Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The Deceived by Brett Battles, 358 pages.
Quinn, Nate, and Orlando are back again, and yet another job yields clues that someone they care about is in danger. They race all the way around the world, questioning everyone, telling in an instant if someone is lying to them, because they are such skilled agents, but then the whole book is built around lies that they are told that they never question. If they weren't suddenly gullible schoolchildren, the book would grind to a halt. A few phone calls could be made and all the bad guys arrested. As it is though they find themselves back in firefights with trained assassins who seem to have decent weaponry, and yet they escape time and again. It just feels like a sloppy rendition of a good plot.
Bossypants by Tina Fey, humor, audiobook 277 pages05:32:21
Tina Fey's memoir is the current model for comic memoir. She is interesting and funny, constantly funny, and impressively funny.
Check our catalog.
The Cleaner by Brett Battles.353 pages. Thriller.
Quinn is a cleaner, like Quentin Tarantino's Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction, but not as fun to hang out with. Quinn takes it all very seriously and tries to impart both his seriousness and his grim sense of purpose on his apprentice, Nate. Quinn is working for a clandestine group, cleaning up for them, when he discovers a plot to release a substance that could kill millions. As the race to stop the release, they uncover betrayal after betrayal. Fairly good thriller with some believable characters.
A sequel to Midnight Riot, which I reviewed here. Peter's personal history comes into play with the big case here, as his father is a jazz musician and he's investigating what may turn out to be a series of magical murders of jazz musicians. Plus he has to continue his magical training, as well as try to deal with his friend Lesley, who was severely disfigured while helping him with an earlier case. I'm enjoing this series a lot, particularly for the way Aaronovitch makes London feel present, almost more like a character than a setting. I hope this series continues soon.
Check our catalog.
China is a former lawyer turned entrepreneur; she runs several businesses with her friends, but at the core is her herbal shop in a small town in the Texas hill country. (Herb lore is always included in the books, and sometimes recipes are too.) China's particularly good at investigation and interviewing people, skills she picked up as an attorney. She's deeply invested in her community, so she digs around any time she thinks something bad is happening. In this particular case, she stops to report a trailer fire outside of town, realizes that someone's alive inside the trailer, and is unable to get the person out before the trailer explodes and the woman inside dies. She helps an eager young reporter who's investigating the fire...and then the reporter disappears, so it's all up to China.
I was somewhat disappointed with the last book in this series: too many characters to keep track of, too much politics, and very little time to focus on specific relationships. So I was pleased to see that this entry seems to have returned to form. Almost the whole book is set in Sookie's small home town, and while there are some elements of vampire politics present, most of the book is focused on Sookie's relationships with the various supernaturals in her life. There were still a lot of characters and back story to keep straight, but nowhere near the amount found in the last few books.
Monday, May 30, 2011
I really enjoyed this book although it was rather short. I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out. It kept me guessing the entire time.
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel, 432 pages.
I had been meaning to read this book since it came out back in 1999. I am glad that I finally did, as I enjoyed it very much. I remember this as part of that first wave in the "serious nonfiction that reads like fiction" wave of accessible, interesting accounts written about a serious subject, but written for the generalist, a genre that continues to this day.
Providing an overview of Galileo's life, with much of the detail from the latter part of his life taken from letters to him from his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, a Clarisse nun who died at age 33, this is a fascinating look at the life of one of sciences great minds. She wrote to her beloved father often, about matters of her daily life, about his household, their family , and his laundry, but she also wrote to him about his work and about the troubles he had with the church and with the Pope because of his work. Galileo's letters to his daughter, though mentioned in her correspondence, have never been found, and may have not survived. A wonderful book.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin, fantasy, 1040 pages.
The song of ice and fire continues to expand as the story goes on. We don't see much of Robb, though he is always talked about, off fighting and doing well. We meet Stannis, the older of the late King's brothers and are reacquainted with Renly, the younger brother. Both men decide to try for Robb's throne, believing that Joffrey, the boy king is not their borther's legitimate son. With Robb fighting Joffrey's forces and a sneak attack on the north by Balon Greyjoy, this quickly becomes the war of five kings. Catelyn has now lost touch with all of her children, believing some of them to be dead. Jon Snow and the Brothers range far from the wall and encounter a huge army. Oh, yeah and Daenerys is trying to raise an army too.
A little bit too much going on, but fun reading.
Tumor by Joshua Fialkov and Noel Tuazon, graphic Novel 240 pages.
