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3rd book of 2009

Posted: 03/28/2009 9:49 PM

3rd book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser

This book starts by giving an account of the history behind the creation of the fast food industry in this country. From that foundation, it goes on to describe how the business practices, that make fast food very profitable, have changed (and harmed) our culture and our country.

I'm always a bit guarded when reading a manifesto that has such a clear objective, but to his credit Schlosser gives credit to the innovative spirit of the fast food industry and some of its famous founders. While the author argues that fast food is making us all fatter and that it has changed the meat packing industry in ways that increase the chance that consumers of meat will get sick, he admits that fast food tastes good and is brilliantly packaged and marketed.

This is brilliant, because I'm far more likely to listen to criticism of a subject if the author is honest to admit that not everything about his/her subject is bad or wrong.

Ultimately this book fell flat for me because (IMO) the author chose to focus criticism in different areas that I would have chosen to focus on.

His indictment of the meat packing industry was interesting and though provoking. As well as being scary, it further clarifies why immigration reform in this country has NO chance of seriously being enacted.

His indictment of the rise of the use of "franchises" to create new small businesses was not as interesting, because it was never demonstrated to me that the fast food industry created the trend as opposed to capitalizing on an inevitable, historical shift in the way some small businesses are created.

His discussion of the role agribusiness is destroying the family farm was thin and not fully developed (although that topic itself would have made an interesting read).

His indictment of the safety of meat served at fast food restaurants falls short when he admits that even though the industry has fought against Government regulation in this area, the volume that meat packers process for fast food chains gives the fast food chains so much power over the meat packers that have forced the meat packers to make changes in the way they handle product shipped to them, so that a hamburger served at a McDonalds is safer to eat that one purchased by the USDA to serve at your local school's cafeteria.

Finally, although the author points out that the highly profitable fast food chains, who are a massive source of employment of minimum wage labor in this country,  have fought tooth and nail against increases in the minimum wage, he fails to use that as a vehicle to effectively dispel the notion that increases in the minimum wage would actually drive these businesses out of business (the argument generally raised to defeat them).

This book was thoughtfully researched and is well written. Still, although this book had some great antecdotes and thought proving facts and figures, I found myself struggling to finish it.

If sociology, especially as it relates to business practices and societal shifts is your bag, you might fare better with this one than I did.
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Posted: 03/30/2009 1:20 PM

4th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen

Told through the memories of 90 (or 93) year old man. This book tells the story of a Cornell Veterinary medicine student who is forced to drop out of school just prior to graduation due to the sudden death of his parents during the Great Depression.

With no prospects, he jumps a train only to learn that he has jumped a train caravan owned and operated by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth circus. He proves amenable to the odd nature of work in the circus work and is soon hired as a "Vet" to tend the show exotic animals.

Eventually, Jacob falls in Love with the wife of one of the shows main overseers, which ignites brewing tensions between Management and the shows workers...

Beautifully written and full of wonderfully odd characters this coming of age story will no doubt be a major motion picture soon. I HIGHLY recommend that you read it before it does.
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Posted: 05/07/2009 8:00 PM

5th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"In the Woods" by Tana French

This book had an interesting set up.

Twenty years prior to the time of the current story adolescent Adam Ryan and two of his friends went into the woods near their home and never came out. Only Adam Ryan was found with someone else's blood on him, but no memory of what happened.

Now, detective Rob Ryan, who has carefully hidden his past from everyone, is called out to investigate the murder of an adolescent girl found dead in the same woods where his childhood friends went missing.

It was a finalist for the Edgar award (the award given for best mystery novel).

I simply didn't like it.

First off, it was written by an Irish person and it was set in Ireland.

The folks in Ireland seem to write lot of mystery novels. I don't have anything against the Irish, as I married a lass with Irish in her blood. Still, I've had many "Irish' novels highly recommended to me and I just haven't enjoyed them.

The books written by Irish folks I have read seem to dwell on the personal failings of their characters (see my review of Ken Bruen's. "The Guards"). There is nothing unusual about an author using personal failings as a way to develop his/her character, but when the personal failing become the story or aren't used to actually move the story forward, then the author is just wasting the reader's time. Apparently Irish story tellers are more focused on being gritty than actually telling stories. Frankly, it makes the novels long and hard to read.

