Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Book Reviews...

So, summer is prime reading time for many people. There are vacations to the beach (where knitting can get a bit sticky and sandy. The idea of working with wool whilst sweat beads roll down my sides gives me the bad shivers...ugh.) or lake house (much better for knitting but reading is nice too). There are great holidays, like the Fourth of July, when you get to kick around the house for a while or sit outside in the sunshine and read. Suffice to say that summer presents many wonderful reading opportunities and, if you are not a school age child or a student of some kind who is forced to read during summer break, you may be hankering for a suggestion or two. Despite the fact that I work for a publishing company that has published many fine books for summer reading, I don't feel like shilling for my company (although most of my authors are fantastic and wonderful people who deserve some more PR) so I'm presenting you with two books that were not published by my company that would make delightful summer reading.

Just so you know, you can click on the little box under the sub-headings and it will direct you to the book via Amazon. For some reason, the images themselves aren't showing up in my browser (Firefox) but I wanted to let y'all know they existed.

Number one:

The Book of Air and Shadows by Micheal Gruber has all sorts of elements of a good suspense novel....a forlorn and luckless main character, a couple of suckers, a dame with a past, and a tough talking lady cop. The book itself is organized like an Anglophile book (think Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, V.S. Naipaul...hell, even Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in that there are actually three stories being told simultaneously and, of course, in the end, they all intertwine to become one story. The basic breakdown of the book is this: The main character is an IP lawyer who gets handed a sixteenth (I believe) century letter, from a very nervous client, that potentially points to the whereabouts of an unknown Shakespeare play and has information about Shakespeare himself, one of the most elusive figures in literary history. Shortly after the main character has taken the property into his custody, his client, a Shakespeare scholar and English professor, disappears and turns up dead. The main character, ever one to appreciate a mystery and a challenge, goes on a mission to find out what the sixteenth century document says, its provenance and the hidden Shakespeare play the document alludes to. After the main character gets a hold of the sixteenth century document, the other stories are introduced. The reader slowly finds out where the document was found, the hands the document passed through, and the truth behind the whole thing. The Book of Air and Shadows is sprinkled with interesting historical tidbits about Shakespeare, cryptography, and book binding. It involves rare book dealers, literary scholars, and the Russian mafia. There is a great chase scene at the end involving boats and children. Overall, I'd give the book three to three-and-a-half stars out of five. The writing style, tone, and pace were very good and the author's voice adapts and changes for each story being told without the whole book falling apart and getting convoluted. Personally, because I read for a freakin' living and have to notice things like this, I think the author left himself too many choices for ways to end the book. When it came time to end the book, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities and was, thus, not fully satisfied with it. That being said, it's one of the more entertaining books I've read lately and I do recommend checking it out. It's not your typical, formulaic beach-type reading so be prepared to get into it a bit deeper than you would, say, a Janet Evanovich or James Patterson novel (both of whom, by the way, are fine novelists from what I understand).

Number Two:

The Lost Van Gogh
was written by husband and wife team, A.J. Zerries. While there was some interesting history here about Nazi art theft and black market art dealing, I could only, in good conscience, give this book a maximum of two-and-a-half out of five stars. The main character, an NYPD cop named Clay, get assigned to all the art cases in his department because of his knowledge of art and its history. A Van Gogh painting that was assumed to be lost forever shows up in a relatively unmarked envelope at the Met via UPS and it is Clay's job to track down the owner and untangle the mystery of where it came from. After the initial chapters when the reader is introduced to the story and the main character, the book starts to dissolve into two different books. Unfortunately, The Lost Van Gogh is a great example of why co-authorship is a difficult thing to do. You must work TOGETHER to write co-author a book...not just assume that your co-author's work is going to brilliantly assimilate into what you've written. There were many, many times in this book that it felt like I was reading two completely different books. The personality and temperament of the main character vacillates frequently and the plot becomes a convoluted mess in parts of it. In the end, the co-authors manage to start working together again for a long, drawn out, and needlessly dramatic ending. I can't even say that I was fully entertained while reading this book but, clearly, this is all just my humble opinion. If you've been thinking about picking up this book, I'd say move along and grab something else.

At the moment, I'm reading...

The Thief of Time by John Boyne. I have only read the first three chapters at this point and so far, it's not bad. More appropriate for beach reading than anything else I've read this summer, it may prove to be an interesting book. I like the concept (the memoir of a man who is 256 years old and has lived through A LOT) and Boyne's writing style is lucid and relatively concise. I'm trying to shut off the proofreader in my head and ignore the dialogue formatting, etc., and just enjoy the damn book. I'll let you know how that and the book work out. So, do y'all have any good suggestions for summer reading? Recommendations you wish to share? I hope everyone is having a great summer thus far. Brace yourselves for most blog posts because they seem to be coming from everywhere.
Transmission Ended