Search This Blog

Thursday, March 30, 2006

March, updated 3/31

Bannister, Jo. Echoes of Lies. The first in the Brodie Farrell mysteries.

Bannister, Jo. True Witness. The second book in the series. Have now read all 5 in the series - working backward. Bannister has published one a year starting in 2001, so this year should produce another one. I've enjoyed all of them.

Oyeyemi, Helen. The Icarus Girl . I chose this book based on the title and the cover. Oyeyemi completed the book before she was nineteen. Impressive. And, hopefully, a promise of things to come. The Greek myth of the title is subjugated to the myths of Nigeria, but does surface in a compelling blend of mythology. Jessamy, an eight year old girl with a vivid imagination, a burning intelligence, and some emotional difficulties, is an intriguing protagonist. The psyche, the myth, the doppelganger...

Grabien, Deborah. Matty Groves. Thought I'd like this because it was a mystery connected to old ballads, but I'm not even going to bother with a link.

Robinson, Peter. Close to Home. Rayna Gillman recommended this author, and I'm glad I remembered his name when I went to the library because I forgot my list. Had actually read one of these before and liked it (but didn't remember until I started the book), so it was good to catch up with Inspector Banks and Annie. And just in case it did turn out to be good, I got 3 while at the library and have 2 more to read! Since the Banks/Annie relationship is over--although they continue to work together--I will be interested to see if Banks has better luck with Michelle (who, like Annie, has her own baggage).

Jenny White. The Sultan's Seal. I liked this one because of its view of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800's. White is an anthropologist and has written several non-fiction works, but this is her first novel and a very skillful one. Her characters have substance, both personal and cultural, and the novel gives an intimate look into a complicated society divided between its own tradition and the English influence. There is a mystery, but the mystery of a divided culture is the most important aspect.

Reichs, Kathy. Deadly Decisions. I'm not much interested in biker's or biker murders. Not my favorite Reichs' novel.

Robinson, Peter. Playing with Fire. Follows Close to Home with Inspector Alan Banks. Dysfunctional families, fire, murder, and art forgery. Good mystery.

Bannister, Jo. The Fifth Cataract. The Clio Marsh series. Not nearly as interesting.

Picoult, Jodi. The Tenth Circle. Although I was interested in the graphic novel approach and love Dante's Inferno, this novel just failed to seem anything other than contrived. Picoult fans will probably disagree, but jeez the family members here are so self-involved that they really have a peculiar flatness. After finishing and thinking back on it, nothing really hung together for me. Picoult offers up the idea of self-deception, but I'm not sure but what the characters were exactly what they seemed. The graphic novel was the best part; the text was a graphic novel that didn't translate. The issues are important, but the novel is trivial. And it will make the best seller list.

OK - just read several reviews, mostly glowing, but Library Journal gives it a rather ambiguous thumbs' up, with the comment "...but something here just missed its mark. Still, this best-selling author is going to be in demand."

Kirkus Reviews: "Picoult fumbles in this 13th novel of, predictably, a family in crisis.... Picoult, who is so often an inventive and compelling storyteller, relies here on convention and sentimentality."

Maybe that is my main problem - I expected more from Picoult. Much of my reading is of the bon-bon kind and when they fall short, I'm not really disappointed. Here, however, I fully expected something more.

Robinson, Peter. Strange Affair. Back to a mystery that is pure escapism and fun. I enjoy seeing the characters getting on with their lives. The three I've read this month were in chronological order and the most recent in the series. There are, however, about 12 more.

Tope, Rebecca. A Dirty Death. Some interesting elements.

Darnton, John. The Darwin Conspiracy. Five or six years ago, I read Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution by Randal Keynes, Darwin's great-great-grandson who discovered a writing box owned by Annie that contained some of her treasures and notes by Darwin. (They have since shortened the title and changed the book cover) It was fascinating to read details of the Darwin family life documented by Darwin's notes, letters of friends and family, and accounts published at the time. This novel is an interesting fictional theory, and the author's bibliography is impressive as he lists over 30 well known books on Darwin including Annie's Box and Darwin's own published works (The Voyage of the Beagle, Origin of Species, etc.) Darnton, who won a Pulitzer for his journalistic work, has written a fictional account about the reasons Darwin waited 22 years to write On the Origin of Species. My only problem with this novel is my own lack of knowledge; although he used Keynes' work, little of what composes his theory connects with what I remember of the book. I would like to know if there is evidence for the theory, or if he just used the research to lend factual detail to his fictional account...

de los Santos. Love Walked In. ChicLit with one character who appealed to me. Here is a separate entry on this novel...just because I was initially enchanted by Clare.

Rendell, Ruth. 13 Steps Down. I enjoy Rendell's novels even though they almost always make me uneasy and anxious from the first page. Her characters are studied as if they are bugs under a microscope, and thye are more likely to be scorpions than butterflys. No mystery, we know who does what, but an explication of sorts. Psychological suspense.

Muller, Marcia. Cape Perdido. Not a Sharon McCone mystery, but one that deals with environmental issues.

I finally abandoned Ghostwriter on page 313. I liked the way the stories tied together, but didn't like a single character. Also decided that Arthur and George was not for me. Not even the Conan Doyle character could entice me back. Unusual for me to abandon books (maybe 1/50 books will not be finished), I will plod through some stinkers, but I kept finding myself reading (or doing) anything else as they gathered dust. Reluctance that strong must mean something. The books have one thing in common, they fail to engage my interest (and hey, I'm pretty easy), but the authors also have a certain disengagement from their own characters. It wouldn't surprise me that readers who like one, would like the other -- and both Michell and Barnes have plenty of followers out there.

Still reading The World Is Flat and am learning all sorts of things. This book is difficult for me in some ways because the computer and software workings are beyond my ken. And so is economics, for that matter. Friedman, however, balances the technical with break-downs that technodunces such as myself can almost grasp and with enough purely human examples that are both easily understood and interesting.


  1. I have been wanting to read Friedman's book! I saw him do some interviews when it was just released. Have you ever read one of his older books, From Beirut to Jerusalem? If you haven't, by all means, DO! its I think one of the very best books- and also extremely interesting and entertaining-about life in the Middle East that I have ever read. I read it right before I moved to that region of the world in 1996 and can't recommend it highly enough!

  2. Wow, what a neat blog! So glad you mentioned it on your other one.
    I do love a good mystery, esp. if it is in another time or place...I will look out for this Bannister fellow's work.
    My favorite two authors in this genre at the moment are Alan Furst and Ian Rankin. I like my protagonists to have "surly nobility", and theirs definitley do.

  3. Thanks, Allison! Your comments are "no reply" so I'm just going to thank you here. :)

  4. Gosh! How do you get through so many? I'm a fan of Peter Robinson too, and have just ordered his first three for my mother. I also test-drove a new author for my mother: Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. Pleasant enough read, but not enough to get my teeth into for me. Set in WWI London. I think my mother will like it though.

  5. Unfortunately, my library had only the 3 Robinson novels, so I'll have to resort to interlibrary loan for more. I read one of the Maisie Dobbs and enjoyed it, but I read a lot of bon bons! I bet your mother will like it.