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- (3/30) Birdy by William Wharton.
- The story of Al, a tough guy, and his strange friend Birdy, a
skinny, shy kid who wants more than anything to be able to fly like the
canaries he raises. When both are drafted into the army during WWII, they
find themselves changed for good (duh) -- Birdy goes insane and Al has to
figure out how to bring him back. Extremely well-written and a
fascinating look at mental illness. I haven't seen the movie version
(which is set in Vietnam instead of WWII), but plan to rent it this
- (3/28) The Road Home by Eliza Thomas.
- Thomas turns forty and realizes she's sort of forgotten to
make a home somewhere for herself. So she buys an old Boy Scout cabin in
the woods of Vermont and rebuilds it to fit herself, her dog, and her
newly adopted baby Amelia. Cute.
- (3/27) Detective by Arthur Hailey.
- I couldn't believe I picked this up, since I've always thought
of Hailey as kind of a hack, but it's actually pretty good! It's a cop
novel about a priest-turned-police-detective who, while investigating a
set of serial killings, discovers something amiss about one of them that
leads to a pretty good plot twist. A little predictable in places, but a
fine book for a weekend on the couch.
- (3/27) Get A Life by Beth Kobliner.
- Non-fiction book about money-management for 20-30 year olds.
Pretty well-written and informative without being TOO detailed. A quick
and educational read. Gotta get that 401(K) going!
- (3/26) A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt.
- Brother of Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt, Malachy
tells a very different story. This is about his life in New York AFTER he
leaves Ireland behind (Frank pays to have him sent over). Lots of
carousing and story-swapping with famous people. Very different from
Frank's book which had a plot and a direction. Malachy just wants to
tell some stories and maybe do a little name-dropping. A lot of fun!
- (3/25) Open Water by Maria Flook.
- I promised I'd read one of Flook's fiction books after reading
her book about her sister (see below). I chose this one because it was
set in my home-town, Newport, RI. But I didn't love it. I read the whole
thing, which isn't actually saying a lot, but I never felt happy about
getting to know the characters. The story is about a guy who goes home to
take care of his dying mother, only she thinks he's there for HER to take
care of and promptly gets him hooked on morphine suppositories.
Meanwhile, he falls in love with the arsonist who lives next door. The
Newport stuff seemed forced, like she'd only visited there and so only
knew the Big Important Details but wanted us to THINK she knew the town
well. And the plot just didn't do much for me. She was heavy on
metaphors that didn't seem quite right, too. However, I'm not giving up
after just one -- I'll try another one of her other novels next month and
- (3/24) The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll.
- Exciting story about Stoll's discovery and tracking of a spy
hacking into his computer at Berkeley (and from there into computers all
over the U.S., including military ones!). Yes, it's a book for geeks, but
it's not loaded down with techie language, so even if you don't know what
UNIX is, you can still have a good time reading it.
- (3/22) Daughter of the Queen of Sheba by Jacki Lyden.
- This memoir describes Lyden's childhood and her relationship
with her manic-depressive mother (who was simply diagnosed as "crazy" when
Lyden was a kid) and her violent and manipulative step-father. Lyden is
an excellent writer (she's also a foreign correspondent for National
Public Radio) and her struggle to both understand and help her mother is
heart-wrenching. This is a great book.
- (3/21) The Cage by Audrey Schulman.
- Beryl, a photographer famous for her photos of wildlife, is
chosen to go on an expedition to the North to take photos of polar bears
for a magazine. Totally overwhelmed by both the ferocity of the bears and
the bitter cold, the expedition turns sour, ultimately forcing them to
abandon their bus and walk through the snow and ice back to civiliaation.
Fascinating information about polar bears and the effects of such cold
weather on both materials and people. Very suspenseful and
- (3/19) The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.
- A quickie -- I read the short story version, not the play.
It's not as good as I thought it would be (people trapped in a house by a
snowstorm and getting killed off SOUNDS like exciting reading, though it's
not like I haven't seen THAT plotline before. . .), but I still enjoyed
- (3/18) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.
