Entries Tagged as 'Lisa Reads'

books & writing

Lisa reads FaceOff, edited by David Baldacci

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Now, this is a book that had me hooked from the very first pitch!

Ever wonder who would win in a fight if the most popular thriller characters were paired against their most worthy opponents? Would you bet on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher or Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller, or even Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie over Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch?

Oh yeah! If you love your detectives the way I do, I know that you have daydreamed about pairing them up. FaceOff is less about these characters fighting it out, it’s more about them teaming up and working together. And that is worth the price of admission.

It certainly says something about the quality of work that Simon & Schuster puts out that they have so many great characters to pair up. And I will warn you, Readers: you are going to get hooked on new series. You might as well know that going in. Unless you have a lot more spare time than I do, there are going to be characters here that are unfamiliar to you, and I guarantee these stories are going to make you want to run right out and pick up a few of their adventures. (You know the great thing about a Kindle Fire? No matter how many books you put on it, it never gets any heavier.) Smart thinking, S&S.

Now, the stories! I don’t even know where to begin. The weirdest and creepiest of the bunch was Special Agent Pendergast (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) vs. Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (R.L. Stine) – it sounds bizarre, but it works. Now, I am not a Pendergast fan – on paper, it seems like the sort of thing I should love, but I don’t) and I haven’t read any of Slappy’s…adventures, but that didn’t matter. The story is great and I can’t think of a better way to pair up this odd couple.

The first of my absolute favorites was Lincoln Rhyme (Jeffery Deaver) vs. Lucas Davenport (John Sanford). I have many of the Prey novels (several of them autographed, after meeting Sanford several years ago at a book signing) and I’ve read several of the Lincoln Rhyme novels, so I knew this was going to be good. The characters are so different and they butt heads ion such interesting ways. In addition, you’ve got their trusty sidekicks – Amelia Sachs and Lily Rothenburg – to spice things up. Really fabulous – I would love a full-length novel of this pairing!

But really: Nick Heller (Joseph Finder) and Jack Reacher (Lee Child). I can’t say “versus” there, because they really end up working together. I’m familiar with Jack Reacher, read a few of the books, and I’ve already ordered a couple of Heller novels. This one was so much fun – from the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, to the fact that some poor Boston accountant got more help, for free, than he could have possibly paid for and he didn’t even know it! Great, great story.

So, thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster and Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for providing this free Advanced Reader Copy of FaceOff. The rest of you – hit your local bookstores and libraries for it. And start saving your pennies, because I guarantee this book will spawn a shopping spree!

faceoff

 

books & writing

Lisa reads “We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human”

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I am a huge Walking Dead fan and I was really looking to reading the essays in We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human. I have spent hours debating with friends, discussing the meaning of key points on the show, discussing what zombies have to say about our culture, what causes some supernatural entity – whether it’s zombies or vampires or werewolves – to become suddenly in vogue. Lots of great topics there and I was hoping for a great series of interesting essays. This is a dense bit of reading. It’s less like reading an essay and more like reading someone’s dissertation. I knew as soon as I started coming across passages like this one in the second essay, “Burying the Living with the Dead: Security, Survival and the Sanction of Violence” by Steven Pokornowski, that this would not be easy to plow through:

Second, I propose that a multidisciplinary perspective informed by biopolitical, posthumanist, and critical race theories can offer a way to resist this representational problematic at the levels of both consumption and production – can offer, in fact, a political and ethical critique that takes into account the role of the social constructions of humanity and race in maintaining sovereignty.

I don’t even know what that means, and it certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of fun and engaging discussion I was looking for.

There are a couple of high points. I particularly enjoyed P. Ivan Young’s essay, “Walking Tall or Walking Dead? The American Cowboy in the Zombie Apocalypse.” It goes into great detail comparing the tv show “The Walking Dead” to the 1953 film, Shane. I’ve never seen the film, but Young calls out instance after instance where the two Shanes (and Rick, as well) face similar circumstances and react in similar ways. There are too many similarities to be simple coincidence.