Frank Armstrong had been a private detective, and not among the best of them, by all accounts. Now he finds himself with an inoperable brain tumor and one last job. He is not sure if he is up to it. Gibson, a man Frank believes would like to see him dead, instead hires him to his missing daughter, Evelyn. Frank is unsure of Gibson's true motives, and when he finds Evelyn he doubts her motives as well. Because of the effects of the Glioblastoma, he starts to doubt a lot of other things as well. He passes out occasionally in mid-event, or mid-conversation and finds himself in the recent past, back in the hospital. More and more, as the story progresses, Frank finds himself drifting into a situation he faced in the past that was similar to his (ostensibly) present one. While he never doubts himself for long, the reader comes to see him as a very unreliable narrator. The art supports the story well, with background detail that doesn't quite reveal what we need to know, as it admirably mirrors Frank's confusion and displacement. A very good, very interesting graphic novel.
Friday, May 27, 2011
In this fourth outing, PI Jackson Brodie, still reeling from the defection of his girlfriend (with his money), has taken on finding the British biological parents of a woman raised in Australia. Tracy, an aging cop, unexpectedly “adopts” the child she sees being abused by a known prostitute and finds herself on the run. A small dog, similarly being abused, ends up in Jackson’s car, permanently. Meanwhile, an older actress, drifting (very convincingly) into early Alzheimers gets caught up in something she misunderstands and the decades old cold case of a dead prostitute comes back to haunt many. Before the book ends, these and other seemingly disparate plot lines have been cunningly interwoven, except maybe the dog – he just is. 384 pp.
The concept of the “memory palace” dates back to the ancient Greeks and many of the techniques used by the “mental athletes” that Joshua Foer discusses in his book are based on the memory palace and other very old systems. After covering the U.S. Memory Championship in 2005 as a journalist, Foer challenged himself to learn more about this sport and to train himself to compete. In addition to discussing the training he underwent to become the U. S. champion by 2006, Foer introduces the reader to a bizarre and fascinating cast of characters involved in memory feats today; to individuals who have unique memories due to brain events and accidents; and to “savants” such as Kim Peek, inspiration for the film Rain Man. In the end he concludes, “But after having learned how to memorize poetry and numbers, cards and biographies, I’m convinced that remembering more is only the most obvious benefit of the many months I spent training my memory. What I had really trained my brain to do, as much as to memorize, was to be more mindful, and to pay attention to the world around me. Remembering can only happen if you decide to take notice….Our ability to find humor in the world, to make connections between previously unconnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture. All these essentially human acts depend on memory.” A fascinating book with the added result that one finds oneself using at least a little bit of the “memory palace” while at Schnucks to recall that third elusive item on one’s mental shopping list. 271 pp.
Hamilton, a writer and the owner of the Manhattan restaurant, Prune, had a most unusual childhood, and has had a messy adulthood. Her early affectionate memories of her parents contrast sharply with their virtual abandonment of her as a young teen when they broke up and left to her largely to her own devices. The love of her life seems to have been a woman with whom she had a long term relationship, but she is married to an Italian man many years her senior, with whom she has two children. They have never shared a home. Her relationship with her Italian in-laws in complicated as well. An honest and interesting memoir. I’d love to taste her food if she’s as good a chef as she is a writer. 304 pp.
Magical realism in the Balkans. This amazing debut novel mixes the recent history of an unnamed country (the former Yugoslavia, where the astonishingly young author, she’s just 25, was born) with the superstitions and history of its past. A young woman doctor crosses the recent border searching for answers about her grandfather’s (also a doctor) death. Mixing present day with flashbacks to stories the grandfather told about his birthplace and its history and myths, the evolving picture it forms of the region did more to explicate recent Balkan history to me than all the words written in newspapers. The “Tiger’s Wife” is but one memorable character --- not since The book thief has death been so interestingly personified as it is in the recurring appearances of the Deathless Man. Terrific. 352 pp.
