Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It was hard to believe that someone could write 227 pages on library card catalogs, but in reality, three quarters of those pages are photos. Written by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures includes a short history on the evolution of the card catalog and is mostly a venue to display various books in its collection (mostly first editions)…alongside of which is a copy of an index card from a card catalog. This is all fine with me.

TheCardCatalog

For those of us who are library users, the card catalog is a thing of the past…unless, like me, you have one in your home. Those user friendly little index cards detailing the pertinent information about a book have gone electronic and there is no more flipping through cards to find what you’re looking for…as lamented by various authors and poets when asked to sign catalog cards of their works for an exhibit.

The various great libraries of the world, especially the one in ancient Alexandria, needed some way of cataloging their holdings. As writing surfaces evolved from papyrus to codex to paper, the ability to catalog library holdings improved, both from the framework of the writing implements as well as the system by which items were cataloged. Most of us are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System and some of us with the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The Library of Congress itself evolved from a library to support the fledgling United States Congress to becoming the premier library in the world, supplying cataloging information to libraries worldwide.

One tidbit of note: in the initial training programs for librarians in the United States, the penmanship of an index card used for cataloging purposes was one of the courses.

If you’re looking for some easy reading about books or want to learn a little bit about the cataloging of books, The Card Catalog is an enjoyable two day read. Book lovers will enjoy this immensely.

 

Read Full Post »

Lorna Belling has issues. Her husband, Colin, is abusive. Her only hope is her lover, Greg, who assures her he will divorce his wife and take Lorna away from Colin.

NeedYouDead

Meanwhile she’s selling everything of value to squirrel away money to move to Australia where her sister lives, just in case. However, some guy she wants to sell her car to keeps saying he’s transferred the money through Paypal but she hasn’t received it. He keeps threatening to reveal her love affair to her husband if she doesn’t turn over the car or refund his money.

But the worst…looking at one of her beauty parlor customer’s vacation photos, she recognizes Greg and a woman, presumably his wife, lovingly looking into each other’s eyes. Realizing Greg has been lying about everything including his name, Lorna vows to ruin him. While waiting in the bathtub at their hideaway for their next tryst, she’s thinking of revenge. When he walks in she screams her intention. In a fit of rage he bashes her head against the bathtub wall, causing her to become unconscious, blood spurting everywhere. Unsure if Lorna is dead, he flees. Returning later to a corpse, he plots to incriminate Colin.

The question, not answered until the very end, is “Who is the murderer?”

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, assigned to the case, appoints a young protege, Guy Batchelor, as Senior Investigating Officer partly because it will be good experience for Batchelor and partly because Grace will be in Germany meeting Bruno, the 10 year old son he never knew he had from his first marriage.

Need You Dead by Peter James, the thirteenth Roy Grace book after Love You Dead (all the titles in the series contain the word ‘Dead’), packs a punch. Suspects and red herrings abound and Grace, Batchelor and the investigative team follow the plentiful leads. Grace’s attention alternates between the case and the psychological impact on Bruno of his mother’s suicide and his subsequent move to England. This British police procedural has action, car chases, gory deaths and more. Something for every mystery fan.

Need You Dead is totally satisfying, although I do have one small criticism. The narrative glosses over how the murderer and Lorna originally met.  James ranks with other British mystery writers such as  Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter and Peter Robinson (although Need You Dead has no cold case component to it). If you’re already a Roy Grace fan or you’re looking for a new mystery series, try the Roy Grace series. At 13 books, it won’t be hard to start at the beginning and work your way through them. However, Need You Dead, stands pretty well on its own.

Read Full Post »

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

Having been diagnosed as being unstable, she sees no alternative but to return to her husband until she realizes, on the spur of the moment, that she can merely walk out of the building. She walks and rides, her destination the port city of Kerdruc in Brittany (I’ll let you read the book to find out why) where, of course, marvelous things happen.

As in The Little Paris Bookstore, TheLittleBretonBistroThe Little French Bistro (apparently called The Little Breton Bistro in the French version–click the link for a little more detailed synopsis), there are many lost souls in Kerdruc and Marianne touches the lives of each of them in ways she could never imagine. In the course of doing so, she discovers herself and realizes/hopes that at 60 years of age, it is not too late to live a full and happy life.

