Friday, April 29, 2011

Patterson is a First (Book #5)

I've recently joined yet another book club; this one being formed by a longtime family friend, Misty.  It's strictly an online forum and a place for, what seems to be, a bunch of mothers to get together and discuss books once a month.  Now, I don't really fit into this category, but I am a book lover and I'm pretty sure that's why Misty invited me to join.  It was decided that the easiest way to determine who chooses books and when would be to make an alphabetical list and go from there.  Needless to say I'm rather far down on the list.  Our first chooser was Betty and she decided on James Patterson's 1st to Die.  I can't recall if I've ever read anything by Patterson, I'm pretty sure I haven't, so this was my first sojourn into the bestseller's world of murder and intrigue.

I picked the book up from the local library and got ready to settle in.  1st to Die is the first novel in the Women's Murder Club series.  These aren't normally what I choose when I select a book to read,  though I have read some John Grisham books and the like, but I am all for broadening my literary horizons.  It's a fast-pace cop thriller with a female narrator; unusual.  The reader enters the novel on the balcony of Detective Lindsay Boxer's San Francisco apartment.  Boxer is having a rather rough day, which I won't spoil,  in the prologue and it sets up a lot of questions:  why is she doing this?  is her life really this bad?  what really happened in the Mandarin Suite at the Hyatt?  We are then taken back to the beginning of the entire ordeal and brought up to speed with short, quick chapters that clip right along.

 The main premise of the novel is the hunt and capture of a trans-continental serial killer who specifically targets newlyweds.  There are a few murders that take place, each with differing methods and locations, that lead the investigators in different directions and constantly bring up new questions.  There are also subplots that weave throughout the novel involving Lindsay.  These range from a change in partner, a medical situation, and her ability to trust.

We eventually meet the other members of the Women's Murder Club:  Cindy, a sassy, daring news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Claire, the city's Medical Examiner and Lindsay's best friend, and Jill, the Assistant District Attorney.  All four women bring something different to the table and contribute equally to catching the serial killer that has the nation stunned.

Patterson throws in a couple twists that leave the reader with a gaping mouth, but for the most part it's a fairly predictable novel.  I did enjoy reading it though because, sometimes, you just need a little mindless entertainment to slow your mind down.  Thank you Mr. Patterson.

The Vampire's been Interviewed (Book #4)

I've recently killed two birds with one stone:  reading Interview with the Vampire for both my A-Z Reading Challenge and for my scattered Edinburgh book club.  This was pretty much a decided factor as the four of us were sitting around a table at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans last month enjoying cafe au laits and beignets (delicious).  I have to say that the book pleasantly surprised me.  Though written and published by Anne Rice in 1976, I had never read the book.  Of course I'd seen the movie adaptation and, though I loved it at the time, since reading the novel I am completely disappointed in the movie.  There is so much that happens in the novel that is not included in the film and vice versa.  Yes, the movie is good, but the book is so much better.

The novel starts with Louis consenting to an interview with a reporter who is only ever referred to as "the boy."  It is through this medium that Louis tells the story of how he became what he is.  He takes us back to the streets of his youth and recounts what his life was like before he was bitten.  He takes us through his meeting with Lestat, his encounter with a mortal Claudia, the relationship between the three of them after Claudia is turned, two attempted murders, travels through Eastern Europe, Parisian opulence and the introduction of Armand, and back to New Orleans.  In a sense, the novel comes full circle.

Rice's way with words and descriptions immediately draws the reader into the nightly realm of Louis and the "people" he surrounds himself with, or doesn't.  We are constantly feeling everything that he feels, which seems to go against every other vampire that is introduced to the reader.  Unlike Lestat, Claudia, Santiago, and Armand, Louis still embraces his human characteristics and feels that hunting people is sickening and wrong.  He is in constant turmoil over the inner struggle he goes through every night.  At times he can come across as a little "woe is me", but for the most part the reader can really empathize with him.

