A Drink Before the War is Lehane's first book in the Kenzie & Gennaro series. People might be more familiar with Gone Baby Gone, as it was made inA Drink Before the War is Lehane's first book in the Kenzie & Gennaro series. People might be more familiar with Gone Baby Gone, as it was made into a movie a few years back. The series takes place in the grittier neighborhoods of Boston, and contains even grittier characters. There is a political element involved in this, but think more along the lines of drugs, prostitution, gangs and murder.
This is written in the noir tradition, but with a modern edge. Classic noir features hard-boiled characters in a bleak urban setting. The setting here is right, but Lehane's main characters have conscience, while maybe the criminals don't.
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro run a private investigating firm out of an old church belltower in Boston. They are hired to find some sensitive State Department documents and the cleaning woman who stole them. The pair then find themselves in the middle of a gang war; one is run by an older man with ties to the cleaning woman and her son; the other is run by a teenager with a heavy trigger finger. Racial tension is high, and can date the book slightly, but it should not take away from the story, only add to the atmosphere.
The bigget selling points of the book are its well-developed characters and the atmosphere. Towards the middle of the book, Patrick & Angie seem like old friends. They are working, down-to-Earth people, but their job makes them just a tad more interesting than the rest of us who have desk jobs. Lehane gives the reader plenty of insight into their inner thoughts & provides plenty of background information, so that they are very likable, sympathetic & gives a feeling of having known them since grade school. The other selling point is the Boston atmoshpere in all its dirty glory. This is the side most tourists don't see, but make one heck of a background for these two detectives. Hey, the plot isn't that bad either.
Warning: do not recommend this book to patrons - ever. I mean it. Good friends, maybe; an enemy, definitely. I'm not saying it has no redeemable qualiWarning: do not recommend this book to patrons - ever. I mean it. Good friends, maybe; an enemy, definitely. I'm not saying it has no redeemable qualities; I'm just saying that this book has niche appeal. It also has one of the most disturbing stories (complete with graphic images) I have ever read. Urban legend has it that people passed out and vomited at author readings all over the country. Don't know how true it is, but I wouldn't put those legends in the "absolutely-could-not-possibly-be-true" category either.
The concept for the book is complex and unique: put a diverse group of people together, lock them in an abandoned building, and deprive them of all basic comforts of home. All this in an attempt for each one of them to write a master novel or story. All their energy should be focused on this task. It instead turns out to be a reality show DRAMA gone terribly wrong - complete with murders and betrayals.
An interesting aspect is that Palahniuk alternates between the "real-time" story taking place in the building and the stories the characters actually produce in their time there. I really like the technical aspects of this book, as it takes a chance with form. It also takes a chance with the content, which will appeal to the hard-core Palahniuk readers & those with an iron stomach. I can take a lot but some of the more disturbing images are burned into my brain. Needless to say, I finished the book - a true act of bravery & will. Not the book with which to introduce readers to this mostly enjoyable author. Haunted will describe how they feel forever once they read portions of this book. Try Survivor or Fight Club as an introduction instead....more
Picked up this book to compare it to the success of the Twilight books - are they similar or not? Answer: yes, but for adults. Having not read the TwiPicked up this book to compare it to the success of the Twilight books - are they similar or not? Answer: yes, but for adults. Having not read the Twilight series I am at a disadvantage, but from what I learned about them, they are a little more "pure" than the Sookie Stackhouse series.
I felt that this was a fairly quick read - no big words and a simple plot. Sookie Stackhouse is the star of this series. She is a pretty twenty-something who has the ability to read minds. She feels cursed with this talent. She has not been able to build close relationships because of it, and has been love-deprived for a long time. Along comes Bill the vampire and Sookie is able to find passion and love. I feel like you can't take traditional vampire lore too seriously in order to enjoy this book, as Harris makes up some of her own rules as regards to the vampire race. For example, they have "glamour", which is supposed to captivate and seduce any human - all humans except for Sookie, that is.
