Brief Takes: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote


I can now see why this book is considered such a classic in true crime literature. Capote rather empathetically imagines the points of view of almost everyone involved: the victims, the killers, neighbors, friends, lawyers, etc., but without sentimentality. He captures the time and place wonderfully, and the narrative structure – revealing the motive for the crime at the end of the book – creates suspense and tension in the reader. Surprisingly, his analysis of the killers’ motives would stand up to today’s theories of mass murderers’ and serial killer’s psychological profiles


Brief Takes: Waking Brigid, by Francis Clark


I thought this was a wonderful novel about how different modes of spirituality handle extreme supernatural problems. It is sympathetic and respectful to Catholicism and paganism. It is also a fun page-turner, involving Satan worshipers, the Catholic Church, psychics and Voudoun priestesses in the hothouse environment of Savannah, which readers of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” will remember with fondness.

I was very disappointed to discover this author had only written one other novel before his recent untimely death. I had been looking forward to reading more of his work.

Brief Takes: Blood Noir (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 16), by Laurell K. Hamilton


Another disappointing Anita Blake novel with more sex than supernatural shenanigans.  Once again, Anita’s ability to raise the dead and help the police solve inhuman mysteries takes a back seat to her love life.

Brief Takes: The Outlaw Demon Wails (The Hollows, Book 6), by Kim Harrison


Another well-written novel that takes place in an alternative universe in which supernatural beings like demons, vampires and witches have come out of the closet, and exist side-by-side with humans. This is as much fun – and maybe more – than the Anita Blake books used to be.  The red-headed protagonist, Rachel Morgan, is one of my favorite characters.  The novelist reveals the character’s flaws even as she writes from the unsuspecting protagonist’s viewpoint.  Plus, the demons are rockin’.

Brief Takes: Duma Key: A Novel, by Stephen King


One of King’s better efforts about memory, age, connections, hauntings, curses, and dysfunctional families. I had a hard time getting past the downer beginning about a man whose life has completely fallen apart, but loved it once it started rolling.  Get ready for ghost ships and pirates.

Brief Takes: Pastwatch: the Redeption of Christopher Columbus, by Orson Scott Card



Fantastic telling of the Christopher Columbus saga from an alternative future narrative, about hard choices, playing God, and finding the meaning of your own life. Contains fascinating historical and scientific theories.  One of my favorites from Orson Scott Card, author of the Ender Saga.

Brief Takes: Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker


This story — a sort of historical fantasy —  was interesting, but highly stylized. The slim plot is intriguing, as is the character, but ultimately the book was a little disappointing. Only Barker’s writing style and page-turning suspense building abilities that made me finish it.

Brief Takes: Blood Kin: A Novel, by Ceridwen Dovey

Blood kin

I had mistakenly thought from the title and cover of this book that it had some sort of supernatural aspect (I’m not a big fan of reading plot synopses). Sadly, it was full of evil, but of the all-too-human kind. I can’t say the horror in it is banal, but it was portrayed as being mundane, and all the more horrifying for that.

The book involves shifting narrative viewpoints from people surrounding a deposed corrupt ruler in an unnamed country. The torture is more emotional than physical, although it includes an aspect of that as well. It would probably be a very satisfying read for someone more deeply interested in the political cycles of ascendance and revolution.

Brief Takes: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy


The Road

This is a well-written, character-focused science fiction book about a father and son trying to find some place that is livable after some sort of global catastrophe. Cormac McCarthy, author of “No Country for Old Men,” which was adapted into the Oscar winning movie, creates such bleak inner and outer landscapes here that I was simultaneously depressed and yet thankful my circumstances had not been reduced to such. The techniques the author uses to demonstrate the characters’ personalities, growth and emotions are subtle and fascinating.  I ultimately found the novel thought-provoking rather than depressing.