Donnybrook by Frank Bill. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I first read about this book. It was about some unsavory characters headed for a bare-knuckle Toughman competition in southern Indiana. I like MMA, and I like some dark undertones in my literature. I was unprepared. Not that I was offended by anything in Bill's first novel, but it's chockful of drug use, sex, people with disabilities, gory violence, incest, and other warped things that one usually associates with the state of Ohio. The characters are quite numerous - not as much as Game of Thrones, though - and some names are so odd (Jarhead, Chainsaw Angus, etc.) that I had a hard time keeping them straight at the beginning. The prose was designed to be rough, so it's not for anyone looking for the beauty of the English language. But when I was finished, I wanted to take a shower, so I guess the author did something right.
American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Kyle was America's most accomplished sniper in history, making anywhere from 109 to 170 kills (kill totals are somewhat questionable in war). I say "was" because he was murdered by a fellow soldier he was trying to help after the book was released. Kyle was a Navy SEAL, and the first half of the book generally talks about his childhood, adolescence, and training. The second half goes through many of his operations during the Iraq war from 1999-2009. Scattered throughout are some insightful passages from his wife, who shares some of her perceptions of life with her husband overseas.
Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. In Mystic River Dave's wife said no one in real life would be clever enough to say "Your money or your life, bitch." But the dialogue in Gone, Baby, Gone reminded me of some cheesy banter from The DaVinci Code. Realism does not seem to be Lehane's strong suit, but he does weave a pretty good story that can tug at the heart strings a little bit. If you haven't read this one (or seen the movie starring Casey Affleck and Morgan Freeman), it leaves you with an interesting choice about which outcome you would prefer. While I did enjoy the movie, it doesn't even begin to explore as much territory as the book.
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane. A sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, I would not recommend it unless you're a Lehane fanatic. The story was uninspired and seemed to be trying too hard to make connections to its predecessor. The characters were disappointingly undeveloped and cliche, which made me hope for it to finish rather quickly. Luckily, it was a short read.
Boomerang by Michael Lewis. I had not actually come across this book until I saw Lewis being interviewed on Conan for his newer book, Flash Boys, which caused me to look up some of his lesser known works (everyone has heard of The Blind Side and Moneyball). Boomerang explains the financial busts in Greece, Iceland, and Ireland, and also talks about a seemingly inevitable bust for America. Of course, there have always been economic fluctuations, so the book doesn't recommend panic. The overall message, really, goes along with Malkiel's book (below) that suggests that short-term investments often result in long-term penalties.
The Elements of Investing by Burton Malkiel. I originally purchased this book just to get a better grasp on investments in general. As an amateur investor, I am planning to retire in 30 or 40 or . . . 50 . . . maybe 60 years. You know, if Social Security lasts that long. We'll see. I've been investing in a Roth IRA for several years, but I wanted to see how they stack up against Traditional IRAs, 401ks, and the like. It was a worthwhile, short-but-sweet read for someone who's exploring the stock market and long-term investing, but there aren't a whole lot of particulars.
Savages by Don Winslow. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a cheap thrill, and this time it came in the form of this book, which preceded the 2013 movie (LINK) starring Taylor Kitsch, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, and Blake Lively. It tells the story of a couple southern California guys who run an effective but small-ish illegal marijuana outfit. Naturally, they run afoul of a Mexican cartel, which leaves them overmatched as they fight for their business and their lives. The writing is humorous at times, but it has the flow of someone who has enjoyed a few blunts once in a while. There are lots of plays on words, several of which are stillborn. But there's enough here to make me think about going back to Winslow for a guilty pleasure sometime down the road.