The mystery aspect takes a back seat to the romance. Sookie's grandmother and a few other women in town are murdered by apparently the same person. She gets over her grandmother's brutal death fairly quickly, (even though they were best friends & lived together) in about 15 pages because Bill is now in her life. The couple do work towards solving the who-dun-it in-between their passionate love-making.
Some of the characters are likable, and probably get further developed in other books in this series. Again, recommended for a more adult audience as some scenes contain graphic details....more
The Monster of Florence is a true crime book that reads like fiction. The events are so bizarre that one might suspect some of it is made up. Fans ofThe Monster of Florence is a true crime book that reads like fiction. The events are so bizarre that one might suspect some of it is made up. Fans of unsolved mysteries and labrynthine plots will like this book. The book splits its time between the actual crimes and the ensuing investigiation.
This book tries to answer the question: Who is the Monster of Florence? Well, the reader finds out that the Monster is a serial killer whose M.O. was to kill couples in cars on the Italian countryside; civilian identity unknown. The crime scenes are described in gruesome and graphic detail. Crime scene descriptions and possible suspects are discussed in the first part of the book. Reader beware: there are many names and all of them very Italian. Keeping the names straight will slow the pace at these parts.
The authors are: an Italian journalist who originally covered the slayings from 1968 through 1985, and a best-selling author from the United States who bought a home near the crime scenes. Part I tells the story of the actual crimes and is enhanced because Spezi was there.
Part II is entitled "The Story of Douglas Preston" but includes both of the authors in the narrative. This is where the book diverges from a tradional crime novel - the authors become suspects in the homicide investigation, even despite the fact Preston was not in Italy at the time of the murders. They then get embroiled in the legal investigation. The description of the Italian legal system slows the pace of the book, but is much different than the U.S.'s and is interesting in the comparison and sometimes injustice. This book has a "Law & Order" structure, so fans of straight CSI might be disappointed.
Fascinating and hard to put down. The authors' passion for the case is evident. Make sure to get the re-issued paperback which includes information and editorial about the Amanda Knox case. Truly shows the implications of a convoluted legal system and what happens when people who shouldn't be in power are.
The World Without Us imagines the Earth as if humans weren't around to slowly destroy it. The book operates on the premise that some type of disease oThe World Without Us imagines the Earth as if humans weren't around to slowly destroy it. The book operates on the premise that some type of disease or natural catastrophe wipes out the whole human race. How will the Earth respond? Will it miss us? Will it die? The answer is, quite simply: no. It seems like it would be a happy break-up.
The forests would re-generate, as seen in a primeval forest in Poland; water would overtake the New York subways; birds will no longer commit suicide by flying into panes of glass; fish will no longer choke on indigestible plastics that are contained in our soaps. This is one of those topics where the truth is stranger than fiction. It is science fiction, in a way, because it asks the reader to imagine Earth as a place where no one exists and then uses hard science to back-up the theories proposed.
The book is broken up into 18 digestible chapters. For those who might care about the environment, but not necessarily about the hard science behind it, it is possible to put the book down and come back to it. Each chapter is devoted to a different aspect of life on Earth and different regions. The first half of the chapter sets up the hypothetical scenario and the second half backs it up. To help with providing the proof, there are interviews with specialists in each field. Feels thoroughly researched, but not painfully so.
Not being a scientist myself, I found this book to be highly accessible to the layperson. It doesn't use chemical formulas or scientific names for animals. It can get dry in certain spots, but nothing a few hours or days rest from it won't cure. The average person will probably feel smarter after reading it and have a better understanding of the Earth's diversity and small ways in which we can contribute to prolonging its ability to sustain life....more
Babbitt is a satire that takes place at the turn of the century. The reader is given an intimate look inside the head of the main character Babbitt. BBabbitt is a satire that takes place at the turn of the century. The reader is given an intimate look inside the head of the main character Babbitt. Babbitt is a business man and buffoon with an over-inflated ego. He prides himself on his social standing and his ability to take care of his family, yet wishes to have a passionate affair with a younger woman. Babbitt is like the person in the room that everyone is laughing at, and yet, he still laughs along with you. Think David Brent from The Office. Yes, I think fans of The Office's offbeat humor will appreciate the subtle hints of hilarity in this book.
