Friday, April 19, 2019

Box, Coben among April highlights

April reading includes a mystery, a thriller and two literary classics.

The thriller is the Wolf Pack by C.J. Box. It features Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett as well as the usual cast of characters.

Box typically weaves current social and political issues into his narrative. In Wolf Pack, destruction, disturbance and death arrive in the form of a drone used to herd wildlife, a pair of arrogant federal agents and ill-considered policies regarding the federal witness protection program.

It’s a fast-paced read. Box is masterful at kicking a story into high gear on page one and not letting up on the accelerator until the final page. The body count is higher than usual, and there are some major changes in the lives of several of the regular characters — which means Box is also skilled at leaving the reader eagerly awaiting his next book.

I’ve read one novel by Harlan Coben a few years ago, but — candidly — I don’t remember it. That changes for me with Run Away, which begins as a conventional story of a dad in search of drugged-out daughter and deepens into a mystery around DNA websites, a cult and several murders.

The characters are clearly drawn, the pacing measured in a way to draw out tension and the mystery proves genuinely satisfying.   I liked this book a lot.

Flannery O’Connor’s  A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe are both highly regarded works that do not translate well in light of today’s social standards. Modern readers are likely to be uncomfortable with the attitude toward blacks that pervade  both books.

O’Connor is generally regarded as a master of the short story, but many of the tales in this collection didn’t hold up for me. Her fascination with human oddities leaves behind an unpleasant taste.

I was certain that I read Robinson Crusoe in the distant past.  After reading it recently, I don’t believe that I had ever read it.  Any memory I have seems to be around Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a 1964 moving starring Adam West.

The Guardian considers Robinson Crusoe the second best novel written in English. It’s also worth noting that the book is regarded by many as the first English-language novel.

Certainly, it establishes the framework for a number of literary genres that were to follow — the adventure novel, the Christian confessional, the travelogue, etc.

Even given such consideration, I don’t recommend Robinson Crusoe unless, like me, you’re working through one of those prolific lists on “books you have to read before you die.”

Crusoe is an arrogant sod and the book a plod. 

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
35. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
36. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

Books read -- April
37. The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry
38. K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
39. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
40.Wolf Pack, C.J. Box
41. Run Away, Harlan Coben
42. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor

Currently  Reading --
Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser
The Spectacular  Sisterhood of  Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
The Hand Maid's Tale, graphic novel adaptation by Renée Nault

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