Star Island

Book Jacket  4W, 3H

Hiaasen, Carl, (c. 2010). Star Island.  Alfred A. Knopf. 337 pages , $26.95.

ISBN: This key is a recommended rating system for books read in LIB 220 with Dr. Bodart.  The titles were changed to follow the theme of this blog.

Reviews:

L.A. Times, NY Times

Annotation:

Cherry Pye, the lip-synching, drug-addicted pop star, has a body double whose been kidnapped by a crazed paparazzo.  Can Cherry’s entourage save the double before anyone find outs she exists?

Summary:  

In Star Island, the main character, Ann DeLusia, is a double for a very messed up pop star, Cherry Pye.  Ann stands in for the pop star whenever Cherry is too wasted to show up in public or has to be whisked away to yet another detox center.  Add to this scenario an obsessed paparazzo, a crazed ex-governor with a soft spot for the mangrove swamps, unscrupulous music producers, a weed-whacking body guard and you have a vintage Hiaasen novel.

Ann, mistaken for Cherry, is kidnapped by the infatuated paparazzo, Bang Abbott.   She contacts Skink, the ex-governor, for help knowing that her welfare is not at the top the list for anyone riding the Cherry Pye money train,  namely Cherry’s parents, publicists and producer.  Filled with hi-jinks, capers, plots and thieving land-developers, Hiaasen doles out the justice as the characters race towards the final scene.

Evaluation:

When you pick up a Hiaasen you know that you are in for a wacky and wonderful ride.  In Star Island, he brings back two popular characters, Skink, the ex-governor of Florida (he was in office for about 5 minutes) and Chemo, the eight foot tall one-armed man who lost his arm to a barracuda.   To these intrepid individuals, he adds a list of characters that will keep you laughing and cringing throughout the escapades.  And although a straight up humorous tale, there is, unfortunately, more truth than fiction is his depiction of Cherry Pye’s stardom and the lengths to which people will go to make it shine.  This is another winner.

Genre/Subgenre:

Mystery/Humorous

Awards:

  • Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2010

Readalikes:

The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Susan McBride.

Turnpike Flameout by Eric Dezenhall

Book Discussion Questions:

1. There are two recurring characters in this book, Skink and Chemo.  What do they represent to Hiaasen and what is their appeal?

2. Hiaasen’s characters dole out all kinds of punishment for various reasons.  Which character receives the worst of it and why did Hiaasen set it up this way?

3.  Is there anything likable about Cherry Pye?

4. Based on Anne’s choices in the epilogue, how do we know that she still has her head on straight?

Reasons for selection:

After reading a Hiaasen selection for another class, I was eager to pick one of his adult books for this class.  I was not disappointed.  I enjoy satirical, quirky, straightforward characters and Hiaasen’s take on pop-culture was wonderfully validating.  I would recommend a Carl Hiaasen, Christoper Moore and Elmore Leonard all in the same breath.

Snapper

  4W, 3H

Kimberling, Brian, (c. 2013). Snapper.  Pantheon Books. 210 pages , $24.95.

ISBN:  978-0-307-90805-6

Reviews
NPR, The Boston Globe

Annotation:

Nathan stumbles in and out of his memories as he studies the songbirds of southern Indiana telling the tale of his journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Summary:  

Nathan Lochmuller discovers that he has a gift for tracking songbirds and spends his post-graduate years in southern Indiana as a research assistant doing just that.  The pay is poor but he loves the “office”.  Told in a series of short stories, Nathan exposes his unrequited love for the evasive, yet alluring Lola and shares experiences from his youth that have helped to shape him into the man he is learning to become.  A lyrical and absorbing tale, the past and present fit neatly together as Nathan introduces the characters that have become his world.

Evaluation:

This is the story of a young man’s coming of age, told from the perspective of an older man reminiscing about his days as a birdwatcher in the woods of southern Indiana.  The summary does not do justice to the pull of this novel that takes you from the misadventures of bored teenagers to the random letter writing at the truck stop outside the town of Santa Claus.  Kimberling’s debut novel is beautifully written with engaging characters.   This is one that definitely lingers after reading it knowing that it’s not about getting what you want but about wanting what you get.

