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A Tad Ridiculous.

Last week I caved to the lure of titles I usually avoid. But they called my name (whispered actually) and I checked them both out of the library.  (Disclaimer: What follows is only my opinion.)  They are both selling well and coining money for their authors, but they puzzled me in excess.  Seriously folks.

Dan Brown took four years to research Origin.  For this, he must be given high marks.  I suspect he endured stinging eyes and headaches.  Reading it did this to me.   I own up to liking The DaVinci Code.  I found it clever and fascinating when I read it years back. I think I read The Inferno too, but not the others. Origin, though, has been selling like hotcakes and I thought, “why not”?

All the history-changing action took place – apparently, in one day.  I didn’t realize this until the end and then I was sorry for learning it.

First and foremost: It simply couldn’t have happened in one day for all the action, helicopters, crazy clerics,  overwrought scientists and Robert Langdon, who knows damn near everything.  He also knows everyone, in all echelons and cultures.  You get earth-shattering revelations from a  bizillionaire scientist, you get a murder, you get royalty and his about to be queen, nautch dancer, priests, religious sects and lots of fear and praying.  How can it miss?  (It is not as clever as the DV Code. It works hard at it though (did I mention Bilbao and the Goog).  For me, the star of the book was Barcelona and Gaudi. Just enough Gaudi info to make me want to know more about him.  The rest was silly.  And too long and Dan may write yet another blockbuster – but this was NOT it. Tired and let-down with Origin – but I did read it all.

And there came The Lying Game  (by Ruth Ware of Girl on the Train fame; another one that confused me)  What can I say?  I am not a chick-lit chick.  This is a serious chick book. I can only say it was pages of breastfeeding (in detail) and the slurper had a name that I didn’t like.  It was on almost every page.  Lots of drinking, smoking, cursing, unrequited, maybe incestuous love and a heavy hint of Lesbianism.  The latter simmered along underneath but never was part of the story.  This was a grueling novel.  I felt grueled as I read the last page – where the stars of the dog and pony show all seemed to escape  – with guilt, bloody hands, shame and the well-fed baby.  Also death and destruction.  And, voila, all the storylines to their end.  They could have come sooner.

This is why I do not like to write negative reviews.  But I read them and I thought I would share what I took away.

I also took out more of the Akashi Noir series – these are new ones and I just hope they keep on.   I read the first batch in its entirety and loved every one.  This new round comes as a pleasure and they are covering cities around the world. A lovely way to pick and choose those you like best.  It features various authors – and good wide offering. I see these as great spring reading and the best way to pass the treatment of my improving condition.

Back soon.

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Why Do I Love Thrillers?

Jumped the shark. Swam. Then Jumped Again 

The last few weeks the library has gotten many titles from my hold list and this last one of Jeffrey Deaver’sThe Cutting Edge was the one I started and finished.  (Yes, I am still on the “cure” so reading a lot). Why do I love thrillers? Well, I do like blood and gore but I truly admire and welcome an author who does so much research for authenticity it creates a shared learning experience…with a mystery and forensics and clever criminal activities!!!!

The Cutting Edge – in which, sadly I think, Deaver truly jumped the shark, was so full of information it was like a textbook.  As it so happens I had read two books on the subject he was writing about and had a comfortable understanding of the material.  Then I  was taught to do something I had never known how to do.  Very happy.   As I read found three errors (some fact checker missed them), only a nitpicker would even mention these.  And so many plotlines and minutiae I am exhausted.  However,  the thorough research done by the really good writers, to establish a plotline or a character is such is so much more than just the story.  I learn something in just about everyone..  Not just murder and mayhem and clues – serious information you might never encounter reading other kinds of fiction.  Read The Cutting Edge.  Jumped shark or not – you will love it and learn about things you probably never considered and the ending sort of makes sense.  Sort of.

During this hiatus, (a result of the “cure” – another eight weeks to go)I read all four of James Thompson’s Helsinki series and one called Darling by another Finn.  I thus stayed very chilled out (sorry) and I loved the Thompson’s. Darling was so-so, but much of Scandanoir is still some very fine sleuthing.  And LOTS of detail.

I also have read the latest Yrsa (and if you have not discovered her – she is an Icelandic author of acclaim.)  Start with her first title 2005) and read all the way to this latest one.  This latest I could not put down. It started a new series of detectives.  Her Thora series is wonderful. She is prolific too; a bonus and for fans – She has created two new sleuths: Freya and Huldur in a series – two so far

The latest Helsinki/ Ariel Kafka by Hari Nykanen is waiting to be read. I frankly love Jewish detectives in odd locations. and this detective is in Helsinki.  (We do wander.) He is what I consider one great creation. And it seems there is a five book series of which I have found three. I will look for the first two and be sure to list them.  And if you really want a thriller about Jewish cops and robbers in a strange location; The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.(Warning you will laugh a lot – a knowledge of Yiddish is suggested too).

I tried very hard to read Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth.  The writers chosen are to reimagine Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits and bring them to us as they grow in the author’s mind.  I just could not do it.   If anyone has or does.  Tell us about it.

I am developing a better format for this blog and hope to use it as a template of sorts for “Books” in the future.  More compact and uniformly structured.   Soon and will add a poll.  (it’s a perk from WordPress.)

And. Save money – buy used or better still use your local library.  I have made it a habit and it is (online holds) convenient and free.

See you soon – after I finish two or three books on the bedside table and more of the “cure”.

 

 

 

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Sick Leave: Taking the Cure.

Sick Leave.  I have been reading while dealing with a medical problem but trying to deliver a nice blog post about the reading and not the sick leave.  It will be a while …perhaps until I sit down and write that blog but I am simply on the “cure” and reading  tons to delight anyone who needs a little delight in their life. (I am delighted by both the cure process and the reading).  Lots of India. Just finished Death at the Durbar.   Read it so you can catch up with #2 of the Maharaja series and learn some Indian history easily and enjoyably at the same time.  There is a third promised.  And hopefully more after that. His Highness Sikander Singh is too good a character for only three  titles.

Currently NOT on my bed table: James Joyce, Dostoyevsky or the Brontes.  I am, instead, taking a whodunit tour of Finland with a stack of five Helsinki  detectives;  James Thompson’s Inspector Vaara, Jarko Spila and the new Ariel Kafka.  In between the Finland move  I checked out the new Jonathan Kellerman.  Night Moves and it is way up to snuff so far. Worth the time and he is always – for me – lots of fun.  Reading in spurts Thomas Childers’ new, upsetting and necessary history of The Third Reich (needed info, especially about his transformation from boring whiner to the monster inside him full-blown; especially fascinating is his becoming a full-fledged anti-Semite.  There are entire paragraphs that I have  swear I have heard spoken recently in this country.  They scare me.  And Josephus, The Jew of Rome.  FYI Reading about Roman emperors is a nerve working progress and process.

Puzzled. I have yet to figure out how such a tightly knit group of current writer’s have becomes critics, panel participants and gurus of what we need to read.  Seriously.  And they  live near each other generally.  And how the hell do they get Pulitzers for books that truly seem ordinaire – entertaining some,  but quite run of the mill?  You can offer up your list of your annoyingly over-worshipped literati if you like and if I get any lists, I will then list mine.  Mine rarely adds a name and is short. Yours can be any length.  Also wondering about “Girl” on Train, In Water, At Window, Gone, Remembered and therefore every single imitation is also profitable and mundane for Girls come lately.

Stephen King has a new one just out, not yet in my library and I  am languising on “hold” lists for him and for about 10 other very sought after tomes.

As my best friend said the other day, by way of compliment:  “nobody reads the kind of books you read”.

This post lacks charm and wit – part of the meds, I hope.  Just thought it seemed as if I fell off the planet.  Much as that is tempting,  I’m back and it’s already April and not a drop of rain today.

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Sick Leave.

I have not been up to par recently and while I have been reading – my energy level has been very low.  Nothing serious.  Perhaps age plays a part.  I have read many books and have a list.  Assure you I shall be back soon.  We shall be out of India as intensely and with a  varied list to share.  Accept my apologies and see you soon.

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Why Must There Be A Reader’s Guide?

I realize it may seem that I read books primarily under the categories: India.  And Jews.  Those interest me but it’s not always those I write comments about.  And if it seems that way, I shall widen the scope.

