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Reading List for July and August

Reading List for July and August

Depending on how you look at it, August was either a damn good month for me or perhaps the roughest so far. I speak professionally and personally – just when I think I finally have surged forward, something happens to set me back. I won’t go into detail right now, but if you’re up to speed with a certain publisher you already know half the story. I’m in wait and see mode on one book, and planning the next one – a complete departure from what I write. Suffice to say, I have some hard decisions in front of me.

I found the most pleasure this month in reading. When I read people let me be and I can stay inside where it’s not humid as f*ck. I didn’t dent the Pulitzer TBR, but I’ll get to that soon.

What I Read

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I enjoyed The Silkworm more than The Cuckoo’s Calling because this book centers on familiar ground – the publishing world. A notorious but not necessarily famous writer is missing and Strike is hired to find him. It’s a case he takes on despite the dubious chances of getting paid – beneath his surly exterior you see hints of a person with heart. With the second book we’re more comfortable with regular characters and the promise of more rumblings in personal lives to come.

Just a solid detective procedural.

No Regrets: A Rock'n'Roll MemoirNo Regrets: A Rock’n’Roll Memoir by Ace Frehley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since I had a guest writer review Ace’s book on my rock blog I hadn’t intended to read for myself, but I found a copy on sale and figured I should complete the set. Ace’s book is shorter than Paul’s and Peter’s and as such not as detailed. I took away from it his perceptions of the other guys (shouldn’t be a surprise to many) and his admission of certain addictive behaviors. I found most interesting that he probably had a more stable family life growing up compared to other rock stars – definitely more than Paul. If you’re interested in anecdotes on the road and groupie stories, you may leave satisfied. As for detailed KISS history, it lacks, and it could be by Ace’s own admission that his memory blurs. I do think he’s kinder to Peter and Paul than they were in their books.

BittersweetBittersweet by Colleen McCullough

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This summer I finished a book on my summer bucket list – The Thorn Birds. For many this multi-generational saga is a desert island read, perhaps one of the first books with romantic elements ever read or kept under a pillow at night. Truthfully, The Thorn Birds didn’t do it for me, but I believe in the second chance rule where I read another book by the same author to see if I prefer that one. By coincidence a copy of Bittersweet came up on NetGalley.

Like The Thorn Birds, Bittersweet is set in Australia in the early 20th century. The story focuses on four sisters, two sets of twins, who enroll in nursing training. Through the 500+ pages, we witness one’s rise through the ranks, one’s decision to marry young, one’s yearning to pursue medicine, and one’s rebuffing of a rich man until she falls to pressure. Throughout the book actions progress without much in the way of character growth – despite an interesting backdrop of Depression-era Australia everybody seems to go through the motions here. One sister’s relations outside of marriage, scandalous for the time, seems boring here.

I really wanted to like Bittersweet better than The Thorn Birds. I don’t believe it’s a bad story. Like others say here, a story like this could have benefited from fewer characters, or else more emphasis on the interesting ones.

The Girl Who Came HomeThe Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Titanic setting got the book into my reader. This is actually a story that goes back in forth in time – in 1912 with young Maggie on the ship, and 1982 with Maggie’s great-granddaughter learning the story and using it to get on with her life. I have to admit I was more interested in the 1912 passages and how they related to the present reveals. It’s told simply, and though you know Maggie survives you do read and wonder what happens as the ship sinks.

My only complaint is the romance aspect of the story was wrapped up too quickly. All through the story Maggie pines for the boy she left behind, and suddenly that part of the story is wrapped up in two paragraphs of dialogue. We don’t get the show, just the tell. Other than that, if you’re more interested in Titanic fiction, it’s worth the eBook price.

Paul Simon: An American TunePaul Simon: An American Tune by Cornel Bonca

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC received via NetGalley.

I wouldn’t call Paul Simon: An American Tune by Cornel Bonca a proper biography of the singer/songwriter, though the author touches on important events in Simon’s life as they relate to his career. Tune is foremost a scholarly work, and thankfully not a wholly biased one because it allows the readers to study one interpretation of Simon’s music, then decide if it’s worth a listen.

Compared to Marc Eliot’s 2010 biography Paul Simon: A Life, Tune is a treat for die-hard Simon fans in that it appears better researched and less sensationalist. If you come to this expecting the standard unauthorized biography gossip – the dirt on the failed marriages, the Garfunkel angst, that unsettling tiff with Edie Brickell earlier this year – you’ll leave disappointed.

That’s not to say Bonca doesn’t explore the personal aspects of Simon’s career. Not unlike his peers (Bob Dylan mentioned most often), Simon draws from real life to create, and Bonca deconstructs Simon’s song catalog while interspersing brief histories of Simon’s progression in his career. As you read Tune you may find amazement in the balance of Simon’s failures and successes. Simon, and to some extent Simon and Garfunkel, has always seemed ever-present in pop culture since the 60s, but Tune points out the many struggles Simon faces to stay relevant, especially with the changes in music trends. How does a counter-culture folk/pop star thrive in the early MTV-era? Bonca concedes while Simon is not as prolific as some of his peers the messages in his song holds relevance. I have to agree with that – the first original episode of Saturday Night Live to air after 9/11, and who performs?

