Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Few Quick Reviews

     These are some short reviews of books I have read the last couple of months, but don't feel like writing a full blown reviews for. Several are worth reading, but just didn't blow me away.

1. Taken by Robert Crais (Rating 4/5). Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are partners in a private detective agency in LA. Crais has been telling their stories for years and a few years back began alternating between using one and then the other as the lead character. In this book, they are both top billed and tracking down a young couple kidnapped by smugglers of illegal aliens. This is one of Crais' best.

2. The Last Greatest Magician in the World by Jim Steinmeyer (Rating 3/5). A detailed, but sometimes slow biography of Howard Thurston, the last "Greatest Magician In the World". A contemporary of Houdini, Thurston had the biggest magic act and was considered the master magician of the time. The pressure to be the top act led to physical and financial problems for most of his life. An important book if you are interested in the history of magic.

3. Back To the Moon by Travis Taylor & Les Johnson (Rating 2/5). This science fiction novel had an interesting premise - America's return to the Moon in the 2020s. Unfortunately , the author is not much of a writer. The characters and dialogue are very dry.    

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Rating 3/5). Well reviewed and best selling young adult book about two teens with cancer. The book is well written and has very good characters, but the ending was a bit weak for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son
by Adam Johnson
Random House 2012
Rating 4/5

     Pak Jun Do grows up in an orphanage in North Korea. The man he believes to be his father runs the place and Jun Do keeps the boys in line. Later he become a tunnel rat, making clandestine trips to both Japan and South Korea, and later is included on a diplomatic visit to Texas. I found this a fascinating look at the culture of North Korea, one I knew very little about. Propaganda is a big part of the narrative and sometimes loudspeaker announcements are used to fill in back story. There are time jumps and changes in the characters that tell the story that can be confusing, but to me that added to the sense of mystery and wonder of the story. In some ways, this is a fairy tale of what a simple man can accomplish.
     The Washington Post review said “A great novel can take implausible fact and turn it into entirely believable fiction. That’s the genius of The Orphan Master’s Son." and I agree completely. The things that happen in this novel are sometimes completely unbelievable, but somehow you just accept them as part of Jun Do's life. Despair, starvation, and brutal torture are also a part of his story, but in the long run, I found it an uplifting book.