Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “toepic”

toepic’s cbr4# Review #8: Persuader by Lee Child

book cover: Persuader (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee ChildJack Reacher. The man without a car, without a job and without a change of clothes (gross). But Jack isn’t some boxcar tramp or free lovin’ hippy. he’s a hardnosed, ex-military cop, that’s enjoying living off the grid and answering to no one. Jack wanders the country, somehow stumbling into international plots of intrigue. Persuader is Lee Child’s 7th Jack Reacher novel, and even though I can’t recall a single plausible reason why he ends up guarding the vice president or investigating a Vietnam MIA case, it doesn’t matter because he’s going to kick ass, sleep with some attractive intelligent woman and then kill a bunch of people defending her.

Ok, it sounds formulaic, but Lee Child writes some of the best thrillers out there. I frequently read a Jack Reacher novel after a boring book, to rekindle my love of reading. (I’m looking at you Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.) In Persuader, Reacher saves the son of Zachary Beck, reputed drug kingpin, from kidnapping. Beck is somehow involved with the mysterious Quinn, a former military intelligence officer Reacher thought was dead until a chance encounter outside of a theater. Now, Reacher wants him dead for real. The FBI wants Beck, and the son just doesn’t want to be kidnapped any more.

There are currently 16 Jack Reacher novels. If they continue to be as good as the first 7, I’ll read every one. They are like a great action movie. Smart, but not lacking in explosions, chase scenes and casual sex.

BTW – You can read Jack Reacher novels in any order. The author says it’s ok. Watch an interview with Lee Child after the jump.

Most highlighted quote from Kindle users:

I don’t really care about the little guy. I just hate the big guy. I hate big smug people who think they can get away with things.

If you like the Bourne Identity but wished he hung out in America more, and could remember stuff.

Movie news: A different Jack Reacher novel One Shot, it being written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). It will star Tom Cruise as a 6’7″ hulking ex-military cop. Good luck with that.

For all my reviews plus more book news, opinions and rants, go to Barely Literary.

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toepic’s cbr4# Review #7: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King book cover with newspaper headline JFK Slain in Dallas, LBJ Takes Oath35 year old Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher in Maine, has been given a chance to change history. What if John F Kennedy hadn’t been killed in the prime of his life?How would that change Vietnam? Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations? Everything else? Jake’s friend Al, the owner of a local diner thinks the world would be a lot better, and he’s found out how to change it. But Al’s old and dying of lung cancer. He’ll need to convince Jake to go back in his place. But does the future want to be changed? Are there any more rhetorical questions I can ask?

Time travel is the frame that 11/22/63 is built upon. But it’s about so much more. It’s about a troubled repatriated communist named Lee Harvey Oswald. His scared and abused wife. And most of all, it’s about Jake, finding love, and learning about consequences big and small.

There is no way I can do justice to this amazing story. It’s long at 849 pages for the hard cover edition, but punctuated with thrilling crescendos throughout. There wasn’t a single boring moment or wasted page. If you’re not a Stephen King fan, this might be the story to change you. Also you suck. For fans, this reads just as fast as the 1074 page Under the Dome.

Most highlighted quote from Kindle users:

But stupidity is one of two things we see most clearly in retrospect. The other is missed chances.

If you liked Replay by Ken Grimwood, or more importantly, if you like 11/22/63, check out Replay.

Movie note: Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) is attached to write, produce and direct with Stephen King as an executive producer.

For all my reviews plus more book news, opinions and rants, go to Barely Literary.

Short interview with Stephen King about 11/22/63, and official book trailer after the jump.

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toepic’s cbr4# Review #6: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell book cover alligator open mouth

13 year old Ava Bigree, of the World Famous Bigtree alligator-wrestling clan, has problems. Her mom, and main Swamplandia! attraction Hilola Bigtree has recently passed away of cancer. Sister Ossie has since developed an obsession with ghosts and is retreating from reality. Brother Kiwi has taken off for the mainland trying to earn money and save the suddenly failing Swamplandia! theme park. Chief Bigtree? he’s nowhere to be found.

Ava’s journey through Florida’s swampland is terrifying and perilous. Kiwi’s navagation of the mainland is the same. One thing is clear, the Bigtree family will never be the same.

Swamplandia! has received a lot of acclaim, appearing on many 2011 end-of-year book lists. It’s also garnered some bad reviews on Amazon and CBR4. Most of the criticism seems to center around Russell’s uneven writing and loose plot points. Those criticisms are certainly valid. However, the story was dramatic and engaging. I’ll take a good story over good writing any day.

Speaking of uneven writing, if I was writing one of those terrible book jacket blurbs,  I’d say this book is a coming-of-age fish-out-of-water familial-drama.

Most highlighted quote from Kindle users:

The Beginning of the End can feel a lot like the middle when you are living in it.

If you liked Geek Love, but wished it had much less mutilation and carnies. Or you liked Huck Finn but thought it needed a little more.

TV Note: According to the Hollywood Reporter, HBO has optioned Swamplandia! as a half hour comedy (weird) with Scott Rudin (The Social Network) as executive producer.

