Friday, December 30, 2011

LULU IN HOLLYWOOD by Louise Brooks

Finished Fr 12/30/11

Eight well written autobiographical essays which cover a variety of topics and opinions. I especially enjoyed her thoughts on Humphrey Bogart and W.C. Fields. Her friendship with Pepi Lederer, niece of Marion Davies, allowed Brooks to become a part of the William Randolph Hearst 'scene' at The Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
Louise Brooks has been called one of the brightest, and most intellectual actresses in Hollywood. And after reading her memoir, I think it's more accurate to refer to her as a writer who just happened to be a Hollywood actress.

-"Lulu" is the name of the character that Brooks portrayed in G.W.Pabst'S 1929 film, PANDORA'S BOX.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Finished Sunday Xmas Day

This was kind of a weak effort, and I skimmed it from about the middle to the end. It's not nearly as good as THE PSYCHOPATH TEST which I thoroughly enjoyed.

"His subjects include Omar Bakri Mohammed, the point man for a holy war against Britain (Ronson paints him as a wily buffoon); a hypocritical but engaging Ku Klux Klan leader; participants in the Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, battles; the Irish Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley; and David Ickes, who believes that the semi-human descendants of evil extraterrestrial 12-foot-tall lizards walk among us. Despite these characters' disparities, they are bound by a belief in the Bilderberg Group, the "secret rulers of the world." In a final chapter, Ronson manages, with surprising ease, to penetrate these rulers' very lair. He writes with wry, faux-naive wit and eschews didacticism, instead letting his subjects' words and actions speak for themselves."

A few of the subjects I followed up on Wikipedia.

Monday, December 26, 2011

HELL & GONE by Duane Swierczynski

Finished Sunday Xmas Day 2011

This is an 'out of sequence' book in a series about the lead character, Charlie Hardie. After a particularly bloody and gruesome gun battle, Charlie is badly wounded, kidnapped, and taken to a secret underground installation. There he learns that not only must he become a guard in this mini-prison, but that he is the warden! Soon, he can't tell whether the guards are controlling the prisoners, or is it the other way around?

This is a novel which deals with the commanding, yet hidden power structure which pulls the strings behind governments, and the vast news and entertainment conglomerates. It implies that there are secret leaders of a vast, 'Shadow World' who are really in charge of world events. Charlie calls this group, "The Accident People", but they might only be the enforcement arm of this worldwide conspiracy of power.

The novel keeps your interest, and you can definitely feel the author's background in graphic novels.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman

Finished Sa 12/24/11

AMERICAN GODS is an exciting novel which hinges on the following premise: Gods and Spiritual Beings lose power as people cease to believe or choose other entities to invest their faith.

An ex-convict by the name of Shadow is enlisted by an amiable grifter by the name of Mr. Wednesday (who also happens to be the Norse deity, Odin) to stage a final battle between the Gods of the Old Religion and the new spiritual entities. The ancient American spirits of immigrants and the indigenous populations have been abandoned, and replaced with new objects of believe such as Telephony, The Internet, Hollywood, and political hegemony.

And in the best tradition of American Road Novels, Shadow and Mr. Odin travel the highways and byways of the USA enlisting the aid of other enchanted beings who are facing the ascendancy of America's new pantheon. House On The Rock, Rock City, and Lookout Mountain are quirky US tourist destinations which hold great spiritual power, and these places are visited by Shadow and Odin.

The book is an engaging read, and it reminded me a bit of Stephen King's, THE STAND. My only suggestion is that the book included a list of all the Gods and deities which were presented in the story.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Finished Mo 12/19/11-My book club's December selection. Early in December I found that our club has been disbanded for a bit. Not sure, but I think that our leader, Anne, is in poor health.

Set just a couple of months before America's entry into WWII, THE POSTMISTRESS is the story of three women who strive to provide three very different functions.

-Iris is the Postmistress who delivers the mail to the small village of Franklin,MA, and is carefully aware of all the moral obligations that her job represents.
-Emma is the wife of the town doctor, and she only wants to be a perfectly loving and complementary wife.
-Frankie is an overseas radio correspondent who is covering the London Blitz, and is also examining Hitler's new plans for the Jews. She saw her job as to, "Get in. Get the story. Get out." But now, she finds herself being changed by the events that she has witnessed.

The novel addresses several intriguing and complicated moral issues.
-Is it enough for a reporter to merely report a story, or do some issues require some sort of action other than a simple compilation of the facts?
-How much do world events affect us even when they occur on the other side of the world? In the Modern World, can one really be an 'Isolationist'?
-Can Life be organized so that it can,'Make Sense', or are we immersed in an unknowable morass of conflicting events and moral complications?
-And, probably my favorite question, can War be fully understood as a component of social change, or does "War happen to people, one by one".

The novel was easy to read, and the characters were well-defined, and the moral issues were tailor-made for reflection and discussion. I liked the book a whole lot!!

Iris James- Postmaster
Franklin, MA-Fictional setting; based on Provincetown MA
Harry Vale-Town mechanic and unofficial civil defense coordinator; lover of Iris
Emma(Trask)Fitch-Lost brother, mother, father in Epidemic of 1918; wife of Will
Dr. Will Fitch- Emma's husband, goes to London to atone for death of Maggie
Frankie Bard-Radio commentator stationed in London
Jim Tom-husband of Maggie; when she dies, he raises the large family as a fisherman


Review and commentary, very good

Website Sarah Blake

Link to Wannsee Conference

Link to The Blitz

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TRIPLE CROSSING by Sebastian Rotella

Finished Tu 12/13/11

What sets this novel apart is that it is written by an award winning investigative journalist who specializes in International Border Issues, and the reader is treated an adventure-packed thriller which demonstrates fairly accurate government policy of Mexico, South America, and the US.

Valentine Pescatore is a rookie US Border Patrol Agent who works for a crooked supervisor, and is drawn into a situation in which he is forced to become a double agent within a Mexican criminal organization with international ties. The action becomes a bit melodramatic, yet it is clear that one path of action could never satisfy the wishes and desires of governmental agencies representing so many different nations.

The novel is largely set on the San Diego/Tijuana Border, and The Triple Border which is on the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

This is an excellent read, and a great first novel. And, would make an excellent film.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

LONG TIME GONE The Autobiography of David Crosby with Carl Gotlieb

Finished Su 12/11/11

This is kind of the 'unfinished' story of David Crosby as the book ends in 1988 which is almost twenty-five years ago. I picked up the book because I was interested in his time in The Byrds, and this is covered fairly well.

Crosby was born into relative affluence in Southern California, and his father was a well-known, Academy Award winning cinematographer. He attended numerous schools in the Los Angeles area, but dropped out of community college to become an itinerate folk singer.

He went on to become one of the founding members of The Byrds, and then Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I found it interesting that they did not choose a band name, but decided to list their names. This was because of the bad experience that he had with The Byrds. Original members of the band would leave, and the remaining musicians would take control of the name.

The super group, Crosby, Stils, Nash, and Young took off at nearly the same time that his drug habit nearly took him out. The book focuses on his harrowing descent into abject drug addiction, and then his incarceration in the Texas prison system for drug and weapons violations.

It's an interesting read, and I found him not to be a very likable person, but certainly one of the most talented writers and vocalists of the 60's.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman

Finished We 12/7/11

This is not a book which attempts to present the case that The Holocaust did not occur, but it's an examination of the logic, arguments, aims, and make-up of the groups who make these outrageous claims. The authors do more than just 'shut-down' these appalling theories, but they aptly demonstrate the questionable logic upon which they are based.

The primary proponent of this fallacious theory is a group called,The Institute for Historical Review. The name itself seems to imply that this obvious travesty of human behavior is somehow in need of a review. Their questionable arguments are framed in an almost impossible manner. It's similar to trying to defend yourself from the following question. "When did you stop beating your wife"?

This book clearly demonstrates that the facts DO NOT speak for themselves, and there needs to be a clear and accepted apparatus for judging what 'is' and what 'is not' part of the historical record. And, DENYING HISTORY's strength is that it successfully engages the reader in this process.

Some of the fallacious claims-

-The Jews were made to wear the yellow stars for their own protection. They were the victims of rampant persecution, and by making them more visible, the Nazis could better protect them.
-The gas chambers were only used to delouse clothing and personal articles.
-Bodies cremated were only people who had died of natural causes.
-One expert testified that "Zklon B" took ten minutes to work. It actually took longer than this, so this proves that it never was used.
-"Zklon B" residue was not found in the walls of the chambers after they were tested fifty years later.
-There is no accepted claim as to the number of actual Death Camps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AMERICAN DESPERADO by Jon Roberts and Evan Wright

Finished Tu 12/6/11

A biography of arguably the most successful American drug dealer, ever! The man was born into the 'Blue Blood' world of the Italian mafia. His father and uncles sailed from Sicily with Charles 'Lucky' Luciano. His real name is Jon Riccobono, but he changed it to Jon Pernell Roberts after the actor on the television show, 'Bonanza'.

His father was deported to Sicily, and his mother remarried, and he began his life of crime in the New York suburbs both with a street gang called 'The Outcasts', and with his uncles in the Italian mafia. Soon, he was busted and was sent to Vietnam instead of a jail sentence. There he excelled as a paid killer for the United States in a branch of Special Forces known as 'Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol'.

Jon Roberts is a man without any moral compass whatsoever. He claims that Evil is more powerful the Good, and any Cosmic Justice is a complete joke. However, one thing is for certain. He lived his life accordingly, and never looked for help from any sort of Higher Power.

Jon and his partners were heavily involved in the trendy NYC nightclub scene of the Swinging Sixties. He became a major supplier of all forms of narcotics, and was even a close acquaintance of Jimi Hendrix.

The book is chock full of detail, and examines numerous murders and drug deals perpetrated by Jon and his crew. By the mid 80's he was America's rep with the deadly Medellin drug cartel. His main base of operations was in Florida, and he lived in a big ranch out in the Everglades. When he was finally brought down, he was facing a three hundred year sentence, but he managed to have it reduced to THREE YEARS!

An amazing story, and an amazing individual. A man who just might be truly evil, and I don't think that he would have any trouble admitting to this fact.

My post at GoodReads (Tu 12/6/11)
This is the story of arguably the most successful American drug dealer, ever! He was born in 1948, and related by blood to the aristocracy of the Italian mafia-his father and uncles sailed from Sicily with Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, and were part of the Gambino Crime Syndicate.