- You probably already know what this is about and if you don't,
go rent the movie. It will help you to see the movie before reading the
book so you don't have to spend as much time trying to figure out what's
going on; you can just sit back and enjoy the writing, which is
magnificent. The book and the movie are very different (they are
organized differently) and very wonderful. Rent and then read. ASAP.
- (3/16) A Long Line of Dead Men by Lawrence Block.
- Someone is slowly killing off the members of a secret club one
by one. Matthew Scudder, retired-cop-turned-PI and recovering alcoholic,
to the rescue! I'm so glad there are about 15 more of this series left
for me to read. So far they've all been dense, well-constructed
mysteries. So rare!
- (3/15) Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson.
- Another Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn (see February) mystery.
This one was about a werewolf killing people in the swamps outside New
Orleans and then in the city itself. Lots of alligators and mud. How
exciting! You may have trouble finding this one because it's out of
print, but I'll tell you this much: they have it at the library in Salem,
- (3/11) The Cradle Will Fall by Mary Higgins Clark.
- It is in these kinds of situations that I find it really hard
to be completely honest. Like, do I really want to admit I read Mary
Higgins Clark? Okay, why not. I was home sick and there's nothing better
than a brain candy novel. This one is about an OB/GYN doctor who is
experimenting on his patients. Chock full of unbelievable coincidences,
but fun anyway. This one gets its own genre identifier:
- (3/10) Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson.
- The sequel to Jackson's delightful first book about her kids
(Life Among the Savages) and their life in rural Vermont. Jackson
is a great writer and her kids are absolutely ridiculous. The combination
makes these books a LOT of fun to read.
- (3/9) The Ice House by Minette
- A complicated and delightful British mystery about a body
found in the ice house of a mansion inhabited by three women, one of whom
was suspected of murdering her husband ten years before. Lots of twists
and surprises. Very well written and fun.
- (3/5) Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block.
- Since I enjoyed all the Burglar books by Block, I thought I'd
give one of his other series a try. Usually I hate all other books not in
the series I originally got sucked into in these kinds of situations, but
this one actually turned out to be really good! Yay! A new series for
Meg! This time the main character is an ex-cop PI named Matthew Scudder,
who spends his days battling the forces of evil in New York City and his
nights fighting his own battle against alcoholism. In this book, a pimp
hires Matt to investigate the murder of a prostitute. It was longer and
more involved than the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, and also not as
light-hearted. But I still really enjoyed it and will be looking for
others during the next couple of weeks!
- (3/3) Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair.
- Sweet coming-of-age novel about 12 year-old Stevie, an
African-American girl growing up in 1960s Chicago.
- (3/2) My Sister Life by Maria Flook.
- This is the true story of the disappearance of Maria's older
sister Karen when they were both pre-teens. The book goes back and forth
between the two sisters' stories -- Karen, as she runs away and becomes a
child prostitute in Norfolk, Virginia; and Maria, as she tries to come to
terms with being left behind by the sister she so admired. The parents
are nightmares -- her father is so distraught he can hardly manage and her
mother comes off as cold and uncaring (I wanted to smack the mother every
time she came into the story). But the tale of what Karen goes
through is so awful I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone I know,
despite the fact that I couldn't put it down and thought the writing was
terrific. Reading about what a 14 year-old prostitute who starts out a
virgin goes through on the streets is more than anyone with half a heart
can handle well and I was constantly torn between wanting to find out
what happened to her and not wanting to read another paragraph.
I felt a little like a gawker at the site of a train wreck, unable
to stop looking at the twisted bodies in front of me, despite the fact
that seeing what I was seeing was breaking my heart. Don't read it. Or
do, but don't say I didn't warn you. It's worth mentioning, however, that
Flook is primarily a fiction writer. I haven't read any of her other
stuff, but I will now that I know she can write well. Keep watching for a
description of her fiction to come in the next month or two.
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