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Search tags: 1001-Books-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die
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review 2017-09-11 16:48
The Killer Inside Me / Jim Thompson
The Killer Inside Me - Jim Thompson

Everyone in the small town of Central City, Texas loves Lou Ford. A deputy sheriff, Lou's known to the small-time criminals, the real-estate entrepreneurs, and all of his coworkers--the low-lifes, the big-timers, and everyone in-between--as the nicest guy around. He may not be the brightest or the most interesting man in town, but nevertheless, he's the kind of officer you're happy to have keeping your streets safe. The sort of man you might even wish your daughter would end up with someday.

But behind the platitudes and glad-handing lurks a monster the likes of which few have seen. An urge that has already claimed multiple lives, and cost Lou his brother Mike, a self-sacrificing construction worker who fell to his death on the job in what was anything but an accident. A murder that Lou is determined to avenge--and if innocent people have to die in the process, well, that's perfectly all right with him.

 

Read to fill the “Serial/Spree Killer” square for 2107 Halloween Bingo.

 

This novel is considered a classic in the crime/noir genre and I think it certainly deserves its place there.  First published in 1952, it may be one of the earlier books that gives the reader a glimpse into the head of a serial killer.  Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in small town Texas, thinks he can murder his way out of any problem.  He spends his time getting the towns folk to believe that he is just a good old boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly and probably isn’t all that bright—and committing sophisticated crimes which, as a member of law enforcement, he knows how to cover up.  In many ways, he is the predecessor of Dexter Morgan, the cheerful serial killer who works in Miami as a forensic blood spatter technician.  Maybe also to “true crime” books like In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

 

The writing is impressive.  If you’re female, you’re going to flinch at Lou’s casual attitude to mistreating and killing women, but it’s all part of his persona.  Not to mention that it is true to life—art imitating reality.  Crime and criminals have been with us forever, but this book helped in the process that brought the awareness of them into current popular culture.

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review 2017-09-05 19:13
King Solomon's Mines / H. Rider Haggard
King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard

The story begins when renowned safari hunter Allan Quartermain agrees to help Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good search for King Solomon’s legendary cache of diamonds. Eager to find out what is true, what is myth, and what is really buried in the darkness of the mines, the tireless adventurers delve into the Sahara’s treacherous Veil of Sand, where they stumble upon a mysterious lost tribe of African warriors. Finding themselves in deadly peril from that country’s cruel king and the evil sorceress who conspires behind his throne, the explorers escape, but what they seek could be the most savage trap of all—the forbidden, impenetrable, and spectacular King Solomon’s Mines.

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

King Solomon’s Mines is very much a product of its Victorian, colonial times. Don’t go into this book expecting anything else. Allan Quartermain is an unlikely protagonist, an elephant hunter, something that would get him publically shamed on the internet nowadays. This is very much an adventure tale, set in deepest, darkest Africa. White men have no doubt that they are at the very tippy-top of the social hierarchy and have no compunctions about expressing that belief. They believe Africans to be primitive, superstitious, and prefer them subservient. An African may be king in his own lost-kingdom, but must still admit his unworthiness to equality with a ne’er-do-well hunter like Quartermain.

Not recommended for the overly politically correct, but providing many insights into the colonial mindset that still plagues us today. A fantastical adventure in the Victorian style.

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review 2017-04-20 18:13
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd / Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.

 

M. Poirot, what were you thinking? Retiring to a small village to grow vegetable marrows? I too would hurl them in fits of regret! As if marrows could suitably engage those little grey cells!

Excellent depiction of the competitive sport of gossip. Small communities everywhere suffer from it. That is one of the reasons that I came to live in a city—I can actually keep my private life relatively private!

Dame Agatha really did set the patterns for current mystery literature, didn’t she? Very, very enjoyable and as usual, I had no idea who the perpetrator was until M. Poirot did the big reveal.

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review 2017-04-13 22:39
Lord of the Flies / William Golding
Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Somehow, I missed this book during my school years. I remember seeing stacks of them in our school, but it was never assigned in one of my classes. I can see why it is a staple of high school curriculums, however, since it’s themes are easily seen and interpreted. There is plenty to discuss.
I would have appreciated it in high school, having struggled with Orwell’s Animal Farm instead. Lord of the Flies is pretty straight-forward in its depiction of the descent of supposedly civilized British boarding school boys into “savages” when left without adult supervision. Perhaps it is also a comment on boarding schools in general, which a couple of my friends have experienced (and do not recommend).

I find myself wondering how Golding would have written things differently if there were girls in the mix. Would they have been considered a “civilizing influence”? Or would they have become prizes or hostages in some boy’s competition? How did the “Little’uns” manage to escape the worst of the mistreatment that can be dished out when group dynamics go awry?

I chose this book after reading Barrie’s Peter Pan last year, wanting to contrast the “lost boys” in both novels. Unlike Barrie’s Lost Boys, the boys in LOTF have to grow up. Golding makes them struggle with adult responsibilities that they really aren’t prepared for, like keeping a signal fire going and building adequate shelters. I was also reminded of Robinson Crusoe, but his journey was actually towards religion, rather than away from it. Many years with only a Bible to read turns him into a religious man, which at the time would be considered more civilized.

A worthwhile book, but not one that I will ever likely re-read.

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review 2016-12-12 16:56
The Player of Games / Iain M. Banks
The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks

The Culture--a humanoid/machine symbiotic society--has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.

 

First, let me say how much I want to live in The Culture! Where even some of the machine drones go bird watching! I really enjoyed Consider Phelbas earlier this year and I liked The Player of Games even more.

Jernau Morat Gurgeh (Gurgeh to most people) is well known in The Culture for his game playing abilities—there isn’t a game of strategy that he doesn’t excel at and he’s spent his life either playing the games or writing about them (and other game players). This is totally foreign to me, as I avoid almost all games as often as I can—I don’t find them fun, I find them boring. Why would I spend my valuable time on something that produces no real effect in my world? That’s one of the things that’s so fascinating about The Culture—people have unlimited time for anything that catches their fancy.

The interesting thing about the beginning of the book is that Gurgeh has started to share my boredom with the game playing scene. His ennui is palpable during the first pages, as he realizes that he’s been there, done that, got the t-shirt. This is how he gets tempted to try the official game of the Empire of Azad, a non-Culture society, a game with real-life consequences because the winner becomes Emperor. Gurgeh re-discovers his enthusiasm as he wades into the fray—adrenaline & testosterone seem to be the spices that wake him up from his torpor. But is the famous game player being played?

A teensy bit predictable, but a very enjoyable journey to get to that ending. Banks tends to wrap things up more neatly that I care for—I prefer a more ambiguous ending—but as I say, the drama on the journey makes up for that. I look forward to Use of Weapons sometime in 2017!

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