The book is chock full of detail, and delineates numerous murders, drug deals involving millions of dollars, and wild excesses perpetrated by Jon and his crew. When he was finally brought down, he faced a three hundred year sentence, yet he managed to have it reduced to THREE YEARS!

An amazing story about an amazing individual who just happens to be truly evil, however the book presents his code of behavior in his own words. Many of his beliefs are shocking and morally aberrant, yet he can make the reader understand his position. And, that is the biggest 'kick' of the book. He makes the case that Evil is more powerful than Good, and any Cosmic Justice is a complete joke. However, one thing is for certain. Jon Roberts has lived his life accordingly, and has never once looked for help from any sort of Higher Power-in this world, or the next.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick

Finished Su 12/4/11

I reserved this novel shortly after finishing THE NIGHT OF THE GUN. Both books are examples of the finest of the Addiction Genre.

I watched the Richard Linklater-2006-film of, 'A SCANNER DARKLY';Sa 12/3/11. This is an example of a film that is even better than a fine novel. And, I went back and tried to read through most of the relevant parts, however, the film was the best, and the Bonus Features were outstanding.

This is PK Dick's most personal work, but I like the 'hard-to-handle- fun house shenanigans' of his cracked SciFi novels.

Jim Barris (Robert Downey Jr.)
Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson)
Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane)
Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder)
Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves)

I only spent several hours on this book.

Friday, December 2, 2011

THE FIFTH FLOOR by Michael Harvey

Finished Fr 12/2/11

The Great Chicago Fire 10/8-10/1871 Destroyed four square miles. One of the largest natural disasters of the nineteenth century.

Michael Kelly PI/ex Chicago detective
The Fifth Floor is is the office of the mayor in city hall

Murder and theft of book about fire

Distant relative of the current mayor might have set the Great Fire as part of a land swindle, and it got out of hand.
Second Plot-line
Johnny Woods (Husband of Janet, father of Taylor--a physically abusive husband)
Janet and Taylor scheme to frame Kelly for the murder of Woods. Taylor, although only fourteen is the 'trigger person'. She was being sexually abused by Johnny.

'Chicago Historical Society' Randolph is head of Society. Distant relative of his, Josiah, saved Lincoln's Proclamation of Emancipation. Will sell to Aryan Brotherhood for them to burn online.
Rachel Swenson Judge and girlfriend of Kelly
Wilson-name of current mayor. Relative might have been involved in Fire. He is running for re-election, and this would damn him at the polls.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Finished We 11/30/11

Gunn treats his booze soaked and drug addled life as a news story in which his mission is to scrupulously ferret out the truth while simultaneously asking himself if such a thing is even possible.

Far too often the genre of addiction is merely a rhetorical exercise in spiritual one-upmanship. THE NIGHT OF THE GUN is one of the most honest depictions of addictive behavior that I have ever read, and represents a solid and honest self-appraisal without the usual, "I was lost, and now I'm found--AND, YOU'RE NOT!"

Parts are chilling, and sections are flat-out heartwarming.

Check out Carr's website about the book:

THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Finished We 11/30/11

THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE vividly demonstrates what it might have been like to have been a guest at John Harvey Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium during the winter of 1907. Kellogg is the driven, odd-ball egomaniac who was arguably the most important player in the emerging spiritual and health industry at the dawn of the 20th century. The reader watches as Kellogg struggles to maintain and expand his economic empire of breakfast products, and secure his position as the Grand Poobah of health and fitness. Fresh air, enemas, vegetarianism, and exercise were seen as the keys to a positive lifestyle, while nearly all forms of sex were perceived as the deadly foe of mental and physical stability.

The story is told through the adventures of a handful of wonderfully crafted characters. Will and Eleanor Lightboddy are two visitors to Kellogg's Spa And Temple Of Health. Will suffers from alcoholism and stomach troubles, and his wife, Eleanor is probably suffering from nothing more than a lackluster marriage. Charles Ossining and Goodloe H. Bender demonstrate how ruthless and desperate speculators tried to cash in on the nascent health market.

The book is an enjoyable read, and you can pick up a lot of detail about life at the beginning of the century, and experience their rather quaint views of health and longevity. For example, Kellogg invented peanut butter and the electric blanket, and Sears Roebuck offered a patent medicine in their catalogue designed as a cure for alcoholism called,'Sear's White Star Liquor Cure'.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg
Battle Creek Michigan
George Kellogg
Will Lightbody
Eleanor Lightbody
Charles Ossining
Goodloe H. Bender

Sear's White Star Liquor Cure (patent medicine)
peanut butter/electric blanket
Seventh-day Adventist

Saturday, November 26, 2011

MRS. TED BLISS by Stanley Elkin

Finished Sa 11/26/11

I read over half of this book, and then skimmed to the end. Elkin has a very accomplished style, yet I didn't understand the premise of the book. Dorthy Bliss is an elderly woman who is living in a retirement high-rise near Miami Beach. Her husband is recently deceased, and the novel charts the changes in her life. The narrative hinges on her connection to a group of South American gangsters who live in her building. When her husband dies, one of the cartel members offers to buy Ted Bliss's car. She agrees, and this somehow connects her to this gang. I never understood why this was so important. She testifies at the trial, but what possible damaging testimony could she possibly provide?

The characters were well developed, yet with such a terrific idea for a story, it just went nowhere. An old woman's inadvertent involvement in the underworld could have really made for an interesting read, but MRS. TED BLISS certainly fails to come alive.

Although I didn't care for this novel, I haven't given up on the author, and plan to checkout another of his books.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I AM OZZY with Charles Ayres

Finished We 11/23/11

Not exactly an endearing character, yet not even close to the, 'bat-eating, Satanic devil worshiper' that one might imagine based on his hype. However, he certainly does live up to every inch of his reputation as a drunken, drug-addled Wild Man. And, in his later years, something of a reality TV 'family icon'.

It's easy to read, and pleasantly entertaining, and for a fan of 60's Rock'n'Rock, it could be considered 'essential reading'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A SONG OF STONE by Iain Banks

Finished Tu 11/22/11

Abel-minor nobleman-the unreliable narrator

Morgan-his woman

Female lieutenant-sadistic

Aruthur-the faithful servant who Abel doesn't know his last name

Abel is the narrator, slightly unreliable, arrogant, and fairly untrustworthy. However, he wasn't interesting enough for me to pay close attention to his story.
Banks has delivered a well written novel, yet I was never enthralled, and I lost interest before the denouement, and skimmed to the end. The plot and the setting were more intriguing than the clever deceptions which Abel was spouting.
Although, I still like Bank's writing(THE WASP FACTORY is a minor classic), I would not recommend this novel. Next, I will give his Science Fiction a shot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

TEN INDIANS by Madison Smartt Bell

Finished Su 11/20/11

Dr. Michael Devlin seems to have it all. He is married to Alice, a successful social work manager, father of a bright high-school senior, Michelle, and they all live compatibly in an affluent northern suburb of Baltimore. His psychiatric practice is thriving, and he is also an accomplished instructor of Tae Kwon Do. However, his life begins to unravel when he decides to open a new branch of the martial arts school in an inner-city Baltimore neighborhood near The Edgar Allen Poe Home.

The novel is presented mostly from Devlin's point of view, but several of the chapters are told by his Black Tae Kwon Do students, and in the vernacular of the ghetto. The Afro-American dialog did not seem very authentic or necessary. The novel seemed to hinge on Devlin's psychological troubles, and the addition of other points of view did nothing to clarify this conflict.

I don't think that Devlin's motives are effectively represented, and the results of his actions are disastrous. I suppose you could infer that initially he was acting to ameliorate the negative effects of gang violence, but his intrusion into the community only aggravates the situation, and with dire consequences to him and his family.

Overall, the book is fast-paced and moving, yet somewhat muddled because it's just too hard to believe that an upper-class psychologist would act in such an odd manner. His kidnapping/saving? of a black infant, and the savage fist-fight with a Camaro are two most perplexing examples of his strange behavior.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

THE LASKO TANGENT by Richard North Patterson

This is an early work by Richard North Patterson, and it is not very good. This novel is so predictable and trite that it verges dangerously close to 'boring'.

Christopher Paget is an agent for The Economic Crimes Commission, and he is after, William Lasko, a politically powerful industrialist, and friend of the president, for illegal stock manipulation. One of the witnesses is killed right before his eyes, and Paget is convinced that Lasko had him killed to cover-up his evil machinations.

The characters are poorly developed, and the plot is pedestrian at best. This would not even make a good 'beach read'.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Finished Tu 11/15/11

Francis Leslie Cauldhame is just the kind of individual that Warren Zevon had in mind when he wrote the song, EXCITABLE BOY.

Seventeen year old Frank Cauldhame lives with his father on an isolated island in Eastern Scotland upon which he has built a collection of weird totems and magical sites of horror that illustrate his freakish and damaged psyche. The actual 'Wasp Factory' is a chamber of horrors designed to torture wasps on the face of a discarded bank clock one meter wide.

Before he was eight years old, he has killed three people, but he only considers this a phase. His first killing was a male cousin who he murdered with a poisonous snake. Then, he kills his younger brother by tricking him into detonating a recovered bomb from WWII. And, finally he causes a very young cousin to be carried out to sea in an extremely bizarre kiting accident. Needless, to say, Frankie has got some issues.

The novel is told in the first person, and Frank is the twisted narrator who describes the action, and fills the reader in on his neurotic back-story. His brother, Eric, has recently escaped from a high-security mental institution, and seems to be heading toward the island. And, we find that Frank was the victim of a vicious dog attack which left him castrated at the age of three.

However, in the final twist in this extremely twisted tale, the reader learns that 'Francis Leslie' is really 'Frances Lesley', and his deranged father wanted to raise him as a male for reasons too murky to state.

The closest novel that I can think of that is anything like this, is AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis, but Bank's novel is slightly more primitive. Imagine Patrick Bateman as one of the boys from LORD OF THE FLIES who happens to live on an island in remote Scotland.

THE WASP FACTORY is a short novel, and packs a wallop in a compelling, yet sick way. The fact that this was Iain Bank's first novel is really something!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS an autobiography by Rob Lowe

Finished Su 11/13/11
A well written autobiography about an actor that I am only slightly familiar with. It certainly makes me want to see if I can view a few episodes of WEST WING, at the very least.