The 2nd problem with this book is that it was written by a woman. Once again I don't have a problem with women, but women's novels tend to over emphasize the relationships of the characters rather than the plot. Once again there is nothing wrong with developing the relationships of the characters to move the story forward, but when the relationships become the story, the novel is a romance novel NOT a mystery.

This book wasn't terribly written, but it was very poorly edited (I did force myself to finish it.

If you are a person, who enjoys slogging through long, hard to read ***** that is fouling up an otherwise creative premise and decently written prose, then this book is for you.

Read it at your own peril.
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Posted: 05/17/2009 4:41 PM

6th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Out on the rim" by Ross Thomas

Ross Thomas died in 1995 and unfortunately many of his books are out of print, but he is a prime example why, if you don't get books from the Library, you should be buying them from a trusted bookstore that's been around for a long time, instead of Borders or Barnes & Noble.

After reading a number of series all the way through, the owner of the Seattle Mystery Bookstore turned me onto Ross Thomas and I have been a fan ever since.

Thomas has an almost Stephen King like
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Posted: 05/17/2009 5:17 PM

6th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Out on the rim" by Ross Thomas

Ross Thomas died in 1995 and unfortunately many of his books are out of print, but he is a prime example why, if you don't get books from the Library, you should be buying them from a trusted bookstore that's been around for a long time, instead of Borders or Barnes & Noble.

After reading a number of series all the way through, the owner of the Seattle Mystery Bookstore turned me onto Ross Thomas and I have been a fan ever since.

In this installment:

Career intelligence expert Booth Stallings finds himself unexpectedly fired from the foundation for which he has been working. Soon after, he is offered an opportunity to deliver 5 million dollars to Philippine guerilla leader Alejandro Espiritu. Stallings and Espiritu know each. When Booth Stallings was a 2nd LT in the Philippines in World War 2, Espiritu was the local tribesman who kept him alive, when Stallings was trapped behind enemy lines.

Sensing that not everything is on the up and up, Stallings reaches out to Otherguy Overby who puts Stallings in contact with consumate con man Artie Wu and his man of action partner, Quincy Durant. Along with Gerogia Blue, the ex secret service female muscle representing the shadowy characters putting up the money, Stallings, Overby, Wu and Durant all travel to the Philippines to meat with the violent and dangerous Espiritu and try to get the money for themselves and stay alive long enough to enjoy it.

As always Ross Thomas' characters are funny and well written. There is action and there are crosses and double crosses. This book is a very quick read. The end of this novel was a little pat (given the high standard of his other books), but a less than perfect novel written by Ross Thomas is better than 90% of the other stuff out there.

If you've never read Ross Thomas, you might want to try: Briarpatch, The Back Up Men or Chinamen's Chance instead. IF you've read Thomas before and are just looking for a quick book to curl up with over the weekend, you could do a lot worse.
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Posted: 05/18/2009 1:16 PM

Re: Summer reading 

Well, anythign by Cormac McCarthy, my hero.

He has got a lot a fame recently with No Country for Old Men and won the Pulitzer with The Road (also soon to be a movie). All the Pretty Horse was also a movie, and a darn good book, that sort of took him from being an "Author's Author" into a mainstream author.

However, in my opinion (along with Moby Dick) the greatest novel of all time is Blood Meridian. I can read that book at any time (and have) and listen to it on audiobook all the time. Check it out.

For further reading Child of God and Outer Dark.

These books are dark and sometimes bloody, in a true Sotuhern Gothic fashion.

Tyree Robinson on Oregon/UW - “They kept trying to compare themselves to Oregon instead of showing me that they were a program with a plan. I liked a lot about the program, but they got nothing on the Ducks. Nothing compares to what Oregon has going on."

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Posted: 05/18/2009 2:53 PM

Re: Summer reading 

Pick up the Book Demon Box, by Ken Kesey. Don't give up on it, stay with it. Your Mind will be Fine, believe me lol. Heavy !!!!. 


ps, Let me know what you think about it in a inbox message.

Last edited 05/18/2009 2:54 PM by Quacks44U

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Posted: 06/11/2009 9:14 PM

7th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Echo Park" by Michael Connelly

2005 finds long time Detective Harry Bosch is back in LA police, in the open unsolved homicide unit. Back in 1993 he and his former partner had worked on the disappearance of 22 year old Marie Gesto. Bosch never forgot the case and has continued to work the case "off the books" long after the case went cold.

