Monday, December 03, 2007

Semi-annual Book Report

Geez, has it been four five months since I did my last book report? I can't find one after June, which means July through November. Gah. Well, here goes. I'm probably going to forget some.
  1. The Virgin Blue, by Tracy Chevalier. I'd enjoyed Girl With a Pearl Earring so when I saw a copy of Chevalier's first book on sale, I picked it up. It was a quick read, crossing back and forth between the narratives of two women in France -- one from the 17th century, the other from contemporary times. I don't think this one was as well-written as her second book, and it seems to vacillate between being Serious Historical Fiction and chick-lit, but on the whole, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Jar City, by Arnaldur Indridason. You might think I'd run out of detective stories from icy European countries, but you'd be wrong. This one is set in Reykyavik, Iceland, and begins with the murder of an old man in his apartment. It turns out he was "a nasty piece of work" having raped at least one woman.

  3. Three books by Laura Lippman. The first was The Sugar House, part of her Tess Monaghan detective series set in Baltimore. A teenager goes to prison after pleading guilty to murdering a runaway, then a month later is himself killed in prison. His sister hires private eye Monaghan to find out what really happened. Entertaining and the insider's view of Baltimore was interesting. For instance, I learned that Domino's Sugar is made (or was made?) in Baltimore. The second two books were standalone mysteries. Every Secret Thing is the story of two young girls who spent seven years in juvenile custody for the murder of a baby. The story picks up when they are released at age eighteen -- and shortly thereafter, another baby goes missing. I think my favorite of the three was To The Power of Three, which explores a school shooting committed by one of a trio of high school friends. The plot seemed especially relevant given the sad and constant barrage of news reports about violence in our schools.

  4. Three books (in fact, a trilogy) by Denise Mina. All three revolve around Maureen O'Donnell, a Glasgow woman whose family puts the "fun" in dysfunctional: alcoholic mother, father who sexually molested her then left town, sisters who don't believe she suffered the abuse, brother who's a drug dealer. In Garnethill, Maureen wakes up one morning with a splitting hangover -- and her boyfriend's dead body in the living room. In Exile, Maureen investigates the disappearance and murder of a battered woman staying at the shelter Maureen volunteers at. In Resolution,Maureen must cope with the trial of her boyfriend's murderer and her father's return to Glasgow (in time for the birth of her sister's baby), while getting entangled in the sudden death of a fellow flea-market vendor. Gritty depiction of life in Glasgow, good mysteries, and also vivid exploration of social issues like incest, alcoholism and prostitution.
That's all I can remember right now -- July and August were quite a blur -- but if I remember any more, I'll add them to this month's report.

Don't forget the BBF update on Wednesday, December 5th, with sock yarns and some worsted/DK weights (good for quicker-knitting holiday gifts).


katorg said...

We have very similar tastes in books.

Just finished L Lippman's Every Secret Thing and The Power of Three is on my library list. I really enjoyed her recent What the Dead Know. She has a lot of insight into the damaged places in scary young women, and vice versa.

Love the dark Scano policiers. Arnuld I has a new one out that is also on my list. Can't think of the title at the moment.

If you are interested in the high school violence issue a must read is Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. Fascinating, riveting, shattering and provocative. I also loved her The Post Birthday World which deals with the theme of turning points in life and how things might play out in an alternate life. Wonderfully written, and structurally intriguing.

Right now I'm reading Dennis Johnson's Tree of Smok and Rubicon by Tim Hall a very lively book on Roman history at the end of the Republic.

Best regards,


Carol said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I'll check some of them out.

Patricia said...

I live in Baltimore and yes Domino Sugar factory is still going strong. In fact they recently had an incidence where the sugar caused an explosion that blew out the windows of the third floor of the factory. Who knew sugar could blow up!

I read one of Lippman's books and she is very good.


Rooie said...

Every Secret Thing is set near the neighborhood where I grew fact, the pool at the beginning? I spent many hours there with my dad as a kid. I've met Laura at a couple of signings...she lived in the same neighborhood but a few years after my family left.

Fancy Pants said...

I love mystery type stories. Have you read any Henning Mankell? He's a German writer and his books are really enjoyable. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I recommend The Fifth Woman but they're all good. Thanks for the recommendations.