August 25, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie ****

**** The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley, 2010

Finally, after many months, we get a four-star book! The best description of this book is to imagine an 11-year-old Miss Marple. That pretty much says it all, and for those who like that sort of thing will love this.

For those not familiar with Miss Marple, we're talking about a classis whodunit set in the 1950 English countryside. The protagonist, 11-year-old chemical genius Flavia de Luce, finds a body in the cucumber patch and we're off and running. Flavia is a precocious narrator in the tradition of Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) or Swede (Peace Like a River).

I stayed up until two and three AM on multiple occasions reading this book. This is Alan Bradley's first novel, published when he was 70. It may be his first novel, but this is definitely not his first rodeo. Some of the figures of speech spun my head around like a carousel.

I can't recommend it highly enough. I will definitely be following all of Flavia's adventures, several of which are already available.

August 18, 2011

Resurrection in May ***

*** Resurrection in May, Lisa Samson, 2010

The novel has been sitting on my shelf for some time like a fine wine as I was reluctant to precipitately imbibe the only extant Lisa Samson novel I haven't read and be left bereft. But I finally cracked it open and drank.

Here's the takeaway: If a book has Lisa Samson's name on the front, it's worth buying an reading. Period. I've read all her novels since The Church Ladies and haven't been disappointed once. (Well, there is that dark period where she wrote historical romances, but I don't talk about those.)

I have to admit Resurrection in May has not displaced my other favorites, the most recent being Embrace Me, but it's still got lots to recommend it. The Rwanda segment was vibrant and visceral and the ending, beginning with the prison visit, was powerful. And there is that spot that caught me completely off guard the way Embrace Me did. Wonderful stuff.

From a technical standpoint, I think this is the first contemporary novel Lisa has written in third person. I also found it an interesting choice to place almost half the book in the POV of Claudius, even though it is May's story. Person and POV decisions are sometimes very difficult, but they can make or break a story.

But enough of the inside baseball talk. If you haven't read this one, yet, then get to it. I hear she's got another in the works. Good thing, since I just depleted my stock.

August 11, 2011

The Throne of Fire ***

*** The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan, 2011

Rick is on a roll. (Sorry, I couldn't resist it.) It amazes me that Riordan can do the formula for five Percy Jackson books and now two Kane books and still make it interesting.

I just wish I could get the newer ones autographed. I got the first three Percy Jacksons autographed, but that was before there was a movie and they had to move his appearances at the Texas Book Festival to the Paramount because of the crowds.

If you like mythology-based YA action adventure stories and haven't read Riordan, you absolutely need to stop what you're doing and check him out. While you're at it, check out his Tres Navarre detective novels, too. They're even better.

August 4, 2011

The Art of War **

** The Art of War, Sun Tzu, 512 B.C.

One advantage of getting a Kindle is you end up reading all the classics you've been putting off reading because you can get them for free. One downside of this practice is that the free versions tend to have poor formating. But hey, it's free.

One thing I learned in the (very long) introduction is that, like the Bible, The Art of War has had many translators with varying interpretations of problem passages. Lin Wusun's translation is interspersed with James Clavell's commentary, which offers alternate translations and illustrative anecdotes.

If I were a student of war, strategy and tactics, I would have found the multiple viewpoints interesting, but I'm not and I found they slowed down the reading. However, I did enjoy the anecdotes. Man, those ancient Chinese warriors were a crusty lot!

If you're into this type of thing, it's worth more stars. For me it's more of a curiousity than anything. Hmm, maybe I'll stream the Wesley Snipes movie of the same name.