I had been putting off reading this one for quite a while because I knew it was the last (so far) novel by John Dunning and of the Bookman series. To...moreI had been putting off reading this one for quite a while because I knew it was the last (so far) novel by John Dunning and of the Bookman series. To be honest I had also put it off a little due to many reviews that said it just wasn't quite up to the standards of the previous novels in the series.
My experience, however, was a little different. I thought it got off to a great start, with lots of scenes where we readers get to wallow in the book collecting world that is so paramount in Cliff Janeway's life. Now it is true that we take a long departure from that world and move into the world of horse racing but the author has experience with this too and it shows in this novel. And near the end, we re-renter the world of books and bibliomania.
But fundamentally, this is a mystery novel, in a mystery series and I think it succeeds quite well. There are quite a lot of characters and therefore lots of suspects for this who-dunnit caper. There is action surrounded by very competent character building. In fact our main character, Janeway, undergoes a bit of a change himself through this novel, coming to understand his own inner self a little more and what really motivates him. We readers have realized it for quite some time, stretching back a least a couple of novels. And the ending was quite a surprise for me. The clues were there but I didn't put them all together until the exact moment that Janeway did. I did mark it down one notch because the middle part of the story did bog down a little too much, introducing us to a few too many characters that just didn't seem to play into the larger story. Also the ending also had a mild cliff hanger concerning Janeway's future plans, obviously designed to lead into the next book. But those are really small complaints considering the overall read.
I do worry that this will be the last of the Janeway books as health issues have prevented Mr. Dunning from getting back at 'em. His website is optimistic, however, and so must I be.(less)
A series of 14 "lectures" that attempt to describe the history and various sub-genres of detective fiction. The narrator, Professor M. Lee Alexander,...moreA series of 14 "lectures" that attempt to describe the history and various sub-genres of detective fiction. The narrator, Professor M. Lee Alexander, unfortunately offers very little outside of cataloguing numerous examples of detective fiction. A typical lecture, say on "Medicine for Murder: The Medical Mystery" would consist of the fact that such works are detective fiction that involve medicine. Really? They involve medical terms and procedures more than other forms of detective fiction...like medical forensics, etc. And then she gives several examples of these kinds of novels, using mostly main-stream authors and talks a bit about the sleuths themselves.
Prof Alexander is not the most polished lecturer I've heard although she does seem knowledgeable about her subject, and even likes it. But her style leans toward reading from notes or an outline. She frequently repeats herself and there are long pauses between the points she is trying to make.
Other lecture topics include:
Mysterious Origins Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and the Victorian Era The Queen of Crime: Agatha Christie and the Golden Age Gifted Amateurs: Academics to Zoologists Private Investigators and Hard-Boiled Heroes Cops, Capers, and Police Procedurals Spies Among Us: Espionage and Techno-Thrillers In the Teeth of the Evidence: Lawyers and Legal Eagles Medicine for Murder: The Medical Mystery Probing the Past: Historical Detective Fiction Women of Mystery: Beyond Female Intuition International Intrigue: Detective Fiction Goes Global Investigating Identity: Ethnic Sleuths Regional Sleuths and Future Trends in Detective Fiction
This sounds like a great list...I just wish there were more meat in them. I had hoped for some more in-depth history of both the fictional works and the authors themselves, perhaps more about the time in which they were written and how that influenced the genre and sub-genre. We do get some of that but overall, this seemed like an introductory exposure for those that have read very little detective fiction and were merely looking for items to add to their shopping list.(less)
I'm one of those people who can't help but peruse somebody else's book shelves whenever I get invited to their house. I definitely believe that you ca...moreI'm one of those people who can't help but peruse somebody else's book shelves whenever I get invited to their house. I definitely believe that you can tell a lot about somebody from their book collection (or lack thereof). So I was anxious to see what this little book had to offer.
It depicts 14 author's book collections/shelves in their homes. On several occasions we get a two-for-one shot as the authors happen to be a couple. Each section includes an interview that asks such questions as "How do you categorize your books?", "How do you dispose of books you don't want?", "When a book falls apart from overuse, do you repair it, or are you just as happy to buy a new copy?" and "How did you first start to acquire your own books?" Each author is also asked to name their top 10 books. Obviously everybody has their own opinions, tastes, and methods but there are some interesting stories in here and some fascinating approaches to shelving ones books at home.
But the most interesting parts are the many full-page pictures of the book shelves, views of whole rooms full of shelves of books as well as detailed shelf-by-shelf pics that allow us to spend way too much time reading every title there. I happen to organize my own books by genre and alphabetically by author, keeping standard paperbacks, trade paperbacks, and hardbacks separate. I am constantly re-arranging my books and shelves as one section grows, etc and I enjoy doing that. (I have a large home library so this can take a lot of time...see my profile if you're interested in some pics of parts of my library). So it was fun to see other methods depicted in this book, especially those that mixed everything together for the shear love of finding lost treasures among their own books, not having seen them for years.