Ms. George has created memorable characters from the boorish Lothar to Simon, Jean-Remy and all the inhabitants of Kerdruc. She weaves some mythology and superstition into her narrative, told in the third person. She balances Marianne’s desire to be independent for the first time in her life against her desire to be loved as she or any woman deserves, also for the first time in her life.

The Little French Bistro has love and loss. It covers many of our basic emotions. It attacks our universal stupidity in matters of the heart. It begs us to reach out.

While Ms. George, at times, can get a little wordy over love and its importance and the consequences of its success or failure, she creates an interesting world that I’ve not read about before. I’ll caution readers here, as I did in my review of The Little Paris Bookshop, that this really isn’t a guy’s book. But, on the other hand, it is a charming book and maybe any male readers brave enough to try it, might learn how to treat the fairer sex.

Ms. George’s books are quite the pair and you can’t go wrong reading them both.

Read Full Post »

Imagine, if you will, a divorce so acrimonious that the divorcees no longer can be in the same room with each other. Add to that second marriages and a child from each of those, in addition to the three children from the initial marriage. The childrens’ relationships to each other are complicated.

TheWholeThingTogether

One more wrinkle, a shared second home purchased by wife 1’s father but saved from foreclosure by husband 1. Every weekend is a transition from one family to the next, with only the first three daughters staying the whole time. Again, never the twain shall meet.

Ann Brashares, author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, has written a unique book, touching on many of the issues surrounding divorce and second marriages, the primary being divorced spouses avoiding each other at all costs and the impact on all the children and their relationships to each other. There are subplots which enhance the story and which I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

The issues raised in this book are probably not uncommon among divorced families. The habitation of a second home may be unusual but it does not detract from the issues raised. Brashares takes both a serious and a humorous look at divorce. I expected something more light and fluffy from Ms. Brashares and was pleasantly surprised by The Whole Thing Together.

While I’d consider Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to be more ‘chick lit’, The Whole Thing Together is much more substantial. I’d definitely go for this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Read Full Post »

Julia Dahl came on the mystery novel scene in 2014 with her book Invisible City about the murder of a Chasidic woman and the closed Chasidic community that wants to handle the investigation and subsequent punishment of the perpetrator. It was a welcome change from the routine mysteries that seem to populate that genre.

Her second book, Run You Down received, if my memory serves correctly, lackluster reviews, one of the reasons I didn’t read it.

However, a starred Publishers Weekly review as well as other positive reviews spurred me on to read Conviction, the third book in the Rebekah Roberts, crime reporter, series and it is clearly a case of “What am I missing?”

Amanda Button runs The Homicide Blog, a blog devoted to logging in all homicides in New York. As a result of its notoriety, she gets letter from convicted murders stating that they are falsely incarcerated. But her job is not to investigate cold cases.

In comes Rebekah Roberts, whose well received article about a massacre in American Voice. Wrongful convictions is a hot topic and Rebekah is thinking about writing an article on the subject and Amanda encourages her to look through the letters she’s received. One in particular interests her: a triple homicide from 1992 in which a mother, father and young daughter were shot in the master bedroom of their home.

DeShawn Perkins, the couple’s foster child, then sixteen years old, confessed to the crime and was convicted. He’s served 20 years in jail, all the while saying his confession was coerced, there was no adult in the room with him when he confessed and he did not murder his foster parents. As Rebekah investigates, clues lead her to believe Perkins.

Part I of the book recounts, in flashbacks, Perkins’ experiences with the police leading to his ultimate conviction, alongside Rebekah’s investigation. Part II recounts the murder’s story. (I don’t think I’m spoiling the book by saying that Perkins is innocent—otherwise there would be no story.) Part III is the denouement.

My problem with the book is that the plot seems forced, somewhat implausible, although maybe it isn’t. The connection to the Chasidic community is tenuous and while in Invisible City this connection was a novelty, by now it’s more humdrum. Rebekah Roberts is a nice character, but also a forgettable one. The connection to the mother that abandoned her, which was introduced in Invisible City has a small and unnecessary role in Conviction.

As I said to someone last night, I don’t mind having read Conviction, but had I not read it, I’d be no worse off.

