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I'm a husband, father of two grown daughters, a very proud grandfather, former college teacher, and retired public library director. I love to read and do so daily. In fact, I take a book with me everywhere I go. I don't mind a 30 minute or more wait at the doctors office. Listening to music and playing with computers/Internet is a pass-time. I have too many favorite authors to list and I read a rainbow of fiction and non-fiction. I believe that reading is a right but also a responsibility that must be practiced. If you can read your mind will be free. "Free your mind and your a** will follow" Private Junior Martin, in "Platoon".
Charles Belfoure, author of The Paris Architect, is an architect by trade but also turns out to be a pretty good writer as well. His debut novel, The Paris Architect is an above average effort and will, hopefully, be the first of many yet to come.
Paris is a conquered city in 1942, occupied by one of history's most evil empires of all time. If you were Jewish you were hunted without mercy and if caught your fate was a tortured existence and eventual death in a concentration camp; and that was if you were lucky.
But some of the residents of Paris took a stand and elected to help the Jews escape captivity and simply survive for another day. While they could only help a pitiful few, the mere act of defiance served as a source of morale when all seemed forever lost and the city of light had gone dark. The key to this underground movement was an architect, Lucien, who wasn't especially successful in his chosen profession nor very keen on helping. Lucien's willingness to assist rested on generous fees and the promise of work to design factories to assist the Germans with their war effort, a very lucrative proposition even if distasteful.
How did Lucien help? By designing "priest" holes; hiding places in homes and apartments that could hide one or two people from their pursuers. The hiding places were ingenious, often allowing the Jews to hide within centimeters of the Germans searching for them.
Belfoure does a good job of putting the reader into the novel. The reader experiences the tension and fear suffered by Lucien, his benefactor, and the poor Jews who face terrible consequences if caught. Belfoure also creates very believable characters who are pretty common men in the end, and not particularly heroic. And there lies the heroism.
While The Paris Architect is not a crime novel, at least not in the usual sense, it contains clearly defined good guys and bad guys. Suspenseful throughout, this is a good read even if not a page turner.
The Complete Peanuts, 1989-1990 is filled with the gang bound up in romance. Charlie Brown falls for Peggy Jean and is filled with clumsy angst from the beginning. Snoopy's long lost brother Olaf appears. Marcie makes life miserable for Peppermint Patty when she heads to summer camp with Charlie Brown.
Charles Schulz continues to be original even at the beginning of the last full decade of the Peanuts experience. New story lines seem to appear from nowhere. The seemingly never ending source of material is still fresh and the bounty goes forward.
I highly recommend.
Peace to all.
I suppose when a mother and daughter team write a book one should expect a relatively sane novel reflecting the obvious sanity of both authors. That's what's in store for you when you pick up Wherefore Art Though Jane by Jean James (mother) and Mary James (daughter).
Jane and Reginald are two characters that are meant to be on the same page together. Jane is an avid reptile collector and is quite happy with her existence. She meets Reginald, her publisher, who also has a bevy of other issues. This match of characters is interesting if strange. Certainly, the book is adventurous and I highly recommend looking at the music video which will set the mood.
Wherefore Art Thou Jane is not normally the type of book that I read. I am grateful for the opportunity to read Jean and Mary's book.
Peace to all.
If you're a television or movie fan then True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders by Dina DiMambro is a book you'll want to read. DiMambro includes chapters on Hollywood greats from William Desmond Taylor's death in 1922 to the death of Robert Blake's wife Bonny Lee. These chapters are offered in chronological order with Bonny Blakes death dealt with in Chapter 11. Then, out of sequence, Chapter 12 about the life and death (by cancer) of Mickey Cohen, west coast mobster in 1976.
The major actors are represented. Jean Harlow, Thelma Todd, Joan Bennett, Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, George Reeves, Bob Crane, Gig Young, Natalie Wood and the Bonny Blake's murder are all dealt with in a manner that appears to be complete, balanced, and correct.
The first mystery death I remember personally was George Reeves, who portrayed my hero Superman. I do remember those that followed though to be honest I didn't follow the details in the media. I was too busy making my life and what went on in Hollywood seemed irrelevant to me. Those people had little or nothing in common with me and, as a matter of fact, still don't. However, I have more time on my hands now, and these cases seem interesting.
