I have been working like a dog at work and haven't been reading much in the past few weeks. If there are people out there reading this blog, I will get back on schedule now. A new review will be posted post haste and more will be coming at more regular intervals.
Quincannon's Game by Bill Pronzini
Bill Pronzini is more famous for his "Nameless Detective" series, but he has published a few short stories and at least one novel using the character of John Quincannon, a detective in the late 19th century San Francisco. The four short stories featured here are entertaining, but, in my opinion, not nearly as satisfying as even the least of the Nameless series. The highlight of the book is the first story, which features and encounter with Sherlock Holmes (during the period after his "death" at Reichenbach Falls and his "reappearance" in England.) The Quincannon character has an ego a mile wide and believes Holmes to be something less than his equal. Suffice to say that Holmes turns out to be better at his craft than Quincannon thinks.
The other three stories are along the same lines as the first, with Quincannon and his partner in business, Sabina Carpenter, solving locked room mysteries with a flair, but they seem a little cliched to this reader. Maybe I should stick to my non-fiction (don't count on it though, there are several authors including Mr. Pronzini, that I can't resist when they publish something new.
I rate this one 6 stars, though. Entertaining for the characters, but not the best at the plot.
I found this memoir a very hard book to read. Part of it stems from the fact that the book jacket claims that the story is told "without an ounce of malice". Yet, to me, it seems to seethe with a hidden rage. To be sure, the author has some reasons to harbor anger, given that her fundamentalist parents hardly exhibit any of the Christian love that the faith admonishes its adherents to show, and a racism only a little less overt than pre civil rights South that is exhibited to her adopted African-American brother.
The text of the first part of the book centers in the early 80's in Lafayette, Indiana. The two central characters being the author and her black sibling, David. Right off the bat they are harrassed by a group of racist boys while browsing a local cemetary. The story moves on from there as she describes how she approached the new surroundings attending a new school. She befriends a couple of outsiders like herself and gradually grows a little distant from her brother. Mostly to avoid the racism that accompanies her being known as "that black boy's sister."
What is, by the book jacket, referred to as candor, really forces itself into the open with the events that occur when her older brother, also an adopted African-American, shows up. He is pretty much portrayed as a malcontent and borderline, if not outright, hoodlum. Some of the scenes when Jerome is present are extremely straight-forward and hard to take in.
My real problems with the book concern the sexuality of this young girl. (She is 16 at the time of the events.) I'm far from a prude, (else I wouldn't have picked up the book in the first place), but it was here where I had to leave off completing the book. It is a good book as far as its merits on writing. The author does have an engaging style. But if you are squeamish at having descriptions of rape, attempted rape, and willing sex acts descibed to you, (although not pornographic)you might want to skip this one.
Rate this one 4½ stars
Two For the Price of One: A Movie A Day by Steve Uhler and Cult Flicks and Trash Pics by Carol Schwartz
I like movies, and both of these books are chock full of suggestions for an evening of entertainment. First we will take "A Movie A Day"
A Movie A Day by Steve Uhler:
The premise of this book is quite simple. For every day of the year from January 1 thru December 31, the author suggests at least one movie, with emphasis on how it relates o the day in question.
Sometimes a particular historical event happened that the movie covers. March 5, for example, you should watch Sweet Dreams because it's about the life and career of patsy Cline who died on this day.
Other times it has to do with the actor or actress playing in the movie, birthdays being the prominent theme. Dustin Hoffman was born on August 8, so you should watch a D. H. movie that day.
The style of Uhler's writing make this a very readable book, even if you choose to only read it a day at a time. i read the whole book in two sittings myself, because I found it fascinating, not only from a movie buff position, but also as a history buff. For instance, I didn't know that the Empire state Building was only a couple of years old when the original King Kong was filmed. Watch this movie on May 1 to celebrate the anniversary of its grand opening.
My image for the second book doesn't appear to be uploading, but you can find it on the book sites in the sidebar here.
Cult Flicks and Trash Pics by Carol Scwartz:
This book is a bit more esoteric than the first one. Here you will find an encyclopedia of movies that range from the wierd to the downright bizarre. It was published under the Invisible Ink Press company under the "Videohound" name. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Videohound publishes an annual book of movies, kind of like Leonard Maltin and others, which gives a short review and a rating of woof! to 5 bones (stars).
This book gives a review of the more bizarre movies out there, some of which you have heard of, like the Star Wars and Star Trek series, and some of which you may not even have known existed. Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, for example.
It's not a book for people whose usual fare is Brokeback Mountain or Walk the Line. The movies here are mostly sci-fi and horror, the kind that usually have a "cult" following.
Both books can be interesting on their own level, but I found both books to be very interesting just for the sheer joy of reading them.
Rate "A Movie A Day" 7 stars.
Rate "Cult Flicks and Trash Pics" 8½ stars
"Read free while you still can."
Tom Standage is one of those authors whose new works I will seek out when they are published. His best work to date is "The Turk" about the "automated" chess player from the 18th century. "A History of the World in Six Glasses" is up there, but not quite as good.
Essentially the book is divided into six sections of two chapters each, detailing how civilization evolved and changed due in some part to a particular popular new drink. These drinks are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Each section devotes some time to the deveopment and use of the drink in question.
By far, my favorite section is the one on beer. The basic idea of settling in one place for agricultyral reasons (to raise the grain to make beer) is not refuted, entirely, but Standage makes some facts known that this was not solely the case.
He continues with wine, which at first was the elixir of only the nobility, while the commoners still drank beer. But that changed as the production of wine became easier. Soceity evolves as well as does the industrial technology as the book goes on, as a result of each new drink's introduction into the world.
The only section I really found boring was the one on tea, due in some part to the fact that I don't like, nor drink it, I'm sure. Otherwise it is a fascinating book, even for those who don't like history, I would wager.
Rate this on 7 stars.