Fish out of Water

Tnatashahe Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry; 2005; $9.99; 429 pages; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 978-0-345-50439-5; purchased from Amazon.com; 5/13/15-5/16/15

Russia has decided to put a tsar back on the throne, but the process is corrupt and being manipulated by the Russian military, aristocracy, mafiya and an American lawyer.  Into the mix is thrown young African American lawyer Miles Lord, who has been fascinated by the country since he was young and speaks fluent Russian.  He discovers in the Archives that there may be some with a claim to the throne, other than the corrupt one his boss is pushing. He and his accomplice, a gymnast from the Russian circus, are chased all over Russia and then to an unexpected part of the United States seeking answers to the riddles left decades ago.  Ultimately good wins out and those who attempted to manipulate the system are dealt with appropriately.

Grade A

Did I enjoy it?  Yes, it was a good action story with a hero who had to rely on his wits, not on formerly being a Army ranger or special agent.

What is with the title of the review? Miles Lord, a lawyer from Atlanta gets drawn into a international conspiracy and has to survive on his wits.  He is not trained in any kind of combat or martial arts, he just goes with his instincts.

Why did I pick this up?  Because I like the way Steve Berry mixes history with modern day current events.

 

Wheat, Wobblies, War and A Woman

desert of wheat

The Desert of Wheat by Zane Grey; 1919; 390 pages; Dodo Press, Gloucestshire, United Kingdom; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 5/9/15-5/13/15

During World War 1 the dilemma for young Kurt Dorn is would he supporting his country, the U.S.A., by fighting in the trenches of Europe or raising wheat to keep the troops and country fed.  He has to contend with his German father, who dislikes the US; with the International Workers of the World, who are trying to unionize everyone and a woman that he thinks is above him.  The union seems to be using some scare tactics to prevent the employers from ignoring them, going so far as to destroy crops and targeting people for beatings and death.  He loves the woman but she is from a rich family and he is not so he keeps putting roadblocks in his own way.  He confronts all his fears and goes to war and comes back grievously wounded but still able to farm and he is still loved.

Grade-B

Did I enjoy it?  Most of it.  Some of it seemed to be straight out of a textbook on wheat growing and some of it was standard anti union rhetoric.

What is with the title of the review?  Set in Eastern Washington, the story centers around a wheat grower during World War I,  he has to deal with the International Workers of the World (known as Wobblies) and there is a romance with the daughter of a rich wheat farmer.

Why did I pick this up?  Because I like Zane Grey’s stories of the old West and its conflicts with the future.

 

Who ya gonna call?

forgotten room

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child; 2015; $26.00; 290 pages; Doubleday, New York, NY; 978-0-385-53140-5; received from publisher representative with no strings attached; 5/8/15-5/9/15

Why did I read this?  I went to an event last week where Random House was giving out books and talking up their upcoming titles.  I had read other stuff by Lincoln Child and enjoyed it, plus I also enjoy reading stuff before it actually comes out, this is not due to hit shelves until May 12.

What is the story?  Jeremy Logan starts the book by definitely stating due to his detailed investigation on Loch Ness that Nessie does not exist.  He is then asked to investigate the unusual suicide of a noted scientist at a think tank in Newport, Rhode Island.  As he begins to investigate he notes that there are several other people who are exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior.  He finds clues that whatever is happening may date back to the 1930’s and that the research has been recently restarted.  The lives of several have been put at risk as some one is trying to find a way to weaponize the research.  Logan finally determines what is causing the havoc and manages to put a stop to it.

Grade-A

Did I enjoy it?  Yes, I thoroughly enjoy reading investigations of the unknown and mysteries.  I enjoy not knowing things until the characters know them. It is a good mystery.

What is with the title of the review?  Originally I thought it was going to be a ghost story and thought that it was going to be a ghostbuster type adventure.

A certain kinship

patUnderstanding Pat Conroy by Catherine Seltzer; 2015; $21.95; 137 pages; University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; 978-1-61117-546-2; purchased from Amazon.com; 5/7/15-5/8/15

Why did I read this?  Because ever since I read Great Santini (many times) I have been a fan of Pat Conroy.  I have read and reread most of his books and after reading this I am going to re-read them again.

What is the story?  This is a critical look at Conroy’s work and the themes that run through them.  There is a short biography of Pat Conroy and then each following chapter is about one of his books.  Each chapter looks at the influences that show in the book, the back drop against which it was written and how certain themes are expressed in each book and every book.  The Death of Santini, which I believe came out just before this was published is briefly mentioned.  The Boo, The Pat Conroy Cookbook and My Reading Life are not closely examined but are mentioned.  It was an interesting look behind the curtain at my favorite author.  Sometimes this kind of book destroys my desire to reread books but this has whetted my desire to read Conroy’s books.

Grade A

Did I enjoy it?  Yes, some of it I had already determined from reading the books multiple times but other things were a-ha moments that made me want to reread the books.

What is with the title of the book?  Pat Conroy grew up the son of a Marine Officer moving many times.  I grew up the son of a Naval Officer moving many times.  There are certain themes in his works that resonate strongly with me.

 

The Devil is in the Details

This Side of Home by Renée Watson; 2015; $17.99; 326 pages; Bloomsbury, New York, NY; 978-1-59990-668-3; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Rockwood; 5/5/15-5/7/15

Why did I pick this up?  A couple of friends of mine recommended this and it is set in Portland so I thought I would like it.

What is the story?  African-American twin sisters Maya and Nikki have planned all their lives to graduate high school and go to Spelman College in Atlanta with their best friend Essence.  Their neighborhood is changing as the demographic makeup of the area they live in changes.  This is the story of their senior year in high and how things are changing for everyone in their neighborhood and what it means to live in a neighborhood that has been historically African-American but is changing.  It is the story of how two twins can be much alike and much different from each other.  It is a story about how plans change and sometimes it seems like the only constant in life is change.  All of the characters are well rounded and three dimensional.

Grade B

Did I like it?  Yes, although due to some of the details being incorrect it would sometimes seem to cause a small hitch in my reading.

What is with the title of the review?  The tale is set in Portland, Oregon but some of the details are wrong.  Last Thursday happens on Jackson Street, not Alberta like it really does.  The sisters attend Richmond High School, there is no Richmond High in Portland.  I think if you are going to set a story somewhere real you should either get the details right.  Some of the street names were the same as the actually are, so why not make them all the same.

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