Saturday, May 26, 2012

New York Times 2012 Summer Beach Books

Also check out Fall 2012: Books with Buzz.

Janet Maslin's list of recommended books for summer reading include Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies, Don Winslow's The Kings of Cool, and Colin Cotterill's Granddad, There's a Head on the Beach.  Check out Ms. Maslin's full NYT column here.

The NYT's Book Review published June 3 was also devoted to summer reading.

More recommendations for reading on vacation:

Chill Out With a Great Read

Four Books for the Beach

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Recommended Reading: "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green.

Once in a while I enjoy reading a Young Adult book.  A good YA novel typically offers clean and stylish writing and a compelling plot that moves along briskly.  On all of these counts, The Fault in Our Stars is a very good book.

The plot concerns love and illness, themes of interest to adults young and old.  I don't want to summarize it in too much detail as part of the book's charm is in the rolling out of events.  Simply put, the novel's protagonist is 16-year old Hazel Lancaster.  Hazel has terminal cancer.  At a cancer support group for children, she meets Augustus Waters.  Seventeen-year old Augustus' cancer is in remission, but the treatment cost him his right leg.  The two smart, self-aware teens are attracted to each other; and so their star-crossed story begins.  Reading about a teen with a terminal cancer diagnosis may sound tough.  Although this book certainly has its share of teary moments, The Fault in Our Stars is not cloyingly sentimental.  It has good dialogue, unpredictable plot turns, and quality reflections about love, time, and illness.

How much of life can be control by our actions and how much is fate?  In Shakespeare's Julius Cesar, Cassius tells Brutus that fate is not the determinant of the a man's course:  "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."  But what if the fault is in our stars?  That's what Hazel must sort out in this very good book.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Springtime: Baby Greens are Growing.

Olbrich Gardens.  Madison, Wisconsin.

The Trouble with Truffles: "Black Diamond" by Martin Walker is another fun book in the Bruno, Chief of Police, series.

Black Diamond is the third installment in Martin Walker's entertaining mystery series featuring Benoit "Bruno" Courreges.  Bruno is the police chief (and, in fact, the entire police force) in St. Denis, a small village in France.  In this outing with Bruno, there is so much going on that the plot almost defies summarization.  A key organizational point, however, is the truffle.

Truffles, the black diamonds of the title, are an important commodity in this region of France.  Bruno, Renaissance man that he is, hunts for the fabulous fungus with his dog, cooking with some of those that he finds and selling others in market at the neighboring village of Ste. Alvere.  But there's trouble in the truffle trade.

Bruno's friend and hunting partner, Hercule Vendrot, tells Bruno that big clients in Paris purchasing from the large Ste. Alvere truffle market are complaining that instead of receiving French Perigord truffles, they've been "fobbed off with fakes, cheap sinenis, Chinese black truffles."  Hercule fears that this scam could ultimately cause the French truffle market to collapse.

Although Ste. Alvere is outside of Bruno's jurisdiction, Bruno and Hercule implement a plan to have Bruno conduct a security audit of the truffle market.  Not long afterward, the elderly Hercule is found brutally murdered.  But this is not just a murder:  As a young man, Hercule had been a spy, active 'back in the day' in Viet Nam.

While Bruno investigates the crime and its potential national security implications, he is also busy investigating attacks occurring in St. Denis as a result of a gang battle between Chinese and Vietnamese groups, and keeping an eye on the forth coming local elections in which his boss, the Mayor, faces ouster when two local businessmen - a father and a son - both seek election to the post.  On top of all of this, there is Bruno's tangled love life.

This busy plot, running from matters of the heart, to truffles, and to modern-colonial history and current geo-political problems, somehow all works together.  Black Diamond is an enjoyable immersion into all things French (including a few swear words).  It is entertaining and a nice addition to this series.    

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jolt Your Creative Juices: Read "Wolf Kahn" by Justin Spring.

If you want to get excited about making some art, check out the second edition of Wolf Kahn by Justin Spring.    In addition to the interesting story of Mr. Kahn's life and work as an artist, the book contains many photos of his beautiful and inspiring paintings.  Good stuff.