RidgewayGirl's Challenge, 2nd Part, Categorically
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I'm not promising to read 12 books in each category, and by the looks of things, this is unattainable anyway.
Books off of my TBR
1. Morvern Callar by Alan Warner
2. It Was Gonna Be Like Paris by Emily Listfield
3. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
4. A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve
5. The Dead Lie Down by Sophie Hannah
6. Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell
7. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
8. Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom
9. An Unfinished Season by Ward Just
10. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jacksond
New, shiny books and Early Reviewer books
1. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose
2. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
3. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
4. Mumbai Noir edited by Altaf Tyrewala
5. Long Island Noir edited by Kaylie Jones
6. Oregon Hill by Howard Owen
7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
8. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
9. Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
10. The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales
Library and borrowed books
1. 1222 by Anne Holt
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (book borrowed from my daughter)
3. Love Wins by Rob Bell
4. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
5. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
7. Ballistics by Billy Collins
8. This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia
9. Blankets by Craig Thompson
10. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Detective fiction and police procedurals
1. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
2. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
3. Gone 'til November by Wallace Stroby
4. Trespasser by Paul Doiron
5. The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
6. What Never Happens by Anne Holt
7. Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James
8. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
9. The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
10. The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah
Books set in one of the countries I've lived in
1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
2. February by Lisa Moore
3. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
4. Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood
5. The Code by G.B. Joyce
6. Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
7. The Guardians by Andrew Pyper
8. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
1. Lost at Sea by John Ronson
2. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
3. Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
4. My Booky Wook by Russell Brand
5. Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman
6. Sister by Rosamund Lupton
7 Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
8. The St. Zita Society by Ruth Rendell
9. This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You: Stories by Jon McGregor
10. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
Fear of Failure
Books that have been shortlisted for or won awards
1. A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan (New York Times Notable Book)
2. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Orange Prize shortlist 2011)
3. Columbine by Dave Cullen (Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist)
4. Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler (Pulitzer Prize for General NonFiction Finalist)
5. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize)
6. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Winner of the 2011 Booker Prize)
7. District and Circle by Seamus Heaney (author is recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature)
8. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Fear of Crowds
Group and Tandem Reads
1. Iron House by John Hart. January Group Read -- 12 in 12
2. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. Read with my children.
3. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall. Read with my children.
4. Who Cut the Cheese? by Jo Nesbo. Read with my children.
5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Tandem read with my daughter.
6. Vengeance by Benjamin Black. ER book read in tandem with jonesli.
7. Blindness by Jose Saramago October Group Read -- 12 in 12
8. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. Tandem read with VictoriaPL
9. The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Tandem read with VictoriaPL
Fear of intimidation
Books that are challenging, whether through size or reputation
1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
2. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
3. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
4. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
5. Middlemarch by George Eliot
6. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer
7. Baudolino by Umberto Eco
Fear of the dark
1. The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz
2. Neighborhood Watch by Cammie McGovern
3. The Complaints by Ian Rankin
4. Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan
5. A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina
6. Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski
7. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
8. A Wanted Man by Lee Child
9. A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore
10. Doors Open by Ian Rankin
Their investigation begins to spread out, as they look back at the actions of the convicted officer and then Fox is drawn farther back in time, to the 1980's, when Scottish nationalism took a violent and anarchic turn and a nationalist is found dead.
Fox is a fantastic character and if I weren't worried about possibility of an outcry, I might even say that I'm beginning to like him more than Rebus, at least the later, angrier Rebus. He doesn't have Rebus's style, connections or in-your-face working methods, but he does have a problematic family; a father whose health is declining and a difficult and prickly sister. He's fought his own demons and does what he can to keep the peace. The rest of his small team are also interesting. Tony Kaye is burly and prone to belligerence, but deeply loyal to and concerned about Fox's well-being. Joe Naysmith is the new guy, the tech guy, fielding Kaye's constant needling and eager to learn. I'm eagerly waiting to find out what they'll be up to next.
Ooh, those are fighting words...! :)
Actually, that's a good thing - I'm wary about starting the series because I like Rebus so much, but when a fellow Rebus-fan says it's good, it certainly alleviates some of the angst. LOL!
Looking forward to starting the new series!!
Geographical maps are abstract and concrete at the same time; for all the objectivity of their measurements, they cannot represent reality, merely one interpretation of it.
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky is the ultimate appetizer for map heads and globe spinners. A random collection subtitled Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, it delivers exactly that; a series of two-page spreads with a map on the right hand page and a story about the island on the other side, along with the distances to the nearest landmasses and a timeline of the island's history. Each island is drawn to the same scale, so some islands are thumb-sized, sitting in the middle of the blue sea, and others fill much of the page. Schalansky has published previous works about typography and graphic design and that shows in the simply beauty of this book. There is not a single discordant note, unless it is that there are only fifty islands represented. I could have spent many more happy evenings with this book, if only there were more islands.
Gloria has a constant companion, a voice that reminds her to work, work, work and to clean, clean, clean, to the point where friendships or even familial relationships are impossible to maintain. Caused by her horrible parents, who want her to both excel and be normal, she is unable to function without her cleaning rituals. She goes off to Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. There she meets Henry, who has a horrible father, a past as a drug addict and a calmly supportive sister. They share a bathroom, which is a challenge for Gloria, and a love for Van Morrison's music, which allows them to connect and helps Henry to guide Gloria through Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
I had a hard time with this book. I have a tremendous aversion for sermons-as-novels and this one was so obvious. It's got a lot of clunky dialog and paper-thin characters. The two main characters are both very wealthy, beautiful, intelligent and surrounded by people who exist only to adore or help them. It doesn't make them unlikeable, but it does mean that it takes quite a bit of effort to be sympathetic. Also, the parents in this book are terrible and led me to believe that OCD and drug addiction are entirely the result of bad parenting. But the writing improved as the book went on, leading me to believe that there wasn't much in the way of re-writing or editing involved. The publisher seems to have only published this one book. I think I'll have to make sure to only request Early Reviewer books from more established publishers.
High points for originality, at least!! :)
The Psychopath Test is just a huge amount of fun. It's not just a book about Hare's famous checklist; it's also a book about Jon Ronson's reactions to the people and entities he encounters while learning about the checklist and his reactions to assorted other people and entities having to do with the mental illness industry. That's not to say I didn't learn quite a bit. I did. Just that this is not a finely focused study or anything like that. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson takes a look at psychopathy in a roundabout way, beginning with these thoughts about the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders):
"I could really be onto something," I thought. "It really could be that many of our political and business leaders suffer from Antisocial or Narcissistic Personality Disorder and they do the harmful, exploitative things they do because of some mad striving for unlimited success and excessive admiration. Their mental disorders might be what rule our lives. This could be a really big story for me if I can think of a way to somehow prove it."
I closed the manual.
"I wonder if I've got any of the 374 mental disorders," I thought.
I opened the manual again.
And I instantly diagnosed myself with twelve different ones.
