In very similar percentages by gender, some 82% of readers still prefer curling up with an old fashioned book rather than reading one via the use of any type of electronic reader. Not surprisingly, younger readers seem to be more open to reading books in new formats (13% of those under 30, compared to 6% of those over 65).Even with all of those statistics the poll doesn't address a question that I always find interesting. What percentage of people are reading today on a regular basis? I've seen statements such as 10% of the population buys 99% of the books sold in this country (percentages are made-up ones I threw in but they are fairly close to what I remember hearing) and that always helps me to understand how tough the book-selling business really is.
Most bookstore customers arrive with a specific title in mind, but some 77% of them say that they make unplanned for purchases at least some of the time.
When it comes to which book they want to read next, 60% say that they are influenced by suggestions from friends and families and 49% admit to being influenced by book reviews.
Judging a book by its cover is something that 66% of those under 30 and 34% of those over 65 admit to doing.
It is important for authors to hit a reader's "favorite list" because 89% say that they make a special effort to find new books by their favorite authors.
The majority of readers read one book at a time but 40% say that they read 2-4 books at once and 3% claim to do the same with more than 4 books.
Only 19% say that they borrow most of the books they read from a public library and, in a bit of good news for bookstores, 78% say that they own most of the books they read.
More than half of those polled, 57%, say that they return a book to their shelves after reading it but 20% pass them on to family or friends, 14% give them away to others, and 3% admit to selling them.
39% of respondents say that they buy 1-5 books a year, 26% buy 6-10, 14% buy 11-15 and 22% buy more than 16.
77% of respondents have purchased books online but 76% shop in chain bookstores and 49% at independent bookstores. Younger readers are more likely to purchase books online, at chain stores and at independents, while older readers are more likely than younger ones to buy at the airport, big box retailers, warehouse clubs, supermarkets and drugstores.
Although 23% say they are reading more this year than in the past, 46% say their reading habits haven't changed and 23% say they are reading less because they are spending more time on the internet, watching television and playing computer games.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Georgiana Amistead is an unusual young woman, one of the few women of her time to have received medical training, and someone who has gained the respect and trust of
So obviously neither Patrick nor Georgiana had any reason to expect that
Most of this story is told in the third person but, by having
A Flaw in the Blood is enjoyable historical fiction and the world that Barron describes is one in which readers will gladly lose themselves for a few hours. But, first and foremost, it is a good mystery, one with just the right mixture of fact and fiction to keep its readers guessing and turning pages. I was a bit surprised that I did not feel more empathy for the two main characters than I did, however, and have to blame that on the author’s failure to quite get me to see Georgiana and Patrick, much less the villain chasing them, as real people.
Rated at: 3.5
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The story comes from the website of radio station KCBS:
BART has become the first transit system in the country to make library books available to commuters.Wouldn't it be great to see similar programs all across the country?
Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover became the first to use the kiosk at the Pittsburg-Bay Point BART station, swiping a library card in order to choose from 400 books stored in the machine.
The Bay Area program is modeled after similar ones in Europe. "A lot of people, particularly in East County, have a long commute. They drive to the BART station here and take BART into wherever it is they go to work and so we wanted them to be able to pick up a book on their way and not have to worry about getting to the library, you know, during its open hours," explained one librarian who was on hand for the unveiling of the kiosk.
Once finished, readers simply return the books to the BART book kiosk.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
CNN.com has the details that were missing from the blogger's piece, so this must be for real:
Police in Israel are investigating the burning of hundreds of New Testaments in a city near Tel Aviv, an incident that has alarmed advocates of religious freedom.This is just sad...in so many ways.
Investigators plan to review photographs and footage showing "a fairly large" number of New Testaments being torched this month in the city of Or-Yehuda, a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said Wednesday.
News accounts in Israel have quoted Uzi Aharon, the deputy mayor of Or-Yehuda, as saying he organized students who burned several hundred copies of the New Testament. The deputy mayor gave interviews to Israeli radio and television stations after word of the incident surfaced about two weeks ago.
Soon he was talking with Russian, Italian and French television stations, "explaining to their highly offended audiences back home how he had not meant for the Bibles to be burned, and trying to undo the damage caused by the news (and photographs) of Jews burning New Testaments," The Jerusalem Post reported.
