Monthly Archives: July 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Is It Hot In Here?

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Well, folks, I don’t know about where you are, but right here, it’s HOT.

So … when you think about “hot reading,” what does that make you think of? Beach reading? Steamy romances? Books that take place in hot climates? Or cold ones?

As my grandfather used to say, “It’s H-O-T, warm” where I am as well.

As for “hot reading” a couple of things popped into my head.   My local library has two different lending periods for books.  There is the normal loan period and there’s the one week only, no renewals lending period for “high demand” or “hot” books.  This one has an almost daily impact on how I order my ever-growing pile of books to be read.

Of course, there is also the reference to the hot and steamy side of books…and I think we all know what I’m talking about here.  (Wink, wink, grin, grin…say NO more!)   Romance novels are most often associated with this hot side, but sex scenes crop up in other books as well.  As a teenager, I recall reading Stephen King’s “It” and there being a couple of scenes involving sex.  One in particular I recall as being fairly hot (at least it was to my teenage, hormonally-addled mind).

Also thinking of the teenage year, I recall going in to bookstores and seeing the magazine sections.  This was in the days before the Internet and they’d keep the adult magazines up in a higher section to try and discourage younger, impressionable readers from looking through them.  (By adult, I mean Playboy).  I recall seeing them sitting up there and being very curious about them because–holy cow, it was a magazine just full of naked women!  How could that not be hot?!?  I seem to recall that some places would have them wrapped in plastic so that even if you managed to get your grubby, teenage, hormonally imbalanced mitts on one, you would still have to work to look at it.  I also recall thinking that if I should try to reach up, grab one and maybe open the pages to see the naked women that somehow, some authority figure would jump out and demand to know if I was old enough to look at it and then to see some ID to verify that.    Or that some book store employee might see me and rat me out to my parents, who would ground me for the rest of my life.

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“Blockade Billy” by Stephen King

Blockade BillyMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

When you’re as big a name as Stephen King, you could pretty much publish a grocery list and people would snap it up. But part of that is because he’s earned the trust of his readers, so that when he decides to push the limits or do something different, readers will follow him and give whatever experiment he’s trying a fair chance.

Those experiments have given us some enjoyable reads and some interesting entries in the Stephen King library.

“Blockade Billy” is another noble experiment by King. Released first as an exclusive for e-book readers, King now releases the short story in a hard cover edition. It’s the story of a replacement starting catcher for the New Jersey Titans. All record of William “Blockade Billy” Blakely have been erased from history and the record books, but the fictional King has tracked down a member of the team who is willing to tell the story.

King’s love of baseball comes through in the story and you can see what he’s trying to do here. King teases readers with the possibility that there could be supernatural forces at work here (at least you think there could be if you’ve read a lot of other King novels and stories), but I’ll warn you there aren’t. It’s a fairly straight-forward story about Billy, the team and what he did.

It’s an enjoyable enough little read with King creating a good atmosphere, especially those around the ballpark and the games Billy catches.

Also included is another story called “Morality” that feels a bit like a Richard Matheson story. (A compliment to both King and Matheson). A young couple, struggling with debt, is given a unique opportunity. What they are asked to do, the reward and the consequences of it make for an interesting little morality play.

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“Innocent” by Scott Turow

InnocentMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

While he may not have invented the legal thriller, Scott Turow certainly helped usher in the era of the legal thriller twenty years ago with his best-seller “Presumed Innocent.” And while Turow has revisited some of the supporting characters of “Presumed Innocent” in his subsequent novels, he’s always avoided a direct sequel to the book that put him and the legal thriller on the map.

Until now.

I’ll have to admit I was dubious about “Innocent.” I’ve been burned too often by sequels written years later that come off as less like a natural continuation of a story and more like a money grab based on a familiar name or property.

All of those fears and doubts were dispelled within the first ten pages of “Innocent.” The novel did exactly what “Presumed” did twenty years ago–pulled me and didn’t let go until the last page was turned.

