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- (6/30) An American Killing by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith.
- Very well-written and entertaining thriller about a true-crime
writer (married to a politician who is close friends with Bill Clinton)
who begins having an affair with a senator. The senator ultimately sets
her on the trail of three old murders in a small Rhode Island town. She
decides to investigate the murders and write a book about them, but when
she starts to realize an innocent man is in jail for the killings, things
start to get ugly.
- (6/26) Just Checking by Emily Colas.
- Short book about Colas' obsessive/compulsive disorder and how
it disrupted her life until she got on medication. Not terribly
well-written or funny/agonizing/entertaining, but it's always nice to read
about someone who's even more crazy than you are.
- (6/25) Zop Wallop by William Browning Spencer.
- Bizarre but well-written novel about a children's book author
who is sort of kidnapped by a group of mental patients who think the
fantasy world of his books is actually the REAL world. Got a little slow
in the middle but was so unlike everything I've ever read before that I
just couldn't put it down.
- (6/24) Fan Mail by Ronald Munson.
- Thriller written entirely in the format of letters, faxes,
emails, and phone messages. The main character (Joan) is a television
reporter who starts getting crank mail form a fan named "The Watcher."
When the Watcher starts to see people getting in the way of Joan's career,
things start gettin' ugly. Lots of witty "dialogue" and the format is
really a lot of fun. In fact, it was so much fun, I sort of didn't notice
that the story itself was only so-so. Good summer fluff.
- (6/22) Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton.
- Heather Wolfe, a graduate student in her 20's, decides to
write her master's thesis on an author whose works have inspired her since
she was very young. She sets out to meet him in the hopes he'll be
everything she imagines him to be. Instead, he is an old, cautious, and
habit-bound man, exhibiting none of the yen for freedom his fictitious
characters had. Yet they are drawn to each other anyway. A parallel plot
involves the author's daughter and her relationship with an old boyfriend
who has returned. An interesting, but sad, novel.
- (6/21) Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear by
- The first time I read this book, about three years ago, I
really loved it. Then earlier this month, I read Weber's second novel and
thought it stunk "to high heaven," as They say. So I thought I'd better
read this one again just to make sure I hadn't gotten my opinion wrong the
first time around. I was right then, though, this is a really wonderful
book. The first half is all letters -- letters from a photographer (who
has gone overseas to spend a month taking pictures and living with her old
college roommate) to her boyfriend back in the states. She doesn't intend
to actually SEND those letters, which are mostly about her roommate's
bizarre relationship with an older, married Holocaust survivor, but they
end up getting to him anyway. The middle part of the novel goes back to
the protagonist's childhood and then the final part sends us back to the
present, but this time in third-person prose. There are a million ideas
in this book -- about life/relationships/love/knowing yourself -- that I
have thought about pretty frequently ever since reading it the first time.
After reading it again, I feel like I've grown up some more. Novels like
that are hard to come by -- read this one.
- (6/20) A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.
- That it took me so long to read this novel is by no means a
reflection on how good it was. I had a busy week and a weekend too full
of activity to spend any time reading books. This is the second of the
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and it was as much fun as the first.
If you haven't started reading this series yet, hop to it!
- (6/16) Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison.
- I should've trusted my instincts on this one and not bothered.
Unfinished novels by great authors that are put together by
knuckleheads after the authors die are NEVER good. Though Juneteeth has
some really amazing sections, as a whole it reads like what it is: a
disjointed first draft. Read "Invisible Man" again instead.
- (6/14) Bridget Jones' Diary by
- Absolutely riotus novel, written as the diary of a single
woman in England. Highly recommended!
- (6/13) A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds.
- Another book from the author of "The Book of Ruth" (which is
great). Finch Nobles was badly burned in a household accident when she
was young. Because she is left terribly scarred, she turns into a loner,
spending much of her time in the graveyard near her home. There she
discovers that if she listens carefully, she can hear the voices of the
dead around her. She begins to talk to them, eventually helping them come
to terms with their lives and their deaths. Though it sounds
unbelievable, I never once thought "hokey." This is a testament to
Reynolds' ability to write characters who are so real you forget they
aren't real at all. Very good.
- (6/11) In the Deep Woods by Nicholas Conde.
- A fairly exciting, poorly written thriller about a serial
killer stalking professional women. All of the men kept calling the
female protagonist "Hon," though, whether they knew her well or not. For
some reason, I found that kind of annoying. Also was tired of her
breaking into tears and "burying her face in his chest." Blech! But the
story moved quickly and for a Saturday book, it wasn't all that bad.
