Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Report: What I Read on My Vacation

  • Marley & Me by John Grogan - tender, touching, and at times riotously funny, this is a book for anyone who ever loved a dog, or even just wanted to. John and Jenny wanted to practice for having a baby, so they got themselves a cute little yellow Lab puppy, who in short order became a massive, galumphing, barrel-chested beast with a tail as strong as a baseball bat. He is, the author says, the worst dog in the world. And that's true if your sole measure is gnawed table legs, missing mittens, and a decided disinterest in coming to heel. They eventually added two (human) boys and a girl to their family, and this book tells about their life with Marley the Dog. Fiercely protective, undyingly loyal, unfailingly optimistic. Still, the sad fact is that the canine member of the family ages at seven time the rate of the others, so Marley reaches infirmity before the oldest kid is an adolescent. The last chapters of Marley's tale brought tears to my eyes, to wit: The middle son writes a letter to be interred with him: "To Marley, I hope you know how much I loved you all of my life. You were always there when I needed you. Through life or death, I will always love you. Your brother, Conor Richard Grogan"
  • Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris - Lily Bard is the unincorporated Maid-to-Go of Shakespeare, Arkansas--she knows practically everything about everybody in town as a result. Except who killed local busybody and landlord Pardon Albee. Even though she did see someone steal her garbage can trolley and dump the body in the woods, er, arboretum, across the street. Lily has her own secret to keep, one of horrific abuse, and really wants to keep her nose out of the murder of Shakespeare's landlord.
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo - Hitler Studies professor Jack Gladney and his wife Babette share many traits: devotion to the post-modern children of their blended family, a good sex life, and an almost obsessive fear of death. Then, their small college town is threatened by an accidental release of something called Nyodene D., a toxic black cloud that results in evacuation and Jack's fleeting exposure while he pumps gas into the car. This is a deep book about the modern situation, but is easy to read, humorous and rife with interesting characters. Published in 1985, so "microcomputers" are viewed with admirable suspicion.
  • Kill Shot by Vince Flynn - CIA operative Mitch Rapp has been on a mission for the last year, knocking off top terrorists targeted by The List, until something goes wrong during his Paris hit on a Lybian oil minister with a past. Now his superiors want him to come in from the cold. He's worried there is a traitor on the team, as the assassination in Paris looks more and more like a setup. But by whom?
  • Naive. Super by Erlend Loe, translated by Tor Ketil Solberg - first person rumination on the meaning of life and everything by a 25-year-old whose life has ground to a halt by the weight of his existential anxiety. His brother invites him to New York in order to gain some "perspective". Naive has the additional meaning in Norwegian of "alternative", and though I found the POV likeably offbeat, this is a rather slight effort.
  • The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, translated by Sonia Soto - a series of murders is taking place around Oxford, the killer writing notes to a mathematics professor, with strange symbols, as if taunting him. The math more or less wasn't there, and some of the symbology went explained. Still, I more or less solved this one early on, though there were a few interesting twists at the end. I'd skip it.

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