Saturday, February 28, 2015

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, 759 pages.
The final chapter in the Harry Potter series, this one wraps up the war in the wizarding world between Voldemort's forces of evil, and Dumbledore's forces of love and good. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to strike off on their own in order to find the things that Dumbledore had been seeking. There's a bit of whining on the part of each of the main characters, and the first half of  book unfolds slowly. In retrospect you can understand and appreciate the author's reluctance to wrap it up. The publication of this book was the end of more than one era. There were the huge pre-orders and lines at bookstores as the onsale date approached, and not too many people were using their ereaders then.

The downloadable book was read by the incomparable Jim Dale.
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Downloadable audiobook.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, 282 pages.

Gawande, a surgeon, staff writer for The New Yorker, and author of  2002's Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, and two other books, looks at how we as Americans look at the care of the elderly, and how the end of life has changed for the worse, even as it comes later for most of us than it did for our forebears.
Gawande compares our twentieth century idea of nursing homes and intrusive assisted-care to more recent innovations in care provided in a setting that allows the patient more control over their own lives.
 A thoughtful, intelligent look at an issue that most of us will face ourselves or for our family members. Gawande is an excellent writer.
The excellent downloadable audio is about 9 hours long and is read by Robert Petkoff.
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Downloadable Audio.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, 324 pages.
The book that was once considered a classic, now often reviled because of its author's views on homosexuality and gay marriage. I had read the book years ago, and then watched the recent movie version on dvd. The movie was okay, and watching it the story of Ender Wiggin came back to me. The movie, it turns out, was rather faithful to the book. Ender is younger in the book than he is portrayed in the movie, and the violence between the children is a bit more brutal, but other than that this tale of young children training in battle schools to help humanity defeat the alien horde is about the same in both. It's a good book, and should appeal to kids who don't feel they fit in, but given what I've read about the author, it wasn't good enough to make me want to read more in this series.

The audiobook is read by Stefan Rudnicki and Harlan Ellison.
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Jack Carter's Law by Ted Lewis

Jack Carter's Law by Ted Lewis, 213 pages.
The second in the Carter series, it's actually a prequel to Get Carter. The title character is unchanged from the first book, taciturn, unafraid of violence or causing others harm, and unwilling to take too much grief from anyone. It's not a particularly great book, but it's a fast read with no surprises. Good for fans of crime fiction.

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead

The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead, 234 pages.
A really good read from the author of the novels The Intuitionist, Zone One, and the memoir Sag Harbor. Whitehead starts by giving the reader a brief look into his current, rather lonely life. His wife has recently moved out, and Whitehead now sees his young daughter every other day. Whitehead admits to being a man for whom strong emotion is not something he shows, and talks about how this is an asset when playing poker, but on the negative side of the ledger when it comes to romance and relationships.
Sent by Grantland magazine to Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker, Whitehead hopes to tell a tale similar to James McManus's Positively Fifth Street, intrepid reporter gets staked to play the big game and ends up in the final round playing for the big money.
Whitehead and his people, his fellow Anhedonians, know in their hearts that this won't end well.
There's lots of reading about poker and plenty of practice games and the author tries to learn all there is to know about the game before tournament play starts.
Whitehead consults old friends, new poker acquaintances, and poker coaches and even a yoga instructor on his way to the
Fans of Whitehead, fans of books about poker, and those who enjoy a good memoir will find something of value here. A well written book.
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My Latest Grievance

My Latest Grievance / Elinor Lipman 243 pgs.

Frederica Hatch is a high school student who has lived on a college campus with her parents who are professors and dorm house parents.  When an interesting new found relative shows up for a job on campus, things get more interesting.  Laura Lee French is a second cousin but was, at one time married to Frederica's father.  Laura Lee has a sense of style and drama unlike anyone else on campus and fairly quickly starts an affair with the college president.

This fun story was a hoot to listen to via audio.