I also enjoyed “Zombie Time: Temporality and Living Death” by Gwyneth Peaty. It discusses the concept of time in the series – the ways in which time seems to have stopped, and just how important it is for civilized people to have a sense to time, to feel like they are moving forward. Various points in the series – Andrea planning to celebrate her sister’s birthday, the watch that Hershel gives to Glenn (and its later appearance in the opening montage), the big digital countdown clock at the CDC – all talk in their own way about the effect of time on the living characters. For the walkers, there is no time. Their death, which should mark the end of time for them, instead marks just a change of form. Although their time should be up, they keep on going, with no end in sight.

I have to say that overall, this was a disappointment. Someone with a more scholarly bent might appreciate it more, but I found most of the essays a real slog. There are many great ideas in this series to discuss and I have read some terrific articles on the various themes of the zombie apocalypse, but these are so weighted down with jargon and obscure references (do I think it is significant that Dale drove a Winnebago and Shane drove a Jeep Cherokee, both cars named after Indian tribes that are not native to the region? No, I do not) that I couldn’t really enjoy them.

My copy of We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human, edited by Dawn Keetley, was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

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books & writing

Lisa reads The Kill Call by Stephen Booth

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The Kill Call by Stephen Booth is the first book I’ve read in the Cooper and Fry series. I’m not sure this is a series I’ll keep reading, for reasons I’ll get to later, but it’s a pretty good mystery.  The story starts on a rainy moor – Sean has come up to one of his favorite quiet, deserted spot, where he goes when he needs to get away from everything. Today, something feels different. There’s a smell. And a corpse.

It’s an interesting mystery, with a couple of storylines to follow, and quite British, tied up in the odd world of fox hunting. The body was discovered during the annual Eden Valley Hunt, which is hotly protested by animal rights activists. The area was crowded with hunters and the folks who handle the horses, as well as the protesters (referred to as “sabs” or saboteurs by the police) and a host of police officers there to keep them from killing each other. The “kill call” of the title refers to the long, wavering notes on the horn that the hunters blow to call in the hounds to kill the fox. Only in this case, it wasn’t a fox.

Detective Constable Diane Fry is in charge of the case and totally out of her depth, although she would never admit it. She’s a city girl in a country police district and she has tremendous disdain for the citizens there. She quite clearly turns up her nose at the country life – from the quiet towns to the smell of horses in the barn. She’s supposed to be a great detective, but she can’t seem to see anything beyond her own nose. Even when she recognizes that she is putting people off, she can’t seem to change it. She clearly sees Detective Constable Ben Cooper as a rival, even though he not only helps with the case but tries to offer some personal support. She is so unlikable in this that I can’t see wanting to continue with the series. I may have missed some of her character’s development, and I know that some people enjoy a story with unlikable characters, but that really isn’t for me. If someone has read more of these, I would love to hear about them.

Even with those caveats, it was quite a good read. I enjoyed the various twists and turns of the story, I find Ben Cooper a very interesting character, and I am curious about what happens to Diane Fry – she seems to be at a turning point, trying to get her career back on track and resolve some personal issues. I’m just not sure that I am curious enough to put up with more of her abrasive behavior.

My copy of The Kill Call was a digital ARC provided free of charge.

kill call

 

books & writing

Lisa reads Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) by Ken Sharp

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I was a Kiss fan as a teenager, so I was really looking forward to reading Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975). Author Ken Sharpe has pulled together an amazing series of interviews with former band members, roadies, industry and media people. In addition, there are a host of more recognizable names: Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Neal Schon (Journey), Bob Seger, and Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny, Marky and Tommy Ramone. There are a lot of great quotes and interviews in the book – perhaps too many.

There are a number of things about this book that I loved. First, the interviews – it was fascinating to read the quotes from other musicians, people that liked Kiss and those who didn’t, bands who were more popular and those who were just starting out. Hearing what these bands had to say about Kiss, good and bad, gives you some context. Kiss was doing something very new and different, with the makeup and the theatrics. Some of their contemporaries embraced it, while others hated it; some were amused and others may have been a little jealous. But hearing them talk about the band – particularly those who said it was a gimmick and they would never make it – is definitely interesting.

