Catching Up on the Books: 1-19 of 2014

Book 1 – The Song is You, by Megan Abbott

Hollywood murder mystery told from the point of view of a reporter turned studio publicist.   The story had a lot of Bad Boys Getting Away With Everything and wannabe starlets on the wrong end of some bad stuff.  I have lost some of the intricacies of the plot, but I remember that the story unfolded well and I enjoyed it.





Book 2 – A Dangerous Friend, by Ward Just

Americans in Vietnam in 1965.  Dude works with a non-profit and it tells the tale of how the U.S. might have started down the spiral into an unholy mess.  I remember the illustrations of Good Guys who are really good guys and Good Guys who are not so much and a variety of Bad Guys and the civilians that are caught in the middle.  This wasn’t my favorite Just novel and it wasn’t exactly easy to relate.  But damn, this guy can write.  I jotted down my favorite line when I rated on GoodReads:  “I agreed with her about writing your own history and being present at the end of one era and the beginning of another.  Meaning, not to allow history to unfold in your absence or as a consequence of your indifference.”



Books 3 – 12 – Sookie Stackhouse Novels (#4-#13), by Charlaine Harris

I had heard that after Season 4, True Blood went totally off the canon so I decided to go ahead and plow through all of the novels.  And I gotta tellya, I like them better than the TV show.  The politics of the supernaturals – the fairies, the weres and other shapeshifters as well as the vampires – was very interesting.  The TV show does a better job of developing characters because the cast is kept smaller, but it really botches some of the backstories.  Sookie and her men are sometimes tiresome but overall this was some good brain candy.




Book 13 – The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes novel and can I tell you?  I don’t even remember the plot.  The Goodreads reviews suggest that there wasn’t that much to remember.  I gave it three stars, but couldn’t tell you why.  This is why I need to keep up with logging books on the blog.





Book 14 – Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

Recent grad is recruited into MI-5 and is assigned to seduce a writer.  After reading it, I wrote, Before starting this book, I had resigned myself to the fact that while I love McEwan’s writing style, I am perennially disappointed in his story lines. I spent 85% of Sweet Tooth feeling that.

This time, the twist at the end made me rather happy. So this is more of a three and a half star novel.”




Book 15 – Fury, by Salman Rushdie

I wrote at the time: I read this because I tried Midnight’s Children last year, found it to be too dense, and didn’t want to give up on Rushdie. This book was far shorter but still pretty heavy. The main character reminded me of Philip Roth, with the later-than-mid-life crisis, and not in a good way. I didn’t like the climax-to-conclusion. But there were some major redeeming qualities:

1. The use of language had me re-reading several passages just for the beauty of them.
2. I always get a kick out of reading British perceptions of the United States. And this was an Indian-British perspective.
3. The story was written and set in New York about five minutes before September 11. Seriously, the NY Times review is dated September 9. Rushdie had no way of knowing, but in hindsight, it hangs like a cloud over the narrative. He couldn’t have captured it better if he had written it in 2002.”


Book 16 – Fallen Skies, by Philippa Gregory

This was going to be my vacation brain candy.  Not so much.  Post-WWI Britain, wealthy veteran marries a girl too young to understand the trauma and helpless to stop it when he starts to unhinge.  The climax-to-conclusion was a bit predictable but tense nonetheless.





Book 17 – Black Coffee, by Agatha Christie

This was the novelization of a stage play.  Hercule Poirot or no, it read like one.







Book 18 – The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Service Situations, by Richard S. Gallagher

Office book club read.  Shockingly, the secret is validating people’s feelings.  The book was really for call center people, and the examples are mostly about retail, but many things translate.  Interestingly, there was a lot of focus on how to handle it when your company just screwed up.  In my own work, I have much more trouble handling the situations where we did everything right and the customer is dead wrong.  So that is where I took that book club discussion.




Book 19 – The Girl at the Lion d’Or, by Sebastian Faulks

Another post-WWI novel and I didn’t do that on purpose.  Small village in France, young lady who has lost her parents has an affair with a married veteran.  The drama highlighted a difference in perception for me:  Americans tend to dismiss France’s role in WWII as having “rolled over” for the invading Germans.  This story illustrated the idea that men in France in the 1930’s were still completely exhausted from the previous war and knew, even then, that if the Germans came back, surrender was preferable to another war.  It reminded me of the concept I learned in a French history course on Academic Earth – after the Great War, France was a weaker country in victory than Germany was in defeat.




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