Sunday, September 23, 2007
I tried to love A Thousand Splendid Suns. Everyone else out there seems to adore Khaled Hosseini's work; I'm in the quiet minority of those distracted by the fact that the writing is just not that spectacular. The second half of the book is much better than the first; throughout the first two sections, I kept complaining that the setting seemed secondary. So many people rave that they learned so much about Afghanistan, yet in the first half of the book, the setting is unimportant. With a few changes in details, these women's stories, sadly, could be happening in so many places. By the third and fourth parts, though, Afghanistan and its myriad problems are central to the novel, and the novel itself was much more appealing to me. I love this quote from the New York Times review of the book: "Gradually, however, Mr. Hosseini’s instinctive storytelling skills take over, mowing down the reader’s objections through sheer momentum and will." Storytelling is definitely the strength here, and it is a good story; literature it is not.
I chose What the Dead Know because I wanted an simple, plot-driven mystery as a sort of palate-cleanser. Laura Lippman's book is definitely plot driven but hardly simple. The character list itself is immense, and while most characters are clearly drawn, few are likable and their sheer numbers are challenging (not to mention the character with more than one identity and name). I enjoyed watching the mystery unravel, but I thought the climax was, in fact, anticlimactic.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I liked Libba Bray's Rebel Angels even better than the first book in the trilogy, which makes me really excited for number three to be released (this winter, I believe?). Gemma's character becomes more interesting as she grows older, and her friends' stories were developed much more fully in this one also. I adored the character of Simon Middleton -- totally realistic for the setting and for 2007, with a few minor changes. I kept thinking, I know that guy! I had a crush on that guy in high school!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Two mysteries in a row, though of very different sorts. The Woods, by Harlan Coben, is more your Law-and-Order-style novel. Meant to be realistic, a bit of courtroom drama, a bit of romance, a fast-paced story, a large helping of lousy writing. I almost quit the book a few pages in when the author wouldn't settle on a verb tense, but I kept going and I did enjoy the story. There were a few moments I had to read aloud to the husband and rant over, but not too many.
Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in what I believe is to be a trilogy. Gemma finds herself at a seemingly proper English boarding school, with all the snobby, pampered rich girls ready and waiting. However, she quickly discovers not only her own magical powers but also a tremendous puzzle in the shadows (which isn't solved by the end of the book, though I briefly thought it was when I read too quickly). The portrayal of teenage girls is wonderfully realistic, and the fantasy aspect fits in quite nicely. It's a good fix for my post-Potter world.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The Big Over Easy wasn't quite as good as The Fourth Bear, but that's still not a negative. I really, really like Jasper Fforde: such creative plots, fully developed characters, intricate details intertwined with puns and jokes. I did think this one moved more slowly than any of his other books and was perhaps a bit more complicated than necessary. It took me longer than usual to read this, and it was sometimes challenging to remember details from one chapter to the next. Nonetheless, it's a good read.