Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

January Reads Part 2

« Part 1

Many times, I write in reaction to others. And what I write about is supposed to be across the popular arts. Of late, that’s been film, and I’ve neglected the written material, which is very much part of this life of mine. I may not be watching a movie everyday, but I’m certainly reading (or listening to audiobooks) constantly. So, I feel the need to put some thoughts down on the territory covered in this literary space.

I decided to highlight some of my reading/listening material for the past month of January. For this, I’m borrowing a technique from the film blogger over at Paragraph Film Reviews. His evaluations are short but sweet, and hopefully mine will be, too. Here goes:


When friends Corey Wilde, Naomi Johnson, and Jen Forbus opened my eyes to the genius that is the Irish writer of hard-boiled and noir crime fiction, Ken Bruen, I’ve dedicated to tracking down and taking in every Jack Taylor novel of his. And I’ve been rewarded each time. Sometimes, rather darkly. Starting with The Guards, the troubled soul of the protagonist has been peeled away with each successive book in the series. Sometimes, it’s the reader’s psyche that takes the hit by the final page, like in The Dramatist. As Corey once said in a review, “the pace is swift, the action harsh, the hurt deep.” I mention that fourth novel specifically due to a significant event that haunts (no spoiler here, though), a wrenching result echoing in each of those that followed. It took awhile to resume the line with Priest and Cross last year. Entering 2012, Sanctuary kicked off my fiction reading in unexpected ways, for me and Jack, that harken back to where it began. And in harsh but beautiful ways that only Ken Bruen fans can truly appreciate, I’d add. It’s the reason The Devil is on deck for February, and why this author and the one below are the two I recommend to every reader I come across.

There was one book that I anticipated most for the month of January… Hell, for 2012, for that matter. TAKEN by Robert Crais is the fifteenth novel in my favorite book series (yes, even over the one above). Last year during the L.A. Times Festival of Books, Karen Grigsby Bates interviewed the author in one of its book panels. She drew some gasps and good-natured laughter from the audience by asking, “So, when are Elvis and Joe going to kiss?” A titillating question designed to draw a reaction from the crowd and the interviewee. However, she knowingly or unknowingly missed the essence of the two key characters of the series, the partners who own the Los Angeles-based PI firm. There’s no bromance or man-crush going on in the series (maybe with fans, though ;-)). No, the fundamental core is family. Especially between a pair of men whose lives have been affected by troubled kin throughout their childhoods. So, when Elvis Cole is taken while investigating vicious kidnappers in the course of the story, Joe Pike reacts as any family member worth their salt would do to recover a loved one. With anything in their power, marching through Hell itself and killing whatever or whoever gets in the way of that goal. As my good friend Jen Forbus said in her review, it “is an emotionally charged novel” that this author, as he normally does, delivers upon. This time in spades.

Note: I plan on coming back to the Robert Crais novel later in the year when I examine its audiobooks, both the U.S. and U.K. versions, as I’ve done in the past. In the meanwhile, I recommend the following wonderful articles by some good friends:

Till next month, folks.

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13 Responses to “January Reads Part 2”

  1. Naomi Johnson

    Nice work, Michael. A lot of readers always wonder about a Pike/Reacher confrontation. I think a more interesting meeting would be between Elvis Cole and Jack Taylor.

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  2. rtm

    So this TAKEN book isn’t the inspiration for the Liam Neeson movie then 😀

    That ‘Sanctuary’ one is intriguing, I think I heard Ken Bruen’s name mentioned when I was reading reviews of The Guard. “the pace is swift, the action harsh, the hurt deep.“ Wow, that’s some compliment, I might give it a try in addition to that other recommendation you gave me in Part 1.

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    • le0pard13

      Hehe. No, that one isn’t the basis for that Liam Neeson flick :-).

      If you’re are interesting in starting a Ken Bruen novel, try ‘The Guards’. Not only is he a fine writer, but he enjoys naming some exemplary films in his stories. See this post as an example. Thanks, Ruth.

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  3. Pop Culture Nerd

    Nice piece, Michael. You nailed what Elvis and Joe’s friendship is about, and why it’s so deep.

    Can’t go wrong with either Bruen or Crais. Looking forward to your thoughts on the rest of your January reads.

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  4. Novroz

    Taken looks interesting and many have reviewed it…my question is,can I read it without reading the previous books?
    I am currently reading an 8th book of a series but it’s not a problem as the story doesn’t connect with the previous

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    • le0pard13

      My friend Naomi may have said it best in her review of the book:

      “If you’re wondering, then yes, you can read this book without having read the others in the series. TAKEN stands all on its own as an outstanding example of the action thriller. But it’s only fair to say that the best way to experience the deeper richness of these characters is by learning more of Elvis’s and Joe’s history, so I urge you to read the entire series.”

      I can’t argue with that. I hope this helps, Novroz. Thank you.

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  5. Rachel

    Everyone is so right! TAKEN is a bang-up ride while being so rich in our favorite characters’ journeys. I’ll admit that I was dubious that it would live up to the hype but damn if it didn’t surpass it. What I couldn’t believe is how fast-paced it is but not superficial at all. What a fabulous novel!

    I read it in Peru and did a mobile blog post with a picture I “tooken” just for you since you were so kind as to send me my copy. I hope you saw it.

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