A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Holiday tips

I'll probably have more to say about the titles below at some point, but for now I thought you might appreciate a few quick reading suggestions for the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend.  The following are a few books I recently enjoyed.

Robert B. Parker's The Godwulf Manuscript, which I recently revisited on my Kindle, introduced the author's now famous Spenser private detective character to the masses back in 1973.  Close to forty more Spenser titles have followed, with Ace Atkins recently taking over the series following Dr. Parker's passing in 2010. 

See where it all began in this entertaining, immersive tale of murder, organized crime, infidelity (some induced by Spenser himself!), and general unsavory mayhem, set mostly on a college campus.   The author particularly has fun with all the pretentious, self-important officials that populate higher education, using Spenser to bring a bunch of them down a notch.

Finally, re-reading this old favorite for the first time in many years, I enjoyed being reminded that the Spenser of today was once young, brash, and quick-tempered... and constantly on the prowl for women.  Fun stuff!

The Godwulf Manuscript is available on Kindle for $7.99.

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A recent enjoyable discovery, The Rook is Daniel O'Malley's offbeat tale of a woman who wakes up with amnesia in a London park, surrounded by a bunch of people that she killed, apparently in self defense.  How's that for a bang-up beginning?

Anyway, the woman eventually figures out that she helps run a government agency that oversees and monitors paranormal activity thoughout the U.K., kind of like the way the Men in Black guys monitor all those aliens secretly living in New York. 

In this cross between Hellboy, The X-Files, and the aforementioned Men in Black, our heroine Myfanwy (pronounced MIFF-an-ee) Thomas, attempts to reacquire her memories while trying to figure out who took them in the first place, and why.  Her strange situation also allows her a second chance at becoming the type of person she always wanted to be but never had the will or courage to pursue. 

Creative, funny, dark, and moving, The Rook looks to be the start of a great series.

The Rook is available on Kindle for $12.99.

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Each installment in Max Allan Collins' Nate Heller series has the author's central detective character take on a real-world mystery, or a real-world event with lingering questions, with always fascinating results.  Past events investigated by Heller have included the Lindbergh kidnapping (Stolen Away) and the death of Marilyn Monroe (Bye Bye, Baby). 

In Flying Blind, Collins and Heller look into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, with Collins' research, speculations, and storytelling grit again delivering terrific results.  I particularly enjoyed how Collins quickly got past the iconic stature of his subject, and- while still honoring her- showed us an Amelia Earhart who was a regular human being, not quite as perfect as the impressive P.R. machine generated by her husband would have the public believe.  

Another bonus of this immersive little thriller is that an obviously fictional romance between Heller and Earhart (who is somewhat estranged from her husband) is just as compelling as the hypothesis put forth about what may have happened to the famous pilot following her disappearance.

The entertaining, relentlessly interesting Flying Blind is a great way to brush up on a famous public figure who you proabably don't know as much about as you think.

Flying Blind is available on Kindle for $7.99.

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It was great fun to forget about the iconic Stanley Kubrick movie and just sit back and read, with no pre-conceptions, Stephen King's early novel The Shining

Somehow I never read the book before now, and I really got into this tale of a man troubled by severe personal and professional demons, further fueled by his barely-under-control alcoholism, who soon meets up with real demons when he and his family agree to be caretakers in an old, grand hotel while it's closed for the winter. 

A scary tour-de-force follows, but one that contains more realistic elements than you might expect.  We quickly see that Jack Torrance is, like any of us, trying not to let personal doubt, weakness, or petty resentments keep him from performing his duties and responsibilities.  In Jack's sad case, however, a little too much of those things, coupled with a few too many bad decisions and judgements, leads to disaster.

Of course, to be fair to Jack, various evil entities living in the Overlook Hotel constantly nurture his growing instability.  In a different situation, would Jack have eventually gotten his resentments and anger under control?  We'll never know.

Anyway, not to be cold about it, but Jack's downfall is your gain, as the ever-building developments in The Shining will really keep you turning the pages.

The Shining is available on Kindle for $8.99.

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Have a great Memorial Day weekend, infused- I hope- with some great reading!

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