Ostensibly, this short novel is about Paul Crowder, a poet with a serious case of writer’s block, who is way late in producing a 30 page introduction to a poetry collection. His editor is on his case and longtime girlfriend, Roz, has moved out. Life consists of sitting in the barn or on the driveway in a white plastic chair avoiding putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. But it is really a love song to poetry and a wonderful book to have read in April, National Poetry Month (I’m really behind in these posts!). As Paul says, “The tongue is a rhyming fool. It wants to rhyme because that’s how it stores what it knows…..So what rhyming poems do is they take all these nearby sound curves and remind you that they first existed that way in your brain. Before they meant something specific, they had a shape and a way of being said. And now, yes, gloom and broom are floating fifty miles away from each other in your mind because they refer to different notions, but they’re cheek-by-jowl as far as your tongue is concerned. And that’s what a poem does. Poems match sounds up the way you matched them when you were a tiny kid, using that detachable front phoneme. They’re saying, That way that you first learned language, right from the beginning, by hearing what was similar and what was different, and figuring it all out all by yourself, that way is still important. You’re going to hear it, and you’re going to like it. It’s going to pull you back to the beginning of speech.” Lovely book. (and the above quote is interesting in light of the book I am now reading on memory, Moonwalking with Einstein). 243 pp.
Written by a local author who teaches at Fontbonne, The bird sisters, is a quiet but effective novel centering on two elderly sisters, Milly and Twiss, who still share their childhood room on the farm owned by their late parents. Their father met their mother on the golf links, where he was the pro. She is from a wealthy family; he isn’t, and her family has cut them off. When a lightning strike nearby causes the father to mysteriously lose his golf skills, and ultimately his job, family life becomes precarious. How the two sisters came to live on alone has its roots in the events in of their girlhood, when Cousin Bettie, whose parents are having their own difficulties, comes to live with them for that eventful summer. 304 pp.
In the aftermath of 9/11, 26 year-old Lulu from Albania has intentionally overstayed her tourist visa. But things are looking up. She is working for “Mr. Stanley,” keeping an eye on his teenage son, Zeke, after his wife, Ginger, goes off to the Norwegian fjords to start over “somewhere clean and white.” His best friend, a powerful lawyer, has succeeded in making her a legal immigrant. Just as she is beginning to relax and stop worrying, three Albanian men mysteriously show up at the apartment and insist she keep a gun for them. Things get complicated in this comic yet thoughtful exploration of one immigrant’s experience in America. 306 pp.
Lars and Rachel are an elderly couple who are slowly deteriorating with age. Their house is filthy, piled with junk, and falling apart. Their daughter, Laura, struggles to manage their out of control lives while maintaining a career and her own marriage and getting attacked by her parents' Siamese cat. At first her father and stepmother are managing okay until Lars has an automobile accident (which brought back memories of my own father) leaving them with no way to get groceries. They are very set in their ways and don't want 'strangers' in their house so they refuse any attempts to get them home health aids. Because of their failure to go to the doctor, Rachel loses her sight to glaucoma and her health fails in a variety of ways. Eventually Laura puts her in a home. Lars' health is also failing but he refuses to see a doctor. By the time he is diagnosed it is too late to do anything more than hospice.
This is a sad but realistic view of what sometimes happens with the elderly and how families struggle to do the best they can for them. It made me thankful that my 94 year old mother is still doing so well.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I don't know if you guys will really count this, but it's a cool book, so I thought I would add it to the blog.
Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran/Oscar and the Lady in Pink-Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt (117 pages)
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick, Juv fic, 204 pages.
I had seen reviews (a review?) for this book and it sounded good. A thirteen year-old finds his father frozen to death on an iced over lake adjacent to their cabin. While he is left alone with his father's corpse, as his older sister and their step-mother go for help, a stranger from his father's past shows up, claiming that the father owes him money. The boy must decide what to do. An ancient Colt revolver plays a central role as the boy decides what to do, what path to take. I had hopes, but preachy and not engaging is how I would rate it.
The surprise, for me, was how much I liked this story about people on the margins of 1960s society. Earle has a great sense of humor, and humanity, and has created a cast of hopeful and unforgettable characters.
The remarkable (or surprising!) thing is the way Grant perfectly represents a child's mind while still telling an entirely adult story. Suspenseful and frightening, with more than a few surprise twists.
n.b. The author has the story narrated 20 years after the events have taken place, putting the story firmly in the pre-cell phone era. Certain elements of the plot would have been fairly implausible in today's era of instant communication. I wonder if we will be seeing more of these plot gymnastics, at least for stories of disappearance and kidnapping.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
A sequel to New Amsterdam, featuring the great detective Sebastien de Ulloa, his companion the forensic sorcerer Abigail Irene Garrett, and their friend Phoebe Smith, visiting the titular city of Moscow. Actually there are two stories, set 6 years apart; in the earlier one, Sebastien visited Moscow with Jack as his companion. In both of them, he investigates a murder that involves a local artist. I really enjoy Bear's stories about these characters, and so I would recommend that you read New Amsterdam before reading this one, because it will give you a different perpective on the characters--especially Jack.
