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Showing posts from November, 2012

Recommended Reading: "The Hot Country" by Robert Olen Butler.

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The Hot Country is a historical thriller set in Mexico in April and May of 1914.  Mexico in 1914 is in the midst of revolution.  Its president, Victor Huerta, is violently opposed by various internal factions and leaders, such as Pancho Villa.  In addition to internal conflict, relations are tense between Mexico and the United States.  President Woodrow Wilson sent Marines to occupy the Mexican port town of Vera Cruz.  Wilson's action was in response to the arrest of nine American sailors by Mexican federal soldiers for allegedly entering a prohibited zone in the city of Tampico.

As The Hot Country begins,war correspondent Christopher (Kit) Marlowe Cobb is in Mexico covering the situation in Vera Cruz.  As a news story, the United States occupation of Vera Cruz has slowed down. Since President Wilson is not pursuing any further intrusion into Mexico, Kit Cobb is looking for stories to report for his Chicago paper.

Pancho Villa and his men.

Cobb's attention is caught by a German…

"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn.

I've finally gotten around to reading Gone Girl.  I put it off because, really, who wants to read about marriage on the skids, a missing-presumed-murdered young wife, bad adult behavior, and borderline sociopaths?  Isn't this the kind of story that television is there to supply?

Well, it turns out that lots of people have wanted to read Gone Girl.

Gone Girl is one of Amazon's biggest sellers this year.  Checking today, it ranks at number 12 after the clutter of Fifty Shades and Hunger Games titles.  So, I gave the book a turn.  And admittedly, it is entertaining reading.

The book is about Nick and Amy, a married couple in their mid-30s.  After both lose their job in New York City, they move to Nick's hometown in Missouri.  Things don't go well.  Amy, a native New Yorker, isn't thrilled with her new life.  Money is tight.  The last $80,000 from her trust fund is used by Nick to purchase a bar.  But their fifth wedding anniversary is coming around and it is an …

There's a song in here somewhere

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Walking the dog this morning, I saw lying in the road three empty beer cans and the ace of hearts.  I think somewhere in this there must be a country song.

2012 National Book Award Winner

The Round House won the National Book Award prize for fiction.

Highly Recommended Reading: "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich

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The Round House is already appearing on lists of the best books of 2012, and rightly so.  This finalist for the National Book Award is definitely one of the best books I've read all year.


If you've previously read books by Louise Erdrich, you know that her writing is superb.  In The Round House, Erdrich again satisfies one of Kurt Vonnegut's rules for creative writing:  Every sentence in her book either reveals something about a character or advances the action.  She does not waste the reader's time.  Erdich is in complete control of her art.  In The Round House, she uses her talents to tell a story about a 13-year old boy, Joe Coutts, and his family.

Joe and his parents are Ojibwe and live on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota.  Joe's dad, Antone Bazil Coutts, is a tribal judge and his mom, Geraldine, is a tribal enrollment specialist.  One summer Sunday in 1988, Geraldine gets a phone call which prompts her to go to her office.  While away, she is brutally a…

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

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Interesting fiction can present itself in many different styles.  For example, a novel might be absorbing and transporting.  A mystery might draw the reader into a world of suspense and drama.  Nick Harkaway's novel Angelmaker is enjoyable, but in a different manner than either of these examples.

To me, Angelmaker is more akin to looking at a large and complex painting, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch's famous triptych.  This particular painting, like reading Angelmaker, is enthralling.  You admire the artist's talent, imagination, and the complexity of his work.  Further, in both Bosch's painting and in Harkaway's Angelmaker, there is a lot of strange stuff.The upside of Angelmaker is that it is also funny.

The story's protagonist is Joe Spork.  A single guy in his mid-30s, Joe, like his grandfather before him, repairs clockworks.  To vastly oversimplify the plot of this long and wild story, Joe's skills are used to put into motio…