The interviews with friends and industry people are a real look at what goes into launching a band. How difficult it is to get a label’s attention and then, once you have it, how to keep it. Getting signed certainly doesn’t guarantee success, and it is clear from each section of the book that if Kiss hadn’t had a few people who really believed in them, they’d have been doomed. Neil Bogart (Casablanca Records) and Bill Aucoin (their manager) did everything from manage, produce and promote the band to paying for their tours on their personal credit cards. Considering that they didn’t get a lot of radio airplay and they often had difficulty getting signed on as an opening act, they would never have gotten off the ground without their unflagging support.

It’s also clear that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons shared a dream for their band and were willing to work very hard to make it  reality. There is a sort of single-minded devotion to the band and a refusal to believe that they would be anything other than huge stars that is, by turns, endearing and annoying.

For me, the downside of Nothin’ to Lose is that it sometimes got a little tedious. There is a definite “us against the world” vibe to the book, and it can get a little tiresome. Perhaps it’s accurate – perhaps there really were almost no supporters for the band in the early days – but it is reiterated so often that it seems like overkill.

I was also disappointed that the book really glosses over the departures of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. I was interested in reading about that, perhaps even getting some of the story right from the departed band members (a timely topic, considering the controversy surrounding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions). Unfortunately, their departures are covered only briefly on the last two pages of the book. Still, the book is an amazing look at a young band, on its way to stardom and all the ups and downs of that journey. There are some great stories here for anyone who was a member of the Kiss Army, and anyone interested in a slice of rock and roll history.

My copy of Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

kiss

books & writing

Lisa reads Live By Night by Dennis Lehane

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There’s a bit of a story behind my reading of Live by Night: I picked up the audiobook from the library months ago – probably closer to a year ago. I sped through the first 9 cds and then…lost it. I brought it in from the car, set it aside, and it disappeared. I was furious! Ransacked the house, went through all my suitcases, the car, called the hotel I’d stayed at. No luck. Cut to this past week: I spent my vacation doing a thorough cleaning and decluttering of my spare bedroom, and guess what I found? Yep. I was finally able to finish!

Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin, and it is a big story. [Read more →]

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Lisa reads The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry by Dan Searing

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If you think of punch as something in bowl with ginger ale, melting rainbow sherbet and fruit juice, this book will change your mind. The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry aims to take you back to the glory days of punch, when it was brewed from spirits, spices and not-too-clean water. Our sanitation has improved and so has our taste, which leaves me eager to try some of these recipes.

The book begins with a history of punch, which is actually more interesting than I anticipated.

“…in its golden era, punch embodied all things exotic and expensive: spice, sugar, fruit, imported spirits, and, if the imbibers were trult fortunate, clean water.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiran

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I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, which is always a good time to catch up on my audiobooks. I’ve got a stack of great audiobooks that the good folks at Macmillan Audio sent me, and I’ve been putting them to good use.

I finished this novel sitting at home, warm and cozy with a cup of coffee — a great way to listen to a book about a blizzard. Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron is the story of Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. He’s been sent into exile, Down East, a remote outpost on the Canadian border. He’s lonely, frustrated, and not making friends. Game wardens aren’t popular with the hunters in the area, making it a very tough assignment.

Having dinner with the local veterinarian (what passes for his social life, these days), Bowditch is called to the cabin of a local couple. In a raging blizzard, a half-frozen man has appeared at their door, raving about another person, lost in the swirling snow. After a long, cold search they find the body — but it’s not the storm that did him in. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Something Red by Douglas Nicholas

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Sometimes a book tells you things about the author. Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, and some of that poetry seeps into his novel, Something Red. There is a certain lyrical quality to it that I appreciated, and I found that quite interesting, mixed as it was with a tale of murder and mayhem.

The story is told through the eyes of Hob (Robert), a 13-year-old orphan apprenticed to Molly (Maeve). a musical troupe crossing the Pennine Mountains of Northern England during a particularly brutal winter. Although the stop at many of their usual haunts, visiting old friends, there is clearly something lethal along the trail. There is an ominous presence in the forest and there are many who will not survive the journey. It may be that only Molly, her granddaughter, Nemain,  her lover, Jack, and young Hob will be able to save them all. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Lake Country by Sean Doolittle

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Lake Country, for me, was about a young man who had lost his way and wanted to do something. Darryl Potter left the Marine Corps, but now he’s just drifting — no job, no prospects, and none of the sense of purpose that the Marines gave him. He latches on to a story about the death of a young woman, the younger sister of a man he served with, and decides that this is a wrong he can put right.

