Monday, September 1, 2014

Lucas Davenport Chases a Fiendish Killer and Debates the 100 Best Songs of the Rock Era

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This is another very entertaining entry in John Sandford's long-running Prey series, featuring Lucas Davenport. As most crime fiction fans know, Lucas worked his way up through the Minneapolis P.D. chasing a variety of twisted, violent killers. Now he's followed his boss, Rose Marie Roux, into a state job that allows, or requires, him to work high profile cases all over the state.

This one poses a serious challenge and pits Davenport against one of the most clever and ruthless killers he's ever faced. And unlike most of the Prey novels, even the reader doesn't know who the killer is until Davenport learns the truth very near the end of the book.

The case begins when a young woman is found murdered. The victim had been been sadistically whipped with what appears to be a barbed-wire lash before her throat was cut. Her body was then left naked and on display near a river bank. It's clear that a violent maniac is at work and the case is high profile enough to demand Davenport's attention, assisted by his long-time team member, Sloan, who is still working homicide for the Minneapolis PD and who draws the case.

Shortly thereafter, another victim, this time a male, is found raped, scourged and murdered in a similar fashion. In an unbelievable stroke of luck, though, blood found under the fingernails of the second victim provides a DNA match with a sex offender named Charlie Pope who was recently released from a state mental institution. Pope is now in the wind and the chase is on.

What follows is a genuine page-turner with a variety of unexpected twists and turns. The tension rises from the git-go and is broken only by one of Sandford's most entertaining subplots. Davenport's wife, Weather, has given him a new iPod. (The book was first published in 2005, only a few years after the device was introduced.) She's also given him a gift certificate for 100 songs. Lucas is determined to load the iPod with the one hundred best songs of the Rock Era and throughout the book, everyone has suggestions for the list. The discussions are often hilarious and one could debate the final list, which is added as an appendix, into eternity. All in all, it's a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Gardening For Dumbasses

Gardening Basics for DummiesGardening Basics for Dummies by Steven A. Frowine
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Me: Smell that? You smell that?
NobodyEver: What?
Me: Flowers, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. *kneels* I love the smell of flowers in the morning.

Don't feel dumb if you're stupid, not when it comes to gardening. Plants are precocious. As green of a thumb as you think you have, there's always a chance that no matter what you do you'll likely kill a plant or two. I've read a few of these gardening books and I've talked to knowledgable experts, and dammit, I still lose an azalea now and then. Hardy Mexican Patunias wilt under my hand. Impossible-to-kill succulents get themselves killed on my watch.

Gardening Basics for Dummies is aptly titled. This book has the basics laid out for beginners. In case it didn't sink in the first time, it repeats the basics time and again from chapter to chapter. I'm a bonafide brownthumb but even I only need to be told how to plant something in the same exact manner just once…okay, maybe twice…but not a dozen times!

IMO, too much time is also spent in garden design suggestions, replete with extensive diagrams. Looks a lot like page-filler to me.

Another issue is that the scope of gardening in general is very large. This book is meant to cover all of the U.S., which encompasses many varied climates. Yet it assumes throughout that you will have to prepare your plants for a frost season. Well, where I live we don't get frost. We get searing heat in midsummer, but there's no mention of how to prepare for that in Gardening Basics for Dummies.

However, there is plenty of helpful tips that if implemented will better your chances for a successful garden, whether it be flowers, vegetables, shrubs, berries, fruit trees, etc. Both annuals and perennials are given lengthy sections. Roses and bulbs, too. Hell, even grass gets its own fat chapter!

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Gallery Showing for the Artist Martin

ShopgirlShopgirl by Steve Martin
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Welcome to Steve Martin's gallery of portraits!

The subject is the vacuous LA social scene.

First up and the focal point of the show: Mirabelle Buttersfield

Miss Buttersfield is a wallflower coming into her own. She works at a high-end clothing store. Her thoughts on romance and relationships are juvenile.

Next we have a brief study on Jeremy.

He begins as a slacker an evolves into a more successful bit of trite pomposity. His thoughts on romance and relationships are juvenile.

The next subject is a catalyst for change within the arch of Martin's intended scope for this show: Ray Porter

Ray is too wealthy for his own good. It leaves him with too much time on his hands. His thoughts on romance and relationships are juvenile.

Aside from the above, a number of minor works fill out the show.

Critics have lambasted Martin's portraits as non-representative of the true human experience. Those people probably haven't met a Los Angeles socialite, a being who believes that who you know, who you fuck and who you wear is of paramount importance. Some have attacked Martin himself, as if laying blame on him for his subjects' vapid thoughts and actions. This is unfair.

For this reviewer, the portraits themselves are not the problem, it's the overall story that this collection presents that makes the work as a body fall apart. Or perhaps it would be more poignant to say that it falls on its face. As a whole it fails to "move". They are, after all, portraits. They do not move, not themselves nor the viewer.

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