Lowe is actually a small town guy from Akron, Ohio. His mother married three times, and she seems more than a little neurotic, and I'm sure that Rob would agree.

-They lived in the Malibu, CA area back in the mid 70's when it was far from the exclusive community that it is today.
-He and his family were friends and neighbors with The Sheen clan.
-In August of 2001 he was on an American airlines flight which was a 'dry run' for the 9/11 terrorists.
-As a kid in Ohio he was always able to get acting gigs in local theater and university productions. However, in Hollywood, either you are in the business, or you are not. There is not much theater whatsoever. Strange observation, but true.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I read this book a couple of months ago, and we have decided to read it as the November selection for my book club. Instead of a review, I have blocked out each scene in the novel. This will help with the discussion of the book, and also, the book has been optioned for film, and I want to see how faithful the final cut is to the novel. Tom Perrotta is the screen writer for the project.

Ruth really does 'abstain' from sex in her personal life.

Teaching the 'virginal lies' is what makes Ruth feel dirty at the end of her teaching day, Not Dirty Sex

Randall makes a joke to Ruth about Mary Kay Latourneau

"Pleasure is Good, Shame is Bad, and Knowledge is Power,

Ruth's reaction to JoAnn, the Virginity Consultant (Very sexy abstinence Try to be cool Denial can be wonderful) They are doing this in good faith. However, so many of their leaders were revealed to be unethical hypocrits. Came back stronger.
Ruth falls under its spell for a moment, "wondering how she'd ever been so weak as to let herself be duped into thinking it might be pleasant or even necessary to allow herself to be touched or loved by another human being." Perrotta knows just how to zero in on the priggish absolutism of the abstinence movement.

The scene at soccer saturday when Ruth drags Maggie away from the prayer circle is probably fueled by her reaction to all the half truths and lies that she has been forced to tell her students.

Innocuous remark 'Some people like it' The Oral Sex Lady

Perrotta's treatment of Born Agains
but much of this isn't any more barbed than Garrison Keillor on the Lutherans in Lake Wobegon.

2004 The Cultural War is defined not so much by the failed conflict in Iraq, but on American's fear of Gay Marriage
American evangelical community is all about sexual morality, little or nothing about caring for the poor. But, the younger evangelicals are not as hung up about sexual matters as their 'born again' parents.

Principle/Joann meeting with Ruth
Assembly Meeting
First sexual experience with Paul Caruso
-Prom limo
Soccer Game Saturday
Allison's new family
Carrie's intro 24 yrs old
Deann Phelan
Pastor Dennis's threat
Cultural gap between Tim and Carrie
-Not a virgin, 8 or 9 guys in two months
Dennis's Back-story
-Best Buy Freakout (old man with bible)
Tim's Church Band THE PRAISE TEAM
-Bill/Jill Band-mate in Death Metal outfit; Jill dies Gillian is daughter
Prayer at Game Saturday "You Stood Up For Jesus"
Troy-gay speaker p. 189
-Scot D'Alerio Tim's gay friend in college
"That's when you realize what an asshole you were".
Pastor Dennis's encounter with Jay
-Jena Jameson
The Skip and Heather sex show
Robin LeFebure snitch to Planned Parenthood
"36% failure rate of condoms"
Maggie confronts Ruth about Soccer Saturday and learns that Eliza 'loves Jesus'.
Ruth meets Dr. Jamal
Other parents don't want to get involved
Ruth composes letter of protest and finds Tim's prayer not technically in violation
Ruth meets with Tim at her house Coffee 'Heloise Tips'
Rips up complaint letter- Paul Calls!
Tim stops at bar and flees
Tim at work co-workers tattoos LONENERGY
George Dykstra's meeting with Tim for lunch nothing accomplished
Poker invitation
Pastor Dennis's "Spiritual Gut-Check"
-He has a very militant attitude toward the spiritual 'tactics' 'war' 'fight' 'warrior'
Tim comes back to Ruth's house with Maggie's sweatshirt, and she is ready for a date with Paul
Soccer downpour, and Coach John's 'Hosanna moment' Party In The Puddles
ABSTINENCE REFRESHER like staying after school-detention. Attempt to guilt trip
-This section was mixed with Ruth's date with Paul, and she leaves He has
lost over a hundred pounds.
CJ's wish She's a lesbian and wishes that she had abstained that one heterosexual encounter
Trisha cheats with her best friend's fiance
Guy in group is censored Talks about 'age differences in girls'
Ruth "I wish that I had taken more chances my sex life"
Maggie and Eliza go to church
-Ruth meets the Parks "I'll be fine"
Two Tims Honest/Liar
Ruth decides to re-send the letter
SUNDAY MORNING SLAP "Misunderstood that you were an honest person"
Time describes The Puddle Prayer Group
-Abby NO Maggie YES
Need absolute standards Santa for adults Hitler=Gandi
Randall calls about the breakup
beers and pot gets a loan contact, then keys JESUS on to Billy's car
Randall visits Ruth about the breakup, and ignores her life
Tim calls Ruth high in front of her house "Go home to your wife"
Tim and Carrie fight "If you loved me, it wouldn't seem like such a chore"
Ruth is reassigned as remedial math instructor
Ruth has dinner with Randall and Gregory to celebrate wedding Randall popped the question
---Write your greatest fear "That I'm Not Part of This Anymore"
Jay describes his born again experience IT WASN'T JESUS, IT WAS JUST ME HOPING FOR SOMETHING BETTER
Tim goes back to Ruths and stays the night downstairs
Pastor Dennis shows up in the morning, won't leave

Ruth Ramsey (daughters; Maggie(soccer) Eliza(older than Maggie/awkward)
Randall/Gregory (gay couple; Randall is teacher with Ruth
Jo Ann Marlow (Virginity Counselor) VIRGIN CONSULTANT
Frank (Ruth's ex)
Tim Mason (coach and member of the church)
Abby (his daughter)
Allison (his wife)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Finished Th 11/10/11

Ex Irish policeman, Jack Taylor, is heavily cross-addicted to booze and drugs, yet has a serious yen for philosophical literature and True Crime novels. A very 'hard' criminal type has called in a favor, and asks Taylor to track down a woman who was once involved in an evil orphanage called, The Magdalen laundry.

Although sparse and to-the -point, the prose is vivid and colorful, and all of the chapters begin with a quotation from a particularly relevant novel or book. There are lots of descriptions of the ravages of alcohol and drugs which reminded me of the Mathew Scudder series by Lawrence Block. There are many scenes of intense violence.

An Interesting Read

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NATURE GIRL by Carl Hiaasen

Finished Tu 11/8/11

Although NATURE GIRL has a very clearly defined story-line, the novel is more of an excuse to create a forum for a cast of extremely colorful characters to interact. Hiaasen has a comedic style that reminds me of Donald Westlake's, Dortmunder series.

NATURE GIRL is kind of a story of revenge. Honey Santana, a very nice woman who happens to be slightly bipolar, is angry about being interrupted during dinner by a rather sleazy telemarketer by the name of Boyd Shreave. Honey tricks him and his girlfriend and coworker, Eugenie Fonda, into coming to the Ten Thousand Islands area of Southern Florida for a lesson in 'enforced civility' on a strange and bizarre kayak trip to Dismal Island.

Boyd's angry wife sends a rather inept private investigator to gather evidence of 'penetration' between Boyd and Eugenie so that she can get the upper hand in the upcoming divorce. Perry Skinner, Honey's ex, Fry, her son, a horny boss, Louis Piejack, a teenage Indian, Sammy Tigertail, all end up out in the swamps in a wild and crazy climax of the novel.

It's a 'fun' novel, and ideal way to spend a few sessions of reading.

Honey Santana
Boyd Shreave
Lily Shreave
Eugenie Fonda
Fry Skinner
Perry Skinner
Louis Piejack
Private Investigator Dealy (penetration)
Sammy Tigertail
Jeter Wilson (ghost)

Dismal Key

Monday, November 7, 2011


Finished Mo 11/7/11

I read about half of this book, and skimmed to the end. I had high hopes for this book since I lived just a few miles away from Goucher College back in the mid 60's.

CHARM CITY is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. The book is chock full of detail, but the areas that I really enjoyed didn't last long enough, yet the sections that did not interest me, seemed to go on forever. I realize that to profile an entire city is a daunting task, yet I felt that, in the end, I was overwhelmed by the blizzard of information at the expense of my interest.

Maybe the book would have been more accessible if he had shared his 'walking tour' with only one other person, and that character could have added a bit more focus. The author has a great writing style, and I plan to check out one of his novels.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

COMPLICITY by Iain Banks

Finished Sa 11/5/11

Cameron Colley is a Gonzo styled Scottish journalist who has a yen for ferreting out the truth about Tory tomfoolery and Right Wing treachery. At his Edinburgh newspaper Colley begins to receive phone calls from an anonymous source, code-named 'Archer', who relates a byzantine plot of corruption and murder on an international scale. Then, people involved in this web of intrigue begin dying, and it suddenly appears that Colley will have to take the fall for these murders.

Later in the story, it appears that one of Cameron's childhood friends has only been acting the role of a successful Capitalist, and has actually evolved into something of a bloody and calculating Leftist Vigilante.

Iain Banks is a skilled writer, and he really paints a believable portrait of the burned-out and drug addled muckraker, Cameron Colley. Banks has a special flair for detail especially in Colley's choice of drugs, booze, and music. And, although the plot is fairly involved, you are never confused or left in the dark. Banks is also known for his Science Fiction and Serial Killer novels, and I look forward to reading them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Finished We 11/12/11

Although darkly comedic and wickedly presented, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN speaks volumes of unalloyed Truth about America's failed immigration policy. T.C Boyle examines the lives of two married couples on either side of the US/Mexican border, who also happen to occupy two vastly different sides of the Economic and Class divide. America and Candido are two illegal aliens who have left abject poverty, and traveled North in search of a more sustainable future, while Delaney and Kyra are two very rich Americans who enjoy a lavish and wealthy lifestyle, yet the monetary rewards and social prestige have brought little peace or tranquility.

T.C. Boyle reveals the truth of the contemporary American Conservative agenda. Economic success was not really meant for everyone, but just for people who are already economically successful. Delaney and Kyra spout liberal bromides and seem to believe in a kind of ephemeral 'Goodness', yet their philosophy is really driven by greed, racism, and vanity.