Louis's interview is separated into four parts, each representing a different time and location throughout his existence.  I have to say that parts one and three were probably the most compelling.  They suck you in and keep you reading until the sun starts to rise, at which point you are forced to put the book down and hibernate in a coffin of your making.  Bring on the night!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So Brave, Young, and BLAND (Book #3)

I was so looking forward to reading Leif Enger's new novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome.  Unfortunately, it did not stack up or compare to the beautiful story of Peace like a River, his first novel.  Yes, at times the story clipped along at a brisk pace, but those instances did not occur until the second half of the book.

The story starts with Monte Beckett, a writer attempting and failing at his second novel, his son, Redstart, his wife, Susannah, and Glendon Hale, the mysterious boat builder and river navigator.  These characters come together in a rather predictable fashion and it stays like that in the beginning.  Soon Hale reveals that he will be leaving to make reparations with his ex-wife in Mexico and asks Beckett to come along.  Thus begins a cross-continental journey from Minnesota to California.

As the two set off the reader slowly begins to learn more about each character.  We find out that Hale has been a fugitive for the past few decades for a range of crimes and that Beckett believes that he is a one-hit-wonder in the literary world.  Both are on a journey of salvation, in a sense, traveling mainly by water (typical in the salvation/journey of life realm).  Of course they encounter obstacles and detours along the way, mainly when they have to travel by car, picking up a young mechanic (Hood) and are pursued by an ex-Pinkerton detective (Siringo) whose mission is to capture Hale at all costs.  It's once they pick up Hood that the story finally gathers momentum and engages the reader.

The trio makes their way to the Hundred and One ranch, a traveling rodeo show, where Hood is determined to live and thrive.  It is here that the real action begins.  There's an accidental death, a flood of epic proportions, and several cases of backstabbing.  This forces the travelers to go their separate ways for a time and gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of Siringo, as he now becomes Beckett's main traveling companion.

Several minor characters pop in and out of the story and lend further depth to the main characters.  The reader meets figures from Hale's past who help to shed light on how and why Hale is the way he is.  We also meet characters who bolster Beckett's personal worth and courage.  Both characters are forced throughout the story to reflect on their decisions and actions and make amends along the way.

Hale and Beckett both eventually make it to California, their final destination after new information sends them in this direction.  It is here the pair end their physical journey and come to terms with their emotional one.  It is also in California where all of the characters are reunited in a sense.

Overall, I have to give this novel the following grades:  a C- for the first half and a B for the second.  As a whole I would rate this a high C or low B.  It wasn't on par with Enger's first novel and fell short of keeping me engrossed in the actions.  Better luck next time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Are You There, Vodka? (Book #2)

The second book in my A-Z Book Reading Challenge, and the first on the actual list, Chelsea Handler's Are You There, Vodka?  It's Me, Chelsea was a light, enjoyable read and a good break from the heavier novels that I've been attracted to lately.  I've read both of Handler's other novels, My Horizontal Live and Chelsea, Chelsea Bang, Bang, and have enjoyed all of them.  This choice was a nice mixture of episodes from Handler's seeminly insane life.  I swear that woman gets into more hijinks than I can imagine!  Whether it's getting jumped by a bunch of high school gangster wannabe's or having a midget con artist bum money off her to bail her deadbeat husband our of jail, Handler has a knack for making the reader laugh out loud throughout the book.  She starts the collection with an outrageous lie about starring in a movie with Goldie Hawn that she tells to the school in order to be accepted.  This, of course, leads to more problems that she must lie her way out of in order to avoid further humiliation.  I think that my favorite chapter has to be Prison Break which explains her getting pulled over for a DUI and then subsequently getting arrested for fraud because her sister claimed she stole her identity (by using her id to get into bars).  This set a fairly high bar and, I must say, Handler delivered the entire way through.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the chapter that included a birthday party for a woman she hardler knew and the re-gifting of a present given to her by another friend also in attendance.  Ultimately, this was a pretty good read and I must say that I'll continue to read whatever Handler writes!