vamysteryfan: (books)
to see the WW2 flyover in DC. It should be spectacular!

Mysteries, we read them:

Naked Greed by Stuart Woods.  I read an ARC for this book. A perfect beach book, with popcorn or potato chips alongside. The book is filled with double-crosses and fine meals. I always like reading his books. Occasionally he gets off gems like this: "[t]he party had upshifted from cordiality to conviviality, though nobody was wearing a lampshade yet."

Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman.  I was fortunate to receive an early copy of this book. Tony Hillerman's daughter Anne continues the stories of Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito, as well as other familiar characters. She's an extremely good writer. She captures the original voices very well and adds her own touches. She works in Stagecoach references, details of life on the reservation, and even zombies. Now I have to go back and read Spider Woman's Daughter. I missed it when it came out.

Robert Parker's Kickback by Ace Atkins. I received an ARC of this book. I enjoyed Cheap Shot so was looking forward to it. I'm sorry to say it was a disappointment. I hope that since it's an ARC, the prose will be tightened up before the final version comes out. Without spoiling it, I've encountered the basic plot before (Leverage 3.01 and elsewhere). There are interpolated scenes involving different (nameless) characters in a different location that are just annoying. He wasn't as good at capturing the essence of Spenser and Hawk this time.

And in nonfiction

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid. My "run right out and get it" book of the month. Do you watch CSI or Criminal Minds? Do you read true crime or mysteries? Do you enjoy reading about the development of technology? This book spans all those topics and more and does it brilliantly. Val McDermid covers every branch of forensics including history, procedures, and she includes examples, mostly from Great Britain. Her writing style is accessible and engaging. This book would also be a great gift for any mystery writer.
vamysteryfan: (jeopardy)
 Steve Jobs' Life By Design by George Beahm. This book does not contain the text of the 2005 commencement speech. The author takes that speech as a starting point and tries to illuminate various sections with additional information and anecdotes from Jobs' life. The author is clearly a fan of Jobs and wants to share that enthusiasm. Jobs is undoubtedly a visionary and a brilliant inventor. But learning details about him as a husband and father, I came away thinking less of him as a man. Perhaps it was simply the author's style, with too much of a gloss. Watch the video on YouTube and learn what the man wanted to share from his own lips. 
 
On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays, Explicative and Hortatory by Jacques Barzun. This slim collection of essays ranges from the 1940s to the mid-80s.   His style reminded me a lot of William Buckley or William Safire. He has that same enjoyment of polysyllabic words while preaching plain language. He makes some excellent points in his essay "English as SHe Is Not Taught" on that subject. I also enjoyed his essay on the discipline needed to be a writer. 
 
The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. Did you know there’s a word for unnecessary words in a sentence (pleonasm)? Mark Forsyth knows the words that classify the structures of famous phrases. From alliteration to epistrophe to zeugma, he explains the figures of rhetoric that make speeches and poems memorable. His writing is fun and entertaining. Even the suggested reading list contains one of the best puns I’ve seen in a while. He capped a description of one writer by saying he “built huge rococo sentences filled with trapdoors and secret passages and little subordinate clauses.” It’s worth reading even if you are not a writer for his sheer enjoyment of words.
 
Every Idea Is a Good Idea: A Musician's Guide to Unlocking Your Creativity by Tom Sturges.  The more you understand how others create, the better equipped you are to start your own creative process. That's the basic premise of this book. The title is misleading. I found it a somewhat frustrating read, although it did repay some perseverance. The first four chapters were essentially name-dropping with occasional nuggets of helpful advice. I was skipping pages by the end of the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter had some solid advice. The sixth and seventh chapters discussed the collaborative process that TV writers use. I went back and looked at the opening chapters and realized his examples focused heavily on collaborations there too: Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lennon and McCartney, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Bernstein and Sondheim. I realized the examples he presented had more to do with collaboration than unlocking individual creativity.
vamysteryfan: (books)
A History of New York in 101 Objects by Sam Roberts. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this book. It's utterly enchanting - a must read. It must have been so hard to make the selections. He has done a wonderful job selecting artifacts that illuminate the history of New York from the very beginning, including the bedrock. He weaves in stories around every piece. I think my favorite was Abraham Lincoln speaking in NY. More, he inspired me to look up more about so many of the objects he chose. Let the bar debates begin!

Tomorrow-Land by Joseph Tirella. Anyone who grew up on Long Island in the 60s knows the name Robert Moses, if only for the Jones Beach Causeway. He was never elected to any position but wielded vast powers over the highways and parks. The references to him as the Master Builder made me think of Moses the movie and made me laugh. He was the driving force behind the Fair and controlled its makeup. Although the 1964-65 World's Fair was a financial failure, it was a memorable experience. I never knew how many of the pavilions were created by Walt Disney. And now I know why so many smaller countries were there but not too many big ones. The story is set against the the events of the age - the Beatles, unemployment and racial discrimination, urban development and so much more. It's well-researched and worth reading.

Gotham Unbound by Ted Steinberg. He calls it the ecological history of greater New York. It will help any reader understand the relationships between nature and man and his works. For four centuries New York and New Jersey have been filling in meadows and marshlands. He focuses on the relationships between the land and water and the effects on humans and animal life. I didn't realize how much of New York was built on garbage and how much water under the land there still is. I have a better understanding of the impact from Hurricane Sandy and why New Yorkers should still be concerned. The book is dense but worth it. It's a wonderful education on ecology. He has over 100 pages of notes, references and additional reading for students of the topic.

This week's fiction book continues the New York theme. A Big Storm Knocked It Over was Laurie Colwin's final book, published posthumously. I did get the feeling it wasn't quite done yet. I enjoy her slice-of-life approach to romance and her Manhattan characters. Nothing big happens but everything happens. Friendships dwindle or grow stronger in a realistic way. And I think it must be a NY thing to refer to women by two names. My Brooklyn cousins all do that.

vamysteryfan: (Default)
I’ve been reading some classic mysteries that I’d never gotten around to. They seemed pretty dated, especially in their attitudes on women and lower economic classes. If you can get past that, they are worth reading to see how the genre got started.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It’s generally considered to be the first detective story. It was originally published in serial form, which accounts for all the repetition. Many of the conventions that now seem trite must have been seen then as amazing. He handled the different characters’ voices very well and pulled off the shifting points of view. The villain was pretty obvious.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. A classic Victorian novel that also manages to be a decent mystery. It has a very creepy opening. Excellent characterizations with the different narrators carrying through the story. I didn’t care for the very Victorian attitudes towards women, but that can’t be helped.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. This book introduced Tom Ripley. I didn’t care for the character but the book was riveting. In a sense, it’s like Woman in White in that Tom takes over another’s identity. He switches back and forth, comes up with lies in an instant, and generally manipulates everyone. He feels guilty about his actions, but not enough to stop.

Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy. I had to read a modern mystery after those three. This series features the White House executive chef as the heroine. It’s in classic cozy style. I enjoy this series and this one did not disappoint. There’s a state dinner, international intrigue, and wedding plans.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This week’s nonfiction book took me a long time to read, mostly because I needed to digest each chapter. The book analyzes the two different decision processes the human brain makes – one quick and intuitive, one deliberate and problem-solving. He explains loss aversion: why people with little don’t want to risk losing it but will buy lottery tickets. He went through some of the fallacies we use in making snap decisions. I found WYSIATI (What you see is all there is) a great explanation of why we make dumb choices sometimes. It’s mostly fairly accessible. The two appendices are more complicated. The author is a Nobel Prize winner in economics.

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