“Innocent” picks up 20 years after the events of “Presumed Innocent.” Rusty Sabich is back, serving on the appeals court and running for state supreme court. His professional life is going well and things with his wife Barbara are back on a more solid ground, though there’s an undercurrent of tension due to her on-going issues with depression. Rusty is tempted by his law clerk, Anna, who clearly flirts with him and makes it clear she’d like to see their relationship be something more. On the final day of her time as his clerk, Rusty and Anna begin a short-lived affair, with Rusty considering divorce from Barbara. However, Rusty eventually decides against it and ends the affair after a few weeks.

A few months later, Rusty’s son Nat contacts Anna about leasing her old apartment while he’s serving as a law clerk. Through a string of e-mails and meetings, the two have a chemistry and despite reservations from Anna, the two eventually become romantically involved. After several months, Barbara invites the couple to dinner. But are her motives as innocent as they appear? Has she discovered the link between Rusty and Anna and what will she do about it?

The next day, Barbara dies of what appears to be natural causes. Rusty waits 24 hours to notify the police and authorities, raising the suspicions of Tommy Molto. Molto is still stinging from the fact that Rusty was acquitted at the end of “Presumed” and is cautious about pursuing the case, for fear of looking like he’s out for revenge. Eventually, too much evidence turns up and it appears that Rusty may be getting away with murder twice. Rusty is arrested for murder and put back on trial for the death of Barbara.

Told from varying points of view, “Innocent” is a fascinating and compelling legal thriller, not only for the mystery of how and why Barbara died but also some of the ethical implications. The specter of Anna and Rusty’s short-lived affair as well as a slip by Rusty to a defendant in an appeals trial, hover over the entire book, driving the narrative forward. The question of it Nat will find out about his father and Anna’s affair keeps the tension going. Turow also trades off between point-of-view in the story–we get first-person perspectives from Rusty, Anna and Nat while we get third-person from the legal team of Molto and company.

As with the first book, it’s clear that Rusty has made some mistakes but whether or not he’s a murderer isn’t made clear until the final stages of the story. And even after that has been resolved, the implications of things and their impact on the characters is examined.

In short, it’s everything that made “Presumed Innocent” a classic of the genre. Not just the legal aspect, but also the character aspect. A superb follow-up.

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Booking Through Thursday: Can We Discuss This?

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Do you have friends and family to share books with? Discuss them with? Does it matter to you?

(Personally, I almost can’t remember the last time I was able to really TALK about a book I’d read with someone else who’d read it, and haven’t really been able to since my best friend and I devoured the same books in high school. Thank God for the internet.)

I’m a member of a science-fiction and fantasy book club at a near-by library. We meet once a month to discuss our selection. It’s pretty interesting and it’s nice to hear some other opinions on books or to share commentary on the novels we’ve read. It also helps me discover or pick up books that I might not necessarily have considered or read and to help try and cross off a few that I haven’t yet read but should–either because it’s a classic of the field or that it’s been on my TBR pile for far too long.

Of course, there’s also the Internet for discussion of other books and genres. I also love it though it’s helped by TBR pile grow and grow to the point that it’s threatening to take over my home. So many good books, so little time. If only I didn’t have to work, eat and sleep….

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Booking Through Thursday: Disappointed

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Name a book or author that you truly wanted to love but left you disappointed. (And, of course, explain why.)

I could go with the obvious choice and say “Twilight.” After seeing how caught up in the book everyone was, I tried listening to the audio version. I was interested for the first half of the book, but the story makes an abrupt turn about halfway through and just never recovers. I find it odd that Meyer claims she’s never seen Buffy or Angel and yet huge chunks of the book are mirrors of what both shows did–and did better.

For a less obvious choice, I’ll go with Robert A. Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.” I should preface this with saying I’m not a huge fan of Heinlein, but I’d always heard raves about his juvenile novels. “Spacesuit” is one of the big ones and so I was eager to read it. However, while it started out OK, it just never grabbed me and towards the end I found myself getting bored by the story as a whole.

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