Aharon told CNN on Wednesday that he collected New Testaments and other "Messianic propaganda" that had been handed out in the city but that he did not plan or organize a burning. Instead, he said, three teenagers set fire to a pile of New Testaments while he was not present. Once he learned what was going on, he said, he stopped the burning.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Yasuo Saito, who became one of
Margaret Roberts, one of the FBI’s most successful female agents ever, has reached the point in late 1998 of being considered for the agency’s top spot, a mixed blessing because of the personal embarrassment resulting from the media investigation into her past and qualifications for the job. Roberts, hoping to relieve some of the tremendous stress she is under, looks to a few days in Hawaii as the way to go but finds herself there when an unusual crime makes headlines around the world: a body has been found on the U.S.S. Arizona memorial with bloody footprints leading away from it. Because of the location of the crime scene, the FBI assumes jurisdiction over the investigation and Roberts is immediately in the thick of things.
Clouds Over Mountains is an intriguing mystery, one that keeps the reader guessing for a while, but its real strength is that it is a strong character-driven mystery and not just a simple whodunit. Yasuo Saito is old-school when it comes to issues of personal honor and he has struggled for most of his life to reconcile himself to a decision that he made during the war. Through Saito’s efforts to explain the life that he has lived for the last five decades, the reader is taken inside a pre-World War II Japanese society very different from the modern
Clouds Over Mountains is about family loyalties, patriotism, personal honor and shame, and desire for atonement. As in the best fiction of this type, history is simply the backdrop used to share the lessons learned by those who were there to experience it. This one took me to a world I was not at all familiar with, and I’m glad I made the trip.
Rated at: 4.0
Monday, May 26, 2008
I suspect that many of us will see ourselves in what Rose Albano-Risso describes of her own book buying history in today's Manteca Bulletin, of which she is city editor. I know, personally, that I have converted many of life's little, unexpected windfalls into a stack of new books. Have you?
I don't remember exactly how my parents received the news when they found out I didn't go to my graduation formal event and that I bought a dictionary instead....
But through the years, I've done the same thing. Some people, like my sister, have wanderlust. I've always had a love affair with books - still do.
Monetary gifts received for birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions provided opportunities to purchase books in my constantly growing must-read list while making sure those acquisitions were annotated accordingly on the frontispiece as to what that book was in celebration of and who made its addition to my private library possible.
This Memorial Day weekend, I had an opportunity to hit Barnes and Noble in Fremont and add a few more to my reading pile without feeling guilty about whether I should have been utilizing my money for more basic necessities such as gas for my trusty old KIA. I picked up a copy of "Einstein: His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson, a book I've always wanted to get my hands on. Three Asian American studies paperbacks. Barack Obama's "Dreams From My Father" which I was curious to read since reading the Time magazine cover story about his enigmatic late mother. Eudora Welty's autobiography. And a light-hearted book about nuns just for simple entertainment.I love Rose's idea of noting in each book the details of the specific occasion and donor making its acquisition possible. It's a little late in life for me to start something like that but I do wish I had had the imagination to do it a long time back.
From whom do I owe this recent book shopping spree? Uncle Sam's gift, if one can call it that. More commonly known as the economic stimulus check.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The day was capped off for us by a Saturday night 40th wedding anniversary party for some friends of ours for which an amazing Cajun band was booked. It was a real treat to watch these guys do their magic and to see just how alive Cajun music still is. The band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, played many of the old traditional Cajun songs that I've heard all my life and they did it with great flare. Their driving beat had the dance floor pretty much filled all night long and the event turned into one very fine celebration of a marriage that is beginning its fifth decade.
Oh, and by the way, Lost Bayou Ramblers, was nominated for a Grammy this year and, although they didn't win the thing, it must have been the experience of a lifetime for them.
For those unfamiliar with Cajun music, this is typical of the sound and it's the kind of thing that had people dancing all night long...as usual when a Cajun band is in the building.
This picture was taken at the Grammy Awards show in February.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Sadly, the brothers who had not seen each other in four years only met again because of those battlefield wounds suffered only a few yards from each other. They were carried off the field together, treated by the same doctors, and transferred to the same
Much of Two Brothers is told in dialogue between the Prentiss brothers and Whitman but the dialogue does not consistently ring true. In order to inform his readers of historical facts, Jones at times has the brothers exchange war details that would have been all too obvious to those who lived those events. The reader might also begin to wonder how it was possible that Walt Whitman could recall one young soldier’s history in such great detail considering the hundreds and hundreds of soldiers he came to know during the war.
