Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I'm Reading

  • The Dig by Michael Siemsen - A happy participant in the willing suspension of disbelief, this one was a bit too far for me. A mysterious artifact is found in an African dinosaur dig, and clairvoyant Matthew Turner is brought in to lay his hands on it, and thus "read" the thoughts and emotions of all who had touched it before. If this was the only unbelievable element of the story, I could have really liked it; (SPOILER ALERT:) alas, the object itself points to a pre-Mesozoic human culture so advanced that a few bits of woven metal armour are the least we should have found. He should have stuck with the human elements of love and greed in the Kenyan dig's encampment, and told a more gripping tale.
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin - In case you've not heard of it, this is Korea's runaway best-seller from 2011, and deservedly so. The elderly mother of three grown children disappears from a Seoul subway platform during a family visit. The book is narrated in four sections by different family members, painting "Mom's" adult life as a mother and caregiver. In their search to find her, the children find out about her--a more complex person than they imagined, yet touchingly devoted to her family, especially the eldest son, as is expected in a Confucian society. Well-written, thought-provoking, also interesting for the light it sheds on Korean culture for the outsider. Recommended.
  • Cell by Stephen King - King's 2006 novel of the zombie apocalypse begins when incipient graphic novelist Clay Riddell has just gotten his first break. Suddenly, everyone talking on a cell phone begins acting oddly. Well, not just oddly, they're jumping out of windows, biting each other's necks, and generally rampaging. What follows is a gruesome but good read, populated by believable characters but a few unbelievable coincidences, in which those few untouched by the cellphone madness form small groups, while the zombies come together in a Borg-like collective consciousness, as if reprogrammed by the cellphone message. Upcoming movie to star John Cusack.
  • Hot Type by Joseph Flynn - Chicago crime reporter and aspiring novelist Dan Cameron gets a typewriter for his birthday, supposedly the one used by Ben Hecht (Chicago reporter and novelist). After writing his first novel on it--a big success--he is nearly finished with his second when it is stolen during a burglary. The burglar is a recently escaped convict and bank robber who slowly realizes what he's got--and starts to use the novel's plot as the basis for his series of crimes. Meanwhile Dan and his wife team up with a retired FBI agent who had chased down the bank robber and ... Anyway, this book is full of great plot twists, double-crosses, and funky characters. A great read!
  • Ape House by Sara Gruen - The jacket blurb points out that this is an "incisive piece of social commentary" but read it anyway. Isabel Duncan is a scientist at a primate research facility who gets along much better with apes than with her own species. An explosion at the center, blamed on animal rights activists who protest outside daily, nearly kills her, but the Bonobos escape. They are rounded up, sold off, and somehow become the stars of America's latest reality TV show, created by a well-known porn producer (Bonobos are highly sexed). She tries to get them back, by whatever means necessary. Thoroughly researched, well-written, an interesting and entertaining book!
  • Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank - Chick-lit about a divorced mother of two teenage girls, leaving behind life in New Jersey to return to her childhood home of the South Carolina Low Country. She wants a simpler, slower life, especially for younger daughter Gracie, who has been rather in the fast lane lately. Linda takes a job as manager of Jackson Hole, an upscale seafood restaurant with a downscale ambience, and slowly falls in love with Brad Jackson, the owner. I read it mainly for the atmosphere, and it did not disappoint.
  • Nailed by Joseph Flynn - This is the fifth Joe Flynn book I've read, and they have all been distinctly different--locale, characters, themes, plots. They have in common that they are very good, and that they are crime stories; and in this one, the crime is that a well respected black preacher has been nailed to a burnt tree in the Sierra Nevada town of Goldstrike. Police Chief and "recovering bigot" Ron Ketchum finds that his investigation, instead of focusing the suspect list, tends to widen it. Meanwhile, a desperate mountain lion has begun trying to pick off lone joggers and small children, making many in the community of Goldstrike wonder if the curse on the town from the dead pastor's bereaved grandmother wasn't being fulfilled in some way. As usual with Flynn's books I've read so far, the climax and denouement are both unexpected and satisfying. Good stuff!

1 comment:

Lynn F. said...

I will order Please Look After Mom for myself as an early xmas present. Thanks for the suggestion!