Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"The Wave" by Walter Mosley

I (Nick) listen to public radio a lot and the woman who hosts the morning show is a bibliophile. She regularly interviews authors and makes non literary guests talk about books. One of her favorite authors (because of the Easy Rawlins series) is Walter Mosley. I've heard her interview Mosley and when I saw his name at the library I figured it would be a safe bet.

Summary: In this book we follow Errol Porter in his journey of despair. Before the book starts, his father dies, he loses his job, his wife moves out to be with another man and he rents out the garage of the home he once owned. To cope with his misery he finds comfort in the arms of women. Many women. As he sleeps in his makeshift studio apartment, his phone wakes him up in the middle of the night, over and over. Instead of reporting the prank caller, Errol takes it upon himself to find the obviously disturbed man and care for him. What he learns is that the man is infected with a strange bacteria that wield powerful and awesome abilities. The Department of Homeland Security quickly moves in to get a handle on the situation and are eager to violate civil rights. In this crazy adventure Errol learns secrets about his father, the government and the history of life on earth.

What We Liked: Nick liked the idea of the bacteria invasion and plan to use it in a role-playing game I am running.  Tami didn't like much about the book, other than the fact that some of plot choices were ludicrous to the point of laughter.

What We Didn't Like: Errol sleeps with a surprising number of women, which is hilarious because the main character comes across as totally unappealing.  And Mosley describes a surprising number of men naked without advancing the plot.  There were a lot of scenes where Mosley just tells you something happened or told you how the characters felt when he could have painted a mental picture. It made the book feel distant and poorly written.  As a reader I didn't feel any emotional connection to the characters, so I didn't really care when Errol was probed or probed someone himself.  (And that happened quite a bit.)

Rating: Not recommended. I might try his Easy Rawlins series, but I'm in no hurry.

Also Read By This Author: Nothing.  And it might just stay that way.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul" by Douglas Adams

I aquired this book at the same time I picked up Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which works out well because it is the sequel. 

Summary: This book starts with Kate Schechter witnessing a powerful explosion at the airport. Terrorist organizations take credit and utility boards apologize, but the official investigation turns up no explanation as to what caused it. There are no deaths, except possibly the check-in girl who leaves not a single trace. Unrelated, Dirk Gently is hired as a bodyguard for a successful record producer who fears for his life. When his fears manifest, Dirk searches for the killer. His non-linear investigation tactics lead him on a crazy adventure for the truth. His path crosses with Kate's and they enter into a hidden world of beings who are out of their place and out of their time. They are witnesses to a great and powerful conflict typically obscured from the view of mere mortals.

What I Liked: Douglas Adams is a funny author and can deliver dry humor in such a way that makes it feel serendipitous. He pokes fun at the government, religion and society in general.

What I Didn't Like: This book follows a very roundabout path and relies heavily on coincidences to move the plot forward. It felt more like a stand-up comedy routine than a novel.

Also Read By This Author: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (and sequels); Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Rating: If you like British comedy fiction you'll enjoy it, though it is not Adams' best work.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Virtual Book Club: September 2013

Have you ever thought about hosting a book club but didn't have the time or energy to host a meeting?  Have you ever wanted to join a book club but been hesitant to commit to a regular meeting?

We've got a solution for you!  A Great Book's Virtual Book Club!

On the first of each month we'll post this month's book club selection and some information on the book.  In the comments section, we'll post a few questions to start a discussion.  If you have something to say, simply click the reply link to respond.  If the book interests you, great!  Pick up a copy and answer the questions at your own speed.  We'll keep the post up indefinitely so you can see what others are saying.

Each month's book club post will be linked to the Virtual Book Club page at the top of the screen.  This will make it easy to find each book's questions and to see which books are up next.  If you're new to A Great Read, this will be a great resource to see what other's thought of a book!

The only rules for the club:  Be respectful.  It's fine to disagree, just be respectful when doing it.

That's it!  Stay tuned for the September book club pick and questions to be posted on September 1!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"In The President's Secret Service" by Ronald Kessler

This audiobook was handpicked off the shelf of our local library. We selected it because it reminded Tami of the West Wing and Nick had vaguely remembered an interview with the author he'd maybe heard on the radio. We listened to it in the car together. 

Summary: This non-fiction book is a tabloid style peek into the lives of the Secret Service and their protectees. The author interviewed several active and former agents before writing the book and includes all kinds of stories from assassinations, escapes and investigations. It also goes into the history of the Secret Service and extensively explores the critiques put forward by former agents and their analysis of Service politics. Alan Sklar reads this edition and his voice has the deep authoritative sound which is perfect for this book.

What We Liked: The candid stories revealed how presidents act when the camera is not on them. It also talked about many of the exciting threats that the Service neutralized and never got in the news.

What We Didn't Like: The book is kind of a random assemblage of stories, strung together without good transitions. And the author shows his political bias in how strongly he critiques some presidents compared to others.

Rating: If you like non-fiction police stories (or TMZ), you'll like this book.

Also Read By This Author: Nothing yet!

Reviewed By: Tami and Nick

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton with Book Club Questions!

Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors.  Her stories are cleverly written, have immensely likable characters and always have a surprise twist at the end.  Every time I see a new Kate Morton, I immediately move it to the top of my "must read" list.  She's never let me down!

Summary:  Sixteen year old Laurel is pouting in her family's tree house when she spots a strange man approaching her mother and baby brother.  In the next few moments, Laurel witnesses a terrible crime that will become a secret she holds for her entire life.  And that's just the prologue!

The Secret Keeper crafts two central timelines which alternate between the chapters in a riveting race to the finish: Dorothy, Vivien and Ben, whose paths collide in WWII during the Blitz and Laurel's modern day search for her mother's secret past.

What I liked:  I love the way Kate Morton crafts her stories.  The Secret Keeper touched upon subjects that pique my interest and combine them in a unique and interesting way:

  • Revenge, misunderstanding and tragic pasts
  • The unfolding of a love story in England during the Blitz of WWII
  • Memorable, complex and charming characters with defined personalities and motivations
  • A murder mystery where the back story and the modern day investigation race to the finish
  • Family dynamics shown in a funny yet realistic way

What drove me nuts:  I loved this book, so there wasn't much that hit my nut-o-meter.  There were times when some of the characters drove me a little nuts (hello Dorothy) but those layers added so much to the characters that in the long run, I was kind of glad for her and her ways.

Rating:  MUST READ

Also read by this author:  The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours.
{Note:  All of these books are worth a read!}

Reviewed by:  Tami

Bonus Book Club Questions:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams

I received a copy of this book through a friend of a friend who was trying to sell it at a garage sale. I really enjoyed other books by Douglas Adams and so I figured I would enjoy this one too.

Summary: This story follows Richard MacDuff, a successful computer programmer working for the eccentric businessman Gordon Way. He is reunited with a former professor, Reg, who is shrouded in an aura of mystery. He also reunites with an old college friend, Dirk Gently, who has become a private investigator. Dirk is an astoundingly intelligent person, but does not conform to traditional logic paths. Instead, he sees each individual case as being entangled with the universe, leading to very peculiar detective work and problematic billing. The three find themselves on a crazy adventure to save the world.

What I Liked: Douglas Adams is very good about establishing early in the book a series of minor jokes which escalate, seemingly by coincidence, as the book progresses. Each time the joke reappears it seems like the final punchline, funnier than before. At the beginning of the book I thought it was slow, not really sure if it was worth continuing on, but by the end I was laughing out loud and having difficulty explaining the elaborate jokes to Tami. The final punchlines were so simple and delivered with Adams' dry sense of humor, if taken out of context they would appear dull. But cleverly placed in the book, each punchline was a solid hit.

What I Didn't Like: The book had a slow start. In Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy the book starts by putting the main character in mortal danger and the excitement continues from there. In this book, it takes a while for anything exciting to happen, and even longer for Richard to be pulled into it.

Rating: If you like comedy mixed with science fiction this is a must-read.

Also Read By This Author: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (and sequels)

Reviewed By: Nick

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Sisterland" By Curtis Sittenfeld

Summary:  Twin sisters Vi and Kate have "senses" that allow them to occasionally see the future---which childhood friend's father is cheating, which high school classmate is going to die young, even who they themselves will one day marry.

As they grow up through a strange childhood, tumultuous teen years and into adulthood, Vi embraces her extra sense while Kate wishes for nothing more than to be a normal stay at home mom of two.
When Vi predicts a major earthquake on national TV, Kate is forced to come face to face with everything she fears most; her own psychic ability, being tied to her eccentric twin sister and worse...that her sister's terrible prediction may come true.

What I liked:  This story was about so much more than ESP, although Kate's ability to sense the future played a major factor in developing her as the main character.  Sisterland is about the relationship between sisters that are so incredibly different yet achingly similar.  It's about growing up and dealing with life the best you can.  And it reminds us that no matter what life throws at us, it all comes back to family.

What drove me nuts:  The main character tried so hard to be normal that she ended up a little boring.  Until the very end....

Rating:  Definitely worth a read!

Also Read By This Author:  "American Wife"

Reviewed By:  Tami

The Great Books Uncovered

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