The Psychopath Test is a stroll through the horrific with a Bertie Wooster-type narrator. He distracts and veers off in odd directions while managing to ask difficult questions in very non-threatening ways. From Scientologists to a captain of industry who enjoyed laying people off to a death-squad leader in prison for mortgage fraud, Ronson gets some very interesting people to speak with him. The most frightening people to me were not the psychopaths, but the conspiracy theorists. Take this encounter where a conspiracy theorist talks about a woman injured in a terrorist bombing that he insists was all a hoax:
"I am also very suspicious of the fact that she refuses to sit down and have a dispassionate briefing about 7/7," David said. "Why won't she allow somebody to patiently talk her through the evidence?"
"She was in the carriage!" I said. "She was in the CARRIAGE. You really want her to sit down with someone who was on the internet while she was in the carriage and have them explain to her that there was no bomb?"
I guess it should be comforting to think that people who deny all actual evidence and cling angrily to some nonsensical idea are actually mentally ill, but it still makes me very, very tired. Having Ronson bug out his own eyes in disbelief now and again made the journey not only bearable but entertaining. In the above encounter, Ronson eventually ends the interview with a very professional "Oh, fuck off."
I did echo his sentiments for the 7/7 conspiracy and am sure I'd react in exactly the same way - sometimes FO is the only right response ;-)
I have Them and will read it soon.
"I heard Abe Lamont talking about how to shape an interview and write for radio. It's not so different, is it? One thought in each sentence. Not too many adjectives. Simplicity. Intimacy. Directness. That's what I'm after, too."
Late Nights on Air is written in that same clear style, which here reflects the setting of the book; the clear, thin northern air, without unnecessary decoration, but full of the magnificence of the breadth of the country. It concerns a group of co-workers, almost all recent transplants, at a radio station in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in the mid-1970s. Beginning when Dido Paris is hired by the station, the story follows the various broadcasters as they adjust to life in the north and as a judge conducts hearings on whether or not an gas pipeline should be built. Inspired by a radio play dramatizing the fate of John Hornby's final expedition to the Barrens, four of them set off on a canoe trip across the tundra. The story is intensely character driven, from Gwen, the uncertain neophyte, to Dido, the charismatic and volatile focus of many, to Harry, the jaded, but wise station manager, Late Nights on Air is all about how living north of the 60th parallel changes them and how their relationships changed or didn't change over time.
I inhabited this book while I read it. I have a fascination for the northern wilderness and the canoe trip that forms the backbone of the book was beautifully described. Yellowknife was almost a character in the book, with so much based on the unique culture of the Canadian north.
A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina is dark, with more of a horror vibe than a mystery. A family who buys the flat underneath theirs when the couple who owned it kill each other, knocking a great hole in the floor to add a staircase, soon finds anger and violence spiraling out of control. The youngest son, who is adopted, thinks that what's happening has something to do with a witch, who was burned at the stake in the area.
There's no breathing room in this novel. It's a half hour of relentless foreboding and horror and then it was over. Mina's never been an author to pull her punches, but in the traditional book format, there are spaces and pauses and periods of relative calm. In the concentrated form of the graphic novel, everything is amplified.
A woman and her child have been found dead by the husband. It appears to be a murder-suicide, but questions remain. Well, while the others are eager to wrap things up, Simon has doubts. Meanwhile, another woman has had an argument with her babysitter, culminating when someone pushes her into the path of an oncoming bus. She manages to get away with only a few scrapes, but she's shaken by the encounter. She's further upset when she sees on the news the story of the murder-suicide and recognizes the name of the members of the family, but the grieving father is not the man she knew by that name. Sally Thorning is works full time and has two very small children. She's tired all the time and a bit cranky with it. She's determined to find out what's going on, but she can't tell anyone. The man claiming to be Mark Breckenridge is not the man she knew by that name and with whom she had a brief fling not that long ago.
Hannah doesn't fetishize motherhood. Her young mothers are cranky and impatient and dream of a quiet night alone. She writes somewhat like Ruth Rendell, with that dark edge, although Rendell's cops were never quite as messed up as any of the detectives here.
In The Psychopath Test a woman talks about finding people for daytime shows by asking them about their medications. No medications was boring, but too much was also bad, they were looking for the right level of insanity -- entertaining without frightening people.
So far I have only read one of Sophie Hannah's books, will have to rectify that soon.
I do want to read the Ian Rankin one.
Also, wanted to give a heads-up that Dark Entries is part of the Hellblazer universe rather than a regular Rankin-style story.
& the only thing Russel Brand & Anderson Cooper could've done better would've been not to give such people airtime in the first place.
Regarding graphic novels, I've only read two, but I think I enjoy the format. I plan to read two more this year for my category. And I agree with Judy (#52) that they're a nice breather between regular books.
Graphic novels as palate cleansers. I had not thought of it that way. I use non-fiction and short stories myself -- I've been reading Mummies of the World for months and I'm still near the beginning! But it can be put down and ignored for long stretches without losing any of the plot.
casvelyn, I like sub-titled movies much better than dubbed ones, and only ran into trouble with a Chinese film that I got on a DVD where the sub-titles were in German. I wasn't able to read the German quickly enough to be able to watch the action on screen as well. I did read the text of the graphic novel, while only looking briefly at the illustrations. I probably missed many interesting details and clues.
A woman intercepts Charlie in the parking lot of the police headquarters, telling her she has something important to say, and will only speak to Charlie. Then she tells her that her boyfriend told her that he had murdered a woman. The woman, however, is very much alive.
Hannah's plots are intricately plotted and very dark and this one is no exception. I'm going to do my best to not pick up the next book for at least a few days.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder begins when Lawrence Weschler wanders into the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, where he encounters an oddly fascinating collection of exhibits. Beginning with the Cameroonian stink ant and the spores of a fungus, which when inhaled, cause the ant to climb upward, eventually grabbing onto the vine or trunk with his mandible, where he dies. The fungus then sprouts from the ant's forehead, raining spores down on the unsuspecting ants below. Other exhibits include a theory of memory, a very small bat and a collection of antlers, which includes the horn of Mary Davis of Saughall.
Weschler is understandably intrigued, and speaking with David Wilson, the museum's owner and curator, adds to his curiosity. Professionally presented, the museum nonetheless awakens seeds of doubt in his mind, which sprout when he researches the exhibits. Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder looks at our ideas about museums and looks at how museums came to be; originating from the wunderkammern of the early enlightenment, where wealthy men collected interesting items and grouped them together in a room or cabinet for the wonderment of his guests. Classification was optional and certainly different, with one collection including
two huge ribs from a whale (out in the courtyard); "a goose which has grown in Scotland in a tree"; "a number of things changed into stone" (in other words, fossils); the hand of a mermaid; the hand of a mummy; a small piece of wood from the cross of Christ"; "pictures from the church of S. Sofia in Constantinople copies by a Jew into a book"; "a bat as large as a pigeon"...
There is a lot packed into this slender book, from the nature of wonder itself to the history of those fascinating and eclectic cabinets of curiosity, which sprang up when explorers to the far east and the Americas began returning with things never before seen and as superstition gave way to reason.
that I would never make another decision.
Instead of darting this way and that,
I would stand at a crossroads until my watch
ran down and the clothes fell off me
and were carried by a heavy rain out to sea.
There's something about Billy Collins's poetry that appeals to me, non-poetry-reading person that I am. His poems manage to skirt both sentimentality and pretentiousness.
