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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December Reading - update

Gur, Batya. Murder in Jerusalem. I've been reading Gur's mysteries featuring Michael Ohayon for years. The earlier ones were terrific. This latest one is not. I persevered through the opening chapters and the excruciatingly annoying dialogue, wondering what had happened to a previously talented author. Annoyed that this novel was not living up to her previous work, I fumed and fussed to myself. Finally, as I picked up the book to continue the painful process, I flipped to the back flap and realized that Gur had died in 2005. Checked the copyright date -2006. Did some online research and discovered she died of cancer (her obituary). I finished the novel with a different attitude. Although by no means up to the standard of her previous novels, the novel is a farewell to Ohayon, Eli, Balilty, Tzilla, and Shorer...

Tepper, Sheri S. Singer from the Sea. I read a couple of Tepper's novels in the early 90's and enjoyed them. She definitely writes from a feminist perspective. This novel is one of her far-future fantasies. I really enjoyed the first 3 quarters of the book, but the last quarter was less appealing. Genevieve has been brought up in the Covenants that govern the behavior of women on the planet of Haven. The submissiveness and subservience taught by the Covenants has been somewhat deflected by the secret teachings of Genevieve's mother, who unfortunately died when Genevieve was quite young. When it becomes necessary, however, Genevieve is able to draw on these teachings. uncover the reason for keeping young women submissive, and fulfill her destiny. The men, both good and evil, in this novel are curiously flat. The most interesting men are minor characters: Jeorfy Bottoms, librarian, and Veswees the dressmaker. Women are good; men are bad; exceptions are few.

Abraham, Daniel. A Shadow in Summer. Abraham has created a different world. It requires a bit more attention than the normal science fiction/ fantasy novel because it doesn't follow the patterns that have been set by previous authors. An interesting element is the inclusion of posture and gesture that I visualize as something like Buddhist Mudras, but far more inclusive. These ritual poses can convey all kinds of subtleties that have variations similar to tone of voice. A Shadow in Summer is Book One of The Long Price Quartet. Abraham creates an interesting and intricate world and sets in motion a chain of events that threatens nations.

Hardie, Kerry. The Bird Woman. Another author that I want to read again. The Bird Woman is a strangely compelling novel about imperfect humanity, love and hate, relationships and hurt, grudges carried from childhood, prejudice, misjudgements and mis-steps.

Set in Ireland during the time of the troubles, the novel opens a window into those separate worlds of North and South, Protestant and Catholic. Ellen McKinnon has the ability to see the future - not in every circumstance and not all the time, but sometimes she has flashes of events that later occur, although not always precisely as she sees them. Later, McKinnon develops another ability, finding herself capable of healing by the laying of hands. You would think that this would be the essence of the novel, but it is not.

It is a novel that speaks to the Protestant/Catholic problem - the way that what a child is taught to believe becomes so ingrained that even when thinking logically, the illogic of feeling and emotion is still there underneath.

Ellen's brother, Brian explains that although some things have changed, others have not: "Hatred," he says slowly. "That's what it's always been about. Three hundred years that was yesterday. We got their land, they want it back, and they want us away to hell. And they want to walk on our faces just like we walked on theirs." He stops, and I think he's finished but he hasn't. "you can add in fear to that. They were afraid, living under us, and now we're afraid of living under them. They say if we can't take what's coming we should go back where we came from. But it's not as simple as that, Ellen. No one wants us, we've been here too long, there's nowhere to back to."

It is a novel about understanding that doesn't come easily or without pain. And forgiveness. It is about the things that set Mother and Daughter into conflict and that come between husband and wife. About the blessing of friendship.

Paolini, Christopher. Eragon. Kind of Tolkien "light." Not bad at all for a kid of 19. Not much on character development and very Tolkien derivative. I think this is one where the movie might be better than the book. Still, as the first novel in a series, and by a very young man, there is promise.

French, Nicci. The Red Room. The second novel by French this year and a very good one, too. Quite different from Beneath the Skin (reviewed in October Reading). Dr. Kit Quin must make an assessment of a man found shouting in the street. At police headquarters, Michael Doll, the disturbed derelict, freaks out, breaks a coffee mug, and slashes Kit's face. Months later, Doll is suspected of murder, but Kit doesn't think he is the one responsible.

Rimington, Stella. At Risk. "Stella Rimington joined Britain's Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities--counter-subversion, counter-espionage, and counter-terrorism and became successively director of all three branches." She also became the first woman to hold the post of director general of MI5 (all this from author info on jacket). Pretty impressive credentials. When I first read about the book, I wanted to read it because of Rimington's expertise; that her writing is lucid and efficient and that she knows how to tell a story made this a satisfying read.

Liz Carlyle is an intelligence officer with MI5 and becomes involved in an operation concerned with an imminent terrorist threat. Chatter has it that an "invisible" has entered the country intent on an act of terror. Who, what, where? The writing is brisk, crisp, and suspenseful. The author's first hand experience helps create the details that build tension and suspense. I look forward to more from Rimington.