Caveat:  When a book includes a “Reader’s Guide” in the back – my advice is to ignore it.  Pass. Seriously.  Their Q&A’s astonish me.  I tend to avoid groups like the plague, but when it comes to “Reading Groups”, I think Ebola and  Spanish Flu.  Do folks really gather to discuss Oprah’s Book Club selections?  Why?  A lot of folks need Oprah to enhance their lives.  I am not one. And while I really don’t care for Jonathan Franzen after his books   The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion( these he wrote before ).  He is just too adored for reasons I cannot figure out. (Donna Tartt too).  But when he became exercised over the Oprah Seal of Approval –  on the cover of The Connections, I had to approve his ire. I read for pleasure.  I  like to form my own opinions and I find reading a solitary pleasure.

Some of the RG questions beggar belief.  I recently read a novel entitled A Bollywood Affair – a debut by a new voice in India and discovered a bodice ripper writ large (and well writ) that I read in full and wished I hadn’t.  No shade thrown on the author – I just was not prepared.  Neither did I notice the “Reading Group Guide”  mentioned on the back cover.  I promise the book deserved better.  None of the questions would have been sustained in any court. I was about to show you what I meant and could not do it.  All I can say is – dumbed down.  If it’s your drink of choice, by all means, read and respond, but I find they insult many reader’s intelligence.

Tarun J. Tejpal, an author new to me but clearly one who is respected by his readers in India.   The Story of My Assassins just arrived.  The story is true, slightly confusing but what a book.  No helpful glossary and his use of Hindi words and curses did indeed inspire me to look them up.  My own confusion arises from a belief on the author’s part, that the reader has some knowledge of Indian history and politics.  I have more than when I began and caught on to the rhythm as soon as my prior reading recall kicked in.. The event that prompted the book is factual but the layers of the events before and after are woven into a tight fabric set in Haryana, Delhi and other areas of Northern India.  Descriptions of the air in Delhi in previous books have stayed with me and I suspect much coughing and wheezing – and Delhi is not a favorite locale.but this book is a lulu. Political, parochial, authentic and alarming – highly recommended for the story and the writing. Lots of sex, violence, cursing, Hindi and unshuttered windows for closer looks at the India between now and then. (It has been compared to the White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire*;  I find this book far more intricately delivered and much larger in scope.  (Tejpal is also the founder of the Indian news magazine Tehelka.)  It does have a damn reader’s guide but I am not certain why.  I realize however that I must read the Mahabharata and the Gita.  One hopes there are versions for each in the category of “For Idiots”.

Because I have Lubavitchers as close friends and know their daughters from birth to their marriages and children, Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Levine was truly a joy and allowed me to answer questions I would not feel comfortable asking even these women so close to me. Within this community; so many personalities and viewpoints. Much like the six girls of my friend.  I saw each one in the profiles and it added to the pleasure of this book.  Well cited and indexed (I love indices) and within the cites – other titles to explore

Fire and Fury remains infuriating.  And still best in small servings. Looking forward to picking up yet another look at the man In the White House as measured by over two dozen mental health pros. And no, I did not watch the SOTU.

 

Comments welcome.  Share.  Thanks

 

  • *I read Slumdog as “Q&A” before it was renamed
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Pink Cat Ears, Jewish Women, ​and Perhaps, the Times They are Changing​.

I expect that my over the moon adoration of Sujata Massey’s first Perveen Mistry Mystery may not have hit the spot for everyone.  But dammit, she did such a well-researched job on her depiction of 1921 Bombay – the delight for me was in the details.    Now I ‘m watching daily for Amazon to arrive and the library to receive my holds. Meanwhile, I have chosen some sociological and religious titles that intrigued me –  the one below in particular.  This not interest some but the lesson it left with me was a very simple.  “You cannot pray away the gay”.  Nor should you try.  We are born who we are or very close to it.  Love is not restrictive.   Happiness is how you feel when you love someone or something.- if you believe in a deity – you should believe this is true.

I have very close friends who are Lubavitch Jews.  I have known them for almost 35 years and I adore them.  Meals at their house are performance art on so many levels and coupled with spiritual enthusiasm from everyone; each time I go there, I  leave with a very good feeling.  I am Jewish so I am not a fish out of water and this makes a difference as well.  My friends are frum from birth, observant and very open-hearted.   As I border on being a heathen by comparison – I  can and do share things in my world in an exchange of wonderful learning and laughter.

It was this friendship that led me to read Uncovered By Leah Lax, the autobiography of a  Jewish college girl – very confused and part of a very Orthodox Lubavitcher family.   She was also gay.  Her deep and difficult secret. But because there was no way to have an observant life and a woman partner,  she decided she would deny her own sexuality and become the perfect Hasidic wife.

Being an accomplished frum wife is a very taxing job.  It never stops, and the rules are ironclad.  the job of Hasidic women, in their marriages, is (to my thinking) to teach, show, observe, uphold and find joy in these male-dominated and very narrow holy pathways. Her psyche, however, was in a pain so intense and her motives – in her own mind, so confusing it, the story was like reading a captive’s memoir.  The self-doubt, her distant husband, and their 7 children had run her into the ground.  And in the midst of all this tzuris, she says not a word about her long ago female lover and the feelings she does not forget and still pines for.  She has erotic dreams.  She has driven her doubts and anger at her chosen life beneath the surface, but not close enough;  they bubble up often.  Her disillusions and dread appear on every page.  The constant noise of children, the smell of cooking, the repetitive existence of Shabbos – (meant to be the high spot of each week),  the work-intensive holidays, the cleaning and her job (yes, she also works) felt, to me,  like trying to squeeze uranium from a toothpaste tube without causing Armageddon.  It ate at me as I read and what I could clearly feel was her valiant, abiding, faithful adherence to her chosen life; sucking her dry.  She suffers in so many from her feelings and she suffers greatly.

Tangible details: the clothing, the wig, the rigidity, the childbirths and her husband are not left to guesswork.  And eventually, by chance, the happy ending finally arrives and the long struggle she battled, allows her to keep her better self as a Jew, to embrace her sexuality and create a life with her partner and oy, was it a relief.

I suspect this book will speak to many religious women in many diverse communities, not only Orthodox Jewry. It sheds another bright light on a much-needed look at how women in male-dominated societies narrow their vision and the toll it takes. It was a difficult memoir, well written and it spoke to and will continue to speak to the many oppressed and repressed females who are now – perhaps – coming to the front and pointing fingers at a hierarchy that needs a good deal of work. As feminist commentary and cautionary tale – especially in these difficult times, I highly recommend it.

 

I read the “Guru of Love”, set in Nepal and found it fascinating.  Mores and manners I had not often encountered in other South Asian fiction and others, wholly familiar.  Nepal was a new locale but within a religious and politically fragmented country – it continued a thread that is present in so many books from this area.  I liked it.  It plays a timeworn song, but one that keeps playing – even now.

A desire I have had for some time has been to improve my understanding of science, After I failed “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” (sorry Neil – I tried)  I found and ordered two small books that promised to teach me The Periodic Tables (a work of art) and the Cosmos.  I am still hopeless, alas, but I am not finished.  The fact I didn’t catch on to “Astrophysics” ( and I was in no hurry)- chips at my belief it will suddenly all make sense.  But I do love Fibonacci numbers, the Large Hadron Collider, the Boson Higgs and numerous elements I hardly understand must indicate something.  My burning question still exists without an answer though:  If the Universe has an age, began with some sort of event and is going to end – what will be in its place instead?  

These little books are from Quercus and at Daedelus, part of their winter sale.

I would love your comments.  Tell me what you read and share your favorites (and give a hint why).  It’s free and there is no deadline.

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It’s Still January. Isn’t It?

I am back after a too long delay but I am a happy reader.  Very happy.  I will start with the most excellent, simply wonderful new character in the the the many very good, literary mystery series on the shelves.  Sujata Massey of the Rei Shimura series (and you must read all these – I have),  had crept into India a few years back and dazzled me with her two books set in South Asia.  The Sleeping Dictionary is a tour de force that I recommend.  She promised a new mystery series set in 1920’s Bombay, India (my most-loved locale and in my favorite time-frame).  Perveen Mistry (a Parsi –   of a small, but unique and amazing group in that city) appeared on January 9th as the star of The Widows of Malabar Hill.  I was truly transported.  She is at the top of her game on a mesa with lots of room for more.  Brilliant and literary,  Perveen joins Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series to my delight the Sam Wyndham series set in Raj Calcutta by Abir Mukherjee, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh,  the Maharaja series by Arjun Raj Gaind. I am not familiar with Vish Puri – but I know he is another of this exalted group and I am waiting for a title by Tarun Tejal.

