Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Would Keith Richards Do?

On God:  "You never know what the sound's gonna be like in those stadiums. You're relying on God, who joins the band every night in one form or another."

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Would Keith Richards Do?

On Inspirations and Influences:
"'A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a lop-bam-boom.' For me, the world then went from black-and-white to Technicolor. Just like that - there it is! That's as concise as I can put it. It's the best bit of English I've ever heard."

Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum Series #16)

By Janet Evanovich
Published June 2010 by St. Martin's Press  
309 pages
ISBN 9780312383305
From my personal library
Rating - 4 Really liked this one

Read this in approximately 24 hours and really enjoyed it. The last couple of installments in this series seemed to be lacking and increasingly preposterous. With Sizzling Sixteen Ms. Evanovich is back in good form. That's not to say there's no preposterousnous (that can't be a word) here.
Stephanie Plum is up to her neck in crocodiles, of course, except in this case it's an alligator.
Steph has inherited a lucky bottle from her Uncle Pip and spends the rest of the book trying to decide if it's good luck or bad luck. We all know the sorts of situations she gets into so the bottle couldn't possibly be good luck. On the other hand, she always manages to pull it out in the end so maybe that's the good part. Steph really needs some mega-good luck in this one. Her cousin Vinnie, owner of the bail bonds office and her boss, is missing. Vinnie has been kidnapped on account of owing oodles of money to his bookie. Steph attempts to hunt down a couple of regular skips with predictable results but spends most of this book trying to rescue Vinnie and pay his ransom. She enlists the help of Connie, the bail bonds office manager, who is really good with stink bombs, and Lula, file clerk, former 'ho and Steph's right-hand woman, who is really good with doughnuts.
Ranger, mystery stud, and Joe Morelli, unmysterious stud, reprise their roles here as well. Ranger plays a larger role in this novel and is atypically loquacious for him. This is a surprise and there is a bigger surprise in store on this subject. As for Morelli, he does his usual thing, shows up right after one of Steph's escapades to check on her. Can anyone count the number of destroyed vehicles in her wake? I am left wondering how long Ms. Evanovich can keep up the tension between Steph and these two men. 
In the end, rescue comes from odd and unexpected places and we find out what's up with that lucky bottle.

BONUS!! Exciting news for Stephanie Plum fans! One For the Money, the first book in the series, is being made into a movie starring Katherine Heigel. Of course, the fun is over for all of you (and this includes me) who were making a game of casting the movie...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Would Keith Richards Do?

On Fashion and Style: 

"I love books ... a well-dressed mind!"

How To Talk To A Widower

Jonathan Tropper
Bantam Dell A Division of Random House, Inc. 
Published July 2007, 341 pages
ISBN 978-0-385-33891-2
From my personal library
Rating: 4 - Really liked this read

"I had a wife. Her name was Hailey. Now she's gone. And so am I."
This is Doug's mantra. He is 29 years old. He had been married to Hailey for 2 years when she died in a plane crash. Hailey has been dead for a year now and Doug is trying to cope with himself, her house in suburban Westchester and her teenage son Russ, both of which he inherited. He is pretty much making a hash of things. He self-medicates: drinks a lot, smokes a little weed, eats nothing but frozen artery-clogging food and hides from friends and family.
Then one day his twin sister Claire arrives on his lawn and announces her plans to patch him up and push him out into the rest of his life. Doug reluctantly agrees to the plan.
What happens after this is usually hilarious and often bittersweet, involving
Russ, Doug's boss and job, his family, a few blind dates, a wedding and a shooting. But relax, the comedy is not irresponsible or disrespectful. Doug does not suddenly snap out of his depression but evolves realistically over the course of another year. This is a satisfying read. You don't have to work too hard but there's still plenty of substance. It will leave a smile on your face.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Would Keith Richards Do?

"If I choose one, I'll be killing all my other babies."
                    -when asked to name his favorite song

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Would Keith Richards Do?

I recently read a book by Jessica Pallington West about Keith ("Keef") Richards, guitarist, songwriter, singer, record producer and co-founder of the Rolling Stones; known to the world as "The Human Riff." The book was mainly a collection of quotes and a timeline of Keith's life and times. As such I didn't think the book lent itself to reviewing. Instead I have decided to post a quote each day featuring the wit and wisdom from one of rock's greatest personalities. 

