Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book reviews

I started reviewing books on Amazon about 6 years ago hoping that the activity would help me remember what I read.  As a result of my public reviews, I've been approached by authors to review their work in return for a free copy of same.  Anyone who births a book has my complete respect, but I should know better by now than to offer to read and review their work.  Too much my grandma's grandchild, I take to heart her advice: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

The first offer came from a thirty-something Saudi woman who'd written a book on her dating experience.  Or so I thought.  In fact, it was a rather explicit narration of her sexual exploits called "When the Veil Drops: The Erotic Tales of a Muslim Woman."  I could've titled my review "When My Jaw Drops: Not the Demographic for Erotic Tales"  The author and I exchanged several e-mails; she doubtless would've been a great companion for a hilarious girls' lunch out.  My dilemma, however, how to review her book, her labor of love, when I'm more aghast than engaged?

This month I've read two freebies for review.  "Firebug", available on Kindle, by Daniel Berenson, is well-written, a bit of a tear-jerker.  Again, however, this is not my kind of book, and so, was difficult to review.  The other, whose title I will keep to myself, was badly written, full of adverbs, adjectives, and overdrawn scenes.  When the heroine's 'angriness' flooded out of her like a stream, I knew I was in trouble.  

So little time, so much to read.  Time to just say no to cold calls for reviews.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Three Stations Audiobook

by Martin Cruz Smith

I always assumed that Martin Cruz Smith would be too much for me in the way that John le Carre's George Smiley books leave me dazed and confused.  Thus, I have never read "Gorky Park" which has sat on our shelf for ages, and chose with trepidation "Three Stations" on CD for our recent cross country car ride.

Despite the fact that this is number seven in the Arkady Renko series, I was immediately drawn into this story, not one bit befuddled.  A great peek into modern day Russia complete with its corruption, thuggery, runaway kids, prostitution rings, and street gangs.  Arkady Renko is a most appealing police inspector good guy, and despite the fact that Cruz Smith pulls out one of those unexpectedly sudden and implausible plot solutions, "Three Stations" is an engaging listen.

Ron McLarty narrates perfectly, giving voice to characters as disparate as a teenaged mom, a boy chess genius, a Pakistani shop owner, and two enforcers from organized crime.  He joins George Guidall, Dick Hill, and Frank Muller (who narrate Vince Flynn, Lee Child, and Elmore Leonard respectively) as a perfect match of reader to author.

Now on to "Gorky Park."

Addendum:  Actually, "Red Square" not "Gorky Park" in the personal library, and I gave up on page three.  I need oral interpretation on these dense intrigue books.

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays

by Virginia Woolf

I was lying on the floor, nominally exercising but really just taking time off from gravity, when I noticed a small piece of fuzz on the carpet.  Pinching it between forefinger and thumb, I realized it was a small moth crushed now in my fingers, as soft as lint.  Oh yuck, I thought, and good riddance too, darned thing and its cousins probably feasting on my winter wool wardrobe.

Virginia Woolf, however, has more moth compassion in her four page essay than I've mustered in a lifetime.  "The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth's part in life...appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meagre opportunities to the full, pathetic."  She stuck with Moth-Guy to his end, musing over life force and death. And that is why I loll on floors and she authors books.

Best essay of all in this book was "Street Haunting" wherein an early evening walk in winter through London streets "gives us the irresponsibility which darkness and lamplight bestow.  We are no longer quite ourselves."  She proceeds on a 14 page meditative journey through the streets and shops of central London.

The bulk of the book's entries are literary criticism for which I have no background to appreciate.  But the first five essays are definite jewels.