I love Bombay.  Love it.  And Widows is so diligently researched and is an example of superb authentic fiction.  I have read it in pieces so it would last longer and I am hoping Massey has taken a deep breath, some time off and has started another one.  She joins several other cherished Bombay novelists, Thrity Umrigar – {read all her books please!!} Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry,  Ardashir Vakil, Vaseem Khan, Shilpa Agarwal and Siddartha Dhangvant Shangvi, just a few on my long list ).  We are experiencing the welcome Indian (Anglo, Canadian, American) entrance into the mystery genre and about time. (I am a serious reader of India – for 20 years – so my enthusiasm is a long time and includes many South Asian authors – just about as prolific a group as the artists of Haiti).  This reading is not limited to fiction either. As an added bonus the Widows has two maps and a glossary.  This book tops my 2018 list so far and while the year stretches ahead – I think the Widows will endure.

Now that I have waxed deliriously about Widows, I must mention Tom Zoellner – whose book on diamonds was so marvelous; but his book Uranium was like a short course on Uranium itself, the atom bomb, yellowcake and the geographical locations of this heavy and very volatile, radioactive element.  It is a very frightening element and subject and has changed our world forever.  I found out, among much reading, that plutonium does not occur in nature but is a by-product of U-235 and that the infamous yellowcake must be weaponized. I also came away with a deep loathing of King Leopold of Belgium and his pimping and pandering of the Congo. As an unexpected benefit, Zoellner’s intensely researched, heavily referenced book relieved me of my continued, and laborious read of American Prometheus.  I am not surprised that J. Robert Oppenheimer died a man with many things on his mind.  I may finish this book eventually, but Uranium answered many questions.  Zoellner’s style is terrific.  It was a subject presented in a most engaging style that was very hard to put down – I think I liked it even better than The Heartless Stone.

Both the above books have whetted my appetite for further reading in these subjects  To this end I have expanded my hold list at the library

Fire and Fury – too much about a little, obnoxious man with small thumbs and a propensity for lies.   It is printed on cheap paper and not worth even that. This charlatan is a fat-assed, self-centered miscreant who has surrounded himself with disposable colleagues and has no business being in any part of politics and for that matter, business.  It is well written but also like reading the National Enquirer endlessly. Fascinating, but thoroughly nauseating.  Kudos to its author, Michael Wolff, however.

Is this it?  Seems as if I have read more, but could be magazines.  In the New Yorker, this week was Jill Lepore’s excellent piece on Barbie v. Bratz. (doll wars) .   Have also having appointments outside to make and this too takes time.  I promise I do search the library before I pile additional titles on my own bedside table (floor, dresser…).  Yet Amazon calls.  You too?

As a lagniappe – Must suggest a photo book by my longtime friend Dirck Halstead; Moments in Time.  A Time-Warner shooter, he has had 47 Time Magazine covers and is a photojournalist of renown.  He has covered the WH and been every damn where shooting the last century superbly.  The book is not a new one but the photos resonate indelibly.  I am bit biased but highly recommended.

Many on hold. And FYI – you can read short descriptions of all the books I mention on Amazon, your local library, and Goodreads.

Your comments are always welcome!

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News of the Words

It has been a reading week.  And on my nightstand – for real – are The Widows of Malabar Hill, Uranium, The Outside World, A Fatal Grace, Still Life, American Prometheus (and Uranium is like a companion volume to AP), Kardamom Kisses, and (drum roll) arriving today Fire and Fury (Escapades of a Shit in a Shithole). and am trying to decide if it’s going to  be Malabar Widows (my heart is beating very fast – this promises to be a fantastic start to another India mystery series by a killer writer Sujata Massey.)  Or shall I dive into the slurry of Fire and Fury.  I suspect I will not be able to put it down.  And having started Uranium last night – I have fallen into yet another considerable tour de force by Tom Zoellner my new favorite non-fictionist.  I realize that books about specific ‘things’ (one subject that turns out to be dozens along the way) are very enticing.  In any subject, but especially in subjects I have little knowledge of and this is an education + great reading.  So Zoellner is a do not miss.  He is a wonderful writer and his notes and facts are so well checked.  Check him out. He is at Chapman U. in Orange County, California and worth a Google.

Kardamom Kisses was a surprise.  Shinie Antony is a very prolific yet under mentioned Indian writer. Outside India that is.  Her book(s) are published in India, in English, by Rupa (Delhi) –  so this can mean no glossary in the back.  She is extremely funny and a sharp and accomplished writer.  This is her debut novel  and I found myself laughing out loud often as I read – and was often confused because the story jumped around in terms of regional languages.  Malayalam  to Punjabi and English and a visit to her website didn’t help much.  Shinie Antony.net   FYI. From Kerala to Delhi and names and characters were the same but not in each place they lived.  The Baby Auntys were very funny and I am trying to get one of my Indian authors to help me sort this all out.  I recommend it but wait until I get a better glossary in hand. Shinie is active in Malayalam writing events in South India and her website is ShinieAntony.net.  If I get some info on terms – I will post them here.  (BTW – the last book that made me laugh so hard I had tears down my face was The Luminous Heart Of Jonah S. by a great favorite of mine, Gina Nahai. Magical Realism appeals to me bigly – and she has it nailed. Not to leave out Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and most South American and South Asian fiction writers.  Sometimes I actually think there is more truth than poetry in the genre of Magical Realism.

The Penguin Papers is wonderful and sad and I sobbed.  So if you read it, this is my only caveat.  It is a tender and lovely true story and you will want a penguin of your own to love.  You will want Juan Salvado.  I do.  Read it – a good cry never hurt anyone.

A brilliant WISHLIST idea emerges in the form of the book catalogues I receive. I use them as a wish list of what and where the books I like will be from.  Check them off with some to borrow and some to buy.  Some are L’s and other are $s – and from this list I can order online from the best price site or even cheaper, the L.A. Public Library {that’s the ‘ L’.}  Never fail to look on Amazon.   So, next time a book catalogue drops into your mail – try this method to get your reading wishlists in a row.  Get catalogues (paper) from university presses, Daedalus, regional stores and UK and Aussie  titles.  My university press list I like best are Chicago, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, University of California and it is easy to find them online.  Daedalus has a very varied catalogue that I love, but any catalogue you receive is a new world of titles.   Snail-mailed orders allow you to use paper checks.  Not everyone has credit cards.

The NYTimes Sunday Book Review was better this week.  Of course my favorite crime critic, Marilyn Stasio, led off and that is never a bad sign. The sacrosanct “Best Seller” list is still largely ‘nom nom’ novels – bowl of salted snacks and your drink of choice.  They sell well largely because they require little thought and are better (to me) than movies. And fast.  Some I have already read some and a few more are on my list.  The staff picks can also be very good but the pretentious “Shortlist” still annoys me.  And speaking of the shortlist – The Man Booker is 50 years old and is having a celebration and  a contest.  Check their website Manbooker.com.  I am ashamed to say that of the fifty winners I have only read a dozen, but I may have done better on their short lists.   I will check for next time.  I love this entire competition because their finalists are so eclectic and smart and the Booker’s inclusion of global entries is even better.

MAIL DROP JUST NOW:  Fire and Fury.  Not opened yet  (that’s next) but when I am done – I will tell you why it was incredible or that I knew it all anyway.

And…although I prefer printed books, don’t forget e-books, audible books and almost daily new ways to read books.

 (As promised, I have kept my library receipts).

 

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Holidays . All Over.

 

Added some thoughts to this post, corrections and additions. Also discovered a renewal of interest in the Sunday Times crossword. The loss of the Jerusalem Post Puzzle still grieves me, but I am indeed happy to enjoy the Times again

Lazy over holidays and many posts ran through my mind but never made the cut.  Excuses.  Doesn’t matter.

What have I read?  What am I waiting to read.  And why doesn’t Goodreads have a status of  “trying to read” or “tried but failed”?  Teach your algorithm to sense slow progress and then use it.

I am  slowly reading American Prometheus. The bio allows this and it’s best tasted in small bites.  J. Robert Oppenheimer is a fascinating man who had OCD, spectrum disorder and he understood Quantum Physics – therefore the first don’t matter much.  I can’t say it is slow going – it is interesting going but  lots of it and I expect I will read it in chunks. And I expect it will blow up real good at the end.

