Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Liberty Lanes - Review

I borrowed this book from my Public Library.

Paperback, 192 pages
2011 by University of Nevada Press
ISBN 0874178576 (ISBN13: 9780874178579)

As an oldster, reading about oldsters, I believe that Robin Troy has given poignancy and truthfulness to the subject of old age..

Her short novel Liberty Lanes is about relationships among a group of long-time friends in a small Montana town. All are more than 70 years old; they bowl together, have parties, and generally enjoy having fun. Then stalwart member Nelson Moore prevents one of the women, Fran, from choking to death on a chicken bone. Nelson is a hero; he is interviewed by the local papers. And that's where their interactions get a bit wobbly. It's also when they notice that Nelson is losing his cognitive abilities.

Each chapter is written from a different point of view, beginning and ending with Nelson, as the group is suddenly very conscious of previously ignored circumstances. Fran becomes frightened by her own impermanence; Bethany, always courageous, harbors worry that she could have done something to offset Nelson’s condition; Alistair (blind since in his 20s) seems to have insight about each of them that they don’t realize themselves. The young journalist Hailey James eventually notices Nelson’s condition, too, but not before the interactions of the group have given her reason to contemplate her own relationships—or lack thereof.

I’m fortunate that no one in my family has suffered from Alzheimer’s or even mild senility. But I have several friends from whom I’ve learned about this sometimes sudden disease and caring for those who have it. Robin Troy’s depiction of Nelson, slowly losing bits of himself, is well written, and seems to mirror what I’ve heard from my friends. It would have been easy for this book to be a real downer—especially since I’m in this age group, but Liberty Lanes gives a dignity to it all that for me was unexpected.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Pinch of Dust - Review

I really enjoyed this historical Christmas short story by Carol Buchanan. "A Pinch of Dust" (10K words) not only tells a story of goodwill and caring for others, but portrays the rough living conditions of a 19th century mining town.

It takes place on Christmas Eve, 1864, with all the cold winds of Montana and with a child begging on the street. "Mister, can you spare a pinch of dust?" she asks Dan Stark.

Dan's reaction? He gets himself into a poker game with the girl's dead-beat father.

This gets him into big trouble with his wife, Martha, and his stepchildren, Timothy and Dotty. "You'll be sittin' in the seat of the ungodly!" Martha says.
His intentions are really good. But can he pull it off?

Set in Virginia City, Montana Territory, Buchanan has employed her great character--Dan Stark, from her Vigilante series--as the protagonist. There's also a lot of card-shark talk (beyond me, but interesting just to see the ins-and-outs of a five-card stud game).

Author's notes at the end are also interesting.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Review

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I have heard many comments about this book, and the author currently lives in my state, so I borrowed the title from my Public Library.

It started off a bit slowly, but the writing was smooth so I kept at it as protagonist Henry Lee's life unfolds in a series of well-written flashbacks (1942) and contemporary (1986) scenes. Character development sort of grew on me; all characters, from Henry's war-obsessed father to Sheldon, Henry's sax-player best friend, and Henry's son, Marty are very well portrayed.

The story is essentially a love story, not my favorite read as I tend to find these stories a bit maudlin (this one teetered on the edge at the end). In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, the enduring commitment of Henry (Chinese American) with Keiko Okabe (Japanese American) is brought to life, beginning when they are twelve-year-olds and the only non-white students at a private Seattle school (I identified with this big time, since I was in a similar situation at twelve—albeit several years later than 1942, and not in Seattle).

I was, however, most interested in the World War II domestic history--the West Coast internment of Japanese citizens. The information was deftly given so it didn't seem like a history lesson; the characters' emotions and reactions were believable and dramatic. Even as I cringed about the government procedures, I could understand the mind-set; just as I could understand the conflict between Henry's parents and their only son.

This is a powerful story.
Recommended (especially for anyone born after 1980).

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Weapon - Review

I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Weapon in a Goodreads Giveaway.

The Weapon is Heather Hopkins' first Thriller, and it is full of action and intrigue. Hopkins' education includes a degree in business, and this shows in the setting of this face-paced novel. The protagonist, Veronica Stone, is a financial wiz and high-tech entrepreneur who has built a fantastic international business. Her own tech innovations make headlines worldwide. Although she's incredibly successful, a tech genius, and beautiful, to boot, she is burdened by the drive to always be on top, to attain more and more acclaim. This leads her into an unhealthy liaison with some international nasties.

By the time Veronica realizes she's made the wrong move, she in too deep, framed for an attempt to kill the U.S. President, and the target of her recent creation--an application of a Cold War weapon--a devastating way to spread a wasting disease throughout society and especially on top officials. The creators expect to use this to take over the governments and bring themselves to world power.

Veronica is chased through several countries, but her masterful abilities (did I mention she's a martial arts expert?) and wit help her survive.

The Weapon is persuasive. Hopkins is a very good writer, and the characters are richly drawn and believable, which adds to the tension of the story. I cared about Veronica and her plight, and her friends and family.

The ending hints at a sequel. I look forward to it.