This was an interesting read that jumped around from random topic to random topic. Although the topics are varying, they are all addressed through the...moreThis was an interesting read that jumped around from random topic to random topic. Although the topics are varying, they are all addressed through the lens of an economist who applies statistics to seemingly unrelated problems and scenarios. Levitt, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, certainly draws unique conclusions.
He lays out his thinking that drug dealing gangs have the same corporate structure as any big business, with only the higher ups raking in the dough. And he makes many a statement that will certainly stir debate, whether you believe his theories or not, such as that abortion was the cause of the crime drop in the 1990's, or that parenting methods don't have much of an outcome on children. Although there are numbers and statistics in plenty throughout, the writing is easily digested and the chapters and topics not too long. If you are looking for a read to get your brain thinking about unique topics and different ways of looking at the world, this is for you.(less)
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 in...moreA 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.
Well, It’s got vampire bad guys…. But they really are just people with fangs. The Main character whom you are supposed to sympathize with is a super b...moreWell, It’s got vampire bad guys…. But they really are just people with fangs. The Main character whom you are supposed to sympathize with is a super book smart 16 year old who has little to no common sense. And you just want to smack her. Then again I want to smack a lot of characters I’ve read about so that’s nothing new. The other supporting characters were the room mates and they were okay. They weren’t real people but they were stereotypes either. Not really anything to write home about. The other charters were more like caricatures of stereotypes. The good part was the description of bullying. Caine got that one well. And the book is short. So you don’t waste a lot of time reading it. But unless you are a hard core vampire fan skip this one. (less)
Magic Bites is fast passed urban fantasy noir almost mystery. There’s a death at the beginning and the main character decides to revenge the death. No...moreMagic Bites is fast passed urban fantasy noir almost mystery. There’s a death at the beginning and the main character decides to revenge the death. No, not solve. Just revenge. Along the way Kate (our ornery heroine) gets involved in the politics of the major magical factions of Atlanta Georgia. The pack (were- creatures of every style) and the People (vampires that are blood sucking creatures not humans with fangs. THANK YOU, ILONA!) There are also a slew of other creatures that Kate encounters some good some bad. The most interesting thing about the book however is the way magic works and doesn’t work. In this Version of the near future, Magic and Tech take turns working. Though some tech works during magic time and some magic works during tech time. There are explanations of that. It’s just easy to miss them. And you might still be a little confused. However it is a first book. And a first in a series so if you like the characters keep going. And there is a lot to like about the characters. This first bad guy is a little flat but He really only gets one or two scenes. The secondary characters are well enough drawn that you can imagine them have lives outside of their interaction with Kate.
If you are a fan of the Dresden files by Jim Butcher, The Mercedes Series by Patricia Briggs, or Sookie Stack house by Charlene Harris then you might give these a try. (less)
This was an excellent although incredibly sad book on the second half of The King's life. It covers his time in the army through his drug-filled decli...moreThis was an excellent although incredibly sad book on the second half of The King's life. It covers his time in the army through his drug-filled decline and death. Guralnick's strength is in his evenhanded approach to Presley's life. He does not judge or condemn, nor idolize Elvis, rather simply reports on his research and thousands of interviews with those that knew Elvis, in an easily readable manner. It's a long book for sure, nearly 800 pages, but well worth the read for those true Elvis fans who want to know the King, warts and all. His was a sad story that many celebrities live, caught up in the life filled with hangers-on and never achieving what he himself wanted to do in life. Although arguably the biggest name in rock and roll, Presley wanted to do more than the goofy movies and lovey-dovey songs, but Presley's manager, Colonel Parker, who had an almost godlike hold on Elvis, always steered him to the easy money deals, and since Parker had kept Elvis popular during his time in the army, Elvis believed Parker knew best.
While reading Careless Love, I felt so bad for Elvis. He was certainly fallible and given to excess in drugs and women, but deep down seemed like a good human being. He went through a time of intense spirituality only to have it thwarted by Parker. His fear of not being relevent in society drove him to the prescription drugs he had discovered in the army. His loss of his beloved mother seemed to leave him without a guide. Near the end it seemed like his advisors and friends were literally just pushing him onto the stage, full of his uppers, then would yank him off the stage and fill him with a bunch of downers and move on to the next show.
There are two very different Elvises, the one in some instances swearing at fans in a drunken stupor at concerts, or the one in which little Lisa Marie is knocking at his bedroom door asking to see him, as he sits on the other side in his blacked out room, shades drawn and duct taped shut,refusing to see anyone, and then there is the Elvis who freely gives cars to strangers, money to endless charities, and wooes the fans, understanding that he is their escape from their reality, and vowing to give them his best show.
