Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reading Report: January 2009

Okay, I completely lost track of the end of last year, so I'm just going to start fresh with January. (That's one good thing a New Year is for, right?) This year, I decided that my reading resolution is to read fewer "lazy" reads (meaning plot-driven, easy reads for diversion) and read some good books for the quality of the writing.

But before I got to that resolution, round about the 27th of the past month, January saw me reading, um, five mysteries (see? plot-driven, easy reads, diverting), although right now I'm working on a "great book" that I've been meaning to read for a while...

I read my first Inspector Morse novel, The Daughters of Cain. In this novel, Inspector Morse is called upon to solve the murder of a retired Oxford don. Morse is having health problems (could it be that diet of beer and cigarettes, Inspector?) and his sidekick Lewis is feeling acerbic. Twisted into the plot are a terminally ill high school teacher, her ne'er-do-well student, a housecleaner with an abusive spouse, the hooker with a heart of gold, and the college janitor/handyman who looks an awful lot like the don's murderer -- 'til he becomes a victim himself.

At the recommendation of one of you, I read A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis. Set in early 1900s Vienna, this historical mystery features a police detective and his friend/assistant, a medical doctor entranced with the "new" theories of Sigmund Freud. I enjoyed reading about life in turn-of-the-last-century Vienna and the changes in medicine and psychiatry (and police work) that were taking place in Europe during this era.

Down River by John Hart. This novel won the 2008 Edgar Award for best novel. Five years before the book begins, Adam Chase was tried and acquitted for murder in his small North Carolina hometown. Estranged from his father, he left town. As the book opens, Chase is on his way back to North Carolina after a childhood friend calls and appeals for help. I can see why this book won the Edgar: it's suspenseful, features interesting characters, the plot is intricate, and the writing is both tense and elegant.

What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell. I got this book as part of an Amazon.com program that provides customers with free items in exchange for writing reviews. I didn't realize the book was supposed to be a "young adult" novel at the time that I received it. Personally, I think a lot of kids' fiction today is dreary and excessively gritty ("the uplifting story of a victim of rape and her alcoholic mother set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War", ""a homeless kid's heartwarming struggle to overcome his autism during the Dust Bowl"). Which makes me not a very good person to judge whether this is "appropriate" for a teenager to read. It's a kind of noir/murder mystery/coming of age novel (sounds weird, I know), as a sixteen-year-old in the late 1940s learns about love and life and war and what being an adult really means -- and who killed the object of her crush (was it her drop-dead gorgeous mother? her ex-GI father? or was it an accident?). I enjoyed this book very much and it was a quick read. I liked the 1940s noir vibe: you could picture Lana Turner and Dana Andrews as the protagonist's parents with, um, a teenaged Natalie Wood as Evie?

My fellow sheep-lovers may enjoy Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story, by Leonie Swann, as much as I did. It's the story of a sheepherder's murder -- as told by the sheep in his flock. Unconventional, yes, but a very enjoyable read, with lots of funny observations about humans as seen through ovine eyes.

9 comments:

Mel said...

"[T]he uplifting story of a victim of rape and her alcoholic mother set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War"? Geesh, and Judy Blume's characters thought they had it bad.

anne marie in philly said...

I would lerve to see dolores review "three bags full"...

(just sayin')

rosesmama said...

Young adult? Louise Erdrich is writing a series of books about a young Ojibwe girl who travels west with her family, a la the Little House books, only from an Indian perspective. I can not say how astounding these are: well-written, full of fascinating historical detail, with plenty of new words in an interesting language. I'm reading the first, The Birchbark House, to the girl, and the third, The Porpupine Year, to myself. I just wish they weren't being written now, because I have to wait between books.

Carol said...

Mel -- I made those up! But if you don't believe me, browse around the young adult section at your local bookstore or on Amazon. De-press-ing. (;

Knittah said...

LOVED Three Bags Full!

Nell said...

Thanks for the recommendations!

Kathy Merrick said...

The Somnambulist. Pretty much the weirdest book I've ever read.

Bo... said...

I'm a James Michener fan---of his early works when he still wrote exciting stories. His later works were boooooringly long-winded and the characters too formula. Thus I recommend "Hawaii"---it's his most exciting and a book I've read over twice---and it's educational, all about Hawaii's history.

slr said...

Hey! What's wrong with the "lazy" read? I look forward to a lazy read, and sometimes a lazy knit, after a hard day at work. (*grin*)