Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Writings of Erik Larson: A Review

I came to love the writing of Erik Larson with his first book, Isaac's Storm.  I'll tell you more about that book in a minute.  Let me tell you first about his style.  His books are works of non-fiction.  What he does is takes two to three story lines, of the same period, and intertwines them.  He has written four books that have all used this technique and all have been best sellers.  Of course, your humble reviewer has read them all.  I've enjoyed all but one. So, let's get back to his first best seller, Isaac's Storm.  I am from Texas.  When I was a kid,  Florida was never a vacation destination but Galveston sure was.  So, every summer our family would stay with my grandmother and drive the short distance from Houston to Galveston.  In 1999 I heard that a new book was coming out about the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. I knew I had to buy it.  What Larson does in this book is intertwines the beginning of the US weather service with the great hurricane itself.  After the civil war and the advent of the telegraph, the US government set up "weathermen" in strategic locations to try and forewarn the coming of bad weather.  One such new weatherman was Isaac Cline, and he was given the position in Galveston.   The only training he got was with the Army Signal Corp.  And they knew nothing about weather forecasting.  Unfortunately for Isacc, this proves devastating.  We learn that Isaac doesn't believe that a big storm will ever hit Galveston because of the where and way it is situated.  We go from one chapter detailing the building of the weather service to the next chapter with Isaac trying to forecast the weather to the tracking of the storm itself. The hurricane is the largest natural disaster in American history.  You'll learn all about this in terrifying detail and of the horrendous aftermath.  Read more...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review on the 944 page Shantarum: A Novel

This book is like step on the gas then slam on the brakes followed by a step on the gas followed by a step on the breaks.  I was watching the Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks and he's trying to teach his kid how to drive a car so he can be the getaway driver.  The kid steps on the gas them slams on the breaks and continues down the road...steps, slams, steps, slams. The "step" part is all action and shoot'em outs and cruel prison guards and evil "madams" while the "slam" part is all Eat Pray Love pap.   All philosophical and mystical and mumbo jumbo.  That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.  That is what Shantarum is like.  Let me set the stage.  Now keep in mind this book by David Gregory Roberts is based loosely on his life.   Read more...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Summer Reading List

I know that many of you don't have enough leisure time to try and find a good book.  So, I thought I'd share with you what I've recently read and what's on my list for the summer.  There are some major books coming in the fall, Grisham, Connelly, Flynn, etc.  All I've already pre-ordered.  I get a weekly email from that let's me know what's new on the market.  Anyway, if you're interested, here's what I've recently read and what I still have on my list:

Recently read:

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You, Steven Tyler (non-fiction, I think)(read my review on my blog)

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Erik Larson (non-fiction)

Dead Reckoning:  Sookie Stackhouse, Charlaine Harris (Sookie's with Erik!)

The Snowman( newest) and Redbreast (oldest) Harry Hole novel's, Jo Nesbo

The Long Road Home, Ben Shepard (non-fiction, post WWII and dealing with displaced persons and prisoners)

Mildred Pierce, James Cain (classic noir, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity)

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan (see blog for review)

Dreams of Joy, Lisa See (this is a sequel to Shanghai Girls and you do need to read that first.  See is the author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan)

To read:

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

The Devil's Star (2nd Harry Hole novel), Jo Nesbo

The Madonna's of Leningrad: A Novel, Debra Dean (what can I say, I love WWII books)

Onward, Schultz and Gordon, (non fiction, rebuilding Starbuck's)

Blind the Ponies, Stanley West (no, it's not about blinding ponies)

Shantarum, Gregory Roberts (one of those big, sprawling, covering decades and generations kind of book)

Just Kids, Patti Smith (non-fiction, autobiography of the goddess of punk rock)

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. One, Smith, Griffin and Fischer

Parrot and Oliver in America, Peter Carey

Room, Emma Donoghue (book club selection)

The Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe (book club selection)

The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman (book club)

Hope you find some of these interesting, engaging and I'm sure some will be boring and not worth the read.