The appeal factor hinges on being able to tolerate Babbitt and the satire he represents in the Industrial Age. The pace is slower because there is more social commentary as opposed to physical action. The dialogue is crisp & witty. It is important for the reader to also understand the time frame in which this is happening. This is when industry & mega-corporations really started getting developed & Babbitt is on the cutting edge of this movement. He is certainly not a man to be left behind. I think people will either love it or hate it from the start....more
I'm gonna try to cover the whole Stephanie Plum series here. While there are different criminals hunted, and different quirky characters in each one,I'm gonna try to cover the whole Stephanie Plum series here. While there are different criminals hunted, and different quirky characters in each one, they are formulaic; meaning, if you like one, you'll probably like them all and can feel comfortable in recommending any within the series. There is continuity within the series, but they are subtle and should not distress anyone to skip and come back to 7 & 8 if 9 is currently available. Conveniently, they order of the books is given in the title of each one.
Ok. Even though the Stephanie Plum series is classified as Mystery...the characters are the real appeal. Stephanie Plum is the narrator of the series and she becomes a bounty hunter in order to pay her bills. Her previous job was a lingerie buyer/seller. Obviously, those jobs are polar opposites, so it is easy to assume that hilarity ensues. Reoccurring characters are: Lula, a reformed prostitute; Grandma Mazur, who has a silver tongue and active sex life; Joe Morelli, a drop-dead gorgeous cop; Ranger, a mysterious and sexy bounty hunter; and Bob, a lovable dog. Secondary characters usually only make a one bok appearance, but it is these characters that really make one book stand out from each other. I could not describe the cases Stephanie solves, but I could certainly remember the characters who go in and out of Stephanie's life.
Evanovich writes snappy dialog for her characters and her characters' reactions are spontaneous and often hilarious. Some of the phrases are outdated, or used incorrectly, but Evanovich is an older woman writing young characters. Because of this, the writing will have a wide appeal for both young and old. The outdated-ness of the language should not discourage from offering the series to a younger adult reader. One thing to be aware of though, is that Evanovich sprinkles curses throughout the story, steering it away from a gentle read. Not a huge amount of it, but enough to maybe offend the sensitive. There are some sex scenes, but they are not graphic.
There are car explosions, deaths, shootings, chases, romance and humor in these books. Each one is a pretty light read and is good escapist entertainment....more
The first line reads: "The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow." If the descriptiThe first line reads: "The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow." If the description sounds bleak now, it will only get bleaker. This is a tale of heartbreak and hardship in excruciating detail.
The plot focuses on the character, Philip, from childhood to middle age. Maugham describes the minutiae that occurs in Philip's thoughts. He's really not that bad of a guy. Philip is born with a clubfoot, for which he is mercilessly teased, taunted, and tortured for at his school. Through it all, though, he becomes a doctor and marries the woman he is blindly in love with. Sounds fine, but she detests him. And so it goes. Philip manages to maintain a positive attitude throughout the diversity he faces, but if he didn't, he might lose his sanity on top of everything else.
As you may have guessed, this is a slow read, but a satisfying one. The general reader will probably not appreciate this book, but fans of other classic writers of tragedy, or serious contemporary British authors will: think Thomas Hardy, Alexandre Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo), or John Banville....more
The Emperor of Ocean Park is told from the viewpoint of Talcott Garland. He is an Ivy League law professor; his wife is working towards Partner in herThe Emperor of Ocean Park is told from the viewpoint of Talcott Garland. He is an Ivy League law professor; his wife is working towards Partner in her prestigious law firm; his father was nominated to be a Supreme Court judge, but then something happened...but what? This is at the heart of the mystery in this book.
