Thursday, December 31, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Once again, i met up with Ms Abbott...and was TKOd right out of the box....but it didn't hurt, not one bit. The narrative tension...the period detail..the cold-as-ice women and wastrel men...the broken bones...the blood..the mayhem...the "heat"....are all here in spades. Three times lucky, i guess.
A crash course in Grifting 101, under the tutelage of the legendary Gloria Denton, leaves our wide-eyed heroine bewitched, bothered, and bewildered...and craving the ever-elusive MORE. Things go seriously awry when Miss Wide Eyes falls hard for a rotten, unlucky (but gorgeous) gambler. In an effort to save his sorry ass and pay off his Vig...a plot is hatched to relieve La Denton of some cash...bloody murder follows. After our girl's wounds heal she decides to turn heel...turn her coat...and rat the Queenpin out to the coppers....more bloody death follows, toot-sweet. The newly freed Bird hies off to greener pastures..only to meet a Character from the recent past, who offers her the chance of a lifetime..the chance to become a Queenpin, herself...talk about Fate. what kind of Luck is that?
5 Stars (oh, hell, make it a double)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Frustrating? Annoying? You Bet.....
This is Joyce Dyer's heartfelt (at times Slavish) tribute to her father..Thomas Coyne....and His slavish devotion to Firestone Tire & Rubber Company (Akron, Ohio) and Harvey S Firestone, Sr
Thomas Coyne was a COMPANY MAN..through and through...he believed that Firestone Tire & Rubber..and Harvey Firestone would care for him & his family for life...unfortunately, that was not the case...RUBBER left Akron in the 1970s..and left Thomas Coyne behind
I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio..my father spent his entire working life at Firestone Tire & Rubber Company..but he was NOT a Company Man..we did Not live in Firestone Park..and my Dad always said that Harvey Firestone Sr was "a crook" and a Robber Baron..
Ms Dyer, in spite of her slavish devotion to her Father, eventually presented a clear-eyed picture of the man..and his blind trust in a Company that let him, and so many others, down..in a shameful way
this was a tough read for me..Ms Dyer and i grew up in different circumstances..different "classes"...and my father retired as a Systems Analyst..but "got out" when he could in the late 70s...but i felt for her in reading this book. Her dad bought the Company Line totally..and he paid dearly...and so did she, in a way. I envy her close relationship with her father..to a point.
i won't recommend this book..unless someone grew up in Akron, when it was the Rubber Capitol of The World...but it is a heartbreaker of a book..the tale of Industry's control of a city..but it's disregard of its workers...and the price everyone paid..
Friday, December 18, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Supposing that one has not read Elizabeth George's LYNLEY/HAVERS series of mysteries..this is not really the place to start(that would be A GREAT DELIVERANCE...the first)..but it's not bad.....the entire series is well worth the time spent navigating intricate plotlines (watch out for the Twists in the road); flawed, if at times exasperating characters (just like real people); and the woeful aftermath of a Criminal Act (sadness and rue, anyone?).
I want to call this particular title "The Flip Side of THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY" (which book i have NOT read)...since it is set on the Isle of Guernsey and, in part, deals with the Nazi Occupation of said island.....not a quaint story in this case..
a thoroughly enjoyable read...but i am a serious GEORGE fan
**** (4 Stars)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What begins as a simple, lurid tale of Catricide soon develops into one of greed, Eugenics, and the slaughter of another group of Innocents.
Max Greengrass, a stringer for the NEW YORK HERALD, is paid by the column-inch..so everything has "story-potential" in his eyes....and his pocketbook. When he stumbles, literally, upon a tableau of dead cats, one drunken evening, he sees only the number of paragraphs to be eked out for a story...unbeknownst to him, however, is the fact that this Story could be the the Big One..to make his career or end his life....
1890s NYC..Tammany hall in its grand corruption...swank lawyers playing both sides of the courtroom. Clergyman Reformers having it both ways with Sin & Salvation, while the city's poorest pay the tab...The Hudson Dusters and their Gangland ilk provide "color".....a sexy radical Settlement House nurse and a dedicated, Bluestocking photographer provide the "love interest' in Max's life....when he's not being throttled by street Arabs..or The Herald's City Editor..
A vibrant cast of characters and a plot "ripped from the headlines" make this a fast-paced, enjoyable read....and you just might learn some History in the process.
