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Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers

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When I first heard the name Lederer, it referred to her father Richard, who is a punning, word-obsessed writer and comic. Then I heard about his offspring in the poker world, Howard and Annie, in the Texas Hold'em tournaments on TV in recent years. Katy is the youngest of the kids. Here she chronicles the family from her childhood, when Richard taught English at a New England prep-school, through the family's dissolution and obsessions. She seems to have escaped. If I hadn't known of the other members of her family, it might have seemed just one more tale of substance abuse and obsession, but I do know of them, and the writing is lovely. And she seems to have escaped to tell the tale.
The Hunger Games

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A well-written but not unusual dystopian novel, listed as YA, probably because the protagonists are teenagers. But as Jim says, it's 'Lord of the Flies' meets evil adult supervision. After what must have been a horrific war and subsequent rebellion, a central and repressive government based somewhere in the Rockies controls 12 subservient zones of population in North America, and demands symbolic tribute of two teenagers each year in a fight to the death. A fairly predictable story made quite vivid by excellent storytelling. First in a trilogy.
Skeleton Man

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Typical Hillerman, with Joe Leaphorn in a supporting role as the legendary retired lieutenant and Jim Chee still on the force. The story centers on the results of a mid-air collision of two aircraft in the 1950s, lost diamonds, and the rapacity of greedy Easterners, and features Jim and Bernie and Cowboy Dashee.
In the Shadow of the Glacier

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This is the first of series of police procedurals set in a small town in British Columbia. The daughter of parents who escaped to Canada during the Vietnam war decides to become a local policewoman, much to the dismay of her activist mother. This book focuses on her first encounter with a murder (of course), a seargent from the big city (Vancouver) and the idea that you can't trust people. As a first, it's ok, although sometimes the writing gets out of hand (run-on sentences in a couple of places), and the characters seem a little more naive than they should be. Still, it's a series that might be worth following - I'll give a couple more a try.
Maisie Dobbs

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This was certainly a pleasure to read. I often don't like historical fiction, but Maisie felt quite real to me, if her luck with the upstairs folks was a little hard to believe. There wasn't all that much mystery in the part of the book set in 1929, but the flashback to Maisie's earlier life and to World War I was very engaging. The uses of psychology were a little too optimistic for my taste - treatment for what we now call PTSD and depression was represented as more successful than our current experience has shown. Still, a very good beginning to what I am assured is a good series. I look forward to the next one.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

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What fun this book is. I wish I had been like this little girl, fearless and brilliant and quirky. I never got to read some of the children's classics featuring that kind of girl (such as Eloise or Pippi Longstockings - at least I think that's what they are like), so Flavia is a treat. She leavens the typical English village cozy mystery with such energy! And I love her older sisters, too. More! More!
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids

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his wonderfully witty, relaxed, accessible explanation of what all of our lit professors were talking about contains all of the play and enthusiasm that let me to a degree in English lo these many years ago, and serves as a gentle reminder of what it was I knew and focussed on back then. Foster is just delightful, or he makes me full of delight, or both. I heartily recommend this to everyone, even some of our most accomplished reviewers and readers. Delicious. My only complaint was that it wasn't longer.
The Golden Scales: A Makana Investigation

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A very noir mystery that takes place in Cairo, Egypt, with all the requisite components of noir: an emotionally wounded detective, a society consumed with greed and poverty, a missing celebrity who doesn't know who he really is, a lost girl, a clash of cultures, as well as the religious upheaval we hear so much about in the Muslim world. I hope Bilal writes a dozen more of them.
The Coffin Trail: A Lake District Mystery

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I did like this mystery. It's the first of a series that takes place in the Lake country in England, and I liked the characters introduced very much. We've got a professor on the run from Oxford, his current enamorata on the run from London, some wealthy folks, some not wealthy folks, a savvy policewoman and her childish living partner who buys and sells rare books. And the landscape - wow, I need to go see this for myself. It was just the thing to read wrapped in blankets on a cold winter night.
Cain

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Well, it's short. And it's clever. And I don't mind having to work to figure out who is on what side of the conversation, since he doesn't give you many hints, but the conversations are good. Saramango retells the story of Cain more or less from Cain's point of view, and then sets Cain off to wander not only the land but the various times of the Old Testament history, to demonstrate that the Old Testament god was a nasty, brutish, arbitrary tyrant. OK, I got it about a third of the way through. Although it ends with a clever piece of alternate biblical history, the book is repetitive and polemical, and although I am not a believer in any traditional sense, it made me cranky.
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