Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning (2006)

This was on the Lost Treasures shelf at my audio bookstore and since it was about a bookwoman, I just had to pick it up. At first I was distracted by the reader's voice, as he has done some of my favorite David Baldacci books, and it took a while to get into his new rough and tumble character Cliff Janeway. Janeway is a former cop, who is now running a used bookstore and is a specialist in old and rare books. He is called out to Idaho Falls to look at a very special private collection. Idaho Falls! I was just there this summer, proud to spend my one night in Idaho, the last state of the lower 48 that I had not yet visited. So I could visualize the farms, the Snake River. The main thing I remember was that it was very arid as I came in from the north, and then all of a sudden it became very green - irrigated by the Snake River. It wasn't clear if the horse pastures on the farm in the book somehow got enough water on their own or needed some irrigation.

I just looked up Cliff Janeway books in WorldCat - there are a whole slew of them, so I have another series to read.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Open Season by C.J. Box (2001)

When I was visiting a small library in Wyoming (see my blog post on Rural libraries in the West), which had a specially embossed shelf of leather bound Louis L'Amour books, I asked who was considered a contemporary writer of Westerns. Back in the day when I had a small bookstore, I had a certain part of my rural Ohio population interested in Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey and the likes. I read a few and realized they were the male version of romance novels with lots of action, mystery, outlaws, good guys, bad guys, and a few sexy women thrown in to boot. The man using the library computer suggested C.J. Box first. The librarian agreed. They mentioned a few more, including Tony Hillerman, whose books I read before I started this blog.

Open Season is the first Joe Pickett novel and Joe Pickett, instead of being a sheriff, is a game warden with a great supporting wife and two lovely young daughters. He is a family man, so no sexy ladies for him, but some of his more unsavory colleagues go for romps between the sheets. I had put a slip of paper in one place, where Box does a great job of describing the mentality of certain men and put these words in the mouth of one of the bad guys: "Men are promiscuous. ... We try to pretend otherwise, but deep down we know it's true. We wake up with hard-ons and don't really care who's next to us." The story has the usual mystery, murder, corrupt officials, greed, big bad oil companies, etc. There are quotes from and about endangered species legislation at the beginning of sections of the book, so obviously endangered species are an important piece of the story.

The setting again played an important role in my enjoyment of the book, and this one was set at the foot of the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming, an area I know fairly well, as I have visited my cousin there numerous times. Twelve Sleep County is fictional, but there really is a Ten Sleep, where a friend of mine recently had car trouble, and the Big Horn mountains are really there, and Billings, MT is the closest big city. So I could visualize Joe Pickett doing his job, traveling around the area, sometimes on horseback. The first time I camped out on my cousin's property, before he had even moved out there, a man came riding up to me on a horse.

I am aware that there are more Joe Pickett books, but I have too many other books stacked up to read, so I will let this author go for now, but when I head out West, I might pick up another.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Montana by Norma Tirrell (2006)

Time to finish describing the Montana books I read. This is actually a Montana guide book, but it was suggested by my friend that moved to Montana, when I asked her to suggest something that would give me a sense of the state. As a guide book, I did not read the whole thing, but read the first hundred or so pages that gave me an introduction to the land an people of Montana, the history, something about the wildlife, recreation, arts and old west customs like rodeos. I got a feel for the state, which is just what I wanted, before I traveled into those vast big sky spaces. After the introduction,  I would read up on what I should see in each region that I visited. there is a huge difference between open country, mountains, and places like Bitterroot Valley around Missoula. I read the 2006 6th edition of this book.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (2013)

I have read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini, so I knew I wanted to read this, but was a bit reluctant, as the Thousand Splendid Suns was such a difficult read in the terms of the brutality suffered by women. Luckily, this was still an intense story, but less brutal. At one point the teller of the story says that enough has been written about the war in Afghanistan, that he will not repeat that, only as far as it affected the character himself, and even then that time period was skipped over quickly.

This is a story of deep connections between people. It starts out with brother and sister are separated when they are young, the sister being sold off to a childless couple in Kabul. We slowly hear the stories of the people around these two siblings - the uncle who brings the girl to the couple and serves the couple. After the man suffers a stroke and the wife and girl move to Paris, the uncle continues to care for the man until his death. During the war much of the splendor of the home is stolen, but later a group of international doctors rent the place. We hear the story of the woman and her adopted daughter in Paris. We hear the story of one of the doctors from Greece. This story seemed most out of place when I started reading it, but as the author pulled me into this man's story, it just reminded me how the fates of people from around the world get intertwined. We see what happens to the small village where the brother and sister grew up - interestingly from a child's viewpoint. We hear of the brother's fate in San Francisco from his daughter, though there were references to the brother's Afghan restaurant before we got his story.

It is an art to tell a coherent story from so many voices, each moving the story forward piece by piece. The fact that Hosseini could speak on behalf of so many characters of all ages, of both genders, from various cultures, even throwing in a gay character in the Afghan world, speaks volumes of his skill as a writer. Since I "read" the audio version, it too was interesting, as  it was read by various voices - both male and female with various levels of foreign accents, which also brought the story to realistic life.

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fford (2003)

This is the second Thursday Next book and I should have reviewed it as soon as I finished reading it, but life got busy. There are way too many details I have already forgotten, which make these books so interesting. These books are intense to read, as you have to pay attention - they are full of literary references, funny names and the alternate world is just off enough. You feel you are in your own time and space, and then some major detail in life is so different, like mammoths still walking the earth, or the ability to travel to China through the earth's core in a matter of hours. And of course the Literary Division of the government which has to keep constant vigil that book characters act as they are supposed to.

I believe I said that things seemed to wrap up too neatly at the end of the first Thursday Next book. Well they all got unraveled. Her new husband was "time slipped" so that only she remembers that he existed as an adult, and she has to go into Poe's "Raven" to retrieve a bad guy she left there in the last book in exchange for getting her husband back. She has to figure out how to travel into books, as the machine she used in The Eyre Affair was destroyed. Fun, but intense.

The Hit by David Baldacci (2013)

I am now trying to follow the Will Robie stories by Baldacci. As usual, he does not disappoint. Robie is an assassin for the government and his latest assignment is to get Jessica Reel, a fellow assassin that has started killing other members of their agency. The two of them are at an equal skill level, and though they have been pitted against each other, they end up saving each other's lives. As Robie pursues her, he finds there may be more to the story than he has been told, and that they have a common, larger enemy.

Separation of Power by Vince Flynn (2001)

With the death of author Vince Flynn (at age 47), I want to work my way through most of his books, especially the ones with Mitch Rapp, the
CIA superagent. This one is #5, where Irene Kennedy becomes the director of the CIA, but has enemies in those who don't like her straight forward approach. We have the usual corrupt Washington politicians, who will do anything to get what is in their best interests. 

Rapp has a girlfriend in this book - Anna Riley, a White House reporter. These types really can't have girlfriends, as they can be used against them, plus for the girlfriend it is hard to be with someone who is in constant danger. Rapp ends up working with a former lover living in Italy - freelance assassin Donatella Rahn.

Then they learn that Saddam Hussein is working on developing nuclear weapons in a basement of a hospital, and the only way to deal with this without enormous collateral damage is to send in Mitch Rapp. (read in the summer)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho (2013)

I had to read some reviews to get the right perspective on this one. I was surprised that it was termed a "novel" as it is supposed to be a translation of some old texts found in Accra. I thought it actually was some ancient text that Coelho had found through a scholar friend, as stated in the "introduction." Then I thought he had translated the text to Portugese and now we have it in English. It felt like Kahil Gibran's Prophet, which I was very fond of in high school and maybe college. People were asking questions of a Greek wise man, called a Copt, and he was expounding on love, beauty, war, sex, etc. I was actually in a space where I wanted to hear things like this, but then slowly realized the concepts were way too modern. I recognized pieces from the Bible, but as the review from the Boston Globe pointed out, he quoted many ancient and contemporary wisdoms. So it really was fiction - or Coelho's wisdom put in a fictional setting. But I don't really care. As I said, I needed to hear some of these things at this stage in my life.

The Century narrated by Peter Jennings (1998)

This was technically not a book, but I found it in the audio book store. A great series of CD's recording the major events of the 20th century (up to 1998) with excerpts from recordings of people that shaped the century and of regular people that were there. Some well known writers, film makers and other famous people also comment, with Peter Jennings connecting the quotes with a narration about the century. This reminded me of what I had learned in history, what I had experienced, pulled it all together in a nice overview. It also surprised me with how many things I did not know, things I had not connected myself, especially about the years I lived through myself.