Sunday, November 12, 2017

Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen


Jack Tagger is obsessed with death. As an obit writer at the local newspaper, he knows which celebrities have died at a certain age and wonders if he can outlive them. Jack didn't always work on obits. He was relegated to that desk when he told the new newspaper owners that they were killing the paper for profits.

Jack learns that the lead singer of a band he liked back in the day, the Slut Puppies, has passed away Jack sets out to write the obit. He contacts the widow and the sister and gets two completely different stories. Printing what he can for his deadline, Jack knows this isn't the end of his story. Something is off. Investigating further, he finds that the singer never had an autopsy. Was he murdered?

Jack is a pretty interesting character to be leading a mystery novel. He is self deprecating and pretty down to earth, which is the opposite of most cops that solve mysteries. It was a nice change of pace for a mystery. The romantic interest was a little awkward and off putting but other than that a pretty good novel.

First Line: "Regarding the death of James Bradley Stomarti; what first catches my attention is his age."


Friday, November 03, 2017

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler


Peter Hessler starts in China as an English teacher, eventually moving his way over to journalism. He keeps in contact with his students and their stories are brought to life in this book. He uses these stories to tell a bit about China's past and teach the reader about more recent history. For example, he has a student move to Shenzen and get a job at a factory there. Peter tells the recent history of Shenzen and how it is an experimental city, built with many factories that have attracted young people to come work. This makes it different from many other cities in China as it is one city where the younger generation isn't living with their family.

There are lots of interesting stories like this interspersed in the book. I learned a lot about the Uighurs, a group I had no knowledge of before. Peter describes then as having similar problems as the Tibetans but without the Dalai Lama to make their plight more well known.

At times, this book could be a bit slow and too detailed. There were also times where Peter would start to examine one subject, stop, and come back to it later 50 pages. It at times made for a disjointed read. However it told an interesting story of an unknown China to me.

First Line: "From Beijing to Anyang - from the modern capital to the city known as the cradle of ancient Chinese civilization - it takes six hours by train."