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Jackaby by William Ritter, 299 pages
A 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Book

Abigail Rook, newly in the States after a meandering journey that started with her taking her tuition money and leaving school prematurely (and without the knowledge of her parents), finds herself in want of a job. After several inquiries (and several dead ends), she sees a posting for "investigative services - assistant wanted", decides to take a shot at it and soon finds herself in the employ of R.F. Jackaby, detective. Jackaby is prickly, obtuse to the needs of others, but he has a rare ability to see through illusions, which means he sees all manner of supernatural types where others naturally can't. Of course, this puts him at odds with the local police department as he's always butting into their investigations. This time, a reporter close to the police commissioner is brutally murdered, and Jackaby and Abigail are in the thick of it. Can they determine who the killer is before he kills again, even as Inspector Marlowe tries to foil them at every turn?

The description on the inside flap ended with "Doctor Who meets Sherlock," and while I haven't seen enough or know enough about Doctor Who to determine if that's an apt comparison, Jackaby, as a character, definitely has a very Sherlockian feel to him. Abigail is clearly the Watson to his Holmes, but she has a healthy dose of adventuring spirit in her DNA, so she is the perfect counterbalance and compliment to his near-myopic search for the truth. Ritter has also populated his world with plenty of interesting characters, like Jenny, a ghost who lives in Jackaby's house, as well as Douglas, Jackaby's former investigative assistant who got turned into a duck. This book is kind of a romp, if that makes sense, and feels almost like a cozy mystery at times. I really enjoyed it, and kind of liked that it's being set up as a more traditional series, as opposed to a trilogy with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Jackaby might not completely scratch your Sherlock itch while we wait for more episodes, but it'll at least relieve it for a little while.

(Read as part of YALSA's Hub Reading Challenge.)

I Remember Nothing

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, 137 pages

Two years before she died, screenwriter/journalist/director Nora Ephron published this collection of essays discussing her fading memory, divorce, and a favorite family legend, among other things. The book is sharp, funny, and everything you'd expect from the woman who wrote When Harry Met Sally. My favorites were "My Life as an Heiress" and "My Life as a Meatloaf," which makes it seem like I like those stories because of their name, but that's not it at all. They're just excellent tales, masterfully told. I also recommend listening to the audiobook, which Ephron reads herself.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Watch Me

Watch Me by Anjelica Huston  389 pp.

Huston's memoir chronicles her rise from fashion modeling at age 22 through her development into a popular and Academy Award winning actor.. The book begins with the end of her five year relationship with photographer Bob Richardson, 23 years her senior. There was a stormy seventeen year relationship with Jack Nicholson. At the encouragement of friends but not her father, director John Huston, or Nicholson, she began acting classes.  Huston's career in film was lackluster until "Prizzi's Honor" which starred Nicholson and was directed by her father. She ended up with an Academy Award for her supporting role as Maerose Prizzi. After that her career took off and she writes of her work with a string of great directors including Francis Ford Coppola, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, and many others. She writes lovingly of her father and his death in 1987 and of her first and only marriage to sculptor Robert Graham at age 41. I listened to the audiobook which was an uneven reading by the author.

The Gauguin Connection

The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan  426 pp.

This is the first book in mystery series featuring and narrated by insurance investigator Dr. Genevieve Lenard. Genevieve is a world renowned expert in nonverbal communication, has a genius I.Q and amazing analytical skills. However great her abilities, social and business interaction are difficult because she must also cope with her high functioning autism. Most of her work is done sitting at computers for hours at a time analyzing a wide range of information. To relax and rejuvenate her thought processes she transcribes Mozart compositions from memory, sometimes for hours at a time. When assisting in an investigation for a government agency, Genevieve finds herself in a situation that complete disrupts her incredibly organized life and forces her to deal with people on a level she has always avoided. Soon she's deep into investigating stolen weapons, forged artworks, murdered artists/forgers, and a charitable foundation that somehow connects it all. It is Genevieve's thought processes and how she deals with them that make this a page turner. This was a free Kindle download from BookBub but it introduced me to a series I will probably continue reading.