Sunday, May 06, 2007

April Reads

My reading, much like my blogging, slacked off a bit during April. I shudder to think what the May Reads post will look like next month - although I am guaranteed of having at least one book on it. (I love Bank Holiday weekends!)

"Turning Angel" by Greg Iles
Summary: After a beautiful and popular student from the local high school is found murdered in a creek, suspicion falls on her married boyfriend, the middle-aged town doctor. His childhood friend, feeling both shock at the circumstances and an overriding need to help his friend, struggles to find the truth.

Grade: B-

Reason: Solid and enjoyable for the first 60%, the book fell apart in the last 40%, taking bizarre turns down blind alleys in what I can only imagine was a struggle to find a satisfying but unexpected ending. Set in Natchez, MS, the book does have some interesting things to say about race and the South, but that social commentary was sometimes overblown and distracting.

"Death Dance" by Linda Fairstein
Summary: When a prima ballarina goes missing during a performance, only to be discovered dead within the building, DA Alex Cooper and her trusty detective friends Mercer and Wallace must try to unravel the mystery.

Grade: C-

Reason: I always really want to enjoy Fairstein's books, but I never do. (I know, I know - why do I keep reading them then?) I saw her speak when I was in law school (and she was still a prosecutor in NYC). She was an amazing, inspiring, dynamic woman - a modern-day sort of superhero almost. The trouble with her books is that they are overburdened with all of her insider knowledge. Even as an author, she can't stop pushing her cases. These stories would be fantastic in a memoir, but the slowdown the pace of her detective novels.

"Prior Bad Acts" by Tammi Hoag
Summary: The brutal torture and murders of Marlene Haas and her two foster children were the most brutal and horrific ever to hit the Twin Cities. The case left a string of broken people behind it - the Haas husband and son, the detective on the case, and the prosecutor. Judge Carey's ruling on the inadmissability of the defendant's prior bad acts starts a spiral of violence and retribution.

Grade: B

Reason: Good book - the B grade is only because the first few chapters were quite rocky and nearly put me off the book.

"What the Dead Know" by Laura Lippman
Summary: Two sisters disappeared from a mall in 1975. Not a trace or suspect were ever found. Then, 30 years later, a woman involved in a hit-and-run claims to be the younger sister. The book alternates between the past and present as the detectives attempt to figure out who exactly this woman is and what happened 30 years earlier.

Grade: A+

Reason: Fantastic. I am quite taken with Lippman's writing style. Although I had a good idea where the book was going, the details and resolution still managed to be surprising and satisfying.

"Dark Matter" by Greg Iles
Summary: Trinity was a secret government project to create the world's most advanced AI computer through reverse engineering. Using scans from a SuperMRI machine, the engineers were hoping to create a computer capable of personification. When the lead physicist dies under suspicious circumstances, the doctor assigned to monitor the project from an ethics standpoint must unravel the mystery, solve the problem of his hallucinations, and keep himself and his psychologist safe from NSA operatives who will go to any length to protect the project.

Grade: C+

Reason: A solid thriller, the book was slowed down by the interspersion of about 100 pages of boggy metaphysical musings.

"Hide" by Lisa Gardener
Summary: A woman who has spent her life on the run from her father's near-paranoia of a nebulous evil is drawn into a present day murder investigation.

Grade: A

Reason: Good, solidly written and thoroughly readable book. It alternates between first person (the woman) and third person limited (the investigator). The more crime ficiton I read, the more convinced I become that third person is really the way to tell those stories.

And now, my single non-mystery read of the month:

"Remind Me Again Why I Need a Man" by Claudia Carroll
Summary: Amelia is an attractive, intelligent woman with a great career and terrific friends. But, at 37 and still single, she would like to settle down with a good, decent man. When she finds an ad for an evening course that promises to have students walking down the aisle within 12 months, all by using the tried and true principles of Harvard's Business School, incuding "exit" interviews with ex-boyfriends to find out where things went wrong.

Grade: A-

Reason: I nearly gave up on this book in the first few chapters as there was a lot of information dumping going on. However, the character was compelling and spirited, so I stuck with it and felt greatly rewarded in the end. (Endings in chick lit that involve a woman looking for a man are notoriously difficult and emotionally laden - Carroll navigated this one with tremendous poise and character.)


At 6 May 2007 at 23:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann: I'll have to add some of your better reads to my own summer list. dad-i

At 7 May 2007 at 12:25, Blogger laurie said...

hey--that's a slim month of reading? wow.

if you're interested in chick lit, you should read this story in the star tribune.

it's about a minnesota woman who just landed a giant book contract with harper-collins for her "choose your own adventure" chick lit. i haven't read it so i don't know how it works, but it's like those kid books where the reader gets to decide which way the plot twists go.

gimmicky, but lucrative.

At 10 May 2007 at 07:46, Blogger -Ann said...

Dad - Yeah, I think you'd like some of them alright.

Laurie - The numbers hide the fact that I didn't read anything after about the 17th. Also, I had a 4-day weekend and a 3-day weekend, so that's a lot of possible reading time.

I love the idea of a choose-your-own-adventure chick lit. Funny enough, I did thing about that as a possible story-telling device, but I am lucky when I can come up with one story-line, let alone several to pick and choose between.

At 20 May 2007 at 11:46, Anonymous ainelivia said...

Ah so there is somebody else having similar probs as me getting into Linda Fairstein's Death Dance. The book began with a story line that she appears to have dropped a few chapters futher on, and I felt like I lost interest there.

Bought book on Friday, Linda Penny and by chapter 7-8 I knew who the murderer was, that really banjaxed it for me.

Even though haven't finished Fairstein's, I still have no idea who-done-it.


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