Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Biography Available on Singer Nina Simone.

In the Washington Post this weekend, Louis Bayard reviews The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone by Nadine Cohodas.  Simone, the High Priestess of Soul, was an influential singer and songwriter know particularly for her work in jazz.  She was also active in the 1960s civil rights movement.

Break out those Nina Simone recordings from your collection and check out the book!

Also check out Tom Russell's CD, Blood and Candle Smoke, which has among its many good tunes a number titled "Nina Simone."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Autor Peter Carey Interviewed in the Guardian.

Peter Carey is the author of numerous books including Oscar and Lucinda, True History of the Kelly Gang,Theft and Parrot and Olivier in America, which is being released this April.  Check out this amusing Q and A between Carey and The Guardian. ("Guardian: What is the most important lesson life has taught you?  Carey: That life is an appalling teacher."  (That quotation from the interview reminds me of a recent cartoon in The New Yorker in which a young woman is shown consulting a Gypsy fortune teller.  The Gypsy looks into her crystal ball and says, 'I see you making the same mistake.  Not just one time, but over and over again.'))

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The Black Cat" - A New Book from Martha Grimes.

Good news / bad news for fans of the Martha Grimes series featuring Inspector Richard Jury:  There is a new book out, The Black Cat.  However, at least one reviewer, Publishers Weekly, calls the book a "subpar effort from one of mystery's major stars [that] will appeal mainly to fans of the talking animal subgenre."  Talking animals?  This doesn't bode well.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Books in Brief: Lee Child, Kent Meyers, Steve Toltz and More.

Here is a quick summary of a few books that I've read over the past few weeks.  Along side these very short reviews I'm using a 0- to 5-star system for rating each book: 0 stars being the worst rating and 5 stars is the best.  

1.  Twisted Tree by Kent Meyers.  4 Stars.

Good book.  Organized like Elizabeth Stout's Olive Kitteridge, in that each chapter is like a short story, with all the chapters connected by the same community of people and one key individual.  In Olive Kitteridge, that unifying character was Olive. In Twisted Tree, that character is Hayley Jo Zimmerman.  In the disturbing opening chapter, Hayley is stalked and abducted by a serial killer.  While reading this chapter I thought, 'is this book for me?'  The answer was yes.  Twisted Tree is an interesting, unsettling book about the mix of folks in rural South Dakota community and their losses, fears and heartbreaks.      

2.  A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.  4 Stars.

I enjoyed this unique and funny novel set in Australia about two brothers, Terry and Martin Dean, and Martin's son, Jasper.  Terry, gifted at sports, becomes the country's most notorious criminal.  Martin, smart but socially isolated, is a self-educated philosopher who does a stint working as a strip club manager, and who ultimately also becomes notorious in his own country.  As in all really big stories, this one takes on the central issues:  Love, the meaning of life, fame, money, and coping when it all goes to hell.  A Fraction of the Whole is a bit in the Kurt Vonnegut camp of writing.  The book is quite long, 500-plus pages, and you won't want to skip a word, so be prepared to take you time with this work.            

3.  Lock 1928 by Shawna Yang Ryan.  2-1/2 Stars.

The story a small community of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. in 1928 California.  Lots of information about this particular immigrant experience presented in a a stylish format.  An interesting little book. 

4.  Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child.  3 1/2 Stars.

Gone Tomorrow is the 13th book by Lee Child featuring his character Jack Reacher.  Reacher is in Manhattan taking on bad guys and at various times he is at odds with the entire world of law enforcement.  Reacher is funny and cool, and while I enjoyed this story it gets only 3 1/2 stars because it should have been edited into a leaner book.  The sheer quantity of text felt puffed-up, perhaps because this is a product by the famous Lee Child and he is supposed to write books of length and heft.  Puffery, even in a fun book, makes me feel like I'm being treated like a chump.  More editing could have been done here.

5.  Rizzo's War by Lou Manfredo.  4 Stars.

I like this police procedural.  Wiley Detective Rizzo and his young partner navigate crime and politics in Brooklyn.  A good story, put together well, and edited appropriately.  Entertaining, interesting, engaging: Exactly what you want from this genre.

6.  The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee.  1/2 Star

Although I am interested in reading about Hong Kong in the 1940s and 1950s, I was not at all interested in this book in which a bored young Brit has an affair with older man who is haunted by events that occurred in Hong Kong during World War II.        

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hola Amigos!

Still on a bit of a short break from blogging.  Should be back at it soon.  Currently, I am reading Twisted River by Kent Meyers.  It´s very good.

Hasta pronto!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Valentine's Day: Books for Children

Make Valentine's Day special for a child with a book:  Elizabeth Kennedy at assembled a list of children's Valentine's Day books.  Check it out here

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cool Animal Stuff: A Sea Otter, Swimming on his Back, Eating a Clam. Pretty Nice.

Via Serious Eats.

WP Reviews "Shadow Tag" by Louise Erdrich.

Writing for the Washington Post, reviewer Ron Charles calls Shadow Tag "a tense little masterpiece."  Check out his full review here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Palin PAC Purchases Prints of Her Published Pablum.

ABC News reports that in 2009, Sarah Palin's political action committee spent $63,000 to buy from her publisher thousands of copies of her book, Going Rogue, and mail copies of the memoir to her donors.  An additional $20,000 was paid to her publisher "for what appears to have been the cost of sending her personal photographer and another aide along on her book tour,"according to ABC.  The PAC also spent $8,000 on bookmarks . . .bookmarks!

What vanity; what foolishness.  Palin is not a serious person and should never be handed any responsibility for guiding this nation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Fiction from Peter Straub - A Dark Matter - is Set in Madison, Wisconsin.

A new book from horror fiction author Peter Straub is being released February 9.  Dark Matter, according to its Amazon description, has at least some of its plot set in Madison, Wisconsin.  Apparently, action in this new work begins in 1960s Madison when a campus guru conducts an occult ceremony and one of the participating teenagers ends up dead.

Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In 1965 he received a degree in English (with honors) from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  He has an interesting web site; check it out here.  In the site's bio section it states that, while at the UW, Straub lived across the street from blues rocker Steve Miller.  How cool is that!