Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book #4

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr actually comprises the first 3 books of his Berlin Noir trilogy (since expanded to 6 books!) These first three books grab you by the throat and refuse to let go for the entire time you are reading them. In order they are: March Violets (a tale in which intrepid detective Bernie Gunther searches for a missing girl amidst the background of the 1936 Olympics), The Pale Criminal (in which infamous Nazi Reinhard Heydrich brings Bernie back to the police to investigate a murder in 1938) and finally, A German Requiem (which takes place after the war in 1947 with Bernie still struggling to escape the Nazi grip through a shattered Germany and Austria).
These books trace the Nazi arch throughout Europe and, in the next three books of the series South America. What makes these thrillers so fantastic is they are written so beautifully and hauntingly that being drawn in is unavoidable. Philip Kerr mixes humor, with the horrors of the Nazi regime which moves like an inescapable top spinning towards the edge of the table. One of the best things about the books is the way Kerr slowly builds you up and then completely pulls the rug out from under you. His twists are pitch perfect and staggering. Nothing seems out of place, even when Bernie is crossing paths with among others: Herman Goring, Heinrich Mueller, Himmler and Heydrich. He drifts dreamlike amongst the worst of the worst and still comes out seeming to be better than them, even as he frequently drops to their level. Bernie Gunther is a hard nosed detective quick with a quip and his gun. These novels are hard boiled and envoke a range of feelings in the reader. When I finished the second one, centered around the infamous Kristalnacht, I felt almost sick. The third was nearly a spy novel, with Bernie battering between the Americans and Soviets in postwar Europe. The fourth and fifth novels (watch for them in future posts!) were also taut, staggering achievements.
These books combine mystery and history in the best possible way. If you are at all interested in Nazi Germany and like mysteries, READ THIS BOOK! There is also a sixth Bernie Gunther mystery coming out in September, it's already at the top of my "To Buy" list.

Book #3

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson is the rare book which successfully combines history, true accounts, suspense, drama and harrowing survival stories. When I was younger I dreamed of becoming a wreck diver and undersea jack-of-all-trades. However, this book showed exactly what wreck diving - dangers included - is actually like. Suffice it to say, it is not as fun as originally expected. The dangers are at times insurmountable. The plot details the journey of two men - John Chatterton and Richie Kohler - who attempt to discover the truth and identity of a U-Boat discovered off the coast of New Jersey. Slowly, their quest takes over their lives and the lives of several others, ultimately leading three people give their lives in an attempt to discover the truth about the sub. Chatterton and Kohler, once bitter enemines become closer than brothers and find an incredible chemistry under water.
The book is incredibly written, well detailed and a fantastically gripping story. I was recently talking with a friend about the best books we have ever read, we both agreed on Shadow Divers as one of our top three. Another example of how incredible gripping this book is: my grandmother, who has read nearly everything under the sun, wanted me to find the email address of the author so she could send him a note telling him that Shadow Divers was the best book she has ever read...period. Yes, its that good. This is a read-it-at-red-lights kind of book and once you start, you cannot put it down. Without a doubt, this is the best example of what a true account history book can be. Everyone I have given this book to has torn through it and declared the same thing: Five stars, worth the hype, highly recommended.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book #2

Book #2 is a recent read and I cannot honestly say it was one of the best books I have ever read. However, the first 200 pages came as close to representing my own childhood as I have ever found in print. The lazy summer mornings of bike riding, hanging out with friends and searching out the answers when weird things happened (invented or not). Like the characters in this thriller, I grew up with a group of kids who have remained lifelong friends. Throughout reading this book I continually wondered about how I would have reacted to the circumstances and placed myself into the vivid characterizations. The straight forward plot of this book contains a town which is beset upon by an ancient evil and group of kids who have to come together to fight it. I picked this up because it sounded alot like another book I had recently enjoyed, Stephen King's masterpiece "IT" (more about that book in a future post). I figured it would be generic and very similiar and could not have been more wrong. It was entertaining for all 600 pages but sort of fell apart at the end. While the conclusion was touching, it was a tad unrealistic and seemed hollow at times. However, that will not stop me from recommending this book to those who want to recapture small town summers of their youth. A fantastic book, terrifying at times and overall a great accomplishment of rememberance and terror. Simmons expertly captures the essence of why, deep down, we are all scared of the dark, even in the dead of sticky, hot summer nights.


In the last little while I have posted more infrequently than Steve Nash on Dwight Howard. A grevious lack of time is the only excuse I can offer. Perhaps I took on too much, or perhaps I just did not have a wonderful flow of ideas I expected to. Well, in any event I am going to try and post at least once a week with an "AWESOME BOOK" of the week which I will review and write about. These will be books I have read over the course of my life and enjoyed in one way or another. Just a note about my reading habits in case anyone worries they are being left out: I read non-fiction true accounts, history, mystery, thrillers and some horror. I apologize if those are not really your cup of tea...without further ado, here is book #1.

Sahara by Clive Cussler

I decided to start off with a book which hooked me on reading. Now, Clive Cussler does not write the most "realistic" fiction but this book is a staggering achievement. His hero of over twenty thrillers, Dirk Pitt faces just about everything the world can throw at him in this rip-roaring page turner. This is the definition of what a novel should be. It is well written, contains characters who are more than just stock "good guys" and "villians" and at times the suspense is gut wrenching. A quick summary: A red tide out of Africa is threatening to decimate the world's population, Dirk Pitt and longtime confederates Rudy Gunn and Al Giordino agree to ride up a river into Mali and the source of the outbreak. Along the way they have a few run ins with corrupt African dictators, one of the best imagined war standoffs in novel history and a heart shattering conclusion. If you need a beach read, grab this book. It takes you by the throat and refuses to let go for five hundred plus pages. Many will know Clive Cussler only by the moderately entertaining mass market novels he "co-writes" but this way Cussler in his heyday. This book has something for everyone - a love story, action, heroism and a scene in which the intrepid heroes walk across the blazing Sahara desert. Truly, this among all the other novels he wrote remains the gold standard of Dirk Pitt novels. Highly, highly recommended. I was once asked what one novel I would take to a desert island: this is it.