Two Brothers will serve as a good Civil War history primer for those not already familiar with the war and how it ultimately played out but, as a novel, it would have been stronger had it focused more on the tragedy of brother-against-brother and less on battle details. It does not quite reach the emotional level needed to turn the Prentiss brothers into the real human beings that they were in the 1860s. That said, the novel is an interesting one and it will be welcomed into the personal libraries of many a Civil War buff.
Rated at: 3.0
Thursday, May 22, 2008
In Names on a Map, Benjamin Alire Saenz tells of the Espejo family, one of the thousands of families that did not manage to survive the Viet Nam War intact. Octavio Espejo, who was brought to the
The war in
Gustavo knows that his father expects him to serve if called and that he will be proud to have a son fight for his adopted country. He knows that his mother is terrified at the thought of losing him in this war but that she will not try to influence his decision. He knows that his twin sister can hardly stand the thought of him leaving home and that his young brother, Charlie, loves him more than anything in the world. But he also knows that the ultimate decision is his. Should he allow himself to be drafted? Should he choose prison over induction into the military, or should he cross the border into
Names on a Map consists of short, alternating sections in which Saenz allows each of his main characters to speak in a unique voice and from a personal point-of-view. He often describes the same scene through the eyes of three or four members of the Espejo family, allowing the reader to view all of the cracks and strong points of a family stretched to its breaking point.
Saenz sympathetically describes the motivations and emotions of those on both sides of the Viet Nam War debate and readers who lived through that era are certain to see themselves, their families and their friends in some of his characters. Those too young to have lived that part of American history, will come away with a better understanding of the period and will recognize the parallels to
Rated at: 4.0
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Ian McEwan has written a complicated, multi-layered book that is simply beautiful when considered as a whole. It is a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a love story, a war novel, a mystery and an author’s reflections on the art of fiction writing, all rolled into one. The book is structured in three distinctive sections, each with a very different story to tell, and an epilogue that flashes forward more than 50 years.
Part One, set in 1935, introduces thirteen-year old Briony Tallis, an aspiring novelist even at that age, who has a vivid imagination but a limited understanding of the motivations and emotions of the adults around her. Her imagination takes over when from a distance she witnesses a scene between her older sister, Cecelia, and the charwoman’s son, Robbie, at the fountain in front of the family home. Imagining that Robbie has forced her sister to strip to her underwear and immerse herself in the fountain, Briony is filled with conflicting emotions. As the day goes on, she becomes more and more certain that Robbie is a danger to her sister and is so convinced that he is evil that her imagination leads her to identify him as responsible for a sexual assault that occurs that night.
Part Two picks up the story some five years later in
Part Three focuses on the now eighteen-year old Briony who has moved to
Finally, there is the epilogue set in 1999 in which Briony, now a respected elderly novelist joins family to celebrate her seventy-seventh birthday, a section of the book in which McEwan has stashed one final surprise for his readers. This is an ending that readers will likely react to differently, some in surprise, some in admiration, and others in frustration and even a little anger.
Atonement paints a vivid picture of pre-war
I may have gotten there late but this is one party I’m happy I didn’t miss.
Rated at: 5.0
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I wonder if anything even remotely resembling this British news story ever occurs at the Goodwill or other charity shops in this country. Somehow, I doubt it. This is from The Press Association and describes some of the rare books donated to one particular charity shop chain in the U.K.
Rare books donated to Oxfam shops, including a first edition by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is due to be auctioned....
The star item going under the hammer in Oxford is Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study In Scarlet, which is expected to fetch £7,000 to £9,000.
It was discovered inside a book called Samuel Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887 by two volunteers at an Oxfam shop in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Other lots at the Bonhams auction include first editions of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Sons And Lovers by DH Lawrence, CS Lewis' The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader and JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Simon Roberts of the books, maps and manuscript department at Bonhams, added: "It is extraordinary what emerges from these Oxfam shops. It is a snapshot of what people have read and collected over the past century.No kidding.
"Some of these books have been handed in with little knowledge of their value."
Monday, May 19, 2008
NPR has an article about debut novelists who are using websites to interact with readers and add to the story they've told in their books. Both of the imaginative sites highlighted in the article offer enough fun to entice those who have already read the novels and those who may be thinking about reading them into making return visits.