Check our catalog.
The whole "Disney Princess/everything must be pink" trend for girls over the last few years was pretty scary for me, even though I don't have any kids, so this book looked interesting. Orenstein is a journalist, so the book is written in a casual, user-friendly style, although she does include lots of endnotes, which I appreciated. I learned some entertaining things, such as why none of the Disney Princesses make eye contact with each other when they're on the same product (it's because each Princess is the center of her own story, so they can't acknowledge that there's more than one princess at a time), and some truly scary things, such as research that shows that girls who dress "sexy" at an early age end up very disconnected from their own feelings at puberty--when asked how something makes her feel, such a girl is likely to respond with what she thinks she looks like, or say something like "I feel like I looked good." And I must agree with Orenstein--why, when so much of the current cartoons and dolls and other merchandise is supposed to "empower" girls, why does it seem to empower them only to shop or become rock stars or models?
Check our catalog.
I was very disappointed in last year's entry in this series. Unfortunately I didn't like this one either, so I guess I'm done reading these. We've lost the first-person narration by the main character, which I always liked, and in this book we also spend a lot of time inside the bad guy's head. Yuk. Not to mention that the supporting cast, which has some great characters, gets short shrift, and most of them act like morons in this book. They know someone's trying to hurt Jake, so they make a half-baked plan to use her as bait. When the plan runs into a snag, everyone forgets about it, and Jake is captured. The bad guy tries to kill her for a bit, and then they're both trapped in a collapsing house, and she spends a lot of time trying to save him even though he's still trying to kill her. I just found the whole thing annoying and unbelieveable, in a not-fun way. Oh well.
Check our catalog.
Amanda Quick--which is Jayne Ann Krentz's nom de plume for historicals--has been an auto-read for me for years, but I'm sorry to say that these last several books have all started to run together for me. Part of it is the Arcane Society background she's using to tie the books together. Members of the Arcane Society have psychic powers. Rather than use traditional psychic powers, like mindreading, Quick has invented her own--for instance, glass-reading, which the heroine of this book has. But she has to spend time explaining the powers in each new book, and I'd rather she spend those pages on character interactions. I can always count on her to have strong female characters and strong-but-not-overpowering male characters, but somehow they've become a bit dull.
Check our catalog.
I picked this up because of the wide range of blurbs on the cover: Stephenie Meyer, Simon Pegg, and Josh Bazell (of Beat the Reaper fame) have all endorsed it, and that's a strange enough combination to catch my attention. Though the plot also sounded pretty intriguing: Our narrator is R, a zombie who one day encounters a teenage boy, and eats his brain. But instead of the brief sensory flashbacks that usually accompany such a meal, R starts getting real memories, and bits of personality from the boy's last thoughts. He also starts to remember Julie, the boy's girlfriend, and feels a strong urge to protect her. Soon R is rebelling against the elder zombies, forming sentences, and abstaining from human flesh. Is it residual brain chemicals left over from his last meal, or is he really changing into something else?
I loved this book. There's lots of very dark humor, but it's mixed with moments of surprising sweetness (R's and Julie's relationship, or R's thoughts of his zombie children--long story). Marion's excellent writing makes this more than a simple zombie story: there are long stretches of R's inner monologue that is very deep and, in some places, terrifying. But let's face it, if anyone is suited to mull on the existentialism of human existence, it's zombies. I can see this one making it on my "best of the year" list in a few months.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
This is a thin volume with only three stories but each is so wonderful, you are sad when you are done. I read this many years ago and had a memory of one story that made me seek it out again. My memory was not perfect but the story turned out even better than I thought. Truly a hallmark of a great book, thinking about a part of it over 15 years after the original reading. Perhaps I'll touch base again in a couple of decades.
This is a great advice book by a NUN...yes, I'll say it again, a nun. Quite a cool nun at that. Karol Jackowiski does mention God here but not very often. Mostly she is out for a good time and avoiding exercise. This book impressed me.
