Friday, November 28, 2014

Woman with a Gun by Philip Margolin *****

Megan Cahill's husband is shot on her wedding night. Kathy Moran takes a photo of her on the beach holding the murder weapon. Ten years later, Stacey Kim sees the picture and solves the murder.

In this meta mystery about a woman in a photograph, Stacey Kim sees the photograph and is inspired to write a novel about the woman in the photograph, which the author confesses to be how the novel was written in the first place.

While this is a contemporary story, the author nods to earlier mysteries with reference to Perry Mason and more (gratuitous) smoking than I'd expect from a contemporary story.

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin is a delightful whodunit with enough twists and turns for any mystery aficionado.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on November 2, 2014. I received my copy November 8, 2014. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy ****

So many stories with black protagonists chronicle poor, defeated, powerless, dependent victims.
Afterword from Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

Citizens Creek is an historical novel that chronicles the family of a black slave of a Creek Indian chief: pre-Civil War during the years of Indian removals, and through post-Civil War reconstruction.

The pre-Civil War period protagonist is Cow Tom, who uses his multilingual skills to assist the US Army removing Seminole from Florida, guide his family on their journey to Indian Territory, and finally to survive the chaos of the Civil War.

The reconstruction protagonist is his grand-daughter Rose Simmons who grows and runs her family ranch in Oklahoma while raising a large family  threatened by infidelity and the changing culture.

As the author points out in the afterword, this is a story of strong black protagonists. Through the eyes of black members of the Creek Nation, the author presents the 19th century in a positive human light, not denying the civil rights horrors, but focusing more on the successes and victories of those who lived through them.

For anyone interested in the lives of minorities in this time period, this is an excellent read - appropriate for mature middle-schoolers and all students beyond.

This book was received in a goody bag at the Canary Challenge bike race in Palo Alto on September 27, 2014 benefiting the Canary Center at Stanford University.

Monday, November 10, 2014

There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato **

There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato is an experimental literary novel of life in Sao Paulo Brazil. It consists of 68 observations of city life on a "typical day." The style of these observations might be in a familiar narrative form, but might also be lists, dialogues, or blank verse. Even the traditional narrative might be interrupted with long enumerations.

Each of the individual observation is interesting in itself , though some required more effort to process than others. However, I found I was not able to see the whole picture. I would have preferred this book as a movie where the director could blend and integrated the scenes with visual cues and music.

This is an English translation of a Portuguese work, but still as the observation were of Sao Paulo, I frequently felt I was missing to local cultural references, which were necessarily used throughout.
The interview's at 2 p.m., corner of Ipiranga and Consolacao, There's time, so be browses the store at the Rock Gallery, some wicked stuff, a temptation, but not a cent in his pocket, except the bus fare home, a bummer, so he spills back out, Conselheiro Xavier do Toledo, Braulio Gomes, Dom Jose Gasper Square, Sao Luis and Ipirange Avenues.
Over all, I felt something was lost in the translation from Brazilian culture to mine.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on October 10, 2014. I received my copy on October 14, 2014.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis ***

Life is what happens while we're doing something else. Lost & Found by Brooke Davis is a book written in this style. The plot develops and the characters evolve in the background while the action seems to be an, often surrealistic, but beautifully written, distraction.

The main character, prepubescent Millie Bird is on her own, joining the many juvenile orphans in literature.  Her father is dead, and her mother has deserted her. She is obsessed with death and her search for her mother.
Everyone knows everything abut being born, and no one know anything about being dead.
The other two POV characters are Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist, and pair of octogenarians, lost in memories of past adventures and deceased spouses.
When did I stop doing things and start remembering them instead?
These three lost souls wander through the Nullarbor Plain, a part of Australia, south of the middle-of-nowhere and half-way between Perth and Melbourne. As befitting of a dissertation in creative writing, the language and descriptions are exquisite, but in the end, I found the wonderful writing  not quite enough for compensate for the lack of narrative flow and story arc.
... as long as you're alive, people you know, people you love, will die ... How do you tell you child that this is how life works?
Life yes, but novels, not so much.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on October 10, 2014. I received my copy on October 14, 2014.