Avideh Bashirrad, deputy director of marketing at Random House, says that a book Web site has to be dynamic and attractive and should deliver information that isn't in the book.Marisha Pessl has a site for Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Charles Bock has one for Beautiful Children. I haven't read Beautiful Children but enjoyed wandering around the site so it must be working. As for Calamity Physics, I didn't take to the book at all and really had to work to finish it but the website was lots of fun. It's starting to look as if authors are definitely going to have to put a webmaster on the payroll in order to keep up in the changing world of publishing.
"A letter from the author, for instance, directly to the readers, or even an invitation to e-mail the author directly, that kind of thing is really important to readers," says Bashirrad. "To be able to reach out to them makes readers feel really special and also builds loyalty."
The article sidebar also has these book website links:
Mergers and Acquisitions - Dana Vachon
Last Last Chance - Fiona Maazel
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Here's just a sample of some of the people I saw. Despite what lots of people think, there are some young country singers out there who are still singing in the traditional style. And we love them in Texas.
Amber Digby and Justin Trevino on a duet they did today (this video is a couple of years old, I think)
Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers - this was actually recorded only a few hours ago
Tony Booth (shown here at Blanco's, a Houston honky tonk I've been known to frequent)
Others performing this weekend included Fort Worth's Jake Hooker & the Outsiders, Wayne "The Animal" Turner (recently retired from a 28-year stint with Hank William Jr.'s band) and Country Jim & His All-Stars who do some great old Bob Wills-style music.
It will be back to books the rest of the week...just wanted to record this here for my own record.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The video runs for about 53 minutes but, if you can spare that much time it, is fun and interesting.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
How in the world can anyone read that many non-fiction books in the time required? Should judges be expected to read all the candidates cover-to-cover? I find it hard to believe that's possible.
Claire's comments are interesting, as are some of the responses she's received.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
"This is the second golden age for young-adult books," says David Levithan, an acclaimed author of several young-adult novels ("Wide Awake," "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist") and executive editorial director at Scholastic Inc., the world's largest publisher and distributor of books for kids and teens. In just the past few years, Scholastic and many other publishers of young-adult (also known as YA) fiction have seen "amazing success," says Levithan, who calls this the "most exciting time for young-adult literature since the late 1960s and 1970s when 'The Chocolate War' [by Robert Cormier] and 'Forever' [by Judy Blume] were published."This is an interesting three-page article; read the whole thing via the link, if you're interested.
Levithan and others cite several reasons for this perfect storm for teen lit, the most obvious two being the increasing sophistication and emotional maturity of teenagers and the accompanying new freedom for writers in the genre to explore virtually any subject. Another is that bookstores and libraries are finally recognizing this niche and separating teen books from children's books. "Teenagers don't want to walk past the Curious George books to get to their books.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The story is presented as a true account, first-person narrative in which Smith accompanied Bluegrass great Bill Monroe on a trip to the White House. Monroe performed and received an honor from former President Bill Clinton. Smith maintains she was not present for the event, and that the only person who was with Monroe on the trip was his agent, Tony Conway.Either way, it has the makings of a fine tale.
Conway argues the story itself is incorrect. The trip Monroe took as described in "He Always Knew Who He Was" actually took place in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was President. In today’s Tennessean.com story, Conway said, "I think this guy (Hicks) had heard the story at some point in his life and just kind of embellished it from there. He might have heard it four or five times from different sources, but he got the story wrong."
Hicks and his publisher, Center Street, will make corrections to future printings of the book and current electronic copies. Said Hicks, "I regret it and I take full responsibility for it. It turns out that the story's point of view isn't correct. It's a story I have told personally for many years, and I was wrong."
Good Time is jam-packed with solid country music and, as usual for an Alan Jackson album, the songs will appeal to a wide audience. There are love ballads for the ladies, a drinking song or two for the guys, some autobiographical songs, and lots of Alan Jackson humor on display.
Alan shares some of his own story on “Small Town Southern Man,” the first single from the album, a song in which he pays tribute to his father, and on “1976” in which he describes some of the notable highlights of 1976, the year he met his wife at the local Dairy Queen. One suspects that the lady has a sense of humor after listening to “Nothing Left to Do,” Alan’s description of “one night in the life” in which he tells us that there’s “nothing left to do now that we’ve done it.”
Other examples of Jackson’s humorous touch are “I Still Like Bologna,” in which he admits to enjoying plenty about the digital age but says that he’s not ready yet to give up all of life’s simple pleasures and “If Jesus Walked the World Today,” in which he imagines that when Jesus comes back it will be as a hillbilly.
