On The Dunes

Loopers (nook book)

Caddyshack

Loopers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odyssey by John Dunn (Broadway Books, $15.00, 279 pages)

He dug into his golf bag, pulled out a little rolled-up zip-lock sandwich bag, and handed it to me. Then he pulled out a pair of glow-in-the-dark golf balls and four fresh light sticks. I opened the ziplock bag and peered inside. It contained two big, perfectly formed magic mushrooms – powdery white with purple veins running down the stems. Carlo smiled. “Psychedelic night golf!”

I had hoped that this book would provide some interesting and inspirational insights into the maddening and fascinating sport of golf. I had found such insights in two earlier published books, Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros by Tom Coyne, and Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf by John Feinstein. Unfortunately, John Dunn’s work falls quite a bit short of the standard set by Coyne and Feinstein. (He fails to make par.)

Loopers is basically a lightweight diversion by a man who seems to have never matured. And instead of being a tribute to the traditional game of golf, Dunn tries to convince the reader that strange and amateur variations of the sport are to be admired. Believe it or not, he advocates the virtues of golfing, alone, in the overly heated deserts of Utah and Nevada, and of playing golf at night while high on alcohol and drugs. You might think he’s joking but he’s not: “…backcountry golf and mushroom night golf are as true to the nature of the game as any stuffy country club championship.” Nonsense. (The statement sounds dumb and dumber.)

Dunn has apparently read a bit too much of Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) – who appears to be one of his key role models, and he loves to use the word psychedelic. He does tell a few interesting tales based on his work as a caddie all over the United States but they simply do not go anywhere. The book has no theme, no structure, and no “feel”. And yet it’s Dunn who writes: “This is the part of the game (of golf) that is hard for nongolfers to see. You have to play it to feel it.”

Far better to spend one’s time tackling the classic and challenging game of golf than attempting to read this confused collection of meandering, trippy stories.

Joseph Arellano

A complimentary copy of this book was received in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books ( http://www.bloggingforbooks.org/ ).

You can read reviews of the books by Tom Coyne and John Feinstein here:

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/the-ragged-tiger/

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/glorious-golf/

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Loopers

A review of Loopers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Odyssey by John Dunn.

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Everything is Broken

Everything to Lose (nook book)

Everything to Lose (alternate cover)

Everything to Lose: A Novel by Andrew Gross (William Morrow, $26.99, 336 pages)

Hilary Jeanine Cantor’s fall from grace is steep and rapid in Andrew Gross’s eighth novel (not counting those he co-wrote with James Patterson) Everything to Lose. She handles things in such a matter-of-fact manner that one wonders if this is her first experience dealing with a handicapped child, a divorce, job loss, money laundering, international mafia, prison, kidnapping, bankruptcy, and the death of a potential beau.

In the midst of losing her job, and with no help from her husband in sight, she stumbles upon a car accident that sets into motion a series of events. At the crash site, she makes a quick and desperate decision to take a briefcase that contains a half million dollars in cash. This action leads to her entanglement with Russian gangsters, a corrupt politician, several unsolved murders, and families whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The impetus for her is a desire to help her son, Brandon – who is afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, remain in a private school. The bad guys trace her, as the reader will no doubt predict (there’s not much of a story, otherwise), and Hilary manages to stay one step ahead of every other character in the book; most of whom are dying almost as fast as one can say Prince Charming. A policeman named Patrick Kelty makes an attempt to serve as Hilary’s protector.

The story is written in a crisp fashion that keeps the reader turning the page. It’s enjoyable on its face, but has some problems. It is quite hard to feel sorry for the rich divorcee when her world begins to crumble, and it takes a pretty good imagination to stick with her as she morphs from from comptroller for a marketing firm to sleuth extraordinaire. Also, while there are novels that shift perspective – in which the story is told from multiple points of view – it seems a bit awkward and amateurish here. A writer as seemingly accomplished as Gross should be able to pick and stick with a single narrative voice.