What I forgot to tell you in that last poem
if you were paying attention at all
was that I really did love her at the time.
I mark up the books I read with those tiny post-it notes that you use to indicate where to sign. Some books escape post-it free, library books get theirs removed and my favorite books go back on the shelf colorfully decorated. Ballistics will require some effort to remove all the markers, indicating lines, stanzas and entire poems.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a young adult novel set in a frightening world where technological achievement has leapt forward, but human well-being has not. A lunar colony has evolved to have powers that ordinary Earth-dwellers do not. Cinder is a cyborg -- she has some replacement parts, which makes her less than human. She works repairing robots and she lives with her step-mother, who considers her a nuisance, and her two step-sisters, one of whom is her only human friend. Her step-sisters are preparing for the ball, but Cinder is not welcome.
This is an unusual and interesting re-telling of Cinderella, in the form of a dystopian novel set in New Beijing, with a deadly virus killing many of its citizens. Cinder is sold by her step-mother for medical experimentation, which brings her into contact with the prince, whose father is ill with the disease. Cinder is brave and resourceful and much less passive than the fairy tale Cinderella, although she is prone to occasional bouts of self-pity. I enjoyed reading this book, which is the first in a proposed trilogy. I'm glad my daughter prefers dystopian worlds to vampires!
Black is my favorite kind of protagonist. He's messed up his life in many ways and has had plenty of time to thing things over. He's as aware of his own shortcomings as he is willing to understand the shortcomings of those people he has chosen to have in his life and to maybe even find some compassion for the down and outers he's come to know. He's too fond of keeping secrets to be reliable, but he's someone you'd want on your side, even if he might show up late and smelling of beer. The plot moves along quickly, with some interesting twists and the writing is workmanlike, but adept enough to make every character three dimensional and to create a feel for the streets of Richmond.
Lucky you, getting to go to the Algonquin. Were you in the blue room?
Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder and Other Stories is the story of a woman's life told in short story form. While the stories can stand alone, they work beautifully together to create a portrait of a life. Nell comes of age just before the sixties and seventies upended the social order, turning her from an independent spirit into someone just not adventurous enough. Her life is an ordinary one, but beautifully told. My favorite story is His Last Duchess, in which Nell thinks about the women she reads about in her literature class. While I love Atwood's more adventurous novels, like Oryx and Crake and The Blind Assassin, I think this quieter story allows her writing and nuanced characterizations to really shine.
My family (parents, brother, husband) have given up finding books on their own and simply show up and ask me for something to read. Does anybody else experience this? Is it the equivalent of having someone who is familiar with cars in the family and so losing the ability to change the oil filters or even refill the the windshield wiper fluid?
For example, my two sisters and I all have totally different reading tastes, one sister is appalled at my many books featuring serial killers and the like, while the other one gets a little miffed with me that I don't read the same books she does!
It's pretty funny actually...... But Victoria is right, you should consider it a compliment!
Dawn Powell has been a revelation to me. I hadn't heard of her at all before Turn, Magic Wheel was mentioned somewhere as a clever novel about the New York publishing industry. Powell was a contemporary with the Algonquin Round Table writers, and her writing has a quick, biting wit that Dorothy Parker would recognize, although Powell tempers it with a broad compassion for all her characters. Powell was little known during her career, and she was never able to make a living from her writing. She was quickly forgotten, but has been enthusiastically rediscovered by a few people, enough to have her novels and memoirs reissued.
Turn, Magic Wheel tells the story of a young author whose novel is just being published. He's written a book about a woman whose famous husband left her long ago, but who lives on as if they are simply briefly apart, basking in his reputation. It's about his good friend, who is understandably crushed by his portrayal of her. Meanwhile, the author juggles his experiences with his publisher, his mistress and his complex feelings for the friend he hurt so badly.
Powell is a master of description, creating vivid characters who she describes without pity, but somehow also with a deep understanding. Turn, Magic Wheel was a delight to read and I'll be hunting down her other novels.
Sister is told in the form of an interview she is doing with a lawyer in preparation for an upcoming trial. As she wades through her recent experiences, she reveals the facts to her interviewer, amplifying the story for the reader with her motivations and thoughts at the time. Beatrice does indeed succeed in finding out what really happened, but she does so in a scattershot way, following every clue or idea as far as she can, occasioning more than one complaint about her behavior. The police start out sympathetic, but quickly grow tired of her relentless pushing.
This is an above average crime novel. I'm happy that there are several British writers willing to pick up where Ruth Rendell and PD James have left off. Sister was satisfyingly plotted and well-written, with a believable twist at the end that fit well with the story as a whole.
He'd even once dreamed himself onto the bridge of of the Starship Enterprise and had been whipped into a froth of anxiety because he was supposed to be on the Millennium Falcon; he was in the wrong universe entirely, and Spock had neck-pinched him to shut him up.
I've been eager to read P.D. James's Talking About Detective Fiction, but I found it to be quite a bit slighter than I had anticipated. James talks a bit about her own writing, but primarily this is a shallow overview of the detective novel, with all emphasis put on the "golden age" of British mystery novels; from the end of WWI to the mid sixties. She does make the interesting observation that while mystery novels published in Britain during that time are best describes as "cozies", and featured gentle English village life, undisturbed by the homicide, which provides an interesting puzzle for the sleuth to unravel, American detective novels were going all hard-boiled.
Sorry about the brief and unsatisfying description of Nothing to Envy. It's an awe-inspiring book. Really -- go read some of the real reviews posted. Or read the book. It's much less depressing than I expected.
mathgirl40, Rosamund Lupton falls very satisfactorily into that group of solid British crime writers.
The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant, very short novel by Julian Barnes about the ordinary life of Tony Webster. He's older now, looking back to a friendship formed in school and a college relationship that ended badly. Thoughts and actions matter, but what we remember is often at odds with how others remember those same events.
Again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time.
The writing here is clear and beautiful and true, in a way that would have made me happy to have read several hundred more pages, even as the story has been pared down to its essential parts, with no wasted chapters, paragraphs or even sentences. Barnes has often written longer books (Arthur and George is a wonderful book, also about relationships), but here he doesn't need to.
It's too bad you didn't like the P.D. James book. I'm a big fan of her novels and had been thinking of reading this one, but it sounds like there isn't much depth to it.
Black revels in showing us the Irish provincialism of the near past, describing it with an unsentimental clarity. He also delves into relationships in all their dysfunctional forms and Vengeance gives him a wide variety to slice open and expose to our view.
I like how Hackett and Quirke are becoming such good friends.
Henry is tired of the queen he fought so hard to be allowed to marry and has cast his eye elsewhere. Who better to get him out of one marriage and into another but his trusted secretary, Thomas Cromwell?
Here's what Hilary Mantel has done. In Bring Up the Bodies, she's continued the fascinating story of Henry VIII's monarchy from Thomas Cromwell's viewpoint, which would be enough for a great book, but she has also shown how Cromwell has changed. Serving a mercurial king and surrounded by enemies, Cromwell has always had to execute an elaborate dance of alliances and arrangements, but when Anne Boleyn falls out of favor with Henry, the members of the court and church as well as foreign powers are all sharpening their knives, looking for the main chance. And many of them would delight in bringing Cromwell down, along with the queen. How he negotiates this morass is an exciting, nail-biter of a read. Mantel is still able to keep Cromwell an immensely compelling and sympathetic character, even as his actions veer into the ruthless.
