“Gods Go Begging” Jesse Pasadoble

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Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill

Gods Go Begging is a wonderful novel about Jesse Pasadoble, a Vietnam veteran, now working as a defense attorney in San Francisco. A couple of current cases draw Jesse into a remarkable world of coincidence and ties to the past.

This book has a great story, full of twists and turns, a cacophony of emotion. Amplifying these amazing images, Alfredo Vea’s writing style is strong, poetic, lyrical, and at times magical. The struggles of the main character and his dealing with extraordinary events in his past lead us into weaving, dreamlike worlds.

The author sets the stage in one of the most memorable book openings I’ve ever read:

For a time, they both held on to their lives, gasping softly, whispering feverishly, and bleeding profusely, their two minds far, far away from the cruel, burrowing bullets that had left them mere seconds away from death. Face to face, they spoke their last words in crimson-colored breaths. Theirs was a withering language, one for which there are no living speakers.

Then, like warriors abandoned on the field, they lay in unearthly calm as the things of life deserted them. They had seen the mad commotion boiling in the air above them. In bemused silence, they heard the alarms, the screams, and the growing wail of sirens. Pronounced dead on a cold city sidewalk, they held on to each other as the gurney rolled from the cement to asphalt and into a waiting ambulance for a long, anonymous ride. In the end it was clear to every onlooker that neither dying woman would ever let go of the other. Leaves of lemon grass had drifted to the ground from the dress pocket of one of the women, marking their trail to the ambulance. Some of the sprigs and blades were bloodstained, adding spice to the liquid life that had trickled away.

I was very intrigued by the books dramatic portrayal of people dealing with such complex and unforgettable pasts. It’s more than that, though. How do we incorporate the different lives we lead into the present? The Vietnam veteran whose mind is vividly separated by 30 years and thousands of miles. Dealing with living in both the present and living in a war, on a hill, so far in the past, but still very much part of the present.

To a lesser degree, I think many of us struggle with this. How many of us are partly stuck in some distant past? Are you still partly living in High School? That song on the radio that transports you back to the High School lunch room. Or an old car … or a smell in the air that suddenly takes you back to a particular beach in Puerto Rico.

And how often have we projected ourselves into the future … steadfastly stating that, ‘I will never be like my parents!’ – ‘I’ll not make those mistakes when I’m grown’. Then you hit 35 or 40 or 45 and suddenly, you see your father in the mirror, or your mother’s voice comes out of your mouth in a moment of frustration. Then it hits you … we are more than the sum of our corporal parts.

I think everyone, has the memory of a moment, where they knew for certain that there was more to them than just this body, this pile of chemicals, this present … this now.

Maybe standing on the beach, waiting for the sun to rise. Then that magical moment when the sun leaps from the horizon in an explosion of color – as we spread our arms to capture every amazing bit of that moment, we are also spreading our wings on an ethereal world, feeling the splendor of another sun.

Is that why we seek out books and movies and music that move us? Are we ‘pan-consciously’ feeling our way through multiple times? Multiple lives? Each with an array of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. Other souls that are also bound across distance and through years. Each of us linked to that same place, that same time.

Well, who knows. But occasionally finding a book that makes me stop and think about who I am and where I am … is why I read in the first place. If you are like me and seek out beautifully written, emotionally challenging books – don’t miss this one.

From the dedication page:

It is easy to know the beauty of inhuman things, sea, storm and
mountain; it is their soul and their meaning.
Humanity has its lesser beauty, impure and painful; we have to harden our hearts to bear it.
I have hardened my heart only a little; I have learned that happiness is important, but pain gives importance.
The use of tragedy: Lear becomes as tall as the storm he crawls in; and a tortured Jew became God.

Robinson Jeffers, The World’s Wonders

“Americas Boy: A Memoir” by Wade Rouse

Reviewer: linda

A small-town boy who dresses in his mothers bikini when he’s five so he
can be queen of the pageant has some issues to address in his life,
especially when that small town is in rural southwestern Missouri.

Rouse tells wonderful tales of a family that may not have understood
him, but loved him nonetheless. The family tales are the best part of
this memoir; I kept seeing my family in his tales, even though our
families have different oddities. The stories of Rouses schooling will
strike a chord with anyone who was picked on in school for any reason
(at least Rouse had the female half of the school that liked him).

I think the heart of this memoir was supposed to be his rediscovery of
who he really is, but it never made it. I’m glad he’s become better
adjusted, but the stories of his childhood are the heart of the book to
me. An exceptional read. And no, that has nothing to do with the fact
that he works for Washington University!

