Sunday, March 29, 2009

In for a Pound by Richard Marinick

As followers of this blog might notice, I have an eclectic taste in books and read a wide variety of different genres, styles and times. I can tolerate pretty much anything except an author that confuses the reader. I read the prologue and first three chapters of In for a Pound by Richard Marinick, and at the end of each installment I was confused and baffled. I simply didn't understand what was happening?

That's as far as I went.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell is the author of the extensive and popular series of Richard Sharpe historical novels about the period of Napoleonic Wars. Sword Song is the third novel in a new series about the time of King Alfred in England (9th century).

This story includes several battles with shield walls, swords, and maces between soliders and farmers armored in mail, plate and leather. There is also the unhappy marriage of the king's daughter Aethalflaed to the abusive Aethalred, and the plan to conquer England by two Danish brothers - Sigefrid and Erik. In the end, the perennial hero of the series: Lord Uhtred of Babbanburg prevails.

While I am not a fan of historical fiction, and found the opening section tedious as the characters discussed the various relationships among the many players, when the battles began, the book was exciting and moved very quickly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

This is Kent Haruf's third novel of life in the small town of Holt on the high plains of Colorado. Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife has left. Ike and Bobby are his two elementary school sons. Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant high school girl. Harold and Raymond McPheron are two old bachelor farmers living seventeen miles south of the tiny town. They all have their share of obvious and surprising life challenges. Often it is left to Maggie Jones to take care of everyone.

The characters and humor make this book one not to miss. Consider when Maggie Smith tries to convince the McPheron brothers to take in pregnant Victoria.
Oh, I know it sounds crazy, she said. I suppose it is crazy. I don't know. I don't even care. But the girl needs somebody and I'm ready to take desparate measures. She needs a home for these months. And you - she smiled at them - you old solitary bastards need somebody too. Somebody or something besides an old red cow to care about and worry over. It's too lonesome out here. Well, look at you. You're going to die some day without having had enough trouble in your life. Not the right kind anyway. This is your chance.
Eventuall they talk among themselves and decide to take the girl in.
All right, [Harold] said. I will. I'll agree. I shouldn't, but I will. I'll make up my mind to it. But I'm going to tell you one thing first.
What is it?
You're getting goddamn stubborn and hard to live with. That I'll say. Raymond, you're my brother. But you're getting flat unruly and difficult to abide. And I'll say one thing more.
This ain't going to be no goddamn Sunday school picnic.
No, it ain't, Raymond said. But I don't recall you ever attending Sunday school either.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

24 Hours by Greg Iles

The basic plot is a kidnapping of extraordinarily intelligent victims by red neck perpetrators. The story is centered around three perpetrator/victim pairings. The victim husband, an intuitive, scientist, entrepreneur and doctor, is paired with the perpetrator's abused wife - a stripper, lap dancer, prostitute, ex-drug addict. The victim wife, who dropped out of med school to raise her son even though her grades were better than her husband's, was raised in a military family and is very tough. She is paired with the angry red neck who thinks her husband killed his mother. Finally comes the five or six year old kidnapped daughter, portrayed by a girl with the intelligence, poise, and nerve of James Bond. She is unevenly paired against a large man with the intelligence, poise and nerve of a five or six year old.

Given these pairings, there is never any doubt as to who will prevail - not any more than in a Die Hard, Karate Kid, or Under Siege movie. Like these cinematic offerings, the action is constant. This is a very fast read.

Note: Sexual jeopardy added to the child kidnapping jeopardy. This is an R-rated book, not for younger readers.

C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone unravels the mystery of the murder of a rich man in his early twenties – between college and med school. As usual, Sue Grafton’s writing and characterization are excellent. The red herrings are numerous, but in the end the mystery is difficult to believe, but no matter, the reading is so enjoyable and engaging that I didn’t mind both guessing the ending in advance, and not believing it after reading it.

Promise Me by Harlen Coben

Myron Bolitar and his odd group of friends are featured in this mystery thriller. Myron is an ex-Pro Basketball player turned PI. He and his odd and deadly friends get involved in the lives of two missing 18-year-old girls. This mystery is combined with the theme: How much should you do to help your children?

While the characters, plotting, and writing, are all excellent, I found the book to be overly violent and sadistic. The heavies inflicted more pain than was necessary for the plot. A mild example is when a man wanted to be sure his wife was telling him the truth (a tenuous and over-used plot device to begin with), the book graphically describes his beating and her extensive injuries. Other scenes were worse.

I recommend this book only to people with high tolerance for graphic pain and suffering.

Vector by Robin Cook

Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery are again featured as two almost-involved forensic pathologists. The threat this time is bio-terrorism from white supremacists, right-wing militias, and disaffected Russian immigrants. I found this book to be one of Robin Cook’s better offerings with less gratuitous medical jargon and more direct action.

If you’ve tolerated other Robin Cook novels well, I can highly recommend this one. If you’ve never read Robin Cook before, be prepared for his emphasis on science and plot details and extensive explanations/tutorials, much like hard science fiction, but without the world creation aspects.