April 8th, 2009
F. Scott Fitzgerald - This Side of Paradise - 195"People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard. But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or philosopher -- a Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism was him away. My Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over."
"Then you blame the press?"
"Absolutely. Look at you; you're on The New Democracy, considered the most brilliant weekly in the country, read by the men who do things and all that. What's your business? Why, to be as clever, as interesting, and as brilliantly cynical as possible about every man, doctrine, book, or policy that is assigned you to deal with. The most strong lights, the most spiritual scandal you can throw on the matter, the more money they pay you, the more people buy the issue. You, Tom d'Invilliers, a blighted Shelley, changing, shifting, clever, unscrupulous, represent the critical consciousness of the race--"

Book of the Month, April, 2009

March 20th, 2009

The Sea by John Banville

The Sea by John BanvilleThe author of The Untouchable (“contemporary fiction gets no better than this” — Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review) now gives us a luminous novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory.

The narrator is Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who, soon after his wife’s death, has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child—a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his life without her. But it is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled vacationing family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. The seductive mother; the imperious father; the twins—Chloe, fiery and forthright, and Myles, silent and expressionless—in whose mysterious connection Max became profoundly entangled, each of them a part of the “barely bearable raw immediacy” of his childhood memories.

Interwoven with this story are Morden’s memories of his wife, Anna—of their life together, of her death—and the moments, both significant and mundane, that make up his life now: his relationship with his grown daughter, Claire, desperate to pull him from his grief; and with the other boarders at the house where he is staying, where the past beats inside him “like a second heart.”

What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel—among the finest we have had from this extraordinary writer.

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March 19th, 2009
Charles Baxter - The Feast of Love - 23When you're in love you don't have to do a damn thing. You can just be. You can just stay quiet in the world. You don't have to move an inch.

The Last Coyote - Michael Connelly

March 17th, 2009

The Last Coyote - Michael ConnellyHarry Bosch's life is on the edge. His earthquake-damaged home has been condemned. His girlfriend has left him. He's drinking too much. And after attacking his commanding officer, he's even had to turn in his L.A.P.D. detective's badge. Now, suspended indefinitely pending a psychiatric evaluation, he's spending his time investigating an unsolved crime from 1961: the brutal slaying of a prostitute who happened to be his own mother.

Even after three decades, Harry's questions generate heat among L.A.'s top politicos. And as the truth begins to emerge, it becomes more and more apparent that someone wants to keep it buried. Someone very powerful....very cunning...and very deadly.

Edgar-Award-winning author Michael Connelly has created a dark, fast-paced suspense thriller that cuts to the core of Harry Bosch's character. Once you start it, there's no turning back.

What is a hot-headed detective supposed to do while on involuntary leave for putting his boss's head through a window? A series of frustrations get the better of Harry Bosch, starting when he had to testify in court about his mother, the prostitute. And now he has plenty of time to think about what he has done. Instead he considers his leave a blessing-in-disguise; what better time than this to investigate his mother's murder -- a case that is decades old.

In theory this book was my worst nightmare. To me an unbridled Harry Bosch, gone rogue, cowboying across L.A. against great forces is a recipe for boredom. It is like when you used to play DOOM after you learned the cheat code for "God mode." When the characters act without concern for even fictional danger, walking into situations as if bulletproof, I don't want to read it. And that is how this book was...at the beginning. Thankfully Mr. Connelly pulled up on the reigns and brought Harry back down to Earth.

The story developed pretty well as it took us from California to Florida and back. A few things were set in motion that I will be curious to follow up on in the next book. One might argue that the plot twist was a little predictible, but if you really want to enjoy a book you probably aren't trying to predict the ending anyway.

Another solid effort and another solid addition to the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. It wasn't as good as the last, but it was still a good book.

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March 16th, 2009
John Irving - The World According to Garp - 159...as Garp put it, "You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else."

Roadside Crosses

March 12th, 2009

A searing look at the accountability of blogging and life in the online world, Roadside Crosses is the third in Jeffery Deaver's high-tech thriller trilogy, along with The Blue Nowhere and The Broken Window.

Roadside Crosses by Jeffery DeaverThe Monterey Peninsula is rocked when a killer begins to leave roadside crosses beside local highways . . . not as memorials of past accidents, but as an announcement of his intention to kill. And to kill in a particularly horrific and efficient way: using the personal details about the victims that they've carelessly posted in blogs and on social networking web sites.

