Monday, April 25, 2011

Wild time at Maho Beach

We just returned from a two-week Southern Caribbean cruise. Since the itinerary included islands we had visited before except for one, we took the opportunity to visit the beach as many days as possible and work on our tans. The first port stop was St. Martin/St. Maarten where we took a taxi to Maho Beach, also known as "Airport Beach." It's adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport, and it is popular for people to watch the planes come in for a landing.

You can't say we weren't warned.

It's wild and crazy when the planes come in.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The List

The ListThe List by J.A. Konrath

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel by J.A.Konrath was another 99 cent treasure I found by way of It's available in paperback on Amazon via Amazon's CreateSpace publishing arm, and as a Kindle eBook.

He tried for a few years to get it published traditionally, but it has become quite a hit as an eBook. "It's a technothriller about a group of ten people who each have tattoos of numbers on the bottoms their feet, and don't know why. One of them, a Chicago Homicide cop named Tom Mankowski, has had one of these strange tattoos since birth. When he investigates a violent murder and discovers the victim also has a tattooed number, it sets the ball rolling for an adventure of historic proportions."

In between my more "literary" reading, I love a books that get my heart pounding. This one is a hoot. It would make a great "Buddy Adventure" movie. You know, White cop, black cop, an annoyingly funny victim who is along for the ride for his safety, and a kick-butt woman with a fierceness level somewhere between Princess Leia and Isabel Salander. Throw in a little romance, an international plot, and a bit too much gore at the end.

I loved it. 4 stars.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wading Home

Wading Home: A Novel of New OrleansWading Home: A Novel of New Orleans by Rosalyn Story

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first heard of this book through one of the blogs I read (I forget which). At the time, it seemed the book wasn’t getting the attention it deserved even after being on the Essence book list. The publisher offered a free PDF download from their website during Black History month. (Did somebody say free?) After I downloaded it, I decided I wouldn’t have to fortitude and vision (old eyes) to sit at my PC and read a book. I have experimented with reading PDF’s on my Kindle and that is not something I would try for a 300-page novel. So I jumped on Amazon to see what the Kindle book might cost, and it was FREE. The best of my reading world, free and on Kindle. Today the price is back at $9.69 for the Kindle version.

The extended title is “A Novel of New Orleans.” I suppose that alone might keep some people away. We watched the Katrina flood pictures for weeks, live from CNN. As much as we cried, sent money, sent clothes, prayed, cried some more, railed at President Bush, even agreed with Kanye West, eventually we were all emotionally drained by the Katrina experience. Rather selfish of us when we had friends still living in FEMA trailers five years later. Wading Home needed to simmer a while to bring out the savor of a story woven around the tragedies of New Orleans. I put off reading it until my latest cruise and I had already finished three other books. Shame on me.

Rosalyn Story has given us the most beautifully lyrical story I have read in a long time. Her vivid descriptions of “Home,” the people living through the tragedy, the deep traditions, the old country houses steeped in love, the wildflowers and sounds of insects and creek splashing, all enrich the story of family. The way she stacks simile on top of metaphor is like having my arms filled with presents wrapped with frosted paper and bows. I was so carried away with the language that I reached the point of being filled with yet another present. I had to laugh out loud when I read “this had been the step-ball-change, one routine in the detailed choreography of their romance.” If had not had a friend who teaches tap-dancing, I would have missed that one, and I wondered how many other stunning metaphors I had missed before that one.

Beyond the writing, it’s a beautiful story. We all want a happy ending for New Orleans, so I’ll forgive that everything falls so neatly into place at the end. I give it 5 stars.

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Water for Elephants

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The movie opened earlier this month, but I like to read the book first. Especially since I had already downloaded it to my Kindle. I read an interview with the author, Sara Gruen, in which tells how she got caught up in telling a story about life in a circus during the Great Depression. She said she had never had much interest in circuses before, and this novel happened as a detour from the story she intended to write.

I loved Water for Elephants. I loved the old man Jacob Jankowski (he’s 90 or 93, he forgets which) as he reflects on how he ran away from his final veterinary school exam. His parents were killed in an automobile accident and left a house in foreclosure and his father’s veterinary practice insolvent. It’s a wonderful fantasy how he ends up on a circus train, takes a job shoveling manure, and gets promoted to the circus vet. Gruen fills the story with backstage stories of hoboes and workers being cheated out of their pay and being thrown from the train. And there is Jacob's fascination with the horse trainer, and love for an abused elephant.

I hope the movie is half as good as the book. I give it 5 stars.

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Love, Honor, and Betray

Love, Honor, and BetrayLove, Honor, and Betray by Kimberla Lawson Roby

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have read Kimberla Lawson Roby’s books before and I enjoyed her stories. I read this one because it was my book club's selection for April. The trouble with books in a series is you can be stuck with characters you don’t like for all the books to come until you decide you don’t care enough about any of them to read another installment.

Love Honor and Betray is #8 In the Curtis Black series. It contains enough backstory to fill me in on what Charlotte and Curtis have been through that I don’t want to read the next in the series. It’s a shame when an author stops telling good stories in exchange for writing what sells. And I know adultery, baby-mama drama sells well. I’m sure there will be another installment of the saga of Rev. Curtis Black, his lascivious ways, and all the drama his ever-loving wife puts herself through to get even.

But I’m not interested. I give it 2 stars.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kindle Apps? Who Knew?

I luurrrve my Kindle. Did I say that before? It's great for traveling, since I don't have to pack 2 - 4 books for the trip.

Sure I heard about apps for Kindle months ago, but they all looked rather clumsy. The Kindle keyboard is not something I want to use for any real typing.

Enter Kindle Notepad. My first impression was, "What do I want this for?" The folks on the Kindlecorner Yahoo group have been raving about it. So for 99 cents I decided to give it a try.

My best use so far is to replace my phone for storing lists of stuff. Sometimes I need to check a list when I don't want to have my phone on, like on a cruise.

You can run up huge international roaming charges if you're not careful when you turn your phone on. Even if you don't answer your phone and let it go to voice mail, it can cost you $2.49 per minute aboard a cruise ship. And those text messages from 62262, don't you just love him.

Back to the app. I can type my notes on the Kindle keypad (ARGGGGH) or type them on my PC (on a real keyboard) into Notepad text files and transfer them to the Kindle via USB.

There is no User Guide, but the developer has some nice How-To videos here: