Book Reviews

1. Person of Interest by Theresa Schwegel - Schwegel knows her setting (Chicago and the near 'burbs) well enough that that alone made this a good read. Then, she populated her story with flawed humans, my very favorite kind to read about! At the center of the story is a married couple who hit the wall in their marriage at the same time. This comes at a bad time, as the husband is an cop on a case that is far closer to his home than he can imagine, and the wife is looking to greener pastures just when her daughter's accommodating boyfriend wanders through. The police investigation is the central plot, but because of the perfectly believable way Schwegel brings all the members of the family into that plot, it's not your average police thriller story. The ending was a little too neat and nice for my tastes, but aside from that, I really liked this book.

2. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin, Audiobook read by the Author - This was good - so very good! I'd strongly recommend the audiobook over the book because Martin does small bits of his original routines, and hearing them is so much better than reading them. The audiobook also has Martin playing banjo for the chapter breaks. If you're a fan of Martin's, interested in the history of stand up comedy, nostalgic for the 1970's, curious about just how serious comedy can be, or want to study a genius's creative process, listen to or at least read this book. Covering Martin's childhood to his last days in stand-up (and explains in good part why they were his last days of stand-up), the biography ends in the late 70s. Just as I wish Stphen Fry would get busy on his second volume of memoir's, I hope Martin is planning on writing about the second third of his career.

3.Memoirs of Hadrian and Reflections on the composition of memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar - A fictional memoir of Roman emperor Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, told in the form of a very long letter to his appointed successor, Marcus Aurelius. Yourcenar has Hadrian covers his life pretty much in chronological order, occasionally jumping forward or backward to explain how he came to feel the way he did about a few of the vast number of topics he covers. As historical fiction of the Roman period, it's a so-so read, with more focus on character than place or time. As a character driven story it's true a page turner. Hadrian's rule bridged the time when the Roman gods began to be replaced by Christianity and other cults, and he made an attempt to understand (if not agree with) the Jews of the time period. He's probably better known for his great love for Antinous, and Yourcenar does a beautiful job of establishing that relationship without sensationalizing it, especially dealing with Hadrian's deification of the young man who captured his heart.

4. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - A collection of horror short stories including the one that lends its title and very basic premise to the the recent Will Smith movie. Matheson writes stories that put the terrible into the mundane. His monsters, evil spirits and boogey men cross over to our world in a way that will have you second guessing the logical explanations for those bumps in the night. He's not heavy on morals and meanings, these are simple horror stories that don't have deeper meanings. There's also some humor, especially in the almost silly but very enjoyable The Funeral. The collection also includes Prey, the basis for 1/3 of the awesome Dan Curtis production "Trilogy of Terror".

5. Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway, ready by Patrick Wilson - This book was published, unfinished, after Hemingway's death. As such, it would be unfair to criticize it as a finished novel. It's more like a third or fourth draft - still full of holes in some parts, over written in other places. The story follows a recently married couple through their several honeymoon in Europe, while at the same time the husband attempts to work as a novelist. The character of the husband voices what must have been some of Hemingway's thoughts about the writing process (and his thoughts on drinking while you write, as well), while the young wife explores her sexuality through gender switching and a first time lesbian affair. The husband falls in love with the wife's lover as well, but that may have been more out of self preservation than attraction, in my opinion. The real benefit of reading this book is to fellow writers. It's reassuring to know that someone like Hemingway sometimes wrote very badly on his way to writing the great stuff. As for the audio version - Patrick Wilson should not attempt feminine French accents. It took this listener right of of the story and had me thinking I was listening to a parody or comedy routine.


Sue Jackson said...

The Steve Martin audiobook sounds great! I'll look for it for my next roadtrip. Thanks for writing your book reviews - I'm enjoying reading them. I was also interested to learn about photohunt - looks like fun!


DJRM said...

Photohunt is a lot of fun. Between the holidays and some computer problems, I've not been able to participate for several weeks, but I hope to get back in there soon. It's fun just to randomly click through the posts on the Phothunt Blog to see what other people have posted for each week.

And thank you for the nice words about my little reviews!