Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb (2016)

There is no way I will keep up with all of Nora Roberts' books as JD Robb or otherwise, but every once in a while I want to dip in to see how Eve Dallas, Lt. of the NYPD and her rich tech savvy husband Roarke are doing. This was a gripping one as people were being picked off by a skilled long range sniper. = Roarke was able to quickly develop a program to pick certain buildings that could fit the criteria for being the nests, or places from which the sniper shot and thus ID the killer. But killer wasn't alone - it was a young apprentice, being guided by a damaged, but skillful mentor.

I guess the theme is nature or nurture. Was this young person born with something innately off, that they could kill for sport, for revenge against the world? Could the mentor have guided the child in a different direction? I like that Eve's work world is always interspersed with some personal, real life events. She is dreading going to her best friend Mavis' daughter's first birthday. But in the end she has bagged the killers and reluctantly attends this party with all those little crawlers she does not understand. But Eve starts watching them and realizing they are fascinating too, that a lot is going on in those little heads. I wonder if this is a step toward her having one of her own.

The story is typical Eve Dallas story, with great police work, lots of teamwork, crafty interviewing, tech solutions, exhaustion, scrapes and bruises on Eve, support from Roarke (keep wondering when he runs all his businesses, but he is superman). I really like that Eve is no nonsense and when Roarke wants to give her a new command central office in their home, he has to give her an extreme girly version that he knows she will hate, before giving her more mellow options from which she can really choose something. I observe that Nora Roberts gets off on describing clothing - crazy clothing from the future (this book is set in 2061). Eve dresses very simply, but you see her reacting against Peabody's colorful coats and clothes and ragging on others too. I guess it also lightens the mood between murders and the heaviness of murder investigations. I also saw a bit of a potential school shooting theme.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (2015)

Translation from German 2016. I had heard of this book and it was on our popular reading shelf. The whole concept was interesting, but not interesting enough to finish the whole book, though I skimmed the rest of the chapters.

I really did not know that trees can communicate with each other, warn each other about predators, help each other by providing nutrients to the weak, and that the massive root structures are responsible for a lot of this. I know I have heard of huge fungi growing underground, and the fungi have an important role in forests, but the roots! I just feel I am constantly fighting with the roots of the many trees on my property, when I try to work on a flower bed - often a solid mass of roots. One of the biggest questions I had while reading this was - how in the world did they measure all this and get the data, as trees function much more slowly than we do - and more slowly than the Ents in Lord of the Rings. Another question I had, and which might have been answered in one of the chapters I did not read - What happens to the roots and fungi when a forest is cleared? Do they just rot away? I assume for a while they provide fertile soil for crops, but then with erosion and decay, it probably is much less so.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2013)

Bought this on the suggestion of a friend for "light" reading as we hung out together in a bookstore. What a roller coaster ride of a thriller! Started it in print, misplaced it, listened to it, and the end couldn't wait, so finished it in print.

While I was reading this, I kept thinking that most of us have a life full of adventures and major life events, but they are not usually told all at once unless one is writing a biography, but it seems that we hear the life story of Scott Murdoch in this one book. Of course his life story is exponentially more exciting than ours. When I was done with the book, I realized the author had threaded every past experience from Scott into the solution or resolution of this story. There seemed to be no loose threads at the end. I liked that the story of how he had learned to sail from his father comes into play at the end. Maybe the art collection could have been played out more, but it did have a resolution of sorts.

The narrator is Scott or Pilgrim or one of many names he used over the years as a special secret agent of the U.S. We meet him at a crime scene in New York, where he has been asked to consult by the NYPD's Ben Bradley. This seemingly unconnected perfect crime, based on a book about crime investigation written by Scott under the name of Jude Garrett, does connect with future events. Here are some of the stories we get:

  • Perfect murder in NYC post 911
  • Scott's childhood Harvard education and recruitment, early career
  • A mole in Moscow
  • Greek drug dealing family acting as money men for Moscow
  • Child visiting an almost forgotten Nazi concentration camp and an image of a woman and her children walking to their death leaves a never to be forgotten impression
  • Words of wisdom from a monk in Thailand
  • Retiring and living in Paris to write book
  • Ben Bradley in 911
  • Ben Bradley discovering Jude Garrett's identity
  • Crazy operation in Bodrum Turkey years ago
  • Wild parties in the ruins of a city partially underwater
  • Investigating the death of a rich American in Bodrum
  • Cumali, the female cop in Bodrum and her cute son
And those are just some of the stories from our hero's life. We get as many from the "bad guy", Zakaria al-Nassouri, but called Saracen throughout the book, a name that means "Arab" and in an older form "nomad." So of course our story is about the great hatred that some Arabs have towards the West, especially the United States. The Saracen's fate is sealed by the beheading of his father in Saudi Arabia. He turns to a very conservative mosque, goes to fight in Afghanistan, changes identities and becomes a doctor and hatches a most awful weapon to destroy America. He is as intuitive and intelligent as Scott and it is fascinating to see his evolution, the factors that contribute to his hatred, the chaos of the Middle East where he can lose himself, the brilliance of his plans. I did like the fact that this book took us to many countries around the globe.

It is strange, maybe even inappropriate, to be reading this book about Middle Eastern terrorist enemies in a time when we are trying to keep calm after our administration spews such inappropriate things against immigrants and non-Americans. I know that most Muslims and Arabs just want peace in the world. But with the lack of respect shown by our leadership, I am afraid that more will become fearful and that fear can turn to hate. I do not know how to combat those groups that teach hatred towards others, other than to stand up for the rights of our immigrants (as were my parents), international students, refugees and welcome them, as they have all helped make our country a better place.