“If You Want to Make Me Happy,” a traditional honky tonk song, kicks off with a fiddle and closes with a steel guitar. What more can a country fan ask for? How about a hook that advises, “If you want to make me happy, pour me bourbon on the rocks and play every sad song on the jukebox.” Does it get any better than that, country fans?
Good Time includes a love song duet with the talented Martina McBride, “Never Loved Before,” that may be destined to be a single at some point. It is just one of at least half a dozen love songs on the album, some of which are mid-to-up-tempo songs that even the guys will enjoy.
Alan Jackson fans will love this album…and, with seventeen songs on it, Alan is offering us a real bargain. Buy this album. You won’t be sorry. It’s not a perfect album, but it is, for the most part, real country music.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Amateur psychoanalysis aside, The Bush Tragedy is an interesting biography of George W. Bush primarily because of the amount of time and research spent on the
George H.W. Bush, by all outward appearances and temperament, is very much a Bush as he demonstrated during his four years in office, a period during which he was usually cautious, open to counsel and not afraid to change his mind. George W. Bush, on the other hand, seems to have more the personality of a
Weisberg covers all of the main players in the Bush administration and ably illustrates the ways that men like Cheney, Rumsfeld and other neoconservatives have been able to influence George W. Bush to attain their own goals. Others, such as Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell, come across as weaker characters that either worked to stay on Bush’s good side or found themselves actually conforming their own core beliefs to fit those of the President. Of all the main players, Powell seems to be the one to have been most isolated and taken into the inner circle only when he was needed for some specific task.
The Bush Tragedy has much to offer despite its overdependence on psychobabble and Shakespeare to explain the mind of George W. Bush. Weisberg’s theories may be interesting, but they are only theories, and the real meat of his book is found in its biographical details and its look at the inner-workings of the Bush White House. There is much there that will be new to casual followers of political history and that makes the book a worthwhile one.Rated at: 3.0
Sunday, May 11, 2008
But while the names and works of many of the targeted authors are still popular today, others like German writers Maria Leitner and Georg Hermann have virtually been forgotten....
This shows that in some ways the book burning had a long-term effect, according to Olaf Zimmermann, managing director of the German Council of Culture.
"Yes, it's disgraceful, but the sad fact is that many authors whose books landed on the bonfires have faded into obscurity," he said.
Today an underground memorial marks the spot on what is now August Bebel Platz. Conceived as an "empty library," visitors can view it through a glass window built into the pavement.I've always been struck by the fact that, as the article mentions, the "burn list" was compiled by students who very aggressively worked to purge public and private libraries of the books before the burnings finally took place. It is good to mark this kind of anniversary, I think, in order to remind ourselves that mass hysteria is never that far away from sweeping the world up into some kind of new craziness that we will regret as soon as the smoke clears (pun intended). After all, this was only 75 years ago, the blink of an eye, really.
"It is the right monument in the right place," according to Klaus Staeke, president of the Academy of Arts.
Records show that at least 35,000 books were burned in 22 cities between May and the end of August 1933 in an event unseen since the Middle Ages.
In Berlin, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels delivered a midnight speech in which he said: "The era of Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. The soul of the German people can express itself again."
Friday, May 09, 2008
The title of the book refers to its unnamed main character, a ghostwriter who has made a pretty good living writing “memoirs” for celebrities and sports figures that are incapable of writing their own books. Despite all of his experience in the field, however, our Ghost has never tried his hand at writing a political memoir until lured to do so by the big money he is offered to complete a manuscript for a former British prime minister.
The Ghost knows that the author of the manuscript he is replacing drowned near
Our Ghost wonders for a time if he is being paranoid about the potential personal dangers involved with the project but, as he gets farther and farther into his research, finds that paranoia could be the least of his problems.
Harris has basically written an anti-Tony Blair novel with The Ghost although some of the plot elements are so farfetched that it is easy to forget the similarities between Blaire and Adam Lange. One gets the feeling that Harris is making some legitimate political points in the novel but that they are a bit obscured by the envelope in which they are delivered. The Ghost would have been more effective with a few less of the “Mission Impossible” elements to distract from its political message. The impact of the novel is also lessened to some extent because Adam Lange and the Ghost are surrounded by several stereotypically clichéd characters, an element that made it difficult for the novel to build to the level of tenseness that it deserved.