**** (4 Stars)
Saturday, December 5, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"What if, among those falsely accused during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, there had been a few actual witches?"...That is the premise of this historical novel, and Ms Howe delivers a good story...with a few flaws. Aside from a couple of characters who border on Caricature (the New Age Mom, the Evil Mentor), a didactic tone (at the beginning of the book i felt as if i were back in college, sitting through another History lecture), and the whole mystical, "blue-ball-of-energy" pyrotechnic display (Comic Book, anyone?)...this story of a missing Spell book works...or maybe because of these very things.
Ms Howe's scholarship is impeccable, but i felt her protagonist suffered for it. Poor Connie Goodwin was at sea in her own story, at times..bogged down by details and her own angst..with little room to move....Given the fact that both the author and main character have a Salem Legacy..i will carp no more.
Academic ambition, shaky ethics, the burden of History and Family are all here...this was an enjoyable read, all-in-all....One may not think of Witches in the same "olde wayes" again
Saturday, November 28, 2009
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
a cracking good Police Procedural...complete with Moody Detectives...a Cold Case that will not die...a truly dastardly Psychopathic (Twisted?) Sister......angst, ennui, political machinations..the whole gamut...but more than that, i saw it as a bittersweet meditation on the fleeting innocence of childhood, the uncertainty of memory, and the fragility of the nuclear Family.......
Exquisitely plotted and paced, this is one amazing book...auspicious for a debut
View all my reviews >>
Friday, November 27, 2009
Cages by Dave McKean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
the best of the best of the best....even if you don't "like" Graphic Novels..this is a Masterpiece. Art/Creativity/Censorship..it's all here...Black & White and Color
Saturday, November 14, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One in a line of Southern novels featuring "spunky" women....in this case, two black maids and a white college girl, returned home with "no prospects" (i. e. without a husband in sight). What sets this story apart from the rest is the project in which these three engage themselves....the truth about the lives of "colored" maids....THE HELP, as it were. a bold venture in 1962..in Jackson, Mississippi. A bold venture well told, with a minimum of hand-wringing, and only the requisite Stereotyping....The author is a dab hand at storytelling. I liked the characters who deserved such, and pitied the rest. This book won't set the world on fire, but is an enjoyable read..that left me thinking, again, about the destructive roles that Racism and Fear play in our lives..to this day.
The Night Battles by M.F. Bloxam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A pre-Christian fertility cult is alive and well in modern-day Valparuta, Sicily. The "Benandanti" still do battle with the "Melandanti"...in Night Battles..to ensure the success of the Harvest. I am in no way equipped to discuss the historical aspects of this book...so i point my finger in the direction of a title mentioned by the Author herself The Night Battles: Witches and Agrarian Cults in the sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg....there is also a Website for this book.....http://thenightbattles.com....
the Paranormal aspect of this book? Not the Laurell K Hamilton variety..no hunky weres and vamps..herein you will find Folklore still liviing..lying close to the living bones...herein you will also find two seriously flawed characters (the Romance angle, if you will)
............Joan: a failed American academic, trying to come to terms with her trashed career, her own past, her mother's death, her childhood in Sicily, to which she's returned in a last ditch effort at meaningful work
............Chiesa....the Man-of-Mystery...the Archivist of Valparuta....at whose behest Joan has landed in this Sicilian backwater.....Chiesa..a man with more secrets than is healthy for anyone to bear...is he, or is he not an actual Benandanti? or is he a flunky for the local Mafia (which no one names directly)?
who is using who(m) here? to what ends? the mutual obsession precludes any Romance-of-the- Doomed...in other words...HOLD THE HANKIES...neither of these people is likeable...too many sharp edges...Joan's tendency to ramble is annoying....but this trait works to the Author's purpose....which is to make a strange and compelling novel...one of the more Unusual i have read in the past year..and i am a Fool for the Unusual
4 Stars (and i look forward to the author's next effort..whenever)
View all my reviews >>
Friday, August 21, 2009
Doubleday/Nan A Talese
This is not horror of the Stephen King variety (though i have nothing against SK)....rather it is cerebral....almost to a fault..meaning one can get lost in the atmosphere, both of the writing itself, and the setting of the story....to the point that one forgets that not much is actually happening,,,,that being said.