Neel Mukherjee is one of my favorite authors.  I finished his new book; A State of Freedom” and he did not fail me as usual.  Five stories tied together that cover the many India’s that carry on and co-exist simultaneously daily.  Five tales that look very astutely into how freedom is defined and how it is perceived.  And how they become a tartan of life in a country that lacks unity.   It is a wonderful piece of fiction but I do believe a love of India and its stories is a good idea for many readers. who haven’t explored this body of fiction.   His writing skill is amazing to me. It moves cautiously throughout and yet delivers on each page.  No spoilers , but I wished a better life for Raju.

I started The Penguin Papers.  I am still trying to decide whether to read it to the end or not.  I read “Wesley”– a hand raised owl and wept so much at the end I still think of him and wish he had simply lived forever.  I have a feeling about Juan Salvado (the penguin question).  I am starting to think beautifully written, true accounts humans and animals should have a caveat about sad endings.  This has always been a problem for me – As a kid – seeing Bambi I wailed in a crowded Boston theatre when Bambi’s mother died and grieved after Fantasia , during the part when the dinosaurs were wiped out.  Across the board, my soft heartedness still exists.  So The Penguin Papers sits – partly read.  I would be very happy if anyone knows about its ending.  Sad or not sad is all I ask.

Fire and Fury is on its way.  Due to snow, deliveries are now delayed but I expect it within another day or so.  I love Michael Wolff and I would like a peep at the bedlam at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I suspect dementia that is gaining speed, a stroke of some size or tertiary syphilis.   It requires immediate attention and hopefully this book will give that attention momentum.  After reading Blitzed and discovering how Der Fuehrer and his pack of goons and bigots were dosed daily on speed and other narcotics – nothing would surprise me.   (Add to this, the good Dr. Jacobsen of NYC keeping the JFK circles awake.  I bless the fear I have of needles.)  And frankly I love a good tell-all – I pity those who believe they are above it all and smug about it to boot.

And a very quick read – The Prisoner in His Palace ,the last days of Saddam was predictable, fast yet a very astute peek at this maniac.  Are the mental deficiencies of power mad men and occasionally women (Indira m’dear) a result of nature or nurture?    This is why we read everything.  Knowledge madness seems far more enriching.

Back to Oppenheimer and I suspect a cautionary tale within a very long story – not a hard read but slow going. This is illustrates how our alleged bad acts (being a Red back then) disguise brilliance and accomplishments.   American Prometheus is worth the time. Read some more Oppie  last night late. The fatal flaw was of course Marx and Lenin – the late 30’s and 40’s were characterized by many things, but Liberal and Red  urges created lasting woe for many intelligentsia in those days.  Long after the Red Peril And Joe McCarthyism came to a halt; great scientists, writers, actors and many, many others were ostracized, maligned and blacklisted taking remarkable achievements with them denuding in terms of honor.  I suspect as I plod through some more of this huge and complicated bio, I will finally get to the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos. I shall keep reading.

I am losing my pleasure in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review.  It started before the editorial changes, but the pretense has been honed and is so apparent and the cockiness of the writing is very sad.  I do love the best seller list however, a barometer of the crap written, published and then bought.  Meanwhile those eruditiees interviewed, all still have Euripides or the Odyssey on their bedside tables as their favorites.  Get out.

Such loss and sadness – rest in peace Sue Grafton.  Left us in late December 2017.  I loved her.  I loved Kinsey Milhone. Aharon Apfelfeld, a beloved Jewsih voice silenced this week as well.  Life is a trial – death is the loss of those who bring light to it.

Looking forward as the Twelfth Night comes and goes; new pages of Phantom Trades by Lister Martin (part of a new draft) and a much-needed book on the subject of slips and falls and why they must be avoided at all costs. Not just by the aging but everyone.  Until then – stay balanced.  Stay warm. Stay tuned. 

And comment!  Please.

 

 

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I had To Stop.

Piu Eatwell marries titled men.  I think she has an OBE too. Okay – this is a talent some have. But as an author?  Not so talented.  I had to stop reading Black Dahlia, Red Rose to stay sane.  She solved nothing.  She re- explained her 276 footnotes in the disguise of cluttered, repetitive back of the book notes and this is still a damn cold case.  I cannot imagine who edited it and now I don’t care.  It was simply annoying.  And it’s a done deal.  I couldn’t finish it nor did I want to.  And this is a mystery I find intriguing. The story was far better told by James Ellroy.  Even Steve Hodel  posited a fascinating theory.  Piu.  Not so much.  Read it and see if I am wrong  Your thoughts would be appreciated.

What are we going to do without Henning Mankell?  I just read  one of his last books – After the Fire and realized he is a writer I will miss very much. The book is not a Wallender, but it does have a mystery and alluring characters that will take you, regrettably, to the last page.  The weather is cold and you will shiver with him.  Quicksand is the last book he wrote and I shall order it.  His saddening diagnosis of lung cancer was the end of a wonderful teller of tales. If you loved Kurt Wallender – read this last novel and say good-by.  I thank him for so many hours of wonderful reading.

Back to another look at diamonds “The Heartless Stone” (another author)- and I must emphasis this is a nasty business and so controlled I can only hope a secret group of  diamond “pipes” and C-10 garnets will appear and that one lucky person will get to mine them all.  These are not a fair traded commodity.  And are a large part of Black Africa’s tragedy. This book atkes another view and I am curious to see what else I need to know about a girl’s best friend (which I thought were birth control pills).

My daughter sent me the 50th Anniversary tome of New York Magazine which I remember from before it became a magazine; in the New York Herald-Tribune.  This magazine has kept me sane for 50 years and I am reserving a quiet, solitary block of space and time in which to read it and weep.  I loved living in NYC.  It is massive volume and requires a quiet time to take it all in. I still get it every two weeks and devour it.

Beginning January 2nd, I plan to save my library receipts as I borrow books so I will remember what I have read and maybe even why.  I should have done it years ago.  But I am very good at hunting titles in the library computer sites before I go hog-wild and buy them.  Some just are keepers, but others are like popcorn.  You eat your fill and then you relax and wait for another bag at another time.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and fingers crossed, we will have a better year in 2018.

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I Just Can’t Seem to Stop.

Oh I have read and read and read some more. After this last depressing year of being a native born, US citizen and watching that grow scary;  I stayed warm and read til my eyes crossed.  I believe I mentioned my read of Sleeping Beauties and it still is on my mind. Read it.  You may weep; but the Kings kicked some ass.  I read an Alex Cross because I like the character – Patterson – feh.   And then there was The Rooster Bar.  It is not quite his direction and of course was well written but personally I wanted to beat the three main characters like a gong. Mr. Grisham  – I hope you will abandon this type of silliness.  You are better than the Rooster Bar.

I may have mentioned my casual interest in diamonds – when in need of a best friendsthey can work quite well.  I had read a galley of a book on the subject in the early part of the ‘aughts and  it stayed with me.  I found the final edition  recently and oh what a nasty business it is to discover  Greedy, ruthless, competitive and utterly fascinating.  The players are first and foremost deBeers who struggle more to continue to be the biggy.  And the baddy and the monopolists; something that is changing rapidly.

I know quite a lot more than I ever expected to know and it is a fascinating enterprise.  The Oppenheimer’s hold it tightly, wheel and deal and sadly were very instrumental in supporting apartheid for cheap labor and because they could.  The tech end is fascinating and I was so damn fascinated I have another title to expand my ken.  I wear little jewelry – but a bit of sparkle can be enticing and what I do have is a very little sparkler. Diamond by Matt Hart reads like a whodunit.  Check it out.

Between the gems and Grisham , I found a James Ellroy I hadn’t read – ‘Because the Night“.  All the expected L.A. police, bad guys, the grift and the graft – but it was step well away from precious stones.and a good little break .  Ellroy has always been a favorite – a flawed man and a damn good writer. He gets down and dirty because what he writes takes him to some very down and dirty places. I like the opium beds of another era in Chinatown. They showed up a lot in Perfidia.  Just a damn good book to use for a break.

Which brings us to the strangest book I have read in a long time.  My lasting fascination with the Black Dahlia is not a secret and I have read quite a few, well written books of theories and man hunts and of course it is still unsolved. And still fascinating.

