Friday, June 28, 2013

#24: White Dog Fell From The Sky by Eleanor Morse

An African man makes a harrowing escape from Apartheid South Africa in a hearse; as he tries to reassemble his life in Botswana, he meets an American woman whose marriage is slowly crumbling.  How their lives continue to intersect and impact each other is at the center of Eleanor Morse's White Dog Fell From The Sky.

I picked up this novel because my wife had to read it for an MFA class, and I wanted to read along.  I also support any book with a white dog in it, as I love my Westie.  This dog, however, is a somewhat mystical animal that appears at critical junctures and helps the dual protagonists in various ways.

Going into this with no preconceived notions, I ended up enjoying the novel for the most part.  I felt stronger about the high-stakes plight of the African man (who falls in with revolutionaries) than the American woman and her relationship entanglements (which soon include a rugged outdoorsman-type as a counterpoint to her husband).

A solid read about a sad, specific time in world history.  Worthwhile for general readers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

#23: Welcome to the Octagon by Jack Tunney and Gerard Brennan

An MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter in Belfast, raising a kid on his own, gets into underground fighting with the expected results in Welcome to the Octagon, the first entry in the new Fight Card MMA ebook series.

I picked this up for my beloved Kindle because of my interest in Irish author Gerard Brennan, as well as a general enjoyment of the earlier Fight Card books, a period series that harkens back to pulp stories of old.

Even with the MMA trappings, it's still an old-school story of a palooka who makes a wrong turn, and those who like this type of stories will enjoy it fine.

Although the Fight Card novels are always short, Welcome to the Octagon seemed not only short but rather abrupt; I would have liked it to be fleshed out quite a bit more, especially in the third act.

That being said, I am sure I will continue to read the Fight Card series.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

#22: Build A Box For Wildcat by Jeff Clinton

Wildcat O'Shea is a cowboy with a penchant for dynamite and loud clothes, but has to rethink his lifestyle when saddled with a couple of ornery kids in Build a Box for Wildcat.

Despite the serious title, and a sober picture on the cover, Build a Box for Wildcat is generally a comedic western, spiked with generous fistfights and shoot-outs. 

Jeff Clinton is the pseudonym of Jack Bickham, who wrote a number of Wildcat O'Shea books as well as other westerns (such as The Apple Dumpling Gang) and in other genres.  If the film version of The Apple Dumpling Gang sticks in your childhood memory as it does mine, you can sort of gauge what kind of novel this is.

I picked this up sight unseen at a flea market with a stack of other paperbacks and found it an interesting departure.

Friday, June 14, 2013

#21: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Two teens, both named Will Grayson and both adrift in the Chicago suburbs, lead parallel lives until a big-boned, openly gay friend named Tiny brings them together in Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

I was interested in dipping into some John Green when I found this on the audiobook rack at the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana and decided to give it a try.

It is a funny, coming-of-age young adult story (written in alternating chapters by the two authors) which hasn't fallen far from the John Hughes tree.  The novel's frank talk about sexuality and sexual relationships (the two eventually meet in an adult bookstore) would probably make it more suitable for older teens, but its message of general acceptance of other lifestyles is good for all.  It finishes with a highly unbelievable chain of events surrounding an elaborate school play about Tiny's life, but in general can be forgiven for a false cinematic ending.

I enjoyed listening to this novel and found it enhanced considerably by good narration.

Monday, June 10, 2013

#20: Sin In Their Blood by Ed Lacy

A Korean War vet with both physical and emotional trauma comes home and wants to live a quiet life; but a suicide that actually is a murder gets him back in the game in Ed Lacy's Sin In Their Blood.

I don't ever see Lacy mentioned with other noir masters, but his books are highly enjoyable, full of action and a bristly humor.  Somehow I have read a fair amount of his books and keep looking for more.

This one has blackmail, beat-downs, and beautiful dames, but the offbeat characterization of the protagonist lifts the story above its 50s private-eye roots.  Lacy's books are definitely not politically correct, but can be enjoyed as a product of their time.

I got this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.