Tuesday, January 31, 2012

61 Hours

I had to travel all the way to my refrigerator to obtain "61 Hours" (494 pages) by Lee Child. My dad had brought over some left over fried chicken all wrapped up in a bag. Later when I went to raid said chicken I was surprised to find a new (to me anyways) Reacher novel! Thanks mom! The chicken was almost as delicious as the book. From Goodreads:

"Sixty-one hours. Not a minute to spare.

A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.

Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.

61 Hours, Lee Child has written a showdown thriller with an explosive ending that readers will talk about for a long time to come."

It's good to see Lee Child back in good form, at least for me and the random order in which I read his novels, all based on ultra tough guy Jack Reacher. I loved the setting in South Dakota during a nasty winter storm and the slower pace of the novel as well. Think more mystery this time around instead of thriller. Another thing I appreciated about the story was the lack of a goofy love interest too, probably my only major problem with most of the Reacher novels, though I guess 61 hours is a tough time frame in which to meet someone and get to know them well enough to get laid.

Published in 2010, and after 16 novels, I'm still amazed how Child creates such great books based on the same character. The stories are always fresh and very well written with the exception of one sub-par outing in my opinion. Recommended to fans of the genre, specifically thriller and mystery fans. Child is a great writer, always presenting interesting stories and twists, with a great central character.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lost Symbol

My first experience reading Dan Brown comes with his latest novel, "The Lost Symbol" (509 pages), courtesy of a loan from my friend Dann. From the inside cover of the book:

"In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling--a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths... all under the watchful eye of Brown's most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object--artfully encoded with five symbols--is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation... one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon--a prominent Mason and philanthropist--is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations--all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

As the world discovered in
The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown's novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown's fans have been waiting for... his most thrilling novel yet."

It took me a while to take up "The Lost Symbol." As always I was lacking anything else to read, or at least anything else that seemed mildly more interesting. I really need to go to the book store! Do I say that in every book recap? Probably. It was with a little bit of trepidation that I began reading this particular novel. Researching a bit on Goodreads told me that the consensus for this novel was either really fantastic or really shitty. Luckily for me (or perhaps unluckily) I found the book to be neither. It seems that Brown takes a lot of criticism for his writing style, as in he's not a very good writer. I think stylistically the book was fine and very readable. Content would be another matter from time to time. He really framed an interesting story that chugged along at a great clip for the first half of the book. In fact the structure of the chapters made it hard for me to step away from the story. Each one being short and ending on a cliffhanger at least until the latter half of the book when the action seemed to get bogged down.

The characters seemed to be pretty cut and dry. Super good protagonists meets super bad villain, only missing a mustache to twirl. There's a lot of fascinating information about the Masons, religions, and symbols which I really appreciated. Some I had read or seen shows about before but it was cool to see it play out in the context of the book. Some of the "science" and easily deciphered clues presented in the book definitely had me rolling my eyes, but what the hell do I know. It never went so far that I wanted to put the book down, a common complaint of other reviewers.

I can't say this is a good book for Dan Brown as I've never read any of his other works. I guess fans of his other novels should probably be satisfied with this outing. My only other experience with Dan Brown was "The Da Vinci Code" movie and I thought it was garbage. But who knows, a good novel does not often a good movie make. In general I would recommend this novel especially for fans of mysteries and/or thrillers. Sure it's a little bit on the fast food side but so are a lot of novels I read. Sometimes you just have a Big Mac attack!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faded Coat of Blue

"Faded Coat of Blue" (338 pages) by Owen Parry, a pseudonym used by Ralph Peters, is another book I recently swiped from my mother. From Goodreads:

"A recent immigrant to this land — where American has taken up arms against American — Abel Jones finds himself mysteriously chosen as confidential agent to General George McClellan, the 'savior of the Union.' No stranger to the cruel paradoxes of war, Jones is asked to investigate the death of Anthony Fowler, a young volunteer captain shot through the heart outside an encampment of raw recruits. Fowler was one of the North's 'golden youth,' envied and idolized, an impassioned abolitionist and sole son of a powerful merchant dynasty. Instantly, his murder is blamed on the Confederates — but whispers haunt the death of this fallen martyr, leading Abel Jones from the blood of the battlefield through the intrigues of Washington, D.C., and into a web of secrets and sinister relationships where evil and good intertwine...and where heroes fall prey to those who cherished them the most."

