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- (5/30) The Big Bad City by Ed McBain.
- The newest 87th precinct novel -- mostly focusing on the
murder of a young nun and a series of professional burglaries by a
gentleman thief who always leaves behind homemade cookies. McBain changed
his style in this one -- there are lots of choppy paragraphs and parallel
structures. I'm not sure I liked it; it seemed sloppy and too convenient
(rather than trying to make it read more smoothly, he just assumed it'd be
a big seller no matter what and left it?). But the story is still fun and
it's always good to see the old 87th precinct guys again. If you aren't
familiar with the series, don't start here.
- (5/28) The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.
- 15-year old genius Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper in
the park one day who turns out to be Sherlock Holmes. He realizes her
potential and takes her on as his apprentice while he solves a few little
cases. When one of the cases turns out to be more complicated than they
thought, the two must figure out the answer or risk being killed.
Delightful! A lot of fun for any fan of the Conan Doyle works, though
Sherlock has a lot more depth here. Instead of the one-dimensional
super-genius of Watson's narratives, Mary finds the REAL Sherlock Holmes
and (get this!) he's a sweet and sensitive man! I actually started to get
a little crush on him!
- (5/27) The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve.
- Emotional novel about a woman whose husband's commercial
airliner explodes over the Atlantic Ocean one night, killing everyone on
board. As she struggles with her grief, new facts and suspicions about her
husband emerge, causing her to question their entire life together.
Well-written and absorbing.
- (5/26) Other People's Dirt by Louise Rafkin.
- Very enjoyable book about Rafkin's experiences as a
housecleaner in various parts of the country (and world). Funny tales of
things she used to discover about her clients just from cleaning their
homes, the kind of dirt she can't stand, and the different kinds of
cleaners (the company types, the naked types, crime-scene cleaners,
cleaners in Japan, etc.). A quick book, but one I enjoyed a lot. Kind
of makes me want to go home and mop my kitchen floor.
- (5/25) Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez.
- Memoir about Rodriguez's youth in gangs around Los Angeles
during the 60's and 70's. Rodriguez spent most of his teenage years being
beaten up and beating up others until finally realizing there was more to
life than what he could get in the gangs. He educated himself and became
a widely read poet and writer in Chicago, where he has ultimately had to
watch his own son dabble in the same life he tried so hard to get away
from. The book is an interesting look at how hispanics and latinos are
sort of forced into gang life by the communities around them. The writing
was only good, not great, but the story is one that will stick with
- (5/24) White Oleander by Janet Fitch.
- Very lyrical novel about a young girl whose brilliant but
obsessive mother murders an ex-boyfriend and winds up in prison for life.
The girl is bounced around from horrible foster family to horrible foster
family while trying to figure out who she is, who her mother is, and who
they are destined to become. Some of the writing seemed heavy-handed to
me, and some of the plot seemed unnecessarily manipulative. However, I
couldn't put this book down -- the prose is so good that breaking it up by
putting it down was almost impossible. I wanted to keep the flow going.
Very depressing look at foster care, but an uplifting look at the strength
young women in difficult situations can pull up from within themselves.
- (5/21) A Yellow Raft on Blue Water by Michael Dorris.
- The story of three generations of women in one Native American
family. Mostly set in Washington and Montana. I really enjoyed this book
(now considered a modern classic), but it wasn't as great as I expected it
to be, based on the awards it got when it first came out. Dorris is a
good writer, but I didn't get the insight into the modern Native American
family that I wanted. They didn't seem different to me. But maybe that
was the point?
- (5/19) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
- Truly wonderful novel about a the life of a girl sold into
geisha-dom in early 20th-century Japan. The story is set up to be a
memoir -- the geisha is narrating her story to a fictional writer who has
befriended her in her later years in America. But after about 10 pages,
you forget it isn't true because it feels so real. I could see and smell
everything she described just as if I were there with her. It was
fascinating learning about the culture surrounding the geisha in Kyoto and
what life was like for the young girls taken there. Probably the best
book I've read since Cold Mountain last year. Highly
- (5/16) Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith.