“The Town and the City” Jack Kerouac

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Jack Kerouac’s first published novel, The Town and the City is a story of monumental scope and great emotional depth. The book’s jacket cover talks about Kerouac’s idolization of Thomas Wolfe and this book reflects that interest. The story is about choices and regrets. It’s also about a generation robbed of choices and left wondering and apathetic and lost. The book tells the story of a family growing up in a small New Hampshire town pre-World War II and follows the family through war and loss.

The book is written in 3rd person. I realized soon after starting The Town and the City that most of what I’ve read recently is 1st person or some variation of 1st person. Which is fine; 1st person is very intimate. However, in Kerouac’s book, the choice of style really opens up the story. Instead of the reader having a close relationship with one or two people, the environment opens up and we form relationships with several people and feel part of the town. To say that in a different way, if the book were written 1st person, we would be looking through the eyes of the key character or characters. We would see the town and the rooms and the other characters, but more in a ‘Being John Malkovich’ way. Kerouac gives the reader room to appreciate the size and space of the story. We’re drawn in to the town, the sounds of the river, and late-night mournful calls of a passing freight train.

The following quote from the book reflects one of the son’s feelings while riding a troop train from one part of America to the other. He’s just finished a letter from his mother.

This is the pitiful way it was: and all the eerie feelings that young men were having in some strange part of the country far away from the places that had always been familiar in their lives, which were become unreal and fantastic now as a dream, and maddening and sorrowful too; and all the night-dreams woven out of three thousand miles of continental traveling and ten thousand miles of earth-traveling that were so gray and strange and pitiably enacted upon some deranged little map of the mind that was supposed to represent the continent of America and the earth itself. Sailors dreaming of the sea as some poignant little lake, or of their movements north and south, east and west on the terrific seas, as on some gray little canal or river, with life teeming on the banks; soldiers dreaming of America as some packed little place with mysterious fields and roads leading directly within walking dream-distance from state to state, or of islands in the Pacific as little puddle-jumps in the sweet small lake of the mind-all the vast and oceanic and terrific distances compressed by human necessity into something no bigger than a field, and a lake, or the palm of a hand.

And then the bugle blowing in some Dakota army camp, and the rawboned, windburnt boys waking up again to the clear cold mornings and great snow-distances and distant hills, to drafty barracks and rough khaki trousers and the heavy G.I. boots clomping, waking up to steaming breakfasts, hot coffee, a cigarette, and then the windswept range and the peppery chatter of rifles firing in the frozen air, the broken cry of a sergeant, a puff of smoke, and someone rubbing his raw chapped hands together and grinning steamily in the morning air.

Or the Cost Guardsmen on some heaving little cutter off Labrador waking up to the violent squeak of the ship, the pitching and flopping on the waves, the wild dawn-light over the seething field of waters, and the cook’s slop bucket flying garbage into the sea, the acrid nauseous smell of cigarette smoke in the mess, the big red-faced gunner’s mate from Iowa slopping catsup all over his eggs, the little mascot-pups yapping broken cries in the North Atlantic wind, the rigging by the afterdeck squeaking and straining and the flag cracking in the wind, and the wide mournful spread of slow, smoking merchant ships crawling in formation around the horizon all dark and low-slung and cumbrous in the sea. It seemed as though a whole nation of men and women were beginning to wander with the war.

The Town and the City is a beautiful, large and expansive novel that carries great emotional depth. I highly recommend everyone read this book.

“Trials of the Monkey” Matthew Chapman

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In 1925 John Thomas Scoopes, a High School teacher in Dayton, TN was tried in court for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution contrary to a recently passed Tennessee law. The trial was a media freak show full of bombastic speeches and self-righteous characters.

Many books have been written about the Scoopes trial, not so much because of the content, but because of the amazing cast of characters. William Jennings Bryan, a three-times Democratic Presidential Candidate, one-time Secretary of State, and at the end of his career, an evangelical fundamentalist. George W. Rappleyea, an Engineer in the failing town of Dayton saw the commercial importance of the trial to his little town. And to round out the cast, Clarence Darrow, possibly the best know lawyer in American history, certainly one of the most significant.

Matthew Chapman is the great great grandson of Charles Darwin. He originally set out to write a journalistic report of the re-enactments of the Scoopes Trial held in Dayton every year, but somewhere during the writing that changed and a story about Mr. Chapman came out.

Much like the trial, the book is paradoxical and funny while at the same time showing great depth and raising many provocative questions to the reader.

