Saturday, April 07, 2007

March Reads

I recently joined a Yahoo book group (Murder and Mayhem). I also joined Book Crazies but I think I'm going to drop that one as there is too much noise and I really prefer crime fiction to all other genres. At the end of the month, people are asked to post about the books they read during the month.

Here's my list from March. (Yes, you can read this as a Lazy Blogger's way out of a Saturday post - it is gorgeous outside today.)

"Killer Instinct" by Joseph Finder
Summary: Jason Steadman is an ordinary salesman, plodding through his life with a modicum of success, but not exactly setting the world on fire. Then, a minor car accident puts him in contact with a vet of the Iraq War. Kurt is a former Special Forces officer, a cracker of a softball pitcher, and he promises he can be your best friend or your worst enemy. After Jason gets Kurt a job in Security at his office, Jason experiences all the benefits of having a special ops agent as a best friend. But when Jason's conscience gets the best of him, it all starts to go horribly wrong.

Grade: C

Reason: If you've read Finder's "Paranoia", then you've read this book. The voice of the main character is nearly identical - the go-along-to-get-along regular Joe who finds himself wrapped up in something much larger than himself and very much out of his control.

"The Killing Hour" by Lisa Gardner
Summary: After 3 years of quiet, the Eco-Killer is a back at work. He strikes during a heat wave, kidnapping two women at a time. One serves as a map -- a set of clues to find the second woman. The police in Georgia dealt with him 4 times and only managed to save 1 woman. When a body turns up in the woods in Quantico and the Eco-Killer's cryptic messages show up in the local paper, an assortment of agents, special investigators, and concerned parties join forces to unravel the latest mystery.

Grade: A

Reason: Well-written suspense novel with a full fleshed out characters and an engaging plot. A page turner in the best ways.

"Betrayed" by David Hosp
Summary: The daughter of a wealthy family is found tortured and killed in her house. The evidence points to a local drug dealer, but the police can't manage to close the seemingly open-and-shut case. The lead detective hooks up with the dead woman's sister to try to unravel the real story behind the murder.

Grade: B

Reason: This was a good, solid read but it got a bit preachy and draggy at the end.

"Every Secret Thing" by Laura Lippman
Summary: Seven years ago, two 11-year old girls happened upon a baby in a carriage on a porch. "We have to take care of that baby." The baby is found dead 4 days later. One of the girls was the Good Girl, dragged along by the circumstances, and the other was the Bad Girl, the mastermind behind it all. Due to a plea deal, the 2 girls are sent to juvenile hall until their 18th birthdays. Now they're both released and another young child has gone missing, a child who bears a remarkable resembalence to the dead girl's sister.

Grade: A+

Reason: Easily one of the best books I've ever read. The story was carefully and judiciously unraveled. All of the characters were fully developed. It was just a very well-told and compelling story.

"Kill Me" by Stephen White
Summary: What if you were able to take out an insurance policy to ensure your own death before you were incapacitated by a debilitating illness or accident? What if you could make sure you died before you became a permanent vegetable? Such is the situation that the main character finds himself in (yeah - I can't remember his name and it's buried somewhere in the narrative but I can't remember of find it). This is the unraveling of his story, how he got to where is now, how his situation affects and is affect by his loved ones, and what happens next.

Grade: B

Reason: It was an entertaining enough read, but the voice of the main character was a little bit annoying and I'd rather read a straight-up Alan Gregory novel instead.

Non-Mystery Reads

"Dream Travellers" by Sherry Ashworth
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Summary: The new lodger in 12 year old Sam Kenyon's house is undeniably creepy. But when the little dolls he makes allow Sam and his friends to visit each other's dreams, they enter a world where one evil man can control everyone just by taking over their dreams.

Grade: D

Reason: So much promise in the premise, but very little follow through. The book wasn't very well-written and it was a bit too one-dimensional for my tastes.

"The Triplet Diaries: Extreme Motherhood" by Jackie Clune
Genre: Memoir
Summary: Jackie Clune is already the mother of a year-old daughter when, during the course of her ultrasound scan, the technician says "Erm, is there a history of twins in your family?" Begging for it not be twins, Clune is floored to learn that her unplanned pregnancy is actually triplets. The book records her pregnancy, the triplet's (twin boys and girl) birth and first several months.

Grade: A

Reason: Clune has a great writing style, which is both funny and brutally honest. The book was a joy to read.

"Charmed Thirds" by Megan McCafferty
Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: The third book featuring Jessica Darling, this book followed her (mis)adventures in her early college career.

Grade: D

Reason: It was a big disappointment. Where the first 2 books had a fresh voice and an earnest honesty, this third book was overly self-conscious and whiny. Jessica Darling is no longer someone I wanted to hang out with - she was someone I want to avoid. Somehow, she (and the author) have lost their way.

"Bridge to Terebithia" by Katherine Patterson
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction

Summary: Fifth grader Jess Aaraons befriends the new girl in school, Leslie. Together they create a magical kingdom for themselves, until something dreadful happens.

Grade: A

Reason: This is an incredibly well-written and sensitive book that I absolutely loved when I was a kid. It holds up well in re-reading in adulthood, although I'm sure kids today have no idea who Walter Cronkite is and can't imagine Barbie dolls costing $2.

"Life As We Knew It" by Susan Pfeffer
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Summary: What would happen to a regular 15-year old girl and her normal family if an asteroid knocked the moon slightly off kilter, causing tsunamis, volcanoes and other natural disasters to upset an otherwise ordinary existence? This book follows Miranda and her family as they try to adapt and adjust to their new world.

Grade: A

Reason: Pitch-perfect in every respect. Being a teenager is hard enough, but being a teenager in a world that seems like it might be ending is a special challenge that this book describes perfectly. I found myself, at the end of the book, wanting to know what happens next. I hope there's another one.

"Holes" by Louis Sachar
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Summary: Poor Stanley Yelnats has never been very lucky, all because of his pig-stealing great-grandfather. A miscarriage of justice lands Stanley in Camp Green Lake, a juvenile dentention facility where the "campers" must dig a whole every day - 5 feet wide by 5 feet deep. Just what is the Warden hoping to find?

Grade: A

Reason: Good characters, compelling storylines, and a very interesting method of blending the past with the present and showing how Stanley's distant past has affected his present and future.


At 7 April 2007 at 21:51, Blogger laurie said...

while working? and blogging? and running? and doing (playing? what's the verb?) camogie? and, i assume, eating and sleeping and talking to your husband and oh yes i remember a few trips to dublin in there somewhere.... holy moly.

i belong to a book club with various members of my family and some of their friends. it's called the "competitive reading club," and every month we post the books we've read that month, give 'em a star-rating (zero to five) and run a review of no more than five words.

it's competitive in that whoever reads the most books in a year wins a gift certificate that all the others chip in for; i won last year--$70!

but this year my nephew's fiance's daughter is sure to win. YA books go so quickly....

At 7 April 2007 at 22:20, Blogger Col said...

Hey there Ann. Wow, busy girl this month. And without a long train commute!

I'm still happy if I get through my New Yorker every week. And I've been trying to finish "The God of Small Things".

I did read the first two McCafferty books on your recommendation. I got the third one out of the library and never got very far. Sounds like I didn't miss much.

Have you read the "Traveling Pants" books. Loved 'em! Also if you like YA fiction, look for "A Year Down Yonder" by Richard Peck. My mom had it laying around and I picked it up. Really good.


At 8 April 2007 at 00:45, Blogger laurie said...

i still re-read fiction from when i was a girl.
some favorites:

"witch of the glens" by sally watson, set in scotland during the time of bonnie prince charlie

"greensleeves" by eloise jarvis mcgraw

those are two that i re-read every few years....

At 8 April 2007 at 11:05, Blogger -Ann said...

Laurie - Well, I read fast. (And yes, the correct verb is playing camogie.) The trips to Dublin were conducive to reading as I flew, so there was a lot of waiting around in the airprot. And my dear husband is still (until next weekend) essentially living in Dublin, so the talking to the husband activity has been greatly reduced.

As I've mentioned to you before, I only tend to see what I'm not doing instead of what I am doing. (Not lifting weights, not writing my own stuff, not sweeping up dog hair often enough...) Although I do tell myself that every book I read has the potential to make me a better writer as I can learn from other writers what works and what doesn't.

I like the sound of your bookclub - there's nothing to stop you from reading YA books, you know. (And middle-grade goes even quicker - I read "Holes" in about 2 hours.)

Col - Hey! Long time, no comment. You missed nothing on abandoning "Charmed Thirds." i do love the Traveling Pants books - just can't get #4 over here and I've been trying not to (ab)use the credit card with the online shopping. I loved Richard Peck when I was a kid, so I will definitely keep an eye out for the one you recommend.

At 8 April 2007 at 13:50, Blogger laurie said...

our competitive reading club has a minimum of 150 pages, which annoys me. it means that edna o'brien's "mother ireland," for instance, doesn't "count" as a book.

you also get 2 credits if the book is more than 500 pages.

i'm not sure if this month will mean lots of reading for me, or very little--long flights to and from europe, but do i really want to haul a bunch of books that arne't tour guides with me?

At 8 April 2007 at 14:22, Blogger -Ann said...

When I went to Italy and Slovenia last year, I brought a standard backpacking-in-Europe rucksack and a small carry-on backpack. I had enough underwear and socks for 2 weeks, enough clothes for 2 weeks with some re-wearing, and 8 books plus 2 guidebooks. The books took up about 1/4 of my pack, but they were essential for enjoying the trip.

I've thought of some other reasons why I was able to read so many books last month - one is that I don't watch much TV. I'm not philosophically opposed to TV or anything - it's just that we only get 3 channels. I think last month, I probably watched about 3 hours of tv at most. Time that I would quite happily spend in front of "Frazier" re-runs or episodes of "Animal Cops" is now spent reading.

The other reason is that I don't really have a commute. 15 minutes round-trip if I cycle, 4 minutes if I drive.

At 8 April 2007 at 23:12, Blogger laurie said...

do you then leave the books behind when you finish them? that's what i like to do when i travel. but right now i'm in the middle of a book i don't want to sacrifice. ("this cold country" by annabel davis-goff--set in wales and waterford.)

i envy your four-minute commute. that's better even than i had when i lived in duluth and used to walk to work.

At 9 April 2007 at 09:20, Blogger -Ann said...

At the end of my Italy-Slovenia trip, I did leave about 3 books in a hotel in Venice. I probably could have managed to bring them back, but I wasn't in love with them so I didn't feel any obligation to break my back to bring them home.

I'm trying to remember - you go to London first? You'll be able to find books there no problem. Paris might be more difficult to find English-language books. (Venice was fairly bag for that - even the airport only had about 3 small shelves.)

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