Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recent Books Read

2011 Books Read

*The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and His Friend Marilyn Monroe
by Andrew O'Hagan is a clever satire from the perspective of a philosophical Maltese given to Marilyn by Frank Sinatra. You can almost imagine de Tocqueville describing mid-century United States from a pampered canine perspective. Maf, like Miss Marple, is well schooled in the classics and enjoy listening and sniffing the feet and ankles such notables as Natalie Wood, Frank Sinatra, and JFK, as he offers erudite commentary, sometimes in dialogue with other dogs, on such subjects as interior decorating, celebrity, authenticity, religion, and death.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy, like his other books combine a charming narrative voice and often over written prose. In this ode to the books and book people that shaped his life. Conroy attributes his love of literature to his mother, who nurtured his passion for reading and at the same time educated herself by studying his school books. Her favorite novel (and his) was Gone with the Wind, which she read to him when he was five years old. Conroy pays tribute to the men who were substitute father figures and mentors, among them a dedicated English teacher/mentor and legendary book rep who appropriately chastised him for his "overcaffeinated prose."

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is narrated by young, needy Rose Edelstein, who can literally taste the emotions of whoever prepares her food. This use of magic realism gives her unwanted insight into other people's secret emotional lives—including her mother's, whose lemon cake betrays a deep dissatisfaction. “Bender plumbs an emotionally crippled family with power and authenticity…her gustative insights don't have the sensual potency readers might crave, (still) this coming-of-age story makes a bittersweet dish.”

The Reversal by Michael Connelly proves that the author is still at the top of his game and among the best in this genre. Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, a convicted killer Jason Jessup has won a new trial because of new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger—a pleasant, satisfying read.

The Weekend by Bernard Schlink (The Reader) describes a reunion of old friends after Jörg is released from prison. “Schlink's meditative (is about) the past's grip on the present and the possibility--or impossibility--of redemption.” Convicted of quadruple murder and numerous acts of terrorism on behalf of the radical left, Jörg spent 24 years in prison before being unexpectedly pardoned. His sister, Christiane, invites journalist Henner, whom Jörg believes betrayed him to the police; Ilse, who is beginning a novel about a common friend's alleged suicide; and Marko, a young revolutionary intent on convincing Jörg to speak out against the current government. While favorably reviewed, I found it slow going.

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