I won Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart in the Goodreads First Reads program. I was aware of Shteyngart, although I had never read anythingI won Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart in the Goodreads First Reads program. I was aware of Shteyngart, although I had never read anything of his. I had read very favorable reviews of Super Sad True Love Story, but had not made the time to read it. Through those reviews I knew Shteyngart was a Russian émigré, but little else about him.
Little Failure is a very honest memoir, so far as I know. It tells about a little boy named Igor (now Gary) born into a Jewish family in Leningrad. His father once sang opera, but was now a mechanical engineer. His mother played piano and loved her new son. Unfortunately, Igor had asthma which led to his Dad calling him “snotty” and Mom over-coddling him, but still calling him her “little failure.”
This was not an auspicious beginning for little Igor. He tells about growing up in the Soviet Union, of his love for Lenin whose statute dominated a nearby square, and then of leaving the country in 1979. The Soviet Union could not feed her people and traded Jews for grain in the last years of the Carter administration.
Shteyngart’s family ended up in New York where they live today. Shteyngart tells of his eventual coming to terms with his new country. He goes to college and finds he can write.
Here’s the greatest thing about Little Failure, Shteyngart can indeed write in the best sense of the word. His sentences are packed with self-deprecating humor. Each sentence is practically perfect. It is a joy to read such well-crafted sentences, paragraph, pages, and ultimately a book. ...more
Accused is Lisa Scottoline’s twelfth “Rosato & Associates” books. The last seven have spent weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller lists. After rAccused is Lisa Scottoline’s twelfth “Rosato & Associates” books. The last seven have spent weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller lists. After reading Accused, I believe that it too will take its place on yet another bestseller list.
In the interest of full disclosure, I won this book in Goodreads’ First Reads giveaway program. I have never read anything by Scottoline before although I have been aware of the author. One of those authors on my “one of these days” lists.
I’m glad I finally acquainted myself with Scottoline and her characters. I liked them. Unfortunately, I did not know them as well as I should. An author who develops characters for twelve books includes some back story in a new books, but also must assume readers know the characters well. I have no idea if the main protagonist in each book is Mary DiNunzio, as it is in Accused, or if the characters trade off protagonist duty. While it diminishes my enjoyment of the book, it takes nothing away from the author’s work.
In Accused, Mary is hired by a thirteen year old girl who wants Mary’s law firm to investigate her sister’s murder. Another man is in prison and the young girl is certain he is innocent and need to be set free. The book goes on from there with interesting characters such as Mary’s father who SPEAKS IN ALL CAPS thanks to his deafness.
The book is well plotted and driven by likeable and real characters. I recommend it and I plan on reading more of Scottoline’s books in the future. I promise I won’t wait to win another in a giveaway. ...more
Jefferson Bass is not a real person. Instead, Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. The latter is a forensic anthropoJefferson Bass is not a real person. Instead, Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. The latter is a forensic anthropologist and the founder of the “Body Farm” in Tennessee; the first facility dedicated to researching human decomposition.
Jefferson teamed up with Bass to write about a book, Death’s Acre, about the Body Farm. One or maybe both of them dreamed up the idea of a mystery series. They created the character of Bill Brockton to stand in for Dr. Bass. They have written seven Brockton novels and all but one has “bone” in the title. That word refers to the work of a forensic anthropologist; a person who studies bones to disclose evidence of a crime.
Cut to the Bone is the eighth Brockton novel although one might call it the first. It is a prequel, but it doesn’t start with Day One of Brockton’s crime-solving career. He is already an expert analyst in a number of cases including one that resulted in suspicion cast on a want-to-be Navy SEAL candidate. That suspicion causes the Navy to give him the boot—to Brockton’s later regret.
Cut to the Bone starts in 1992 when Brockton arrives at the scene of a skeletonized murder victim. He regrets his inability to accurately date decomposition. This regret leads him to the creation of the Body Farm (this really happened about twenty years earlier than the action in the novel).
Brockton gets a small plot of land from the University and then has his long-suffering graduate assistant, Tyler, watch blow flies and nature turn donated cadavers into skeletons. But, the Body Farm is not the subject of the novel. Throughout the other seven novels, all of which I have read, Brockton is haunted by the memories of a serial killer, the former Navy SEAL candidate.
Those serial deaths and the confrontation between the serial killer and the anthropologist is the theme of Cut to the Bone. I received an advance reading copy of Cut to the Bone through Goodread’s First Reads program. I’m glad I did, because I would have bought the hardback when it came out.
Cut to the Bone is a good novel and a worthy prequel. I especially liked the thought process behind creating the Body Farm (I probably should read Jefferson’s and Bass’ Death’s Acre). I recommend Cut to the Bone for fans of the previous books. If you’ve never picked up a Jefferson Bass book, you could very easily start right here. ...more
This is a reference book with well-written text (although some parts about the capitalization of new pen companies could get tiring). I collect fountaThis is a reference book with well-written text (although some parts about the capitalization of new pen companies could get tiring). I collect fountain pens and this book helped me learn of ways to spend my money more wisely. What more can one say?...more
I have read several of E.L. Doctorow’s books including Ragtime and Billy Bathgate. I enjoy the craft Doctorow brings to his work. Andrew’s Brain is noI have read several of E.L. Doctorow’s books including Ragtime and Billy Bathgate. I enjoy the craft Doctorow brings to his work. Andrew’s Brain is no exception. It is written almost to the point of writerly perfection. The author’s ability to elicit emotions such as empathy and disgust is very evident. There is no way that an author of Doctorow’s skill could write a bad book.
However, Andrew’s Brain will not be one of Doctorow’s best. It weighs in at a slim 200 pages. It consists of several discussions between Andrew and an unidentified person who is evidently a therapist—Andrew calls this person Doc once, a shrink another time, and doctor later. Andrew also is no stranger to the mind. He is a neuroscientist and studies how the brain becomes self-aware.
Andrew has led a very sad life marked by sorrow and loss. As a child, he loses his dachshund to a hawk that snatches the dog away with Andrew still holding the leash. As a young parent, Andrew accidently kills his infant daughter by dutifully giving her the wrong medicine thanks to a pharmacist’s mix-up. His wife leaves him. He later remarries.
Then the book takes a turn to the unreal. Are Andrew’s memories reliable? Did Andrew’s new wife really die and if so in the way Andrew believes? Did Andrew really work for the president?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then the book takes an unfortunate turn. There is too much that is unbelievable in these final pages. Even Andrew senses the doubt of his therapist or whatever role the person truly holds.
I received Andrew’s Brain as a First Reads Giveaway. The writing was well worth my time, so was most of the story. But, I still felt a sense of dissatisfaction with the final third of the book. Thus, I am giving only four stars to a master novelist. But, I am still glad I read it and recommend it. I have one final point, I live with a tiny dachshund and found the hawk scene harrowing. It made me hug my little dog that much tighter....more
I admit it. I’m in a long relationship with Thomas Covenant. It has, at times, been illicit. I remember sitting in my workplace restroom reading CovenI admit it. I’m in a long relationship with Thomas Covenant. It has, at times, been illicit. I remember sitting in my workplace restroom reading Covenant’s adventures when I should have been working.
I introduced myself to Covenant when I was in graduate school in 1978. I was only a year behind Stephen R. Donaldson who published the first volume of the "First Chronicle of Thomas Covenant" in 1977. The three-volume work started with Lord Foul’s Bane. I devoured each new adventure as they came out in 1978 and 1979.
I grew depressed when I read the last book. No more Covenant. No more grouchy leper who unwillingly entered a land imbued with magic. Then, Donaldson came out with Covenant’s Second Chronicle only a year later. He introduced a rival for my affections, Dr. Linden Avery, who entered the same land. Imagine my dismay in 1983 when the Covenant Chronicles ended.
My dismay ended when Donaldson dug deep and published the first volume of "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" in 2004. Of course, I had to ask why it took twenty-one years for Covenant to come back into my life. And, what was it with this “last” business?
It took some more years for Donaldson to come out with the last volume of this last chronicle. This time, it would not be a trilogy. No, it would be a tetralogy--four books with three long years passing between each. Linden Avery is a key figure as is Covenant although long dead. The chronicle ends with The Last Dark.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received The Last Dark as part of Goodread’s "First Reads" program. When the UPS man delivered the thick package, I held the advance reading copy in my hands for a few moments. I opened it up and read, and read, and then read some more. Its over five hundred pages were a bit daunting even if some of those pages are a necessary glossary.
The Last Dark is a worthy end to my relationship with Covenant giving me a sense of closure. I recommend the book, the previous three volumes, and the two previous trilogies to anyone.
But here’s the thing with the Chronicles. One really cannot read any one random book in the separate sets. Each book and each set of books build on the next introducing characters, events, and concepts that have to be met and understood. Otherwise, one will be lost among Loric’s Krill, the Staff of Law, ur-viles, ranyhyn, white gold’s power, and more.
So do what I did; carve out a part of your life and read these books, but don’t start with The Last Dark. Who knows, I may renew my relationship with Covenant and even re-read his Chronicles if I can find the time. ...more