Saturday, October 24, 2015

Book Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a best-selling American author of very funny travel memoirs,  as well as books on the English language and science.   Here he tells the story of his trek through the wilderness along the Appalachian Trail with a companion who is even more unprepared for the trek than is Bryson, himself.  

Both men are middle-aged, sadly out of shape, trying to carry heavy packs on their backs on a 2,200-mile trail that begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  Bryson and his companion have no outdoors experience, but Bryson, in particular, wants to enjoy the scenery before it is ruined by acid rain and over-population.  At times the two hikers are nearly defeated by the trail, but they are determined to reach their goal.  Bryson masterfully portrays the different hikers they encounter, which include students, senior citizens, Boy Scouts, and other adventurous trekkers, with his usual highly descriptive and humorous style. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bryson's grasp and use of the English language and grammar.  Perhaps, I have been reading entirely too many first run e-books that have failed the spell and grammar check options of the authors' computers.  Shortly before I started the book, I happened to see a preview of the movie adaptation and was never able to get the image of Nick Nolte out of my mind, as I read.  It was masterful casting for that character, but I much prefer to use my own imagination when reading.

I do have several issues with the book.  But, I will only elaborate on these two:   

Bryson seems to take issue with the fact that the Appalachian Trail never integrates with the rest of the areas it passes through as trails and paths do in most of western Europe.  He uses the example of paths in Luxembourg that connect "the whole of Luxembourg, not just its trees".  Having walked some of those Luxembourg paths, I do agree with the quoted words; but why can't the Trail stand on it's own merits without being tied to another landscape...which I feel it does.

He made a couple (or more ) comments about hillbillies being affected by "corn liquor and generations of profoundly unbiblical sex"  that almost caused me to throw away the book in defense of my Arkansas  Ozarks heritage.  It amazes me that a person of such cosmopolitan character and education can still exhibit such prejudicial stereotyping of a locale of which he obviously has no first-hand knowledge.

In spite of my criticisms , I do think the book a good read.  The Appalachian Trail should be experienced by every American, if only a mile or two, at a time.  Some readers have taken umbrage with the whining and complaining and the littering of the terrain with excess gear exhibited by the two main characters.  But, in defense of Bryson and the "Nick Nolte" character, this adventure was clearly an arduous and exhausting endeavor that few middle-aged, unprepared persons would even attempt, much less without some whining and complaining and questioning their sanity.  Even so, the littering of such a pristine wilderness was unsettling.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review of Predatory Kill

Legal Thriller: Predatory Kill

by Kenneth Eade


SYNOPSIS:  Brent Marks had paid his dues as a lawyer, having taken his share of divorces and drunk driving cases over his 20 year career, but had finally reached a place in his life where he could take on cases of social importance.  What he least expected was for April Marsh's predatory lending case against the big banks for wrongful foreclosure on her parent's home to turn into a murder investigation.  April’s parents were brutally attacked in their Santa Barbara home; her mother murdered and the only witness to the crime is her father, who survived the attack but is completely incapacitated.  The police have no leads, but April believes the predatory lender is behind it.  Are banks really that above the law?

This book really kept me involved, which was a surprise, as I generally become bored with courtroom proceedings.  Having been a juror, I certainly identified with Brent Marks' observation that he had to keep the jurors from lapsing into boredom induced unconsciousness.  He certainly succeeded with this story, which is fast-paced with plenty of action inside and outside of the courtroom.

As I am sure Mr. Eade intended, the book raised many disturbing questions about justice and the power of the banking industry.  Can a citizen ever hope to obtain complete justice over mega-business or must justice always be some type of compromise?

I really enjoyed this very thought-provoking story and look forward to reading more of Kenneth Eade's political and legal thrillers.  If I have any criticism of this book, it lies in the confusion I encountered with character names that were too similar in spelling or sound.

Just to reinforce Mr. Eade's message concerning mortgage fraud cases, here is a link to an article about a Sacramento CA trial in Aug 2014.

And, for Kindle readers, Amazon has this book for $.99 right now.  Hope you enjoy it.