Bosch believes the son of a local wealthy businessman kidnapped and killed Gesto, because the victim bears a striking resemblance to the young man's ex-girlfriend and the victim's car was found in the empty garage belonging to the ex-girlfriend's apartment. Still, hard leads are scarce and though Bosch continues to bring the young man in for questioning, from time to time, the suspect continues to deny everything.

Bosch is shocked when a serial killer caught red handed, confesses to the killing and offers to lead detectives to the body. Bosch is thrown off guard when the detective investigating the serial killer finds evidence in the original murder book, which Bosch missed, which would have pointed to the serial killer as a suspect whose arrest 13 years ago could have saved lives.

Caught up in personal recriminations and the politics of a grand standing DA running for election, Bosch is caught off guard, when the serial killer makes his move and escapes right out from under Bosch's nose. Bosch sets out, not only, to track down the escaped killer but to discover the truth about what happened to Marie Gesto 12 years before.

After 10 or so installments, Bosch is a known quantity with whom we share outrage at the evil acts of evil men and the beuracracy(sp?) that so often frustrates the pursuit of both truth and justice.

Connelly is a talented writer and a good storyteller. Unfortunately (IMO), in this novel he relies too much on plot twists and I saw some of them coming a mile away. A reader less familiar with this author might have seen things differently, but for me this was just an average read. It wasn't a waste of time, by any standard, but it's not book I'll be reading again anytime soon.

If you want to check out some of this author's other works, Connelly is at the top of his form in his first Harry Bosch book, "The Black Echo" and is particularly entertaining in Two books from a companion series featuring FBI profile Terry Caleb, "The Poet" and "Blood Work".
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  • MightyMallard
  • Kamikaze Kid
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Posted: 06/16/2009 3:02 PM

Re: Summer reading 

Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.

The rise of a president and the fracturing of America.
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Posted: 08/13/2009 8:37 PM

8th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Knots and Crosses" by Ian Rankin

This is a book recommended to me by the Seattle Mystery Bookstore. They have someone on their staff, who is in love with authors from the UK (this book is set in Scotland). As some will note that have read this thread, I'm not a huge fan of authors from the UK.

The protaganist, John Rebus is Detective Constable in the Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a troubled soul with a mysterious, secret military past. When a children start disappearing and then turn up dead, taunting notes start arriving from the killer to Rebus' home. It's not long before Rebus' superiors wonder if Rebus is not just the focus of the killer, but may actually holds the key to identifying the killer, himslef.

I'm not really going to review this book, because I just never got into it. I'm not sure if that was the writing or all that was going on at the time I was trying to read.

It's short, which is good, but the I didn't like the main plot device (repressed memories), so it fell flat for me.

I'm not going to pan it, but I'm not sure I can recommend it either. If your fan of police procedural novels set "over the pond" read it and decide for yourself.
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Posted: 08/16/2009 8:26 PM

9th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Child 44" by Tom Rob Smith

I get a monthly newsletter from the Seattle Mystery Bookstore. In the newsletter from July, they listed the "International Thriller Writer" awards for 2009. It listed this book as the winner of "Best First Novel", so I asked my wife to reserve it at the Medford public library.

Leo Demidov is a WWII hero and up and coming officer in the Russian MGB (the State Security Forces) in the early 1950's. Although he has some doubts about the convictions of criminals and other enemies of the State (and the tortuous methods used for the confessions leading to those convictions), he is still idealistic enough to believe that protecting the State is more important than the "few" lives ruined to do so.

Through a series of events, the State turns on Leo and he loses his position, the power it commands and the protection it affords. Slowly, Leo begins to question whether the kind of fear pervasive in a society where individuals have no rights and people are guilty until proven innocent, is truly beneficial to the society and Governmental system, it is being used to protect.

The inherent inconsistency in defending the State, at all costs, is made clear to Leo when he discovers that serial killer has been killing children in the countryside outside Moscow. Anxious to stop the killer, Leo himself decides to investigate these crimes, even though the act of even acknowledging that any crimes have taken place is subversive and grounds for being sent to a Gulag or worse. The official Soviet position is that there is no crime in the workers paradise of the new Soviet Union and that crimes such as serial killings represent evidence of the weakness and decadence of the West (and thus don't happen in the Soviet Union).

Leo must regain the faith of his wife; learn to trust like minded co-workers and regular people and face his own past to solve this crime, while evading a powerful enemy who has the entire State aparatus behind him.