"Faded Coat of Blue" is a novel I found myself liking more than I thought I would initially. At its core it's basically just a mystery that takes place at the beginning of the American Civil War. Abel Jones, a somewhat self-righteous and pious man, journeys between Washington D.C. and Philadelphia to unravel the unusual circumstances of Anthony Fowler's death. Jones' hunt for clues was rather interesting and usually kept me guessing all the way toward the end of the story. Even more interesting was just reading about the day to day lives of the people in and around Washington in the early 1960's, be it military officers or just regular people sprinkled throughout the tale.

Recommended for fans of mysteries or perhaps Civil War buffs. The language of the book is a little different as it's written in the style of the period, but it's nothing too detrimental to the overall enjoyment of the book. Apparently "Faded Coat of Blue" is the first in a series of books featuring Abel Jones. I'll definitely check out other installments of his adventures if the opportunity presents itself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fetus Free Food

Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey from District 44 has sponsored State Bill 1418 which states:

"Food; prohibiting the sale or manufacture of food or products which contain aborted human fetuses. Effective date."

Now I don't know about you, dear reader, but I usually do prefer that my food doesn't include aborted human fetuses. I know, call me crazy!

Where do we get these legislators and who the hell votes for them? Maybe even more disturbing is that Senator Shortey represents an area in the Oklahoma City metro! Though calling the south side metropolitan may be a stretch. And I thought all the crazies represented places like Pushmataha County.

We have serious problems in this state and we need serious people apparently to address those problems. The serious people are few and far between...

Friday, January 20, 2012

White Oleander

"White Oleander" (446 pages) by Janet Fitch is a novel I've been meaning to read for quite some time, mostly due to the recommendation from a couple of friends. From Goodreads:

"Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brillant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery - but their idyll is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison.

White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself an impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in a an indifferent world can become.

Tough, irrepressible, funny, and warm, Astrid is one of the most indelible characters in recent fiction.
White Oleander is an unforgettable story of mothers and daughters, burgeoning sexuality, the redemptive powers of art, and the unstoppable force of the emergent self. Written with exquisite beauty and grace, this is a compelling debut by an author poised to join the ranks of today's most gifted novelists."

I'm a little on the fence about "White Oleander." I gave the book three stars on Goodreads and that was probably being overly generous. While I liked the story for the most part and the characters (and sometimes hated them) I found Astrid's overall journey a little over the top and quite melodramatic. I think so much tragedy for Astrid became a crutch for the writer and bordered on the unbelievable as the novel neared its conclusion. Maybe "White Oleander" is a lot like "Catcher in the Rye." Something powerful to a younger reader that becomes less likable over time with maturity.

There's some good to be found in the story. The overall theme of redemption and forgiveness is nice even with the horrific events throughout book. I really empathized with Claire's character and her moments in the novel and I was truly heartbroken with her outcome. On the other hand I was also disgusted and turned off quite a bit by the blatant pedophilia presented in the first quarter of the story. I can read almost anything but this was tough to swallow for me as a reader.

Overall an interesting story with some really disturbing events. Most likely I wouldn't recommend this book to a discerning reader.

I'd really be interested in the views of anyone out there who has also read this novel.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SkyDance Bridge

"Construction on Oklahoma City’s iconic new pedestrian bridge, Oklahoma City SkyDance Bridge, inspired by the scissor-tailed flycatcher took shape today as a massive steel 'wing,' was carefully lifted by a crane and pinned to the base structure."

"The bridge spans the new Interstate 40 near Robinson Avenue, connecting pedestrians to the Oklahoma River. The bridge is at the heart of the MAPS 3 downtown park, which is expected to begin construction in 2013."

I'm all for the wonderful renovations that are taking place in and around downtown Oklahoma City, especially the new I-40 corridor replacing the old three mile I-40 bridge downtown that to put mildly is a death trap. Though it would be nice to have more than two exits to the heart of downtown.

What I'm totally not on board with is the SkyDance pedestrian bridge shown in the picture above. Sure it's a unique piece of architecture that will really be cool once completed and lit up at night; however, at what cost? 5.8 million dollars to be exact! Could our city be better served to put that money toward a more important use? I think maybe so.

