Not the Best of Times, But I Did Read A Lot.

Not for lack of thought, it has been a long time between Voolavex Books. Besides being quite lazy, the last month has brought birthdays (many), births, death, jail and the associated emotions each of these bring. There will be no Q&A on the above. You will some rementions.  And this year I did not save my library receipts.

Recently…

Neon Prey  John Sanford does it again.

The Never Game (  Deaver has introduced new ‘hero’. Too twee and detailed for me.) And I like him.

The Satapur Moonstone  (2nd in the Perveen Mistry series.)  A+++++++ Sujata Massey, whom I have loved for decades). Set in 1920’s Bombay, Perveen is a Pasi woman and a Barrister – first women called to the Bar. I am just as enchanted with her new effort as I was when Massey was in Tokyo with Rei Shimura. Her two stand-alone novels set in India are  also wonderful. The Sleeping Dictionary.  And The Ayah’s Tale.

A Son of the Circus (a reread) Before I knew anything at all about India, I read this because I like John Irving.  After 20+ years of reading ALL about India, I reread it and lingered with joy and every page.  My advice is if you are not an Indophile – you will miss too much to enjoy it the way I did the 2nd time.  It was eating at a banquet of favorites. No rating.  It was simply wonderful.

France – all over France with detectives The Enzo Files, (Peter May) and Georges Dupin Series (Jean-Luc Baannalec). Both are not just excellent mystery series – they included tutorials on things I knew little about.  Brittany, Oysters, Salt, Celtic history, food and Breton lore that prompted me to buy a map and guide to the areas;  French regions I knew little about.  And The Outer Hebrides Islands (cold, windy, scary sort of.), The Lewis Trilogy.  Now I know how to harvest peat for fires. North Atlantic tides. In detail and delightfully.   Because I grew up for years on Cape Cod – it rang true and was fascinating. adding to the subjects that many don’t know or care much about.  But I do

Down Under –Have moved back to the two Australian writers who died last year. Peter Corris and Peter Temple. (Another future post for them, after I find my Aussie slang dictionary).

Is it a gimmick or simply a natural progression?  Book series.  (FYI – there is a wonderful site “Book Series in Order.com“) very important if you get hooked onto cops and robbers and authors as I do.  Some series work to perfection – largely (for me) due to the history of the main character… And it’s not a new idea, but it seems every writer is doing it and it leaves me unsure about the practice – almost too easy.   The fact is if you latch onto a great series – the  ‘I can’t wait’ syndrome sets in.  I am considering a subscription to Publishers’ Weekly.  Seriously.  Here is a just found a site, Crime Fiction Lover.com  It covers all the subcategories of dirty deed writing.  Mystery, thriller, suspense, etc., and it is wonderful.  I love the genre (as you can see) and this is up to date and intelligent site.

Is it possible, after a lifetime of loving the NYT Book Review, to have just outgrown it?  It’s beginning to feel that way to me and I am sad.  The word that pops into my mind every week is “Precious”.  Too, too.  Silly columns that match books with readers (please) and the “Short List” – although not a competition.  How Twee.  This and considering the revealed wisdom of the Best Seller Lists – my general observation is that readers read some crummy titles.  Not too nasty, not too many big words and many James Patterson’s.  Large font size fills pages faster, doesn’t it?  I am delighted by the Washpo Friday book column by Ron Charles, (Washpo Book Editor.) In particular, his recent mention of a new Los Angeles Times effort on a serious book review section.  The local paper for me – so fingers crossed.

I dearly want to know what readers who read, like to read. Genres,  authors, opinions. I intend to spread the word of other Book Blogs – so if you have one or like one – please let me know  This is what the comment section is for and it would be sooper dooper to receive some feedback. Requests, (no grammar and spelling posts though, I  do use Grammarly and I do make typos), questions.  Suggestions are welcome.  Civility is a bonus.  Those are the requests so far.

No schedule yet, but soon.  Please send feedback.  And share your favorites, new finds and ‘one of a kinds’ with me.

Cheers,

Chloe Ross

email me (until I get one here) at:

Trstrap@aol.com

Make sure I know if your email is private.or for the blog (i.e. may I post it)?

 

 

 

 

Voolavex Books A Revue: Many Tales

Finally back after a too long hiatus.  This is really a revue – like a Vaudeville show.  Lots of variety and a place for readers who aren’t really fond of traditional book reviews.  For example: “Do I really care about this one person’s opinion?”  This is the question you will not have to ask.

Sharing the books I like has no requirements.  You can like it or not.  But I have found so many authors, new to me, who have been a revelation and in turn have led me to look for others in locales I never considered before.  I have been reading like mad!!!  A weak explanation of why I have neglected this blog.

There is no format.  So far.  I have thought about formats and realized I was not a format writer, so I will just jump in.  Others, however, are welcome to suggest formats and I will happily consider them.  And contests (????).  Are they a good thing?  But this is not Goodreads.  I don’t care when you started or finished or which page you’re on.  I like Goodreads, but this is part of it I don’t love.  I would love for any Voolavex Books readers to share their finds. A little or a lot.

Dandy tips I have discovered.

Get a map.  If the locale is a real place – get a map.  It will put in the book and make it more vivid and many-layered.  You can google one, use a guidebook, or city guide.  Maps don’t change much in terms of streets so it doesn’t have to be new.  But I have many and I use them for fiction all the time. If it’s a made-up location, hope the author has provided one.  (I think they all should.)

Read with an accent if you can and phrasebook. This is true if the story is in a foreign location without a glossary.  Helps to know foreign expressions that actually matter to the story.  I tend to read with an accent if I can – seriously – if the book is set in another country – I try to imagine the voices of the characters.  Cats and dogs not included.

Guidebooks in general cover both these matters – usually cheap at thrift stores and yard sales.  Free at your local library.

Your local library.  I could buy books every day.  And to my dismay, this has created stacks all over my house.  Amazon has not been the only willing co-conspirator in this, but I love to use the library to reserve books via internet and it is even better.  Free.  How could free not be wonderful?  FYI – my local libraries are the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and the Country Library of Los Angeles (COLA).  I do not read e-Books nor do I listen to audio books.  Just a personal choice. It’s the reading or listening that is the point no matter how.

Little Free Library.  Take one, leave one.  Usually little cupboards on posts that are little and free.  Supplied by donations and readers who like the idea of a quiet, community source.  We have two in my city that I know of.  I donate lots of books.

No Spoilers.  Not gonna’s do it.

What I read.  Everything and when I say this, I mean this.  Fiction, non-fiction, bio’s, series; I love thrillers (mysteries, suspense, crime, murder and mayhem). natural history. India.  All of it and especially Bombay.  Fiction and non. And France  – all of it, but Paris and Brittany are the top two. London.  Especially fond of Krazy Kat and Ignatz” and “Mutts”

I love science, geography, anthro, sociology, medicine, religion (all of them, but Jews in particular and Parsis).  Except for algorithmic math. (which includes DNA)  Tried to read “The Gene“; (full of math, it is) and slogged until I quit.  Apologies to Dr. Mukherjee.  Fermat’s Enigma is still just that.  I love The Fibonacci Sequence, though, and with that prime numbers.  I will never be a rocket scientist.  I LOVE Marilyn Stasio.  Crime columnist of the New York Times. She is the BEST!! (And This list goes on BTW).

What I don’t. Graphic novels (except Maus), Chick lit. Westerns, Military as a rule.  Politics (if I can help it especially now).  Self-help.  NO.

It evolves.

Ask questions, post comments and keep stopping by.  No schedule yet, but maybe one soon.

 

 

 

 

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.

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.