Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, by Toni Morrison

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“Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination is an adaptation of three lectures that Toni Morrison delivered at the Massey Lectures at Harvard University in 1990. She turned the three-part series into a ninety-one-page book, published in 1992 by Harvard University Press. The lectures concern issues of race in American literature and the ways that literary whiteness and literary blackness are actively constructed within literature. She considers how these racial issues affect literature as a whole.”

Morrison seeks to expand the scope of American literature and use gender roles, sexualization, and racial prejudice as her subject matter. Race is a metaphorically tool in her approach and her goal seems to be that a Black increasingly necessary in American-ness comparing historical views. Morrison defends writing about race in literature saying to do so would rob fiction of it’s power.

Quotes

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Mustang Man by Louis L'Amour

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Mustang Man is one of Louis L’Amour Nolan Sackett novels and on the first page we get some insight into this man.  “His eyes were shifting quickly like a weasel’s eyes, hunting for something to kill. My pistol was in my right hand and I was looking back over my left shoulder. There was no way I could move without giving him the first shot, so I just lay there hoping he wouldn’t see me.”

Nolan was having dinner in a Cantina at Borregos Plaza when he met Penelope Hume and her beauty immediately captured his attention. He is asked to escort Penelope and her small group across country and help he get to where her grandfather has hidden three hundred pounds of gold, something that also captures his attention.

Penelope doesn’t tell Nolan that others know about the gold and Sylvie, Ralph, and Andrew Karnes, are waiting for them along the trail planning to claim the gold for themselves. They and the others they attract to help them use ambush and murder and prove to be very dangerous.

The plot of this story is strong and we step into another time and place with L’Amour’s insight and writing skill.

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Louis L”Amour Quote

Up to a point a person’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and changes in the world about them. Then there comes a time when it lies within their grasp to shape the clay of their life into the sort of thing they wish it to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune or the quirks of fate. Everyone has the power to say, "This I am today. That I shall be tomorrow.

Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben

 

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Maya Burkett is a combat veteran returned home from her deployment in the Middle East where her mission ended with the death of five innocent civilians. Whistle-blower Corey Rudzinski makes his living sensationalizing tragedy and he posted video footage of her airstrike on his website for all to see.

Maya plans an evening getaway from her memories and pressure with her husband Joe at a favorite spot in Central Park but they are surprised and her husband is shot by two masked muggers. She puts a Nanny Cam in her home to be able to see what the Nanny is doing while she is away on her job and is shocked when she sees her murdered husband on a picture. The Nanny, Isabella, claims she didn’t see anything when she is shown the picture but then she sprays pepper spray at Maya, takes the memory chip from the Nanny Cam and runs.

Maya’s sister Claire was previously killed in a home invasion while Maya was deployed in the Middle East and the same investigator, Roger Kierce, begins working on her husband’s murder and lets her know that the same gun was used to shoot both her husband and her sister.

Maya begins her own investigation even turning to Whistle-blower Rudzinsi to help and finds that both murders may be connected to the death more than 10 years ago of Joe’s brother Andrew.

The plot twists and you are left hanging and don’t know who did it until the very end. Well worth reading but not as good as “Run Away”

See BJ favorite Author Section for more on Harlan Coben. Click Here

Quotes


“Doctors kept stressing that mental disease was the same as physical disease. Telling someone who was clinically depressed, for example, to shake it off and get out of the house was tantamount to telling a man with two broken legs to sprint across the room. That was all well and good in theory, but in practice, the stigma continued. Maybe, to be more charitable, it was because you could hide a mental disease.”

“Things can always be said later, but things can never be unheard.”

“Telling someone who was clinically depressed, for example, to shake it off and get out of the house was tantamount to telling a man with two broken legs to sprint across the room. That was all well and good in theory, but in practice, the stigma continued.”

“War is never a meritocracy for the casualties.”

“When you can see the stakes, when you realize the true purpose of your mission, it motivates you. It makes you focus. It makes you push away the distractions. You gain clarity of purpose. You gain strength.”

