Archive for January, 2013

23
Jan
13

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 3: Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

images-1I can’t help myself. I keep reading these books.

For the uninitiated, these books (all 19 of them — PLUS the weird books with magical Diesel) are about Stephanie Plum, worst bounty hunter in New Jersey. She lives with her hamster, has a cop boyfriend named Joe, sometimes sleeps with her gorgeous coworker Ranger, has a best friend who used to be a ‘ho, eats a ton of junk food, has an insane grandmother, and has her car blow up a lot.

And of course, this book was no different.

Stephanie and Joe are still together and still dancing around the subject of marriage. Stephanie’s car blows up once. And Joe’s car blows up once, too. Stephanie and Lula eat A LOT of donuts and fried chicken. Ranger looks hot and says “babe” a lot. Stephanie’s mother drinks at dinner to get over the fact that her daughter will never have a normal life. And Stephanie chases after some of the strangest characters New Jersey has to offer.

Her main target in this book is a guy who embezzled millions from the nursing home that he managed. He disappeared in the middle of the night from the local hospital after having his appendix removed. Not a trace left behind on hospital security cameras, and none of the staff remembers seeing him. Meanwhile, Stephanie is also chasing after a local kook who is trying to bring a Hawaiian Tiki relic back to Hawaii. Of course, Stephanie ends up bonding with the Tiki — talking to it, taking it out for margaritas, carrying it around like a baby.

And lastly, Stephanie is working an undercover job with Ranger. Someone from Ranger’s past is trying to kill him and another of his army buddies. While chasing him, Stephanie is poisoned and her apartment is bombed. And Stephanie has to wear a really ugly bridesmaids dress, which really is worse than the poisoning or the bombing.

I know, these books are ridiculous. But I can’t stop reading them. If she keeps writing them, I’m going to keep reading them.

09
Jan
13

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 2: Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin

imagesOne night, a few years ago, I was home watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He was visiting Scotland, eating fish & chips, drinking whiskey, and chatting with the locals. And then he introduced his companion for touring Edinburgh — an author I had never heard of named Ian Rankin. Bourdain was a self-professed fan boy, and mentioned that James Ellroy had dubbed Rankin the father of “tartan noir”. As an enormous Ellroy fan, I couldn’t get past this highest of compliments. I went to the library the very next day and checked out the first of Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels, Knots and Crosses. And then I DEVOURED the entire series over the next few months. I loved them. The books were brilliant — dark, realistic portraits of the life of an aging detective (with far too many vices) in Edinburgh. When Rankin decided to retire Inspector Rebus for good, I was devastated.

And then, last year, he brought Rebus back for one last adventure, and I’m so glad he did.

Rebus is of the old-school. He drinks. He smokes. He eats lots of bacon. His ex wife and daughter don’t have much to do with him. He listens to a lot of classic rock on vinyl. And he does his police work by talking to people instead of using the internet or other modern techniques.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave isn’t the greatest Rebus book (I’d say that would have to be The Hanging Garden), but its a fantastic look at what its like to get older. John Rebus is no longer an official member of the police. He works in the cold case department as a temporary employee, and sees very few of his old colleagues and friends. Some of them are dying off, some of them have retired to the countryside, and those that are still on the force don’t want much to do with him, as he still carries a reputation as a bit of a troublemaker. He still drinks and smokes way too much, and he still has the tendency to piss off his superiors at any and all opportunity.

Rebus finds himself working a cold case about a girl taken from the highway in Northern Scotland and starts to put together pieces from other cold cases that have similar details. When his trail leads to the recent case of a missing teen girl, he is temporarily brought back to the police force and placed with his old partner, the wonderful Siobhan Clarke. Together they travel across the Scottish countryside to try and figure out who is abducting (and probably murdering) these teenage girls.

Rankin rarely provides a happy ending to his stories, and this case was no different. But the writing and the characters are so vibrant and alive, its really almost as if you are right there in Scotland.

I loved that Rebus’ story isn’t over yet, and look forward to seeing Rankin at a local bookshop in February.

If you like James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane, or Michael Connelly, I recommend you give Ian Rankin a try.

01
Jan
13

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 1: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

f_fountain_billylynnslongSometimes, I read a book and am immediately affected by it. I either love it or hate it as soon as I am a few chapters in. And sometimes, a book is more of a “slow burn”…it might take a bit longer to get myself immersed in it, but when I do, the book will stay with me for a very long time. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is one of those books. I simply cannot stop thinking about it, can’t stop worrying about the (fictional!) characters, and can’t stop trying to figure out what happens to them after the book.

Billy Lynn tells the story of Bravo Squad — a heroic bunch of young soldiers who were part of a daring and brave attack early on in the war in Iraq. They are “rewarded” with a Victory tour around America. They visit big cities and are — for the most part — treated as heroes. The Bush administration welcomes them to the White House, decorates them with medals, and plasters their faces and stories all over TV and other media in an effort to humanize the war. Hollywood is interested in their story (even though Hillary Swank wants to play a member of the all-male unit), and they quickly become minor celebrities. They finish up their tour on Thanksgiving Day, at Cowboy stadium in Dallas, the most American place in the entire world.

The main character, Billy Lynn, isn’t even 20 years old. He narrates the story — mostly about their day in Dallas, but with huge chunks told in flashback — and quickly becomes someone quite real, someone that you might know, and someone that you end up caring and worrying about. He’s hungover, misses his family, and wonders why he hasn’t found his soul mate yet. He’s lonely and scared…The Bravo Squad is heading back to Iraq the next day, and Billy can’t quite wrap his head around what that means. His sister wants him to run away, but Billy isn’t sure he has much of a life other than the military. The ultimate Catch-22.

The writing and characters (including the Harvey Weinstein guy, the Jerry Jones guy, as well as his fellow soldiers and family members) felt real to me (even though I know very little about the actual military or the military lifestyle). And Billy broke my heart. Sometimes very much a teenager (the ridiculous obsession with Destiny’s Child!), but other times wise and toughened beyond his years. Its easy to see why this book ended up on so many “best of” lists for 2012.

Happy New Year!




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