Category Archives: Uncategorized

RIVER ROAD by Carol Goodman-Not A Dead End

John: About half way through, I thought the plot–a woman whose daughter is killed by a car–was over. Then she is accused of killing another girl on the same road and is denied tenure.

Spanky: The author goes deeper and deeper into the theme. The woman is an alcoholic and the second girl her student, who is on drugs.

John: As the story drifts to the drug culture I wondered how it would all end. But it all makes sense and we get back to the death of her daughter.


The Lady Who Sang High “Not a Life Changer”


The Lady Who Sang High by Renee Pawlish

JOHN: This series has a lot going for it. It takes place in Denver and the process of growing weed is one not familiar to most readers. Also the undercover detective is a big film noir fan and we get a touch of that throughout (but not enough to put off non-noir people). Also there are his neighbors, The Goofball Brothers, who don’t have much of a role but are an entertaining contrast when they do. Then there is a computer “hacker” kept at a distance for technically challenged readers. And Reed Furguson’s disparigning parents who are coming for a visit and his live-in girl friend.


JOHN: The book keeps going but doesn’t change my life.

SPANKY: So your saying that despite everything, turn-offs and turn-ons that keep the plot going, when it is over and nothing has changed for you, therefore the book has not accomplished what you expected.

JOHN: Nothing has changed me.


The Fortress by Danielle Trussoni – “Over and Done”


JOHN: Most people don’t want to read, or think, about love being over. We have a Hollywood, TV view of “happily ever after.”

SPANKY: Not this book. We see love growing and dying.

JOHN: I have visited Bulgaria and the south of France, that’s what drew me to this book. But I will never see them the same way now, yet…

SPANKY: She loves her husband, they divorce, fight over kids, their home together in a fortress in Southern France.

JOHN: But at the end she comes back to what was, years ago, and the places they lived. Readers come back too. This is a difficult, even painful story, yet it is one we have lived.


MURDER IN NICE by Susan Kiernan-Lewis – “Not Nice”


JOHN: I love the south of France. And the details of it in this book are fantastic, even without a rather involved murder plot.

SPANKY: The crew travel France making a TV program in which three women are vying for a lead. Unfortunately one is murdered and her friend, now a new mother with a French hot-tempered vineyard owner husband. feels compelled to solve the case.

JOHN: But her brother and his wife come to visit the vineyard owner’s wife, who she has been estranged from for several years. He was on the tour, but has a hidden reason to visit and talk with the husband.

SPANKY: It all turns out in the end with, of course, the least suspicious character being the murderer.

JOHN: But the layers of plot make sense, and the background setting is perfect.


STAY by Allie Larkin – You’ll Want To


JOHN: The cover is misleading. Oh, there’s a dog in the story but mostly it’s about a woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend for the wealthy daughter of woman who the narrator’s own mother worked for. 

The narrator gets drunk and buys a 100 lb puppy of the internet for $5,000 from Slovackia. She falls in love with the dog’s American vet.

SPANKY: I like it that you choose a book with a dog on the cover.

JOHN: The vet eventually drops her and the non-English understanding dog is all she has.

SPANKY: The End.

JOHN: No, just when I’d about given up on the woman she has it out with the guy’s new wife and her mother (who was friends with her mother even though she worked for her).

There are stories festering under a rather formulaic plot and the last hundred pages deal with these in a very meaningful way.

SPANKY: So things turn out.

JOHN: Maybe even better than we ever imagined they would (though she also wants to make amends with the vet). 




PAGE TURNER – Browsings by Michael Dirda



JOHN: This is a remarkable group of magazine columns on older books.

SPANKY: So, what do you remember? What do you take away from reading this?

JOHN: No specifics. Maybe there is one classic in a thousand I actually read, but the author presents the wold of books, browsing and used book stores. I is past but he lets us remember and wish for it again.

SPANKY: Check out your own book shelves. How many of these volumes have you gone back to, why do you keep them decorating your walls?

JOHN: Maybe that’s it. We always want more. Believe the next novel will be like our past discoveries. And when its not, we remember that prior book, reading that prior book discussing that prior book. Our idealized self.


JOHN: And, for a moment, we have someone who shared this view, and we feel we’re in heaven.5-out-of-5_edited-1

“Heaven itself will resemble a vast used bookstore, with a really good cafe in one corner, serving Guinness and kielbasa to keep up one’s strength while browsing. And all my old friends will be there.” – Michael Dirda

SPANKY: Sorry, I just don’t relate.

The Nice Guys – “Finish First”


John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.

JOHN: My friend Bob, who invited me to lunch and this movie (lunch served to recliner seats inside the theater), says Russell Crowe put on 60 pounds for the role he plays to make him seem kind of a has been for noir audiences.

SPANKY: Sounds a little like you may have gained 60 pounds too.

JOHN: Ryan Gosling smokes and drinks incessantly for the same reason, except he has a disapproving daughter, Angourie Rice, who is like a young Jodi Foster. She adds real feelings to a genre that usually sidesteps them.

SPANKY: This is another alteration to the noir tradition. The Nice Guys is the classic California noir of Hammett and Chandler, which the movie simultaneously reveres and satirizes. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that moments after a reference to a violent crime in a diner, we meet a character played by Crowe’s L.A. Confidential co-star, Kim Basinger.

JOHN: I have to say that I thought Robert Altman’s The Long Goodby marked the end of the film noir…but this one with its inspired, confusing plot, two great partners, LA setting, and an extra layer of meaning…marks its rebirth. We can’t wait for the next one. But The Nice Guys is not a movie for everyone. It is for those attuned to its sleazy vibe and sudden alternations between violence and slapstick.