Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wordcraft – Books and reviews to mix & match

The first time I noticed my ranking among Amazon’s reviewers, I was 1 million plus something. And I thought – wow, Amazon even has algorithms for ranking reviewers? Of course, I set my sights on #1, only to find that top rated reviewers gain their status by reviewing everything. In fact, thousands of everythings. Including baby shampoo. (The package was in good shape, it arrived quickly and the shampoo cleaned the reviewer’s hair nicely! A 5-star review!)
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I decided to stick to reviewing books, occasionally posting reviews on this blog as well.  As I contemplated more book reviews for 2017, I enjoyed looking back at reviews posted in the past 12 months and thought – why not do a brief share with readers? Here are the openings of my reviews of several recent books by Texas authors and their titles/authors. See how many you can match. Better yet -- read the books for yourselves!

Review openings:

1)      Psychopaths make the best villains – in life as in fiction. But a psychopath as a main character? That’s what this Texas author has accomplished with a book whose anti-hero flashes the glibness and charm (superficial though they may be) of a true psychopath in a way that will have readers cheering for him against their will.

2)      Jane Austen fans can have Elizabeth Bennet – my fav Austen heroine is Emma Woodhouse. Yes, that Emma, the insufferable know-it-all who tries to fit her friends into incongruous romances while remaining blissfully unaware of her own admirer, her almost equally know-it-all brother-in-law George Knightley. So I was delighted to find the Emma-Knightley trope still alive and well on the plains of West Texas.

3)      Shortly after Saving Private Ryan appeared in movie theaters, I was aghast to hear that one of my co-workers had taken her then-teenage son to see it. She did it, she said, to keep him from getting any ideas that war was glamorous. Then came 9/11, and wars when both civilians and soldiers die – or sometimes worse, live – without any thought of glamour, under circumstances of almost unimaginable, unremitting horror. Those are the kinds of wars this Texas author writes about.

4)      The latest installment in this Texas writer’s series of thrillers starring an ex-CIA agent is the story of a plot to assassinate an autocratic, plutocratic ex-KGB agent who happens to be president of Russia. Readers may rest assured that the Russian president in question is completely fictional. Any resemblance between him and current Russian president and billionaire ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin is, of course, purely coincidental.

5)      A tall handsome stranger rides into a small Texas town just vacated by a corrupt law enforcement official. It’s the classic Western scenario, lovingly but devastatingly updated for the 21st century by this Texas author. But unlike the horse opera versions of the story, this hero can’t ride a horse, dislikes getting his city slicker shoes dirty, and has no patience for cows. And he comes with a load of modern-day angst – a wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, a previous job he left under a cloud, and an angry teenage son.

6)      One spring day in 1940, a 29-year-old West Virginia coal miner went to work as usual. Wearing his carbide lantern helmet, carrying his dinner bucket, he said goodbye to his wife and three children, the youngest a five-month-old infant. His family would never see him alive again. In compensation for his death, the mining company paid his widow one thousand dollars. It also ordered her to clear out of the little company house she rented, because on the first day, the family of the miner who would take her dead husband’s place was moving in.
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            A)    Stillwater, by Melissa Lenhardt
B)    The First Order, by Jeff Abbott
C)    Steel Will, by Shilo Harris
D)    Interference, by Kay Honeyman
E)     Running on Red Dog Road, by Drema Hall Berkheimer
F)     Hollow Man, by Mark Pryor

(Answers: 1, F; 2, D; 3, C; 4, B;5, A; 6, E)

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