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Book Archive | My
- (11/27)Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay.
- Set in 1972 Wisconsin, this novel is about a young couple,
Ellen and Jimmy, who take their two children and move back to their
German-American rural hometown and into the oppressive and bitter house of
Jimmy's parents. Ellen begs Jimmy to make plans to move out
immediately, but he refuses to budge, claiming he knows what's best for
the family. Soon he becomes distant and unloving and Ellen must decide
what to do to save herself and her two children from the horrible
atmosphere inside that house. Not fantastic, but enjoyable. This is
one of Oprah's bookclub selections and I was actually surprised at how
apathetic my response to it was. I'm usually much more impressed by
- (11/23)Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston.
- Second collection of short stories by Houston. It's a lot
like the first one, in that the stories are all narrated by the same
character, a woman with loads of love troubles. But it's like the first
one times ten -- I enjoyed "Cowboys are my Weakness," but I loved
"Waltzing the Cat." A few times I kind of forgot that it wasn't ME who
was writing these stories; I liked that feeling. These stories are funny
and happy and sad and wonderful. Read this book!
- (11/19)The Prosecution by D. W. Buffa.
- The sequel to Buffa's "The Defense" starts out pretty good but
pretty quickly fizzles out. In this one, Joe Antonelli is asked by a
friend to come back to the law but this time as a prosecutor in a murder
case against a judge (accused of having his wife killed). This part of
the story is great, but after it's resolved the novel continues with
another case, this one more convoluted and hurried through. It would've
been better if Buffa had ended it early and skipped the second trial
altogether, but I still enjoyed reading this.
- (11/17)Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown.
- Classic novel about a poor adopted girl who realizes she is a
lesbian and refuses to keep quiet about it. A beautiful and empowering
exploration of lesbianism. Oh yeah, and it's funny too! I'm really
surprised that it is so widely
accepted as a "classic" -- to me, that says a lot of really great things
about the people who push for such designations (readers, critics, and
- (11/15)Vital Lies by Ellen Hart.
- A delightful mystery of the "group of people staying together
in a mansion in the woods during a snowstorm when strange things start
happening" genre. This one features Hart's recurring characters June
and Cordelia, a couple of very smart and funny lesbians (though I didn't
actually realize that until I was almost done with the whole thing). It's
not very well-written, but I enjoyed it anyway. I'm a sucker for the
- (11/13)Death Du
Jour by Kathy Reichs.
- I love it when I stumble across a new series, especially when
it's a lot like a series I already enjoy. This is a terrific mystery
featuring a female forensic anthropologist that has a lot in common with
Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta. Dr. Temple Brennan is called in by a
convent to help find and verify the remains of a nun who is up for
sainthood. It starts out pretty routine, but during the dig, a nearby
chalet is burned to the ground and Dr. Brennan is asked to help identify
the remains of several badly-burned victims. This gets her right in the
middle of a religious cult, whose leader is apparently responsible for
more than one violent death. Loved the forensic stuff, of course, and the
main character is great. It's as good as the early Kay Scarpetta novels
and much better than the latest two or three. Yahoo! This is the second
in the series (which is only two books long so far). The first is called
- (11/12)A Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche
- The story of a marriage, told completely through letters the
couple exchange, during a year of separation. A really great idea, but it
was missing something. The letters seemed too planned (by the authors,
not the characters). I felt the plot needed to fall out of the letters by
accident (if that makes any sense) and instead it was pushed at the
reader. Also, without giving too much away, something happens at the end
that I felt was both cliche and unfair to the characters. I was annoyed
by it -- I felt the authors didn't give their own characters any credit.
I was surprised by my reaction to the book since I know both authors are
award-winners. Maybe there were just too many cooks
- (11/11)The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.
- Terrific mystery about an American, Tom Ripley, who is sent to
Italy with the commission to coax his "friend" (in reality, he barely
knows him) Dickie Greenleaf back to his rich father in the States. Ripley
tracks Dickie down and starts up a friendship with him. He very quickly
decides that Dickie is just the kind of guy he's always wanted to be. So,
he kills him and takes his place! I loved the Italian setting and the
story is just fabulous. I also discovered this morning that it's been
made into a movie that will hit screens in December and stars Jude Law
(hubba hubba). There are four sequels to this one, I've got number two on
hold at the library right now. Get in line!
- (11/9) The Fisherman's Son by Michael Koepf.
- Drifting in a life raft off the coast of California, Neil
Kruger keeps himself going by sinking into memories of his childhood days
spent helping his father, a commercial fisherman. Parts of this were
really good, but the whole seemed pretty clumsy. I think it would've been
better if it had JUST been about Neil's childhood and father -- the life
raft scenes seemed added at the last minute and really didn't do anything
to make the story more cohesive. Sure, there were some parallels the
author was trying to bring out, but he didn't do them smoothly or subtlely
enough for me. Still, I read the damn thing, didn't I? That's gotta say
something about it, right?
- (11/8) The Calling by Catherine Whitney.
- With Rosary Heights, the motherhouse of the Sisters of St.
Dominic in Seattle, as the backdrop, Whitney takes us through her personal
history with the nuns inside the order she once contemplated entering. An
interesting look at why being a nun appeals to some women, despite the
the fact that the church is considered pretty misogynistic by the same
exact women. Heck, I've always wanted to be a nun and I'm not even a
Christian! I really enjoyed reading this and highly recommend it.
- (11/4) Running the Amazon by Joe Kane.
- Chronicle of Kane's voyage from one end of the Amazon all the
way to the other. Full of mountain climbs, rafting adventures, and tales
of the local culture. Also full of a lot of arguing and back-stabbing
(the group who set out to do this were not the best of friends). I
enjoyed parts of this, but it got pretty bogged down in places. Enjoyed
"Shooting the Boh" much more and recommend it over this one.
- (11/2) Hadrian's Walls by Robert Draper.
- Hadrian Coleman, an escaped convict living underground, is
drawn out of hiding when he hears he's been pardoned. All he has to do is
return to his hometown, where his best friend is now the man in charge of
the prison, and sign the documents. However, when he gets there, he
realizes the deal comes with a pretty heavy price. Soon Hadrian is forced
to decide between loyalty to his friend and the desire to do the right
thing. I really enjoyed this book -- it's well-written and the characters
are very well-drawn. I also confess to a slight crush on the title
character. But mum's the word on that one, okay?