Friday, April 29, 2005

Book 22 - True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

Yes... alright... I love Nicholas Sparks... I love the drivel... I love the crap... and I ate the last one right up as well.

It was one of his better books and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to read about two people who "can't" be in love... but manage to find a way to fall in love anyway.

It is called True Believer.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pages flying by.....

Wonderland : A Year in the Life of an American High School -- Michael Bamberger. (metacritic)

In an effort of true escapism, I left behind the troubled landscapes of Rwanda and Afghanistan for the halls of Pennsbury High for the 2002 school year. A guilty pleasure to be sure, but a pleasure none the less.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Book 21 - Orange Crushed

I followed up Pamela Thomas-Graham's Blue Blood with the final installament in the "Ivy League" mysteries series.

This book -- Orange Crushed -- took our hero to Princeton University where she went to meet her mentor and brother. Eventually, her brother became accused of murdering her mentor (but we all know that isn't going to be the truth friends.)

Once again, for everything that I liked about the first two, I enjoyed the third one even more. Even with very familiar and textbook characters, THomas-Graham is able to make a scathing report on the treatment of minorities in higher education. Her insight is tremendous to me.

I still stick to my guns on this statement. "These are decent books - not as good as Stephen White but decent enough!"

I hope there are more... the ending makes you believe there will be.

Two more down.....

After spending what feels like forever reading We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch, I blew through The Kite Runner in 2 days, reading most of it on the train coming home from Washington.

Both were very good books.

We Wish to Inform You was well written, enlightening and, at times, difficult. Difficult, because the material pushed me out of my comfort zone. Reading about genocide is never pleasant. But I found the reaction of the world community to be just as unpleasant. Its a story we should all hear and read. We may not like it. But, it raises real questions about sovereignty and the world community. I do not think we in the States give that much thought. If I had one gripe with this book, it is a lack of both footnotes/endnotes and/or a real listing of sources. Yes, the author does touch on this through his acknowledgements, but that is not enough. He makes a lot of bold assertions about how the world reacted, the role of NGO's and what happened inside Rwanda and surrounding nations. While I took much of what he wrote on its face, the book would have been strengthened with citations.

The Kite Runner led me again into a world virtually unknown to me, Afghanistan. This a beautifully written novel that follows the travails of Amir from his childhood in Afghanistan in the mid '70s until he returns during the reign of the Taliban in the '90s. Its a book about his relationships both to his father and to his friend and servant Hassan. I hate to classify this as a coming of age story because it is so much more. A truly incredible first novel from Khaled Hosseini. Read this book.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Draft: New Music

I have been on the run the last few weeks. Over the last two weeks or so I have been to two different conventions in Atlantic City and another two conventions in Washington DC. During the trips I was able to finish "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda" by Philip Gourevitch. I will write a review of that amazing book tomorrow. Also I have almost completed The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I should also have more to say about it this weekend. (Sneak preview: READ THESE BOOKS!)

While my reading has been slow, I have gone a little nuts with music. Over the last two weeks I have picked up: Beck -- Guero, The Futureheads, Sugarcult -- Start Static, and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros -- Streetcore.

Beck, Guero (metacritic 77, 6.6 from Pitchfork)
I am pleasantly suprised by this album. I am not a huge Beck fan. I liked some of his breakthrough stuff (Gold, Odelay) but not much since. Guero seems to be more of a return to those first albums, although with a little more maturity in the music.

The Futureheads (metacritic 85 , 8.3 from Pitchfork)
I have not really listened to this yet.

Sugarcult, Start Static (not reviewed by either Metacritic or Pitchfork)
After getting hooked on their second album, and loving the single from this album, I had to buy this cd. I wish I had not. It's just ok.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Streetcore (metacritic 84, 6.9 from Pitchfork)
I have toyed with buying this cd for a few years. I love The Clash. I even liked Big Audio Dynamite. How could I not like this? The reviews were usually favorable. And yet, something kept holding me back. I had a similar experience with Rancid's ...And Out Came the Wolves. After almost a decade, I finally broke down and bought it. Critics argue Rancid is too much like a Clash rip-off, but that's ok for me.

So, after my success with Rancid, I decided to give Joe Strummer a chance. I have listened to the album a few times now, and I am still mixed. I don't love it, but its not too shabby either.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Book 20 - Missing Persons by Stephen White

Despite my distraction with the Two Pamela Thomas-Graham books, I received notice from the library that the copy of Missing Persons by Stephen White that I wanted to read had finally arrived.


Entitled Missing Persons, the book follows my favorite psychologist come crime fighter as he delves into the world where a little girl goes missing eight years to the day after Jon Benet Ramsey disappears a few houses down from the Ramsey home.

This Colorado native delves into the whole possible kidnapping in a fantastic and interesting journey.

It is the last book in the series so far. It is a worthwhile addition to the series but will not keep the interest of a new reader that comes along. The characters have developed so much from the beginning fo the series to get the full bang out of this book.

I still say though that Stephen White is the smartest relatively unknown mystery writer out there today.

Friday, April 15, 2005

You have to be kidding me...

... who let Rob Thomas become a homo-boy band guy?

Book 19 - Blue Blood

I followed up A Darker Shade of Crimson with the second book of three in the Ivy League mysteries series.

It was entitled Blue Blood. For everything that I liked about the first one, it was expanded in the second one. The murder mystery was fun and had a few interesting twists, but what really made this book work for me is the insight of the author in race relations in traditionally privilged white societies such as the Ivy League.

These are decent books - not as good as Stephen White but decent enough!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Darker Shade of Crimson -- Book Something or Other...18

I picked up a new author. Pamela Thomas-Graham.

She is the author of three mystery/thriller books creaing a series entitled the "Ivy League Mysteries."

The first book is called "A Darker Shade of Crimson" and follows the only black professor in the Economics Department at Harvard. She gets caught up in a mystery and solves the crime.

What makes the series unique is that the black female professor addresses racial issues within the traditional privileged white sanctums of Ivy League schools.

The author herself is a well positioned black woman and doesn't need to write novels. A Harvard graduate herself, she became one of the most influential women in American business when she was named the first black woman partner at McKinsey & Company, the world's largest management consulting firm. Her credits continue ad nauseum.

She is well qualified to discuss the way the marketplace treats mionorities and you can sense that some of her experiences are portrayed in the fictional account she has written.

Next up... Blue Blood (The next book in the Ivy League series and written about Yale.)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Music: Bloc Party, Silent Alarm

Metacritic: 79
Pitchfork: 8.9

I am always on the lookout for new music. But, my tastes are so particular that I have a diffcult time finding music I like.

Let's be clear, however, I am not a music snob. If I were, I would be gushing all over the new Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith releases. I so desperately want to rant about them, and others in that whole genre of indie-folk-rock. I just cannot understand where "alternative" rock went and how it got replaced on the one side by those types of groups, and the electronica on the other.

But, this is not about them. It is about another genre enjoying a reawakening our musical counsciousness. Its about Franz Ferdinand and the Killers succeeding in a style inspired by Joy Division and The Cure.

To me, Silent Alarm follows The Killers and FF down the same path, but without the hits. In an Itunes inspired playtlist world that might be a problem. But in a "listen to the whole album in your car world," this album solidly hits the mark.