When I posted the picture on Facebook one of my friends commented that we could spend that kind of money on a pedestrian bridge yet people using our mass transit system (I use that term lightly) are left out in the rain. "It will be extra, super pretty when one is standing in the rain at an uncovered bus stop."

A lot of what we've done as a city is fantastic, a new basketball arena for the millionaires to play in, plans for a new Convention Center even though we just renovated the old one, and tax breaks for an energy company to build a nearly 50 story building downtown. Yes I'm being sarcastic.

Instead of using the 5.8 million on a pedestrian bridge maybe that money could have helped those living under the old I-40 bridge. After all where will they go when it's finally torn down and a new avenue is created in its place? I'm just saying.

I'll end this posting by saying that most of what our city has done with MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) is fantastic, lifting our quality of life in the area and creating jobs overall, at a minimal cost, a one cent sales tax that will eventually expire. Yet I still have to scratch my head now and then on some of the boneheaded things our city leaders vote to spend money on...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All the Pretty Horses

"All the Pretty Horses" (302 pages) is the second novel I've read by Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Road." From the back cover of the book:

"The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction."

"All the Pretty Horses" is a beautifully written work of fiction by McCarthy, though not as bleak as some of his other works from what I've read, the story still has some gut-wrenching moments. The story of John Grady Cole takes him from his homeland of Texas a few years after World War II, where his world is transformed from the divorce of his parents and the ailing health of his father, across the border to Mexico. The idyllic adventure set out by friends slowly evolves into a coming of age story littered with love, tragedy, and at times horror. McCarthy's sweeping prose can be mesmerizing and truly haunting.

At times the Spanish in the novel frustrated me but usually the meaning could be discovered through the context of what was explained in English and through the characters actions. McCarthy's style is a little different from most American authors as well, excluding quotations and many other punctuations, which takes a few pages to get accustomed to but nothing detrimental to the over experience of the book. Highly recommended especially to fan of westerns or coming of age stories. I'll definitely check out the other two books in his "Boarder Trilogy" when the opportunity arises.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Never Ending Meme, Part Two

First meme of the new year for me. Once again from Sunday Stealing.

Cheers to all of us thieves!

21. Did you go to your high school prom?
I did. In fact it was with a certain blogger who won't ever update!

22. Perfect time to wake up?
It's not about the hour of the day but the hours of sleep one gets in my opinion.

23. Perfect time to go to bed?
When tired. Usually for me that's on the couch after 12:30 watching Futurama.

24. Do you use your queen right away in chess?
I can't remember the last time I played chess. I usually keep the queen out of the action until necessary.

25. Ever been in a car accident?
A few, nothing too severe.

26. Closer to mom or dad…or neither?
Or both?

27. What age is this exciting life over for you?
I'm confused. Am I supposed to predict my death year or just give the year I became bitter?

28. What decade during the 20th century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I think my decade, the '80's, was pretty cool.

29. Favorite shoes you have EVER owned?
Checkered Vans back in the day?

30. Do you have an article of clothing you have had since you were in high school?
Not that I'm aware of, though, it would be nice to still have my letter jacket...

31. Were you in track and field?
No. I played Tennis during spring sports.

32. Were you ever in a school talent show?
No, I wasn't that gay even in school.

33. Have you ever written in a library book?
No but I destroyed a book once that the librarian gave me. The Return of the Native. My only regret is that I didn't have 1,000 copies to destroy.

34. Allergic to?

35. Favorite fruit?
I really like peaches but since they make my throat close up I'll go with grapes or pears.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I finished out the "Hunger Games" trilogy tonight with "Mockingjay" (390 pages) by Suzanne Collins. From the cover of the book:

"Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay - no matter what the personal cost."

I was really excited to read "Mockingjay" especially after the strong start with "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire." The first 200 pages of the novel crawls at an absolute snails pace with virtually nothing going on. Once there seems to be a little action the book abruptly stops with a lame and, to me, forced conclusion. Was Collins required to keep all the books under 400 pages? Our heroine has zero growth throughout the story and is left at the conclusion pretty much how she was at the beginning, with no say in her life. Lame. Not recommended except to just finish the "The Hunger Games" trilogy. Warning: try not to throw the book at something breakable.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011 Video of the Year

Catching Fire

I started "Catching Fire" (391 pages) by Suzanne Collins last night, the second book in the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Again I went through the novel in pretty much one setting. From the inside cover of the book:

"Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before... and surprising readers at every turn."

