"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

After Lincoln Lawyer I suspected that it might be Mickey Haller who finally replaced Myron Bolitar in my lineup of book crushes but I think Bolitar's position in my adoration is safe after all. Most of the time I don't thank Hollywood for replacing my vision of a character with their own idea but this time I was more than happy to visualize Matthew McConaughey throughout this court room thriller. The story is typical of Connelly and the genre. It was a worthwhile listen but I wouldn't add it to the books that I need 'to have and to hold'. You may be asking why I would go starry eyed over Myron Bolitar and then dismiss Connelly's Haller with little more than an uninspired "meh".... I like my men a little tougher than the Haller we get here. I loved the Haller in Lincoln Lawyer that dealt handily with motorcycle gang leaders using the same prose and dimples that he presented to the women in his life. This new recovering-addict Haller is too weak for me. He won't drink coffee because he doesn't want to be addicted to anything. A worthy enough aspiration-and one that would earn a polite nod, my 'for-company' smile, and a "good for you" sentiment in real life. But in my imagination.... well, the men I love in fiction own coffee. They rule coffee. They can love coffee and leave it. You can bet Myron Bolitar wouldn't be defeated by coffee! Muawahaha!

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By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

I thank my book club once again for forcing me to expand my reading to include those selections that don't automatically, as a force of habit, find their way to my hands and heart. When the selection was announced I heard my literary wicked witch shouting her garbled protest as she melted in a pool of hyped up fiction propelled by the insinuated intellectualism of an uninspired scholar/historian/theorist/philosopher. I heard this book screaming "Oprah's Book Club" and Oprah selections most often directly translate into eye-bleeding experiences for me. (Forgive me, Steinbeck, of course I'm not referring to East of Eden, despite the fact that it bears the obnoxious 'O'. You know how I feel about you... I'll never believe that you deserve Oprah's mark upon your work). 
By Fire, By Water is a work of historical fiction taking place during the Spanish Inquisition and Kaplan proves that he is neither hyped up or uninspired, but a worthy historian, after all. This time-worthy saga chronicles one man's struggle with his own belief system and his desire to take an intellectual approach to faith in a time when even the appearance of spiritual ambivalence meant death-or worse. 
The difficulty with By Fire, By Water is the slow start. There are a lot of players to sort out and very little 'story' to cement them together for the first half of the novel. After the half-way point everything begins to come together but getting that far is a struggle. Upon reaching the conclusion of this unique tale I was satisfied for the most part, but was left wanting a hero. I kept waiting for something wonderful and dramatic to come out of the main character but he continues plodding along in the shadows avoiding the detection of the Inquisition's driving forces. This, of course, is the only way he could survive, but you find yourself wishing that his inner Chuck Norris/MacGuyver would come bursting out, buttons popping, and deliver a little much needed retribution. A compelling novel all the same; I will continue to seek the work of Mitchell James Kaplan.

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Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

Whenever we review something the question we are answering is "What did you think?" This tale from the hand of Amy Tan invoked very little thought and was ultimately more of a mind-numbing experience. Its epic length and the multitudes of side stories and extra details elongated the novel to the point of pain. There is no doubt that Tan writes beautifully. She has a way with words that makes the reader feel like she is floating in a calm pool-but the floating leads to the induction of a meditative trance and eventually drooling... (Not a good look for anyone I've met so far...). After the hours and hours I spent with this novel, I still cannot tell you what the point of it was. Although I wish her nothing but the best, I'm ending my relationship with Amy Tan.

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The Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling

The grand finale! This final installment of the Tamir trilogy nicely ties up the loose ends without becoming too terribly predictable. I enjoyed this epic tale and admire the imagination of Lynn Flewelling. She has a talent for weaving together the various pieces of complicated plot without creating restlessness within the reader. 

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Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling

Hidden Warrior is the second part in Flewelling's Tamir trilogy. The intensity increases despite the slow pace of each character's transition into the positions necessary for the grand finale. If you get this far, there is no turning back. Follow Flewelling into the final part of her trilogy. The conclusion doesn't disappoint fans of fantasy and science fiction. 

You will find an official description of the plot line at: