In the beginning...

...there were The Flyaways, a family who traveled in their miraculous flying machine having daring adventures with Goldilocks and Cinderella. The first in the 3-book series by Alice Dale Hardy was published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1925 and copies are almost extinct. Few people remember Ma and Pa, Tommy and Susie Flyaway now.

I became acquainted with them on my grandfather's lap, my dear Grandpa Baker who read and read and read to me every evening for as many years as I can remember. I would hold my breath as each chapter ending neared, hoping he would not stop. I would keep begging for "just one more" chapter until his voice got so hoarse I would have to run to his room to get his throat lozenges.

Over the years we covered all of Uncle Wiggly and Honey Bunch, the Bobbsey Twins, the Five Little Peppers, the Wind in the Willow series, some of them more than once. He read to me until long after I could read everything for myself, until I was into Beverly Gray, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I was safe and happy snuggled up on the couch with him and that feeling has never left me. I still read and read and read, and it still makes me feel safe and happy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

TIck Tock

Mike Bennett. Cop. Widower. 10 kids, all adopted, one Irish nanny with whom he is falling in love, Irish grandfather. From his "vacation" on Long Island, Mike is running back and forth to Manhattan to deal with a sick, sick killer who is re-creating famous crimes of the past. Other complications include the arrival of his old romantic interest from the FBI and a family of bullies who are terrorizing his kids. Short chapters, likeable characters, fast moving, but not a deep read. Typical James Patterson who I keep vowing to stop reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Night Season

Kirkus is calling Chelsea Cain “the new queen of serial killer fiction” and I agree. Archie Sheridan remains the hero cop in this timely drama of the Willamette River flooding Portland, first uncovering, then complicating, the search for a man who kills in a weird and unusual way. I won't gvie it away but it is pretty scary. Archie’s friend Henry becomes the victim of an attack, as does pink-haired Susan the young reporter whose relationship with the older cop seems to be developing. Also entangled in the story is the appearance of a kidnapped boy and some survivors of a 1948 flood which wiped out most of another Wasington town. It is a great page-turner which wraps up all the loose ends in a satisfying manner.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This movie about street art was more enjoyable to me than Basquiat which I watched recently. The sensation generated by Thierry Guetta, a French filmaker who decided to become a graffitti artist, included the participation of Shepard Fairey who created the now famous Obama image and Banksy, the reclusive Brit whose work I love.

The Cat Dancers
P.J. Deuterman conjured up an out of the ordinary plot involving a conspiracy of men who set about rectifying the errors made by the justice system. Deputy Cam Richter ends up in the middle of it when his ex-wife, a judge, is murdered and he suspects his friend and co-worker Kenny Cox is part of the group. The cat dancers? Well, that's another whole aspect to the story which leads to an exciting denouement. Think mountain lions. And German Shepards.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry (PhD.)
These are case histories from the shrink who debriefed the children of Waco, and others.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Thoughts on Kindle

I am currently loading up my Kindle with reading material to go to Florida. I can hardly imagine not having to lug an extra sack full of paperbacks on vacation. That alone is worth the price of the ereader. I probably won't have to recharge either as the battery seems to last a long time, 'tho I will try to remember to bring the charger. I only have the less expensive ($139) version, which is totally adequate as long as you are in a WiFi zone for the downloading.

I have subscribed to a free newsletter that brings me daily links to the latest free or very cheap book releases. Most of what I download is from Amazon, which is okay with with me because it is a very slick but useful and simple system.

When I first started using a Kindle, I sat in astonishment, watching as I chose a book (from Amazon)and saw it appear on the reader in the space of - oh, 30 seconds? It is truly amazing to me. One of my very first downloads was a favorite from 50 years ago - Seventeen by Booth Tarkington, which I reread immediately with such joy. I have paid the top rate (approx. 9.99 - 12.99) for only three purchases, a Jeffrey Deaver, a Michael Connolly and a Dennis Lehane, all of which were brand new and I really wanted. New releases are naturally priced up (still 1/2 the cost of hardcovers) and stay that way for a long time, altho another great bestseller, Water for Elephants, I saw recently discounted to $5. Note: jump on those free offers, as they are subject to change eventually. I downloaded a medical thriller which I see is now $2.99.