It is fortunate that DiMambro has compiled these chapters since as a movie buff now, especially the black and white movies, Joan Bennett, Thelma Todd, Lana Turner, and Jean Harlow seem have a place in my psyche since I've watched most of their movies and appreciate their work. Chapter One's William Desmond Taylor and Chapter Two's Thomas H. Ince are strangers to me. Strangely enough, I enjoyed these first two chapters almost more than the others.
DiMambro's factual approach to the subject of each chapter is refreshing. Facts are presented, but in no case does the author seem to push one point of view over the others. She lays the information out for the reader and lets the reader decide. In some ways, one almost wishes she would offer her opinion since she has "all" the information. Of course, we have to assume that she presents all of the pertinent information and holds nothing relevant back.
As a man who had a huge crush on Natalie Wood, her chapter was most meaningful to me personally. I'm still in shock at her passing.
The book is devoid of a "Notes" section but does contain a bibliography, a list of photographs and a pretty good index (which makes focused reading possible).
I have been a loyal Stephen King fan since reading Christine and Carrie one summer long ago. I can't say that I've read everything that King has written, but I wouldn't be off much if I did say that.
Dr. Sleep continues King's march through our psyches. Like a vampire at our doors, we have to let him in by buying, begging, or stealing his books (well, there is the public library) and then actually reading them. The reader has to buy into Kings world, and this continues to be easy to do. While Dr. Sleep builds on what happened at the Overlook Hotel (the literary one and not the cinematic one) back in the `70's, there are really few connections between the Shining and this new effort. However, Dr. Sleep is very easily a stand a lone novel.
Danny (Dan) Torrence is the major character in Dr. Sleep. He's not the cute and innocent child of the Shining but a man haunted not only what happened at the Overlook Hotel so many years ago, but by his own demons as well. The acorn hasn't fallen far from the tree..... We find Danny struggling with alcohol just as his Dad, Jack did. Danny drifts from one job to the other though somewhere a long the way he picked up medical knowledge that makes him a great hospice employee. Then there is "the shine" that gives him the third eye plus the unique ability to relate to the residents of these houses of mercy.
Honestly, I found The True Knot to be one of the more brilliant and unsettling aspects of Dr. Sleep. I'm afraid that to say more would create a spoiler issue. Suffice it to say that they have the ability to haunt your sleep far past finishing the book. I wonder why they didn't get a book of their own. Perhaps there are plans along those lines.
Stephen King has never delivered a stinker that I am aware of. Yes, some of his books are more memorable than others, but I have found each one to have strong legs and have the ability to transport me to somewhere else. This is not always easily done, but King can do it.
I highly, highly recommend.
Peace to all.
The Quest, by Nelson DeMille is a huge disappointment. The premise of the book is intriguing. Who can resist a story about the Holy Grail? But the execution is off the mark. Not only that, but we find out that the book was originally written in the `70's and updated for release today.
The story just never takes off. "Wordy" is a term that comes to mind. The book could use the touches of a good editor. It takes a long time for the story to actually move. It's not a lot different from a big block bluster movie that never delivers despite the glitz of production and a gleaming cast.
I'm very disappointed though I did read the entire book. I'll have to give it two stars because I hung around to the end.
How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns is a fascinating read. Berns purpose in conducting the research is to determine what dogs are thinking and how they love us. Man has been partners with dogs for millennia and this bond, on both the economic and emotional level continues today. The answers to questions about how a dog's brain works and how they love us now seem to be within reach give the availability of the MRI. It is this tool that Berns uses to get at answers.
You can tell from the book that Dr. Berns is used to writing scientific research papers. Much of the first part of the book is devoted to the details of the systematic experiments themselves. While some readers no doubt will consider this material boring, and perhaps it is, these details are important within themselves. This is how research is reported and every detail is important. Mind you, this book isn't a scientific paper, but it was written by someone who has been indoctrinated on how to write a paper. But, how do you get a dog to stay perfectly still in an MRI machine? This is a feat that even humans sometimes have difficulty with and it is enlightening. God is in the details.
The later chapters are the most enlightening and the most enjoyable to read, and I'll give few details on those. Suffice it to say, that you'll find them reassuring.
As always with nonfiction, the Notes section takes on a huge part of my evaluation. I would have thought that given the technical nature of the book that the Notes section would have been longer. It is adequate, and by the way, terribly interesting, but surprisingly short. Alas, just my opinion.
As a dog lover/owner I found this book very interesting and I recommend it.
Billy Crystal is a representative of our generation and few can match his energy, good sense, and humor. Over the years I have come to appreciate him more than I realized at the time.