Thankfully, Mantel plans to continue working her way through the life of Thomas Cromwell.
Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski introduces the reader to Charlie Hardie, a house sitter who just wants to drink and watch old movies. He doesn't do pets or plants, but his police background makes him an attractive choice for those with expensive homes. He flies into Los Angeles, renting a car and driving up to a house in the hills owned my a Hollywood composer. He's a little surprised to find the house occupied by an actress. A terrified and battered actress with an unbelievable story about a sinister group out to get her. And off we go.
This was a fun, page-turning read. Lots happened. Hardie is reminiscent of Reacher, a non-invincible Reacher who really, really just wants a comfortable chair and a dvd player. Swierczynski, who also writes for Marvel Comics, has a talent for describing action and creating atmosphere. I've got the second book ready to go, but it will have to wait until I can read it all at one go.
I'm off to try to keep track of ten over-excited nine year-olds as they run around a fun park. Then we'll feed them lots of sugar and send them home with their parents. Yay!
I am going to learn how to add photos. I've asked my SO and he did not even roll his eyes, but we'll have to wait until we can sit down together in a leisurely fashion.
Furst has been writing books about good men trying to survive in Europe before and during WWII for some time now. His protagonists have integrity, but they'd also like to continue living -- making for very interesting reading. His plots are well put together and the menace very real, but his real strength is in how he evokes the atmosphere of the various parts of Europe at a very specific time. With Mission to Paris, however, Furst stumbles a little. The plot drops story lines and the characters are thinner than usual. While still an enjoyable book, this lacks the depth and the heart of his earlier novels, feeling more as though it were a quickly-filmed black and white movie than an actual time and place. Moving quickly from Paris to Berlin to Morocco to an isolated Hungarian castle, the book never got a chance to develop. But it was great fun as a fast-paced adventure story and had I not known what Furst is capable of, I would have been happy enough.
*I couldn't even type that sentence without laughing. Gotta go and add my Early Reviewer book (a crime novel about hockey!) to my library.
I've enjoyed the Chelsea Cain series about serial killer Gretchen Lowell and the detective in charge of catching her and who was tortured by her, Archie Sheridan, so far. Usually, I dislike books where the serial killer comes across as a super-human, Hannibal Lechter-type creature (ordinary serial killers are fine, of course), but Cain takes that tired set-up and makes it work. For one thing, she writes with a lightly humorous touch that keeps the inevitable angst and suffering from drowning the story. Her characters, even the powerful serial killer, are so well described, as to make each one familiar. And she does so with that old chestnut of showing, not telling, so the physical appearances are less important than the personalities and those personalities are never one note, even for the secondary and tertiary characters. But the series is not at all character driven. No, each book is an adrenaline rushed race to the finish line, packed with action that all shouldn't work but somehow does. I mean, none of it should work. Cain stretches believability with unlikely escapes and odd murder methods, but she's able to drag the reader along with no apparent effort on her part.
The fifth book in the series, Kill You Twice, opens with a gruesome murder and from the first chapter leaves very little breathing room. Gretchen wants to talk to Archie about the new series of murders, but he's trying for mental health and is staying well away. So Gretchen gets Susan, a now unemployed journalist, to visit her instead, suggesting that she knows who the murderer is and providing clues and red herrings to string Archie and his task force along. It was an altogether satisfying read, although it must be noted that Cain doesn't pull any punches and her books are not for the squeamish.
Yes, I hate having unnecessary noise foisted upon me. Yes, this is one of the things that instantly transforms me from reasonably easy-going to Very Very Cranky. But is it unreasonable to want a single quiet room in a building with four rooms for people waiting for their cars? The other rooms had about the same numbers of people in them, so they weren't running out of space. And this was on a Monday morning. Wouldn't most people not be watching TV then? Why do all waiting areas now insist on being as unpleasant as possible? I do like watching TV (I am currently way too invested in the current season of Project Runway), but I resent being forced to watch.
Is everyone else fine with this? Should I just invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones and get over it?
Then again, I'm getting really mad at the cicadas right now, because they are overwhelmingly loud this year, so I probably have issues, since I'm getting mad at insects that can't help it.
As for your anger at the cicada's, it's obviously displaced aggression toward all those unwatched tvs. Poor ugly big bugs.
edit., I meant hear. Facepalm!
I do like cicadas, although they can be loud. They are just so unfortunate looking. I do wish our cat would stop bringing them into the house, though.
This isn't a book with a clear plot line. Rather, it follows the ups and downs of the Jones family, changing in point of view from one to the other. It's a book about family relationships. I liked it quite a bit. Woodward writes well and provides a vivid picture of what ordinary life was like fifty years ago.
Gillian Flynn is great at dissecting family relationships, especially dysfunctional ones. Gone Girl certainly continues with that, as well as being tremendously fast-paced, with some interesting twists. A good, entertaining summer read.
Good to see another positive review on Gone Girl. It's definitely in my 2013 reading plans.
I liked Gone Girl a lot. It's one of those books that you have to keep reading, so plan accordingly.
Small rant: I used to stalk the library catalog about two months or so before a new release, and I was able to get into the queue for it. Now new releases aren't showing up at all in the catalog.
I was told that the library system here eventually would like to purge the many copies of books they have on hand and obtain e-book rights instead. I'm fine with e-book and hard copies, but not just e-books. I have a Nook and it's great, but I will still want to read actual books too.
It seems to me that e-books are a huge racket right now--they cost almost as much as a real book, but you can't lend them. I think maybe Amazon is trying to take over the world.
But I still like my kindle.
Or write in them, or decorate with them, or inscribe them, or put in bookplates, or get them autographed, or inherit your great-great-grandmother's copy with all her margin notes in faded brown fountain pen ink, or get a deckle-edged copy, or have them rebound in leather, or get the fancy Everyman's Library edition with the cloth cover, ribbon bookmark, and dignified dust jacket, or gaze fondly at the beautiful cover art, or sell them to the used bookstore when you're done with them, or appreciate all the different sizes and colors and designs, or smell them, or...
Okay, I admit it. I'm a book Luddite and also slightly bitter. I'll be quiet now.
(But there will be real books in the future, because Captain Picard reads them in Star Trek: The Next Generation!)
I have just finished Middlemarch, which I read in an old Modern Library edition. I'll enjoy seeing it on the shelf.
In the small community of Middlemarch, much is happening. Three love stories; one involving a triangle, one a terribly mis-matched couple and one that sounds based on a certain kind of romance novel, involving as it does an irrepressible rake and a strong-minded, but poor girl who works as a companion to dying curmudgeon. There are no less than two wills written in spite, which have long-reaching consequences for the relatives of the dead men. There are a few secrets desperately protected and many impediments to love. The plot is an intricate web of intrigue and misunderstandings, but the real strength of George Eliot's masterpiece lies in how skillfully she draws the personalities of every character in Middlemarch.