Rhys Bowen. Evan Can Wait. A short mystery (part of the Constable Evans series) set in Wales. Constable Evan Evans is assigned to assist a film crew who have come to his little town to film a documentary about a WWII German plane that crashed into a mountain lake. One of the filmmakers manages to deliberately offend almost everyone with whom he comes into contact and eventually ends up dead.

Shaara, Lila. Every Secret Thing. Chic-lit attempting to be...I'm not sure what. A former lingerie model who now has a Ph.D. in religious studies is now teaching at a small college. This book doesn't seem to know where it is going - there are all kinds of "secret things" going on; too many and not too coherently. Gina Paletti hates being beautiful and dresses down to hide her beauty, but it is the only thing others see. And Gina manages to get this fact in every paragraph of the first person narration. There is a murder, a dysfunctional family, a Catholic nun who had an illegitimate baby (Gina's aunt), a mobster (Gina's uncle), the grasping family of her first husband, her mean-spirited, hateful mother, and offensive men who accost Gina at every opportunity (not sure if I covered every secret thing - there were too many). Pretentious and self-contradictory. Shallow Gina hates shallow people. No wonder she has problems. Yuck.

Deaver, Jeffrey. Cold Moon. Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs are on a new adventure against the meticulous Watchmaker. Full of twists and turns as usual, this installment had some flaws that bothered me. One was the "fact" that the duct tape used by the Watchmaker was CUT into precise strips when most criminals tear it off the roll with their teeth. Huh? Come on, Linc. With their teeth? Duct tape?

Initially, Sachs is lead detective on an apparent suicide. (O.K., here is another detail that bothered me. Why did it take the widow's assertion of murder to make people question the suicide if ...)

I really hate it when my involvement in a storyline is interrupted over and over by questions about details. Read, read, huh? Do ya' think it might have taken 2 people to do that? Read, read, huh? Bit of a contrast to be SO meticulous and so careless. Read, read...well, you get the idea.

Having missed so many details earlier, Rhymes' "insight" into the overly complicated agenda of the Watchmaker at the end...makes you wonder. One more picky detail: I no longer bother to read the forensic lists that are so useful to Rhymes.

O.K. I really did like the new character, Katherine Dance. Expect to see her again.

Hillerman, Tony. The Sinister Pig. I love Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, the settings of Hillerman's novels, the cultural differences of the various tribes. Bernie Manuelito takes a job with the Border Patrol to remove herself from the presence of Jim Chee, but she finds herself targeted because of photographs she's taken of an exotic game ranch. Connections to Washington? To a murder that Cowboy Dashee and Jim Chee have been working on? To the billions of dollars in Indian oil, gas, coal, timber royalties that the Department of the Interior can't account for? (and the 176, 000,000 dollars in royalties is a very real problem for the Dept. of the Interior - fact not fiction)

Hillerman's novels are fast and fascinating reads. He develops complex novels that don't feel complicated, he attends to details, his writing is lucid and unobtrusive.

Snyder, Maria V. Magic Study. Saw this one on some one's blog, so when I saw it on the library shelf, I pulled it. Found the beginning a bit confusing and quickly realized that it was not the first in the series. While it would have been nice to start at the beginning (Poison Study), enough background is provided for it not to be a huge problem. This one is fantasy and perhaps more in the YA category. The novel felt a bit rushed, a bit surface, but still an enjoyable read. I prefer the more detailed fantasy of Robin Hobbs' trilogies (the Farseer Trilogy, Live Ship Trilogy, and Tawny Man Trilogy (all inter-related and each complete trilogy 1500-2500 pages long - this is a world you can enter into almost as completely as Tolkein's world) .

Magic Study was a light read, fun, very quick, and when the characters from Ixia show up, things improve greatly.


  1. My husband reads and really likes Tony Hillerman. I haven't yet. Haven't read any Jeffrey Deaver's yet either. There is just not enough time and I do love mysteries. Sometimes branching out from the familiar is hard, but I'll still be squeezing in a mystery.

  2. I have never read Hillerman, but I like your review of him. Haven't read Deaver for years and can't remember much about him.

  3. Good list there!
    I've been terrible about reading lately.

  4. Eragon had some fine points as a film but it was far to short to do the story any sort of justice (I haven't read it). The first half of the film was spent cramming too much into too little time, the second half was much better.

  5. Like you, I enjoyed the Michael Ohayon mystery series by Batya Gur. I have used Murder on a Kibbutz twice in two different discussion groups. I admit however that I wasn't able to get into the one written just before her death (Bethlehem Somthing - memory failing me).

  6. Cheya - I think you would like Hillerman. Start at the beginning if you can (although by no means necessary), but realize the main character changes as Joe Leaphorn retires and Jim Chee comes to the forefront. Leaphorn recovers from his depression, too.

    Framed - This last Deaver wasn't a thrill. I won't be as eager to try his next one.

    Angela - December is a busy month! However, the greater the stress of things to do, the more I seek escape. I'm an awful avoider!

    Carl - I might wait until the movie is listed on Neflix!

    Jill - I think that was Bethlehem Road...which was better than this last one, but still not on a par with the earlier ones. My favorite, I think, was A Literary Murder. I hate losing an author!