“But life changes people. It smothers that kind of larger-than-life woman. Time quiets them down. That firecracker girl you knew in high school—where is she now? It didn’t happen to men as much. Those boys often grew up to be masters of the universe. The super successful girls? They seemed to die of slow societal suffocation. So”

“They say you never know how someone will react when the grenade is thrown.”

First Family, by David Baldacci

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“Birthday Balloons and submachine guns. Elegant forks, digging into creamy goodies which toughened fingers coiled around curved metal trigger guards. Gleeful laughter as gifts were unwrapped floated into the air alongside the menacing thump-thump of an arriving chopper’s downward prop wash.”

 David Baldacci’s First Family is the fourth in a series featuring private detectives, ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell and the action begins on the first page.  Willa, the niece of the First Lady, is kidnapped and she calls Sean to help. Sean has known both the First Lady and the President for years and is trusted by them so despite or maybe because of the involvement of the FBI and the Secret Service he is asked to help.

 The mastermind of the kidnapping plot is Sam Quarry who is ruthless and fanatical in his own pursuit of justice for his daughter who has been in a coma for 13 years.  It seems clear, at least in the beginning, who the bad guys and the good guys are but as the story evolves that changes and captures and holds our attention.

 Sidekick Michelle Maxwell has her own mystery unfold when her mother is killed and she has to leave to be with the family.  Every chapter seems to have a challenge to be faced.

 Published in 2009. Good character and a well-crafted plot.

Quotes

“Everybody’s got somewhere to go. Just takes some folks longer to figure out where to.” 

“I guess it comes down to greed. You don’t pay folks, you make more money. That and thinking one race wasn’t as good as another.” 

“What’s a quick fling in the sack compared to decades of indifference?” 

See BJ’s Favorite Author David Badacci Section click here

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The Rainmaker, by John Grishman

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Rudy signs has two clients of his own, his elderly landlady, who needs a revised will and a poor family, Dot and Buddy Black, whose insurance bad faith case could be worth several million dollars in damages.

He nets Deck Shifflet, a former insurance assessor who received a law degree but doesn't practice law, having failed to pass the bar exam six times. Bruiser Stones firm is in trouble with the FBI so Rudy and Deck form their own firm. With the Black case Rudy really could be the rainmaker for this new firm.

The Black’s leukemia-stricken son, Donny Ray, could have been saved by a bone marrow transplant procedure that should have been covered and paid for by their insurance carrier but the claim was instead denied.

Donny Ray dies just before the case goes to trial and when the trial ends Rudy has a plaintiff's judgment of $50.2 million but the insurance company quickly declares itself bankrupt, thus allowing it to avoid paying the judgment.

The plot isn’t the big draw for this book but the characters, especially Rudy, seem to grow on you. Grisham brings a cynicism for the legal profession that is convincing in the plot. Every law firm has it’s rainmakers but Grishman shows that the right case is a rainmaker.

Quotes

“Don't compromise yourself - you're all you have.” 

“Some people have more guts than brains”

“I'm alone and outgunned, scared and inexperienced, but I'm right.” 

“Please give me fifty more years of work and fun, then an instant death when I'm sleeping.” 

 

1st To Die, by James Patterson

In this, the first of 18 books in the series, inspector Lindsay Boxer is overcome with emotion when she sees the young corpses of newlywed David and Melanie Brandt. She tries to calm herself down in the ladies' room moments but runs in again to an upstart reporter, Cindy Thomas, who offers some sympathy.  

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Soon the facts of the case involve not just Lindsay and Cindy but two others women and they forming the “Women’s Murder Club” determined to find the killer of newlyweds.

Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt is an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Each member of the club seems to be able to solve a key piece of the puzzle and The club becomes the beginning of a long successful series by Patterson, of course.

The side stories make the bonds that the women form with each other seem real. The crimes have stunned everyone and the identity of the killer is unexpected right up to the shocking conclusion.

Books in the Series

1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgement, The 10th Anniversary, The 11th Hour, The 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin, 15th Affair, 16th Seduction, 17th Suspect & the 18th Abduction.