The book is well written and very engaging. I highly recommend it.

“Anonymous Rex” Eric Garcia

A terrific read! Very entertaining, unusual and fresh with a sly humor and good story.

A detective story of sorts. In Eric Garcia’s world, Dinosaurs are walking among us. A while back, the Dino population of the world took notice of the annoying apes evolving and made the decision to hide their identity. Now living among the apes are various breeds of dinosaur hiding in very elaborate costumes…including our protagonist Vincent Rubio.

Vincent’s having some trouble. His partner was killed recently, and it’s thrown him into a funk that’s threatening to tear Vincent’s life apart if he doesn’t snap out of it.

The author does a great job with this story. We aren’t bored with reasons why there are Dino’s among us…it’s not the story, just a fact. Humorous situations and dialog make this a terrific read. A wonderful book and I can’t wait for more. Written in a sing-song detective story style with cleaver quips.

None comes. Instead, Judith McBride nods mutely, anxiety welling in
those big brown eyes. “Are you the one?” she says, feet backing her
body away in a jittery waltz. “Are you the one who killed Raymond?”
Wonderful. Now she thinks I’m her husband’s murderer. If she
screams, it’s all over–I wouldn’t lay odds against the notion that
those two slabs of dino meat from the elevator are still waiting
just outside the door, eager to burst in, beat me into burger, and
toss me seventy-eight stories to the bustling street below. I can
only hope that my blood and brain matter splatter into a pattern of
enough artistic merit to properly complement the building’s
architecture. Then again, if we can avoid the situation altogether .
. .
I gently open my hands to display their lack of weapons. “I’m not a
killer, Mrs. McBride. That’s not why I’m here.”

Relief slides across her features. “I have jewels,” she says. “In a
safe. I can open it for you.”

“I don’t want your jewels,” I say.

“Money, then–“

“I don’t want your money, either.” I reach into my jacket; she
stiffens, closes her eyes, ready for the bullet or the knife that
will send her to meet her husband in dino Valhalla. Why hasn’t she
screamed yet? No matter, I pull out my ID and toss it at her feet.

“My name’s Vincent Rubio. I’m a private investigator from Los
Angeles.”


“Breaking the Surface” by Greg Louganis

Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill in 2001

I love to read. Every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds
me so thoroughly why I love to read. This is just such a book.

I’ve been following the rescue attempts of the Russian Submarine, Kursk.
At the time I’m writing this, the British rescue efforts are rushing to
the scene. There is still a faint hope that the crew will be saved.

This story has struck a particular chord in me. I spent more than a
dozen years serving in the Navy, riding on nuclear powered submarines.
We knew the risks. We coldly practiced drill scenarios for flooding,
fires, steam line ruptures, all the while, living in one of the most
hostile environments on earth…beneath the surface of the earth’s oceans.
And now, with practiced logic and cold calm, I watch on the news as this
horrible catastrophe plays out.

My thoughts go out to the crew and their families and all
those desperately trying to rescue these men.

How precious life is! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could spend every
moment of every day conscious of just how spectacular that moment is?
But we can’t. For most of us, we are caught up on the day to day of
living. We have jobs and bills, new tires to buy, dishes to do, cat sick
to clean up…sometimes the spectacle of life is more than we can stand.

Thank God for heroes. People we can look up to and remember greatness is
just around the corner. Greg Louganis has been a hero of mine for a long
time. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics. The amazing athletes
that can run like a cheetah, or jump in the air higher than most of us
can reach. To steal a line from the master, “What a piece of work is a
man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving
how express and admirable!”

In Breaking the Surface, Greg Louganis brings to light the depth of
character of such a hero. Here is a man who from a very early age was on
top of the world. An Olympic Champion, the world leader in 10M platform
and 3M springboard diving. What the world saw was a successful, good
looking young man smiling from the gold medal platform…seemingly not a
care in the world.

Greg tells us a story of a boy who from a very early age was ridiculed,
called names, insecure and depressed to the point of suicide. The list
of challenges that the author shares with us is incredible.

The author shares with us key pieces of his life. As we read, Greg tells
the story of growing up into an Olympic athlete. He shares with us his
dealings with hatred and bigotry as a gay man. Greg talks openly about
an abusive relationship that cost him a great deal both emotionally and
financially.

The author talks about his life after becoming HIV positive. Greg shares
his deepest fears with us. How he dealt with being sick, how he dealt
with the death of family and friends.