Readers should be warned not to read the last pages of the book before they work their way there naturally because Harris has saved a little surprise for them that he throws in at the very end. The audio version of The Ghost was perfect for a week’s worth of my daily commuting but I am not convinced that I would have enjoyed the written version as much as I did the excellently narrated audio book.
Rated at: 3.0
Thursday, May 08, 2008
1) Life of Pi by Yann Martel (12.4%)I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read a single one of these although I own Life of Pi, Possession, and The Blind Assassin. I even held a copy of Disgrace in my hands this morning and could have had the hard cover copy for all of $2 but put it back on the shelf because I found my one Coetzee reading experience to be such a distasteful one. Life of Pi is in my TBR stack at the moment but the other two have been hiding out somewhere on my bookshelves for a long, long time.
2) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (10.5%)
3) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (8.8%)
4) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (8.5%)
5) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (6.9%)
6) The Bone People by Keri Hulme (5.5%)
7) Possession by AS Byatt (5.4%)
8) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (5.2%)
9) Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (4%)
10) The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (3.3%)
I found the list interesting...but humbling, as usual.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Among the album’s strongest cuts are five gospel tunes, including an acappella performance of “Don’t You Want to Go to Heaven When You Die,” sung in four-part harmony and guaranteed to make you hold your breath as the lyrics seem to come faster and faster and get you wondering when the singers are going to run out of breath themselves. “By the Mark,” a song that should become part of every Dailey & Vincent performance if it’s not already, gives Jamie Dailey the chance to demonstrate that superb high tenor of his and is sure to be an album favorite.
The traditional bluegrass sound is well represented by standout songs such as “
This is a first class album debut but that should not be surprising considering the decades of musical experience that Dailey and Vincent already have under their belts. The guys have surrounded themselves with some fine musicians and promise to be just as good on stage as they are on this recording.
Dailey & Vincent doing "By the Mark" - listen to the chorus for Jamie's wonderful high tenor sound (imagine this song with the proper amount of bass sound it has in the real world)
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I love links like this one listing recent Edgar Award winners and nominees, lists that are informative while, at the same time, making it so easy for me to spend more of my book budget, of course. Fans of mysteries, crime fiction, "fact crime," and biographies about writers of the genres will love this list.
The link covers the years 2002-2008 but there is a second link for the years 1954-2001.
Now I'm off to do some shopping...
Monday, May 05, 2008
Jack Taylor has never been what anyone would call a social success. He has few friends, no long term relationship, and very little real desire for either. And now that his mother is dead, not that his relationship with her was ever a very healthy one, he has no family. It says a lot about the man that the closest relationship in the world that he has is a love/hate thing that he has going with Ridge, a lesbian member of the Guard, a relationship that has gone on for a long time with neither of them ever expressing much in the way of feelings for the other. Sadly, each of them seems to feel the relationship to be more of an inherited obligation than a choice.
As Cross opens, Jack is still blaming himself for the accidental death of a little girl, something that understandably killed his long friendship with the child’s parents. To make matters worse, the young man Jack had come to love almost as a surrogate son after reluctantly taking him on as an investigative partner, is still in a coma after taking a bullet that Jack believes was actually intended for him instead. It is little wonder that most of Jack’s waking hours are spent in a constant struggle with himself to avoid falling off the wagon again. He knows that he may have already used up the last “recovery” he had in him and that if he gives into the bottle he may never be sober again.
Things are so bad, in fact, that Jack is strongly considering abandoning his beloved Galway in favor of a move to
Jack Taylor is indeed a haunted man. His problem is that he knows himself well enough to understand that he has no one to blame but himself for all the failed relationships in his past. But recognizing one’s problems is the easy part; doing something about them is a bit harder.
Ken Bruen novels are about human nature as much as they are about criminals and their crimes. Bruen’s real story, one that continues from book-to-book, is about the evolution of Jack Taylor, a man who has been physically and mentally beaten up by life itself. None of us wants to be Jack Taylor but we surely cannot help but be fascinated by the man.
Readers new to the work of Ken Bruen would do well to read the Jack Taylor books in the order in which they were written because Jack’s story is a complicated one and in order to really appreciate the struggles of a man like him it is best to understand how he got to be the man he is today.
I am already looking forward to the seventh in the series but I almost wish I were just discovering the books and that I had the first six sitting in front of me ready for a marathon reading experience. They are just that good.