Genre/Subgenre:

Mainstream Fiction

Awards:

Booklist Editor’s Choice – Best Fiction Books-2013

Readalikes:

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender.

Lightning by Jean Echenoz

Book Discussion Questions:

1.  Animals play an important part in this story, especially birds.  How do you think the animals help define the different characters and situations?  How does Kimberling use them to make the characters more three dimensional?

2.  “I got my job by accident” is the opening line for the novel.  How does this set the tone for the entire book and help initially define the main character, Nathan?

3.  Nathan’s relationships come and go over time.  How would you characterize them?  How do his relationships evolve as the story unfolds?

4.  Would you consider Snapper a series of short stories or a novel?  How do you define a story?  Can you write , as Ernest Hemingway did, a story in just six words?

5.  Why did he call the novel, “Snapper”?

Reasons for selection:

This book is part of Nancy Pearl’s 2013 “Books that make great gifts” list.  Admittedly I was far more intrigued by the cover than I was by the summary and picked it up from the shelf because I had recognized it.  Like many on this list, I’m glad I did.  I enjoyed Kimberling’s take on life in Indiana and his lyrical writing depicting the beauty of the country.

Purgatory Ridge

  3W, 3H  —  Audio Book

Krueger, William Kent. (p.2001). Purgatory Ridge.  Spokane, WA; Books in Motion. 12 audio discs (13 hr). $69.00.  Read by Jerry Sciarrio.

ISBN #: 1581167733

Reviews:

Publishers Weekly; Kirkus Review

Annotation:  

When Cork O’Connor’s family is kidnapped along with that of wealthy industrialist, Karl Lindstrom’s, Cork must figure out the real motive before more people die.

Summary:  

A bombing and subsequent murder of an Indian elder at the local lumber mill causes even more tension among the people of Aurora, Minnesota.   Due to an environmental uproar over the planned destruction of 300 year old trees sacred to the Anishinaabe/Ojibwe Tribe, Our Grandfathers, the town has been overrun by outside environmental groups, most notably “Echo Warrior” who has claimed responsibility for the bombing.  Karl Lindstrom, the lumber mill owner, has been at the center of the controversy and hires Cork to look into “Echo Warrior” on the side.  Since Cork is part Ojibwe and had been the Sheriff in Aurora a couple years back, Karl knew that Cork could be trusted to straddle the communities to get to the bottom of it.  When both Cork’s and Karl’s families are kidnapped, Cork must rely on his own intuition to determine who is behind the abductions and the true motivations of the criminal.

Evaluation:

Krueger does not disappoint with this third edition in his Cork O’Connor series.  The story starts off with a bang, literally, with the bombing and death of an elder tribe member.  The reader is effectively led into believing certain truths but then the author draws the reader back to take a different view of the surrounding events.   As with Krueger’s first two novels in the series, the wilderness comes alive in Purgatory Ridge as water, trees and weather play a part in the mayhem surrounding Cork’s quest to free his family.  And although the mystery is not so much of a who-done-it, readers will enjoy the twists and turns taken to culminate the tale.

Jerry Sciarrio’s reading is engaging and believable.  The characters are clearly defined and his straightforward delivery helps articulate the honor behind the words spoken by the Ojibwe tribe.

Genre/Subgenre:

Mystery

Readalikes:

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Tularosa by Michael McGarrity

 Awards/Lists:

Minnesota Book Award: Genre Fiction

Dilys Award

Northeast Minnesota Book Award

Book Discussion Questions:

There are a lot of crimes in this story.  How did you feel about their resolution?  Did Krueger do a good job of wrapping things up?

What role did Echo Warrior play in this story?

Krueger’s criminals have different motivations.  Were they clearly delineated?

Reasons for selection:

This is the third book in Krueger’s Corcoran O’Connor mystery series.  The atmosphere of the Minnesota North-west is beautifully described letting the reader envelope themselves in the bleak, cold, crisp settings.  The O’Connor family is simultaneously warm and flawed which develops nicely through the series.  I am always drawn to modern mysteries in natural environments and Krueger’s stories are a bulls-eye.