The case lands on the desk of Kathryn Dance, an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation and the state's foremost kinesics — body language — expert. She, along with close associate and friend, Deputy Michael O'Neil, and the fellow CBI agents introduced in The Sleeping Doll, follow the leads to Travis Brigham, a troubled teenager, who is retaliating against those who have posted attacks on him in a popular blog, The Chilton Report, for his part in a fatal car accident that took the lives of two high school girls.

The investigation reveals that Travis, who idolizes the Columbine and Virginia Tech killers, is bent on revenge — first against those who cyberbullied him, then against anyone connected with the blog that, he believes, has destroyed his life. He vanishes and, using techniques he learned as a brilliant participant in MMORPGs, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, easily eludes his pursuers and continues to track his victims, some of whom Kathryn is able to save just in time, some not. Among the obstacles Kathryn must hurdle are politicians from Sacramento, paranoid parents and the blogger himself, James Chilton, whose belief in the importance of blogging and the new media threaten to derail the case . . . and possibly Dance's career itself.

The book picks up only a few weeks after The Sleeping Doll ended and Kathryn must not only run the Roadside Cross case but has to confront issues that loomed at the end of that first book in the series — issues that threaten to tear her family apart.
Typical of the author's novels, Roadside Crosses is a roller coaster of a thriller. It takes place over four days, is filled with dozens of plot twists, cliffhangers and heart-rending personal subplots.

And, not surprisingly, the novel offers up several, well, surprise endings.

Pre-order

Roadside Crosses will be released in the USA and Canada on June 9, 2009, and in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand on July 23, 2009.

March 11th, 2009
F. Scott Fitzgerald - This Side of Paradise - 193"You used to be entertaining before you started to write," he continued. "Now you save any idea that you think would do to print."

The Concrete Blonde - Michael Connelly

March 5th, 2009

The Concrete Blonde by Michael ConnellyThey call him the Dollmaker, a serial killer who stalks Los Angeles and leaves a grisly calling card on the faces of his female victims. When a suspect is shot by Detective Harry Bosch, everyone believes the city's nightmare is over. But then the dead man's widow sues Harry and the LAPD for killing the wrong man -- an accusation that rings terrifyingly true when a new corpse is found with the Dollmaker's macabre signature. Now, for the second time, Harry must hunt down a ruthless death-dealer before he strikes again. Careening through a blood-tracked quest, Harry will go from the hard edges of the L.A. night to the last place he ever wanted to go -- the darkness of his own heart...

A civil lawsuit is brought against Detective Harry Bosch for the wrongful death of a man that Harry believed to be a serious criminal. Harry had no doubts that the man was the rapist and murderer he was investigating -- until a new body is found and it matches the killings Harry thought he had stopped. Is there a copycat killer who somehow knows intimate details of the prior murders, or did Harry kill the wrong man?

This is the third Harry Bosch book and it is easily the best so far. I loved the duality of the investigation and the trial. I will admit my bias due to my interest and training in law, but I found it very interesting how Connelly developed the court case. Another factor that may have contributed to my enjoyment was that when Harry was in court he was vulnerable. And a vulnerable Harry Bosch is a better read than a Harry Bosch who is always in charge -- he often gets too over-the-top cowboy in those situations and it becomes unrealistic (see my review of Harry Bosch #2 - The Black Ice).

One thing that I like about Michael Connelly is how well he writes frustration. I find that many other authors who write serial detectives will always have them unsure of a situation to keep the story believable, but with those other authors you never really get a sense that the bad guy might get away. Granted, there are times when Connelly gets away from this, but I have already detailed that for you.

I'm through three Harry Bosch books now and they seem to be written more quickly than I read them (I don't like to read a series back-to-back), but I am still interested enough to try to catch up. And if the others are as good as this one, that catching up will be well worth my time.

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March 4th, 2009
Gregory Maguire - Wicked - 151Elphaba had an okay voice. [Boq] saw the imaginary place she conjured up, a land where injustice and common cruelty and despotic rule and the beggaring fist of drought didn't work together to hold everyone by the neck. No, he wasn't giving her credit: Elphaba had a good voice. It was controlled and feeling and not histrionic. He listened to the end, and the song faded into the hush of a respectful pub. Later, he thought: The melody faded like a rainbow after a storm, or like wind calming down at last; and what was left was calm, and possibility, and relief.

Pygmy

February 25th, 2009

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk“Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival Midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.”

Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates us with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of an American xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified. For Pygmy and his fellow operatives are cooking up something big, something truly awful, that will bring this big dumb country and its fat dumb inhabitants to their knees.

It’s a comedy. And a romance.

Pre-order.

This book hits shelves on May 5.