- At long last! Another Arkady Renko book! (Remember Gorky
Park? Polar Star? Red Square?) In this one, Arkady
goes to Cuba to investigate the death of a Russian acquaintance and gets
swept up in a ring of police corruption and a bunch of stuff I think I
still haven't quite figured out yet. Very complicated and intricate plot
as well as a bunch of really interesting cultural tidbits about Cuba.
Enjoyed this immensely, just as I thought I would. Missed Russia, though.
Hope Arkady goes back for the NEXT book.
- (5/14) A Killing Spring by Gail Bowen.
- Another of the Joanne Kilbourn mysteries (set in Canada). In
this one, a prestigious and well-liked journalism professor at Joanne's
university is found dead in what looks like an accident (involving
auto-eroticism gone wrong). When a student of Joanne's turns up missing,
she starts to get suspicious that the two events might be connected.
Short but very good.
- (5/13) Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen.
- JoLayne Lucks wins the lottery, only to have her ticket stolen
from her by two brainless hicks wanting to start a militia. They beat her
up, grab her ticket, and then kidnap a Hooters waitress and take off.
Meanwhile, JoLayne hooks up with a dead reporter (you'll just have to read
it) and sets off to track them down and get her ticket back. Insane from
start to finish and a LOT of fun. Highly recommended!
- (5/10) Vector by Robin Cook.
- I have a weakness for books about diseases and medical
catastrophes and Robin Cook has always been a pretty dependable source for
a good story along those lines. This is his latest and it's got the same
two main characters from his last book Chromosome 6. In it, a
Russian and two Aryan activists plan a biological attack on New York City.
Very entertaining. Cook isn't much of a writer, but he sure spins a good
- (5/7) A Midnight Clear by William Wharton.
- A small group of American soldiers hole up in a chateau in the woods
and come across a group of German soldiers who want to make peace and
surrender. Not as good as I expected (I loved the movie), but still
very entertaining and well-written.
- (5/6) East of the Mountains by David Guterson.
- Everybody who read Snow Falling on Cedars has been
waiting for Guterson's next novel anxiously. Well, here it is. In this
one, retired surgeon and WWII veteran Ben Givens decides that rather than
die painfully and slowly from the colon cancer that has spread to his
lymph nodes, he will take one more hunting trip east of the Cascades
(where he was born) and then shoot himself. Only the trip doesn't go as
smoothly as he intended, disrupting his plans and teaching him a lot of
things about himself. Sound kind of cliche? That's because it is!
Guterson is a good writer, but a lot of the prose in this one comes off
sounding forced -- like he just took a creative writing course and wanted
to apply EVERYTHING he learned as often as possible. Still, I have to
admit that even bad Guterson is pretty good reading. I enjoyed this
novel, but spent a lot of time wondering where his editor was.
- (5/4) Going Crazy in Public by Earl Emerson.
- Another Mac Fontana mystery. In this one, Mac (he's a fire
cheif in a small Washington town, remember) is investigating a string of
arsons in Seattle and his own town, Staircase. Meanwhile, a famous
actress has turned up in Staircase and the whole town is spreading rumors
about her having an affair with Mac. Only they're also spreading rumors
that her mentally handicapped son is the one behind all the fires. Hmmm!
A short one and lots of fun.
- (5/2) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
- This is one of my favorite books (and series) of all-time. A
bunch of aliens are threatening to wipe out the planet and when Earth
barely scrapes a victory by after the second invasion, the government
decides it's time to try to breed some military champions. They begin
taking kids at a very young age who look promising and training the heck
out of them to see if they can make it. When they stumble across Ender
Wiggin, after trying for years to get his parents to create the perfect
war hero, they realize he's a genius. Can they train him fast enough to
get him ready in time for the next invasion? Or will the pace and
challenges of the school totally destroy him? Exciting and intelligent.
The sequel ("Speaker for the Dead") is also terrific. After that, the
series kind of goes downhill. Great reading for a train trip!
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