Monday, October 21, 2013

The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson

Book:  The Night Ranger

Author:  Alex Berenson

Grade:   D+

Recommended To:  I don't know.  I didn't really like this book, but you might if you like flat objectified female characters and racist speech patterns. 

The Night Ranger is Alex Berenson's seventh John Wells book.  You can tell that Berenson cranks out two books a year in this series because The Night Ranger needed more substance, a good edit, and some help from a female perspective to make it a passable read.  I just bought it because it was two dollars and since that's the price of a Candy Crush Candy Hammer, it seemed worth it at 6:00 AM, which is when I make all of my kindle daily deal purchases.

I also used to follow Alex Berenson on Facebook but I deleted him after he said he didn't like the finale of Breaking Bad. Um, hello?  The most perfect finale of all finales?  I can't deal with that mojo on my facebook feed, so he got deleted.  I like to think that his poor and inaccurate opinion about Walt and my favorite series of all time did not have an effect on my review of this book, but it probably did.

After searching my own blog, it appears that I've reviewed quite a few Wells novels herehere, and here.  They all seem to have the same theme, a quick and dirty read that should be over as fast as possible.  These reviews are all from two years ago and some of the exact things I was going to write in this review, I've already written, so now I have to come up with something original, unlike Berenson who uses the same formula over and over to write crap.

In this book four volunteers are kidnapped in Africa apparently through some conspiracy with the lead of the aid agency to sell more of his books.  If this seems like a poor explanation, it is, because it is never explained.  Never.

Berenson's books rarely have strong female characters and this book was no exception.   One of the point of view characters is basically just described as "beautiful" and "slutty" and "dumb."  She has no other characteristics despite the fact that she is volunteering for three months in Africa, has family that cares about her, and has graduated college.  The other female lead (if you can even call it a lead) is a woman who is described just as ugly, mean, and Irish.  I will leave that to you to figure out how absolutely ridiculous it is that the leader of the African refugee camp for this particular charity has no other characteristics except that she is ugly and mean. Or why her appearance matters AT ALL. 

There are many Somali and Kenyan characters in this book because it takes place in Kenya and Somalia.  These characters frequently have conversations in this dumbed down patois that makes it sound like they are struggling third graders learning English for the first time.  Are you kidding me?  Wouldn't these people be fluent in their native language, SOMALI, which is what they would be speaking in SOMALIA?  Christ.  I don't know why it is that everyone who isn't American is automatically stupid and cannot speak in full sentences.  It is unrealistic, it is asinine, and it is offensive.  I just changed the grade from a C to a D+ because now I'm mad all over again about this shit.

Okay, that's all I have to say about this except if my 6:00 AM self decides to buy another Alex Berenson book for cheap, I hope my Noon self blocks the Amazon transaction.

Happy Reading.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Spymistress by Jennifier Chiaverini

Book:  The Spymistress 

Author:   Jennifer Chiaverini 

Grade:  A 

Recommended to:  Civil War Fans, CIA Agents, Mistresses 

The Spymistress is the account of Elizabeth Van Lew, a  southern lady who spied for the North during the Civil War.  This book is historical fiction and excellent.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.   I haven't read a Civil War book in a long time, probably since The Last Silk Dress which I read when I was about 10 and then read over the over again because it was so good.  Speaking of, I really should find it at my parent's house and read it a 50th time at the ripe old age of 28.  I digress.

Elizabeth Van Lew first defies the Confederacy by taking meals and gifts to the Union prisoners of war in Richmond.  She befriends several of them and then smuggles out information and notes to send North.  She then creates a vast spy network of Union loyalists and uses the network to smuggle out escaped prisoners, information about the Confederacy and her own advice on where the Union should strike first.

Initially, I thought this book was about a fictional character in a historical setting.  Much like some historical fiction novels that create a character and then place that character in a historical setting. That is not the case with The Spymistress.  About half way through the book, I read the epilogue and discovered the Elizabeth Van Lew was a real person!  She lived in Richmond during the Civil War and Jennifer Chaiverini painstakingly went through her letters, journals and notes to discover her actions as a spy for the Union during the Civil War.  It was a magnificent find and it made me respect the author and Elizabeth Van Lew much more.

I also really enjoyed this book because it gave a lot of detail about how poorly the Union prisoners were treated during their imprisonment.  I haven't read a book about Civil War prisoners before and I liked learning about it.

I absolutely recommend this book as an excellent mostly historical account of the lives of Miss. Van Lew and her family and friends.

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Book:  Life After Life 

Author:  Kate Atkinson

Grade:  B - 

Recommended To:  Philosophers. 

I got this book at the library and I am continually amazed at the selection of new books that are available at the library.  In Chicago, I was on the waiting list for popular books for months and Downers Grove has lots of new and popular books available all the time.

It is hard to describe Life After Life, which is probably why the dustcover did such a poor job.  This is a book about Ursula, a girl who is reincarnated over and over again.  In each life, she gets flashes of deja vu, although she cannot remember specific events from a past life, and these flashes occasionally encourage her to take a different course.

This book was a lot like Groundhog Day without Bill Murray, unfortunately.  Ursula is born over and over again and then lives her life in approximately the same way with minor changes.  For example, in the first story, she is raped by a friend of her brothers, this results in some of the most violent scenes of the book, which I believe were well done.  After one of those violent scenes, she dies, and then in the next life, she has deja vu and fights off the brother's friend, thus changing the course of her life for good.

This book is conceptually interesting and is a fantastic pick for a book club that actually reads and discusses books.  My book club does not do this, but sometimes we try.  This month is The Tiger's Wife; if I finish it, I will let you know if we discussed it.

This book is thought provoking.  What would happen if certain things in my life had gone differently.  Or, what would happen if I had a chance to do things over again.  I do not typically read books that require a lot of thought, but this book was compelling.  The one complaint I have about this book was the length.  It took Ursula a long time to get to her ultimate goal, which is revealed in the first chapter, but does not come full circle until the very end.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Boy Who Said No by Patti Sheehy

Book:  The Boy Who Said No

Author:  Patti Sheehy 

Grade:  B -

Recommended To:  Cuban Refugees 

This book is about young man who attempts to escape Communist Cuba shortly after Fidel's rise to power.  This book also documented how boys over the age of fifteen were conscripted into military service and forced to support the Literary Campaign and Harvest Campaigns put forth by the Castro regime.  And, get this!  The book is a true story!

I have never read about book about life in Cuba before Castro's rise to power and the impact that Castro's revolution had.  Most of the books I've read about Cuba are about escape from deplorable conditions by people who only lived under the Castro regime.

The main character in this book falls in love with a gorgeous girl and when she and her family escape to the United States, Frankie also attempts to leave.  To do this, he must leave the army, hide for weeks and brave the open sea in a small fishing boat to get to freedom.

There were two peeves I had with this book.  The first is the dialogue.  The author clearly took liberties with the dialogue of characters and scenarios that Frankie was not a part of.  Those parts may be close renderings of what happened, but we will never know for sure because the author only interviewed Frankie.  

Second, you never find out what happens between Frankie and the hot girl!  I read this book for two days hoping that he gets to America and is reunited with his love, only to read in the Epilogue that this is a "story for another time."  What!  That's the only reason why I was reading this!  It was like the book just ended without a resolution.  I was very disappointed and that bumped the grade of this book down from a B to a B-.

Even with the irritating bits, I recommend this book.  It was a fresh perspective on life in Cuba, the programs imposed by Fidel and the risks of escape.  I generally enjoyed it.

Happy Reading!!