Monday, April 10, 2006

Just Read: "Astro City: The Tarnished Angel" by Kurt Busiek

"Astro City: The Tarnished Angel" by Kurt Busiek, 2000, 156389663x. From Beaver Dam PL.

Pretty good story. A comic book novel from the same series as "Kurt Busiek's Astro City: life in the big city" which I mentioned earlier. This book is a single story focusing on Carl "Steeljack" Donewicz. As Steeljack, Carl was a big name villain in Astro City and fought against the superheroes he aspired to work with when he was a child.

Inspired by his mother, Carl worked hard at school but joined a street gang for safety. During a brawl with a rival gang he shot and killed a 16 year old rival and decided, "I'd killed a kid. I wasn't ever getting out." Still dreaming of superheroe status Carl convinced mad scientist Dr. Ganss to experiement on him. Ganss gave Carl a skin of steel and Carl became Steeljack in his quest to pay Ganss for the service.

Carl is paroled after twenty years in prison and returns to his old neighborhood, Kiefer Square. Carl is unwelcome anywhere else in the City but Kiefer Square has always been home to criminal lowlives. Carl is working hard to keep his parole and stay out of trouble. But, unskilled and unwanted by most employers, Carl is just getting by when the local "fixer" gets him hired by the neighborhood to look into who has been secretly killing off the local hoods.

Carl is no mental giant but takes the job out of desperation. As the work progresses he finds out that a citywide heist of Astro City has been planned, and that the hoods involved - his friends and neighbors - are getting set-up by a disgraced superhero.

I was impressed with the story. Carl is looking for redemption from his years as Steeljack. Carl's guilt and his childhood dreams of heroism still haunt him and drive him along. Some neat artwork with Carl's reflective metal skin but some of the other work is so-so.

Worth reading. I will check for more books in the series.

Just Read: "Transgressions" edited by Ed McBain

"Transgressions" Edited by Ed McBain

Collection of ten novellas and short stories by big name novelists. I read five of the stories. They were authored by Lawrence Block, Jeffery Deaver, Stephen King, Walter Mosley and Donald E. Westlake.

Mosley's story, "Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line" was absolutely outstanding. It features, Felix Orlean, a journalism student in New York who has been disowned by his wealthy lawyer father for his choice of career. Felix answers a job ad for "Scribe" placed by Archibald Lawless in several New York newspapers. A detective story, of sorts, with more than a little mystery about Lawless as well as the plot involving stolen diamonds and international intrigue.

I tried reading Joyce Carol Oates' story, "The Corn Maiden", but it was about the kidnapping of a teenage girl and the storyline was too disturbing to take.

I also gave up on the Ed McBain 87th Precinct story about murdered Muslim taxi cab drivers. I just didn't get interested.

The Stephen King story was okay but not great. Scott Staley, the main character in King's story, skipped work the day the Twin Towers went down. Staley starts freaking out when the personal property and office knick-knacks of his dead colleagues start appearing in his apartment.

I tried reading the Anne Perry story but all I could think about was Perry bashing in the head of her best friend's mother. That, and I was bored with the plot and characters.

Lawrence Block's story featured Keller. Keller travels to Scottsdale to murder a retiree and ends up deciding he needs to retire. Typically good work by Block.

I have read maybe one other Deaver story and cannot recall what it was. "Forever" is about a mathematician turned local cop whose fascination with local crime statistics leads him onto murder cases that were written off as suicides.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Did not read: "The Wonder of Knifemaking" by Wayne Goddard

Did not read: "The Wonder of Knifemaking" by Wayne Goddard, 2000, 0873417984.

Who am I kidding?

Did not read: "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" by Thomas L Friedman

Did not read: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas L Friedman, 1999, 0374192030.

Former bestseller, checked out on recommendation of dude on C-SPAN. I figured, "I'm a responsible citizen, I should stay informed."

Read a few pages and pushed the book aside for more interesting things. Hell, let's face facts, I got bored.

Did not read: "Inside the criminal mind" by Stanton Samenow, Ph.D

Did not read: Inside the criminal mind by Stanton Samenow, Ph.D., 1984, 0812910826.

Really interesting thesis on criminal behaviour. Refutes the idea of criminality as result of abuse or neglect. The criminal chooses his actions and way of life. Author counseled juvenile and adult defenders to get them enrolled back into society.

Kept putting this book aside in favor of other things. Worth going back to.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Partially Read: "Ordinary Genius" by Thomas Fox Averill

Ordinary Genius by Thomas Fox Averill, 2004, 080321068X

Short stories. Part of the Flyover Fiction Series from the University of Nebraska Press. Averill lives in Topeka and the stories are all set in Kansas. Ordinary Genius received good reviews, and I thought the Kansas setting would be neat, so I ordered it for the Library.

I read the first two stories and flew over the rest.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

"White House Nannies" by Barbara Kline

"White House Nannies: true tales from the other department of homeland security" by Barbara Kline, 2055, 1585424102. A Lake Mills book.

Good book, an easy read. Kline has owned a nanny placement service in the D.C. area for several years. Her service places nannies with many prominent and wealthy families in D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

My purpose of reading Nannies is to 1) read the dirt Kline dishes out about the rich and famous and 2) be happy that I have such a normal family. Kline does not name names, but some of those government bigwigs and lobbyists have very odd families.

This excerpt sold me on the book:

"An elected official (who'll remain namelss) and his wife were so involved in their reelection campaign, they were clueless on the home front. When the nanny gave their child cereal and a banana for breakfast, he screamed for candy instead. The child howled so loudly that he woke his mother, who stormed into the Kitchen...After the nanny explained she was trying to get him to eat something healthy, the mother dumped a bag of M&M's into junior's bowl. "Just give him the chocolate," she snarled, before turning on her bare heels and going back to bed.

The only way a lot of those families get through each day is the work of their well-organized and hard working nannies. Easily working 60 hours a week or more, nannies can make fifty thousand dollars a year plus additional perks.

My comment on several families is, "Why do these people have children if they spend no time with them?"