A Vengeful Longingby R N Morris, fiction, 5/5:
When a mother and her son are murdered – they ate poisoned chocolates – one hot, grimy summer in 19th Century St Petersburg the woman’s husband is the obvious suspect.
After all, he did buy the chocolates and present them to his wife who shared them with their son.
But chief investigating magistrate Porfiry Petrovich is not so sure as everyone else around him. Then, a couple weeks later when someone else is murdered in a completely different manner, in a completely different part of the city with yet another obvious and all-too-handy suspect on-a-platter, so to speak, Petrovich is once again skeptical. By the time the third, again totally different and seemingly unrelated, murder takes place Petrovich is more convinced than ever the three crimes are linked. But can he prove it? Not yet.
Therein lies the fun as we watch this amusingly intelligent character, who is borrowed from the pages of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, lay a trap for the real perpetrator in his own inimitable Zen-like style.
A Life Worth Living: A Doctor’s Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Eraby Robert Martensen, nonfiction, 3.5/5:
Somebody once said, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
Obviously that was before the invention of so many life-sustaining devices and the current trend toward prolonging life at all costs – literally, at all costs. Think Terri Schiavo or any elderly, terminally ill patient whose life savings has been drained away in vain efforts to keep them alive.
Physician and bioethicist Martensen is concerned about the way people are being forced (more through denial-based omission than uncaring commission) to face their final days — trapped in an unfamiliar, inhospitable hospital room surrounded by strangers and hooked up to a dizzying array of monitors and feeds.
What used to be the simplest thing – passing, often asleep, into the blue yonder — has become more complex than filing a tax return. So now the converse is true – comedy has become easy (any politico can do it) and dying has become hard.
Martensen admits there are no easy solutions to this dilemma but he does suggest a number of questions that need to be addressed before – long before – it becomes necessary to think about them.
Walking through Walls: A Memoirby Philip Smith, memoir, 4/5:
Did mum and dad ever leave you sitting at a Caribbean bar with a bartender/babysitter running a tab? Has your dad ever smiled at you knowingly after he learned via “talking to the spirits” that you’d lost your virginity? Or start you on a macrobiotic diet with coffee enemas that left you the most embarrassingly flatulent kid in your grammar school class?
Consider yourself lucky. Former GQ managing editor Smith recalls these and many more incidents growing up as the son of an interior decorator-cum-spiritual healer dad and his chain-smoking space cadet of a wife in south Florida in the 1960s.
This is a fun read if only for the thank-god-wasn’t-me feelings of relief.
Wicked Weavesby Joyce and Jim Lavene, cozy romance, 3.5/5:
USC/Columbia doctoral candidate and Renaissance Faire summer helper Jessie Morton can’t help but become involved when the estranged husband of her Ren Faire weaving teacher Mary Shift is murdered in broad daylight right outside Mary’s olde shoppe.
What’s a girl to do?
Local cops, of course, think it’s an open-and-shut case with Mary as the prime suspect.
Despite being super secretive about her past Mary seems the last person Jessie would think capable of murder.
Things get complicated but will surely clear up once Jessie’s hunky summer love and Faire Bailiff Chase Manhattan steps in to help solve the case.
There are plenty of shifty characters in medieval costumes keep the plot a-twistin’ right up until the reliably satisfying ending.
My rating system for books is:
5 = An extraordinary book! I will keep it to read again and again!
4.5 = This book is either very clever, highly creative or brings new information to the table. I’m recommending it to my friends.
4 = This book accomplishes all the author seems to have intended. (I “get” it.)
3.5 = This book held my interest regardless of topic/genre.
3 = I enjoyed reading and/or I learned something from this book
2.5 = I could have easily put this book down and forgotten about it.
2 = This book is either poorly written or seems underdeveloped, like an out-of-focus photo. (I don’t “get” it.)
1 = Don’t bother.