Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finishing 2011 with The Drop and Alpha Better Juice

Here are the final two books of 2011.

Tomorrow we'll post the full 2011 reading list, the results of two Internet reading "challenges" and my thoughts on the best reads of 2011.

Book 135: The Drop by Michael Connelly

Detective Harry Bosch returns in Michael Connelly's The Drop. Fans of Connelly's novels, and I count myself among them, know what to expect -- a tightly written, riveting thriller that keeps the accelerator to the floor from the first page to the last.

Yeah, Connelly's that good. And although I'm also a fan of defense attorney Mickey Haller, another Connelly character, I think Bosch is his finest creation.

Bosch is hard-nosed and uncompromising, yet clings to a romantic view of his job as a detective.  "Everybody counts or nobody counts" is the maxim that motivates Bosch in his crusade to bring justice to the forgotten victims of brutal crimes. 

That motto ensnares Bosch in a political tug-of-war between the L.A. city council and the police commissioner.  Councilman Irvin Irving's son is found dead. Did he leap from the seventh floor of his posh hotel room or was he dropped? 

Irving, "scourge of the LAPD in general and one Detective Harry Bosch in particular," asks that Bosch be assigned the case because he believes Harry will tell him the truth about what happened to his son "no matter how it falls."

The death of Irving's son isn't Harry's only case.  A hit on a 20-year-old cold case -- a spot of blood on the victim's neck -- belongs to a convicted sex offender. Results of DNA testing are overwhelming, yet that sex offender couldn't have committed the brutal rape and murder because he was only eight years old when the crime was committed.

How'd his blood end up on the neck of a murder victim?  The answer to that question leads Harry and his partner to a horrific discovery.

Two crimes to investigate and along the way Connelly continues to explore Harry's relationship with his 15-year-old daughter, conflict with his partner and a new girlfriend.

The Drop? Connelly's editors at Little, Brown could have called it The Bomb.

Book 134: Alpha Better Juice by Roy Blount Jr.

Alpha Better Juice is Roy Blount Jr.'s second collection on words with an emphasis on the way words sound.

Blount has coined a word -- sonicky -- to describe both the way many words sound and their meaning.

"I needed a word that combined sonic and kinesthetic," he writes. "I needed . . . to describe an intrinsic significant value that . . . does evoke meaning by a combination of its sound and its movement."

Blount takes exception to theoretical linguistics, which contends that the relations between words and their meanings is arbitrary.

"Any huckster, any animal caller, any lover, any poet, anybody knows better than that," says Blount. "The sounds of letters and the words they constitute, and the kinetics involved in their oral utterance, and the rhythms of their combinations, have inherent signficiant value."

Sonicky words, to name only a few, include bubble, fuzz, knickknack, skimpy, gobble, smooch and ooze.

Blount is best known for his humorous writing.  In Alpha Better Juice, he strikes a perfect balance; he's serious about words and how words sound, but he's entertaining to the point of evoking an occassional guffaw -- another of those sonicky words.

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