There is an abundance of free poetry from all the old standards (Whitman, Dickinson, Blake, etc); also thousands of classics - mine include The Call of the Wild, some Frederick Douglass and Mark Twain, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (another re-readable old favorite). And, a dictionary, a foreign language phrase book, and a Bible, all free. I even have tattoo books, complete with pictures (a word here - the color Nook is very nice, I have seen it, but not worth the considerable added expense as far as I am concerned. I just want the words, right?). Word games and puzzles are also frequently offered free; I have Scrabble, of course, although I don't often play as I'd rather read, but it's there if I want it.

I have discovered a number of good indie authors such as Vincent Zandri(Albany area crime writer - check him out)thru the reader's comments and recommendations, downloading only those with 4 1/2 or 5 stars. Always look to see how many reviews the rating is based on - a five star review is meaningless if three of the author's friends have sent in the comments. I balance this out with the publisher's plot description, being careful to look for buzz words such as "Christian", vampire, paranormal and "erotic", and I avoid anything that hints of silly romance. I am a die-hard true crime afficiando, with crime fiction a close second, and there is an abundance of this material readily accessible.

I now have 120 items downloaded with the one-click system (you need to set up an account on Amazon). The vast majority of these were free or 99 cents. You receive an email confirmation of your downloads and then the charges, if any, appear on your credit card.

As for the device itself, it does complicated things, setting up categories and lists, highlighting phrases, looking up words, keeping any notes you want to make. It does things I haven't even explored yet. The type size is adjustable for us old people and even without a backlight, there is no problem with seeing the screen. Inveterate bed-reader that I am, this has become a breeze, easy to hold and page turn and it goes to sleep by itself if I fall asleep first.

I have resisted buying the overly expensive protective covers, choosing instead to slide it into a flat, cloth zippered bag that I tie-dyed years ago, just to protect it from scratches in my purse and hopefully sand on the beach; I'll be testing that out soon. The artist in me desired a "skin", a thin adhesive veneer available in a multitude of colorful designs which sticks easily on the surface of the reader and makes it look attractive, if that is important to you. Mine is an exotic black and orange art deco design.

I wrote this because I have been asked so many questions about Kindles. Ereaders are taking over the publishing world and (I'm afraid) are the libraries of the future. Yes, I love the feel of a book in my hand, but, truly this is a wonderful innovation.

March 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Just Kids

Truth told, I skipped chunks of this Patti Smith memoir for lack of time, but found it very readable and revealing. Her relationship with Robert Maplethorpe was poetic, strange and enduring.

Another Sheldon Russell

HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult
An 18-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome is arrested for murder. For those like me who are unfamiliar with AS this story is an enlightening introduction to it. Told chapter by chapter from the viewpoints of Jacob, Emma his mother, Theo his brother, Oliver his lawyer and Richard the detective, it is a skillful and interesting portrait. It also leaves you hanging until the last page.

THE YARD DOG by Sheldon Russell
This is a follow up (actually a previous) book to The Insane Train. I really liked Hook and his colorful companions. There is a new girlfriend and a likeable moonshiner in this one involving the grisly train murder of a friend. Hook investigates the nearby camp housing German prisoners of war for the answers.

GONE by Mo Hayder
A car jacking becomes an abduction when police realize that the young girl sitting in the back seat has been targeted, and it turns out that she is not the first. Detective Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley are working to solve this series of deadly crimes, while Flea is trying to protect secrets of her own.

CUT by Cathy Glass
True tale of a young British couple with their first foster child, a thirteen-year-old with desperate problems.

THE SENTRY by Robert Crais
This was an excellent book. Joe Pike and Elvis Costello are one of the best working teams in the crime world. Their friendship is extraordinary and I get a kick out of the idea that Pike is invincible. In this one he loses his guarded heart to a con artist in the middle of a multimillion dollar drug scheme.