This is not a novelization of the Oscar winning movie by the same name. Instead it is the story behind the drama of the film. Written by the grandson of speech therapist Lionel Logue, this book is based on Logue's personal diaries and papers. It chronicles Logue's life beginning in Australia and his subsequent move to England. He began his work with "Bertie," then the Duke of York, when the Duke was scheduled to make a tour of Australia for the opening of Parliament House in 1927. The Duke had a serious stammering problem and giving public speeches was horrific for him. Logue's work with the Duke, at a time when speech therapy was in its infancy, helped make the Australian tour a success. When the abdication of Edward VIII suddenly thrust the Duke into being King George VI of England, he once again worked with Logue on the speaking he would have to do at the Coronation. By this time Logue was automatically consulted whenever a major speech needed to be made, often helping to change the wording to make it easier for the King to avoid "problem sounds." Throughout it all, Logue kept a relatively low profile, rarely talking to the press and refusing to use his work with King George as a way to further his career. Logue and his wife became great friends of the young royal couple and in his diaries Logue speaks fondly of the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. I listened to the audiobook version which includes the recording of the full speech King George made when Britain went to war with Germany at the start of World War II. The younger Logue and Conradi have presented this little known slice of history (until the movie, that is) in a matter-of-fact and approachable style. It's worth reading, especially if you've seen the film.
Monday, May 23, 2011
This collection of vignettes was originally published on the Dark Horse website and web exclusives. I remember reading a few online, which is the only way I knew that (it's not mentioned anywhere in the book that I can find). While they were enjoyable as web shorts, and I'm glad they were collected, I find myself agreeing with Nate that this book needed to be fleshed out a bit more, either through longer stories or more of them. That said, there were quite a few elements here that I enjoyed, including the story of Johnny Snow vs, the ELE (and Bad Horse!). Without more meat to it, though, these stories just served to whet my appetite for the rumored Dr. Horrible sequel, which as yet doesn't have a start date. By the way, does Bad Horse count as a pony?
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from the coma in which she has lain for the last 18 months. Her memory is fragmented at best, and a complete blank in many areas. Sequestered in a remote California town with her mother and grandmother, Jenna slowly starts to rebuild her life; but as her mental state improves, Jenna starts to ask questions: why did her family move across the country while she was in a coma, leaving all Jenna's belongings behind? Why does her grandmother, who she remembers fondly, seem to hate her? And why is Jenna forbidden to talk or ask about the accident that caused her coma?
This was one another of those books I'd been meaning to read for several years, and had kept putting off. Now, I'm sorry I waited so long. Jenna's story is emotional and suspenseful enough to make a great summer read, but also deals with enough bigger issues to make an excellent book club choice. Medical ethics, ecological responsibility, and theology all get addressed in this book, and would be great jumping off points for a discussion. (At the risk of dropping spoilers, I recommend you brush up on the Theseus Paradox before digging into this book.) I loved the narration here, which really captured Jenna's inner voice. If the ending seemed a little too neat, I can forgive it, especially after listening to the author interview included at the end of the audio book.
Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy) Andreas all end up living back in their parents' home to regroup after their individual disappointments in life. Their father, a professor of Shakespeare, tends to speak in quotes from the Bard. Their mother is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Rose has always been the homebody, and, unasked, has taken over caring for her parents frequently to the annoyance of the rest of the family. The always glamorous Bean has returned home from New York emotionally damaged but keeping it all inside. Cordy, the youngest, has returned after wandering the country like a gypsy and carrying a secret of her own. Each must come to terms with the fact that their lives have not turned out the way they expected and must figure out the direction they need to go now. Should Rose leave the safety of her small town existence with the man she loves? Can Bean change her addiction to the high life and high spending to be happy in small town Ohio? Will Cordy be able to change her wandering ways and still stay true to herself? How can you not like a family who believes "there is no problem a library card can't solve?"
This book is written in a kind of collective first person. The point of view is that of all the sisters and occasionally a single sister. It takes a little getting used to. It was also very obvious to me that the author has had experience with cancer treatment either personally or in caring for someone with cancer. The descriptions of what the mother went through were spot on and brought back many memories of my own chemo treatments.
I'm reposting this because my other post inexplicably disappeared. I originally posted about this earlier this month.
This is the latest in the series featuring former Secret Service agents now private investigators, Sean King & Michelle Maxwell. U.S. intelligence analyst & super-genius, Edgar Roy has been charged with murder after the discovery of several bodies buried in the barn of his farm. His defense lawyer hires King & Maxwell to investigate. When they discover the lawyer shot to death in his car they become enmeshed in a conspiracy involving competing government agencies, crooked government contractors, and a Secretary of Homeland Security who doesn't always have the best interest of the country at heart. The story made me think of the bumper sticker that reads "I love my country but fear my government."
