Monday, March 28, 2005

Book 17 - Brian Haig's The President's Assassin

As you know, I pick up an author and generally read everytihing by him or her in chronological order until I am finished. I then keep up with the author's new books as they come out.

One of the newer authors out there trying to write interesting mystery/thrillers is the son of Alexander Haig -- Brian Haig. Brian is an accomplished and retired Army fella himself and writes about an Army Lawyer who deals with the top secret cases.

The latest installment is about the same character, Sean Drummond, working to track down a group of killers that are trying to get to the President.

You can see the book here.

The previous four books are all better than this one. I really recommend giving one of his earlier books a shot if you are into the mystery thriller type stuff. As a former Army soldier, he has a lot of insight into the ways of the Army.

He is also a resident of Princeton, NJ, so you gotta give him the props that he deserves.

Next book -- Undecided...

Beyond Hotel Rwanda

As I wrote previously, I was moved by Hotel Rwanda.

I must admit to being embarrassed by how little I know about that conflict. In fact, I know very little about many of the conflicts on the whole continent. Maybe it is one of the luxuries of being an American -- our news organizations are just not geared to cover international news. For many of us, ignorance truly is bliss.

But, I want to know more. So, I picked up, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. I am about a third of the way through it. What amazes me most, so far, is how my own preconceived notions about the conflict were just dead wrong.

I believed, going in, that this conflict, like many of the others in Africa, was probably caused by colonialism and the seemingly random lines that created countries, dividing some tribes, while putting other tribes together. Yet, that seems not to be the case. While the Germans and the Belgians may have helped fuel the conflict in other ways, this was not a case of political geography. As I understand it, The Hutus and Tutis had coexisted in Rwanda for a significant period of time. Yet, even through their coexistence had managed to retain their individual tribal identities.

I will write more as I move forward with the book.





Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Omens

My goal of 4 books a month seems to be fading fast. It's more like I have read 4 books in three months. So rather than 48, I am on pace to read 12. I think Smelmooo has already read more than that.

Even so, I have two books under my belt in the past few weeks and feel like I am getting back into a rhythm.

I just completed Good Omens. A collaboration by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. As you will recall, I recently read another Gaiman book and liked it. Pratchett is an entirely different matter altogether.

Pratchett is out of the same literary school as Douglas Adams. Their styles are similar to Monty Python (in fact I believe Adams did write for Python at some point) only with a science fiction bent. Many years ago I was exposed to both authors. Actually, that's not true. I found Pratchett after exhausting all possible material to read by Adams, but still looking for a fix. Unfortunately, at that time, I found Pratchett barely readable. So, after an attempt at one of his novels over a decade ago, I had never read another word he had written until now.

Good Omens is hyped on the cover with a quote from the New York Times, "A direct descendant of The Hithhchikers Guide to the Galaxy." In as much as the earth is destroyed in hitchhikers and GO is about the Apocalypse, both are funny in that Monty Python British sort of a way, then indeed GO is a descendant of Hitchhikers.

I must admit, Douglas Adams, in my mind, was so good, that everything else in the genre is second rate. So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing out loud at different points of GO.

I think this book succeeds because it marries Gaiman's solid fantasy/mythology storytelling with Pratchett's humor. The book plays to both of their strengths.

A good read.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Robots

Sunday Matinee with a regular popcorn and a smuggled water for two? Under 20 bucks.

Totally worth it.

At times I felt I was in Disney World watch a pre-movie to some ride. Other times I felt like I was in Disney's MGM theme park watching the movie that Robin Williams stars in as they guide you through their animation department.

But, there were a bunch of kids in the theatre and they were all laughing. My wife was laughing too. So even the hokey script worked for some.

The visuals were pretty impressive. For that alone, it is probably worth it for the big screen.

Oh, and did I mention the trailer for Star Wars? Nice......(only to be disappointed AGAIN when the film comes out).

Book 16 - How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby has written a set of novels and they are all good for their various reasons.

High Fidelity is my favorite book with About a Boy coming in a close second.

His last novel of fiction was entitled How to Be Good and wasn't up to snuff with his other books. It is the account of a couple and their possible divorce until the husband goes to extremes of kindness when he reviews his bitter life and attempts to "be good". The catch is that he brings in his two kids and estranged wife with him on his misguided adventure.

I read it about 4 years ago when it first came out and I didn't think much of it then. I couldn't emote with the characters.... and I have to say... that although I can relate more with the characters this time by the virtue of being married, it still isn't as good as Nick Hornby is capable of.

I recommend reading it though if you want to get a flare for Nick Hornby and what he is capable of.