At opening, the reader is introduced to the characters at Judge Garland's funeral. Was it murder or accidental suicide? You won't find out until the end of the 650 pages, but to me, it only felt to be about 500 pages. The author uses chess terms, moves and strategies to unfold the mystery. I liked this device even though I am not a chess player, so the reader might gain further fulfillment by brushing up on chess terms.
The appeal of the book lies in the atmosphere that Carter creates as seen from the upper crust of society that can afford to vacation regularly at Martha's Vineyard. Another appeal factor can be traced to the personality of Talcott, as the reader is invited to ruminate over his every thought. The inner workings of Talcott's mind can be quite meticulous at times. Talcott is alone in solving the mystery and at times, it seems that his friends have turned into enemies. All this, and his wife is threatening divorce. Yes, there are numerous sub-plots to the main plot, but it requires little effort to keep them straight.
The Emperor of Ocean Park is similar to Grisham in that the main character is a regular, unassuming guy who gets caught up in circumstances he did not ask to be in, but out of a sense of duty, he sees the job through to the end. Afterall, he is digging to the bottom of a mystery concerning his father and his family's honor. To say all Grisham fans would like this selection would be quite a stretch, but for those looking for substance with their mystery would do well to pick this one up....more
David Alan Grier might be best known as a cast member of a little indie television show called "In Living Color," but don't expect to get any backgrouDavid Alan Grier might be best known as a cast member of a little indie television show called "In Living Color," but don't expect to get any background or dirt on the show from this book. Grier focuses his attention on aspects of the Barack Obama campaign and election, most specifically on obtaining tickets to the inauguration and attending the swearing-in ceremony.
I think this book could hold a lot of meaning for some people, as he describes why the election of an African-American to the highest office in America would mean so much to him and his family. Interspersed with the "present-day saga" of getting tickets to Obama's inauguration are personal stories Grier shares from throughout his & his family's lives. This is where the strength of the book lies. He tells an unforgettable story about his grandmother at the height of discrimination, in which she is neglected in the storage hold of a bus. He tells of how his mother drove him to see JFK before the school day started. He also divulges his love for Jimi Hendrix. These stories are funny and sometimes heart-breaking.
Unless you are a big fan of the show "Dancing with the Stars" or of David Alan Grier, you can probably skip these last two chapters that focus on his experience with that show. I don't read that many biographies, but this one was accessible and written in a casual style that makes you feel like you're Grier's confidant....more
This is the first of the series about Dr. Professor Moritz von Igelfeld, a Romance language professor in Germany whose concentration is Portugese. HeThis is the first of the series about Dr. Professor Moritz von Igelfeld, a Romance language professor in Germany whose concentration is Portugese. He thinks a lot of himself since he wrote the definitive book outlining Portugese Irregular Verbs. Unfortunately, not anyone else in the entire world shares his enthusiasm about this subject.
Von Igelfeld reminds me of the Mr. Bean character, a buffoon with an out-sized opinion of himself. Von Igelfeld sees himself as a martyr in many situations, as he sees others advance or gain recognition. He is often oblivious to the way in which others perceive him. One must see the humor in these type of situations to enjoy the various comical, and sometimes uncomfortable, aspects of them.
The book is slim and consists of 9 essentially short stories, or episodes. The content is essentially non-offensive, unless you have a thing against extremely pompous people. Other two books in this series are: The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs & At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. All share similar characteristics and are equally enjoyable....more
This book takes place in the Southwest near the U.S. border with Mexico.
The action is non-stop and works with 3 different points of view. The narratiThis book takes place in the Southwest near the U.S. border with Mexico.
The action is non-stop and works with 3 different points of view. The narration switches between Llewyllen Moss (an everyman who finds a drug deal gone horribly gone and then comes into possession of a fortune), Anton Chigur (a cold-blooded assassin who is hunting Moss), and Sherriff Bell (who is looking to protect Moss and solve the bloody case). The story wanders in and out of the United States and Mexico - always following the stolen money. But how?