- (6/11) Sent For You Yesterday by John Edgar Wildman.
- When Albert Wilkes returns to Homewood after seven years of
hiding from the police, he discovers the community he once knew there has
started to fall apart. He's barely there long enough to understand the
source of the changes when he's gunned down and turned into a kind of
mythological hero by the town. His story is passed along from person to
person until it's given such an air of importance that people who weren't
even alive when he was around are arguing over who saw him first when he
returned. His legacy links them, as does the memory of the music he once
played there, and ultimately returns to them a sense of community and a
sort of hope for the future. Interesting and unusual. The writing style
reminded me a little bit of Toni Cade Bambara's work.
- (6/10) The Light of Falling Stars by J. Robert Lennon.
- Sad, but well-written, novel about a plane that crashes just
short of the airport in a small town in Montana, killing everyone aboard
except for one elderly Italian man. The story mostly focuses on 3
separate families -- two who are families of victims (or friends), and one
couple who witnessed the crash (the plane took off part of the roof of
their house and pretty much landed in their backyard). The couple is
already having problems when the strange Italian man wanders into their
life. Very sad novel, overall. But hard to put down anyway. I got
really absorbed in a few of the characters and didn't want to leave them
until I could kind of see them through all of it. Very good.
- (6/8) Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait.
- When 14-year old Amelia's mean stepmother is discovered hacked
to pieces with an axe, her elderly neighbor, THE Lizzie Borden, is
immediately under attack from the townspeople, still convinced Lizzie was
guilty of killing her own parents in the same way decades before. But
Amelia has been friends with Lizzie for a long time and knows she's
innocent! Or does she? Entertaining and well-written, but the ending was
kind of weak.
- (6/7) The First Horseman by John Case.
- Very enjoyable virus-on-the-loose thriller. A group of
religious-cult members decide to save the planet by wiping out the plague
of humans that has taken it over (over-population) by using The Spanish
Lady -- the flu that wiped out a good portion of the population back in
the early 20th century. A journalist and a doctor figure out what's
happening and try to stop them before the virus gets loose. A lot of fun,
if you like that kind of thing. I read the last few pages while on a bus
sitting next to a person who was coughing a lot. Kind of unnerving.
- (6/5) Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesy.
- British mystery featuring Detective Peter Diamond -- a
character who reminded me a lot of both Lincoln Rhymes and Fitz from the
"Cracker" mysteries. The mystery surrounds a stolen stamp that turns up
in the hands of a member of a crime fiction club called the "Bloodhounds."
When another member turns up dead, Diamond is faced with a classic
"locked-room mystery" and struggles to put the clues together before the
mastermind behind it all gets away. Very enjoyable.
- (6/4) Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver.
- This was my first Kingsolver novel and boy am I sorry it took
me this long to discover her! This is a wonderful novel about a young
woman who returns to her hometown in Arizona to care for her ailing
father. Back home, she is forced to confront her past and eventually
learns things about herself and her family that finally put her life back
on track. A complex and graceful story; terrifically written. Highly
- (6/3) The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber.
- Disappointing second novel from Weber, whose first (Objects
in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear) was one of my favorite books
the year it came out. I copied whole passages from it into various
journals and notebooks and still like to take them out from
time to time to reread. The Music Lesson was boring. Nothing
interesting happens, even though the basic plot had a lot of potential.
It's about an American woman who meets a young Irish distant-cousin of
hers. She falls head-over-heels in love with him and he ends up
convincing her to help him and his Irish revolutionary friends steal a
valuable painting from the Queen of England. Weber spends a lot of time
all throughout trying to convince us that Irish revolutionaries are
nothing at all like what we've seen of them in American films (starring
Harrison Ford). But, actually, all the Irish revolutionaries in her book
ARE exactly like those IRA guys on TV. And her writing, which so moved me
in her first book, seemed flat and expressionless in this one. Read
"Objects" and skip this one.
- (6/2) Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley.
- Pretty forgettable novel satirizing all sides of the UFO
debate. Buckley has interesting things to say about the role of pundits
in creating national hysteria, but even that isn't a terribly original
idea. As for the UFO stuff, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but --
there wasn't anything in there I haven't seen on the X-Files already.
And I don't even really WATCH the X-Files! Nevertheless, Buckley is a
good writer and the book's made me curious about his other work. If I
read another one, I'll be sure to report back.
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