I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman
originally published: August 2010
finished reading: 7 March 2012
cost: $7 (paperback swap)
I think if Laura Lippman wrote the phone book, it would be interesting and I would read it. I find her words so easy to read and the stories she tells so evocative that I find myself wishing she would either write faster or drop by so we could sit on my deck, drink beer, and talk.
I’d Know You Anywhere is creepy. The premise of the story is a serial killer who contacts the only victim he left alive many years after their encounter. Lippman slips back and forth in time to tell the story of the kidnapping and the story of the present day. Sometimes I find being dragged back and forth annoying – in this book it is not jarring, but a natural outgrowth of the story itself.
While I didn’t find the protagonist endearing (she’s a little uptight for my tastes), I did sympathize with her. She has managed to rebuild her life and move on and Walter (the serial killer) contacts her because he needs her. The arc of the story isn’t difficult to figure out, but what happens on the way to the conclusion is deftly written and managed to keep me interested until the very end.
Read it and if you haven’t already, go back and read everything else Laura Lippman has written. You won’t be disappointed.
Can someone explain to me how to use that stupid schedule feature on Blogger? I wrote a bunch of posts and “scheduled” them to be published and they sat in the draft folder until I came back here to publish them. Either I don’t understand “schedule” or Blogger doesn’t…
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler
originally published: April 2008
finished reading: 5 March 2012
cost: $14 (paperback swap trade)
I love Jane Austen fan fiction. I’m not one of those purists (like my daughter) who think the only story is the way Jane wrote it. This particular story is one in which the 21st century heroine wakes up suddenly in the body of an Austen contemporary. She keeps trying to figure out why she is where she is and is vaguely interested in getting back to her own time.
The descriptions of the life she’s found herself in are quite good. Who thinks about deodorant or the politics of bathing every day when they think about how lovely it would be to swan around a ballroom with Mr. Darcy? Rigler was spot on with the manners and decorum of the Regency era. I also loved her take on “shopping” – how many bolts of fabric can one look at when you get the same dress every time anyway?!
Where Confessions falls down for me are the constant thoughts about the life Courtney left behind. She’s just broken up with her fiance after discovering he was cheating on her. Not only does she obsess about the way she handled the situation, she obsesses about the way she treated the fiance’s best friend. Fish or cut bait, grrl! And in a book where the main character essentially time travels, I suppose it’s truculent to point out the fortune teller’s description of why she’s traveled is nonsense (time bends, time moves, we are all in the same time while we are all in different times).
This is a quick read and has some merit, but only read it if it falls in your lap. Don’t go looking for it.
Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, Azar Nafisi
originally published: 2008
finished reading: 22 February 2012
cost: $20 (paperback swap)
This book took me forever to finish. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I remember the Iranian revolution. I was in junior high and high school when the Americans were taken hostage and held in the embassy and I clearly remember the events as they were happening. I guess I wanted an idea of what it was like from someone who was actually there.
Nafisi is the pampered daughter of two people who were both well connected. Her father was an advisor to the Shah and her mother eventually became part of the political machine. This book is the story of their lives, filtered through Nafisi’s eyes.
The book could have been fascinating. The impression that it left me with was that of a spoiled princess who loved her father more than she loved her mother and did what she could to break free of them. I didn’t get a sense of what happened to regular Iranian citizens during the time of the revolution, because Nafisi isn’t one of them.
This book is not a broad description of what life in Iran was like before and during the revolution. It is one small slice of one family.
365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, Noah Scalin
originally published: December 2010
finished reading: 20 February 2012
cost: $10.36 (e-book purchased with a gift card)
The idea of doing a 365 project intrigues me. At the same time, it terrifies me. I keep inching closer to the thought of committing to creating something every day for an entire year. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don’t know. Every time I get close to thinking I’m going to start, something urges caution and I delay again. I’m afraid of getting lazy or bored or distracted.
Scalin’s 365 project was skulls. He created some brilliant art work – a giant snow skull, a skull involving ketchup and mustard bottles, sushi – they’re amazing! This book is meant to spark ideas for every day of the year. Many of them sparked in my head while reading and I can see returning to the book over and over to get re-sparked. His blog featuring his 365 skull art is incredible to scroll through.
His other blog, Make Something 365 is, by turns, intimidating and inspiring. He has done interviews with people who are just starting out on their 365 journeys and he features interviews with people who’ve completed. It’s an incredible mix of art (photos, drawings, one guy is listening to a Billy Joel song every day and writing a review about it). I scroll through and think to myself, “that’s a GREAT idea – why didn’t I think of that?” or “my idea is crap compared to this one” or “I could totally do a 365 project!”
I’m gathering ideas and courage to start my own 365 journey. This part of it has been fun. I can imagine that the project itself will be fun too. I just need to get moving.
originally published: February 2011
finished reading (listening): 20 February 2012
cost: $25 (audio – Jillian’s library)
I love Flavia de Luce. I am amazed every time that Alan Bradley gets her voice so right She is a charming, eccentric pre-teen and I can empathize with her father about having to deal with her quirks while dealing with her older sisters and the gradual decline of the family fortune.
I will admit I had a hard time keeping up with all the changes in this story. For some reason, when I listen to the audio versions of books I never get as deeply into the story as when I see the words. Plus, I usually listen when I’m on the bus – so 25 minute snippets at a time – it’s hard to keep up when you can’t flip the pages back and forth.
All that aside, this was another refreshing romp through Buckshaw, Flavia’s lab, and the surrounding countryside. Looking forward to the next installment.
