Thursday, March 3, 2016

January-February Books

*The Crossing by Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch coming out of a retirement forced by enemies within the LAPD to help his half-brother (The Lincoln Lawyer) defend a client whose DNA was found on a rape/murder victim. Perhaps the client has been framed for murder, so Bosch secretly teams up with former partner Lucia Soto to investigate possible corruption inside the LAPD. While not his best effort, nobody does procedural details better than Connelly.

*A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, “all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family." Abby and Red are growing older and it is time to make decisions about how best to look after them, and the future of the house so lovingly built by Red's father. After 50 years as a writer, Tyler still has the talent, wisdom and patience to turn out an excellent book.

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright is the script for the acclaimed one-man show exploring the true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite and celebrated antiques dealer who successfully navigated the two most oppressive regimes of the past century, the Nazis and the Communists. I had trouble following the print version of the play, but in the Ensemble’s production, John Tufts flawlessly navigated the 30 roles and make it understandable and enjoyable. 

*The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee is the story of how a traumatized college graduate, a lonely housewife and a burned-out mother of three endure the challenges of their respective demons and families in the face of unexpected consequences within their American expat community in Hong Kong…” a beautiful, transporting novel about motherhood, marriage, and friendship.”

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by cognitive psychologist Alexandra Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. Imagine being able to smell every bit of open food in the house as well as sadness in humans. Sometimes a little slow going, but Scarlett asked me to read this so I could be more understanding of her needs.

Marry, Kiss, Kill by Anne Flett-Giordano sounded like a great concept: a Santa Barbara murder mystery set during the Film Festival written by a successful TV writer and the pick of a Graduates book club. It could have been good, but wasn’t.   The local color was okay, but characters were one-dimensional and as lovable as Ted Cruz, the plot unbelievable and the dialogue too clever by half.

*Saving Sophie by Ronald H. Balson is about an ordinary attorney from Chicago-until his wife dies, his young daughter is kidnapped, and he becomes the main suspect in an $88-million-dollar embezzlement case. Jack is on the run, hoping to rescue his daughter from her maternal grandfather (a suspected terrorist in Palestine) before he is arrested.   Balson writes an engaging story with believable characters and even weaves some well-done history of the Israel-Palestinian history.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham is the popular writer’s alternative to The Lincoln Lawyer. Sebastian Rudd works out of a customized bulletproof van, a heavily armed driver who is also his body guard and paralegal. He takes on clients other lawyers won't even consider: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house.  While not his best work, this is vintage Grisham and an enjoyable read.

The Guilty by David Baldacci is the 4th novel about government assassin Will Robie that  “straddles that line of edgy, high-concept suspense, augmented with a bit of the political thriller, and deep character studies.” Collateral damage in an assignment impacts Will’s legendary skills and he takes a leave to help his estranged father who has been indicted for murder in Texas. This a different tack for Daldacci, has a more personal, introspective tone but is still engaging.

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