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The Taking, by Dean Koontz

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“On the morning that will mark the end of the word they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof., “At first is seems like just a heavy rain but it smells different and the effects are frightening. Soon it is evident that an alien race is intent on wiping out the survivors of the rain and the world is under attack.

The rain stops but fog replaces it and those left face attack dead bodies come back to life and fungi that inhabit and live on everything it touches.

Molly and Neil and a golden retriever named Virgil are the children in their small towns only hope it seems. At first, they fear that the aliens have allowed them to rescue the children to harvest them for some more terrible end, but they come to hope that maybe they have been spared for a special reason.

Comparing Koontz to Stephen King seems natural with the subject of this novel being horror. King writing seems more at home in the genre, but Koontz offers a little more hope eventually in his plot. Well worth reading if you’re a fan of Dean Koontz especially.

Quotes

“Reality isn't what it used to be.” 


“Maybe there's nothing impossible tonight. We're down the hole to Wonderland, and no White Rabbit to guide us."


If I remember correctly, the White Rabbit was an unreliable guide, anyway.” 


“Although the human heart is selfish and arrogant, so many struggle against their selfishness and learn humility; because of them, as long as there is life, there is hope that beauty lost can be rediscovered, that what has been reviled can be redeemed.” 

“...like a scene from the swamps of Louisiana or the mind of Poe on opium.” 

“Although she had resisted this knowledge all her life, had lived determinedly in the future focused there by ambition, she understood at last that this was the real condition of humanity: The dance of life occurred not yesterday or tomorrow, but only here at the still point that was the present. This truth is simple, self-evident, but difficult to accept, for we sentimentalize the past and wallow in it, while we endure the moment and in every waking hour dream of the future.” 

“The human imagination may be the most elastic thing in the universe, stretching to encompass the millions of dreams that in centuries of relentless struggle built modern civilization, to entertain the endless doubts that hamper every human enterprise, and to conceive the vast menagerie of boogeymen that trouble every human heart.” 

“We don't call them inmates,' Molly said, quoting one of the psychiatrists.'We call them patients”

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace- as though not built to fly- against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”

Delia Owens continues telling us that “On the morning of October 30, 1969, the body of Chase Andrews lay in the swamp” We eventually learn what happened and we learn about Kya Clark, the Marsh Girl.

Kya has been the subject of rumors for year in the small town of Barkley Cove on the North Carolina coast. She has survived for years alone in the marsh that is her home. Her friends are the birds and she knows the marsh better than anyone.

Two young men from town are intrigued by her, touch her life, and she opens herself up to being touched by love. We are touched by Kya’s life and the story brings with it a melody and feeling that helps us fold into the story ourselves.

A coming of age story that shows us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were. A book that we won’t forget.

Quotes

“Autumn leaves don't fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” 

“His dad had told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” 

“Why should the injured, the still bleeding, bear the onus of forgiveness?” 

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” 

“Unworthy boys make a lot of noise” 

“lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.” 

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Love, by Stendhal

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Stendhal states: "I want to impose silence on my heart, which thinks it has much to say. I constantly fear having written nothing but a sigh, when I believe I have set down a truth."

Four kinds of love are discussed.  Passionate love, mannered love, physical love, and vanity love. Stendhal draws on history, literature, and his own experiences and what we get is a picture of the author’s innermost feelings.

At the core of this book we find Stendahl’s obsession with Mathilde Viscontini Dembowski whom he called Miltide. She did not return his love nor understood him. He tried to explain his love to her and in doing so dissected his passion.

According to Stendahal the Italians were torn between hatred and love and lived by passions. The French by vanity and the Germans who he felt were discontent and unsophisticated, by their imaginations.

Stendhal said that “a novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces the sound is the reader's soul.” The book is a look into his soul.

See Review of The Red and the Black by StendhalThe work he is best known for.

Quotes by Stendhal

  • “A good book is an event in my life.” ...

  • “One can acquire everything in solitude except character.” ...

  • “There are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.” ...

  • “I love her beauty, but I fear her mind.” ...