Piu Eatwell, another theorist enters with Black Dahlia, Red Rose.  The crime is not a news flash but each author’s take on it fills in gaps that add allure and ideas that are newer or more creative than the last ones  Eatwell has done her homework and gives us lots of information – not exactly new info, but presented well and worth taking it in.  But she does make mistakes, some of which seem to reflect the American idioms she gets wrong.  Irritating minutiae that creates a little itch and a tendency to look for more. This is distracting to me. She may have edited the book herself because a competent editor would indeed have caught them.  None of this would really be bothersome but she has embraced the asterisk and the annotated footnotes passionately and it is truly annoying.  Truly.  One can see ways the info could easily have been part of the text and it is driving me bananas.  She has notes as well and a quick glance at those was not a treat.  But she was published by a reputable house – WW Norton;  but I still would love to know who her editor was.  They need a stern chat.  All this filigree and distraction make the book harder to read, but the entire story is such an interest of mine – I shall go the distance.  If it turns out okay – those of you who like old true noir  should check back.

Christmas and New Year are upon us.  Packages have arrived and I know there will be books.  I can’t wait. I wish all of you who check out this blog a wonderful time in the next week and a better, happier, calmer 2018.I promise my new inventory next week.

I should also mention that very few on the “Best Books of 2017” appealed to me and would not have been on my list. And I am getting less enthusiastic about the NY Sunday Times Book Review – after all these years.  And exception is Marilyn Stasio whom I look forward seeing every two weeks.  She is the crime lady.

Enjoy your holidays and wish for 2018 to be an improvement.  I know I do.

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No Heat. Read in Bed.

Our heater broke.  Our owner is not concerned so we are chillin’. Pissed off, but still chillaxing.  Our little town is usually very good about setting things right.  So there is much reading and  blankets

The Innocent Man by John Grisham is a very real and ugly example of small town corruption that resulted in a very mentally ill man spending years on Death Row while he was being swallowed into the bedlam of his mind.  Eventually The Innocence Project ( a simply incredible organization – I could write paragraphs) found the foxes in the legal henhouse of Ada, Oklahoma (Oklahoma in this and many similar cases is NOT OK.) and Ron Williamson walked to freedom.  He was clinically insane and stayed that way, despite treatment. He finally lost his battle with the bottle and died of liver disease and a life stolen.  Freedom is, in this case, was just another word for nothing left to lose.  Painful and in these times a very cautionary tale.

Got lucky and got John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers.  A good yarn. Deep Freeze.  Wear mittens.  Minnesota is cold, cold, cold in the winter. Murder, lies, greed, chilblains in ice.  A lot of driving on icy roads. And an icy river running through it. The usual mixed drink of the genre – but it was a keeper.  Short term loan thus read in a day or so – perfect with no heat. But not in Minnesota.  Better in Los Angeles.  Our version of cold is not that of the Land o’ Lakes. Highly recommended. I cannot miss a Sandford. And now am off the damn wait list.

Snagged Hilton Als second book White Women (I have the first – he is stunning – in the New Yorker and on his own pages).  Not done.  It is a small dose ,wild ride. but worth the time.

Glitter and Greed – about diamonds of course – very curious about alluvial diamonds and those found Kimberlite mines. STOP THE MUSIC. Gemsploitation TELL ALL. (small type – cheesy design, mostly promo for the author’s doc on diamonds – mentioned on every page). Nasty history – in India and Africa. The important info:   Apartheid?  You betcha’.  Ugly, vile bigots. The Boers get most of the blame for apartheid but vile, white, horrid Cecil Rhodes is the baddes, bad guy (very bad); Oppenheimers (bad continued) and now deBeers holds the gem hostage to the world.  Enslaves Africans, exploits  ALL workers  including children (no surprise); so you may rethink that rock you are wearing.  Diamonds.  Not a pretty picture. ( FYI:”Diamonds are Forever” coined by Ayers Advertising in 1948.   And this:  Maurice Templesman; Jackie O’s constant companion, tops the list for BIGLY BADDY.) Politics, racism, child labor, rich white people, mesothelioma. They sparkle, they entice, they cost – they cost in ways I never knew.

The novel Broadchurch – a great refresher since Gracepoint was weird (US rewrite) and The BBC America’s two seasons of the original Broadchurch w/Dorset  locations were a while back.  Nice to have it all laid out in front..  I loved the show – maybe because of David Tennant.  Well written and captured the entire story by Erin Kelly.  If you loved the show you will enjoy the book.

Still no heat, many covers, many titles yet to  read. Thrift stores finds – maybe next time. Brrr.

 

 

 

 

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Better Than Turkey

Ah the joy of the holiday season.  Loud, volatile and exhausting.  One can get too old for it – especially when they realize they were too old for it at about ten.  Growing up in New England is worse than having creamed onions shoved down your throat.  Or squash pie.  Instead, I read.  My, my, my – the many I read.  All of which were fulfilling in ways a meal simply isn’t.

The first was a never heard of  John Grisham “The Racketeer”.   Blew me away!  I hated to get to the end.  Plot plotting, twists, turns and sheer genius – I did not figure out the direction of the story which made it even better.  Read it!

I had plenty of titles from which to choose after the monthly book sale last week .   “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” was next in line and my hilarious attempt at “getting it”.  So I spoke out loud to the damn book and kept asking Neil deGrasse Tyson – “but what was there before all this?” I did know what the Large Hadron Collider and Cern meant and I knew the bosons were named for a Bengali.  But I continued to ask “but what was there before?”  No reply.  I haven’t given up yet but I was never meant to be a astrophysicist.  As my daughter pointed out “These are very special people”.  And truly, what they know came with the package.  They have always known.  I love  Neil Tyson and his writing and his approach to this dark  territory  (black hole dark).  Check out Wiki and  go see about honest genius.  Go see about Neil.

Somewhere in there I slept.  Seriously.  But as the afternoon approached,  so instead of tea, I dug out “A Place at the Table” about a torn Chassidic teen who has grown away from his distinguished dynastic rabbi-filled family. It lets the reader see how he struggled to figure out how to have both without having to choose either. Without tragedy or defiance In some cases, alas, choosing is what MUST happen.  I always welcome books from this community because it enlightens me and makes me appreciate even more my Lubavitch friends and their open attitudes and divine humor. If this is your gleisel of tea- you will enjoy a well written and endearing novel; a place few of us see close up.  The author, Joshua Halberstam, did grow up in this same atmosphere and his insights are excellent. (I very much liked the fact  too, that he never specified which group he came from – discreet and very caring.) Take a short BMT ride to Boro Park. And don’t miss your stop.  You will find your place at the table (and a bissel Yiddish couldn’t hurt either.)

My house is filled with books  yet it always comes as a surprise to me how many I have read and how many I need to read.  And it’s like picking a kitten from a litter.  Or a puppy.  So that’s how I got to  Avery Duff’s “Beach Lawyer”.  Yes – that is the name and it was pretty entertaining for a first novel and a very juicy, well written lawyer tale.  Intricate plots told simply are a sign of something – and it takes more than a so-so writer to do it and when it happens – it is a delicious ride.  And of course lawyers can write.  Part of how they lawyer is their writing.  This one was set near my part of town and I did notice a couple of location errors* toward the end.  But…a wonderful hot day thriller.

Waiting for me are two books about diamonds – largely post alluvial stones from India and bag of new ones from today’s library run. Some are actually non-fiction!

A shortlist of authors that should be noted – Caro Fraser, Janet Gardam, new names from India and an entire array new, post holidays.  Darkness is falling, it’s not as hot today and there are books to open.  See you soon.  Comments always welcome.

 

*This is what happens when you copy edit as you read.

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A Wait List Too Long

I am on a wait list that is trying my damn patience.  Not only that,  the “new books” shelves are not even appealing.  James Patterson is about to have his own Dewey Decimal number.  As a result of this tiresome wait I have been reading fascinating books I ignored at home and in the library.  A mystery (where eating and lots of drinking was featured) was formulaic but the subject was diamonds and I learned a great deal about diamonds.  This led me to more books about diamonds and seriously – aren’t diamonds a great subject?  They just never get old.

