Tuesday, November 29, 2011

read: Wicked Prey (2 stars)

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport, #19)Wicked Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Picked this up after I saw the TV movie for Certain Prey and all of the copies the library had of that title were checked out. The first quarter of the book was promising, although I thought the author did a bit of over-describing and there seemed to be a few too many plot threads.

A couple of things finally made me put it down. The plot involving his adopted daughter did not ring true. I 'get' the proposition that she's this mighty and independent young woman. But she's supposed to be only 14 and didn't even come close to acting it. In any other Minnesota family she would have been more than grounded. It also felt like we were almost spending more time with the multiple antagonists, rather than with Lucas Davenport's efforts to track them down. I got tired of wasting my time with those lowlifes and started skipping pages, always a bad sign. I finally threw in the towel about the middle of the book.

I may come back and try another Lucas Davenport title, perhaps Certain Prey (although the movie was not that great, either). Davenport does seem like a strong and smart character.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

"The Muppets" [B]

An even more 'meta' Muppet movie than usual, very self-aware and self-referential ("it's too far to drive... we can travel by map") and it worked. Quite a few funny bits. A few almost teary moments. A few overly cute routines. All in all, very fun.

The Muppets (IMDb)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

read: Drive (4 stars)

DriveDrive by James Sallis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark, compelling noir novella (158 pages) that vividly portrays a gritty underworld of crime and criminals, but shortchanges the reader on plot. The prose comes across like an Impressionistic painting, holding back on detail in ways that make your brain fill in what is missing. This works for characters and setting, but not so much on plot, which is a muddle.

We never learn the name of Driver, but we learn more about him in the book than in the film that was based on it. Here, he has a former life and a former family. We learn why he has the survival skills that he does. We still don't learn about his motivations and dreams, other than the need to survive. But the screenplay has the benefit of creating a richer now that includes a compelling through line of plot, cause and effect, in contrast to the book, which consists only of moments.

Like a pointillist painting, those moments eventually add up to a fuller, if still incomplete picture. And like the film, the book is a work of art.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

read: The Alpine Advocate (4 stars)

The Alpine Advocate (Emma Lord Mystery, #1)The Alpine Advocate by Mary Daheim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the mood for some small town shenanigans and murder? This book is for you. You won't find pulse pounding thrills or crackling prose. This is a straight-ahead, pleasantly written, cozy mystery set in a little town that once existed, but was never like this.

There's a lot of setting up happening in the first half of this book. We're learning about Emma Lord, her son, her town, her former lovers, the eccentric staff of her newspaper, the equally eccentric population of the rest of the town, and a murder. At first I feared that it would all turn out to be too cloying and contrived to be tolerable. But the plot finally settled down into some reasonably intelligent sleuthing and the hints and allegations started mounting up.

This is a good example of this sort of fiction. I couldn't settle for only 3 stars, so it gets 4.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

read: The Jefferson Key (3 stars)

The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone, #7)The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not an unpleasant read and there were parts that were thrilling, in a television thriller sort of way. I am new to Steve Berry's Cotton Malone and I would not recommend this as a way to get into it. It would have been easier to follow and I would have cared more about what was happening to the characters if I had already been through more adventures with them.

This is a lot of talking, posturing, plotting, threatening, and double-crossing, with just a touch of evil doing. There was a little jet-setting up and down the East Coast, but with little sense of adventure. The pirate lore was interesting, including the ties to the founding fathers. But I never quite bought into the modern pirates Commonwealth scheme.

I was glad to see from other reviewers, and even the cover blurb, that this is not a typical Cotton Malone adventure. I'll give him another try one of these days.

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