The story alternates between Candido and America's desperate struggle for existence in a canyon wilderness just yards away from one of the wealthiest enclaves in history, and Delaney and Kyra's ethical dilemma which pits their immeasurable wealth and prosperity against an elusive and unnameable enemy. It seems that Boyle uses the canyon fires, the wild coyotes, their walled community, and the undocumented horde, as metaphors for a kind of spiritual attack which originates from within the very soul of American Capitalism.

THE TORTILLA CURTAIN is a fine novel, and has a wonderful plot, and also something topical and relevant to say.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"B" IS FOR BEER by Tom Robbins

Finished Tu 11/1/11

This is a very short work by Tom Robbins, and not nearly as good as his wild, sprawling, and picaresque novels for which he is known.

Gracie Perkel is five, soon to be six years old, and is a bright and precocious child who wonders why her daddy drinks beer. Her uncle Moe agrees to take her to tour a brewery on her sixth birthday, but he drops a full can of Sapporo beer on his foot, and is unable to take her. Moe falls in love with his podiatrist, and leaves with her to go and live in Costa Rica. In despair(?) Gracie chugs a can of beer, has a visit from a beer fairy, learns about the making of beer, tours a brewery, and learns of Love, Life, and how the intoxicating properties of beer fit into the Cosmic Scheme. Her parents divorce, and through a short, yet convoluted plot, Moe marries her mother, and they all live happily in sunny Central America.

If you want to experience the beauty of Tom Robbin's writing, check any of his novels. But, if you just want to learn about the production of beer, hit Wikipedia. "B" IS FOR BEER can easily be read in one sitting, so it doesn't require a large investment on the part of the reader, but if you were expecting a silly, trippy, audacious delight, you will not find it in this innocuous book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF by Lawrence Block

Finished Fr 10/28/11

This is a novel which deals with Matt Scudder's early days of sobriety. Matt is rapidly coming up on One Year Sober, and he meets a man who he had not seen since childhood. Jack Ellery, is a fellow alcoholic, and is assiduously working The Twelve Steps to hang on to his sobriety. Ellery had been sober for some time, and his sponsor has advised him that it is now time for him to tackle Step 8 of The Twelve Step AA Program. In order to continue his sobriety, the initiate must seek out and apologize to people that he has harmed during his drinking. According to AA, you can't get free of your addiction until you make amends. However, this step leads to his death, and the murder of several others, and Scudder attempts to find out the reason for these killings.

This novel might be better named, "The Mystery of High Low Jack And Even Steven".

This is the seventeen novel in the Scudder series, and if you are a fan, this novel is not to be missed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SPLIT SECOND by David Baldacci

Finished Tu 10/25/11

Two separate incidents involving Secret Service agents are linked in a plot that might be a bit too clever. In 1996 Sean King was assigned to defend a presidential candidate, and in a tiny rural hotel, the man is assassinated and King is wounded. Eight years later, another presidential candidate is visiting a funeral home, and Special Agent Michelle Maxwell is in charge of the detail, and her man is kidnapped.

Dozens of character are introduced, and numerous explanations are presented, and nearly four hundred pages later, the rather "Big Picture" is revealed.

Note: Whenever two brothers are introduced and one of them is disfigured by self inflicted knife marks, hard drugs are involved, and has been committed to an insane asylum, pay special attention! Has this tired ploy ever been introduced, and NOT imply much more than it seems?

The novel will keep your interest until the very end, but way too convoluted.

Friday, October 21, 2011

SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell

Finished Fr 10/21/11
SWAMPLANDIA! is a 'Coming Of Age Tale' which involves a family who run a very low-budget alligator zoo/amusement park in the Ten Thousand Island area of South Florida. Chief Bigtree leaves the park to do some 'mainland business', and Ossie, his daughter, elopes with her(imaginary?)ghost-boyfriend, Louis Thanksgiving. Kiwi, the Chief's son, leaves to get a job with a rival park called, "World of Death". This is biblically themed park which attempts to recreate all of the fun and excitement of Hell by a quirky assortment of employees who make less than minimum wage. Ava, the heroine of the tale, Kiwi and Ossie's little sister, takes off with The Bird Man to try and find Ossie.

The novel is actually three separate stories. First, Life at Swamplandia, Second, Kiwi's adventures at World of Darkness, and finally, Ava's quest to find Ossie at The Eye of The Needle which is a gateway to the Underworld. Ava's story contains a rape scene which is quite disturbing. Many readers have objected to Russell's changing points of view, but I had no trouble with this technique, and I thought that her gorgeous prose saved any problems with plot or narration.

That's the bare bones of the story, and Russell is a great writer, and really tells the tale with a maximum of humor and style. Thirteen year old Ava Bigtree is quite the scrappy young heroine. In a small way Ava Bigtree reminded me of Tom Robbin's character, Sissy Hankshaw. In fact, Karen Russell's oddly humorous approach was somewhat similar to Robbin's take on reality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GET REAL by Donald E. Westlake

Finished Tu 10/18/11
A John Dortmunder Novel

John and his gang are approached by a producer of a television reality program to do a crime, and put it on TV. The production company is located in a lower Manhattan building which houses several businesses which are owned by the parent company. The gangs finds out that one of the offices has an apartment in which there seems to be large amounts of cash. One of the companies uses this as a slush fund to pay bribes when they deal with foreign contractors. John and the gang tell the producer that they will rob one of the companies in the building, but NOT the one with the cash.

A fairly simple and entertaining read, and it is more witty than funny. The bad guys are more con-men than criminals, and they have a real sense of class.

DROWNED HOPES is my favorite novel in this series, but this one is a nice addition.

"Get Real" is the name of the production outfit
"The Heist" is the name of their show
"The Stand" name of a show where they focus on a produce stand in upstate NY
Some of the characters in the gang might be from other novels. Stan, the taxi driver and his mother, seem to be familiar.
The novel is set in lower Manhattan, except one of the guys lives in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

Monday, October 17, 2011


THE INNER CIRCLE is a novel about Alfred Charles Kinsey, zoologist at Indiana University, and the founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction (Kinsey Institute). The story is told in the first person by John Milk, a fictional character who becomes Kinsey's first researcher, and Milk relates how Kinsey's obsession with the investigation of human sexuality impacted his professional career and his marriage to Iris. The novel begins the day of Kinsey's funeral (he died at the age of 62 in August of 1956), and then in a series of flash-backs the reader gets an 'inside glimpse' at Kinsey's groundbreaking approach to the statistical exploration of human sexuality.

Although an enjoyable read, the novel is a bit dry, and almost seems as if it might have been written in the 40's or 50's. I preferred Boyle's THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE and DROP CITY, but reading this book was time well spent. THE TORTILLA CURTAIN will be my next novel by TC Boyle.

Prok- Kinsey's nickname used by The Inner Circle (Professor K)
Clara (Mac) Kinsey
John Milk
Iris Milk
Purvis Corcoran
Violet Corcoran

"High Raters"- People who engaged in a large variety and volume of sexual activity. These people were of special interest to the researchers.
"Sex Shy"- People who were sexually repressed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

THE RACE by Richard North Patterson

Finished Th 10/13/11

Senator Corey Grace- Republican moderate running for Republican nomination
Senator Rob Morotta- Also running for Republican nomination. Will do anything to win.
Magnus Price- Ace consultant for Morotta. Along the lines of Karl Rove.
Senator Bob Christy- Also seeking Republican nomination. Extreme Christian Fundamentalist.
Lexie Hart- Black Hollywood star who is Grace's lover.
Clay Grace- Younger brother of Corey. Gay suicide.

Although THE RACE does have a fast-paced and engaging plot with fully developed characters, the book aims to do more than simply relate a tale of political intrigue set in contemporary America. Patterson has crafted this novel to be more of an astute and clever vehicle to introduce and explore most of the major 'Hot Button' issues of American politics.
-Stem Cell Research
-Gay Marriage
-Christian Fundamentalism
Each point of view is well presented, and characters from both sides of the issue make their points with clarity and candor. However, it's kind of odd that nothing is mentioned about Democrats-America seems to be entirely composed of various shades of 'Red State' politics. All of the characters are Republicans, and Corey Grace's views, I think, are far outside any moderate faction of the Republican party(even in fiction!).

Interesting and thought provoking, and a real departure from the usual Richard North Patterson book.

Monday, October 10, 2011

WE ALL FALL DOWN by Michael Harvey

Finished Mo 10/10/11

The virus was released by CDA, a privately owned 'level-four' bio-lab which is the highest rating for a biological containment facility. The CEO and one of his scientists planted a variation of a lethal strain which contained a 'kill switch'. This made the virus incommunicable after three to five days. They did this to insure that their company would remain a key player in The War on Terror, and CDA would continue to make huge profits.

-Michael Kelly is a local Chicago PI, and he is central to the investigation. It seems a bit far-fetched to consider that with all the federal and state anti-terrorist organizations that Kelly would be any where near an incident of this magnitude.
-Dr.Ellen Brazille and Dr.Molly Carrolton "Black Biology" scientists at CDA, and Carrolton engineers the false attack with her boss, Stoddard.

The novel is largely set on the West Side of Chicago near Garfield Park- "The K-Town Area" (streets begin with the letter 'K', the eleventh letter of the alphabet, and the area is eleven miles from the Indiana border). Oak Park is directly east of this area, and in the novel a wall of steel fencing is erected to quarantine the affected areas. several hundred residents die before the plague ends. The symptoms are that of Ebola crossed with Anthrax.

The novel was a fast read, and very interesting, but ultimately, kind of a let-down. The use of the Black Chicago gang, The Fours, was a bit heavy-handed. And, the ties to organized crime was very clumsy.

The Author's Note at the end was most chilling. Harvey feels that 'Black Biology' is a very real threat, and it is no longer a question of 'If', but 'When'. In January of 2010 a congressional panel gave the US a failing grade for a complete lack of safety precautions in this area.
-Google 'Fort Detrick disease samples'

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Did Not Make The Cut

This is a section of the blog to record the books that, for whatever reason, I did not spend enough time with them to consider them 'read'.

A PERFECT SPY by John le Carre Late September 2011 This is a long novel which is based on Carre's own life. His father was a bit of a hustler, and this story features Magnus Pym, a retired British agent, is partly an unadorned recollection of Magnus' childhood and memories of his father Rick Pym. Just too long, and I wanted to move on.

IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME From Homer To The Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World by Charlotte Higgins Sa 10/8/11 I have been waiting for this book for several months-it must be very popular, but I only spent a couple of hours on it. It's not bad, but I think I could spent a couple of hours on the internet, and get more of a feel for the subject. Two sessions on the stationary bike, and an hour on the couch.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Finished Th 10/6/11

Clive Beresford- 33 year old ex-fanzine writer. Adrift in contemporary London, and deeply attached to early 90's alternative rock band, THE THIEVING MAGPIES.

Lance (Geoffrey) Webster- Lead singer, and creative force behind THE THIEVING MAGPIES. Self-destructive behavior led to the dissolution of the band.

Alan Potter- One year older than Clive, but 'hipper' and more successful. He and Clive traveled all over the UK to cover the English Alternative Musical Scene.

Billy Flushing- One year younger than Clive, and much less 'hip', yet he achieves more success than either of the three classmates.

Gloria Feathers- Maven of the scene, and an artistic influence on all of the bands. Girlfriend of Lance Webster.

A terrific coming-of-age novel which deals with writing, friendship, career, and although the story is set in 2007, the focus is on the alternative music scene of late 80's and early 90's Great Britain. Clive Beresford is adrift in his life, and unnaturally obsessed with The Thieving Magpies, an alternative band from the late 80's. He feels that this band virtually wrote the soundtrack to his life, and one day, to his total amazement, he finds that Lance Webster, lead singer of the band, lives just down the street from him. But, Webster is 'exclusively reclusive', and will not submit to an interview, so Clive must get creative. The novel is the story of the developing friendship between these two men.

While reading this book it is crucial to hit Wikipedia numerous times to learn of the many bands that were part of this very creative musical scene. I guess many would find the massive interaction of so many musical acts tedious or off-putting, however the real story is the growing interaction between the two men. Although I am a fan of the music, I think that it would be possible to enjoy this novel if you were indifferent to the musical setting.

THE THIEVING MAGPIES are a fictional band, yet the author, Tim Thornton has written a complete discography which he includes at the end of the novel.

"If I'm Still Sober, You're Still Ugly"
"I Always Hated Love Songs"
"A Good Time Was Had By None"
"No One Likes A Grown-Up Pop Star"
"Have You Stopped Talking Yet?"

Some 'Real' Musical Stars of this Scene


Monday, October 3, 2011

CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien

Finished Sa 10/1/11

Detective Frank Behr is called upon to find a kidnap victim. Paul and Carol Gabriel lost their son Jamie while he was delivering newspapers on his bicycle early one morning. The police have done little because there is not much to work with. Frank teams with the boy's father Paul because they develop a bond because Frank can identify with his loss because of Frank's son's death. The case stretches from low-life strip clubs of Indianapolis to the hot desert of the Tex-Mex border.

-Child trafficing

Saturday, October 1, 2011

TOP SECRET AMERICA The Rise of America's New American Security State by Dana Priest and William M. Arkinw Security State by Dana Priest

Finished Fr 9/29/10

-850,000 Americans now have top security clearances
-250,000 Private contractors operate in the security sector
-1,200 Government agencies deal with issues of national security
-2,000 Private companies keep tabs on national security
-10,000 This is the number of locations for Intelligence installations
-50,000 Number of reports gleaned in a single year; some overlooked

No single government agency, private company, or single individual knows the total cost of these services. And, local law enforcement agencies are using techniques developed in The War On Terror to investigate political activities of private citizens and political groups. Any form of oversight is clearing lacking.

It seems to me, after reading this thought provoking book, that while 'business is booming' in this particular sector of the economy, America is being held hostage to a very expensive, inefficient, and potentially corrupt national policy.

THE LEFTOVERS by Tom Perrotta

Finished Fr 9/29/11

"Barefoot People"- Hippie hedonists who seek pleasure in the time that remains. They have bulls eyes painted on their foreheads.

"Guilty Remnants" (The Watchers,GR's)- They wear all white, and usually travel in pairs. And, they are always smoking, and they more or less take a vow of silence. They feel that it is their duty to remind everyone that "you must get right with God" in the seven years that remain. They affect an "in your face guilt trip".

Kevin- Retired millionaire, liquor store owner who is the mayor of Mappleton (Northeastern small town)

Laurie- Kevin's wife who later joins the GR's.

Jill- Their rebellious daughter. Cuts off all of her hair, and hangs out with sultry high school student, Aimee. Later, Aimee lives with Kevin and Jill.

Tom- Son of Kevin and Laurie. He is in college and falls under the spell of Pastor Wayne Gilchrist. He is 'The Hugging Minister', and he hugs his flock, takes their pain away (Healing Hug Movement). He also is busted for his involvements with many teenage girls.

Christine is one such girl who is supposed to be having Wayne's son. She is hiding out with Tom on a cross-country odyssey. The child is a girl, and Wayne ends up in jail, and renounces his divine status.

Nora- Kevin's girlfriend. She lost both her children, and her husband during the Rapture. Jamison uncovers her husband's infidelity with their day-care worker. She ends the novel by finding the child which Tom has left on Kevin's doorstep.
"Hey, look what I found"!

Reverend Matt Jamison is so angry that he or any of his family were not called to The Rapture, that he spends his time trying to discredit all of the people who left in the rapture.

I totally loved this novel, and I have never read a bad book by Perrotta.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

Finished Tu 9/27/11

Katniss Everdeen has been chosen to represent District 12 in The Hunger Games. In this post-apocalyptic/adventure novel, Panem is the name of the country which was once the USA. "The Capitol" is the ruling city-state, and the rest of the country has been divided into twelve subservient sectors. Each year, two teenage candidates (boy/girl) from each sector are selected to participate in a competition in which all twenty-four participants must fight to the death until only one is left alive. The entire event is televised all over Panem to encourage regional unity/rivalry, and to demonstrate the absolute power of the state.

The novel primarily concerns Katniss's preparation for The Games, and her participation in them. Next to nothing about the political history, motivations of the leaders of Panem, or much cultural detail about the various sectors are included in the novel. District #12 (nickname-The Seam, probably a reference to the seams of coal) is the old Appalachian area of the Eastern US. Her partner in the competition from #12 is Peeta, the baker's son, and he forms a personal and professional alliance with Katniss during the competition. Peeta is very much in love with her, yet his feelings only bemuse and puzzle Katniss.

Although Katniss is an accomplished hunter and gatherer, she seems to lack confidence and has an unusual low level of self esteem for such a proficient individual. She really doesn't have much of a clue as to how capable that she really is. And, even though she has phenomenal success in The Games, it really doesn't do much for her feelings of inferiority.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and there will be a movie released based on THE HUNGER GAMES in the spring of 2012.

KATNISS is a plant similar to a potato

Friday, September 23, 2011


Finished Fr 9/23/11
Book Club Selection for September

Rosie Ferguson- Junior; lives in Landsdale, CA(fictional city probably near Larkspur)
Elizabeth- Rosie's mother
James- Rosie's step-father; Andrew is father(deceased)

Jody- Friend of Rosie; Alcoholic, veteran of programs
Alice- Also friend; Student of fashion
Claude- Jody's soldier boyfriend
Fenn- Rosie's older dealer boyfriend
Rae and Lank- Married friends of Elizabeth and James. Rae is an artist/weaver. Lank teacher high school.


Rumi- 13th century Persian poet/theologian
"Each has to enter the nest of another imperfect bird"

Reasoning with an addict is like trying to blow out a light bulb
FINE Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, Edgey

Lamott wrote a first novel dealing with these characters called, "Rosie", but this novel is clearly a 'stand alone'. I would guess that it contains more on Elizabeth's first marriage to Andrew. Possibly lays the groundwork for Rosie's addictions, and an examination with Elizabeth's problems with alcohol which is alluded to in 'Birds'.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THIRTEEN MILLION DOLLAR POP A Frank Behr Novel by David Levien

Finished We 9/21/11

Frank Behr Mystery

Frank Behr is working as an executive body-guard for Bernard Kolodnik, a hard-driving business mogul on the verge of making a move into big-time politics. Behr is employed by the 'white-shoe' investigation firm called, The Caro Group, an uneasy fit both philosophically and literally because working for someone else rubs him the wrong way - but with his girlfriend nine months pregnant, Behr is doing what he has to get paid. An attempt is made on the client, and Behr manages to protect his man, repel the attackers, and get both of them to safety. Behr is celebrated for his heroism and moved to a different assignment, but he can't stop himself from finding out what really happened in that garage - and why the cops are either making no headway, or burying the incident.

Hit-man from Wales is a great villain, and he is badly wounded, but escapes.
This is the third in the series, and I plan to read more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DISASTER WAS MY GOD A Novel of The Outlaw Life of Arthur Rimbaud by Bruce Duffy

Finished Tu 9/20/11

This is a well-written and engaging biography of Arthur Rimbaud(1854-1891). It sticks very close to the details of his life, yet the scenes and dialog would have to be fictional.

The book begins with his mother attempting to bury his body, and finally wraps up with this same scene. I liked that the book did not recount a linear examination of his life, and jumped between his adventures in Ethiopia, to his Parisian encounter with Paul Verlaine, scenes of his childhood with his mother, and his flight from Africa. And, it did not dwell on the particularly lurid accounts of his debauchery with Paul Verlaine in Paris which I was kind of expecting in a book about Rimbaud.

Basically, Rimbaud was a man who wrote poetry for a few years as a teenager, was discovered by Parisian literary society, and completely changed the entire art form. I don't think that anything similar was written for another half century. The spirit of Arthur Rimbaud can clearly be seen in the Punk Rock genre of the late 1970's, and that was nearly a century after Rimbaud had ceased to write. When it seemed that he was at the zenith of his powers, he suddenly stopped writing. He no longer even considered himself an artist, and turned to the business field. Where he decided to engage in probably the lowest form of commerce-Gun Running. A very strange individual indeed! Tremendously talented, yet clearly slightly unhinged.

Bruce Duffy writes with a maximum of style and verve, and really moved the story along.