The ever prolific (does she ever sleep)? Joyce Carol Oates writing as Rosamund Smith showed up in a book called The Barrens -{which I happen to know about from The Sopranos}  that was so weird and mesmerizing I almost lost the plot line until she whipped it all together in a neat little package.  Mystery, madness, suburbia and a serial killer.  She nailed it in such a strange way I have to suggest you find a copy and see what you think.  And an author new to me – but one with a long title list – Suzanne Berne.  A Perfect Arrangement was very, very good.  Borderline obnoxious couple with kids I would have left in a bus station and the perfect nanny.  Not axe-murderer perfect – but impaired perfect.  I tend to really savor this type of couple story (many of which are not very appealing by page 20) when it’s good. It was so satisfying a little thriller that I got another of her titles.  A Crime in the Neighborhood is what I would be reading right now if I weren’t writing this.  Why does no one mention her?  Why didn’t I?  And Gwendy’s Button Box.  Just find it and read it.

I have figured out that I do like fiction or non-fiction equally.  Neil de Grasse Tyson (the Brilliant) arrived with a way (he thinks) to explain astro-physics to a fool like me.  I am going to read it when I can find a mindset that may help me try to get it.  Fermat’s Enigma has the same effect on me. But I keep trying.  Pythagoras had a lasting appeal but only for his “Commandments”, which I still regard with a smile.  Look them up.

Slowly working through Ta-Henisi Coates Eight Years We Were in Power.  Coates bears very serious reading time.  He does not waste a word and he does not suffer fools gladly.  Adam Gopnick’s newest is waiting – I do love his entire oeuvre – but mostly “Paris to the Moon”.  Patric Kuh on food in Los Angeles ( of which I was a very big part in the 80’s).  Unread MFK Fisher, books about French oysters and in closing ,I should mention  book I read about “Eels” was one of the most memorable natural histories ever.  If I had been on “Who (doesn’t) Want To Be A Millionaire”, I would have nailed an eel question for big bucks.

Why do I not include more details about authors and titles?  Because hopefully it leads you on a search that will help you see other books you may not have considered.  And I read so many  I don’t keep track.  Goodreads is great for this shortcoming.  So I strongly suggest you join the page and at least have a gander at what I want to and have read for more specific information.

Comments are always welcome.  Thank you for reading the blog.  And check out my other one; Voolavex.com

 

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A Yawner in the Rye

I recently read a book I bought by mistake online and thought it still might be a good change from my usual titles and genres.  I won’t mention the name because it turns out it got RAVE reviews all over the whole creation.  I cannot agree with any of them and I found it work.  Set in 1914 England – it regales us with the poshspeak of the “betters” and their little town.  In over 400pp.  It is not Downton by any stretch of the imagination and I could not keep the characters straight no matter how I tried.  And tried how I felt.  I made it through three-quarters of this quiet and then suddenly hysterical tale of the war and how this little burg rose to meet the Hun.  I thought I might find some list of who’s who in the book online but did much better than that.  In one of the many “retell reviews”,  I got the whole plot and the spoilers and in doing so, shed a tear for Blighty and reached The End.  It was reviewed so well, but I think Julian Fellowes hit a better play between upstairs and downstairs and what was the done thing and the never done thing.  Frankly if the upper crust actually spoke in such euphemism it’s hard to imagine how anyone ever was born.

Waiting very patiently for the holds in my library to arrive – being on a massive wait list for all of them, but editing my own shelves I have found some overlooked titles and before they go to the Little Free Library belonging to a friend, I have found some good reading. And room on shelves for those orphans in piles on the floor.

The New York Times New Book Review awaits.  As long as they keep Marilyn Stasio busy with her “Crime” column I will be happy.

As a comment with little relation to anything so far – why can’t I love Orhan Pamuk as others do.  I tried again with “My Name is Red” and couldn’t do it.  Anyone else?

In fact I would love to have a list  of “books  readers simply cannot finish”.  I suspect we all have many. Send your titles and I will blog a list when we have enough.  Do it.  It should be fun

 

 

 

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What’s On Your Nightstand?

As many know – I do not believe any of the authors queried in the NYT’s Sunday Review have  read most of those titles on the night table (or the floor or the shelves).   In my opinion anyway.   But I have some good ones at my side when I get in for a read and sleep.  What have I been reading?

In no order, “The Golden Legend”,  “They Cannot Pronounce My Name”, “Righteous” by Joe Ide, parts of the “Whitey/Billy Bulger” saga redux and “Inferno”, that has inspired me to read “The Hot Zone”.  Just began and before all else, Richard Preston can really write!  On Chapter Two and scared but hooked.  Fort Detrick is not a stop on any trip I may take to DC.  I thought bats were cute at one time.  That’s over.  I have never much liked monkeys and now they scare me to death. (chapter two – it is going to get much worse).  Steven Hatch in “Inferno” mentioned this book so often and this was so emphatic I knew it was important.  I will speak about it when I finish.  I finished “The Hot Zone”.

An amazing amount of detail and information written so well you could almost imagine this was a fictional what-if.  It isn’t.  It is about the filoviruses Ebola, Marburg and what they do to a body.  They are  soulless, serial killers, they have means but no motive and – hopefully limited or no opportunity.  And  they resist a cure.   Their vector may be bat blood.  Or not.  Ebola is blood borne – maybe.  I found Marburg to be even scarier but this book concentrated on Ebola andthe U.S. Military, the C.D.C. and  The Reston Level 4 infection zone. .  It allows us to follow the risks taken by very courageous men and women who investigated and contained an Ebola outbreak  in the Reston, VA  “Hot Zone”site.  It was harrowing and fascinating.*  I wish I had read it before “Inferno” – I would have been more scared – but having seen how the heroes in Liberia dealt with an outbreak, tempered my fear.  Sort of.  Robert Preston, the author of “The Hot Zone”  also made a trip to the suspected site of the Ebola virus ; The Kitum Cave, and that was terrifying.  He  also made some salient points in his observations of how the world is playing dangerous games with its ecology and its occupants.  He posited that perhaps these filoviruses are the planet’s own protection from the human destruction of nature.  Trees do not get Ebola, or HIV or Marburg. People and wildlife do – We play fast and loose with our world and continue to ignore our own destructiveness.  Perhaps our planet is aware of us and this is their own response.  I urge you to read “The Hot Zone” and “Inferno” and decide.  Comments are welcome especially on this threat.

What have YOU been reading?  My pick up list at the library is growing – and I am excited and will go up there in a day or two.  I think the NYT’s Review is a tad better and I must say any Times Sunday Review is always improved by the appearance of Marilyn Stasio. She reviews crime and mystery and she is the best.  I still wish that every story was not condensed and printed so the thrill falls away.  And I do write and post on Goodreads – but their site has lost too many of my fantastically written reviews I have stopped.  I am hoping they do get a save button.  I like the site and I like the readers I have met.  It also allows the reader to comment to the author and I find this wonderful. Polymath readers tend to fly far afield in their choice of subjects and this is a way to let an author know how much you enjoyed their book.

Aha. I just opened the library pickups from the tote and Faye Kellerman is top on the about to read list.  See you soon.

 

*For those who are sensitive to animals and laboratory testing – there are descriptions of  infected monkeys and euthanized  animals that I found sad and horrid.  So did the Army vets.   Just a caveat. And a subject I wish we considered more often.

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Book Revue Miscellany

My local branch library can be a frustrating piece of work.  Nowhere on their extensive FAQ page does it address the procedure for a lost and on the meter book.  One you know was returned because it was returned unread and so it went back in a hurry.  I am not a fan of the Librarian in Charge who forgets things and is condescending.  This happened once before (my fault) and instead of the library initiating a search – he charged me $8.00 in fines.  And had no clue what I was talking about as he did it.  I shall be starting a search today.

I just received in the mail a book I have wanted for years.  It was expensive and so I waited – and it did indeed go down.  (How do you know a meticulous person born elsewhere [I dare not say foreign person in the failing climate of the world]:  Four layers of packing.  Hand done.  Four.)  Zero Point Bombay.  An essay collection  about the hub of the Bombay.  Horniman Circle, which was once the point from which all distances were measured there (it’s now from the GPO). It is a stupendous work.  The wait has ended. I will read it at leisure.

