The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #26: Home of the Brave

It’s time for more turbo-charged book reviews. If you’ve missed one of my recent reviews you can cull through this website or see them all in one gorge-able package at my personal blog.

For those whose kids want to know about the world: Home of the Brave

At the start of the summer I attended a workshop on Somali immigrants in the midwest, and the particular cultural elements that affect their education. It’s a tricky business to consider the difference between African immigrants and African-Americans. How a state chock-a-block with the offspring of Nordic immigrants adjusts their long held traditions for their most recent immigrants, is even more interesting.

Home of the Brave doesn’t delve into these issues so much as it reflects one individual experience in trying to adjust to America. A sudanese cattle farmer who makes it to America on his own, young Kek has to learn about an entirely new culture, just as his classmates and other Minnesotans have to adjust to him. Minnesota’s legacy as a refugee have, the nurturing environment of an ESL classroom and the cold indifference of many frosty Midwesterners makes this work well.

It is occasionally awkward to hear in Kek’s voice echoes of Applegate’s most famous creation The One and Only Ivan. Though Applegate excels at giving voice to the voiceless and the culturally estranged, it’s slightly uncomfortable to see a young african boy and a gorilla so stylistically linked.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #58: Silken Prey by John Sandford

If you like action and political thrillers, this is the book for you. Political corruption, power lust and sociopaths are the lead characters in Silken Prey , and we the readers get to shiver in anticipation as the plot unfolds  and we watch Sandford’s favorite cop Lucas Davenport struggle to find the bad guys when we know who they are from the get-go.

Sandford starts this latest novel of his with the brutal murder of a political fixer, and escalates from there to a political conspiracy that has the potential to reach the White House some day if not stopped in its tracks. Sandford cleverly chooses as his super-villain a smart, gorgeous and supremely wealthy young woman who is Democratic candidate for the Senate, and happens to have lots of political savvy, a narcissistic personality, and not a shred of a conscience when it comes to getting her way. The person she is trying to defeat is Porter Smalls, a personable good-ole-boy Republican right-winger who likes women a little too much and too obviously. The governor of Minnesota, a Dem, is nonetheless friends with Smalls and brings Davenport in when Smalls’ office computer is discovered to have nasty child-porn on it just days before the election. The dirty tricks escalate rapidly to murder, as Davenport races to expose the conspiracy before the election.

Sandford’s writing, as always, is smooth, clever, and fast-moving, and the plot of Silken Prey is an intricate one, full of political and social cross currents that beg comparison to the politics of today on both a small and large scale.  I especially liked the fact that Sandford left the ending deliberately unsatisfying as a way of reminding his readers that there are no easy solutions to the problem of political corruption, and that we cannot ever let down our guard when it comes to choosing who to hand the reins of power to.  I found hero Davenport to be somewhat less interesting than in Sandford’s earlier novels where we were still learning about this complex character. In Silken Prey, he is but a means to an end and not a very vivid one, which is somewhat disappointing. Nonetheless, it took courage for Sandford to delve into the sordid life behind the scenes of much of today’s politicking, and he made it sufficiently believable and sufficiently compelling to keep me along for the ride.