Rimbaud's meddlesome and controlling mother
Rimbaud had a sister that died of tuberculosis
Paul Verlaine lived with his in-laws while in Paris
Verlaine married a sixteen year old, and she was pregnant at seventeen

Wikipedia entry:

Friday, September 16, 2011

CONVICTION by Richard North Patterson

Finished Fr 9/16/11

CONVICTION examines the legal nightmare of the California appeals procedure. In 1987 two brothers were convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a nine year old girl. Their lawyer was cross-addicted to booze and cocaine, but he did offer a defense which was legally adequate. although it was really just good enough to get them executed. Fifteen years later, one brother is executed, and now there is a slim chance that the appeals process can save the other brother.

The brother who remains on death row suffers a significant degree of retardation, and this was not properly addresed in the original trial. To the court, he was perceived as an unrepentant, angry black male, and the state of California will not execute anyone with an IQ under 70, and Renell scored a 72, so he was good to go.

The important fact to remember is that the appeals process only seeks to determine if the defendants were treated fairly in the original trial. The question of 'guilt or innocence' is not an issue for the appeals court, and in this particular case, the fact that one of the defendants had such a low IQ implied that he had not been treated fairly. This is the basis for his right to an appeal, even though new evidence points to the fact that he was not even involved, this is largely irrelevant.

I read three quarters of the novel, and then skimmed to the end, because I got bogged down by the endless minutia of the appeals process. You will learn a lot, but I don't even think many lawyers fully understand this procedure.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ELECTION by Tom Perrotta

Finished Tu 9/13/11

A wry tale set in a contemporary suburban high school which focuses on a student election. Supremely ambitious, Tracy Flick, seeks to annihilate popular jock, Paul Warren, in her bid for president of the student body. Along the way, Perrotta examines the dreams, aspirations, and sexual relationships of the students and the staff.

Tom Perrotta is a very perceptive writer, and each character is well developed and multi-faceted. The novel occurs in 1992, and several of the political references are 'spot on'.

And, of course, the novel only whets my appetite to watch the film, starring Reese Witherspoon, one more time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

SHATTER by Michael Robotham

Finished Mo 7/12/11

Michael Robotham is the author of "THE WRECKAGE", and in that riveting thriller Robotham focused on financial mismanagement and corporate corruption manifested by the war in Iraq. SHATTER also deals with a kind of collateral damage from that war. Gideon Tyler is a trained military interrogator who is supremely adept at breaking captives in The War On Terror through the forbidden application of torture. His wife and child have left him, and he kidnaps friends of his wife to try to find them. Tyler's evil psychological manipulations create some of the most sinister dramatic situations that I have ever read. Merely by the use of inference to terrifying suggestions, he is able to convince two women to commit suicide, and confuse and confound the authorities. Joe O'Loughlin is a retired criminal psychologist raising two young daughters, and suspects his wife of infidelity. O'Loughlin suffers from the onset of Parkinson's disease, and portions of the novel deal with how an individual learns to cope with this affliction. Soon Joe becomes a key player in the investigation, and gets swept up in Gideon Tyler's psychotic web of deception and duplicity.

The novel begins with an an inventive and alarming scene in which O'Loughlin watches a naked woman jump from a bridge, and the police have no idea who she is or why she jumped, and, most important, who was she talking to on her cell phone at the moment of her plunge.

The novel is set near the town of Bath, England.

Another excellent and adventuresome read, and Robotham's journalistic style really adds a sense of hyper-reality to the work.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Finished Su 9/ll/ll

This is the Children's Edition of Mann's book, yet I think that it covered the essential points.

Modern historians tend to believe that The New World was relatively 'untouched' before the arrival of the Europeans. However, it is Mann's contention that it was disease that decimated the native populations before the large influx of immigrants, and this is why the land seemed to be pristine.

-The forests of Amazonia contained thousands of carefully planted tree gardens which were used as a food source.
-Sophisticated cities and huge pyramids existed before those in Egypt.
-Native American cities were much larger and more complex than previously thought.
-Maize(corn) was biogenically engineered by the Indians.
-Indians did manage game populations. Burning large sections of landscape late in the year guaranteed new growth in the spring which would attract animals to hunt.
-Diseases were spread by the invaders use of domesticated animals such as pigs and cattle. Local populations had no history of domestication, and this left them vulnerable.
-"Zoonotic" is a disease transmitted from animals to humans. Measles, smallpox, influenza, and diphtheria are examples of this form of contagion.
-When the Europeans arrived in New England 90% of the indigenous population had already succumbed to disease.

"Milpa"- The traditional Mesoamerican field or garden plot, in which farms grow both maize and beans, together with a variety of other crops, such as squash, peppers, and avocados. This insured soil conservation.

FUN FACT: One hundred and two English people on the Mayflower arrived on the coast of Massachusetts six weeks before the beginning of winter without food or shelter. What were they thinking?

Friday, September 9, 2011

THE GANYMEDE TAKEOVER by Philip K. Dick and Ray Nelson

Finished Fr 9/9/11

THE GANYMEDE TAKEOVER embodies the strengths and weaknesses of most of Philip K. Dick's work. He conjuers wild and masterful ideas, yet his storytelling is sometimes sub-par at best.

In this novel, which he co-wrote with Ray Nelson, the Earth has been conquered by an alien race of worm-like beings. Nearly all of the planet is under their control except for a small group of Black Nationalists operating out of what was once, Tennessee, USA. Dick employs robots, telepathic abilities, a Bureau of Psychedelic Research, vid-phones, ionocraft bombers, a machine which induces wild hallucinations which Do Not End, and other science fiction gambits, yet he is really attempting to develop and present the psychological differences and personal dilemmas of the characters. Also, the author adds an extra dollop of satire through the use of a kind of antiquated racism between some of the characters. The novel was written in 1967, and at that time the US was in the midst of a backlash against the nascent civil rights movement, and the emergence of Black Power.

And, one of my favorite aspects of a Philip K. Dick novel are the odd and quirky names of his characters. Here are a few from THE GANYMEDE TAKEOVER:

Dr. Rudolph Balkani
Joan Hiashi
Percy X
Ed Newkom
Paul Rivers
Gus Swenesgard
Lincoln Shaw

(Alien Names)
Marshal Koli

This is a short novel, and chock-full of strange and compelling ideas, but a rather clunky story-line with little resolution. But, if you are a fan of the Dick genre this is a 'must read', and it is also a good starting point if you are unfamiliar with his work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Finished We 9/7/11

This kind of novel is my least favorite format for a Mystery-Thriller. These works generally are introduced by the commission of a crime, and then numerous characters with conflicting motives are presented as the possible perpetrator, and the reader is invited to 'figure out who done it'. Needless to say, Agatha Christie is The Worst (or, The Best) at this type of storytelling, and she is one of my least favorite authors.

However, TWENTY BLUE DEVILS does have a few redeeming qualities.
-It happens on the island of Tahiti on a coffee plantation near the city of Papeete
-There is a lot of information on the cultivation and distribution of coffee
-Some techniques of forensic anthropology are used
-Certain aspects of Money Laundering are examined

The only reason that I picked this novel is that it featured Elkins most famous character, Gideon Oliver. This is the kind of novel that would work best on a long plane ride or at the beach. A bit of light diversion, but, in the end, unsatisfying because it is just 'light diversion'.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

Finished Tu 9/6/11

I first heard of this book in an interview on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Here's the link

Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry about the explorer, Hiram Bingham III

Basically I spent several hours reading and skimming through this book. It is an interesting tale of a contemporary travel editor, Mark Adams who despite having no experience as an outdoorsman, becomes part of an expedition to one of the most intriguing archaeological sites on the planet.


Finished Mo 9/5/11 Labor Day

RABBIT REMEMBERED is a John Updike novella which is included in a collection of his short stories called, LICKS OF LOVE. Updike's 'Harry Angstrom' books occurred to me when I read Jonathan Franzen's, FREEDOM, and I did not realize that Updike had written a new work in The 'Rabbit' Series which takes place ten years after the main character had died. Both authors construct wonderfully diverse and multi-faceted family situations which occur over long periods of time.

Here is what Publisher's Weekly had to say about RABBIT REMEMBERED-

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom has been dead for a decade in Rabbit Remembered, the novella that closes this latest, richly evocative Updike collection. His widow, Janice, is married to Ronnie Harrison, the widower of Thelma, with whom Harry had a long-time liaison. His son Nelson's wife, Pru, whom Harry also briefly bedded, has left Nelson, who has kicked the coke habit and still lives in the old Springer house with Janice and Ronnie. The past surfaces unexpectedly when Annabelle Byers, Harry's illegitimate daughter, makes herself known to the family. The ramifications of Harry's legacy include a strained Thanksgiving dinner that degenerates into political argument and acrimonious insults, and a mordantly funny flashback to a scene in which Harry's cremated remains were inadvertently left on a closet shelf in a Comfort Inn. While Updike explores the dark territory of bitterness, resentment and guilt, he also includes his trademark ticker-tape of current events (Hillary's candidacy, etc.), a typically muddled millennium New Year's Eve and a surprisingly upbeat denouement. For Rabbit fans, this is a must-read.

One of these days I want to go back and read the other books in the series one more time. RABBIT REMEMBERED can be read as a 'stand alone' novel, or, as in my case, it can whet your appetite for more of the Harry Angstrom saga.

Monday, September 5, 2011

DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig

Finished Mo 9/5/11 Labor Day

A very enjoyable glimpse into the spirit and soul of the man who headed one of the best British invasion bands of the 60's. The book is chock full of interesting anecdotes about how the band (actually, 'bands') were formed, but also he has some very interesting information about the legal side of being a performer. I would almost recommend this book to anyone who is beginning a career in the music business. Pay close attention as to how Eric Burdon handled his contracts and lawyers, and then do the exact opposite.

I have read that John Fogerty is a very angry man due to his adventures in The Music Biz, but it sounds like Eric Burdon might have even more issues.

Great scene where Burdon sings 'House of The Rising Sun' in an empty Karaoke bar, and where he actually visits the real 'House of The Rising Sun'.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Finished Fr 9/2/11

This is one of the best memoirs that I have ever read. You don't have to have the slightest interest in country music to appreciate and enjoy Rodney Crowell's tale about life in the Houston suburb of Jacinto City in the late 50's and early 1960's. Each character is multifaceted, and nobody is either 'all good' or 'all bad'. Rodney's father is a rather violent alcoholic, yet capable of deep passions, and his mother is a borderline neurotic who loves her family in the best way that she can.