It took a little looking but I finally found a perfect street map of Calcutta.  A new author (to me) Anglo-Bengali  writer nameAbri Mukherjee has created Captain Sam Wyndham , Scotland Yard transfer to the Imperial Police, Calcutta, in the 20’s.  He and his partner, Surrender-not  work slightly outside the box.  I thought his first book started a tad slowly,  but I stuck with it (thank you Vaseem Khan) and now I have his second one and cannot put it down.  He’s got game.  The titles in order are “A Rising Man” and “A Necessary Evil”.  I am starting  to like Calcutta and now I MUST read more about the “Princely States during the Raj” and Indian diamond mining.  (I often compare India to Haiti.  In Haiti everyone is an artist; in India everyone is a writer.)  

Do you know about the “Little Free Library”.  A project throughout the nation of little libraries cases outside a bit like a book birdhouse, where the policy is “take a book-leave a book”.  I am fortunate to have a very good friend who is a steward of a LFL in West Hollywood.  And I am editing/cleaning my many shelves and donating boxes to the LFL in my neighborhood  What a seriously perfect idea.  Their website, LittleFreeLibrary.org, tells you all you need to know about starting one.

From the UK  –  a new trilogy in progress from Lister Martin – author of HSK:  Hong Kong Shanghai and two more in the works.  Informed by experience fiction. (I just created that genre).  Money, mystery, bad guys, good guys and exotic and excellent locales to discover close up.  Starting “HSK” this week.

Above books mentioned are all from Amazon.  Check your library  or other sites for titles Amazon doesn’t carry.

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Reading With A Map

First – Congratulations to Kazuo Ishiguro for winning the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature.  Although he is not an author I have been successful in reading, now  I shall give it another try.  This is a stellar honor.  Kudos.

I read a lot of foreign locale crime fiction and I especially read anything about India.  I sincerely wish publishers included maps of their novel’s locale.  Before you tell me I can Google a map of anywhere,  let me simply say that I read actual books in bed.  No devices in the room.  And therefore I read with paper maps.  Guidebook maps, atlas maps, map books, (in the case of Bombay, I have some serious books of street maps). Scott Turow, who has created Kindle County in his  crime novels (love them) has devised his own map of Kindle County.  I love this!  Invented locations would do well to have  maps – if you can think it up, some creative sort at your publishing house can draw it.

My map requirement creates piles of map books that live in more piles around the books I haven’t yet read.  Places I have lived or visited are easy because I can picture the location, but Helsinki was a challenge, Riga, parts of the Middle East, especially Israel, Asia  – well you get the picture – but I am happy to say that once I nail them – they stay in my head.

It took a little looking but I finally found a map that works (old Pan Am atlas) .  A new author (to me) Anglo-Bengali  writer named Abri Mukherjee has created Captain Sam Wyndham , Scotland Yard transfer to the Imperial Police, Calcutta, in the 20’s.  He and his partner, Surrender-not  work slightly outside the box.  I thought his first book started a tad slowly,  but I stuck with it (thank you Vaseem Khan) and now I have his second one and cannot put it down.  He’s got game.  The titles in order are “A Rising Man” and “A Necessary Evil”.  I am starting  to like Calcutta and now I MUST read more about the “Princely States, of the Raj” and Indian diamond mining.  MUST

Another reason I love having maps that put me in the picture sort of creates my own cinema as I read (perhaps a reason I no longer watch many films – that and living in Hollywood).  It seems like a natural for publishers to illustrate inside covers with maps and some do – my appreciation and your input may give them a hint.

My current challenge is Calcutta at the time of the mid-Raj. Not my favorite Indian city. Two holds awaiting at the library – and a long weekend. Good times.

And this:  Just read “Y is for Yesterday”.  Ms. Grafton must continue her Kinsey series with diacritical marks or punctuation symbols. (commas, question marks, umlauts). “Y” was a tour de force.  Ten+ stars for this one. And the stack of reference tomes I read in slices and have many  meals ahead.  Non-fiction is a pleasure to read because one starts with a premise of facts.  I love bibliographies in the back of the book and annotations.  But then I read labels for fun – so  it figures.

 

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The Radium Girls

I just finished a book – a history – of the “Radium Girls” as they came to be known.  If you are old enough, you’ll remember the fabulous glow in the dark, radium dials in watches, alarm clocks and other devices as well.  It was a lucrative business not very long after Marie and Pierre Curie won their Nobel Prizes for the discovery of radium and polonium. The Curie’s discoveries followed the discovery , by  Henri Becquerel of radioactivity  with whom they shared their first Nobel.  The changes it brought us are part of our lives to this day.

The moving, engrossing and rage provoking bio by UK author Kate Moore, tells us a complete and detailed history of the hideous and fatal damage caused by the high paying, deadly work offered  to young women in the 1920’s, when the realization of how very profitable the use of radium could be.  How the use of  this glow in the dark killer, became lives taken and lost from radium paint. It uncovers corporate greed of a devastating ugliness that infects and grows without an end in sight.

Marie Curie died at sixty-six from aplastic anemia caused by radioactivity.  She died for science and research.  The women who became the “Radium Girls” died for good pay and work for women at a time neither was in great abundance. And as radium became a revenue stream in the corporate floors of commerce, the Radium Girls  walked to work in a New Jersey factory (another was in Ohio) and painted the dials of watch and clock faces with radioactive paint.  Moore details the techniques used and foretells the scope of this tragedy. Yet as they left work  each day, these were happy, laughing women who glowed in the dark.  It all seemed quite magical. It was the late teens and early 1920’s -and this was a job that seemed too good to be true.  It was too good to be true.

Radium is carcinogenic quickly.    (Remember all those 50’s celebs with Geiger counters looking for Uranium in the Nevada desert (same place Cheney found the yellowcake) and the rapid clicking?  These actors walked in a similar radioactive neighborhood as the Manhattan Project.)  If the juggernaut companies knew in the 1920’s – they never told and the very young women died hideous deaths.  Young, vibrant women who made good money, went to church; some mothers, others making bridal plans and  ALL sentenced to death.  The bigwigs never said a word.  There was no workers comp and these were the days of miracles and wonder – glow in the dark dial timepieces one of the many.

There is no wonderful happy ending.  There was no cure for radium poisoning and the action the element takes in a human body, has a half-life of 1160 years. But it can work quickly and the hideous symptoms announced an almost inevitable and painful death.

Eventually compensation was reluctantly given to survivors children and families but corporate guilt was not part of it.  No company admitted guilt.  Little has changed in that respect.  You can probably tell this book shook me to the core.  It broke my heart.  It confirmed all I knew about the reasons for tort law.  It amplified the story of Karen Silkwood.

I fell in love with these women. I ask that you read it.  You will never be the same.   Kate Moore,  a very fine writer and a natural storyteller,  has written a cautionary tale that is as relevant now as it was in the 1920’s.   I hope to  see more from her.

 

FYI: It is fully footnoted, has a bibliography and photos.

Additional info on radium, results of exposure and in-depth bio’s of the Curies and Becquerel require only a Google Search. 

 

 

 

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The Line King. The Hirschfeld Century.

When I was about twelve, I went to live with my father in NYC. One of the Saturday night rituals was walking to Broadway to his favorite newsstand, at midnight, to get the Sunday NYT, hot off the presses!!! Of the many things I learned from my polymath father – He introduced me to Al Hirschfeld on the cover of the Art & Leisure section;   more than the news and reviews within, I was given the gift of this genius and I learned how to find the Ninas. (Mr. H knew this too – I finally sent him a note and his wife replied).  When he laid down his pen and passed at 99 – the Arts & Leisure section still offered me some things of interest – but without him – the sparkle was gone.

I have numerous books with his drawings acquired over the years, and yesterday I opened the mail and found “The Hirschfeld Century” – which I had bought myself as a birthday gift, (after a long search for the best buy).  Oh the Ninas, the actors, the comedians, the stage and screen!!!  The sheer joy of so much of it all, right in my lap!  And it was even better because it brought my father into the picture and, as always I looked for the Ninas,  – to remember both of them.  So my pile of Hirschfeld books grows and the memories are there to be evoked always.

The “Hirschfeld Century” adds a little more because it chronicles the man’s work in order and the biographical detail is just perfect.  David Leopold edited it and wrote the text and was very close to Mr. H for the last 25 years. What a lucky fellow!  To be able to observe the evolution of his style year by year is another stroke of brilliance.  Hirschfeld stayed with what worked and kept working and still does. and there is a consistency that is amazing.

For the lucky folks who also counted the Ninas and couldn’t wait for the Sunday Times;  whose polymath fathers simply knew the right things to know – I join you and hope you will place this title on your shelf of Hirschfeldiana (is that a word?) for the sheer pleasure of the lines he created and  the indelible look he added to every person he drew.

