Four Books I Liked By Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey & Roger Moore

Like any hopeful reader, I have boxes of books just waiting to be read in my garage and even a fair number waiting in the digital realm. There’s not much rhyme or reason to which ones I choose or why they take me so long to read, but I figured I’d put a few thoughts down about these four books I’ve finished in the relatively recent past including books by Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey and Roger Moore.

nos4a2-joe-hill-coverLet’s kick things off with the one novel of the bunch, Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. As a big fan of Hill’s other works like Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, Locke & Key and even his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts (which I hope to finally finish this year), getting a copy of NOS4A2 was a no-brainer. After reading so many of his dad’s books last year, I thought I’d stay in the family, but mix it up with this Christmas themed horror fantasy thriller sometime between Halloween and Christmas.

There’s a lot going on in this book, but at it’s core, it’s about a woman named Vic McQueen who used to be able to find lost things by riding her bike across a bridge that shouldn’t have been there. In the process she ran into kidnapper Charles Manx and helped put him away. As an adult, she’s had a pretty rough go of things, but that all pales to Manx’s return and the subsequent kidnapping of her son Wayne.

Packed with big, fun ideas to play around with, mind-based powers that can control time and space and a group of heroes and villains I couldn’t get enough of, I found myself engrossed by NOS4A2. Interestingly, while I felt I could related more to Hill’s first two books more (especially Horns) I didn’t feel as personally connected at first with this one until it became about Vic as a parent and then I was right there with her. This one’s tense and intense and the perfect ride for horror fans.

devil-in-the-white-city-coverSpeaking of horror, aren’t the real ones so much worse than the imagined ones? That’s a theme at the forefront of Erik Larson’s The Devil In The White City. I first read about this book back when it came out in 2003, got a copy a few years ago and finally started listening to the audiobook version recently because one of the book’s subjects H.H. Holmes was covered in the fantastic podcast Lore.

Devil‘s about two things going on at the same time in Chicago back in the late 1800s: the lobbying for and building of the World’s Fair (the white city) and the many murders committed by Holmes in his Murder Castle (he being the devil). Larson weaves in and out of both stories as they happened simultaneously, creating a larger narrative about what Chicago and parts of the world at large were like during this tumultuous time in American history. I couldn’t help but think about what a film version would be like, so I’m happy to hear that Leonardo di Caprio’s working on an adaptation. He should be able to influence the kind of big budget they’ll need to recreate the fair in all its glory!

I went audio on this one because I mainly because I wanted to hear the Holmes parts and wasn’t as interested in the fair stuff. Things start off totally in the latter realm, which makes sense given the overall context and content of the book, but it was a little dry for me and would have taken my forever to get through on the page. As an added bonus, Scott Brick read the tome. He’s done a lot of the Brad Meltzer and Nelson DeMille audiobooks my wife and I listen to while driving on long trips and he added that signature hard-edged flair that I’ve come to know and love.

bossypants-by-tina-feyFrom murderous men to funny women, I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants for a book club made up of parents from my daughter’s former pre-school. Most of the kids aren’t in the same school anymore, but they still have a great time and this gives us an excuse to get together, drink wine and talk about the book (a little).

I’ve been a fan of Fey’s since she first appeared on SNL and intended to get around to her 2014 autobiography eventually. In the book she touches on a variety of subjects from her days as a teen working for a local theater in her hometown to her days living in Chicago and on to her work on shows like SNL and 30 Rock. The book also features a few chapters that focus on some of the stranger parts of celebrity like going in for a magazine photo shoot. While I thought that chapter was really funny, I personally would have liked more biographical stories. But that’s just a minor quibble, overall this is a funny, insightful look at one of the most important women in comedy.

roger-moore-my-word-is-bondFinally, I just finished Roger Moore’s autobiography My Word Is My Bond, an e-book I got for a few bucks during some such sale and read on my Kindle. I’m a longtime James Bond fan, but this is actually the first book I’ve read that’s tangentially related to the franchise aside from a few of Ian Fleming’s novels.

Moore chronicles his life from his somewhat sickly boyhood through his military service, attempts at acting, marriages, friendships, success on the small screen thanks to The Saint and The Persuaders, his time as Bond and his more recent work for UNICEF. Throughout the memoir, Moore comes off as self-depreciating and humble but also very realistic about the business of working in showbiz. I came into the book mostly interested in the Bond era, not knowing much else and found myself engrossed in his life from childhood on through his current philanthropic mission.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of George Hamilton’s book Don’t Mind If I Do. Both actors are from about the same era and come from very different backgrounds, but still went on to lead amazing lives that took them around the world where they met some of the most famous people anyone’s ever heard of. It’s quite a life! I enjoyed the book so much I’ve started going through his Bond films again, but also got a collection of The Saint episodes from the library and might even keep my eye out for his other books like One Lucky Bastard, Last Man Standing and Bond On Bond. I’m glad to say that the guy who played Bond proved so interesting I’m ready to dive into even more of his life, though not just yet.

Currently I’m about halfway through Phil Ramone’s Making Records and might completely shift gears by jumping into one of the newer Nick Hornby books I’ve been sitting on for a while.

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