This book tackles a very difficult setting, as life in Stalin Russia is very different than what we are used to here. Still, I was hooked on this book early and this particular writers great future potential is evident throughout. Every once in a great while I'll read a passage in a book so well written that I am transported inside a book and find myself in the scene. The scene where Leo and colleague finally put together the scope of the serial killer's crimes is just such scene and is a rare gem.

This is a challenging book with a difficult setting that takes some time to get set up, but if you can hang with it, you will be rewarded with a book that is interesting, well written and leaves you wanting more.

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Posted: 08/31/2009 1:00 PM

10th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

I get a monthly newsletter from the Seattle Mystery Bookstore. In the newsletter from July, they listed the "International Thriller Writer" awards for 2009. It listed this book as the winner of "Best Thriller", so I asked my wife to reserve it at the Medford public library.

Brynn McKenzie is an ambitious and resourceful deputy with the Kennesha County, WI Sheriff's office. When the Sheriff's office receives a 911 call that says, "This..." and then is cut off, she's is dispatched to remote Lake Mondac to make sure nothing's wrong. She drives alone to a remote lake near a State Park shut down for the winter only to find a couple brutally murdered by a pair of hitmen, who have stayed around to finish off a witness in the house they didn't anticipate and who shot one of them almost killing him.

Ambushed, Brynn survives, but she loses her ability to call for help. Working with the witness, named Michelle, Brynn attempts to elude the two hitmen and survive long enough for help to arrive.

But things are not always as they seem and there are numerous twists and turns along the way...

I like Jeffrey Deaver as an author and have read many of his books. I personally believe his novel, "The Bone Collector" is one the greatest modern crime/mystery novels ever written. This particular story is cleverly plotted with twists and turns a veteran reader like myself should have seen coming, but didn't.

With all that said, I had a really hard time really getting into this book, but I'm not sure why. The only thing I can think of is that the characters are pretty thin at the start, so I didn't really care about them (or what happened too them) until later in story.

Some authors spend a great deal of time building up their characters before the action starts. Like Dean Koontz, Deaver likes to start with action and weave character development into that. It's a riskier play and it can pay off big when a character just catches a reader early on. When the characters don't resonate immediately with the reader, there is a real chance the reader just puts the book down (as I almost did with this book) no matter how brilliant the plot.


Maybe I was just tired and I didn't give this book my full attention early on.

If you are a fan of this genre, I'd recommend reading it. If I'm wrong about the characterization, send me a note and I'll add it to the board. If I'm not wrong, hang with this book, as it really heats up in the last 150 pages or so.
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Posted: 08/31/2009 1:21 PM

"The Bodies Left Behind" 

I just finished this book last night. I also like Jeffrey Deaver and agree with what you said about "The Bone Collector".

I disagree with it being difficult to get into. I found it to be exciting from the word go ! It also is left with an unanswered question in the end that I enjoyed. I think the awards were deserved and will list this book as one of my most favorite within this style.
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Posted: 08/31/2009 6:54 PM

Re: "The Bodies Left Behind" Post Rating (1 vote)

Thanks, Salkiez.

It was probably just me.

The book has an excellent plot and on Salkeiz's recommendation, you should consider reading it immediately.
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  • Cruz Duck
  • Mac-Autzen
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Posted: 10/30/2009 2:34 PM

Three Cups of Tea 

Recently, I read a book called “Three Cups of Tea”. It is the true story about Greg Mortenson. He was a mountain climber who failed in an attempt to scale K2, the second highest mountain in the world (though it is considered more difficult to climb than Mount Everest). On the way back down, he got split up from the rest of his group and ended up staggering into a remote village in Pakistan. The village nursed him back to health and he promised to build them a school.

The true story recounts his efforts to build the school and 50 more in mountainous villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is in incredible tale about how one man can have such an impact on so many people. He returns to the US with no money, no job and no home, but he is quite determined to make good on his promise. It was an incredible struggle to raise the $12,000 for the first school. And that was just the beginning. You can imagine the obstacles of language, culture and religion when he returned to Pakistan. Plus there was an incredible journey to get the supplies to the remote village. Within several years Mortensen became a hero known across Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I can not recommend the book highly enough. It is filled with great stories and it is one of the most inspiring books that I have read in some time.
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Posted: 11/17/2009 10:12 AM

11th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Heartsick" by Chelsea Cain

Detective Archie Sheridan was the lead detective on the "Beauty Killer" case. Kidnapped by a consulting psychiatrist named Gretchen Lowell, he learns too late that she is in fact the serial killer he has been looking for. Tortured for ten days and then mysteriously released, so he can be brought back from death's doorstep, Detective Sheridan in a guy with a lot of "scars".

