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A Few Thoughts

A few thoughts now and again about whatever occurs to me while going through whatever books I end up reading

The Getaway

The Getaway - Jim Thompson Film is a masterpiece, book not so much.

Another fine exception to the book-is-better-than-movie rule.

Ubik

Ubik - Philip K. Dick, David Alabort, Manuel Espin A masterpiece.

Live by Night

Live by Night - Dennis Lehane Live by Night took me a while to get into, mostly due to the fact that it is kind of a rambling tale. It never turned into a great novel. It's lack of focus held it back from the heights it's finer moments suggested. Still, it won me over eventually.

Mystic River

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane Dennis Lehane likes to hurt children. It's kind of his thing. I've read most of his books now and so far, every single one contains at least allegations of child abuse. His novels are rife with child-rape, kidnapping, child-murder, and molestation. It's a character in his stories the way that New York City is a character Woody Allen's 70s pictures. He seems totally unable to write a story without it.

Of course, doing something over and over again is a pretty decent way to get good at something. And Lehane has definitely gotten better. He's pretty much always been a top notch plot man, but his characters have seldom come across as more than flimsy. They're almost caricatures of cliches. His dialog and attempts at humor have caused more trouble in his novels than they've helped. Usually.

In Mystic River, everything came together. He finally wrote a whole group of compelling characters that have depth you can feel when they're in the room. The plot lines are solid (an area Lehane seldom makes mistakes) and the overarching sadness of the story and everyone in it seeps into you as you read. It overtakes you and that's what good stories are supposed to do.

Dennis Lehane has spent his entire career trying to write this book and he finally succeeded. Good for him. What's next?

Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile - Dennis Lehane I just couldn't get into this one. The plot isn't terrible, but it just feels like Lehane is tired of these characters and it shows in the writing. Not terrible, but you won't be missing anything by skipping it.

Darkness, Take My Hand

Darkness, Take My Hand - Dennis Lehane This book is nearly the polar opposite of the first book. Where the other was forced and awkward, this one is natural and well-paced, with a storytelling and characterization that doesn't make you resent the characters or the author. It helped that he wasn't interested in "saying something important" which is where his biggest failures came from the first book in the series. The most noticeable issue with this book is it's tendency to overend. He seems to write a natural ending every once every fifteen pages for the last sixty or so pages. Considering the rate at which he improved from book one in the series to book two, I'm not worried about Lehane's ability to sort this issue out in future books.

I'm just glad I stuck with the series after the disastrous first book.

A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War - Dennis Lehane Almost everything in this book was a terrible cliche. I'm not sure I've ever read another book that was trying so very hard to say something important and failing so miserably. It's like a book version of Crash. Even the jokes were flat.

Still, there was a bit of something in some of these characters so I can't count it all the way out.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Richard Howard Happiness in book form.

Dark Places

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn Four star book with such a weak ending that I found I had to take a star away.

Gone Girl: A Novel

Gone Girl: A Novel - Gillian Flynn I really, really, really wanted to love this book. I guess it ended up being so in love with itself that there wasn't any room left for me to love it.

This started as five stars and got worse the longer it went on. It never hit all the way to terrible, but it fell far and fast. Somehow, the obvious twist that hit halfway through was a letdown. I thought there would be enough interesting places to go with the story once the "twist" was unveiled, but I ended up being wrong.

Five easy stars for the beginning and no stars for the rest. I guess it averages to an acceptable book.

Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King It took a while for this one to reel me in. Ironically, the lack of the classic King format of first acts so powerful that the ending can't help but be a let down is what created the problem. I'm used to being pulled in quickly and then let down bit by bit. The only reason I keep at it is that the openings are so good that I don't mind and even expect the weak endings. This one, on the other hand, got better as it kept going. I ended up enjoying it. A nice tale that felt a little odd coming from King, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness

The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness - Epictetus, Sharon Lebell This is not my favorite translation/treatment of Epictetus' masterpiece, but the underlying work is so good that it would be difficult to cause it real problems by handling it poorly.

Should be required reading for the task of being alive.

W is for Wasted

W is for Wasted - Sue Grafton For me, this was easily one of the more enjoyable books in the entire series.

The Hunter and Other Stories

The Hunter and Other Stories - Dashiell Hammett, Julie M. Rivett, Richard Layman These stories were a bit hit and miss, though some of the hits are the longer ones.

Overall, I was left with an impression of a book that seemed better than it had been while reading it, so I gave it four stars.

I have no idea if that's a good idea or not.

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett As a fan of the film, I really wanted to love this book, but I just didn't. It felt slow and dull compared to some of Hammett's other novels ([b:The Thin Man|80616|The Thin Man|Dashiell Hammett|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1321111302s/80616.jpg|1336952] and [b:Red Harvest|30005|Red Harvest|Dashiell Hammett|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320423692s/30005.jpg|2193257] come to mind). It lacks the natural wit of the former and the frantic energy of the latter.

I guess this turned out to be another one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

The Lonely Silver Rain (Travis McGee Series #21)

The Lonely Silver Rain (Travis McGee Series #21) - John D. MacDonald A fine end to a great series.