This was a pleasant, rewarding read. It was a coming of age story set in the exotic environment of an impoverished Haiti, making it more interesting t...moreThis was a pleasant, rewarding read. It was a coming of age story set in the exotic environment of an impoverished Haiti, making it more interesting than if the setting had been more familiar. The narrator, an adolescent girl, reminded me of Scout, the narrator of "To Kill a Mockingbird": precocious, curious, rebellious but circumspect. I looked forward to opening it each night for a brief escape to her world.(less)
This was an ordinary story in many ways: a son of divorced parents, spending the summer with his dad, growing up in the process. It's juxtaposed with...moreThis was an ordinary story in many ways: a son of divorced parents, spending the summer with his dad, growing up in the process. It's juxtaposed with the adult son returning to assist a now enfeebled father and probing for answers to the questions that were raised during that summer so long ago. Therein lies the mystery. It's not earthshattering in the cosmic sense. It has no universal implications. It is, at heart, a human interest story. The storytelling is so smooth that one gets the sense it's an autobiography rather than fiction.
My personal reaction to the boy's story (as opposed to the adult's) was to get frustrated at his lack of initiative to DO something about what he was facing; I kept silently yelling at him to stand up to those who took advantage of him. From the writer's standpoint, this is a good thing: he engaged me fully. But there were times I was so frustrated that the character was making choices I couldn't understand or relate to, that I almost didn't finish the book. My biased opinion was, ultimately, that he got what he deserved, and I completely lost sympathy for him. This is probably not what the author intended.(less)
I've had a love affair with Pietro Brnwa aka Peter Brown, the protagonist of, first, Bazell's "Beat the Reaper," and now also "Wild Thing," ever since...moreI've had a love affair with Pietro Brnwa aka Peter Brown, the protagonist of, first, Bazell's "Beat the Reaper," and now also "Wild Thing," ever since I read the first of these.
What sets Brnwa apart from his don't-fuck-with-me macho counterparts in other action thrillers is that Brnwa doesn't take himself seriously. His sardonic wit is almost unintentional, as he makes wry observations about himself and the improbable situations he finds himself in. Instead of trying to impress you with his Rambo-skills, he leads you to believe that he'd rather be anywhere else, instead of fighting bad guys and monsters.
He's also unabashedly carnal, like most men when they are among their own and free to say what they're really thinking, but—also like most real men—spends more of his time fantasizing about the girl than "getting" her. He's more of a reluctant hero than an anti-hero. 'Cause really, he's an awesome hero, not only to the plot, but to me as a writer. I can only aspire to Bazell's genius in his creation.
If I could have given this book 4.5 stars, I would have. But the only reason I give it less than 5 is in comparison with its predecessor: "Beat the Reaper" (which I have read three times). "Wild Thing" was less than that genius work for two reasons: 1) Pietro didn't have the vested interest in this story that he did in the first book; namely, his own survival. Sure, he's threatened with death at some point in the story, but for most of it he's a detached investigator; and 2) in his first novel, Bazell stayed strictly within the First Person narrative of Brnwa, whereas in this book he cheats, having Brnwa narrate scenes in which he was not present, breaking the flow to distracting effect. He also inserts the first person narrative of other characters in places, with the same result.
I have to admit that, since I listened to the audio version of both books, I'm almost certainly prejudiced by the awesome talents of reader Robert Petkoff, who conveys Brnwa's cynicism perfectly, yet is able to make you believe that all the other characters are present in his voice as well.
I will read anything Bazell writes (probably multiple times), as soon as it is published (or sooner, if I ever get my hands on it!)(less)
I have read memoirs of celebrities and enjoyed many of them. I attribute this to two principle factors: the subject's celebrity has made them of inter...moreI have read memoirs of celebrities and enjoyed many of them. I attribute this to two principle factors: the subject's celebrity has made them of interest to me before I pick up the book; and, two, most of them are ghostwritten by someone with an ear for prose. The first of these makes for good storytelling, the second makes for good writing, in most cases.
I was skeptical when I approached Jonna Ivins's memoir, "Will Love 4 Crumbs." I wondered just how interesting the life of an everywoman could be, given all the competition out there from larger-than-life personalities. I also questioned whether a novice could tell even an interesting story in a fashion compelling enough to sustain my interest. With "Crumbs," Ivins proved my fears unwarranted on both counts. I more than once uttered the phrase — hackneyed, perhaps, but true in this case — that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
The book is not a complete biography; instead, it hones in on two of the author's most important relationships: with a lover, and with her mother, whose death the author chronicles in touching — though never maudlin — detail. Ivins's life may be ordinary in many ways, but her honest and witty — sometimes sardonic — delivery make her experiences immediately accessible and universal. I found myself knowing the characters as though they existed in my own life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. I plan to give a few copies as gifts throughout the coming year.(less)
The story started off effectively enough—with a murder—giving the reader and the characters a mystery to solve. But much of the story was contained in...moreThe story started off effectively enough—with a murder—giving the reader and the characters a mystery to solve. But much of the story was contained in the head of the protagonist as she fretted about what to do and replayed the list of possible suspects over and over again. There would be brief snippets of dialogue with her colleagues, after which she would run around "wondering" about this person or that person, or some bit of evidence.
As the title implies, the plot revolves around an accidental recording made of the murder. The protagonist discovers this, puts it on a CD, then runs around for an infuriatingly long time before actually listening to it. Pages and pages are spent as she thinks about it in her purse, wondering what it might reveal. The reader just wants to snatch it from her and say "Listen already!" Then, even after she hears it, she learns nothing new, then runs around thinking about it some more.
The rest of the characters do nothing to advance the plot. Occasionally one will do or say something to cast suspicion on him- or herself, but these are always red herrings and the reader soon begins to dismiss them as soon as they occur.
The resolution comes when the protagonist finally applies the skills for which she is renowned and analyzes the disk scientifically, isolating a single anomaly that leads her to the killer's identity. The reader is left to wonder why this wasn't entirely possible two hundred pages earlier.
The writing itself betrays an amateur author, though it's not nearly as egregious as many of the self-published novels I've tried to read. I was actually able to finish this one. The problems in this novel are not so much the blatant grammar and usage errors so ubiquitous elsewhere, but are of the style and voice variety that one learns to avoid in a basic writing class: too many dialogue tags of too many types (in one two page stretch there were 26, 22 of which were unique: shrieked, ordered, noted, announced, agreed, scolded, cried, and so on), too much inner monologue, not enough action, flat plot and character arcs, too much obvious exposition, shallow supporting-character development.
It might have worked as a short story, but other than a murder, the discovery of a telltale recording, and a one-page struggle with the murderer when confronted, there just wasn't enough of a plot to sustain a full-length novel.(less)