Dorothea is a spiritual and passionate young lady living with her sister in her uncle's house. She longs for a Great Work to give her life a purpose and whiles the time away plotting improvements to the lives of the inhabitants of her uncle's estate until she meets the important and self-important scholar, Edward Casaubon. He is older and surprised to have the attention of a young woman, but is eager enough to marry her. Dorothea expects to become his helpmeet in all areas, in order to facilitate his research and writing, but marriage turns out not to be the spiritual meeting of minds that she had anticipated and Casaubon is likewise unsettled by the interruption to his work. Fred Vincy is the only son of a well-to-do family, who was educated at some expense, to enter the church. Fred's a likeable and fun-loving guy, one who is disinclined to become a clergyman. His father is disinclined to give him anymore money however, so Fred will have to find some employment, or at least a way of paying his debts, until he inherits Stone Hall. He has loved from childhood Mary Garth, whose background is not what Fred's family finds acceptable. His sister, Rosamond, is the town beauty. She meets Tertius Lydgate, recently settled in Middlemarch to take over the running of a new hospital, and is smitten. Lydgate enjoys her company, but is consumed with a determination to make a success of himself. He doesn't see himself marrying for some years, but Rosamond has other ideas.
The three relationships form the backbone of Middlemarch, but there are many more stories being told; strands of an intricate web that comes together only in the final pages of the book. Dorothea's uncle becomes involved in politics, and while he is not given to sustained effort, he does have the sense to hire Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's cousin, as an aide and to take charge of a local newspaper. Mr. Bulstrode is prominent in Middlemarch. A religious man, he has founded and is funding a new fever hospital and hires an eager young doctor to put new treatments and medical principles into practice. Bulstrode isn't a popular man and the new doctor, Lydgate, is challenged to build a medical practice when he also works for Bulstrode.
Eliot brilliantly weaves together all the different stories and manages along the way to make each character entirely themselves, from the flawed by impressive Dorothea to the most minor of walk-on parts.
Jar City is Arnaldur Indridason's first installment in his excellent crime series. Erlendur is an aging detective in the Reykjavik CID. He's a solitary man with a bad divorce behind him and a drug-addicted daughter with whom he has a difficult relationship, although they are both trying very hard. In this series debut, Erlendur investigates the case of an old man who is found bludgeoned to death in his basement apartment. It seems to be a case of random violence, until Erlendur delves into the man's history and discovers a violent and unsavory past.
The series portrays daily life in Iceland, a unique place where a relatively small population is isolated from the world by their location and culture. Indridason's descriptions are vivid and his characters are interesting. The case was as bleak as the Atlantic storms battering Reykjavik throughout the book, which has the characteristic feel of a Scandinavian crime novel, albeit in a unique setting.
I had Jar City then I saw Silence of the Grave was at a reduced rate, so I downloaded that as well. It's funny I was debating on whether I would read Jar City or The Savage Altar in the near future. Looks like it will be Jar City.
Craig and his brother, Phil, are raised in a house with very little to spare; neither money nor love is in abundant supply. He's an outcast at school, finding solace in his drawings, with his little brother drawing next to him. In high school Craig falls in love with Raina, a girl he meets at church camp, and their relationship is beautifully drawn. I don't want to give anything away, although the plot isn't really the point of the book. Blankets packs an understated but powerful emotional whallop about love and families and how hard it is to find a path in life. The book is divided, roughly, into thirds, with the central section telling the love story of Craig and Raina, and the flanking sections tell about Craig's childhood and his relationship with his brother. This isn't an easy book to read, despite it's form, but it's a rewarding book for all that. Thompson expertly shows how the memories we keep change us, and how our memories can be affected by our life experiences.
This was an enormously frustrating book for me. C.J. Sansom's writing is workmanlike; so that while it isn't bad, it also never achieves more than a steady, plodding pace. The setting is fantastic--there have been so many novels set in Western Europe during the Second World War, but few are set in Spain, and the events there are ripe ground for thousands of novels. There were serious concerns that Spain would join the war and tip the balance over to the Axis powers, while life in Spain was very difficult; years of bitter civil war and the subsequent dictatorship had left the economy in ruins. But if the time and place were well described, the characters were straight out of British central casting. In a world of shifting loyalties and shades of gray, Sansom has created his characters to be good or bad, with no surprises or nuances along the way. Despite the Spanish setting, the main characters are all British, each a stock character, straight from the box. This was less annoying than it might have been; after all, the reason they are so over-used is that they go over well. It's just a little tiresome in a book as long as Winter in Madrid to never be surprised by anything they do. Motivations are explained early and often and no one deviates from their anointed roles. I knew who would die in the daring escape long before they even knew there would be one. The plot was likewise predictable; I knew what the climactic scenes would be long before they were discussed. This is the kind of book that I would normally have set aside, but for the setting, which made it worthwhile, if not suspenseful. I'd like to roundly condemn it as a lazily written book that asks nothing of the reader, but, oh, the setting does much to redeem it.
When we're in the league we're not average guys with average lives. Our normal is no one else's. What we do to each other on the ice would be criminal in any jurisdiction if it were to take place on the street. Even the cleanest bodycheck would be assault. We glory in fighting. We drink to celebrate. Some do drugs, a lot steroids, but I've known some big weed smokers. A lot of guys gamble up to the line of compulsion and beyond. And we rebel against coaches who push us when we aren't inclined to be pushed, which is always, or against GMs whom we're always suspicious of. A team is just a gang by another name, playing hard, partying hard, living hard. Some harder than most. Some unable to behave differently when they hand their skates up to dry or hang them up for good.
Joyce is a sportswriter who has worked as a hockey scout and his knowledge of the inner and outer workings of the game as well as his understanding of hockey culture are what makes this book worth reading. An insider's view of how the minor leagues work is the central focus of the book, making it fascinating reading for a fan of the sport and probably unreadable for anyone else. Joyce aims for a witty hard-boiled writing style and sometimes gets there, but it mostly comes over as overly florid. The plot, while taking second stage to the atmosphere, is put together well enough to hold through the final pages. One thing that did surprise me was the author's female characters, which in this book about an entirely male sport were admittedly few. Joyce's women were as three-dimensional as the men. The love interest was better educated and comfortable in her life and skin than Shade and they interacted as equals.
I always enjoy Lippman's non-series novels and this one was better than usual. I'd read a short story by her a while ago in which she plays with the ideas found in this book so she's been working on this one for some time and it shows. It's a very well thought out story and it was impossible not to want to Heloise to succeed, or at least not to be caught.
Oh yeah, now the short story is coming back to me. I totally missed that when reading the book!
That said, there are some flaws that marred my enjoyment of this book. Early on, there's a silly anachronism, where the family sits down to watch a show that won't be aired for another six years, which made me wary of believing the accuracy of the background of each chapter's events. Each story is very much oriented in time and place, so that careless mistake at the beginning had me doubting the authenticity of each story's setting. There's a sense in which this book is derivative of The Corrections; although they are very different in tone, there are enough similarities in a few of the characters to make comparisons inevitable, and The Year We Left Home is the lesser book.