This is a good little book for a book lover and would make a good gift due to its small size.(less)
This is a fun little book that's filled with interesting factoids and tidbits about some famous books and how their titles came to be. It's written by...moreThis is a fun little book that's filled with interesting factoids and tidbits about some famous books and how their titles came to be. It's written by an executive editor (at least at the time of publication in 1994) of the Book-of-the-Month Club and he seems to know what he is talking about. The book blurbs are all short, mostly one or two paragraph descriptions about the various book titles, often describing the working titles as well as the long string about what might have been. For example we get to see how Gone with the Wind started out as "Patsy" who was the original name Margaret Mitchell had for Scarlet. I've actually heard that before but I hadn't realized how at the last moment Mitchell changed the title to "Tote the Weary Load" and then to "Tomorrow is Another Day" before settling on the final choice. Books of all types are mentioned, from classics like Treasure Island and For Whom the Bell Tolls to The Hobbit to modern day thrillers like Nelson DeMille's The Gold Coast and on and on.
I did notice a recurring trend in that almost every author quoted here describes how difficult it is to come up with a good title, and how they agonize for days or weeks over it. Of course sometimes the final decision belongs to the publisher's marketing department and thus, fortunately we have The Great Gatsby instead of Fitzgerald's preference (that he really really fought for): "Trimalchio in West Egg"
And sometimes it's just a last second change. Catch-22, up until the last minute was going to be "Catch-18" except that a rival publisher was about to publish Mila 18 by the well-known Leon Uris and Heller's publisher didn't want to compete with such a name brand author with their new, unknown author.
And lots more like that. As a book nerd I quite enjoyed discovering so many anecdotes about so many books. At work yesterday in a meeting I actually said "That's a real Catch-18" and of course I had to explain the whole story. They already think I'm weird anyway.(less)
There are many excellent reviews here from readers who have a lot to which to compare this novel. Readers of erotica in general and BDSM in particular...moreThere are many excellent reviews here from readers who have a lot to which to compare this novel. Readers of erotica in general and BDSM in particular have all chimed in. So how does a non-erotica-experienced reader feel about this book?
Happily surprised is my answer. I won't rehash the plot here but suffice it to say that I expected numerous hot sex scenes and I got them, of course. But where I expected that to be the main focus with the plot little more than a contrived setup to the next such scene, that was not the case at all. This is not porn in verbal form. Rather this novel is an engaging story with well-developed characters that I really came to care about, and certainly was interested to see what they would do next. True, there is definitely dark erotica here, most especially dealing with why BDSM is the only answer for some individuals. There is love, and lust, bondage, submission, etc. etc. Presumably you would not be picking this one up to read if that sort of thing did not interest you. And, speaking as a novice of such things, this book is an excellent starting point because one of the two main characters is a novice himself and thus is educated in most of the basics and nuances of the craft.
The novel goes far beyond mere sexual play and delves deep into the dark edges of it all. So it's not for the faint of heart or for those readers who want everything tied up in a nice little bow with all the characters living happily ever after. Some do and some don't...but there are sequels and much yet to explore.
This is the 4th Cliff Janeway book and, I believe, the best so far. Basically, these are hard-boiled crime novels featuring a sleuth who is a former c...moreThis is the 4th Cliff Janeway book and, I believe, the best so far. Basically, these are hard-boiled crime novels featuring a sleuth who is a former cop but now runs his own antiquarian bookstore in downtown Denver. The author, John Dunning is himself, an antiquarian book dealer in Denver so he knows his book lore and that is initially what drew me to the series. What could be better than a mystery plot surrounding the book trade?
Of course that's only the premise. You still have to have good characterization, plotting, etc. and, of course, a great mystery to solve. That's all here and in spades. If you haven't discovered John Dunning yet, get ye to a bookstore or download the first one Booked To Die today!(less)
If you haven't yet discovered The Teaching Company, I urge you to check them out. They offer a wide variety of lecture series on DVDs or CDs, everythi...moreIf you haven't yet discovered The Teaching Company, I urge you to check them out. They offer a wide variety of lecture series on DVDs or CDs, everything from history, to political thought, to the fine arts. Typically, the lectures are 30 minutes long, a perfect amount of time to provide interesting insights yet not long enough to seem like a boring college lecture. Don't let the initial prices turn you off because they are always (and I mean always) running sales with huge discounts (like 75% off).
I actually began listening to this lecture series only reluctantly because I didn't want to experience the typical elitist college English professor approach to dissecting a classic work of fiction and telling me what the author "is really saying here". I can't stand that sort of thing and so I am pleased to say that there is very little of that here. We are treated to author bios, and the impact of the book on society (Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle) but without the "you should be reading this or else you are not a real reader" mentality. I was also pleased to hear the lecturer speak of today's popular fiction as worthwhile. He even takes the time to walk us through the history of bestsellers, from Colonial days all the way through Oprah's Book Club.
I'm very happy to recommend this lecture series to anyone interested in the world behind the books we read.(less)