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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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

 

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

 

 

 

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.

Watch This Space – Consider These Books

WordPress insists one must have a title before one can blog.  This “one”  blogger is fresh out but has many comments – so watch this space. And consider these books!

To start:  My local library book sale was a good one – nailed a Karsh 50th Anniversary signed 1st edition – cover was dodgy but the photos were divine and it was only $5.    Who would ever donate such a treasure?  He was my mother’s  epitome of portrait and wedding shots of the 40’s and 50’s.  She wasn’t a buff, but she commented on photos that were not Karsh (wedding announcements in the “Women’s Section” mainly) with a shake of her head.  So I knew from a young age that Karsh was very special.

This past week I have read several books that are almost indescribably brilliant.

Inferno by Steven Hatch, M.D.  What to say except I could not put it down? His thorough and graphic description of his own time in Liberia during the Ebola outbreaks there and in Sierra Leone was astonishing for its humanity, honesty and dedication to his profession.  His description of this virus was important and necessary to the book – in very basic and available terms.

He also elucidated much of the pre – Emancipation history of the creation of Liberia and its founding.  Dispelling myths about “happy slaves who set out to create ‘Negrotown’ back home in West Africa”. (I use Negrotown in a serious salute to Jordan Peele and Keenan Michael Key for their remarkable sketch on Key and Peele).  The story we have learned was propaganda and revisionist history.  Overall Africa and its people as individuals and fellow humans may be one of the most exploited and assaulted continents on earth.  Sub-Saharan Africa suffers most and in ways he revealed,  that “we” have never been told.  This is an important book and should be read widely by medical professionals and laymen. It offers an historic record of past and present importance. (The screaming and publicity that accompanied the outbreak was inaccurate and it was propagandized to spread fear and anger.) It was not a true pandemic but the numerous deaths in the regions of West Africa were fast and hideous.  Dr. Hatch and his small group of medical personnel were simply put, heroes.  And I also truly believe that had this filovirus epidemic happened in any anointed First World Country – it would have been turned into a conspiracy, a nightmare, a weapon and of course a cash cow.  I shall not rant further – but this is a book that needs to be read. Steven Hatch is not just a doctor but a unique humanitarian.  His name should be known globally for his actions.  I salute him.

And then on to India – and another member of my short list of Indian mystery writer has joined – Arjun Gaind.  He has created and promises to continue his Maharajah Mystery series and he had better do it!  As I approached this first one I was fearing a bodice ripper with jewels but it was no such thing.  The entire story was a page turner, a great mystery and an invitation to learn much more about the Princely States of India and the smug and obnoxious British who “ran” India .  Plotted and visual and sparkling ( there were indeed lots of large jewels).  I loved it.  Mystery fans will too I suspect.  He joins Vaseem Khan and Abri Mukherjee for coast to coast Indian whodunits.  So well written.  I cannot wait for the next three titles nor can I wait for Sujata Massey’s Malabar series.

I have said before, Indians and South Asians write the way Haitians paint.  They just do it as an almost genetic gift.  It is stunning to see the ways of telling unique stories of South Asians at home and abroad as they have dispersed throughout the world. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal delivered a tour de force.  Layers and tranches of characters whose paths crossed in not only clever but believable ways in and around Cleveland.  Sattal is a brilliant writer whose uncharted landscapes add light and a shining to his characters.  His dialogue is pitch perfect.  Pitch perfect.  I am a devoted reader of Indian fiction and this is one of the endless list of favorites.  (I also have a Rakesh Satyal moment I will share – years ago in a used bookstore I found “Blue Boy’ – Satyal’s first novel.  I was ecstatic and it must have shown because the books person said to me in a very small voice,  “You know this is about …well…men.” Considering it was an AIDS charity store – I had to suppress my laughter.  Was he warning me or what?” LOL). I loved Sattal’s first book and I loved this one ( caution: it has men in it too!!). I just started “The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam.(author of The Blind Man’s Garden) and thus crossed the Line of Control and entered Pakistan. Watch this space.

Note: I am growing to despise the NYTime’s Book Review on Sunday.   I feel the same way about the L.A. Jewish Journal – feh.  It’s not so much change itself but stupid change.

It’s also the fiftieth anniversary of my cherished New York Magazine and there will an estimable volume of the same name on sale very soon.  I cannot wait.

Comments welcome.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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