If you’re looking for mysteries that lament the deplorable state of our newspaper industry, as this does, my suggest would be to read Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan series. It’s got action, wit, criticism and more.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Alexander Carpenter, at his father Nelson’s request, takes on the case of convicted murderer, Willie Miller, who has been granted a new trial based on a technicality. The senior Carpenter, a retired judge, was the D.A. who handled the original case seven years earlier, where all the evidence pointed to a guilty Mr. Miller.

OpenAndShut

Shortly after taking the case, Alex’s father dies suddenly. As Alex is cleaning out his boyhood home, he comes across a photo of a young Nelson and three other young man who rose to prominence. Alex is surprised that Nelson knew these gentlemen as young men. He’s even more surprised to find that his father has a next egg of $22 million tht he never touched, stemming from a one time payment of $2 million deposited around the time the photo was taken.

As Alex and his investigator, Laurie, delve into both the trial and the photo, Alex’s life seems to be in danger and he’s convinced that the photo and the retrial are related.

Open and Shut is the first in the Alex Carpenter 15 book series. I’m not typically a fan of the ‘humorous’ mystery but Rosenfelt is able to combine some humor with an interesting story, a reasonable amount of action and a dog. What more can you ask for? Alex is a ‘normal’ guy, unsure of himself, doing dumb things on occasion, totally out of his league when it comes to romance. He’s not cocky. He’s not a hero. He doesn’t beat up everyone who gets in his way. He’s self-deprecating.

While I may not make it my business to read every book in the series, I certainly will pick up another book in the Carpenter series and future books will be on my radar.

Read Full Post »

As with many Allman Brothers fans, I’ve been a fan since the 1970s. I vaguely remember seeing Derek and the Dominos during college (I assume Duane Allman was present), not knowing much about them at the time. It was Friday, October 30, 1970 in the SUNY Albany gym (thank you internet!). Little did I know how great Duane and that short lived band would be or how enamored I’d become with the Allman Brothers Band.

I remember one time taking the subway to, what seemed to me a remote park in the Bronx, to see the Allman Brothers and another time borrowing a car and traveling an hour to another college campus to see them. I remember how worn out my vinyl copy of Live at the Fillmore East got and how devastated I was when my stereo got stolen with one record of the double album still on the turntable at the time. It wouldn’t have been so bad except I couldn’t find another copy of that exact same record.

The Allman Brothers Band in 1969

I was a late bloomer to the annual Allman Brothers event at the Beacon, but was lucky enough to have seen some great concerts there. Unfortunately, the passionate guitar of Duane Allman and the melodic guitar of Dicky Betts were absent in the current configuration. Both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes were too atonal, too self absorbed for me, although I continued to go year after year.

I was surprised, however, how much I enjoyed Gregg on his own. The horn section, absent at ABB concerts, added a much appreciated change to many of the reworked Allman Brothers songs as well as Gregg’s own tunes. I’ve seen him several times on his own, the most notable was around New Years many years ago in the West Hampton Performing Arts Center, a more intimate venue. I was scheduled to see him at City Winery last November but those concerts got postponed until next July and ultimately they were cancelled.

The one thing that amazes me from the obituaries I’ve read is the lack of mention of his Searching For Simplicity album. I personally think it’s his best. It’s the kind of blues that allow you to wallow in your own, if you happen to be in that frame of mind. You can sing and feel as low as you want. However, if you’re in a good mood, you can sing and understand another man’s blues while not wallowing in your own. For a time, it was a CD that was always in my car while another copy was at home. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly suggest it.

Before you suggest that I’m idolizing the man, I will readily admit that his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, was very much less than stellar and didn’t come close to Please Be With Me, his niece Galadrielle Allman’s tribute to her father, Duane, and in his interview at the time the book was published with Stephen Colbert, he came off as a buffoon. But, the man could sing and he could play the guitar and he could draw in audiences.

The good ones are dropping like flies, it seems…Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, B.B. King, J. Geils, Chuck Berry, Leon Russell. People who had an impact on Rock N Roll.  And while I realize that at my age I should expect the musicians of my age to start dying off, it is with great sadness when I hear of another one biting the dust. The only salvation is that, hopefully, that concert in the great beyond is going to be one hell of a show.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »