Sunday, May 1, 2011

Best April Reads (and some catching up)

I went through a reader’s slump the early part of the year. Not that everything I read was crap; nothing appealed to me enough to recommend it. That ended several weeks ago, but, once out of the habit, the monthly recommendations failed to materialize. Rather than wait for the clamor sure to result should I cease these posts completely (brief pause for laughter), I ‘ll do some catchi8ng up here.

Rut, Scott Phillips. The scariest kind of post-apocalyptic story, one that shows what things could be like if we keep going the way we have been. Phillips’s dry wit and easy style make this a fun read even as it creeps you out.

Generation Kill, Evan Wright. The book on which David Simon and HBO based the miniseries, it provides context Simon had no good way to describe. Wright looks back and lets the reader in on why some things were done the way they were, while Simon has to keep you with the Marines full time. The afterword of the new edition (written when the series came out) also places some of the characters in context. The respect that built between Wright and the Recon Marines is as obvious here as in the series. For a dispassionate look at the Iraq War, look no further.

The Lost Girls, Declan Hughes. Not Hughes’s best, but he and Ed Loy are so good it’s still highly recommended. Few crime writers can resist dipping their toe into the serial killer pool at least once; this is Hughes’s edition. Not as gruesome as many, and Ed continues to show growth. If you’re already hooked on Hughes and Loy, you’ll be happy to see how things are progressing.

Blood of the Wicked, Leighton Gage. The first of the Chief Inspector Silva series. Good, taut story and crisp writing makes it easy to see how he got contracts for more books. The interplay between his cops has improved as the series has progressed, but it’s worth the time to see how they all started out.

Crashed, Timothy Hallinan. Taking a holiday from the Poke Rafferty series, Hallinan writes a lighter tale with a new hero, burglar-for-hire Junior Bender. Hallinan has a gift for creating protagonists who are interesting because of how they react to their lives, not because of their addictions, mental hang-ups, or psychological baggage. A welcome relief and an entertaining read.

The Creative Writers Survival Guide, John McNally. Not a book about how to write, a book about how to be a writer. McNally covers the writer’s lot in life from picking a school to finding an agent to how to make enough money to not starve while you’re writing all this deathless prose, and does it in an easy to read, entertaining style that makes you wish he’d gone on a little more.

True Grit, Charles Portis. As good as they said, and better than either movie, both of which were very good. Confession: I’m more into Jeff Bridges than John Wayne, but as the action picked up later in the story I heard Rooster’s lines in The Duke’s voice. A quirky and wonderful read.


Richard said...

Thanks for the quick-to-read, get-to-the-point reviews! Are you on Goodreads? What do you think of the 5 star rating system?

Charlieopera said...

Generation Kill was the last draw for me with Iraq ... all I could think of after reading that book/seeing the series was "war crimes" to those who initiated that cluster fuck (which I had originally supported).

Dana King said...

Thanks, Richard. I haven't spent much time at Goodreads, though I have done reviews for a web site in the past. I like five star rating systems as long as everyone is straight on what each level means.

To me three means it was okay, I'm not sorry i read it, but I'm not going to want to read it again, and I may or may not look for other books by the same author. Four is liked it, five is loved it, with half stars where necessary. Two is for books I didn't like, and one for active dislike bordering on hatred. However, if I'm asked to rate something (say, by NetFlix) I'll use whatever definitions they supply.

Anything I mention here on the blog can be assumed to be either four or five stars.

Thanks for stopping by.

Dana King said...

I saw the series first, which made me want to read the book. Reading/seeing both gives a great perspective of what these guys put up with, as the show lives in their eyes, with no knowledge they don't have, which makes a lot of things seem pointless or stupid. The book has better context, which isn't to say decisions weren't made that were pointless or stupid, but not in the same way. Both are the best look at life inside a war since BAND OF BROTHERS. (Admittedly spoken as someone who has, thankfully, never been to war.)

pattinase (abbott) said...

TRUE GRIT-read it this year and saw both movies this year. It's hard to ruin greatness although Glen Campbell came close.

Dana King said...

It's almost unfair to Glen Campbell to have Matt Damon cast in that part for the remake.