Anne Korkeakivi's debut novel, An Unexpected Guest, is based on Mrs. Dalloway, with a well-to-do woman (here the wife of a British diplomat) planning an important dinner party while her life is upended. Clare has spent the past twenty years perfecting her job as a diplomat's wife, furthering his career by being discrete, decorative and an excellent guest and hostess. Their time in Paris is drawing to a close and he is angling to be next sent to Dublin instead of somewhere less comfortable and more obscure. A last minute request to host a dinner party could make or break his chances. Clare has never wanted to return to Ireland, after her one disastrous visit when she was twenty, but she's determined to support her husband; it's what she's always done. But the chance of an Irish posting is bringing forth memories, both pleasant and bitter. Her teenage son reappears that morning, unwilling to talk about some nebulous, but serious trouble he has gotten into at his boarding school back in England. The book follows Clare through her day, shopping for flowers and cheese, getting her hair done, delivering a translation she's finished, placating the cook and chatting with the guests.
An Unexpected Guest is a quiet novel; the turmoil is mostly internal, but that doesn't make it uneventful or boring. Korkeakivi writes confidently, and with an assurance not often found in a first novel. It's a pleasure to find a quiet book that isn't trite or whimsical. I'm eager to read whatever she next writes.
'70s wasn't that long ago. I would've caught the Newhart thing too. Especially if she started talking about Larry Darryl and Darryl.
Interesting review of An Unexpected Guest.
Oooohh, I loved Mrs. Dalloway! An Unexpected Guest sounds great and has now been added to my For Later list with my local library.
We all have our favorite escapist reading. Mine are Chick Lit books based on the novels of Jane Austen. Really, there are more of them out there than you think. So Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo should have been an easy hit with me. My standards are very low for these books. It is a light romance set in London and the author does know the city and its surroundings. But the plot of the book wasn't based (however loosely) on any of the Austen novels. Instead it had the protagonist being fed letters that revealed that Austen had had a perfect romance of her own. So, there was that heresy. Don't mess with the lives of actual people, especially not such a well known one. An author can imagine around the known facts, but wholesale invention is not nice.
And then there was the contrivance. A certain amount of coincidence or a secondary character telling the protagonist something is standard in chick lit. But this had a well organized conspiracy to get the couple together. It required so much work from so many people that there was no sense (my cat has just run in after a chipmunk. The dogs are looking on in mild interest. I am not looking forward to grabbing the broom and staging an intervention.) that the couple in question belonged together. The guy never made a move. The girl whined about her poor love life and loneliness and also never made a move. Neither were likeable.
So I didn't love it. (The chipmunk is behind a dog bed. The dog who had been occupying said bed has fled. I suspect he lacks the killer instinct. Off to get the broom.)
Hope your efforts to rid yourself of the chipmunk are more successful than the book!
The disappointing thing about the book was that my standards are so, so low and yet the book couldn't fulfill them. That said, Shannon Hale has raised the bar somewhat. And I won't downplay my own culpability in liking such a specialized sub-genre!
Sometimes a book is hyped all out of proportion to it's actual worth, but there are books that deserve all the acclaim they garner and The Book Thief is one of those. The plot is similar to that of a hundred other books; a girl's family hides a Jewish man in their basement during the Second World War. Everything else is new. From the writing style, to the beautiful incorporation of the German language and culture, to even the character of Death, who isn't anything like you'd expect, Zusak never puts a foot wrong.
In The St. Zita Society, Rendell tells an upstairs downstairs story told primarily from the view below stairs. In a well-to-do London neighborhood, the help gathers together periodically at the pub on the corner to discuss the various issues to do with life on Hexam Place. Led by June, the geriatric companion to a self-styled princess, she struggles to perform her daily tasks. Then there's Monserrat, the au pair, whose main task is to sneak her employer's lover in and out of the house without the husband's knowledge. There's Dex, who is living on a disability allowance since his release from the mental institute and who now does gardening for some of the residents. So, there's a murder, or two, with a cover-up and a lot of lying. It's an entertaining enough read as long as being surprised by the plot twists is not important and every character behaving exactly as one would suspect given their backgrounds.
I enjoyed St Zita's Society, it wasn't quite as cranky, and mabye a bit less stereotypical? I don't think I will ever be able to quit her either, as you stated, the excellent writing style is still there.
Jenny Lawson, who writes a popular blog as The Blogess, has written a "mostly true" memoir called Let's Pretend This Never Happened. After that sentence, you'll pretty much know if you want to read her book. It's written in the familiar, humorous tone often used by bloggers and the book sometimes feels like a particularly excellent and lengthy post. Lawson is a deeply weird individual (and I mean that in the best possible way), with a skewed sense of humor, the mouth of a syphilitic pirate, an unusual upbringing and a willingness to bare herself for our edification and entertainment. Let's Pretend This Never Happened walks that fine line between melodrama and humor, writing chapters that mix the very serious with the tremendously funny. This is a very funny book, of the kind not to be read on public transportation or in a Starbucks.
As for Ruth Rendell, I've read a lot of similar sentiments from other LT:ers (Eva?). It's a shame when someone doesn't know when to quit. I've reached the age when, rather than hoping for past glory, I tend to get happy when my favorite bands call it quits with their dignity intact. Perhaps it's the same with writers.
In regards to the Jenny Lawson book; I guffawed, loudly, several times in the reading of this book, but it is not for the faint of heart. You really can't be tolerant of foul language. You have to embrace it. And also be able to read about inappropriate things done to the wee corpses of animals (her father was a taxidermist) and be fine with the mention of female genitalia. I think you'll love it, Anders.
I like to read short story collections slowly, because they can often get a little repetitive. That didn't happen here and I ended up reading it in immoderate chunks.
I began this book with great excitement. Who doesn't want to read a story of life on wild edges of Canada? But a large portion of this book isn't set in northern Ontario, but rather in New York, where Annie becomes a model and party girl. These sections feel more like a series on the CW and fit uneasily with descriptions of setting up a winter camp on James Bay or on the daily life of the inhabitants of Moosonee. I felt like I was reading two different books, one of which I had very little interest in. Likewise, the vengeful drug lord plot, which was too much of a thriller and took away a lot of the strength of the book as a whole. I think that half of this book was fantastic and the other half sheer drudgery. I'm sure many people would love to read a book about a partying model, but they aren't necessarily the same ones who would enjoy a book about ordinary people living in a cold and wild place.
More than the story itself, the center of this book is the city of Chicago and the atmosphere of the 1950s. Just writes beautifully, and here he puts his skills to work describing the politics and manners of a world just beginning to change. Wils is less important than he thinks he is, but what nineteen-year-old is, and its through his eyes we get a snapshot of the world at a very specific time and place. Just is an underappreciated writer of great skill and heart and I'm always happy to read one of his books.
I had a hard time putting this book down. It's highly readable but, in the end, it lacks the fire and bite of Scottsboro. This is a straight up historical novel with sympathetic characters doing their best at a turbulent point in history. I enjoyed it, but doubt I'll still be thinking about it in a few days. I hope this isn't a direction that Feldman has decided to go, although it's probably a much more salable book than Scottsboro.
