Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy Summer Saturday

Pictured here are Stargazer lilies from our garden; I love their perfume. Sitting at our dining room table admiring the flowers, I hear the cicadas in the yard, singing their song. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) page on cicadas says that the bugs are humming to attract a mate.

Charles Fonaas, author of the DNR article linked above, wrote: "If the robin is to many the harbinger (messenger) of spring, then the cicada is perhaps an advance scout for autumn warning all who hear it to 'enjoy the summer while you can for the end is near.'" On that advice, get outside if you can and enjoy a happy, summer day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Man Booker Prize Longlist

This year's Man Booker Prize Longlist is now available. The short list is announced on September 9; the winner on October 14. Click here for a link to the longlist page.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A sweet novel that will be popular with lots of readers and book clubs: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

I read a sweet, skillfully told story this weekend, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. The novel is about a curmudgeonly man cajoled out of deep doldrums by his new neighbors, a young couple with two little daughters. The publisher compares the novel to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand; however, I found it to be much, much better than that book. I even got a little misty-eyed near the end!

A Man Called Ove is a lovely book.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Highly Recommended Reading: The Son by Philipp Meyer

Philipp Meyer's historical novel The Son, a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is one of the best books I have read in the last year. It is an unsparing, insightful, and engaging work.

The Son is the story of multiple generations of a Texas family, from homesteading on the frontier to the 20th century oil boom. It begins with Eli McCullough. In 1849, 13-year old Eli is taken captive by the Comanches. Meyer compellingly writes of Eli's absorption into the life of the tribe at this period when the migration of people from the east is decimating the western tribes. Eventually, war, illness, and hunger destroy his band and Eli returns to Texas where he seeks a path of independence and fortune.

In chapters that alternate with Eli's story, Meyer writes from the perspective of  Eli's son, Peter, and his great-granddaughter, Jeannie. The influence of Eli's personality and choices in life profoundly shape these two characters as the McCullough wealth transitions from ranching to oil.

A riveting, multilayered story, The Son is simply excellent and is highly recommended.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Intern's Handbook: A Clever Premise.

Summary: Wait for the movie. The book's promising premise and some tantalizing bits of humor and cleverness are sunk by overwhelming violence.

Shane Kuhn, the 46-year-old author of The Intern's Handbook, directs corporate events, sells ideas for screenplays, and writes B-movies such as Scorpion King-3 and Dead in Tombstone. Kuhn has already sold the publishing rights to develop The Intern's Handbook for movies and television, according to John Wenzel writing for the Denver Post (May 8, 2014). With this background, you will not be at all surprised to know that his novel reads like a product created precisely for translation into a movie.

In The Intern's Handbook, John Lago is undertaking his last job for his employer, Human Resources, Inc. Human Resources, Inc. is an organization of murderers for hire. It places its people - young, highly trained assassins - in positions as interns at companies where it has been contracted to kill an executive. Because interns don't draw attention in large organizations and have a great deal of access to information and physical proximity to the targeted executives, they are highly successful criminals.

Lago, at age 25, is now looking too old to present himself credibly as an intern. On his way out the door, he begins writing a manual for his younger colleagues, the handbook referenced in the book's title. While the bulk of his writing concerns his present assignment, which is to kill an attorney at a large, prestigious law firm, there are flashbacks to his other jobs (violent) and his past (grim). A grim and violent plot needs to be well supported by additional elements to make reading it engaging. This story relied on wit and clever observations to provide that support. For me, although the book began with some of that necessary sparkle, it too quickly disappeared and the book went quickly from an entertaining read to just okay.

Author Shane Kuhn's writing experience is in the movies and The Intern's Handbook may indeed work better if it is translated onto film. While waiting for that to happen, if you are looking to read an exciting book about a hitman, check out Josh Bazell's novel, Beat the Reaper; it is terrific.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

I'm lazin' around, enjoying reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, and looking forward to some Fourth of July peach-blueberry pie.

Have a good holiday and a great weekend!