PS  I have a friend who is a Hirschfeld subject and another friend whose wife is.  I was awed and a teeny bit jealous – but mostly awed.  What a wonderful thing to possess!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The NYT’s Effect on Man or It’s The New Sunday Book Review !!!

It was mentioned very casually a few weeks ago that the NYTs Book Review was going to have a new editor and that the long time editor was leaving.  Well she sure did and it sure is not the same old review.  Maybe a good thing.  The “bestseller list” did not seem to be overstuffed with James Patterson efforts and The Golden House made it on – a little late for my taste but it was there. Various things were up-graded or gone altogether (not the stupid shortlist – I love how US media loves to adopt as their own “British” terms.) I don’t believe – in those interviews any of those folks have any of those books on the bed tables.  Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare.  No they don’t.  Nor do I even imagine their perfect dinner would be James Joyce or Bobbie Burns.  But it has a certain “je ne sais quoi” (for real – I don’t know what) when given as an answer to the usual question.  Maybe the word is “classier” or “erudite”.  It irritates me too,  that they don’t or can’t come up with less pedestrian books to read. in bed.  And by pedestrian I don’t mean awful or worthless – just hackneyed.  It’s just a different Book Review.  If they lose Marilyn Stasio and her bi-weekly Crime” column I shall be very sad.  She has been at it for ages and she is very good at her job.  I do wish and ( I wish this very deeply and sincerely) that their “reviews” were not just book reports.  They take the joy out of enjoying the book by retelling the plot of the story without explaining why it’s wonderful or lousy or mediocre.  That lies in the reader and that tells us far more than a plot rehash.  And I don’t care who is doing the review.  They need to lighten up on the reportishness and add more opinion and whys to their reviews.  Maybe they will.  It is somehow fresher and for the most part a very fine change from the long time one they had. I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone who reads the Times and has noted the newness of this section.  Comments are always welcome.

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Love travel? Visit These Sites.

This is an itinerary in progress.  Global. Add your own best sites by commenting.  I just started it in no specific order.  And adding new sites as I find them.

themanbookerprize.com/fiction

goodreads.com

daedalus books

Pulitzer Prize

Amazon.com

Your local Public Library

Your Favorite Author site(s)

Publisher sites

Prizes for Authors

Nobel Price for Literature

Book publicists (yes they do exist)

alibris.com

 

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NYT Review Read

No disrespect to Monica Ali whom I have read and liked.  But why does her entire review  of “The Golden House” consist really of a short form version of the book?  Why.? There is so much more to this  novel than a book flap summary.  And I do agree Rene was kind of self-important and hardly drove the story for me, but still – there is no need to do a book summary (remember those in school) and call it a “book review”.  It seems lazy.

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Cry the Beloved Rushdie Review

(subtitled “The Return of the Rushdie)

I wrote it.  I wrote it on Goodreads first.  I proofed it and poof.  Gone as gone can be.  I liked that revue.  It is not near any surface – it landed deep in a cyber cemetery hidden by the last shot of Cassini falling and the moon revealing the sun almost a month ago. I am beyond bereft.  My stomach roils.

Because I never takes notes when I read novels – “The Golden House” was a first.  Instead of trying to rewrite my deceased parrot of a review I will simply share the notes I made and hope it inspires you to read this book:

“Bippity bopping, name dropping, tangential direction and  hinting at pointless at times  (a clever device), over stuffed, polymathic.  Quotes by everyone and the personal conceit of a knighted, beknighted, fatwaed, word wizard worthy of Hogwarts.

Layers and layers of images, places, events locales and flights of fantastic meanderings that would not fall apart whether shaken or stirred.  So well constructed I smiled and laughed and fell into this Return of the Rushdie – almost sensing’ midnight’s children exhaling the moor’s last sigh’.

I loved it.  Just look at the mess of a commentary it inspired in me. My hair is standing on end.  The feeling was like a sudden rain with enormous drops. If you read it let me hear your thoughts.

Thank you Sir Salman.

 

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Sir Salman is Back…But Not Here Yet.

I am vermisched (my Yiddish for confused). I have been pondering over my comments about “The Golden House” by Sir Salman Rushdie for days.  And I am still pondering them because I would like my words to resonate (seriously).  As I opened the Sunday Times (NYT) and aimed for the Book Review – I saw they were reviewing it too. Granted, more folks will read that review than my comments, but I dare not let myself be influenced by a word in the Times.  And I am not ready to write about “The Golden House” today.  So while Sir Salman – to me at least – is back again.  I must ponder a tad more and resist the NYT until I am ready to write.  Feel cheated?  Me too?

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The Fine Print

It seems there are rules on many book blogs – do’s and don’ts. Mine are simple. I read – anything and everything.

Use – your local library.  I began a few years back after a hiatus and I simply love the online request page. the hold notifications and it’s all FREE.  As much as I would love to do it – I cannot buy every book I like.  This is a perfect solution. A library card is like a charge cared with no bill, no limit and no effort.  I use the LAPL (Los Angeles) and the COLA (Los Angeles County).  I love Goodreads.

Amazon is a money-saving way to buy books.  I buy many hard to find books on their site.  But Amazon is not the only online source of books. Go online and Google “Books” and you will find zillions.  Shop at local, small booksellers.  Support them.  Book Soup in West Hollywood is our best and most well established shop near me.  Signings, every kind of book and a long time favorite on Sunset Strip.  Arcana for art books in the Culver City Helms Bakery location is art books and they are well-informed about their inventory.  I have been a long time fan of theirs.  I buy books at thrift stores.  Some are on the cheap, others have more pretensions, but we have many in L.A. and I love them.  Book sales at libraries and yard sales and book fairs are wonderful.  I have a habit of buying books for local friends and this makes the shopping even better.  And book sales have children’s books a gogo.  Some I buy for friend’s kids; others I buy for the illustrations and sometimes it is hard to decide who stays and who goes.

Review copies.  I consider them gifts from authors and publishers.  I have requested some, but I do not automatically expect them.  Because I am not an E/reader, I prefer ARC’s and galleys; paperback, hardcover – no preference there . And occasionally I will ask for one – usually I contact the author first.  Sending review copies costs money so I am very specific (see below) about the subjects I like.  I do not promise anything in return .  If the books is really a dog – and they do exist – I dig for its virtues and inform the PR person or the author why I cannot praise it.  Usually it is about bad editing or writing style.  Surprisingly this has not happened often.  I directed my concerns to the authors and tried to discuss it.  I suggest this.  And I did what I could and we all were happy.

Here is the dreaded genre list:

I love:

India.  Fiction, non-fiction and especially Bombay.  And especially pre-Partition.This extends to authors who are Indo-another country.  emigres, second/third generation or relocated out of India.  India

Crime.  And lately I have been reading foreign crime writers and seeing new views of  the same old problems.  Finnish, Israeli, Saudi, India, Australia, NZ,  the Scandanoirs.  Noir in general and I do love Paris and London.  The usual suspects in America thriller writing; the gory details do not bother me.  I am quite in love with Peter Corris – the best Aussie crime writer ever and his character, Cliff Hardy.  I love Cliff.

Magic Realism.  It began with 100 Years of Solitude in the early 80’s and then I read many, many more South American writers.  Gregory Rabassas was the best translator (RIP) and I covered the continent.  It was no stretch to become besotted with India years later. Blame Sir Salman – anyone fatwaed is the guy for me.  I LOVED Midnight’s Children, but even more I ADORED The Moor’s Last Sigh (and many more that I’ll discuss betimes).  I have a 500+ Indian only library at home.  My first entry into Bombay was Thrity UmrigarBombay Time was the title and she never stops being a brilliant storyteller, a pen pal and a favorite.  (I love Parsi writers.) And Gina Nahai – – the wonderful, local and much treasured writer of Iranian novels that simply are perfect and make me laugh out loud – I know her friends and relations by proximity in Los Angeles.  She is a genius of her subject. The entire  geographic area she covers has much in common with people I know well.Non-Fiction.  Too many subjects to mention now. Genetics, cats, Food history, Religion, especially Judaism, history, geography, science + tech.  Want more?  Ask.

Happy to receive any review copies .  But…if I like something – I will absolutely mention it no matter what.

And that’s enough. Just finished The Golden House by Sir Salman and am approaching my comments with much thought.  Gobsmacked.