PBS interview with Karen Russell after the jump.

For all my reviews plus more book news, opinions and rants, go to Barely Literary.


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toepic’s cbr4# Review #4:Machine Man by Max Barry

In Machine Man, engineer Dr. Charles Neumann (get it? new-man. lol) crushes his leg in a gruesome workplace accident. He gets the idea to improve upon the leg’s biological design while building his prosthetic. The only problem? that other “fleshy” leg he has left is holding him back. So begins Charles’ obsession with bodily improvement through science, engineering and amputation.

Just like in Barry’s previous excellent books Jennifer Government and Company, he creates a shallow yet philosophical world where large corporate bosses aren’t referred to by real names, only titles, and corporations exist outside the boundaries of law. The story is absurd at one turn and frighteningly possible in another. If Charles works on his prosthetic leg at work, who owns it, Charles or the company?

There’s also amputee love, bionic security guards and tiny dogs dressed in human clothes. It would be impossible for me to NOT like this book. The pacing is fast and the ending is satisfying. Barry wrote the script 1 page a day, posting each page on his website for his rabid followers to discuss and dissect. They helped him with everything from technical details to story line. Kind of like commentators helping bloggers write…good.

Be sure to check out Machine Man’s book trailer below.

Most highlighted quote from Kindle users:

“It was pointless to ponder who I was because I was whichever combination of chemicals happened to be sloshing around at that time. So I decided not to search for a true self. I decided to choose who I wanted to be.”

If you like anything from Joshua Ferris, you’ll like this.

Movie note: Darren Aronofsky, one of this generation’s greatest directors and hipster clothing fashonista is attached to direct while Mark Heyman (Black Swan) is adapting the screenplay. I haven’t seen any news lately, and Aronofsky keeps himself pretty busy, so I’m not sure where everything’s at right now.

For all my reviews plus a baby goat on a skateboard click here.


toepic’s #CBR4 Review #3, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

The orphan, the freakshow, the tugboat, the narrator; this is Lionel Essrog. Through his mind, riddled with tourettic symptoms, we view his own private Marlowe detective story.

Lionel, along with 3 other orphans from St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, is mentored and employed by Frank Minna, a small time mobster that runs a car service/detective agency. The 4 boy’s entire world view is filtered through Frank’s observations and teachings. When Frank is killed, it falls to ”the Freakshow” to solve his murder.

Frank used to say“wheels within wheels” to sneer at the boys’ notions of coincidence or conspiracy. Motherless Brooklyn is full of wheels within wheels. Why is the Giant chasing Lionel? Where did Frank’s wife go? How are the Buddhists connected? What does this have to do with sea urchins? Can Lionel get thru an interrogation without screaming “Stickmebailey!!”?

Lethem has been praised for blending literary fiction with genre fiction. I think, in Motherless Brooklyn, he’s created an incredible book. It’s incredible because I generally hate any literary fiction set in New York. God help me if it’s literary fiction about a writer living in New York. Oh, you could have gotten the pretty girl but you screwed up?  😦  die in a fire.

Where was I? Oh right, this wasn’t anything like that. It was a mesmerizing look into the life of someone suffering from Tourettes, and a killer mystery to boot.

Most highlighted quote from Kindle users: And he was too moronic to be properly self-loathing—so it was my duty to loathe him instead.

If you like Michael Chabon, but wish he wrote more like Raymond Chandler.

Movie note: Edward Norton has optioned the film and plans to adapt, star in and direct. This is good news. Norton plays some of the best ‘crazy’ in Hollywood.

For all my reviews plus a baby goat on a skateboard click here.

toepic’s #CBR4 Review #1: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

ImageUnder Wizard in the Yellow Pages, you’ll only find one result:

Harry Dresden – Wizard Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment.

As the only openly practicing wizard in the country, you’d think Harry would be rich and famous. You’d be wrong. Harry’s broke, down on his luck, mobsters, monsters and other miscellanious beings after him.

Set in gritty modern day Chicago,  Storm Front is the first in the popular Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It’s hardboiled crime fiction down to it’s core. From his duster jacket to his habit of pissing everybody off, including his friends, Harry could easily fall into a noir cliche. However, instead of using noir as a crutch, Butcher uses it as a framework to craft a complex and original character. Oh, and then there’s magic. Wizards, faeries, vampires, demons, they’re all there, just under the surface of everyday living. My favorite is Bob the skull. He’s Harry’s lab assistant, and kind of a party animal.

This book was a great introduction into Harry’s world. I look forward to catching up with the series. The mystery itself, ok, it wasn’t too hard to guess the killer. But the ending was climactic and action packed. If you got into the Sookie Stackhouse novels by way of True Blood and want to step up to a more complex and accomplished series, you should give this one a try.

Most highlighted quote by Kindle users: “Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

If you like Charlene Harris, but wished she wrote more like Raymond Chandler and less like Nora Roberts.

For all my reviews plus a baby goat on a skateboard click here.

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