Monday, January 5, 2015

Fat Ollie Weeks Joins the Detectives of the 87th Precinct

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

On a hot August afternoon, a man comes into the 87th Precinct demanding fast action on the investigation into a fire that destroyed his warehouse along with $500,000 worth of small carved wooden animals that were housed there. He insists that he has to get the insurance claim settled immediately so that he can afford to pay for the next shipment of animals that is already on the way from Germany.

About half of the precinct's detectives are on vacation, given that these are the dog days of summer, but Steve Carella, Cotton Hawes and the other detectives who are on duty promise to do what they can. The investigation turns out to be more complicated than your average arson case, though, especially when people start turning up dead. In addition to arsonists and killers, there are hookers and urban redevelopers running loose in the city and Carella and company have to get all these things sorted out before they can appease the guy who wants his insurance claim settled.

All in all, this is one of the more intriguing entries in this long-running series and this book is critical to the series because it introduces the character of Fat Ollie Weeks who will appear prominently in several books from here on out. Weeks is a miserable pig of a human being who does an awful impression of W. C. Fields, but he has great skills as a detective and so the other detectives of the 87th and the reader as well, will just have to grin and bear it. Another fun read from one of the masters.

A Whole Lotta Hormones

The Female BrainThe Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The way some men talk about women I'd assumed they'd think The Female Brain was a work of fiction, "'Cuzzin' womens ain't got none brains, heeyuck, heeyuck!" It's too bad that most of those guys are illiterate, because they're the ones that need to read this the most.

In The Female Brain, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine uses clinical research and the experience of counseling patients to examine how the many various hormones flowing through a woman's body may affect their actions and behavior. It covers the emotional development and brain processes of women through the various stages of their lives, beginning at the beginning with childhood, moving through the tumultuous teens and the horror that is puberty and progress through womanhood into old age.

The use of science to dissect human behavior is tricky since our moods, reactions, etc are slippery little fish. Brizendine's use of animal research raises validity questions (I.E. rats are not humans, so how can it apply?), however she is the first to admit that none of this is 100% pure, unadulterated fact. Just the same, there are some insights within The Female Brain that appear to be highly probable cause-effect truths, and even if they're not, this whole subject is still very fascinating!

I found the entire book entertaining and, admittedly, quite a bit of it to be enlightening, as I imagine it might be to most men. Even some women would do well to give this a read, because how often do you hear yourself say something like, "Sometimes I just don't understand my mother/daughter!"?

View all my reviews

Beautiful And Boring

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Like a beautiful picture book, The Night Circus is pretty and plot free.

The imagery is amazing. The story is not. There is nothing intriguing about "a challenge". All the important exposition (explained over static scenes) isn't even given to the reader until the later half of the book, well past my giving-a-shit point. If the challenge is a (view spoiler) one, put that info right up front!

The second-person interludes made me feel like I was reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If I had been, about half way through I would've been intentionally trying to kill myself off just to put an end to it.

Again, The Night Circus has some very beautifully written scenes with drool-worthy detail - Morgenstern really strived to put the reader into her circus - but once this reader was inside he soon bored of the eye candy.