Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Right Side

When times are tough, the last thing I need to read is a story about a war-damaged female veteran who suffers from PTSD.  

But she's tough, as tough as the times I've gone through lately; perhaps more.  

Spencer Quinn (a.k.a. 'Peter Abrahams') is the author of one of my most favorite mystery series, the 'Chet and Bernie' books. Chet, being a dog with a keen mind and a nose for trouble, is the narrator, and his perspective is pretty hilarious. His human partner, Bernie, is sexy, stupid about investing, and a great private investigator.  I've read all of those books, and eagerly await the next.

However, Spencer has taken a side trip into the horrors of war, and what it does to those who serve. And one of those who served is LeAnne Hogan, one of the toughest characters you'll ever meet.

Once a rising star in the military, she's gone through hell, lost her right eye, and suffers from facial scars.  She's tough, sarcastic, and seems to have lost her warmth along the way.  Of course, after what's happened to her, I don't blame her for creating such a defense system.  While in Walter Reed Army hospital, she rooms with Marci, a fellow soldier who has lost a leg.  These two hardened veterans who have suffered so much become friends, and both are dedicated to their life of service to their country.  Just. Like. Men.  

When something happens to Marci, LeAnne leaves the hospital and travels to Marci's hometown in Washington state, where she learns that Marci's 8-year old daughter is missing.  When she decides to search for the girl, a stray dog enters her life and refuses to leave.  The dog, now named 'Goody', is tough and powerful, and she stays with LeAnne through thick and thin.

This was a hard book to read, but not because it wasn't interesting.  It's also not a 'hurried' story; it takes its time.  The suspense is not in the search, but in the telling of LeAnne's bright beginning in the military, and the horror from which she eventually suffered.  I'm not one to read 'war stories', but this particular one grabbed me and made me think of family members who served and came back changed.  LeAnne is a woman, true, but she's a soldier first, and her strength becomes her weakness. War changes everything, and that's why it was a hard book to read.

As Stephen King wrote, "Brilliant.  Deeply felt, but totally under control.  I loved it".

And so do I.  I can postpone reading about Chet & Bernie.  I want to learn more about LeAnne and Goody.

Thank you, Spencer.  This new one just might open a few more eyes.

'The Right Side' , written by Spencer Quinn, and published by Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) is available in hardcover at your local library or favorite bookstore. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

'Reincarnation Blues'

Yes, I know.  It's been a year since my last post, but I won't apologize.  Nope.  I needed a 'mental health' year; a.k.a. Iwaslazyandmycomputersucked.

But I'm back, and I'm opening with a book I've read and really liked.  I've been reading so many books that came highly recommended, as was this one, and I really didn't like some of them.  However, I found a few that grabbed me.

'Reservation Blues' was one of them.

Milo has lived thousands of lives, and he's closing in on the last few he's allowed to have. But the only thing he really wants is to spend time (and a life) with his lover, Suzie. But in order to become part of the 'Oversoul', he has to reincarnate until he achieves perfection. He wins, he loses, he comes back as a bug (a few times), a total asshole, and a total genius. He was a family man, a total jerk, and a farmer. But he's a man in love, and he searches for her time and again. During his various journeys, he learns the pieces to the cosmic puzzle and gains experiences that propel him into a future that might not be so bad.  And lonely.

What really grabbed me from the first was Poore's style (which is reminiscent of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut).  It was total 'smooth sailing', which in my lingo means I didn't try to mentally rewrite the story.  

Although this novel carries serious undertones, it is amazingly humorous, and full of spirited dialogue.  His characters are so well-developed that you wish you had them as personal friends (well, maybe a few of them).  Some of the chapters about his various lives are like little short stories; some are utterly sad, some are utterly devastating, and one in particular is the sum total of almost everything he's learned.

I have spent a major portion of my time wondering where I'll go after I die, and although there are no 'real' answers, this story came pretty close to what I've imagined.  Perhaps that's why I love this story so much.

But I'm hoping I don't have to live thousands of lives just to get to where I need to be.

'Reincarnation Blues', published by Del Ray, is available at your favorite bookstore and your local library.  ISBN 978-0-399-17848-1