Next up... The President's Assassain by Brian Haig

Friday, March 18, 2005

Books 14 and 15

My recent trip to Vegas allowed me to read a bunch more on planes and in my spare time.

I finished two and a half books on the plane... but let's just discuss what I DID finish.

I read Blinded by Stephen White. It is the 2004 installment of the serious that I have written about numerous times on here and not his best. His latest one came out a couple of weeks ago... once I read that one, I will be all caught up on his books.

Book 15 was the original Manchurain Candidate by Richard Condon from the 1960s. As a huge fan of the ORIGINAL movie, I found the book form to be a decent read. It was a bit rough in terms of flow but still very well written.

Good reads.

Next Up (1/2 way done) -- Nick Hornby's How to Be Good

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Constantine

It reminded me a lot of American Gods. Which is probably no coincidence since it was based on a comic book and American Gods was written by someone who is a graphic novelist (isn't that just a comic book with more pages?)

The movie was dark, both visually and thematically. It had a nice blend of story and graphics. It was also a little hokey.

I paid full price. It wasn't quite worth it. Matinee? Definitely.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Mix Tapes / Playlists

Recently, I took part in a CD Exchange. Essentally, each participant creates a mix of music, designs the artwork for the cd, and then sends a copy of their cd to every other member. The end product is often a mixed bag, from the very professional to the song list scribbled on a piece of paper. It can be a great way to hear a lot of music I had not heard before. For some examples, check out the Art of the Mix.

In the process of participating, the most rewarding part for me was not in the receiving of new music, but in creating mine. Its part nostalgic, remembering a time in my past when I would sit at my stereo with my dual cassette deck taping off the radio or from tape to tape. But also, I get to create something. From deciding which songs to include, to how to design the cd booklet, I am moved outside my comfort zone of things I do well and into a place where I do not spend that much time.

After making a few of my own, looking over the CD's I have gotten, and checking out many of the mixes on the Art of the mix, what I am left wondering is this: How do you create your playlists?

Getting Back on Track

I just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I am not even sure how I got to this book. After finishing Out of Left Field, I got a bad case of reader's block. I tried two different books that I really do want to read, Under the Banner of Heaven and Salt. But neither worked for me. A change of pace was in order. After a trip to my local bookstore (ok, it's a Barnes and Noble, but that sounds so commercial....) I came home with two novels, American Gods and the Kite Runner.

American Gods did the trick. I confess, I had never even heard of Neil Gaiman before almost randomly picking up his novel in the store. While I like some science fiction / fantasy, it has not been a regular part of my reading diet in quite a while.

Without giving away too much, its about an ex-con, Shadow, and his road trip across America. I do not want to deceive you, it is not a road novel like On the Road, or Travels with Charley. This story combines mythology, a little religion, and the author's vivid imagination to tell a fun, although sometimes sluggish, story. It took a little while to get into the spirit of the novel, but once it grabs you, it does not let go.

But, if you are checking it out on Amazon or some other on-line retailer and it does look interesting to you, might I tempt you with a better book?

Veronica by Nicholas Christopher. A poet turned novelist, Christopher's writing far exceeds Gaiman's, and the story is even better. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Books 12 & 13 - Jack by A.M. Homes & Honeymoon by James Patterson

I have been a busy little reader recently.

I picked up two books recently. In my mind, the books were dramataically different from each other.

The first book was Jack by A.M. Homes. The book centers around a 15 year old boy who learns why his parents divorced a few years prior. He is a boy that is an athlete and joins in the taunting of boys who are not like him. He is a "man's man" type of kid. The problem is that his father has recently come out and Jack has to deal with the new world that he is forced to live in.

Jack's father being gay is almost incidental to the main theme of the book - the growth of Jack. For a book that was published in 1989, this was pretty insightful. I have seen copmparisons to Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Piece as it is about a young boy who is forced to grow up quicker than he wanted.

I find this to still be one of my favorite books. The dialogue of the kids is exactly as I remember it in the early 1990's as Jack's character in terms of chronology is only 3 years older than me. So the book seems more real to me than anything else I have read.

One note about the book... A.M. Homes is a woman...and this book caused a similar reaction that The Outsiders did when it was written. Many people questioned how a woman could write about the inner feelings of a boy...well... the answer is simple. They can and did.

It is a worthwhile book...

The other book I read is the latest number one seller by James Patterson entitled Honeymoon. For James Patterson, this is one of his better and recent books. It introduces some new characters yet, they feel comfortable to me. His formula is to write 3-4 page chapters and try to leave you hanging at the end of each chapter. He does so adeptly in this book as well. If you are looking for a good book to read this summer that is smart yet brainless then I have found your book!