Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quick Takes Reviews: Bring on the Books!

In the last month, I have read five books. That pales in comparison to what I used to read back in the day, but I work long hours and workout daily, so I have been reading less. That being said, adding in my comic book consumption, I am probably reading as much as I used to, but in different forms.

Tonight, rather then doing comic book reviews, I would like to bring to your attention a couple of the books I did read and give a brief opinion. The goal is to not put you to sleep with long, droning reviews, but to give a general consensus on what struck me about the book.

The first book I read was “The Book of the Dead” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I grabbed it at the airport in Salt Lake City, Utah while waiting for my flight to Philadelphia. The cover caught my attention, as it portrayed ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics of two men fighting. I love novels that pull from history, so I was in immediately. Shallow, but true.

The good news is that once I got on the flight, I was completely engrossed. Agent Pendergast sits rotting in prison while his evil brother is up to no good in the civilian world. Tying into this is the New York Museum of Natural History, which has been plagued by robberies, murder, and generally bad press. How the brothers and their connection to the NY Museum fit together is something that slowly pieces together in a brilliantly obvious fashion.

“The Book of the Dead” is well written and compelling action/mystery. Until I was part way into the book, I didn’t realize that it was the final book of a trilogy concerning the brothers Pendergast. The book completely caught me in its web, keeping me entranced as it sped towards its harrowing conclusion. I spent the entirety of the five and ½ hour flight completely enmeshed in the saga, just finishing the book as the plane landed.

The gift of this book is that normally I can’t read on a plane, but I was so into it that I didn’t even feel a bit airsick the entire time. The writing is superb and the characterization is spot-on. I want to go find the first two books of the trilogy now so I can tie it all up with a neat bow. The gift of this was that I didn’t need to read those books but want to due to the enjoyment I received reading the final one. Grade: A.

You may not know it, but I am a fan of cooking shows. Iron Chef America is the gold standard for me, and I make a point of watching it every week. With this in mind, I read an excerpt from the book “The Year of Eating Dangerously” by Tom Parker Bowles on the flight from Philadelphia back to Salt Lake City. The passage that I read was so deftly written that I knew I would have to track down the book and read the rest of it.

Interestingly enough, I found out that Parker Bowles is the son of Camilla Parker Bowles, wife of Prince Charles and the once notorious “other woman” of the Diana/Charles love triangle. Parker Bowles doesn’t deny the connection, but makes passing reference to his mother and her excellent, simple cooking during his childhood. His comfort with his mother’s role makes the reader set it aside and focus on the author and his travails. One only ever realizes the privileged environment that Parker Bowles experienced when he refers to the hosts that he interacts with and his private school background.

“The Year of Eating Dangerously” is a fantastic book that will appeal to all readers. I really don’t think cooking has to be your forte to make the read a fascinating one. Parker Bowles has a dry wit that translates well on the page. His insight helps the reader experience the meal as if we are there with him. It is a wonderful journey, and the end result is that it made me want to try new things.

Parker Bowles is a food critic for The Mail on Sunday, Night and Day, and Tatler. If you get an opportunity to check out his work there, do so. Also, check out his book. You will learn about foods you may not be familiar with as well as being transported to the country of origin in question. I was transported, so I have to give it an “A” grade.

The last book I want to share with you is “My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith”. Some of you may have already been visitors to Smith’s blog of the same name so this is old hat. As someone who only periodically would check his site out, I really enjoyed getting inside his head.

The book covers his blog entries from March 20, 2005 to November 30, 2006. During this time period, Smith acts in the movie Catch and Release, directs Clerks II, and works on several projects that culminate with his appearance as Warlock in Die Hard 4. What is most interesting about the book is not so much his star-studded existence as his lack of it. The focus of the entries surround Smith’s family. His wife Jen, daughter Harley, and the family and friends around them star in his diary. Their effect on him and his daily life bring in a common thread for the reader to connect with.

As a fan of Smith’s movies, this book was a no-brainer purchase. Since I hadn’t read his blog on a regular basis, but was interested in his thoughts, this was a perfect read for me. Smith has a gift for humor and it translates well here. He is self-effacing and I appreciated his candor in dealing with his weight and his sense of self. Considering the amount of success Smith has achieved, he has kept it “real” and I appreciate that. This is a wonderful read. Grade: A.

These are the three books I enjoyed most this past month. I would recommend them to you as excellent entertainment value that doesn’t come in a monthly floppy. Having a bit of variety is good, so it never hurts to branch out a bit. It certainly cleansed my perennially comic book reading palate and gave me a new appreciation of the book format.


Eaglewing said...

Great reviews. I'm a big fan of Kevin Smith and hope to pick up his book to read as well. I love watching the Food Network too - Iron Chef America is a lot of fun to watch, and I like Chef at Home too for ideas of stuff to make that don't seem out of my league as a way below amateur wannabe chef :)

When I was on dialysis a few years back, I was tearing through books and found a lot of enjoyment in it. A good book can take you to places you'll never get in real life. My pipe dream is to write one myself someday :) As yourself, I've found I'm reading more comics than standard books now (albeit in trades), but I recently got back in the habit of reading books before sleeping and finding it a great way to relax as well as get through some of my books on the shelf.

Heidi Meeley said...

Eaglewing, you have such great taste, especially liking Iron Chef America! :-) I have been watching more Food Network lately for tips, so I will look for Chef at Home. Iron Chef intimidates me, and this sounds like a better bet for real life home cooking!

Kevin Smith is so blunt, and he is so funny! I think you would appreciate his book.

It sounds like you read quite a bit when you were on dialysis. You are right about a good book transporting a person. I am glad it seemed to help you as well. I would love to see you write a book! I will keep my fingers crossed.

I think I got back into books to cut into my irritation about comics, and so far it has worked pretty well. I have been reading right before bed and it is, like you say, a great way to relax. Smart man.

Thank you, kind sir, for the excellent feedback!