This amazing man shares with us how he is dealing with the day to day
reminders of our mortality. He discusses the AZT alarm going off every 4
hours and how every cough or cold can lead him to wonder if this is the
end. And with these constant challenges Greg wins another two gold
medals in the 1988 Olympics.

My thoughts of Greg Louganis as a hero have changed. Before, I saw him
as a great athlete accomplishing amazing feats of skill. Now, after
reading his autobiography, I see him as a great man. A man of courage
and amazing internal strength and beauty. I have gained strength and
wisdom from his sharing. I am a better person for having read this book.

Thank you Greg Louganis.

“8.4” by Peter Hernon

Interesting novel of an earthquake (8.4 magnitude, of course) on the New Madrid fault in Southeast Missouri/Southwest Illinois/Western Tennessee, etc. The science was fun to read. The romance was bad, as there was no basis for the romance. Over all, worth reading if you are an earthquake buff, or interested in the science of quakes.

“Coyote” Allen Steele

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Coyote is an epic novel of space travel and migration to the stars told in three parts.

In part one, the government has twisted and grown more powerful. Radicals or Dissident Intellectuals (DI’s) are closely monitored and often sent to rehabilitation camps with the families. DI’s are no longer allowed to participate in scientific research or space exploration.

The government hatches a plan to send a space ship on a one way journey to colonize a distant planet. The goal is to prove the might of the government. The excessive cost of the project throws the country into dire financial trouble.

At the last minute and with much slight-of-hand, a group of DI’s replace the majority of the ships crew and compliment with their own people. And the journey begins.

In part two, the entire ships crew is in hibernation sleep. The ships computer has complete control of operations and will revive the crew upon arrival at their destination 230 years after departure.

But three months into the journey a crew member is inadvertently brought out of hibernation sleep. Leslie Gillis the ships navigation officer is awake on the ship by mistake only three months into the journey. The ships computer has specific orders and can not put Mr. Gillis back into hibernation sleep. So he learns how to live on his own. Fortunately the ship is stocked with food and water for when the colonists reach their destination.

Mr. Gillis eventually learns to cope with the loss and the loneliness. On two separate occasions, he is startled by what looks like another ship out in the star field. He desperately tries to make contact, but is unable to. To pass the time, he starts a journal which quickly turns into a novel.

In part three, the ship arrives at its destination and the crew is brought out of hibernation sleep. The fact that Mr. Gillis was brought out early is discovered as well as his paintings and writing. He also left a message for the captain about a traitor.

The colonists are relieved to find that the planet they are heading to, called Coyote, will support human life. The 230 year gamble based on scientific observation has paid off.

A colony is setup on the planet and they begin their life adapting to the new surroundings.

This is a well written story with engaging and believable characters. I highly recommend this book.

“The Silver Ships,” by S.H. Jucha

S.H. Jucha’s debut novel, “The Silver Ships,” introduces a future universe where colony ships from old Earth have settled in different, distant systems, and worked to make a life for themselves.

Two of the groups, with very different experiences and opportunities, meet again after centuries. The now, very different cultures must work through some challenges and face a common alien threat.

The main character, Alex, while out asteroid mining, snags what appears to be an alien ship entering his solar system. The ship appears dead at first, but Alex soon makes contact with the ship’s AI, who reminds me a little of Mike from “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

The adventures soon put Alex in a leadership role and challenge his abilities and force him to grow up.

“The Silver Ships” is a fun read, good science fiction with interesting characters. There are a few plot coincidences (right person in the right place at the right time…), but the story doesn’t suffer and I’m eager to see what’s next from S.H. Jucha.

Besides, the universe is a big place and coincidences are bound to happen. 🙂

Enjoy!

“Hit List” Lawrence Block

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Hit List by Lawrence Block is the second book featuring the assassin for hire Keller. Hit Man is the first book with Keller and an excellent book. Read Linda’s review here. Hit List is also very good, and follows a similar format as the first book.

In Hit List, the old man upstairs is dead, so Dot and Keller are on their own. Keller is still the obsessed philatelist and is still relationship challenged. To make matters worse, Keller finds out his occupation is pre-ordained, or written in the stars. And while still coming to terms with his karmic conundrum, someone is trying to kill him!

Great story and great characters. Block has a gift for creating interesting and diverse characters.

The only criticism for this book would be the dialogs with Dot. The interaction between the characters is important, and was perfect in the first book. In Hit Man, Keller was much more introspective and self analyzing, but Hit List seems to be more about his interaction with Dot and the other characters.

Still an excellent book and looking forward to reading the next Keller adventure.