I liked the second effort by Collins in the Hunger Games trilogy well enough, though there were times I felt I was reading the first book over again. There's definitely a bit of a retread feel. I also grew weary with the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. This kind of long, unresolved story telling between the three puts the young in Young Adult!

Eventually, after a somewhat slow start, the story really starts to take off and I became completely engrossed. Of course that came to a screeching halt with a cliffhanger ending. Fortunately I have the third book at my disposal to continue and finish out the story. Again, another quick, and for the most part, interesting read. Recommended.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Hunger Games

Time for some Christmas gift reading. My parents bought me "The Hunger Games" trilogy this season, a series of books I've been meaning to read for a while but never got around to buying them. "The Hunger Games" (374 pages) by Suzanne Collins is the first novel in the trilogy. From Goodreads:

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

First, I really enjoy books of this nature, along the lines of "The Long Walk" or "Brave New World." Reading what used to be the world we live in turned completely upside down by some sort of cataclysmic event or war is always fascinating to me. Though I usually don't read Young Adult fiction (think the "Twilight" series) I do have to say that I found Collins' work engaging and very readable. Indeed I blew through the book in one sitting. That's not to say that the story didn't have some flaws. Some of the plot devises and so called twists were a little contrived, especially toward the conclusion, which I won't spoil here.

Recommended for fans of science fiction, alternate history buffs, and thirteen year old girls! Easy to read with sometimes gratuitous violence and strong characters, I look forward to finishing off this trilogy and seeing the movie in March.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Enemy

It wasn't my intention to read another Lee Child novel for a while but the airport in Las Vegas convinced me otherwise. I randomly grabbed "The Enemy" (464 pages) thinking it was a newly released paperback. I was was wrong, it was originally published in 2004. From the back cover:

"Jack Reacher. Hero. Loner. Soldier. Soldier’s son. An elite military cop, he was one of the army’s brightest stars. But in every cop’s life there is one case that changes everything. For Jack Reacher, this is that case.

New Year’s Day, 1990. In a North Carolina motel, a two-star general is found dead. His briefcase is missing. Nobody knows what was in it. Within minutes Reacher has his orders: Control the situation. Within hours the general’s wife is murdered. Then the dominoes really start to fall.

Somewhere inside the vast worldwide fortress that is the U.S. Army, Reacher is being set up as a fall guy with the worst enemies a man can have. But Reacher won’t quit. He’s fighting a new kind of war–against an enemy he didn’t know he had. And against a conspiracy more chilling, ingenious, and treacherous than anyone could have guessed."

This is definitely my least favorite novel I've read by Child for a variety of reasons. Mostly I think I was turned off by the story taking place in early 1990. Though well written, the story hiccups along at jerks that I found myself not really caring where the story was headed, I just wanted it to conclude. It was somewhat interesting to see Reacher in action when he was in the military but that's about all this novel has to offer in the series. A long investigative story with a Scooby Doo ending. Read anything else by Lee Child before reading "The Enemy."

Monday, January 02, 2012

Books of 2011

I didn't quite make my goal of fifty books again last year but I feel on the whole I did a lot more reading. 18,945 pages to be exact. My favorite reads of the year are marked with an asterisk.

*1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

*2. American Rose by Karen Abbott

3. The Confession by John Grisham

4. Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra

5. Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

6. Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin

7. Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut

8. The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

*10. Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

11. The Camel Club by David Baldacci

12. The Reapers by John Connolly

13. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

14. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

15. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

*16. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

17. The Cave by Jose Saramago

18. Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice

19. The Collectors by David Baldacci

20. Stone Cold by David Baldacci

21. Divine Justice by David Baldacci

22. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

*23. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson

*24. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.

25. The Short History of a Prince by Jane Hamilton

*26. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

27. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

28. Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

29. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

30. Running Blind by Lee Child

31. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent

32. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

33. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

34. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

35. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

36. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

37. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

38. Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

*39. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

*40. Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

41. One Shot by Lee Child

2011 Picture of the Year