Book Briefs

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Daddy's Girl

Take one rich, middle-aged lady law professor living a nice, but boring life.

Daddy’s Girl
By Lisa Scottoline
Harper Collins. $25.95. 352 pp.
2/5 Stars

Add one handsome, maverick law professor whose life is anything but dull.

Now, put the two in the middle of a deadly prison riot, stir the plot and voilá, you have the makings of Lisa Scottoline’s latest novel.

I’ve been a Scottoline fan since the late 1990’s. She creates strong, female characters. Scottoline, an attorney and law professor herself is from an old-line Philadelphia family, so she has a lot in common with Natalie Greco, her heroine this time around.

While the book does not lack for action, it leaves a lot to be desired. The coincidences are just a little too over the top. Greco never sleeps or eats while solving the crime. The bad guys are way too obvious and the mystery is solved just a little too neatly. 

It’s not a bad way to spend an evening. Just don’t pick up “Daddy’s Girl” thinking it’s great fiction. 

Better to be prepared than disappointed.

An Unreasonable Woman

It took about two weeks to read this true story about a one-woman crusade against  the pollution of her part of the Texsa Gulf Coast. I took two weeks not because the book was that bad, but because it was that good.

An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas
By Diane Wilson
Chelsea Green Publishing. 
$27.50. 400 pp. 
5/5 Stars

I wanted to experience every moment as Diane Wilson took on the mighty Formosa plastics giant, fought corruption all the way to Washington, went on hunger strikes, traveled half way around the world and finally made a significant dent in the pollution that was killing her beloved shrimping waters along the Texas Gulf Coast. 

Diane Wilson made a difference. With this book, the world can now read about it from her own pen, not ghost written and packaged for a "target market." Her voice is fresh and almost raw and it grabbed me from page one all the way through the epilogue. 

Kudos to Wilson. Wish there were more like her. 


Simple Genius

Maybe David Baldacci never heard the adage, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."�

Simple Genius
By David Baldacci 
Warner Books. 
$26.99. 420 pp.
1/5 Stars

He ruined his latest book by overloading it with too many plots, strange twists and red herrings.�

Let's start with the plots. In the first few pages, one of Baldacci's main characters does a great imitation of a suicide attempt. She ends up staring at a long time in therapy.�

Then, the author sends his other main character to look into the real suicide of a top-notch quantum physicist.�

Will the partner get well with the help of a Hell's Angels-wannabe therapist? Did the genius really off himself or did he have help? What's going on in the strange place/think tank where the genius lived?�

Had Baldacci addressed just these three issues, the "broth" would have stayed clear, clean and crisp. But, no. He keeps adding stuff.�

�What of the departed's strange child, left in the care of a woman with an aluminum leg? Who is the mysterious woman in the bar? Why does the government seem to be the enemy? Who's the grizzled Viet Nam vet who seems determined to bring our hero down?�

As if this wasn't enough, Baldacci starts with the red herrings. 

Why did the secondary character end up at the bottom of his bathtub? What does the leader of the think tank have to do with the drowning? What is going on at the Naval Reserve just across the river? Can the think tank crack an ancient code? Will they be able to create an atomic computer? Will a treasure chest full of gold and jewels be found? 

The final question here is: Who cares? 

Baldacci is better than this. "Simple Genius" is a perfect example of overkill (pun intended): Too many plots; too many twists; too many red herrings leave the reader with a colossal headache from trying to keep up with it all. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God

This book was made into a TV movie, starring Haley Berry. The only time the film even came close to tapping into the brillance of Zora Neale Hurston’s story was when Berry floats in a pool of crystal clear water as she stares up at God. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Zora Neale Hurston
Harper Classics. $15.95. 256 pp.
5/5 Stars

I found Hurston  when I was in graduate school. Her books are great reads, but this one is truly special. 

When Alice Walker’s book, "The Color Purple," was published, I couldn’t understand all the buzz. Hurston told the story first, and she told it better. 

Why hasn't she become a part on everyone’s “must read” list? Why did she die in poverty? Why did Walker have to purchase a marker for Hurston's grave? 

It just doesn't make sense. Someone this good should be praised in the media and touted by critics.�

It was encouraging to learn that parts of� �Dust Tracks on a Road,� Hurston�s autobiography, are being taught in the public schools.�

Note: Do not quit reading if you have difficulty with the dialogue. Keep at it and you'll eventually find Hurston's rhythm. It's there in every line.�


Fluke: Or I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings

I had a ball reading this book. Christopher Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” and “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” are fun reads, too.

Fluke: Or I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings
By Christopher Moore
Algonquin. $24.95. 408 pp.
4/5 Stars

Moore is a New Age Hunter Thompson. Irreverent. Cheeky. Cynical. And thought-provoking. 

Set in Maui, “Fluke” centers around a professional whale researcher who sees the words “Bite Me” on the tail of a humpback whale. Of course, he was the only one who saw it and the pictures he took didn't turn out, so he has to prove to himself that he's not going crazy from too much time in a boat. 

Moore has filled his book with rich characters, a mostly plausible plot and some really wild adventures. 

Moore has many gifts, but the one that shines brightest is his skewed view of what most of us see as normal. He makes his readers pause and think: "Could this really happen?" 

Warning: Moore writes for a mature audience and his stories push the envelope. There’s a reason why he’s compared to the late gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson. He’s raw and edgy.  


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