Book reviews: Notes from Neil

By Neil Rajala

Great Reads and More Pie

Thursday, April 10 — My wonderful daughter was in town last weekend to celebrate her birthday. We had our usual great time getting caught up on current favorite reads and swapping piles of books. Yep, she's one of us. Here's what we're reading:

Shane Kuhn

It didn't surprise me at all to learn that Mr. Kuhn is deeply involved in the film industry. His debut novel reads like the kind of suspenseful action thriller that makes you forget to eat your popcorn when you're in the theater.

John Lago works for HR, Inc., a company that provides interns for high-profile corporations. The twist is that HR, Inc. provides staff when someone wants one of these high-powered clients eliminated, and the "interns" are all trained assassins who work their way into the organization until they're close enough for a clean, untraceable kill. Lago is the best at what he does, and at twenty-five is ready to take his last assignment and retire in wealth and peace. The novel is the account of his last case, as well as his how-to instructions to new interns at HR. Of course, the last hit doesn't go smoothly, of course bullets, fists and sharp weapons fly freely and, of course, you'll stay up too late getting to the final credits. kobo eBook


Dane Huckelbridge

Mr. Huckelbridge deftly pulls off a neat (pun intended) concept with his fascinating history of the most American of spirits. Taking the reader on a lively and highly entertaining overview of 300 years of our history, he weaves the story of bourbon into the major plot lines we all know so well. From the first application of European distillation techniques to the new world's corn crop, to the Kentucky wilderness where bourbon gained its identity, through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Industrial Age, Prohibition, and ending with today's technology explosion; bourbon's story is truly our story. It has affected, and been affected by, historical events every step of the way. kobo eBook


Mark Twain

It's easy to forget that this book was not only Mr. Twain's first full-length publication, but it was by far his most popular book in his lifetime. It was published in 1869 by the American Publishing Company, who employed door-to-door salesmen able to sell great numbers of the massive hardcover. Our first best selling travel book, the work began as a series of articles commissioned by a local newspaper. The author was sent on a pleasure cruise aboard the steamship Quaker City to the Mediterranean, visiting cities in southern Europe, North Africa and the Holy Land. By all accounts, it was a huge and difficult undertaking to turn his dispatches from abroad into a coherent travelogue, requiring the help of other authors.

At times skewering his arrogant and uninformed fellow passengers, at other times playing that role himself, the book is an unflinching look at the cultural clash between the tradition-rich old world and the brash, uncultured new one. There are many laugh out loud moments - Twain's biting humor was at that moment propelling him to his first national fame - but there are also many of the racial slights and bigotry that were a part of the American dialogue back then. So I'm offering my recommendation with a caution: this is an important book in our literary history, at times hilariously entertaining, but it's also a graphic representation of attitudes we have largely left behind.

Remember last week's TEENY'S TOUR OF PIE? I dipped into it again for my daughter's birthday this past weekend. Turns out the Pear and Goat Cheese Tart is every bit as delicious as the Grapefruit and Pomegranate Pie I mentioned before. That is one dangerous book.

Until next week,


NeilNeil Rajala is Currently Director of Community & Business Services for Schuler Books, Neil's decade with the company has included the wearing of many different hats - and lots and lots of reading.