Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

I confess to reading a lot of serial killer novels. I believe I have read all of the Jonathan Kellerman books featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware and his sidekick, LAPD detective Milo Sturgis. I like Delaware's girlfriend, Robin, and the fact that they have a french bulldog who livens up all of the scenes set in Delaware's home. He also raises koi fish. After reading twenty-one of these novels, I feel as if I am part of the family.

In Obsession the crime is a deathbed confession by a respected nurse, that she killed someone close by. Her daughter, to whom she made the confession, goes to Delaware for help. Both mother and daughter have OCD and had consulted with Delaware in the past.

With the help of Sturgis, the digging begins. There are many unsavory characters and a couple of new murders as well as sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I began to get some of the characters mixed up due the the sheer number of bad guys and good guys and one really bad guy who goes by more than one name. But in the end, I guess that didn't matter. I just kept plowing though and all became clear in the end.

I don't think this was the best of Kellerman. Without giving anything away, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. On the other hand, I read these novels kind of compulsively and I just like keeping up with the "family." This worked for me on that level. I think that if you have never read a Kellerman book before, this would not be the place to start. Go to the library and get some of his early stuff for a real introduction. If you are a fan though, this is a good read and worth your time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

In which a thirty-something American librarian with a social conscience goes to Africa to deliver books to the outlying settlements by camel.

Okay, I make it sound as dumb as I thought it was going to be. But I was wrong. This is no great literature, but it is a nice read and all but the main character, Fi, short for Fiona, come pretty much alive. I feel myself waffling as I write this. I think maybe I would have liked more focus on the tribes people and how they lived day to day. And yet, the characters are not one dimensional. There is a boy who was horribly scarred when he was a baby who holds the entire books-by-camel program in his hands and the school teacher who loves his wife, but she is doing the unthinkable, by having a relationship with Scar Boy's father. And there is the wise older grandmother who has seen it all an passes out good advice. There I went and did it again and made it sound sappier than it is.

It is about 300 quick pages and the setting is lovely and I think the idea behind the book is good, too. Essentially that books and education can change lives, even those of the people in the African bush. I would say this book has a good heart. And as a retired librarian I had to read it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book quiz

This little book quiz has been going around, I picked it up from Babelbabe.

A book that made you cry: The Fox and the Hound, Where the Red Fern Grows--you know, dog stories.

A book that scared you: The Jungle

A book that made you laugh: The Janet Evanovich Series about Stephanie Plum

A book that disgusted you: American Psycho--Bret Easton Ellis

A book you loved in elementary school: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald

A book you loved in junior high: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

A book you loved in high school: I found a copy of The Harrod Experiment and I was amazed, plus, even though my parents never stopped me from reading anything, this was a book I felt the need to hide.

A book you hated in high school: The Scarlet Letter.

A book you loved in college: Lady Chatterley's Lover--I felt so grown up reading this book

A book that challenged your identity: Illusions by Richard Bach. It changed the way I view the world.

A series that you love: The A B C books by Sue Grafton

Comfort books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I just love this book.

Your favorite horror book: Misery by Stephen King

Your favorite science fiction book: Strange in a Strange Land--Heinlein. I think I like it so well because it was one of the first SF books I ever read.

Your favorite fantasy book: The Hobbit and more recently, the Philip Pullman series, His Dark Materials

Your favorite mystery book: Marcia Muller Series

Your favorite graphic novel: Never read one. Maybe I should

Your favorite biography: Tender at the Bone--Reichl--I like food bios and and read a lot of them, this one sticks out in my mind.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: I think The Life of Pi fits here, and I love that book

Your favorite classic: Lady Chatterley's Lover

Your favorite romance book: The Wolf and the Dove--Woodiwiss--I never read many romances, but I did read all the Woodiwiss books years ago and I loved them then.

Favorite kids’ book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day--I have had days like that.

Favorite cookbook: Joy of Cooking--I love cookbooks, I own dozens, but if I want to be absolutely sure something is going to turn out, it's Joy.

Your favorite book not on this list: The Shipping News--Annie Proulx, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Book Thief

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey

I was always fascinated by Gustav Klimt's painting, The Kiss. The clothing in that painting awed me. When I read about this book, a fictionalized history of Klimt's life and the life of Emilie Floge, I knew I had to get it.

It took me quite a long time to get through this book. It doesn't have much plot. If I had to write one line about what it is about, I would say it is the story of an unrequited love between Emilie Floge and Klimt. But that is probably a gross simplification. Klimt was a bohemian who had many lovers in his lifetime but always he came back to Emilie as the one person who seemed to hold his life together. Still, the love was more platonic than passionate. She was always there when he raged over the Vienna art world, or broke off affairs with other women. In this book he is kind of a clueless man who isn't really taking advantage of anyone, but as a reader I just wanted to reach out and shake him and say, Look what you have. Of course with these fictionalized art history novels, who knows what the true nature of the relationships really were.

Floge became quite a hot clothing designer in her day and many of the clothes painted by Klimt seem inspired by her designs. She is the main point of view character in this story and it is mostly a reminiscence she is telling from the summer home where she and her niece escape to when they are threaten by the Nazis in WWII.

This book pleased me. I like the little chapters inserted about particular paintings that I looked up on the net and it was fun to follow the history of the book while seeing the actual works. I think that the lack of drama in the story may turn some readers off, but I also think that Hickey really captured the life of the art world in Vienna in the late 19 and early 20th centuries.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Breakfast Served Any Time All Day by Donald Hall

I have always hated reading textbooks. Even in grad school I would avoid them all all costs. I could usually squeeze by the reading by being a good listener and note taker in class. So, I pick up this book by Donald Hall on writing poetry. It is not your usual how-to book, it is a book of essays on poetry. It was a real slog for me. Very text bookish. Some of it went fairly well, but when I came up against the drier parts, I wanted to throw it out the window.

But, I didn't. Instead I kept at it in little snippets and I am really very glad I did. Hall makes a good case for sound in poetry. He says that we, as a culture, have lost a lot of poetry pleasure because we no longer have to read aloud and we no longer get the mouth feel of poems, or any other literature for that matter.

I have to agree with him on many of his points. I am a silent, fast, reader who never lip reads. Doesn't matter much when I'm reading some quick little novel, but when I am reading and writing poetry, it matters a lot. You have to hear the words and feel them in you mouth to get the full effect of the reading.

Hall also talks in depth about a number of poets whom he admires. One entire chapter is spent on Robert Frost and how after Frost's death, an editor got hold of his work and changed a lot of punctuation. Seems a small thing, but Hall makes a heck of a case against these kinds of posthumous changes. I was drawn to a couple of the authors discussed and intend to pick up their books from the library.

I am glad I stuck with this book. I would not recommend it to people without an interest in poetry, but if you are interested, it was ultimately fascinating.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pay Off

I have said before, I believe that if you want to write good, you have to read a lot. When I began writing short stories I immersed myself in short stories, both classic and contemporary and I also read many, many books on the art of writing fiction. Now that I have changed my writing focus to poetry I am doing the same thing. In some ways, poetry is harder. Oh, it is shorter, but there is so much to ferret out of some poems that many readings are required to "get it."

For me I got a little pay off for all of the work I have been doing with poetry. Yesterday I got an e-mail from the editor of an on-line zine asking to publish one of the poems I submitted. I was/am ecstatic. Wicked Alice is the name of the zine and it is really top notch. My poem will be in the July/summer issue and I will be sure to hawk it here, that the so inclined can read it.