In any collection this diverse, some stories are amazing, a few fall flat and a handful are fantastically bizarre. It took me quite a while to read all forty tales, they not being the kind of thing to read one after another. I liked that the editor, Kate Bernheimer, chose several stories by new authors, some of whom have not yet written a full-length novel and others who are not well known. She also included several non-Western authors, who adapted stories from their own countries and made the collection a bit unexpected; without the easy handle of a familiar plot to anchor the reader they demanded a little more of me. My only complaint has to do with the book's organization; with the fairy tale each story is based on found only in the table of contents and information about each author stuck in the back, I was constantly flipping around before and after each story.
ETA: its already there. You think I could remember a title like that...... ;-)
I've enjoyed Andrew Pyper's books so far. He writes thrillers, with a Canadian flavor; his best ones are set in small towns and are generally well plotted, so that the endings don't feel rushed or implausible. I got my copy of his newest novel, The Guardians, and began it without knowing anything about the plot; had I known it was about an evil-infested haunted house, I would have stuck it on the bottom of my TBR. I'm glad I didn't, though, because The Guardians was both atmospheric and very, very readable.
Four sophomore boys played on the high school hockey team in the small Ontario town of Grimshaw that year and were friends. Then something bad happened, involving a missing teacher, and they all vowed never to tell anyone. Years later, Trevor is coming to terms with his newly diagnosed Parkinson's disease when he returns to Grimshaw to attend the funeral of one of the other boys, Ben, the only one who stayed in Grimshaw, living across the street from the old Thurman house, who has committed suicide. He's determined to keep his stay in his hometown as short as possible, even as he rekindles friendships from decades ago, but then another woman goes missing and he can't help but notice parallels from the incident when he was in high school and it seems he'll have to find out just what is going on in that house.
It's a fairly basic and well-trod set up, but Pyper manages to make it interesting by diving into the lives of small town teen-agers, both the ones who don't see anything but continuing down the paths expected of them and those who dream of escaping the confines of small town life. Pyper evokes life in a small, Canadian town, where the high school hockey players are stars, albeit stars who eventually graduate to manage small stores or work in the construction industry. And the house is creepy. Really creepy. And there's that evil presence from the past thing, but adeptly handled. I never once rolled my eyes.
Ro is a great character. She's made a habit of choosing the wrong men, always ending up with men like her father, who can't help taking a swipe at her, and she's not good at being alone, but she's clear-headed about her future prospects if she stays with her husband. She's a little less clear-headed about how to get herself out safely and sometimes her plans are based more on wishful thinking than on reality, but she's determined to try. Her husband isn't a monster, and their attraction for each other is evident, but he does have both a temper and the belief that she belongs to him. I liked what Jackson did with this relationship; I've read books where I couldn't figure out why on earth the woman was ever within ten feet of the embodiment of evil she married and I think the relationship here is a more realistic portrayal of an abusive relationship, with hopeful times and good times present as well.
Jackson writes with a light touch that leavens the subject matter somewhat. Ro's voice at the beginning of the book is a little too hillbilly, but that settles down after a while. The plot moves along and while you can feel Ro's loneliness and fear, you can also feel her determination to survive and make a life for herself. Also, Ro's dog, fat Gretel, decribed as "dim and lovely", is a character in her own right and reminds me more than a little of my funny girl, currently twitching with doggy dreams at the foot of the bed.
Can marriage save your life, or is it just the beginning of a long double homicide?
David Pepin has fantasized about killing his wife for some time, long enough to even have written a manuscript about it. Then she is found dead and it's unclear whether she committed suicide or was murdered, and David is naturally the prime suspect. The two investigating detectives have marital problems of their own. Hastroll's wife has retired to her bed and refused to explain why and the other detective is Sam Sheppard, the man The Fugitive is loosely based on, who served time for the murder of his pregnant wife, but who later had his conviction overturned.
This book felt misogynistic to me, with every female character consumed with a silent dissatisfaction they are unwilling to articulate to their increasingly desperate and concerned husbands. Marilyn Sheppard is the only woman whose point of view we get to see and she is entirely consumed by her husband's untidiness and infidelity. She doesn't have agency outside of reacting to his activities. (I now understand why so many reviewers fell over themselves to praise Jonathan Franzen's ability to "write women". After this book, I'm inclined to do the same.)
That said, there was much that was interesting about this book. Ross takes many scenes and repeats them from different points of view, and even from the same character's point of view. In a less able writer's hands, this might be boring, but I found these scenes to form the most interesting parts of Mr. Peanut. And the long section detailing the days leading up to Marilyn Sheppard's murder was fascinating, especially the scenes told from both spouses' points of view. In them, Ross vividly demonstrates how one person can be happy in a relationship and convinced it has never been stronger, while the other person is inarticulate with despair. This is the author's first full length novel and it shows quite a bit of promise, if he can get a handle on writing women as people, rather than adjuncts and impediments.
Great review btw.
DeltaQueen50, I agreed with much of your review. His writing does show enormous promise. I'd like someone to pound him over the head until he 'gets it', at which point he might do something really noteworthy.
So, the basic plot of the book is that two seven-year-old girls go missing early one morning from their small Iowa town. They are best friends and both live in houses that back onto a large forest. Petra is the only child of a middle-aged professor and his younger wife, who struggled for years to have a baby. Calli is the daughter of an abusive alcoholic father and a negligent, but loving mother who has a lot of issues. Calli has also not spoken since she was four and no one knows why, primarily because no one has tried to find treatment for her, although the school does send her to the guidance counselor a few times a week. The deputy in charge of the investigation had a long relationship with Calli's mother before they both married other people and they have a lot of unresolved feelings for each other.
The story is told in very short chapters, switching between several points of view, making this book quite a bit shorter than its page count indicates. Luckily, the name of the person narrating is put up at the top of each segment in large letters, because the voice never alters. The seven-year-old girl sounds exactly like the middle-aged professor who sounds exactly like the under-educated mother. One of the girls has a third person narration, for no purpose I can fathom. There are several weighty issues dealt with in this book, from spousal abuse to child abuse to selective mutism to kidnapping to assault to alcoholism, but since there is so little room to explore each issue, you don't have to worry about taking any of them seriously and, indeed, the characters themselves don't worry about things too much.
Are you wondering if I liked anything about this book? The cover was nice. I mean, it's a standard illustration, featuring the torso of a young girl facing away from the camera, but the clothes and the age of the girl actually correspond with a character in the book and its a pretty picture. That was good. There was nothing really objectionable in the book; it didn't espouse satanism or have much in the way of swear words, which is something of an accomplishment considering one of the narrators was a twelve-year-old boy. The crime scene people were very tidy, which is nice because who wants to clean up fingerprint dust, right? They also don't find any clues, which are obvious and left to a parent to find, which means they may not have done the best job, but I really hate dusting and would not want to be having to worry about the parents here having to vacuum while their daughters were missing, so it was considerate of them. I think I, personally, might have wanted hundreds of law enforcement officers marching around my home in muddy boots if one of my children had disappeared, but the characters here seemed fine with the half dozen officers mentioned in this book, wandering around, talking about starting a search tomorrow sometime, so who am I to judge? Also, if the police had done their job, the thrilling climax would have been avoided entirely, and we all know that a thriller-like book needs a thrilling and dangerous climax.
