troubles, which greatly complicate matters.  Add to that the attractive patho Laura Cathcart and Detective Duffy has a lot to deal with.

In all Detective Sean Duffy novels:


  • checking under the BMW for mercury tilt bombs
  • a fabulous supporting cast, including Sergeant Crabben (Crabby), Duffy's dour Presbyterian sidekick, and attractive neighbor Mrs.Campbell, perpetually horny because her husband is either away or depressed
  • an encyclopedic display of musical knowledge
  • an shocking amount of alcohol consumption, even for Ireland
  • hilarious dialogue
  • a terrific sense of place

Armada

Armada by Ernest Cline, 355 pages

Zack Lightman is your average video game-obsessed teen, wondering what in the world he's going to do with his life after he graduates in two months' time. His life gets turned upside down, however, when he learns that all of the sci-fi/alien invasion stuff from his favorite video game is true and that he's being recruited to help save humanity, using those gamer skills that previously seemed useless.

If you're a big gamer and/or have a lot of nostalgia for sci-fi pop culture of the '70s and '80s, you'll probably enjoy this book, which reads like a movie script. I, however, picked this one up based on my enjoyment of Cline's Ready Player One. While it was a good book for the airport, it felt a bit too much like a mish-mash of things that came before, from Ender's Game to Top Gun to the aforementioned Ready Player One. I give it a solid "meh."