Compared to other suspense/thriller/crime mystery novels I’ve read, this one is above average.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

You can read a review of Eyes Wide Open: A Novel by Andrew Gross here:

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/these-eyes/

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Everything to Lose (audiobook)

A review of Everything to Lose: A Novel by Andrew Gross.

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Doing Battle

What Strange Creatures (nook book)

What Strange Creatures: A Novel by Emily Arsenault (William Morrow, $14.99, 368 pages)

I did not intend to read this book. I picked it up while I was heating something to eat and, boom, I was hooked. This is the story of a divorced graduate student, Theresa Battle – about five years past her PhD completion date, whose younger ne’er-do-well brother has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. The problem is that her brother lied to the police during the homicide investigation; he actually stalked his own girlfriend when she went out of town, thinking she was meeting an old flame. He had the means, motive and opportunity to kill her.

Author Emily Arsenault draws the reader in with a very calm, focused style. It’s almost as if one’s watching the story unfold in slow motion, but everything about it seems real – from the dialogue to the people involved, and their pets. This is not a book for those who want action on every page – I put that type of book down to read this one, without regret.

The reader will wonder whether Battle can free her brother since his plight involves a very powerful individual out to protect himself at all costs. It’s worth reading What Strange Creatures to find out.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday, June 22, 2014.

Emily Arsenault.jpg

“Arsenault writes a smart tale about a character who finds it hard to save herself, but will do anything to save her brother.” Jacqueline R. Sheehan, New York Times bestselling author of Lost and Found.

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What Strange Creatures

A preview-review of What Strange Creatures: A Novel by Emily Arsenault, which will be released on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

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The Pied Piper

art of neil gaiman (nook book)

The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell (Harper Design, $39.99, 320 pages)

Neil Gaiman describes his work as making stuff up and writing it down.

Where to begin? The perfect biographer, the physical book (a large one), the captivating stories and their history coalesce to provide the fortunate reader with the feeling of truly experiencing Neil Gaiman. Audrey Niffenegger, author of the ghost story Her Fearful Symmetry and fellow Brit, sets the mood for Hayley Campbell’s thorough exploration into the evolution of Gaiman, to date.

If there is one thing that characterizes Gaiman as a writer (and McKean as an artist for that matter), it’s that he likes to keep moving on, a habit that was no doubt born during his time as a journalist and seeing writers being trapped in boxes from which they can never escape.

I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Neil Gaiman. The only work of Gaiman’s that I’ve read – and it happened in one sitting, is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The provocative little novel piqued my curiosity. Who would write in this style and what sort of person are they in everyday life?

art of neil gaiman (alt)

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Biographer (and model) Campbell establishes her bona fides by explaining that she met Gaiman in 1992 when she was just six years old. He was a houseguest and, based on her dad’s enthusiasm at the visit, she knew he was special. Oh, and he was the author of her favorite childhood story. Their friendship has continued to the present. Campbell had free run of the vast archive of his work, mostly stored in the attic of his home.

The Art of Neil Gaiman is appropriately named. Gaiman made conscious and sometimes not-so-conscious decisions to become a writer. At times he took odd assignments to provide himself with food and shelter. Regardless of the job outcomes, it is clear that Gaiman searches for the lesson and value in his experiences. As a writer for magazines, he learned to quickly produce a finished piece. His habit of taking notes of ideas as they occur to him has provided him with a wealth of material.

The numerous illustrations are widely varied – photocopies of scribbled notes, childhood pictures, sketches for various projects and illustrations from finished works. The book is easy to read and engaging. Each page entertains the reader.

I savored the vignettes along with meals. There was no urgency as one feels with a mystery novel. The unfolding tale of Gaiman’s development as an artist is fascinating. The sections are arranged in quasi-chronological order. Some contain parallel time frames but different aspects of his development as a writer.

So, just what sort of person is this artist in everyday life? Neil Gaiman has a genuine appreciation of readers as well as being a kind person. Oh, and his imagination is boundless!

This book will remain a permanent part of my library.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

You can read a review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (by Neil Gaiman) here:

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/i-am-a-child/

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