I have been looking for reasons to do this on my blog and have come up with the following: Keith is a Lord Byron figure. He is a bookworm and collector. Photos of his library have been featured in magazines. He has declared that "... the public library is a great equaliser." Keith has also been known to leave favorite volumes bedside for his guests. I am looking forward to his autobiography, titled "Life," which will be published in October.
Also, I have a serious crush and that, my dears, is all the reason I need. So here we go, our first Keith Richards quote. On Creativity and Invention:

"A painter's got a canvas. The writer's got reams of empty paper. A musician has silence." 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

American Salvage

Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell                                 
Published 2009 167 pages                                                      
Wayne State University Press Detroit
ISBN 978-0-8143-3412-6
From my personal library
Rating: 3 - Pretty good

American Salvage, a product of the Made in Michigan Writers Series at Wayne State University Press Detroit, is a collection of fourteen short stories written by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Each of these stories is set in down-and-out rural Michigan. Most of the characters are damaged by poverty. Some of these families are laboring under poverty so exhaustive that it seemingly offers no hope for a better life. Simple things can be a crisis for these families: the gas bill, dinner, school shoes for a child. These things rise to the level of crisis because the characters cannot conceive of the long term because the short term necessarily commands all of their effort and attention. For the most part this is all they have ever known. They believe that they are doing all they can but not gaining any ground. Consequently, they fall into a belief that they are at the mercy of "others," whether it be the family, the boss or the government (Y2K!) They feel powerless against these forces.

This is best illustrated by a young girl from The Inventor. "She has long imagined her future spreading out before her, gloriously full of love and discovery; she has been waiting for the future to arrive like a plate full of fancy appetizers in a restaurant, like a lush bunch of roses placed in her arms, like the biggest birthday cake with the brightest candles, baked and lit by people who love her."  This is a response and an accommodation of poverty; not imagining she could go out and create a future for herself, difficult as it would surely be.

My two favorite things:

This is my favorite quote from the collection: "It landed with a resounding clang on the pile of catalytic converters- mostly they were dirty and rusted from the slush and mud and road salt, but each of their bodies contained a core of platinum."  This is from King Cole's American Salvage. The character in this scene performs back-breaking labor outside in all types of weather, for little money, in an auto salvage yard, but he has plans and determination and resolve to make a better life for himself. This may sound odd to compare human potential to a catalytic converter but I take the quote as a metaphor. Some of us don't look like much on the outside but there's a valuable core of promise.

My favorite character is Jill from Boar Taint. She has discovered a way of coping with her economic circumstances. She indulges herself by buying gourmet chocolate bars one at a time. She keeps them in her underwear drawer and breaks off one square each night until the bar is gone. Then she goes out and buys another. This small act says that Jill still believes she is valuable; that she does indeed have a core of platinum.

American Salvage has won an impressive number of awards: 2010 Michigan Notable Awards, 2010 National Book Critic Circle Book Award, Stuart and Venice Gross Award for Excellence in Literature from SVSU, 2009 National Book Award Finalist, and the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award. If you are a fan of realist American regionalism (as I am) and a fan of short stories (ditto) then you may find many things to like in this collection. However, if you are not a fan of these genres then you should probably pass by American Salvage. It is not for the faint of heart.

I give this a 3- pretty good.

And remember that love does not conquer meth!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Storm Prey by John Sandford

Published May 2010 408 pages
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
ISBN 9781101187715
From my personal library (read in Sony Reader format)
Rating: 4 - Really liked this

Storm Prey is number twenty in John Sanford's Prey series. Rules of Prey, published in 1989, is the first book in the series. It introduced our hero Lucas Davenport, a Minneapolis cop. Davenport is my favorite character in the mystery genre. He's intelligent, funny, sexy, fearless and perfectly smooth. Davenport is a man of appetites.
Storm Prey was published 20 years after Rules of Prey and finds Davenport promoted to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. His wife is Weather Karkinnen - the most fabulous name ever, yes? She is a plastic surgeon and saved Davenport's life a few books ago by performing an emergency tracheotomy in the middle of nowhere on a frigid Minnesota winter night.
Storm Prey begins with the robbery of a pharmacy in the hospital where Weather practices. As the robbers are making their escape from the parking garage Weather pulls in and gets a good look at them. The robbers decide to eliminate the only witness. Lucas calls in all of the old characters, Shrake, Del, Virgil Flowers, Jenkins, to protect Weather. At this point the book takes off and the suspense doesn't let up as Lucas and his merry men take off in pursuit of the bad guys.
There is a subplot involving an operation to separate conjoined twins in which Weather is a key member of the surgical team. I'm not sure why this subplot is necessary. I found it a little distracting. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and obviously did his homework regarding the separation of conjoined twins. A little research of my own finds that Sandford published a book in 1989 titled Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut.  Perhaps this is where he got his inspiration.
My favorite thing about these books, besides my crush on Davenport, is the dialogue. It is quick, funny, smart and fun to read. Sandford describes the robbers as "hard men." Spare but enough. In the context of that scene you know exactly what he means. Another hallmark of the Prey books is the bad guys. They are multi-dimensional. They have pasts and personalities and you can see the pathology of their thinking. The author spent a month at a prison in Minnesota interviewing inmates. He came to the conclusion, stated in an interview, that most criminals turn out ultimately to be mundane; nothing special, although they would dearly like to believe they are.
I highly recommend this book (and the entire Prey series) for fans of quality mysteries. And for what it's worth I would read the Prey series again and that's very rare for me.
Also, as a cool tidbit, I have included a link to a list of Lucas Davenport's favorite songs from Sandford's web site. Enjoy!