Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino IslandWhile John Grisham still reliably delivers page-turning legal thrillers, he still likes to challenge himself and his readers with novels that occasionally go against the “typical” Grisham grain.

But while Camino Island isn’t a typical Grisham legal thriller, it does have the feel of what Grisham does so well in the pages of his legal thrillers. In this case, it’s not a young lawyer with his or her ethics being challenged or figuring out how to fight the system for the underdog. This time Grisham turns his sights upon the publishing world and the lucrative world of book collecting.

Camino Island
starts off at a sprint with four thieves stealing four rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton library.

Once the manuscripts are stolen, Grisham then introduces us to one of the high stakes players in the world of book collecting and his lucrative business. Continue reading

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Review: The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand

The IdenticalsWhen Eleanor Roxy-Frost and Billy Frost decide to go their separate ways, they decide to divide everything equally. This includes their twin daughters, Tabitha and Harper.

And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.

When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.

Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago. Continue reading

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Reading With Shortcake: The Pop Culture Edition

As an avid reader, I wanted to share my love of reading with Shortcake as soon as possible.   Not only are there benefits for her brain development but it’s a special time to bond.

Some of my fondest memories growing up involve read with my parents.  My dad and I used to have a tradition of reading the Sunday comics together (the weekly Spider-Man comic strip was a favorite and the smell of coffee often brings back memories of those Sunday mornings) and my mom read several books onto cassette for me so I could listen to them over and over and over again.

goodnightmoonEarly childhood educators and experts recommend reading 1,000 books to your child before he or she starts kindergarten.  And while that can seem like a LOT of books, our local librarian reminded us that most kids have close to 2,000 days from the time they are born before they enter kindergarten (so you if you miss a day, you don’t have to get too stressed out about it).

She also said that you don’t have to read your child a 1,000 different books before kindergarten, just a thousand total books.  So when your young toddler demands that you read Goodnight Moon every night before he or she goes to sleep, each time you read it counts toward the total.

As a good father, I want to ensure not only that Shortcake reads 1,000 books before kindergarten but that she’s also exposed to some of the classics, including some of my favorite characters and universes from pop culture.  (In other words, I want to sow the seeds of geek-dom early and often).

Thankfully we live in a time when books that celebrate and expose little readers to some of their parents’ pop culture favorites are plentiful.  A few of my favorites include:

startrekoppostiesThe Star Trek Book of Opposites:   Taking images from the original (and still the best) Star Trek, this board book covers things like calm (with an image of Spock) and surprised (with an image of Captain Kirk holding up his hands with a surprised look on his face).  Clever and colorful, this book is designed not only to amuse young reader s but also to the people reading it to them.

Doctor Who Meets Mr. Men and Little Miss series:  This mash-up of Doctor Who and the Mr. Men books is delightful for young and old readers.  Currently there are books with the first, second, fourth and seventh through twelfth Doctor either on shelves or on the horizon.  And since Shortcake will sit up and turn her head toward any television set playing the Doctor Who theme, I imagine these will  be read a LOT in our house.

xfilesThe X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird:  While you may not want your kids to watch The X-Files just yet (it’s kind of dark and scary), you can introduce them to Fox Mulder and Dana Scully with this delightful book.  Young Fox and Dana are camping out in the backyard when they discover weird, wild, possibly alien stuff going on around them and being to investigate.  (If you’re such a nitpicker that you point out that Mulder and Scully never met as children, remind yourself this is just a children’s book and enjoy it.)  Great illustrations and a clever story with lots of homages to the series have made this one of Daddy’s favorite books to read to Shortcake.

DC Superhero Series:  Share your love of superheroes with your young one with these delightful board books, including the heroes and villains of the DC universe.  So far, we’ve only read My First Wonder Woman (which also provides the opportunity to feel things like Wonder Woman’s magic lasso!) but I have a feeling there will be more of these in our future.

Those are just a few of the books/series that I’ve discovered during the first year or so with Shortcake. I’m sure there are others that I’ve either forgotten or overlooked. But I’d love to hear what you recommend we read together on our journey to a thousand books.

 

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Review: 1984 by George Orwell

1984A friend of mine once lamented that great literature is often wasted when we’re forced to read it in high school. Some works need a bit more time and distance to be fully appreciated. And then there are those that hold up to being read then and then read again with a different life perspective.

After spending the last few days immersed in the nightmarish world of George Orwell’s 1984, I can’t help but feel this is a novel that should be read not only in high school but every few years after graduation day.

I read this one in school and beyond the popular culture allusions to it, I didn’t recall the true dark nature of the story nor Orwell’s fascinating world-building within the printed page. Starting off with the great opening line about a clock striking thirteen, the novel immediately set me on edge with that feeling that something is horribly wrong here. In some ways it reminded me of certain episodes of Star Trek where mind-bleepery is on full display. As the audience, we know something isn’t quite right with reality and we spend the rest of the episode trying to figure out if and when our familiar characters will return to the reality we know for most other episodes. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet by Douglas Adams & James Goss

Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet: 4th Doctor NovelisationWith his adaptation of “The Pirate Planet,” James Goss has done what multiple authors have tried but rarely succeeded in doing — recreating the spirit of Douglas Adams on the printed page.

Goss takes the original shooting script as well as notes kept during the development of the second installment of the Key to Time season to produce one of the more entertaining, fun and delightful novel adaptations of the Tom Baker era. Searching for the second segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on what should be the planet Calufrax. But instead of finding an icy, desolate world, they discover a planet that regularly declares new ages of prosperity under the rule of the tyrannical Captain. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of the Year (So Far)

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks what are the top ten books you’ve read in the first half of 2017.  So, here we go…

  1.  Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
  2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  3. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  4. Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally
  5. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chimzar
  6. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Matasi
  7. High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glen Frankel
  8. Dark Knight: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini
  9. Camino Island by John Grisham
  10. The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner

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Comic Book Friday: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 11

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 11After penning a hundred issues, Stan Lee turns the reigns over to writer Roy Thomas (at least for a couple of issues) and there’s a perceptible change in the storytelling quality.

Seeking to cure himself of being Spider-Man in order to have a normal life, Peter Parker downs an untested serum, falls into a deep sleep (in which we are treated to a summary of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life up to now) and wakes up with six arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Peter scrambles to find a cure all while battling new threat Morbius the vampire and the return of the Lizard.

Another arc centers on Flash Thompson’s return from Vietnam and the fall-out from his attempting to do the right thing for a group of villagers. The arc starts well for Flash but quickly goes in an entirely less than politically correct direction for the remainder of its run.

Then Spidey and company are off to Antartica to find Ka-Zar’s forgotten world and deliver a photo feature that will save circulation at the Daily Bugle. (Interesting to see that newspapers were having issues with circulation back then and not just as we continue to explore the digital age). Gwen Stacey tags along as a model, which complicates things when Peter has to go all Spider-Man to battle Kraven the Hunter as well as various prehistoric beasts that inhabit the area. Continue reading

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