The Last Romanov, Dara Levy Mossanen
originally published: April 2012
finished reading: 11 February 2012
cost: $10 (review copy)
I have a fascination with the Russian royal family. The tragedy surrounding their deaths has always fascinated me and I’ve read a lot of what’s been published, novels as well as histories/biographies. I was excited to see this one – a story I’m familiar with told from a different perspective sucks me in every time. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.
The piece Mossanen adds to the story is a woman from the fringe. Her parents were friends of the Romanovs, but of course not of their social standing. When Darya becomes an orphan, she is brought to the palace to look after the Tsarevitch. What follows is a descent into mysticism, as if there wasn’t enough of that in the real Romanov palaces.
I didn’t buy it. I didn’t believe that Darya’s powers came from the ambergris. I didn’t believe she would stay in the same city where her beloved royal family was murdered. I didn’t believe she would pine for her lost love (like some Russian Miss Havisham) for decades.
I can’t tell you why I finished it. I think on some level I keep wanting the end of the story to be different. This book was unsatisfying on almost every level for me.
Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship, Leslie Moise, PhD
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 5 February 2012
cost: $19 (review copy)
I am not a touchy-feeling kind of person. I have a small group of wonderful friends and I’d drop anything at a moment’s notice to do for them (and they’d do the same for me). Love is the Thread is the story of such a friendship.
Moise takes the reader on a journey through this wonderful relationship from its beginning to its end and beyond. It is a celebration of her friend’s life and their connection over many years. I tend to be a little skeptical of this sort of book. Sometimes people write in order to give themselves a pulpit from which to lecture the rest of us. Moise manages to describe her friend in the most loving way possible – without making me feel lacking in some way. The book is new-agey without being cloying or preachy. It is a gentle read and was exactly what I needed to get through my mid-winter duldrums.
Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell
originally published: November 2010
finished reading: abandoned in disgust, 18 January 2012
cost: $27.95 (library and boy am I glad I didn’t pay for this!)
It’s official, Kay Scarpetta has jumped the shark. I got to the middle of this roughly 500 page book I realized that we had only traveled about 5 hours in time. Why? Because Scarpetta has to think about the implications of what just happened. Or tell us what it reminds her of. Or take a peek at her internal reaction to it. Or her reaction to the person who did it. Or her reaction to the person who told her about it. It was like following her around after a psychotic break and you’re the only person who doesn’t know she’s lost her mind.
Enough. Enough of the poor, damaged Lucy. Enough of the detente with Benton. Enough of Marino’s rantings. Enough of Fielding’s betrayal.
Fonzie, meet Kay. I hope you’ll be very happy together.
Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 7 January 2012
cost: $25.95 (borrowed from friend)
P.D. James loves Austen. I’ve read a lot of fan-fiction and they all seem to love the characters, but James has an affinity for Austen herself that many of the other authors lack. This book feels closer to Jane Austen’s own style of writing than any other I’ve read (lots of description, very little dialogue). James has preserved the feel of the story while still taking it in a new direction. I will admit to being a bit of a purist and don’t like the jarring feeling when beloved characters do something I feel is out of character (one fan-fic book had Elizabeth calling Darcy “Fitzie”; even now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth).
The story itself isn’t much of a mystery. Yes there is a murder (you expected one) and of course there are intrigues, drunken routs, and daughters being meddled with. James deals with them all in the Edwardian style – gently. I appreciate that she delves a little more deeply into the interior lives of the characters. There are explanations of their actions in the characters’ own words – passages where both Elizabeth and Darcy think about their past behavior and how they feel about it now (shame, embarrassment, etc.). Austen herself never goes into these details (it would be unseemly), but James hits them on the head, explaining things to her 21st century audience that would have been clear to Austen’s audience.
There are also surprise appearances from other Austen characters (the Elliots of Persuasion and the Knightleys of Emma). These interludes diverted me excessively.
I sped through this lovely mash note in a day and wished it was just a little longer. I am intrigued and will search out other P.D. James novels and I’m hopeful they are as good as this one. I’m also left hoping that she turns her eye back to Austen and writes another sequel.
Pirate King: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, Laurie R. King
originally published: December 2011
finished: 6 January 2012
cost*: $25.05 – borrowed from a friend
I will admit to being something of an Anglophile. I do love the British and their unique way of seeing things. Except…I emphatically do not love Gilbert and Sullivan. Never understood the attraction, don’t understand what people see the plays/operettas. I suspect the mashup of all that singing and all that duty are just too much for me. That said, the first half of this book focuses on The Pirates of Penzance. This is a book about making a movie about the making of a play within a play. Confused? Me too.
There are too many people for me to keep track of: fourteen daughters of the Pirate King, thirteen pirates to match up with them, a translator who has multiple, poetical personalities, mothers, chaperones, and an anarchist parrot. There’s also a weird subplot where Mary Russell is trying to outguess Mycroft Holmes and goes from one extreme to the other trying to figure out what he wants her to do so she can do the opposite…which is exactly what he wants her to do. Confused? Me too.
By the second half of the book (which is, incidentally, when Holmes finally shows up) I understood enough to be able to figure out which characters are who. The tone of the book changes and becomes more of a mystery rather than a catalogue of Russell’s daily activities.
I love Mary Russell and will read these books until Laurie R. King stops writing them. It is not my favorite, but I suspect my feelings toward it might mellow with time and distance from G&S.
*I have taken the free book challenge this year. I will be reading from my personal library, borrowing from the actual library (or libraries of friends), reading free ebooks (classics), or using up gift cards. My goal is 65 books this year. (Last year I read 67.)