Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Overlook: Michael Connelly

Yeah, so I used three of these Connelly novels in a row to insure that I would get the 5 book quota for the first time in several months. Whatever, it worked. I read this one on Saturday after returning from my second trip to San Diego in as many days. I made a CPK thincrust, Siciliano pizza and poured two fingers of some single-malt that my roommate had out on the counter (Vard, if you read this, thanks for the single malt. I figured that you would be cool with me trying it...) and perched out on the front balcony in the shade wearing a beanie and a sweatshirt over shorts and flops for several hours. It was refreshing to be back in the world of Harry Bosch and not just his creator, Connelly. Bosch and I share a love of jazz music and abrasive honesty that was lacking in the other two characters from the novels read previously this month. They were great, but Bosch is the character that makes me a big fan of the author. No real surprises about this one. Connelly is true to form and the book is a fast paced thriller that has some twists and turns that build tension up until the inevitable resolve. Smaller than most of his novels this one wraps up after about 275.......happy reading.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blood Work: Michael Connelly

Blood Work is one of the best Michael Connelly books I've read. This one is about FBI agent Terry McCaleb who has recently had heart surgery and ends up being approached by the sister of the murder victim whose heart was given to McCaleb. Graciela Rivers, the murder victim's sister, had read a report about McCaleb in the LA times and eventually realizes that he is carrying her dead sister's heart and she approaches him to pick up the murder case and finish what the LAPD have started and given up on. The story telling and twists in this one we're a bit of a surprise to me considering that the book was written relatively early in Connelly's career, but all in all it has to be one of his very best. According to wikipedia (take it or leave it and call my post un-scholarly if you feel the need) Connelly was inspired to write the book after a friend of his was the recipient of a heart transplant and suffered post-op. stress due to survivor's guilt. I'll keep it short and sweet, but if you like mystery novels, cop novels, suspense novels, and the like then I would strongly recommend this one. As always, I also recommend this book and the work of similar authors like John Grisham as "stretching." So you haven't been reading lately and you want to get back into it, but the 700 page book your cousin sent you on environmentalism in the new millennium seems a bit too daunting? Stretch out with a page burner or two and then get back into the tougher and more rewarding ones that you really want to absorb.........enjoy.

The Lincoln Lawyer: Michael Connelly

I often refer to these novels as smut or to the act of reading them as stretching. Authors like Dan Brown of Da Vinci code fame, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, people whose books are constantly being read by the suit on the plane. People who write great mystery novels that often make great movies. The Lincoln Lawyer was good and I have never read a Michael Connelly story that I felt otherwise about. Some are better than others as we will see in the post I write immediately following this one, but they are all quick reads and they are all generally entertaining. Connelly certainly has a system and a form that he follows more or less exactly in every novel, but its a great form and the attention to detail, research, and added factual information about the greater Los Angeles area and the workings of its news and police entities make for believable and dramatic tales. This was the first non Harry Bosch novel that I got entirely through, with the exception of The Brass Verdict, which was a split of Haller and Bosch where they eventually came together. Mickey Haller is the son of a famous defense lawyer of the same name who died when the young Haller was just a kid. With a great knowledge of who his dad acquired through books the son eventually follows the same career path and in this novel becomes entangled in a web of deceit while defending a rich Bel Air client on assault and attempted murder charges. Classic Connelly. If you've read any others and enjoyed them then this one should provide the same page turning suspense.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Daniel J. Levitin: This is Your Brain on Music

This is Your Brain On Music obviously has a catchy title to anyone old enough to remember those corny public service announcements from the late 80's and I suppose it would take a special kind of person to be younger than that and be interested, but it is indeed a literal title. Levitin's book is an attempt at breaking down some new findings in neuroscience in regard to cognition and brain function while listening to, and/or playing music. Said attempt is a two-fold operation in that Levitin aims to discuss both neuroscience and abstract music theory with the average educated person. I believe that he succeeds very well in doing so for the science, but not necessarily for the music. I had no problem reading through the areas where he slowly discussed the very simplest of musical ideas because I know that music as a language and in written form can be very daunting and scary to the layperson, but later on he rattles through more complex concepts as if he has described the first two years of college level music theory in his first several paragraphs on the subject. I believe this leaves the musical discussion in a bit of a strange gray area. The explanations lie in a difficult place for non musicians and musicologists, but in a bit of a redundant and over explained place for the musically educated. However, I wouldn't call this an overt problem by any stretch of the imagination. There were things here and there in the neuroscience portion that went over my head, but within context I was able to roughly grasp them and move on so I suppose it is possible that others were able to do the same with the musical examples. The explanations of scientist's and experiments including music being played for infants and real time MRI's scanning brains during music listening and playing; and top neuroscientist's- including co-discoverer of the DNA strand and Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist, Francis Crick- discussing music and cognition make for an extremely enlightening and surprisingly fast read. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the brain and it's untapped potential and most definitely am recommending it to all musician's and science lover's. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol

I was reluctant to pick this novel up when it first came out. Sure, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were both great, but I didn't feel the immediate need to join our beloved Professor Langdon on another far fetched adventure including secret societies and easily solved impossible puzzles. Eventually, I did encounter a dear friend reading this book and it just so happened that I was up against a wall with this project, so......I decided I was ready to throw my opinions out the window and once again use Dan Brown to remind me that a big book can fly by in a few days and work like a nice stretch before a long run. Did I rush out and buy it at my local book warehouse? No. If there is one author that I am completely convinced of being so popular that his expensive hard-back novels are always located at the local Goodwill for a dollar; it's Mr. Brown. I was right. The Lost Symbol was a quick and fun read and the fact that it took place in the capitol of the old U.S. of A. as opposed to Paris or Rome made it extra intriguing. If Brown's books do nothing else they certainly promote tourism and art history and to have him remind us that there is in fact amazing culture and art right here in the U.S. was a nice little change of pace. The only thing that bothered me about this book was Langdon still being so doubtful and skeptical when he has obviously encountered some myths turning into reality in the past novels. Sure, the Illuminati uprising turned out to just be a kook, but his eyes were certainly opened a bit in France. All in all, if you enjoyed either of the other two books then you should definitely like this one as well. Standard Brown, standard Langdon, fast paced and intelligently written. Two more books are bagged and reviews will follow....thanks.