An abandonded chemical plant still awash in toxins...becomes the refuge of disaffected youth in the town that once depended on it..the town itself dying from civic apathy, cultural decline..the vestiges of corporate greed...severe ennui...and various odd cancers
Every year or so a boy from the local school has gone missing in the local Poisoned Woods. The local policeman, aware of the fact that these have actually been deaths..ritual killings......is also aware of the means by which they have been covered up...and suffers the usual pangs of guilt.A group of local youth decides to take matters into their own hands...or at least bring someone to Justice....with disastrous results..after a particularly violent bit of Avenging, one of the boys, Leonard, teams up with a fellow denizen of The Bad Place...and all hell proceeds to break loose in ways brutal, pathetic, and Biblical..ritual killing and an Infernal Machine.complete the steps to Oblivion
Imagine being a witness to your own death? Imagine that you are but one in a chain? Imagine being aware of these facts at the one moment when it is too late for that awareness to matter?
this was one of the best books i have read in a long while
*this is a review of an ARC*
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Oh, well...enough of this. I must go to read...
Friday, July 24, 2009
MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH
G P Putnam’s Sons
“Name of the Rose” crossed with “Silence of the Lambs”???? Whichever, the premise is as old as Time. Someone is savagely murdering children, and Someone Else has to discover who and, more importantly, why.
In this case, the year is 1157 AD, the city is Cambridge, England during the reign of Henry II,who is held,to this day, responsible for the death and subsequent canonization of Thomas a Becket..Someone is murdering English children and the Jews are being blames..the same Jews who fill the coffers of the realm..the eternally scapegoated Jews....enter Simon of Naples, himself a Jew and well-known “fixer”; his erstwhile sidekick, Adelia Vesuvia Aguilar, a “mistress of the art of death”, and a Physician to boot..which fact, if widely known, could condemn her as a Witch in the society of Cambridge...throw in a Saracen bodyguard and watch them enter the story among a troupe of pilgrims returning from Canterbury with relics, sickness, and a murderer in tow...so the story begins.
and what a story! i was impressed with Ms Franklin’s scholarship regarding the historical aspects of this tale...its Politics and mores. her portrayal of everyday life and death was a joy to read. her characters were actually Characters and not dialogue-spouting cutouts. my only qualm was the intrusion of a Romantic Aspect..which sells books, i know. But Adelia was subject to self-doubt on her best days...once she encountered the Studly Rowly she went all soft and girly and nearly lost her head.....but that’s a minor quibble, given the strength of the rest of the book. i had no problem with the rather savage end of the SICKLY NUN...and the MURDERER got his just desserts as well
I’m not sure i want to read the sequel(s) in the series but i strongly recommend this first foray....4 stars at least
Monday, June 22, 2009
DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE: A Spike Berenger Rock n Roll Hit
A Leisure Book/Dorchester Publishing
Someone is killing Progressive Rock musicians in Chicago-one by one. Only thing is, the sole suspect is a ghost. Enter the intrepid ROCKIN’ SECURITY team, summoned from NYC at the behest of a potential victim. Considering the fact that Chicago never had a Progressive Rock movement, this story is a bit of a stretch from Jump Street. Given that the dead musicians-and Spike Berenger, head of said ROCKIN’ SECURITY- are all past the prime of life...the novel creaks along with a certain charm..and an equally certain annoyance factor.
i found the plot intriguing- the psychological deterioration of rock musicians is always so...However, the amount of information imparted-most of it fictitious-was done so, i thought, in a didactic fashion that hampered the characters’ portrayal...i thought
Spike Berenger lacked a certain “charm” because he was too busy spouting “old history”....and he tried awfully hard to play a Tough Guy...
other than that, i thought it was an enjoyable book. i don’t usually read Rock n Roll novels, which tend to be either overly sentimental or painfully HIP..this one skirted the pitfalls, but barely.. i read the entire book in order to find out how Mr Benson handled the ending..not bad. i have recommended this title to people who already like the Genre..no one has complained yet
i still can’t figure, though, if this story is “....just another brick in the wall”...or not?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Spiegel & Grau (ARC)
Two young men from a dying Pennsylvania steel mill town are involved in a murder and its aftermath.....their desire to leave a hometown that offers no future...the ties of friendship and family that both strengthen and strangle..guilt and innocence, both in a legal and social sense...intensely dramatic...at times, the characters’ interior monologues seem to go on forever but there is a method to the madness.
i find the comparisons to Steinbeck a bit premature, but i see a lot of potential in Mr. Meyer’s debut novel...shades of Pete Dexter (PARIS TROUT) and Russell Banks (RULE OF THE BONE) are strong
this was not an easy read for me since i live not far from Western Pennsylvania...and if you swap Coal Mines for Steel Mills you do have the area where i live..in the late 70s-80s when the coal mines started to close. the characters in this book could be my neighbors and their grandsons..the voices in this book rang true for me, albeit painfully. i enjoyed this book and look forward to Mr Meyer’s next effort
this is a review of an ARC....