I'm not a fan of Baldacci's Camel Club series but I do enjoy the King & Maxwell books. This one gets a bit tedious with the introduction of a few too many characters and plotlines but the surprises at the end make it worth the read.
I'm not sure how to explain this graphic novel. Ships are mysteriously frozen along with the passengers & crew, little old ladies kill people, evil scientists create a gigantic machine disguised as an iceberg, and a storyline that leaves an opening for further books. That pretty much sums it up. And, oh yeah, the artwork is great.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I've been meaning to read this for several years, and I'm glad I finally got around to it. This is the story of Winter Santiaga, eldest daughter of one of the most powerful crime families in New York. However, when her father is arrested, she loses everything in a matter of weeks, and soon finds herself trying to survive alone on the streets.
I enjoyed this story, but it became difficult to keep watching Winter make poor decisions. It seemed like any time things started to look up, she'd overreach, or betray someone who trusted her, and everything would come crashing down. In the end, though, I still wanted things to work out for her, despite the fact that I never warmed up to her as a main character. Overall, this is a gripping read, told from a unique perspective.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I'm not generally a huge fan of Superman. In fact, most of the time I'm lucky if I can make it through a single issue of a Superman story without getting a toothache. But when this came across my desk, I knew I had to read it.
The premise of this story (recovered from the awesomeness that is the 1970s), is that an army of warrior aliens from the planet Bodace (yes, as in "bodacious") arrives on Earth, demanding that we choose a champion to represent us in a fight with their best warrior. To prove that they're serious, they launch a few bombs at St. Louis (!!), which Superman has to stop with great drama and flair. Anyway, the people of Earth are torn on who to choose as their champion: Superman, or Muhammad Ali. Yeah, I know. So the Bodacians decree that Superman and Ali should duke it out to see who gets to fight their guy, an 8-foot tall green menace with impenetrable skin. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Oh, and did I mention that the Bodacian emperor wears a purple leisure suit for the whole book?
To be fair, the match between Ali and Superman gets a lot more even when we learn it's taking place beneath Bodace's red sun, which nullifies Superman's powers. Still, the whole thing stretches my comic credibility so far that it just goes right into the "camp" category. And really, we all know how much I love camp. It's probably the reason I was able to finish this in a single sitting.
I will say that the parts about Ali were much less campy than the overall story. He's represented as an American hero, much like Superman, but knowing that he's a real person puts a different spin on it. Also worth checking out is the original cover, in which the crowd is entirely peopled with celebrities, both real and from the DC universe (though, sadly, Batman was not actually in this book). Overall, this was an awesome trip back to the '70's. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
This book was very enjoyable. So many unpredicatable things happened it was hard to put down. This book dealt with real issues as well such as safe sex, drugs, and race issues.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
March Violets by Philip Kerr, Mystery, 246 pages.
Bernie Gunther used to be a cop, so the horrible things he sees now, as a private investigator, don't surprise him much. And as the book is set in Germany in 1936, and a lot of his clients are German Jews trying to locate love-ones, he is getting used to disappointment, and not finding everyone he is looking for, sometimes people just disappear in the new Nazi state. His new client wants him to find a missing piece of jewelry, as the loved-one is already dead. No one who has read more than a handful of thrillers or mysteries really believes the body found in the ashes, burned beyond recognition is really who the characters in the book say it is, but even with that Kerr manages some surprises. A solid mystery, with a believable and engaging setting. I look forward to reading more of the Bernie Gunther stories.
True Grit by Charles Portis, 235 pages.
Portis's 1968 classic has been made into two great movies now, and the book itself has aged well. Mattie Ross is fourteen, stiff, formal, and fearless. She does not suffer fools and she has a strong sense of justice and will not be cheated out of anything, not her share of the covers in a shared bed at the boardinghouse, not the price her late father paid for a string of ponies, and most certainly not vengeance on Tom Chaney, the coward who shot down her father in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
By the time Mattie gets to Fort Smith, Chaney has taken off, riding her father's horse, leaving Arkansas and heading into the Oklahoma territory. Mattie seeks help from a U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, former confederate raider, former road agent, constant drinker, and possessor of the characteristic from which the book takes its name. They are joined in the hunt by a Texas Ranger who is seeking Chaney for the killing of another man. The book is Matties stubborn and honest reflection of what she saw and did at that time, and it all feels remarkably true. A classic book-makes me want to read the rest of Portis's work.
We have the book and we have both movies at UCPL, so check them out!