Like the best of biographies, at the end of the book you feel that you are meeting a friend that you never knew that you had. And, you find yourself looking back on your own life when you were that age.

CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS is a wonderful read, and has the absolute ring of truth.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE WRECKAGE by Michael Robotham

Finished Tu 8/30/11

Billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi banks, and journalist Luca Terracini is hot on the trail of the missing funds with the help of a beautiful UN investigator, Daniela Garner. Meanwhile in London, a banking official who has uncovered rampant money laundering at his firm, is mugged by a ravishing beauty by the name of Holly, and she seems to be unwittingly in possession of some very dangerous information. Vincent Ruiz is a retired English police detective and he becomes caught up in this whirlwind of stolen cash, international terrorism, and government corruption involving some of the highest policy makers in Britain and the US.

This is an electrifying novel, and I would read anything else by this author. He has a background in journalism, and the sections of the novel which deal with double dealing and corporate malfeasance in Iraq have the absolute ring of truth.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood

Finished Sa 8/27/11

ORYX AND CRAKE is set in the same fictional universe as Atwood's 'Speculative Fiction' novel, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD. ORYX AND CRAKE is told through the eyes of a single character, a post-apocalyptic hermit by the name of Jimmy. This is a tale of a not too distant dystopian world where genetic splicing has run amok, and a genetically engineered plague has decimated mankind. Jimmy reminisces about his two friends, Crake, a savant of biological systems engineering, and Oryx who was probably forced into the online sex trade as a young child, and is very much a tantalizing enigma.

The book is a strange, thoughtful, and clever examination of the dangers of human genetic engineering and biological weapons.

Both novels are fine examples of how a world renown poet would craft an enjoyable and thought provoking fictional work within the fantasy genre.

THIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE Levon Helm and the story of The Band by Levon Helm and Stephen Davis

Finished Sa 8/27/11

Levon Helm documents the stellar career of the musical group which truly exemplifies and celebrates the quintessential American musical experience, yet they just happened to erupt out of Canada. And, after more than a decade of playing the circuit both in the US and Canada, they became, "overnight sensations", as Dylan's sidemen. This rock biography is much more than an expanded Wikipedia entry, and after you finish the book you really gain an insight into the band.

I was amazed to find that Roy Buchanan was once a member of the band, and that Robbie Robertson was judged to be the better guitarist! Also, Robertson's work is so exquisitely blended within the collective whole of the Band's sound that it is hard to believe that he could 'shred like the dickens' when they were Dylan's backup band. He does not seem to be in the mold of Clapton or Hendrix, but apparently this was true.

Also, it is interesting to note that Robertson happened to be closer to their manager, Albert Grossman, so Robbie got more of the monetary compensation for the Band's catalog. The infraction was not quite as severe as what Alan Price did to The Animals, but along the same lines. As Levon Helm tells it, "We got pencil whipped"!

A great read, and it has greatly expanded my appreciation of this superb musical group.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ANIMAL TRACKS The Story of The Animals: Newcastle's Rising Sons by Sean Egan

Finished Su 8/22/11

There is a lot of information about the development of the various bands that went on to become "The Animals", but the majority of the books is about the songs on the albums-who played on them, who wrote them, and the situations in which they occurred.

-Tom Wilson produced the early Animals, and he was a producer for Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, and The Velvet Underground. An Afro-American and graduate of Harvard, and a Republican!
-Hilton Valentine (lead guitar) Yes, That's his real name
-John Steel (drummer) Childhood friend of Burdon
-Chas Chandler (bass) Went on to a more successful career in managing Jimi Hendrix
and Slade. And, he was never really very proficient on the bass guitar.
-Alan Price (keyboards-organ piano) He and the manager tricked the band into giving
them all of the rights to "The House Of The Rising Son". They said that the revenue
would be split, but it never was.

The band was originally called, "The Alan Price Rhythm And Blues Combo"
Widely regarded as the most authentic Blues band from England, they went on to fully embrace the Hippie Scene in San Francisco. Although, when they relocated to the US, they settled in Los Angeles.
The band had numerous reformations with the original lineup even though they all agreed that Price had stolen from them. He hated the idea of the 'arpeggio' guitar intro, and left the original session in a storm. But, returned when the whole song had been written and arranged. Later, he took full credit.
Mike Jeffery is the manager who shared credit with Price. He ran a club in Newcastle
Micky Most probably was the most successful manager of the group. He was able to pick the most likely songs for chart success.

The author feels that although The Animals scored an unbelievable string of truly classic radio hits, they never delivered an album worthy of the greatness of the band.

Eric Burdon, although a swaggering English blues-man, became the quintessential hippie. Friends with all of the San Francisco bands, and eating acid like Owsley.

I would say that the book is more like an expanded Wikipedia entry, but essential if you have any interest in this classic rock group from the sixties.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Finished Sa 8/20/11

THE MILLENNIUM PEOPLE is a wry take on Karl Marx's revolutionary theory. Marx felt that the end of the political status quo would occur when the workers on the bottom of the economic pyramid called it quits, and turned to violence, however Ballard sees the impetus for revolt coming from the more well-off middle class. Ballard envisions radical social change as a kind of, "Upholstered Apocalypse".

David Markham's ex-wife is killed by a terrorist bomb at Heathrow Airport, and this seems to be connected to a radical strike and middle-class uprising at Chelsea Marina, a posh housing estate in fashionable West London. An odd assortment of quirky characters propel the action. And, here is a brief description of some of the more memorable characters in this thoroughly enjoyable Black Comedy.

-Richard Gould, a whacked-out pediatrician who uses 'violent absurdism' to affect social change
-Kay Churchill, a political pundit and ex-film studies professor
-The Reverend Stephen Dexter, a motorcycle riding pastor who seems to have spiritually lost his way
-Joan Chang, a hip pseudo-revolutionary
-Sally Markam, who is David's wife and suffers from a delusion that she is still crippled from a childhood train accident in which she fully recovered
-Vera Blackburn, a demented explosive expert.

Ballard is a craftsmen when it comes to the turn of a phrase, and the story is both insightful and entertaining. It makes me want to reread his delightfully perverse novel, CRASH, which dealt with car-crash fetishism.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

THE WORST THING by aaron Elkins

Finished We 8/17/11

Hostage Negotiations and Panic Attacks

This is a stand-alone novel from the author who put Forensic Anthropology into the front lines of the Crime Genre. Aaron Elkins is most known for a series of books which feature—the 'skeleton detective', Gideon Oliver. I have not read any of these novels, but I plan to check them out.

THE WORST THING concerns a noted hostage negotiator, Bryan Bennett, who is now teaching the art of negotiation to government and corporate clients. He was brutalized during a kidnapping incident as a small child, and still suffers from the psychological trauma of this tragic event. The book begins as he is asked by his boss to travel to Iceland and host a symposium about corporate security, and while there, he becomes the victim in a hostage situation.

Many elements as to how professional negotiators deal with kidnappers are examined, and you really learn a lot as to how this pseudo-science is applied in real situations. Also, Bennett suffers from severe and debilitating panic attacks caused by his kidnapping ordeal as a five year old, and The Panic Experience is explained in detail. Apparently, to be afraid of a particular thing is very bad, but to be afraid of the fear of that thing is much, much worse.

In an odd literary twist, it is revealed that Mr. Bennett did not actually experience the hostage situation as a child, but it was really his brother. Bryan was only five years old when the incident occurred, and it seems that he extrapolated details and impressions which he gleaned from his parents, and mistakenly believed that it happened to him. This section of the novel was kind of contrived, but overall, this book is a fine example of Hostage Fiction.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen

Finished Tu 8/16/11

FREEDOM was the August selection for my book club.

I have read one other novel by this author, THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CITY, and I thought that book was kind of odd. It was fairly hard for me to accept the premise of a foreign take-over of St. Louis by a sexy socialite and a new female police commissioner from India. I suppose it was a satire, but it seemed kind of a reach. However, I completely enjoyed FREEDOM, and his new novel is a long and thorough tale of an intricate star-crossed love triangle. Walter and Patty Berglund are married, yet they have serious issues within the marriage. Patty still has a crush on Walter's college roommate, Richard, and Walter is wrapped up in his career. The novel spans a few decades, and scrutinizes the personal lives of these central characters, and also those of their family and friends. And, certain relevant topical and cultural issues are examined. One issue in particular seems to be that Jonathan Franzen has a personal issue with house cats that are allowed to roam free because these lovable creatures have a significant negative impact on the song bird population. I was never aware of this issue.

This novel very much reminded me of John Updike's, Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom series. Another comic-serious novel which expertly details and chronicles the triumphs and frustrations of a group of intensely connected people over an extended period of time

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Storming Heaven: The Lives and Turmoils of Minnie Kennedy and Aimee Semple McPherson

Skimmed through on Monday/Tuesday Aug 8-9, 2011

The definitive work of Amiee Semple McPherson. Peppered with photos, and probably the most 'fact based' of anything that I have read about her. Also, an interesting portrait or her mother, Minnie, who was equally important to the life of this early 20th century religious/media figure.

THE DOGS OF WAR by Frederick Forsyth

Finished Mo 8/8/11

THE DOGS OF WAR is a long and detailed novel which chronicles the take-over of a fictional African country called Zangaro. A predatory English corporate chief finds out that there exists a priceless deposit of platinum in this backward nation, and hires ex-soldier of fortune and mercenary, Carlos 'Cat' Shannon, to organize a team and depose the president so that his company can capture the wealth.
The novel is not really a thriller, but goes into exhaustive detail about how such an insurgent force would be armed, funded, located, and coordinated. Since the novel is almost forty years old, I am sure that this kind of thing goes on in today's world, but the logistics would be much different.
In a kind of trick ending, although the corrupt leader is removed, Shannon's team does not install the 'puppet' president who would work for Sir James Manson, head of the London firm, Manson Consolidated Mining Limited, but finds a leader who would do more to promote the good of the country.
I have the film ordered from Netflix, and I am interested to see if it will be as good, or better than the novel.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

THE WEIGHT by Andrew Vachss

Finished Th 8/4/11

Tim "Sugar" Caine- A man with two different colored eyes who is Big, Large, and Muscle- Bound, and a mind which mirrors his super-large frame.

Clever Premise- Man is brought in for a rape that he did not commit, but his alibi is that he was on a jewelry robbery , and he can't 'rat out' his confederates.

