June 13, 2014

Reading, Writing and Reviewing

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Zounds! I’ve been reading like crazy but haven’t written a review in quite a while. Here are some capsule reviews, highlights from the past two months. All links are to Amazon.

Alex Berenson’s The Night Ranger

I discovered Alex Berenson a few years ago with his debut novel, The Faithful Spy and then The Silent Man. I think he’s taken a top slot in international espionage thrillers with his compelling character, John Wells, who is far more interesting than the stick-figure Jason Bourne character in the post-Ludlum series. Berenson creates scenes you can see in your mind’s eye and believable characters and situations. I also respect the fact that he answers every single email he receives.

Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

Breakout novelist Karen Russell knocked our literary socks off a few years back with Swamplandia with a distinctly American touch of Marquez fabulousness.

Sleep Donation doesn’t rise to such mirthful heights. What begins as a Kafka-like allegory soon dissolves into a maudlin mashup as one plods along with the main character, Trish Edgewater, all the while cringing over what will happen to Baby A. Like a thickening at the gut, the more one reads the more difficult it becomes to read.

The Cyclist by Viken Berberian

Do you have a bookshelf full of books you have yet to read? I do. For me, that’s a good thing, because it allows me to select something that suits my taste at the moment. I don’t always read a book when I first buy it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. Such is the case with The Cyclist. It’s been waiting a decade for my eyes, and it was worth the wait. I’d thought it was more about cycling – although it is – but the plot turns on the animosity between Israelis and Muslims – an eye for a bunch of eyes, to paraphrase the unnamed narrator. He is alternately a gourmand and a gourmet, so the story of his becoming a bicycle-riding suicide bomber is laced with references [and analogies] to Middle East foods – a spicy story made even more delectable by the loving but precarious relationship with his girlfriend. Curiously, I finished the book last night and this morning saw a review of a new movie, “The Policeman”, with a plot extremely similar to The Cyclist.

John Sandford’s Silken Prey

I’ve read every single Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers and Kidd novel by Sandford and look forward to being entertained by many more of his stories. In fact, I savor each one and linger as long as I can in its pages, the stories are so good. There is personality in them. And you can count on a new hardcover and paperback upon the eve of each summer to keep you on the beach [or, in our case in New England, curled up watching the rain fall outside].

The Boom by Russell Gold

You may be aware of the controversial Shale Revolution in America. Controversial because environmentalists think it’s a bad thing to continue drilling for oil and gas, while the proponents argue that our dependence for them both is a long way away from being overtaken with “green” energy resources. That’s the emotional aspect of the argument. The rational argument can be found in the pages of The Boom, which was written by Russell Gold, the Wall Street Journal‘s senior energy reporter. This is at once a personal as well as a factual narrative, one created as a result of a decade of work by the author. You will not close this book without a broader perspective and a better informed opinion.

Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett

This Kindle book was free, but what a surprise: it is extremely well written, interesting, and introduces a New York guy named Jeff Resnick who has a life-changing incident that leads him into becoming a private investigator. Turns out it’s the first book in the series, hence the giveaway to lure the reader into purchasing subsequent novels in the series. Sure worked with me.

Speaking of working, through an obscure reference in the New York Times which I can’t remember just now, I’m currently reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold, published in 1964, a bizarre work even by science-fiction standards. A guy named Farnham builds an underground  bomb shelter, which he ends up having to use to shelter his extended family. A couple of nukes later, they emerge to find they are on another planet. Or the earth in another time. Or perhaps a parallel earth in another dimensions??? A review to follow on what promises to be a strange outcome.

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