Having survived, Sheridan visits Lowell every week in Prison, where she divulges the location of the body of one of the two hundred people she is killed and then tells how they were killed to, and only to, Sheridan.

Now as Sheridan is thrust into a new hunt for a serial killer preying on teenage schoolgirls in Portland OR, Lowell has stopped giving up new bodies. Sheridan decides to make a calculated attempt to manipulate Lowell into providing more closure for the families of her victims, by agreeing to tell his story to a local feature reporter who he plans to give complete access to his investigation of this new series of crimes.

When I originally picked it up, this book had two strikes against if from the get go and I was prepared not to like this book.

First, the plot appeared to be a clear rip off of Silence of the Lambs.

Second, it's written by a woman. I don't have anything against woman writers, per se, but in my experience this genre doesn't lend itself well to the focus on relationships rather than action, plotting and gritty realism.

Wow was I wrong.

There are elements of this story, which are identical to Silence of the Lambs, but I was able to get over this because Ms. Cain is simply a very talented writer. Most folks remember Hannibel Lecter based upon Anthony Hopkin's portrayal of him on screen, not as the original character presented in Thomas Harris' book, because Hopkin's was able to flesh the character out on screen in such a way that made that character even more memorable. Cain's Lowell is already a damn real and scary bad "guy".

Secondly, like in Silence of the Lambs, the creepy and unhealthy relationship between Lowell and Sheridan is as important to the story as the action in hand. Eventually you know that Sheridan will catch the new serial killer, but he can't undo what's being done to him by Gretchen Lowell.

This was well plotted and excellently written. I HIGHLY recommend it.
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Posted: 11/29/2009 6:31 PM

12th book of 2009 Post Rating (1 vote)

"Silence" by Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry is an interesting author. He won the Edgar award for best first novel with "The Butcher's Boy", a gritty, violent story of a hit man who is double crossed by the powerful people who hired him and rather then getting mad, he gets even.

He followed this book up with two other books about folks who were engaged is shady or criminal activities. In 1992, he wrote a sequel to "The Butcher's Boy" called "Sleeping Dogs".

The "Butcher's Boy" and "Sleeping Dogs" are two of my all-time favorites. In them Perry's demonstrated a deft talent not only for plot, but for characterization.

Perry then followed these books with a series of novels starring a native American, female protagonist, who helped people disappear from those trying to find and do harm to them. The Jane Whitfield series was very popular, but I could never get into these books, as I could not bridge the huge gap between the two very different set of characters.

In this book, 6 years ago, retired cop (current PI) Jack Till helped Wendy Harper disappear, after she was assaulted and almost killed. Leaving everything behind, she simply walked from her old life and her best friend/business partner, Eric Fuller. Now the shady person behind her assault has planted evidence from the assault in Eric Fuller's backyard suggesting that Wendy's been missing because Fuller killed her.

When Jack Till learns that an innocent man is about to be tried for murder, he he goes to the assistant DA to tell her that Wendy Harper disappeared, she wasn't murdered. The DA says she'll only drop the charges if Till produces Wendy Harper in person.

Till looks for and finds Wendy Harper, but a husband/wife tandem of hired killers are tracking his moves and trying to find Wendy Harper first. When the chase drags on, several other groups of hired killers are set against Till and Harper AND the original hired killers trying to complete the job and collect their bounty.

The best part of this book is the characterization. From the male perspective, Perry nails the husband and wife relationship of the hired killers and the budding adult relationship between damaged people Wendy Harper and Jack Till.

The worst part of this book is the plot. It's passable, but it becomes unfocused as the story nears it's end and rather then tidying the loose ends, the ending seems tacked on because the book is too long.

I'd still recommend this book, because Perry is that good a writer and the main characters are wonderfully written. Still, I would recommend that you consider reading "The Butcher's Boy" first.
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Posted: 09/24/2012 12:58 PM

Re: Summer reading Post Rating (1 vote)

A Song of Ice and Fire

books 1-5
2 more left...

If only they were done
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