Read this book to get to know the complex human being that was Elvis Presley.(less)
The author, Colby Buzzell, was one of the first soldiers to blog about his experiences during his year long tour in Iraq, and these blogs grew into "M...moreThe author, Colby Buzzell, was one of the first soldiers to blog about his experiences during his year long tour in Iraq, and these blogs grew into "My War." It's a great read if you want the details of an army soldier's life in Iraq. He adds a nice element with his first-hand descriptions of battles, laid out in stark contrast to the sanitized versions that the army had published. In addition to his battle descriptions, he fills us in on the boring stretches that dominate army life, his fellow soldiers, his family life and time on leave. It's refreshing to see someone who is simply telling his story, with no political ax to grind or who is being overly pro-American, or anti-American. Buzzell grew up in San Francisco listening to punk rock music and skateboarding, jumping from junky job to junky job, and enlisted in the army as something better to do. You can see this background flavored into his writing style.
Buzzell has a great sense of humor, and his writing is self-deprecating, as he mocks himself for his nerdy blogging. His telling of the battles and army life is gritty and biting, laced with plenty of profanities. He takes aim at just about everyone with his sarcasm, from President Bush, the media, the antiwar movement and his superiors.
Joe Queenan, critic, author, and admitted snob, sets out to experience for himself the worst cultural events, books, movies, music and restaurants. Hi...moreJoe Queenan, critic, author, and admitted snob, sets out to experience for himself the worst cultural events, books, movies, music and restaurants. His biting satire and cynicism had me laughing tears. It's a quick read, and if you like his style, you will love his jabs at John tesh, the musical Cats, and Branson, Missouri, to name a few. Some have found this book to be tiring and whining, but if it's your type of humor, you will enjoy every page of it. (less)
Quick paced book about William Queen, the ATF agent who went undercover for two years to infiltrate the Mongols motorcycle gang. I listened to the aud...moreQuick paced book about William Queen, the ATF agent who went undercover for two years to infiltrate the Mongols motorcycle gang. I listened to the audio version, and the narrator had the tough guy sound down well. The stories Queen tells are mesmerizing, and I can't believe the amount of luck this guy had in never having to do drugs or seriously hurt anyone while running with the gang, and avoided ever being exposed as an ATF agent(he did sell drugs and got in his share of fights). It was sad to hear that when a close family member dies, no one at the ATF even offered him condolences, while his tough to the core brothers in the gang offered hugs and feelings of love. Queen's closeness to the Mongols in situations like this leads to him questioning what he is doing, but the Mongols always seem to do something awful to some innocent person and Queen is snapped back to reality. Other than these few incidents of inner turmoil, Queen offers little insight in to his real life. He offers a few tales of how his undercover work made it hard on his kids, and adds a little on the aftermath of the investigation and his testifying against those he ran with for two years, but I somehow felt a bit cheated on the lack of a conclusion. He did get 50 convictions and includes those, but there seemed to be something missing. Despite these flaws, this is still an adrenaline and suspense filled book worth reading.(less)
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 her...moreThe 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.(less)
Attention readers: This is an excellent book! It's the story of John Wilkes Booth and his gang of co-conspirators as they plan the assassination of th...moreAttention readers: This is an excellent book! It's the story of John Wilkes Booth and his gang of co-conspirators as they plan the assassination of the Union's top leadership at the close of the Civil War, and their attempts to carry out these plans and escape. Their goal is to take out Secretary of State William Seward, Vice President Johnson, and President Lincoln. Johnson is left untouched, as the man dealt the task of killing him does not have the will to do it and bales on the plan. Swanson recounts the actions of Booths heinous deed and Lewis Powell's brutal attempt on Seward's life in minute by minute detail. The action continues as the reader tags along on their subsequent attempts of escape through the swamps of Maryland and the backwoods of Virginia.
There are a lot of names to keep straight in this tale, and they come at you pretty quick from the onset, but once you get them set in your mind the story takes over. Swanson writes this book so well you are almost reading it like a suspense that you don't know the ending to. I would hope most people know that Booth does not escape and is hanged, but the rich narrative culled from historical fact is mesmerizing.
Although there is a great amount of detail to the story, the pacing is quick and puts you in the thick of the action. You get a feel for Booth and his strong beliefs, and see him in a different light, not a saint by any means, but different. His end is almost absurd, as the union troops and man hunters bungle what should have been an easy capture. There is an epilogue that fills you in on the fate of each of the characters as well. Really an excellent read. (less)
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 o...moreThe 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.(less)
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 chara...moreA 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.
Cook, her husband, their 3 year old daughter and 32 Siberian Huskies pack up their lives in New Hampshire and head to Alaska for the Yukon Quest, a gr...moreCook, her husband, their 3 year old daughter and 32 Siberian Huskies pack up their lives in New Hampshire and head to Alaska for the Yukon Quest, a grueling 1000 mile sled-dog race. Although they are experienced racers in non-Alaskan treks, having participated in northeastern US races, they have a great story here about their learning curve in the Yukon race, as well as the customs and lifestyle of the Alaskans. Cook was responsible for keeping all her husbands gear together, general coordination for the race and driving the truck to various checkpoints. There is a bit of suspense as we await news on her husband's progress in the race and hear about run-ins with wolves, battles with the frigid weather and hallucinations. She does a nice job with simple writing describing her beautiful environment and the Alaskan people, and the story has an unusual element that may attract females to the tale, as it is written by a mother and wife. (less)