Monday, May 25, 2009
The Permanent Press
this is a review of an ARC:
I tend to avoid books set in the 60s-70s like the Plague. I lived through the Era and bear no Sentimentality toward it
This book is different. Granted, it's the story of Rosie Kettle and David Wilderspin-a Photographer and Musician, respectively-set against the backdrop of wretched excess that was the Southern California music scene in the 70s...but the backdrop stays that way. This is the story of two talented people trying to "make it" and make a life against the odds...of their own temperaments and the "business' of Art.
From the giddy, erotic beginnings of Love..to the Growing pains of Marriage...to the loss of a child....the story unfolds, crumbles, but does not die. the music scene is still full of excess and greed but money is tighter..Artists still battle their demons daily. Rosie Kettle's voice rings true here...from a whisper to a scream.
I liked this book..it gave me much food for thought...Roccie Hill knows her stuff..but more than that, she knows her heart. i still avoid books set in the 60s & 70s, though.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
THE LOST CITY OF Z: A TALE OF DEADLY OBSESSION IN THE AMAZON
“Surprise!!! i liked this book...mostly for the conversational style, so non-pedantic. i read the ARC* so did not have benefit of the Maps and footnotes of the Hardcover.. a ripsnorting tale of obsession and the drive to go Beyond one's comfortable niche in life..Percy Fawcett was a Man's Man in his day...drove himself, and others, to the limit in his explorations of the Amazon..in search of the fabled city of El Dorado..his Lost City of Z...needless to say he disappeared during that last trek in 1925....his whereabouts begat a whole new school of explorers...those who went in search of Lost Predecessors.....can you imagine a time when there were still empty spaces on World Maps?”
Thursday, March 12, 2009
MY COUSIN RACHEL
Daphne Du Maurier
Dell Publishing 1985
DID SHE OR DIDN'T SHE: THE AMBIGUOUS ASHLEYS
Ambiguous being the operative word here...this odd love story never ceases to amaze me. Du Maurier builds the tale slowly, sometimes too much so...Young Philip Ashley was raised by his bachelor Uncle Ambrose who, in his later years was bidden to Winter in the Southern Climes for his health..On one jaunt to Italy Ambrose met a Cousin...Rachel...then came marriage...then came Death for Ambrose..then came a maelstrom of emotions for young Philip. Rage, Jealousy, Curiosity.....Rachel appears in England, all demure with cast down eyes and folded hands...Phliip is soon smitten as only a young man, unused to the company of women, can be....Tension mounts from here on...Ambrose left Rachel penniless on his death..Philip sets out to Make Things Right...suffering a Brain Fever in the process...much loving care and copious amounts of the herbal Tisane ensue...Laburnum seeds (highly toxic to men and horses) appear...Philip resolves to have done with the hussy and her spendthrift ways, if he can only prove her guilty of Ambrose's ....MURDER.....A hush falls over the crowd...No proof is found...rather Rachel has vowed to return her ill-gotten inheritance and hie back to italy...too late, she wandered down the wrong garden path...fell to her death...Phlip is awash in guilt......the curtain falls....ah, Drama.
Did she, or didn't she???
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Dorothy L Sayers
Harper & Brothers
Oxford University Press
Two murders, and Murder from two different perspectives, literary-wise...one title a jolly spot of entertainment (with minimun grue) the other...well let's just say it's dark...
A Corpse-in-the-Bathtub mystery..to be sure...but also the introduction to the Whimsey of Lord Peter (without the "h"?), a person of Title with a penchant for Detecting. In attendance be his Mum the Stalwart yet dotty Duchess...a typically ineffective copper...a scholarly Police..a truly vicious yet pathetic psychopathic villain...and the intrepid manservant Bunter, who could run the entire show by himself...but it would not be his Place to do so.
Interspersed with the witticism and drollery is Dorothy Sayers' not inconsiderable knowledge of Detection and Forensics...but one must pay attention...clues be buried in the quips and a red herring shows up...or not....i forget.