Rated at: 4.5
Previously Reviewed "Jack Taylor" Books:
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Sue Miller’s The World Below reminds us that even those closest to us had their own dreams and that those dreams, especially if they did not come true, may be among the secrets that they choose, for whatever reasons, not to share with us.
Catherine Hubbard, fifty-two years old and twice divorced, is certainly not living the life she planned for herself. So when, after the death of their aunt, Catherine and her brother inherit their grandmother’s small Vermont house she decides to leave San Francisco to explore the possibility of creating a new life there for herself. She is disappointed to find that the house has been modernized to the extent that it barely resembles the home she so fondly remembers from the teenage years she spent there after her mother’s suicide but she tries to settle-in anyway.
While exploring the attic, Catherine is happy to find some of the old pieces that she remembers so well from her days living with her grandparents. But her luckiest find was an old trunk filled with clothing that her grandmother wore as a young woman because under the clothing were several volumes of her grandmother’s diary. As Catherine studied the books, and became familiar with her grandmother’s writing style, she started to read between the lines and gained a whole new appreciation for the woman with whom she had so much in common.
Catherine knew that Georgia, her grandmother, had been sent to a sanatorium as a teenager to be treated for tuberculosis but she would discover just how drastically that short period of time shaped the rest of her grandmother’s life. As she pieced together her grandmother’s “real” life, Catherine found herself reviewing her own life experiences as she tried to decide whether or not to make
The World Below explores exactly that, the world beneath the surface of the one Catherine assumed she already understood and, much as she was surprised on the day she spotted a sunken town beneath the surface of the lake she was fishing with her grandfather, the details she discovered about her grandmother were unexpected, but comforting. Sue Miller does a remarkable job alternating between the lives of Catherine and Georgia and creates two very different worlds in the process, one shaped by modern mores and attitudes, the other a very colorful rendering of the peculiar society that developed within the tubercular sanatoriums of the early twentieth century, a closed society in which those who feared they were doomed were eager to taste all that life had to offer before death came for them.
Ultimately, The World Below is the story of two strong women, each having to deal with what life throws at them, and doing it well. These women, survivors both, may not be happy with all of life’s “details” but neither of them is afraid of life.
We should all be so successful.
Rated at: 4.0
Friday, May 02, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Sam Jones is a fairly typical
Sam lives alone with his mother who is only sixteen years older than him and who, at times, treats him more like a friend than a son. But little could he imagine when he reluctantly agreed to accompany his mother to a party to meet her friend’s teenaged daughter, that his life was about to change forever. As his mother promised, Alicia was indeed a beauty, and best of all she seemed as attracted to Sam as he was to her. That was the good news – and the bad news – because, almost before he knew what happened, Sam’s new girlfriend was pregnant and determined to keep her baby.
That is where the story really begins and, despite its serious subject, Hornby, in the voice of young Sam Jones tells it with the usual combination of humor and insights into human nature that his readers have come to expect from him. Sam’s immediate reaction to run for his life landed him in nearby
Novels about teenage pregnancies are not uncommon, of course, but Slam is one of the few such novels that explore the problem almost strictly from the male’s point-of-view. As such, the novel will likely appeal more to young male readers than to young females but Hornby makes his points in a way that should appeal to both sexes.
Early on, for instance, Sam finds it difficult to understand why many young girls find the idea of having a baby of their own so appealing: “There were a couple of young mums at my school, and they acted like a baby was an iPod or a new mobile or something, some kind of gadget that they wanted to show off. There are many differences between a baby and an iPod. And one of the biggest differences is no one’s going to mug you for your baby. You don’t have to keep your baby in your pocket if you’re on the bus late at night. And if you think about it, that must tell you something, because people will mug you for anything worth having…”
And, when his relationship with Alicia was still new and going a whole day without seeing her was akin to “torture” for him, Sam offers his own thoughts on the nature of torture: “…I will never join the army, by the way. I would really, really hate to be tortured. I’m not saying that people who join the army would like to be tortured. But they must have thought about it, right? So they must have decided it wouldn’t be as bad as other things, like being on the dole, or working in an office. For me, working in an office would be better than being tortured. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be happy doing a boring job, like photocopying a piece of paper over and over again, every single day, until I died. But on the whole I’d be happier doing that than having cigarettes put out in my eye. (What I’m hoping is those aren’t my choices.)”
This is vintage Nick Hornby disguised as a Young Adult novel. If you are already a fan, don’t be scared away by the YA tag.
Rated at: 3.5