Interesting profile of 'A Man In The Life'. This might be a bit dated, but I guess it still makes sense. A successful, 'High-End' criminal only has 'the word on the street' as his reputation, so just like the stock market, Perception Is Everything.

Plot gets way too convoluted, and I completely lost the thread by the end of the novel.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Finished Mo 8/1/11

"Thriller" indeed, and a very engaging read, and a superlative first novel. Another 'tough girl' heroine who is more than a little similar to Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. Vanessa Michael Munroe drives the action in THE INFORMATIONIST. Ms. Munroe is deadly in martial arts, and is a wizard in gaining and using intelligence, and this skill makes her much in demand to the corporate chieftains of The New World Order. In this novel she is contacted by the head of a major Texas oil company, and is paid handsomely to locate his daughter who disappeared in darkest Africa four years previously. Vanessa connects with an old friend from her past, and they attempt to unravel this mysterious disappearance in one of the most politically corrupt and lawless areas on the face of the earth.

Ms. Taylor plans to write more on this character, and I will definitely check them out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

GOOD NEIGHBORS by Gorman Bechard

Finished Fr 7/29/11

I usually dislike a mystery in which the reader is forced to navigate a "who dunnit" plot, but in the case of GOOD NEIGHBORS the plot was so well thought out, and the characters so vivid, that it all worked.

I hope that this leads to a "Juke Miller Series", because I will read every one of them.

Set in a bedroom community near Yale University, Juke Miller is an ex-cop who runs the local tavern, and he is not even close to accepting closure in the murder and rape of his wife which occurred seven years earlier.

His older and wiser, next door neighbor and dear friend, Reggie, has a beautiful Lab,"Molasses" who is the center of his life, and is married to a wife who is twenty-five years his junior. The dog is poisoned by an eminently popular fifteen year old quarterback who lives next door, Reggie kills the kid, and a cop kills Reggie. Or so it seems, and over the next one hundred and fifty pages, 'what really happened' unfolds like a bad dream.

I really found this novel so well written that it was hard to put down. I would recommend this book to anyone!!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Finished Mo 7/25/11

Aimee Semple McPherson might just be the prototype for Oprah Winfrey. During the 1920's and 1930's she was the most popular female in America, she owned and operated a radio and publishing mega-corporation, and also happened to be the most successful evangelist of all time. And, she also had a rather lurid personal and professional life.

I am surprised that this woman's life hasn't made it to the silver screen. I would imagine that dozens of Hollywood's leading ladies would die for a chance to portray this multidimensional character.

This book is kind of a novelization of McPherson's life, and it has whetted my appetite for more about this amazing woman. However, it was not a bad place to start.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

Finished Fr 7/22/11

"CorpSeCorp" Corporations Security Corps

"Eating a nosebleed" (eating meat)

"Caviar is like eating salty bubbles"

This is a novel that I read because of my book club. We met at 6pm, Wednesday 7/27/11 at 6pm at the library. I rode the bike to the meeting, and the temps were in the triple digits for the Discomfort Index.

Nice discussion, and I was surprised that everyone seemed to like the book. They were not fans of Science Fiction, even 'Social Science Fiction', in this case, but they really liked the writing style of Margaret Atwood.

Here are some links, that might help to fill in the blanks:

Monday, July 18, 2011


Finished Mo 7/18/11

This is my second book by Luntz, and I have the same problem with this book as I did with, WHAT AMERICANS REALLY WANT...REALLY. Every issue has many different sides, and various ways of interpreting the controversy. Luntz could very well support the views of Slave Holders, or promote the concepts of Freedom From Slavery. There does not seem to be A Moral Center to his work, and I don't think that it really matters to him. He is the man who changed "Inheritance Tax" to "Death Tax". He claims that he is only interested in clarity of speech, but I think that in this instance he very much makes it look as if the government is doing something downright immoral. And, this tax only applies to multimillionaires and billionaires, yet it sounds like it would apply to the common person. This is a time in our nation's history where the tax base is the lowest that it has been since the late 1950's, and we do not have the money to pay our debts and provide needed government services. And, I think that if you are against any kind of tax on huge fortunes being passed along in these hard economic times, I think you are extremely naive, or maybe just in the employ of rich and greedy Americans.

However, what Luntz has to say is extremely informative, and regardless about how I feel about his politics, he has definitely changed how I "see" almost any political or social statements.

I think that this book should be read all high school students. What this country needs desperately is a nation of 'Critical Thinkers', and I think that Dr. Luntz understands that as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

GRINDER by Mike Knowles

Finished Th 7/14/11


Hamilton, Ontario

Paolo Donati, Mob Boss

Armando and Nicola, nephews of the boss (missing-reason for his call back)

Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island in Quebec- Where Wilson worked on the fishing boat

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GRAVEMINDER by Melissa Marr

Finished We 7/13/11

Three hundred years ago in the town of Clayville, "Mr. D" (Charlie, The Devil, An Angel, A Demon, a hobgoblin??) made a deal with a lovely woman named Abigail. Because this entity was in love with the woman, he allowed her to enter the Kingdom of The Dead. However, this connection between worlds allowed the newly dead to come back to life, and feed on the living if they were not properly interred. To keep the townspeople from being killed by the newly dead, he set up a system where there would be a "Graveminder" and an "Undertaker". The "Graveminder" would comfort the dead, and make sure that they would stay in their graves, and "The Undertaker" would guard and protect the tunnel that separates the town from The Underworld. In exchange for this portal to The Otherside, the residents of Clayville live till 80 years old, and are free from crime and disease. Although, when you are born in Clayville, you can leave for a while, but you must come back to die. However, the novel takes place in the present, and the story is about how the new "Graveminder" and "Undertaker" learn of their new destinies. And, there are plenty of Walking Dead in this novel, but they have much more personality than the usual zombie persona.

This is the setup, and sounds kind of corny, but the premise worked. The novel is a slightly innovative take on the Vampire genre, and I suppose this could be the start of a series.

I think that Stephen King could handle this theme a little better, but was not a complete waste of time. GRAVEMINDER would not be a bad book to take on an airplane or to take to the beach.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Finished Mo 7/11/11

I found out about this novel when I listened to Terry Gross interview the author on a podcast of Fresh Air. This is probably one of the better satirical novels to come along in quite a while. However, the structure and style reminded me of Albert Brooks, "2030", yet "Super Sad True Love Story" is better written, and more sarcastic in tone. It is the story of a love affair between Lenny Abramov, son of a Russian immigrant, who works for a government agency called, Post-Human Services. Although already thirty-nine years old, he falls madly in love with a chic and psychologically shattered twenty-four year old Korean-American from New Jersey. In the beginning, the novel is set in Italy, but most of the action takes place in 'a not so distant future' in New York City. Phone and computer services are quite a bit superior to what we have now, but the system seems more than invasive. Streams of data on every imaginable thing are broadcast to all people including Credit Scores, and even the sexual 'hotness' of the individual.

I found the novel kind of lost me about three quarters of the way in, and it did not have the exciting edge of Albert Brook's book. But, Shteyngart's novel was better written, and could be called literature with a capital "L".

Friday, July 8, 2011


Finished Th 7/7/11

DIGITAL FORTRESS is a novel about computers and The Internet which is now terribly dated (it's set in the late 1990's), and comes across as quaint, or even, 'campy'. At one point near the end of the novel, one of the characters needs access to The Internet, and he is all but ecstatic to find that he has, "the best Netscape has to offer". Also, Dan Brown's writing is nothing to write home about, however he is better than James Patterson(with or without his collaborators), but not by much.

TRANSLTR is a multi-billion dollar NSA computer system which was designed to break encryption codes. The ethical quandary which the novel examines is the limitation placed upon Free Speech. How can a nation allow complete privacy if foreign enemies can use The Internet to communicate and plan terrorist operations? The novel positions The National Security Agency and Electronic Frontier Foundation on opposite sides of this question. The NSA wants access to everything, and EFF desires complete privacy.

"Digital Fortress" is the name of a piece of software which was designed by Ensei Tankado which is an encryption code which cannot be broken. Susan Fletcher works for the Crypto department within NSA, and her boss is Commander Strathmore, and they are working to prevent the release of this program. If this software goes viral then America's enemies will be able to utilize this program, and hide dangerous information at will. David Becker is Susan's fiance, and is sent to Spain by Strathmore to track down the key to Digital Fortress.

Several plot twists unfold, and in the end, all codes can be broken because all things encrypted can be unmasked after all.

"Who will guard the guards" is a worthwhile thought which is introduced to make the reader ponder this question. If the government has access to ALL correspondence, who will take steps to ensure that it doesn't misuse this power?

All in all, DIGITAL FORTRESS only rates a C minus.

Susan Fletcher


David Becker

Commander Strathmore

TRANSLTR multi-billion dollar NSA computer system which was designed to break encryption codes

DIGITAL FORTRESS is an encryption code which cannot be broken

Ensei Tankado

DaVinci Code Angels and Demons

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Finished Tu 7/5/11

This book proved to be a very disquieting or disturbing read. The author clearly made the point that knowledge is power, but it left me wondering exactly what he meant. Is it that once the facts are presented, then one can accurately ascertain the will of a population, or is it that once the facts are uncovered they can be enhanced and spun to control the attitudes of the people? Do focus groups and sociological research teach how society really operates, or do these studies merely provide those in power with new and more effective ways in which to bend the status quo to their will.

Dr. Luntz has a very novel interpretation of voters as 'consumers', and 'government' as product. And, also it would seem to follow that churches are really 'stores'.

The author's observations of the latest generation, Generation 2020, is really quite provocative. These young people are so radically different than their elders that all of the old rules and assumptions clearly no longer are viable. And, I think that he makes his point that if this nation is to grow and prosper, this is where the new challenges will be found. Not to herd these young people back into the fold, but in capturing the desires and aspirations of this new and emerging market.

However, I can't help but feel that Dr. Luntz's approach has no moral center, and he doesn't even seem to feel that it is necessary. You find out what the people want, and then you give it to them as quickly and cheaply as possible. Since any social issue has a variety of points of view, and there always exists a body of facts which support each and every position, then all solutions are equally viable. Therefore, Dr. Luntz could have paved the way for a more universal acceptance and understanding of civil rights, or he could have just as easily put forth and sold the views of the oppressors.