With the end of 2012, I realize I have five fiction and two non-fiction books that need reviews.  Clearly that’s not going to happen, so let me sum up here and provide a more in-depth review of the one book that was
particularly worth it.

Argo and VRIN:

Argo and Vrin are short novellas science fiction novellas. VRIN tends toward a Christian analogy while Argo is more of dystopian off planet space fiction.  What they both lack is depth of story and of character.  You spend most of the story trying to figure out what exactly is happening rather than why the characters act the way they do.   In the case of Argo, I’m pretty certain the author wants you to feel the similarity to our world and possible future existence, but it never really works.  VRIN’s difficulty is that there is a world that may or may be a virtual existence that our protagonist enters unknowingly, and he dithers over the reality of this world and his role in it, yet when a choice is made he doesn’t hesitate to act, even though it might mean the existence of the entire world.  The analogy is weak and is only developed in the last several pages.  Both of these are read if you want, but don’t feel you have to go out of your way.

Housewife Assassin’s Handbook:

This is a goofy story.  It’s supposed to be goofy, but it’s always best to have your goofy come with some level of credibility.  Plus, goofy of plot and goofy of character are not synonymous.  If you want me to believe that you are a successful, savvy, efficient assassin, then don’t play the breathless, wanton housewife.  More importantly, if you husband shows up under odd circumstances after 7 years of pretending he’s dead, first don’t be in a quandary, where your desire lies, and second, don’t be an idiot about where his loyalties lie.  Yours aren’t with him and his aren’t with you.  Does the company have to spell it out for you?  I actually wondered if I was giving something up here, but realized that the plot turn was more obvious to the reader than it ever was going to be to our erstwhile housewife.  Or erstwhile assassin however you want to look at it.  There are other books in the series, but I won’t be wasting my time.

Artemis Fowl:

This is the first in a series of YA novels.  I really like novels like this because you don’t have to think too hard to keep up, you can read it in one sitting without being fatigued by the story, and the story gives you something to think about after you’ve finished reading it.  If you’re not familiar with the story, Artemis is the son of a major crime lord.  His father has been killed or kidnapped, and Artemis takes it upon himself to improve the family’s fortunes.  Which he does with a flair only genius child criminals can do.  He has a butler, Butler, who handles his err, heavy work, and as a friend, as only a family servant can do. I’m already scoping out the rest of the series before I get too far behind.
Bad Radio:

Here is a well-crafted plot, finely tuned dialog and an understanding of the human condition, that tells the tale of a man who has sequestered himself from society, presumably because he has nothing left to live with but his past.  But when his past comes calling, he gets drawn into a web far more complicated than any around him can comprehend.  He knows how terrifying facing his past will be and yet he entangles the granddaughter of an army buddy in his desperate drive for redemption.

Langlois weaves  a philosophical argument on the nature of good and evil into a tale of supernatural forces, a trek across the country to meet an old enemy and a journey of self-discovery.  His prose is taut and languid at the same time an he has an ear for the symmetry of language that can’t be taught.  (“It was that golden time of the day, between the platinum of dawn and the coppery red of sunset…”)

As the story unfolds, Abe is approached by the granddaughter of an old army buddy who asks for his help as part of her grandfather’s final days.   On arriving at his friend’s assisted living home, his past explodes into a bloody and … He carefully exposes the nature of our hero and the face of his opponent as they come closer to confrontation.

Hopefully, without telling you too much, but enticing you just a bit:  Think Hellboy with better acting and a better plot.

Two nonfiction books:
Murder Room:

At first I was under the impression this was a series of short stories there based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes being solved under current day circumstances.  But instead it is the story of a group of major crime fighters and how they have come together to solve some of the hardest cold cases in history.  Be forewarned most cases are gruesome and there is a level of detail not for the faint of heart.  They don’t always get their “man” even though they know who it is.  They operate under one major presumption and that is they will not involve themselves in a case with out the agreement of the local jurisdiction.  Members of this group are from most of the major investigative organizations in this country as well as some from Britain and France.  If you like true crime, this is definitely a book for you. The author, Michael Caputo is also the author of other books of a similar nature.

Nurture Shock:

If you are the parent of young children, or thinking about being the parent of young children, this should be mandatory reading.  Not all of the chapters are topics that can be incorporated into domestic child rearing, but there are some really, really outstanding ideas that can be used to give your child a headstart in vocabulary, math (yes, math for preschoolers), social interaction and functional organization.  The chapter on functional organization is simply amazing.  There are ideas presented here that adults can apply in daily life for a higher level of productivity.  Best part?  They are ideas that are geared toward five and six year olds, so they aren’t overwhelming in application.  As children incorporate such ideas in their daily life, they provide themselves with the ability to perform better once they begin school.  Finally, if you want to be effective in the lives of young children that are around you on an occasional basis, there are chapters that will benefit you as well.  If you just happen to be into developmental psychology, this is definitely a worthwhile read.

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