Saturday, September 22, 2012

Citizen Grouch book recommendations

I hit the jackpot recently with a whole herd of excellent books and even though I am indeed a grouch I am not so grouchy that I will keep these gems all to myself.  So, here are Citizen Grouch's latest book recommendations:

L.A. '56 - The Devil in the City of Angels  by Joel Engel

A true crime story of a serial rapist on the loose in Los Angeles in 1956 that haunted the lover's lanes of the city.  The story reads like a '50s movie, hard boiled attitude and the slang and rhythm of the writing of the times.  But, this book isn't just a crime story but also documents the discrimination facing the black population of the city, the corruption and incompetence of the LAPD of the day, the police chief's efforts to reform the force, and the difficulties facing one up and coming Hispanic detective who would solve the case and go on to be the lead detective on several sensational crimes in the future.  Well written and gives a sharp flavor for the times in the City of Angels.   One thing I learned:  Gene Roddenberry was a LAPD sergeant at the time and moonlighted writing TV scripts for Hollywood!


I bought this on my Nook E-reader at a discount price and put off reading it for almost a year until I got around to it.  Big mistake on my part!   This is a thick read, both in length and detail.  It is future fiction:   Mars is colonized and independent of the united Earth, the asteroid belt and moons of the gas giants are colonized and the Latter Day Saints are building a generation ship to colonize another star system.  It is a horror story:  A space freighter is infected with a horrible alien life form that kills and transforms everyone it encounters.  It is a mystery:  A burned out police detective is given the job of finding a spoiled rich girl who ran away from home and is hiding in the belt.  He is to get her and return her to her family on Luna.  But for some reason someone or some agency doesn't want him to find her.  It is an old fashioned space opera:  An ice freighter responds to a distress signal and finds the space freighter alive with the all consuming alien organism.  The ship is destroyed by unknown stealth destroyers and the away team must evade the destroyers and make their way  to civilization and seek answers and revenge.  It is a clash of nations:  A war is brewing with Earth and Mars opposing the colonies in deep space who wish to be free of the inner planets.  And it all comes together in a gotterdammerung of space war, hideous alien virus, equally slimy multinational corporations willing to kill anyone and everything to profit from the virus, outer planet terrorists, and a detective who has fallen in love with the missing girl from Luna even though he has never laid eyes on her.  What a story!   Read it and enjoy.   The second book is Caliban's war and it is equally good.  I'm just reading it now.

SEVEN DAYS by Deon Meyer

Another outstanding police mystery novel based in contemporary South Africa.  Police sergeant Benny Grieseel, recovering alcoholic, recently divorced, father to two teenagers, burned out, and feeling old and outclassed by the younger members of the force is faced with two mysteries:  who killed a young and sexy woman who worked in investment banking and used a sword or spear to do it?  And who is the person who is threatening to shoot a policeman a day until the police charge the woman's killer and claim that they know who the killer is?  The police don't have a clue.  And the shootings start.  Benny Griessel is world weary and struggling hard to maintain is sober status even when the fading music star that he has befriended continues to drink and tempt him to do the same.  Meyer's stories are fast paced and make each character in the story interesting and alive.  Highly recommended!  Fact:  I emailed the author when I first read one of his books and got a personal and gracious reply the next day!  This is a guy who deserves to do well.

WHAT IN GOD'S NAME  by Simon Rich

Heaven is a corporation and God is the CEO.  He's the idea guy and operations aren't his thing.  He likes to golf and communicate with his latest profit, a homeless guy who records God's messages on a piece of cardboard to hold up to passing traffic.  Heaven Inc. has golf courses, masseuses, and restaurants and a corporate campus like Microsoft's.  Angels work in departments such as Gravity Enforcement, Lightning Placement, Geyser Regulation, Field Goal Manipulation, Chinese Food Enhancement, and Payroll.  God is bored and decided to shut down the Earth, a losing division.  Two angels, Craig and Eliza convince him to stay the destruction of Earth for 30 days if they can grant one prayer.  In this case it is to get a painfully shy and nerdy young man and woman to fall in love and kiss.  They already have a compatibility score of 96 after all!  How hard can it be?  Hard enough that snow storms, botulism, explosions and destroyed I phones are employed before it is all over. 
This is really funny book written by someone who had to work for a major corporation in the headquarters.  He's nailed it dead on.  An easy read, not long but worth your time.  

THE WRECKING CREW - The inside story of Rock and Roll's best kept secret by Kent Hartman

Who knew that almost every hit R&R song recorded in Los Angeles from the early 60s to the late 70s were played by a studio band that became to be known as the Wrecking Crew?   Glen Campbell got his start with this group.  Many groups had accomplished vocalists but so-so abilities on instruments so the Wrecking Crew provided the accompaniment.   In some instances the music groups such as the Beach Boys had two shifts going:  one in the studio recording and one on the road at concerts!  Glen Campbell toured as a Beach Boy while the real deal was back in the studio cutting another 45.  This book chronicles the start of many successful acts such as Sonny and Cher, The Carpenters, The Captain and Tennile, The 5th Dimension, Jan and Dean, the Mamas and the Papas and lots more.  A very fun read for us baby boomers who remember to music and personalities of the era.

There you have it Grouches and Grouchettes, four great reads to while away the weekends.  Happy reading!

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