Wade Benson, a successful local architect, killed a girl. He was driving home one night and fell asleep at the wheel. He wasn’t drunk, just tired. Becky Morse was severely injured in the accident he caused; she lingered in a coma for two days in the hospital before she died. As part of his probation, Wade Benson spends two days every year in the county jail, the anniversary of the days that Becky spent in her coma.

Potter decides that’s not enough, and that Benson should suffer more for what he’s done. He decides to even the score by kidnapping Benson’s twenty-year-old daughter, Cheryl. His friend, Mike Barlowe, is the only person with a chance to set things right before they turn tragic. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Redshirts by John Scalzi

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Redshirts may be the most fun I’ve had with a book this year. It made me laugh…and it made me go out and load my Kindle with other John Scalzi titles. I love the mix of humor and seriousness in the book, and I am looking forward to reading more of Scalzi’s work.

Are you a Star Trek fan? If you’ve ever watched the old episodes, it didn’t take long to notice that there was always some poor schmuck of an ensign in a red uniform shirt who ended up getting killed on the away missions. In fact, the term “redshirt” became a stock phrase in the sci-fi world, referring to a character who dies soon after being introduced. But what about those disposable characters? Don’t they have stories of their own — friends and family and ambitions? John Scalzi’s Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas pays homage to those characters while he pokes fun at science fiction conventions. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

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Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
– William Whiting, For Those in Peril on the Sea

I start off every book wanting to love it. You don’t choose books to review because you think they’ll be bad. But sometimes they are.

Wilbur Smith’s Those in Peril would make a pretty decent spy novel. The problem is, he tries to make it more than that. He tries to add a romance that just doesn’t work; his female characters are painful to read. And there should be a law: that he never writes another sex scene. The other problem for me was that this was an audiobook, and the reader, Rupert Degas, did not enhance the experience of this book.

The story centers around Hector Cross, owner of Crossbow Security and his boss, Hazel Bannock. Hazel is the head of Bannock Oil; Crossbow provides security for their oilfields, shipyards and personnel, in dangerous Middle East locations. Hector is tough and worldly-wise. Hazel is beautiful and tough, worth millions, and absolutely devoted to her daughter, Cayla. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

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I am a firm believer that kids should have a lot of books, and this is a book that I would choose for my nieces and nephews. It’s funny, but I’ve seen the Nutcracker ballet, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the story before. Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann and illustrated by Maurice Sendak is wonderfully written, perfect for some of the older kids in my extended family and it definitely made it onto the Christmas list.

The story is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It is the story of seven-year-old Marie, who falls in love the with handsome Nutcracker. The characters are fantastical: the seven-headed Mouse King, Princess Pirlipat, and the Queen of Mice. There is romance and adventure, battles and curses, ungrateful princesses and court astrologers. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Father Night by Eric van Lustbader

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Father Night is the fourth book in Eric van Lustbader’s Jack McClure/Alli Carson series. These are spy novels with a bit of a supernatural twist. Jack McClure, Department of Defense special agent, has some curious abilities. He’s dyslexic, which has to be a detriment for an agent, but his unusual way of thinking lets him see things others miss.  He can solve puzzles that require thinking not just outside the box, but inside, outside, under, over and through the box. Occasionally, when things are particularly tough, he gets some help from his daughter, Emma.

Of course, Emma has been dead for a number of years, but she can still lend a helping hand from time to time. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Buried on Avenue B by Peter de Jonge

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I wanted to read Buried on Avenue B as soon as I read the premise:

When a home health attendant, Paulette Williamson, appears at Homicide South in Manhattan, she’s introduced to the NYPD’s Detective Darlene O’Hara and skeptically reports the confession of a senior citizen struggling with Alzheimer’s. Gus Henderson, a former junkie and petty criminal, claims he murdered and buried his former partner-in-crime in a park off Avenue B more than a decade ago, a lowlife who fell off the grid and hasn’t been seen since. The city agrees to excavate the alleged scene of the crime, and the police find a body—just not the one they were looking for. The cops unearth the skeleton of a ten-year-old boy, neatly dressed and buried ceremoniously with a comic book, a CD, some pot, and booze.

