Tag Archives: authors

Books, books and more books

Both Mrs. Poolman and I do a lot of reading for pleasure. In the past, a book or a bookstore gift certificate was considered a pretty good birthday or Christmas present around our house. Lately, however, that has changed, or at least it feels like it has changed. The problem? Between downloading e-books on her Nook and the availability of getting new releases from the Village Library, a present of a new book doesn’t seem any more special than picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store.

The library in question is a small community library that serves the community near my workplace. It is chock-full of popular writers. It generally has a good collection of new releases, which they rent for 30 cents per day. Considering that Mrs. P goes through two to three books a week, that is a bargain compared to a $25 new-purchase price new.

Mrs. P typically gives me a list of books and authors she wants to read. I stop by the library a few times a week and check to see what they have. It’s a good system that usually keeps Mrs. P in fresh reading material, but it takes the shine off of giving her a book or gift card as a present. All the same, I still gave her a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas.

Speaking of books, I read two interesting ones recently.

The Panther“The Panther” is one of a continuing series of thrillers by Nelson DeMille that feature one of his main protagonists, sarcastic, wise-cracking John Corey (The Lion, The Lion’s Game, Night Fall, Plum Island, Wildfire). In this book, Corey is still a member of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force. He and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, are sent to Yemen to track down the latest Islamic terrorist, nicknamed “the Panther.” Actually, Corey and Mayfield are selected because the higher-ups believe they will serve as bait to draw the terrorist out of hiding. DeMille teams Corey up with another of his previous protagonists, Paul Brenner (The General’s Daughter, Up Country). On top of being served up as bait for the Panther, Corey suspects that some members of the American team would not be unhappy if he and Kate were to return to the US in body bags.

You can pretty much figure the story from there. While the destination is predictable, the ride is a good one.

I do have just one criticism. Much of the book is narrated in the first person by Corey. While the wise-cracking is an integral part of his character, the sarcastic comments come about every other line. It gets a little old after awhile. It was just over-the-top. DeMille could tone that down just a little in his next gook and the book would be a little more readable.

Paris in love“Paris in Love” by Eloisa James is an entirely different sort of read. College professor and romance writer James moved to Paris to live for a year with her husband and two children. I am still fascinated with anything to do with Paris. Her book is a memoir of sorts or their year there. James is a clever writer. The book is interesting, especially to someone who just visited Paris a couple of months ago. There is no plot or theme to speak of. The book is broken up into a long series of short anecdotes and thoughts – snapshots of her experiences. It feels like a year-long series of Facebook posts. I enjoyed sharing James’ enjoyment of her year in Paris. The stories about her children will give you a grin. I’m not sure her precocious 11-year old daughter is really that precocious, but James’ stories about her are worth a chuckle. “Paris in Love” is a light and short read, and one worth the effort.

 

Two good summer reads

Over the past two weeks I finished two more books that were well outside of my usual subject matter. I typically go for adventures, thrillers, military or history. When I step out of my usual subject areas and enjoy the book, it must be pretty good.

The first is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story focuses on the tumultuous domestic life of semi-pro race driver Denny Swift. His ups and downs are almost two steep to be believable, and he does some things so stupid you want to reach into the book and slap him “up da sida da head.” However, the saving grace of the book is the story is told in the first person, by Denny’s dog, Enzo. He is quite a character — with the soul of a human and forever frustrated by his lack of opposable thumbs and his inability to speak. He actually looks forward to the end of his dog-life, because he is certain he will be reborn as a human. Enzo’s observations on his master’s turmoils are both insightful and hilarious. You will want to strangle Denny, but you’ll love Enzo.

While I was reading the book, I kept looking down at Casey the Lab and wondering, “So what are you really thinking?”

Mrs. Poolman recommended “The Help” by Kathering Stockett, although she warned me it might be “too chicky” for my tastes. She was partially right, but the story is good enough to overcome the chicky-factor.

The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. It is also told in the first person by “Skeeter” a young Ole Miss grad who wants to be a writer, and two African-American maids, aka “The Help.” Skeeter convinces several of the maids to help her write a book about their lives as black domestic help in pre-civil rights Mississippi. If “The Help” had been published in the time the story was set, it probably would have been considered shocking. Nearly 50 years later, much of the intensity of the social issues is now history. The draw to the book is not so much in the plot as in the characters. The two maids, Aibileen and Minnie are great. For much of the book, Minnie worries about a “great terrible awful” she has perpetrated on one of her former employers. When you find out what she actually did, you’ll want to cheer.

This is Stockett’s first novel, and she has room to improve. Skeeter’s primary antagonist, Hilly, her former college roommate, is overdrawn. She is viciously mean and vindictive, but still manages to be able to order her contemporaries to do whatever she tells them. And Stockett throws a major illness at another key character that adds nothing to the plot, and is just distracting.

All having been said, however, it is a good read. It’s on the top-ten list this week, and deserves to be there. I’ll be interested to check out Stockett’s next effort.