Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rocking, reeling, rolling

Much like Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy mysteries, Victoria Thompson's Gaslight series offers a short little walking tour of Manhattan with each book.

In Books 7, 8, and 9, our Knickerbocker-turned-midwife heroine sees more of the ethnic blend that was (and still is) New York.

I figured out who the murderers were in 2 of the 3 books, however. It's always half delightful, half disappointing when that happens.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Exempt from public haunt

The library books are piling up, but I'm determined to keep my overdue fine-free streak! So now I have a whole algorithm for determining which books to renew, and which ones to return and then re-check out when next available.

Olive Kitteridge was a collection of stories from a small town in Maine, all featuring retired school teacher Olive at some point in her adult life. In many of the stories, she is the main character; in others, she figures tangentially.

Stepping back, the book is a pretty intricate portrait of sadness and breakdowns in relationships. Strout showcases the desperate slowness before suicide attempts and affairs; and during weddings, funerals, breakups, and end-of-life care. Through it all, the Maine seasons roll by.

It reminded me of another rather gray depiction of a life loved and lost in a small New England town: Ethan Frome. (Given that that classic is one of the most dismal stories I've ever read, I don't know that that's a compliment.)

Sharon Creech's young adult books are always hit-or-miss for me.

The Great Unexpected is one of the ones I don't exactly love. The story is about two girls in foster care in a podunk American town who meet a mysterious boy who falls from the sky. But it bridges reality and fantasy in jarring ways: Irish magic, crows as omens, and witches exist alongside kids who have to "share" about their dysfunctional families for a school assignment (which is both funny and sad).

My main source of frustration is that I liked parts here and there of the story: the backgrounds of the people in the girls' lives, the mystery of the cackling old lady who always wants to "have a murder," the Tim Burton atmosphere of the small town. It was just too short of a book to weave it all together properly... for an adult reader, at least.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Armed through our watch

I forget how Michael Robotham's Lost made its way to my reading list, but it was so addictive that I ran out and reserved his other books in the series.

Not quite noir, the books are gritty thrillers instead of rosy English mystery novels. They take place, sometimes literally, in the underbelly of London: the characters move amongst mobsters, prostitutes, crooked cops, drug addicts, pedophiles. Robotham does such a great job of making the reader empathize and identify with the main characters, it was hard to stop reading.

Lost, the second book featuring a psychologist and quasi-detective, features a down-and-out police inspector who is found shot and floating in the Thames. The book has him, with the help of his psychologist friend, attempting to solve the mystery of what happened to him before he's arrested for crimes he can't be sure he didn't commit.

Suspect, the first book, features the same two characters before they were friends.  The detective is a hard-ass on the psychologist, who is the main suspect in a series of murders. It's odd having read the first book second (knowing the outcome but not the important details). But each is still good as an independent, suspense-ridden story.