Chigur is one of the most evil characters I have come across in fiction. Many of the characters are not sympathetic, but Sheriff Bell's inner monologues make him the most likable character. If you look close, you can even find commentary on American society, which is a nice breather from the suspense of the money chase going on between Moss & Chigur.
One must first get used to McCarthy's style, meaning that he does not use many punctuation marks - quotations in particular. This method can get confusing at times, so just beware.
Movie mirrors the book almost to a "T". Book provides a little more information, as to what exactly happens at the end, whereas the movie leaves the resolution wide open....more
This slim (160 pages) volume will appeal to the younger crowd & fans of Guy Ritchie movies (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch). The paThis slim (160 pages) volume will appeal to the younger crowd & fans of Guy Ritchie movies (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch). The pacing is pretty quick, but the real draw is the characters. Charlie Mortdecai is a booze-swilling "art dealer" of questionable principles. In spite of, or because of, he is an endearing character. Jock is his thug/butler. Although Jock is simple-minded, he is loyal to Mister Charlie, and the affection between the men is mutual.
Nothing goes right or smooth for either of these two, who attempt to pull off an art caper of epic proportions. It's like Thomas Crown Affair with madcap hijinks. The action takes a backseat to Charlie's caustic wit, though. The atmosphere is light, meaning that even though these two often get into trouble, there is really no need to worry about their pulling out of it in one piece. Bruised and bloody, maybe, but alive nonetheless.
Written 30 years ago, the book translates very well - it could take place today. The Mortdecai trilogy has been compared to the mysteries of P.G. Wodehouse. Maybe if Wodehouse used language inappropriate in polite society and drank whiskey for breakfast.
A Rage in Harlem is the first book in Chester Hime's Coffin Ed Johnson & Grave Digger Jones series. Surprisingly, the 2 detectives are minor charaA Rage in Harlem is the first book in Chester Hime's Coffin Ed Johnson & Grave Digger Jones series. Surprisingly, the 2 detectives are minor characters, but their "stage presence," so to speak, is immediate and impressionable. They are the only black detectives working 1960's Harlem and their reputations precede them wherever they go. Even the toughest hoodlums & con men shrink and shiver in their midst.
This book focuses on simple, honest, hard-working man, Jackson, who is conned out of his money in the first chapter. The con men are supposedly from the South and have recently started this game with newfound gold. Jackson is in love with Imabelle, who is working for the con men...or is she? Jackson recruits his bother, Goldie, a heroin junkie who dresses up like a nun to make some dough, to get his money and his woman back. Not only is Jackson's employer, H. Exodus Clay after him & Goldie, but add the con men & Johnson & Jones to the mix, and you've got one heck of an entertaining story.
I would say the appeal of this book lies in the fast-pacing and relentless action/mayhem that unfolds in 1960's Harlem. The atmosphere is gritty and dirty. The language is bold and colorful, complete with lingo and dialect from the times.
All the books in the series (8 in all) are slim - coming in at around 160 pages. Reader beware: they become highly addictive and some are hard to find.
Himes was a Civil Rights activist, so the inequalities between blacks & whites at this time does come up occasionally, but the book would not be complete without addressing these issues at this time and in this city. This element adds more depth. Himes has been compared to Raymond Chandler. Also of note: Himes grew up in Cleveland.
The Bad Seed was written in the 1950's and was considered to be a very "different" kind of book. It deals with issues of nature vs. nurture and was crThe Bad Seed was written in the 1950's and was considered to be a very "different" kind of book. It deals with issues of nature vs. nurture and was criticized for its stance on the nature side of the issue. If you just accept this premise (it's a work of fiction), the book will be much more enjoyable.
The ensemble of characters work well together & are all creepy in their own ways. The plot rules this book, so be prepared to not care about them so much. The reader gets to see inside the mind of the devious janitor, Leroy, the most. This just adds to the foreboding atmosphere of the story. The pacing of the book is steady, but not slow by any means.
The tone of the book sets it up like a "Leave it to Beaver" neighborhood placed in the middle of "The Twilight Zone." Highly entertaining, kind of nostalgic, but certainly not for everyone.