Wednesday, April 29, 2009

City of Thieves

A novel of WWII featuring plucky residents of Leningrad and the surrounding areas and their encounters with the evil Germans.  The writing was good; the story was taut, but I guess this just isn't my kind of subject matter.  It's a small tale of two young men in their personal war with the Germans and their own countrymen.  And as neither a male, nor Russian, nor Jewish it just didn't have much for me to identify with.  It was okay.  It wasn't a bad thing to read, but it wasn't a favorite and didn't have me staying up late turning the pages.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Story of a Marriage

I was so tempted to put this book down unfinished.  It started strong, but in the middle it got meandering and confusing.  I was never quite sure what was happening or what the characters intended to happen next, but boy was I glad I stuck with it.  The last 30 or so pages packed quite the emotional wallop, and I was very glad about how things turned out.  And the middle made more sense once I got to the end.  What we know and don't know but guess about others -- acquaintances, those we're intimate with and even ourselves is at the heart of this novel.  

I would quibble about the lack of actual communication between the main parties.  It seemed overly contrived.  The setting and the backstory makes it somewhat plausible, and as the main character often notes those were different times.  Still, these characters seemed to persist in non-communication in a way that's hard to imagine in the days of Dr. Phil.  All in all, a bit of a difficult book to read, but the end justified the journey.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Charm City

Charm City is the second Tess Monaghan novel, and much like many second episodes of television shows, I liked it even better than the "pilot."  Of course, being able to skip over the character set-ups and get down to action is the key to that.  Which is not to say Lippman skimps on her characters.  Instead we're able to focus on key details that make our recurring characters what they are, at least as relates to their strengths and weaknesses that come to play in the grander scheme of the mystery.

Lippman started writing these novels in the late 1990s, and it's sometimes jarring to reflect on how far we've come in a mere 10 years.  Computers alone have made exponential leaps, and the idea that everyone isn't carrying a cell phone, much less some Smart phone makes for more interesting plot twists than those writing about 2009 could get away with.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Monaghan at Ms. Lippmann's leading head into the 21st century --- and beyond.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth

Wow!  And wow!

I am not a fan of short stories or novellas, but Jhumpa Lahiri may have changed that for me.  These stories just blew me away.  Facially all stories of Indian, specifically Bengali immigrants, and their children, Lahiri manages to tell every kind of story -- parent, child, spouse, lover, housemate -- bringing empathy and identity with every differing point of view.

This changing point of view, this reading of our own expectations on those who surround us is patently evident in the first story as we shift between daughter and father.  My favorite story though was the 5th, Nobody's Business, as Sang and Paul navigated their paths.  In fact it was so compelling I was reading it during commercial breaks of LOST.  And trust me, for me that is very compelling.  

This was a book that was so good you both hurried to finish it and hated to finish it, and I'll admit the end even made me misty.  I could see what was coming, but so wanted to hope that it would not.

I have not read any of Lahiri's other works, but they are now on my list, and I can't wait to get to them.  

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Baltimore Blues

On the recommendation of Mo Ryan I decided to check out Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan novels.  I'm not a big mystery reader, but this was a good one and I plan to read more of the series.  Set in Baltimore which is on my radar thanks to The Wire and Ace of Cakes it's your basic murder mystery in which our fearless heroine tries to help out a buddy.  But the writing is good, the twists are good, the characters are good, and so the book was good.  Good job Ms. Lippman.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Size 12 Is Not Fat

So taking my own advice from the previous post, I went from that horrible book to Meg Cabot.  I was hoping that Heather Wells was going to be the antidote to whatever the name of the heroine was in The Manny.  And while Heather was definitely an improvement, she was no Queen of Babble or better a Shopaholic.

This book did have its LOL moments though, and for that I am grateful.  The plot tried admirably to twist and turn, but mostly the turns came after the signal had been blinking for blocks.  I'll probably give the next book in the series a try, but not until the library just happens to have it at my branch.