Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

The Governor's Wife by Michael Harvey
The fifth entry in the Michael Kelly PI series, just released last month, begins with Kelly receiving an anonymous email offering him $200k to find Raymond Perry. The problem? Former Governor Perry disappeared two years ago from a Chicago courthouse, just after being sentenced to 37 years on wire fraud and racketeering charges. He hasn't been seen or heard from since, even, supposedly, by his wife Marie. Michael Harvey writes a smart, solid PI tale and this series doesn't get enough attention. Kelly is a well-drawn protagonist you want to root for, whether you agree with him or not. The Governor's Wife is a nice addition to the series; it's engaging and pulls off some surprises. Great cover to boot.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
I had never read The Godfather, and at almost 600 pages, let's be honest, I was never going to. But when I spied it on Audible I thought maybe I could forge through 18+ hours of audio (at 1.25x speed, natch) for a book that's supposed to be a classic. I wasn't disappointed. Joe Mantegna did a super job on the narration and it wasn't until hour 15 that I started to get just a teensy bit antsy. Which, if you know me, is the sign of a fantastic audiobook. I haven't seen the movie in many years (and will now re-watch), but I remember it as a well-edited version of the book. The book includes more back story and a few extra arcs, but overall I felt it was close to the adaptation I remember. My only nag is that Mr. Puzo seemed to be in love with Sonny Corleone's cupid-bow lips. I have a Rainman-esque thing about repetition and this one drove me a bit batty. But hey, if that's my only nag, you know this is a good 'un. I highly recommend it. And once again, a fabulous cover.

I Refuse by Per Petterson
Tommy and Jim were childhood friends, despite their differences. Jim was raised by his religious mother in a stable environment, Tommy and his sisters were abandoned by their mother and Tommy had to fend off his increasingly abusive father. Their friendship faltered and they drifted apart following a brief but treacherous moment one afternoon. Thirty-five years later, it is Tommy who has become a successful businessman, Jim who finds himself unable to make his way in the world. Then Tommy sees Jim fishing from a bridge one morning as he passes by in his Mercedes, and the memories of their lives, friendship, and estrangement unravel for the reader from various perspectives. Petterson is a fine writer, but I seem to have a problem connecting completely with his work. Some of the long, descriptive sections work for me, others not so much. Overall, however, I really liked I Refuse and recommend it to fans of literary fiction with an emphasis on the difficulties of life and relationships. I also love I Refuse's cover; beautiful and spare work.

Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
I usually find Erik Larson to be an engrossing storyteller, so I was surprised Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania didn't really work for me. I listened to the audiobook edition, and Scott Brick did a stellar job on the narration (despite the somewhat disconcerting effect of usually hearing his voice narrating stories about serial killers). The book simply didn't seem to get going until more than halfway in, and by that time I was perhaps too disinterested to be recaptured. It felt almost as if there wasn't enough meat to the guts of the story and much of the book felt like filler. I enjoyed the history and voyage details of the Lusitania and the sub that sunk her (along with those in charge of them), but I had no interest in President Wilson's dating problems or golf game; his failure to understand the state of affairs was more than borne out by more salient examples. Maybe I missed the point, but the extraneous facts made this more of a clunker than an express ride. I do dig the cover, however.


Malcolm Avenue Review said...

It was a total sad, I was prepared to be thrilled and it was so far from that for me. Hopefully a one-off and we'll be back to loving the next one.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) said...

Me too on Dead Wake...and for the exact same reason! Too many boring details. I normally love him, so that was sad :(

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Well, I'm glad I'm in good company, but it's still disappointing.

Chris La Tray said...

Do you listen to many audio books, Lauren?

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

I do. I tried many years ago and couldn't do it at all. It's very hard for me to turn my mind off without the visual engagement of a tree book (sometimes even then). Plus my walking/driving time is usually my thinking time and I was loathe to give any of that up. But when I started having to drive to and from work a few years ago I decided to give it another whirl. I generally use it to get to books I know I would never have time to read or wouldn't try otherwise. That's worked out pretty well and I've discovered some cool books I would have missed. I've gotten a bit better at staying engaged (I've found it's something of a learned skill) but still sometimes find myself missing content when my head goes elsewhere. That's one reason I don't often listen to something I know I really want to dig into or review. Marking passages for later, for quotation or even just recall, is a pain in the ass. Do you listen or are you thinking about starting?

Emily said...

I think it's so interesting to read books that are (now) lesser-consumed than their movie counterparts - it's so different than how I usually encounter movies where I'm a pretty big stickler for reading the book first. I enjoyed reading your experience listening to The Godfather, it does sound like an interesting audiobook. I'm considering reading Gone With the Wind, although I've read some things lately about the uncomfortable racism in it, so I'm not sure yet.

Devil in the White City is currently one of the dustiest books on my TBR shelf - I've owned it for so many years. I don't know what my problem is - I want to read it very much!

Chris La Tray said...

I subscribed to Audible.com about a year ago. I really enjoy it. I don't worry too much about getting through them in a hurry.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

I don't either except if I listen to something for too long I get antsy. I listen at 1.25 speed and 9-13 hours is my sweet spot. If you come across something stellar, let me know!

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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