Tune is more scholarly then entertainment, but it’s not a boring book. It’s a good study for anybody who loves music.

IndelibleIndelible by Heather Ames

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On what’s supposed to be the biggest night of her life, Kaylen suffers a memory lapse and wakes up in bed with a strange man. This turn of events leads her down a dangerous path involving drug cartels and crooked police, all this while a hurricane bears down on Miami.

Indelible is a tight, solid story. I haven’t read a suspense in a while, and I enjoyed this one.

Hollywood WivesHollywood Wives by Jackie Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw parallels to Jacqueline Susann’s style in this book – the story is split primarily between three women.

Elaine is presented as a stereotypical, vapid, Beverly Hills wife who pays more attention to outward appearances.

Montana is a second wife and ambitious. She wants to see her screenplay produced and is constantly railroaded by her director husband and some asshole producer.

Angel is fresh off the turnip truck, married to a loser and probably the only person in the book without dreams of stardom.

Very few, if any, likable people in this story, yet you’re drawn to them like crack. As if they don’t have enough problems risking the clap as they sleep around, there’s a nutball traveling across country to kill one of them. You may learn a lesson about the consequences of using poppers during sex, and perhaps come to the conclusion that Hollywood is a soulless cesspool. Sunny, but soulless.

As a reading diversion, I’d rate this one above the Lace novels and The Lonely Lady. It’s dirty, poolside fun if you want to feel better about yourself and meet some people who could use a nice kick.

Next up, The Immortals by Michael Korda.

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In Search Of: Now Age Illustrated Classics

In Search Of: Now Age Illustrated Classics

I read these comic book adaptations of classic stories years ago – I want to say I was in third grade when I read my first. Maybe I was a bit older – definitely in my tweens. I believe the Now Age Illustrated books helped me appreciate classic literature and attract me to English as a major subject to study. Many stories I’d read over and over. I do remember Now Age adapted the following, all of which I read:

  • Frankenstein
  • War of the Worlds
  • The Time Machine
  • The Story of My Life (Helen Keller)
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • King Lear
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Civil War (not a novel, but illustrated history)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  • Tom Sawyer
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • A Christmas Carol
  • A Tale of Two Cities
As I understand it, there could be as many as 100 books.
These are found under Now Age Illustrated Classics through Pendulum Press. They are no longer in active print, so this is something that must be found in used bookstores and/or eBay. I am not looking for the Classics Illustrated books, but the ones with the cover template as shown above. I feel my daughter’s interest in reading could benefit from reading these stories. When she is older, she may better understand literature as I did.
So begins my search. If you happen to come across something like this in your attic, drop me a line.
Back to School Blues, Books Read and Books to Write

Back to School Blues, Books Read and Books to Write

In the next few weeks, I hope to have the cover of Killing the Kordovas finalized. It’s been an arduous journey writing and editing, but I am happy to have finished another to release this year. I say this every time I finish a book, but I believe it rings true with this one – Kordovas is perhaps the most “way-out” there thing I’ve written. Mind you, I have an anthology of odd stories out now in The Girl With the Monkee Tattoo. Even though the new book isn’t out yet, but I’m already seeking to top it with my next work. Project AK is in the outline stage now, and I have another work to start.

In the meantime, I’m still reading. I slacked off a bit during vacation, since I spent more time outside than with a book. I did manage to get a few put away toward my goal of 125:

Home to Whiskey Creek (Whiskey Creek, #4)Home to Whiskey Creek by Brenda Novak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC received from NetGalley.

This is the first Whiskey Creek novel I have had, as well as my first Brenda Novak book. I had previewed the book on Ms. Novak’s website, and the excerpt proved compelling enough to get me to read the book. If you start here I don’t think you’ll be lost – this story about a woman returning to her hometown years after a horrifying event is written in a way that you can follow the community easily. The tension between the emotional bruised Addy and Noah is palpable and you are pushed to read forward. There is an element of mystery involved, namely who is involved in scaring Addy out of town, and Novak managed to keep me guessing for a while.

Because I’ve read this book, I am intrigued to read the other Whiskey Creek novels.

Queen's GambitQueen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC received from NetGalley

I love Tudor-set stories, and Queen’s Gambit stars a queen who doesn’t receive as much attention as the previous wives of Henry V. Katherine Parr led a short but fascinating life – as the object of affection of two men (one the most powerful in England), Katherine fought her natural instincts toward love and deferred to duty.

Queen’s Gambit flows quickly in a fictional retelling of Henry V’s final marriage, concentrating mainly on the Parr household – Katherine’s stepdaughter and the people in her employ. A great addition to the bookshelf of anybody who enjoys Tudor fact and fiction.

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