  • “A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.”

  • “If you don't love me, it does not matter, anyway I can love for both of us” 

    “Our true passions are selfish.” 

    “God's only excuse is that he does not exist” 

    “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.

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Love
By Stendhal
 

Cell a novel by Stephen King

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“The event that came to be known as The Pulse” began at 3:03p.m. eastern standard time, on October 1st and within ten hours, most of the scientists capable of understanding what happened were either dead or insane”

The Pulse was a signal that comes through an international cell phone network into those listening to their phones and it turns everyone who hears it into mindless maniacs referred to as phoners.  Some who didn’t have cell phones are still normal, but it is unclear how many are left. The world has become a battleground between two visions of the future.

The story starts in Boston Common with Clayton Riddell getting ready to celebrate his new novel’s release by buying an ice cream cone. He is surrounded by several people talking on cell phones. A man hangs up his phone and turns on the ice cream salesperson and tears his throat out with his teeth. Anyone who was on the phone at that time changes into a mindless monster.  The phones signal has erased their minds.

Tom and Clayton get away and decide to go to Maine to find and rescue Clayton’s son. Alice, and Jordan both teenagers and team up with them.

Stephen King got his idea for this book when he observed a woman walking out of a hotel. The Cell is the 53rd book published by Stephen King and was his 44th novel.

Quotes

“Man has come to dominate the planet thanks to two essential traits. One is intelligence. The other has been the absolute willingness to kill anyone and anything that gets in his way.” 

“This is how a man looks when he's deciding that the risk of death is better than the risk of change.” 

“He said the mind can calculate, but the spirit yearns, and the heart knows what the heart knows.

 

Dante, by R.W.B. Lewis

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Dante, by R.W.B Lewis, is about his seeking, finding and defining himself at every turn in this literary history.  He becomes fascinated with the mythic Beatrice, the lyric poet obsessed with life and death, the grand master of dramatic narrative and allegory.

Lewis writes of Dante’s wandering the Tuscan hills to his time as a young soldier fighting for democracy, his love for his civic duties, his literary ambitions, his religion and for Beatrice who he considers.  We learn of the politics Florentine politics the led to the Dante’s banishment from his native city.

Dante as a person shows his dark feelings about those who persecute him where he uses the word Purgatorio to promise vengeance as the ultimate poetic justice and predicts their depravity will be exposed in the end.

Lewis has in a small book made the life of Dante a revealing and easy to read biography.

Quote by Dante

…….and thence we issued forth to see again the stars

The secret of getting things done is to act!

There is no greater sorrow Than to be mindful of the happy time In misery.

Do not be afraid; our fate Cannot be taken from us; it is a  Gift.

The path to paradise begins in hell .

The more a thing is perfect, the more it feels pleasure and pain.

 

Cross Fire, by James Patterson

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In Cross Fire Alex Cross is going after a sniper who is assassinating corrupt politicians and judges. Leaks to the press by the sniper has divided public opinion with some thinking the sniper is a hero rather than a murderer. The killings are in the jurisdiction of the Washington Metro Police Department (MPD) and the FBI. Max Siegel, an FBI agent, is assigned to this case and a turf battle begins.

Kyle Craig was previously sent to prison through the efforts of Cross and he surfaces planning to kill Alex and his entire family. The book starts out telling us: “It had been months since Kyle Craig had killed a man. Once upon a time, he’d been the type who needed everything yesterday, if not sooner. But no more. If years of hellish solitude in ADX Florence in Colorado had taught him nothing else, it was how to wait for what he wanted.”

Kyle Craig’s is a considered to be very smart, even a mastermind. Now that he is out of prison, he creates a plan to get revenge by getting close to Cross and even his family. He also finds his way into the sniper case that no one sees coming.

The sniper killings and Craig’s return all come at a time when Cross is planning his wedding to Brianna Stone. The storyline is complex and gives us a view of Washington DC and the homeless population who are part of the plot.

This book is #17 in the Alex Cross series.

“Beware the anger of a patient man.” James Patterson