There has to be a great story there! And it turns out, there is. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Whiplash River by Lou Berney

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Shake Bouchon was livin’ the dream.

For years, he’d been a wheelman for the Armenian mob, but he’d gotten away clean. He bought restaurant on the beach in Belize, where he hoped to start fresh. The location was postcard-perfect: sea breezes and tiki torches and tourists with credit cards. It should have been everything he needed for a perfect retirement in Lou Berney’s Whiplash River. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Exponential Apocalypse – Dead Presidents by Eirik Gumeny

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Okay, this one is just weird. Bizarre, a little gory, pretty funny. You’d sort of like to have a drink with the sort of guy who comes up with an idea like this, but you’re a little afraid the drink might be grain alcohol, or maybe absinthe.

In Eirik Gumeny’s Exponential Apocalypse: Dead Presidents, Thor, the former Norse God of Thunder, has returned to his day job at the Secaucus Holiday Inn. He’s hanging out there with his friends, Queen Victoria XXX and Chester A. Arthur XVII.

“After the world ended for the sixteenth time, the Aussichtslos Drogensucht Gesellschaft mit beschrankter Haftung, a frozen sausage company out of Germany, manufactured an absolutely absurd number of genetic reproductions of political leaders from across the globe, hoping to land a profitable contract with the United States government, either as a steady source of on-demand experienced political minds or as a supplier of a new kind of lunch meat. They weren’t picky.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Code by G.B. Joyce

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This is a tough review to write. The Code, by sportswriter G.B. Joyce, has a lot of things that I love — a good mystery, a flawed hero, and a bit of action. But it is all somehow a bit awkward.

First, the story: Brad Shade is a former hockey player with a sad-luck story, now a scout for the team in L.A. While scouting a particularly hot young prospect, a beloved coach and team doctor are brutally murdered, and while Shade isn’t a suspect or even a witness, his scouting duties keep leading him back around to the investigation. To get the story on his prospect, he may have to solve the murder. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know by Kate White

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Sometimes, a book comes along for review at just the right time. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know by Kate White comes along just as I am doing going through a bit of personal career evaluation, so there are definitely tips and tricks in this book I can use.

I like the structure of the book. It’s broken down in three chunks related to success: how to get it, how to go big with it, and how to savor it. Each chapter has bullet points, breaking down key concepts. Makes it a very fast read and easy to remember the most important bits of information, and there are plenty of important bits. As I’m considering what’s next for me in my career, contemplating job hunting for the first time in a decade or making a big change within my company, it’s helpful to think back and look at what I can do differently this time around. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Carnival of Death by L. Ron Hubbard

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When I received the offer from the folks at Galaxy Press, I was a little reluctant. Great writing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name L. Ron Hubbard. But the audiobooks sounded like fun and I love old science fiction, so I figured I would give it a try.

The books are a hoot! This is cheesy, old-school adventure writing. The characters and dialogue are so old-fashioned and over-the-top that the stories are unintentionally hilarious. Add in some dramatic music and sound effects, and you’ve got the audiobook equivalent of those Saturday afternoon movie shows. The writing is so florid, it should be printed on purple paper: [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld

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I think I’m over the whole “novel told in stories” idea. I tried not to let that influence me when I read Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld. It’s a decent novel. It meanders a bit, tells the stories of the lives of a group of Tribeca residents. The stories are identified by address, with a lot of overlap and some surprising revelations about their residents.

The novel starts with a group of fathers, an informal breakfast club that meets after walking their kids to school. There has been a incident involving a young girl and a child molester, and one of the fathers feels singled out. The police sketch looks a bit like him, if you squint the right way, and suddenly people are staring. They’re too polite to come right out and say anything, but he is certain of what they’re thinking. [Read more →]

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