Sayers & Lord Peter began a distinguished partnership with this title...it's not the best of the lot but serves as an introduction not to be sneezed at...Carry on they did”
“a deliciously morbid Anatomy of a Murder....and the Murderers themselves.....lust, its gratification and what came after.......suspicion, hatred, and ultimately the madness of guilt in it various guises.....19th century Paris..the "lower classes". atmospheric to the point that the reader can feel these walls closing in on herself as well..i can't say it was an easy read but i won't soon forget it.”
i don't think i'll attempt to review such disparate books in the near future...trying to come up with reviews that worked, and worked together..was a pain....
Saturday, February 7, 2009
THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN
Little, Brown & Company
i give this all the points available....an intriguing take on Ye Olde Victorian Novel....viewed through the lens of the 20th century....romantic triangle....wimpy hero......innocent heroine....Mystery woman...the literary layers peel away..like an onion..revealing existential angst (in spades)....and the terminally unsatisfied/questing Male....Read This Book....
hopefully i will post a more intelligent review..later...but, you never know.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
THE COFFEE TRADER
Set in 17th century Amsterdam, this book concerns itself with on Miguel Lienzo, a Portugese Jewish commodities trader....In an attempt to rebuild his fortune and reputation, Miguel goes into partnership with a comely Dutch widow in a scheme to corner the market on some new-fangled thing called Coffee...and the games begin...Financial skulduggery, personal vendettas, comely lasses in doorways, and the ruling body of the Jewish community, all conspire to thwart Miguel at every turn. but he is his own worst enemy
i was disappointed in this book, more for its pacing than anything...with a wealth of historical information and obviously thorough research...the “story” started to drag about halfway through..and , while i finished the book it was a chore..too bad, that because the ending is very good...given that no character herein was very appealing...none was repulsive...in the end Miguel may have recovered his position...but he lost much more..... not his self-confidence, however.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
ON CHESIL BEACH
Nan A Talese/Doubleday
a heartbreaker of a book that takes place in 1962....on the wedding night of Edward & Florence...1962, which was still pretty much "the 50s" as far as social/sexual mores....fears, disgust, hubris, hope, denial.....how two lives were changed forever (?) by words not spoken...i didn't think i would even Like this book, but i was seriously moved by the sadness underlying the story..and i wonder which is better (if that is the word) the sexual attitudes of today, when people start boning each other as soon as they are able(or so it would seem)..or the attitudes of the 50s-early 60s...when the whole business was a mystery and a mishmash of old wive's tales and serious misinformation.....i don't know
I want to thank everyone who has posted a comment on this Baby Blog....and all my Followers..i think you're nuts, but what the hell.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco Press/Harper Collins
Contrary to what the title implies, i did not see this book as being primarily concerned with Race/Racism (although both are endemic to our society and cannot be disregarded). i saw it as a story about the search for identity....the forging of..through the minefield of one's family dynamic..two young women, one black...on white..roommates at an exclusive women's college in PA 1975...both ill-prepared for the experience
MINETTE(Black Girl): surly, "unattractive", aloof..."She doesn't act Black"...unprepared academically for the school,which she attends as a Merit Scholar...her accusations of Racist Harrassment/Harrassment in General, begin early on and escalate as academic struggles become worse and her mental state deteriorates..the daughter of a prominent Black Minister in Washington D C ..Minette comes from a conservative home.....her constant references to Jesus as her only, ultimate "savior" become frightening...could anyone have saved Minette from the fire that killed her?
GENNA (White Girl: forcefully outgoing yet painfully introverted...through her "upbringing" by Radical Chic parents (her father a prominent Civil Rights lawyer, whose character is oddly one-dimensional) she has learned Tolerance to the point of self-denial...feels it to be her Duty to protect Minette (from whom, i wondered..folks like herself?)..the book eventually turns into a Father/Daughter tango...with Minette as unwitting catalyst..or maybe the "idea" of Minette..Genna begins to forge her own identity only after ratting her Father out to the Feds..after which she becomes surly, aloof, and separate from what she "should" be....in later years...after Minette's death...Genna spends an inordinate amount of time compiling a "text without a title"...an investigation into the death of Minette, her college roommate.....
as in most of JCOates' work, Obsession plays a large part...which makes for a claustrophobic atmosphere and severely neurotic characters...given the time in which this book is set...mid-1970s..i think the tone was perfect.....i also think this is a fine exposition of the Shades of Grey we all deal with in becoming Ourselves...this is also a puzzling, frustrating read...too many clues offered...red herrings...and, ultimately questions...i liked this book.