I can't wait to read your review. Everyone, she'll be fair and far kinder than I.
In The Robber Bride, Tony, Charis and Roz have all fallen prey to Zenia, or rather their husbands and boyfriends have been stolen away along with other things they held dear, like trust and security and chickens. Zenia, a talented grifter, knows how to get each woman to trust her, until she's taken what she wants and disappears. First is the diminutive, studious Tony, an orphan studying the history of war and living in a residence hall where she does not mix comfortably with the boisterous girls enjoying college life. Then she meets West, a music student with whom she forms a close friendship only to discover that he's living with the glamourous Zenia. Charis has learned how to disappear into herself, a necessary skill to surviving her childhood, first with a mother with a mental illness and then with relatives who are willing to do their duty by her. She finds security for herself though, by creating a home in a drafty little house on an island a short ferry ride from Toronto. With the addition of Billy, an American avoiding the Vietnam War and a flock of chickens, she forges a small family for herself and willingly sets out to shelter and heal Zenia, who tells her she's dying of cancer. And then there's Roz, big-boned and loud, who has a family she loves and a burgeoning business empire, for whom Zenia poses as a talented war correspondent looking to start a career in a gentler place.
Often in a book with a shifting point of view, I find myself preferring certain characters and wishing they had more time and others less, or I find it hard to fully involve myself in the story, because the emotional emphasis keeps shifting. Margaret Atwood's so good at what she does, however, that I found myself equally invested in each of these three very different women. While Zenia, a woman willing to betray other women to get what she wants, is the center of the book, the real story is about the friendship between Tony, Roz and Charis, who would not have become close had they not all been deceived by Zenia. Each is vulnerable because they are open to friendship and it is ultimately that openness that saves and heals them.
I've enjoyed every book by Margaret Atwood that I've read. She not only writes with brilliance and clarity, but her books are endlessly diverse.
Jeanette Winterson was adopted by an angry woman who rigidly adhered to a fierce pentecostalism. Often told that they'd chosen the wrong child, she grew up love-starved and angry. In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Winterson describes her upbringing where being raised by a woman unable to love or to receive love left indelible marks on her.
There are people who could never commit murder. I am not one of those people.
It is better to know it. Better to know who you are, and what lies in you, what you could do, might do, under extreme provocation.
But what should surely be a harsh and difficult read is not that at all. Winterson doesn't gloss over the neglect or the uncertainty or the abuse, but she doesn't dwell on it, either. And she loves her history, her working class roots in a community on the outskirts of Manchester. And she was saved by books.
The library held all the Eng lit classics, and quite a few surprises like Gertrude Stein. I had no idea of what to read or in what order, so I just started alphabetically. Thank God her last name was Austen...
This is one kick-ass book. Winterson here allows the reader to not only experience her fear and lonliness, and she also tries to understand what drove her mother, and she writes about Mrs. Winterson with no small degree of compassion. She made it from living in the back of a mini, after being kicked out of her house at sixteen, to attending Oxford at a time when both being female and working class were strikes against her, to becoming an influential writer. This required no small degree of strength and hope and Winterson tells us the story with an emotional honesty that makes the whole journey well worth taking with her.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a straightforward memoir. Not experimental at all -- Winterson's life doesn't need any bells or whistles to give it a greater impact.
A Wanted Man is the seventeenth book about things happening to Jack Reacher, ex military policeman and current drifter, through no fault of his own. Sure, a few of the books involve things that happened because he used to be an MP, or while he was an MP, but mostly he has a great skill at stumbling into violent conspiracies.
In this case, Reacher was just hitch-hiking his way to Virginia when he's picked up somewhere in Kansas by a group of three office workers on their way home from what Reacher assumes was a team building exercise. A few miles and a roadblock later, he's rethinking that assumption. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, the local sheriff calls in the FBI when a murder is observed in an old pumping station. Soon thereafter the only witness disappears and a local cocktail waitress goes missing.
As usual, the plot of the novel races along with plenty of twists, turns and bullets. As usual, the plot is ridiculously over the top, but told in such a logical way that you just kind of go along for the ride. And typically enough, there's no breathing room given at all. One change in this book is that Reacher talks quite a bit more than he has before, being downright chatty for much of the book. And he's gotten cranky, which I hope is only due to the broken nose he sports throughout the book. He's ruder here, willing to gratuitously insult the poor people who are just going about their daily lives. I very much hope that this is only because he just found out who's playing him in the movie version and that in the next installment he'll be back to being his usual taciturn, but even-tempered self.
Isn't is amazing how many mysteries rely on that premise? Is it because our sleuths are more observant individuals? Or do these authors need to work a little harder and not rely on mere circumstance?
Flop-wobble grace note or high banshee whine.
Rain spat upon his threadbare gabardine,
Into his cap where the occasional tossed coin
Basked on damp lining, the raindrops glittering
So, pure silliness and the plot is utterly contrived and unlikely. Mainly, though, it was just a lot of fun. The characters were likable and I could see why they liked each other. And who doesn't sometimes just want a fun read with a happy ending?
Baudolino begins the story by letting us know he's a storyteller first, and one not overly concerned with the truth. And in an amazing twist, he sets the story on its head, leaving me wondering if the events described were supposed to be actual events in the world of this book, or products of Baudolino's fertile imagination.
The Queen of the South is by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte and tells the story of Teresa Mendoza. Teresa is the girlfriend of a drug-runner; her boyfriend flies a Cessna for a Sinaloan-based drug cartel. Then he is executed for stepping out of line and when Teresa gets the call and knows she has to run for her life.
The book was different from what I had expected. I found myself rooting for people engaged in very shady activities. The author didn't gloss over what was being done, but he did make his characters, especially Teresa, three-dimensional and likable. I'll certainly read more by this author.
In The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales hijacked planes circle in perpetuity, a man frozen in a contorted position manages to speak through his ears, zombies roam shopping malls and something mysterious is killing the animals kept in an abandoned house. There's a surfeit of imagination here; each short story starts with a premise that would fuel a sizable novel. In the title story, for example, a scientist accidentally shrinks his wife, with whom he had not been getting along. Naturally, shrinking her does not improve their relationship and an odd, unequal battle ensues. Each story is so different from the previous, that reading several at one go never becomes repetitive. My only caveat is that some stories are all about the fantastic hook, leaving a somewhat heartless center to the imaginative shell, but not all of them; one even made me tear up. Gonzales may someday be a literary heavyweight.
This is where Rankin lost me for a while. Liberating artwork from the unappreciative mega-wealthy is one thing; stealing from the public in order to own a piece of art that can then never be shared is quite another. It turned the book from a fun crime romp into something less fun, for me, anyway. Rankin turns it around, but it took me awhile to see what he was doing. In any case, the final third of the book is brilliant in it's unraveling.
Eva, Rankin's new series is really good. Try that instead.
Wolfy, I thought at the end of the book that it read very much like something intended to be a film. I might like the TV version. Then it's just a fun caper-gone-wrong story.
Anders, you will like The Miniature Wife and Other Stories.
I read only 97 books this year, but enjoyed the ones I read.
Best books of the year:
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
See you over at the 2013 Category Challenge!