In Still Foolin' `Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, And Where The Hell are My Car Keys?, Crystal provides us with 21 vignettes that provide the reader with a peek into his life. The first one deals with his 65th birthday party (something that awaits me later this month) which is certainly a milestone in anyone's life.
I rarely read books of this type simply because I'm always suspicious of what's on the page. I suspicion that either an event is made more tragic to sell more books or that the really interesting stuff has been left out so that we will still feel good about the author when we finish. In Crystal's book, for some reason, none of that matters. I took what he said at face value with no distrust on my part. I'm not sure which of us, myself or Crystal, this says most about, but I enjoyed the book and can recommend it highly.
Peace to all.
I agree with another reviewer. When Harry Met Sally is one of the greatest movies of the current era.
Michael Gruber's The Return is simply a good guys vs. bad guys story. There are a number of plot twists and added layers of drama and a certain complexity to the story that make the reading experience a memorable one, but the story is other wise straight forward.
Marder, an independent book editor in New York learns that he is suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, Mr. Thing. The actual dying won't require a hospital and shouldn't reduce his level of activity until the very end. He determines to head to the small town in Mexico where his late wife was born and raised and where he was married. Along the way he picks up an old friend, Skelly, a fellow vet and survivor of clandestine operations in Vietnam. In the end, it is this fortuitous development that pays dividends since Skelly is a one man wrecking crew who is very adept in dealing death and destruction.
The casa that Marder buys becomes a point of contention with a drug cartel and it is this friction that drives much of the rest of the novel. To complicate matters, Marder's adult and technically gifted daughter, Carmel, appears which stacks the deck against the bad and good guys. It has become popular of late for the lines between good and bad to become blurred and Gruber effectively uses this device in The Return. At times, one can't determine who is more dangerous, the drug cartels or the police and government agents, include the American DEA.
No one has ever accused Gruber of writing a boring story. With that said, there are periods in the return where the story stalls. Fortunately, these are few and far between, but they do occur. Like so many of Gruber's novels, The Return is plot driven. This means that there are times when the plot is developing that a lull happens. This shouldn't prevent you from giving The Return a try.
To say more would create a spoiler. I recommend The Return.
Peace to all.
(I was provided a complimentary uncorrected proof copy the The Return. This in no way influenced my review.)
Burke's latest effort, Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel is a mixed bag of good and bad for me.
I have read all of Burke's novels since In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (my first) and have enjoyed the adventures of both Dave Robicheaux and his side kick and faithful friend Clete. Burke is one of the finest authors writing when it comes to painting a scene, setting a mood, or filling the senses with descriptive radiance. I'm repeating myself when I say that he can describe a summer rain in New Orleans and you can feel the humidity and smell the wet pavement. Burke can also tell a tightly woven story and keeps the pages turning and more often than not, surprise the reader with one twist after the other.
Now the but. All of Burkes novels seem to follow a similar pattern with some well healed bad boy who is not only cruel but has the misfortune of running up on the wrong side of Robicheaux. Both Dave and Clete invariably end up cleaning house and all is well with the world. In recent novels, Alafair, Dave's adopted daughter plays a larger and larger role to the point that she is a gun toting full character in Light of the World.
The action is in Montana for Light of the World, and the Robicheaux's as well as Clete and his somewhat sympathetic but maladjusted daughter Gretchen, face down one of the most evil characters Burke has introduced. Also present is the evil rich oil man and his equally misfit son who further stir the pot and also a serial killer with a huge hunger for inflicting pain. Present also is the violence so present in many of Burke's novels but for some reason more pronounced in Light of the World. It seems that the more violent Robicheaux and Clete are the more evil and violent the bad guy has to be to justify the violence of the good guys.
I've also noticed a liberal bias in all of the novels that come after Katrina hit New Orleans. Burke is also unabashed in his distaste for big business, and one would guess capitalism all together, never mind that his has provided him a soft living. He also freely criticizes oil companies, beginning virtually on the first page, without any consideration of the oil hungry public that demands petroleum's delivery in the form of gasoline and over 2000 other products. Mind you, I'm not a shill for the oil companies, but a certain amount of balance would be nice. It certainly would make those of us that aren't as extreme in our views feel a little better about continuing to read his work. Quite frankly, Light of the World challenged my open mindedness in many regards.
Having been a regular reader of his work, I can't say that I won't read his next novel, though it might require closer scrutiny before I checkout. Why do I want to read a novel with no redeeming quality and be made to feel bad in the process?
Strong story but Burke is getting too preachy on the liberal front.
I coolly recommend.