Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Library Day

Okey-dokey, time for some more book reviews. I've got four this week. All set?

Dead Sleep by Greg Iles

Again, this is the type of book I don't normally read--American thriller-esque deals. But, I had about seven minutes to pick some books, and the premise of this sounded good. It's about an American photojournalist who is also the daughter of a photojournalist who went missing during the Vietnam war. Jordan (the daughter) goes to an art exhibit in Hong Kong or Taiwan or Saigon, I forget which (as I immediately alienate any Asian readers I might have). Everyone at the exhibit is looking at her strangely as she walks through. That's because the pictures are all of women who appear as though they're sleeping, but the rumor is they're deeeeaaaadddd, and lo and behold, one of the portraits is a dead ringer for Jordan. Or vice versa. When she sees the picture, she totally freaks of course and runs out of the gallery, but that's because her identical twin sister went missing without a trace about 18 months ago in New Orleans. OK, now that I'm typing this out? That premise sounds sort of dumb. But it held my interest throughout the book, though I really disliked the ending. Then I went on amazon as I always do and read the reviews of this book, and other readers say it's Greg Iles' worst. Take that for what it's worth.

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is the only chick lit I really tolerate. In the candy counter that is that genre, among the Bit-o-Honey and circus peanuts, Marian is the Reese's pieces. That's because she is so, so, so funny, plus she tackles difficult subjects, such as addiction/rehab and depression, and also I'm prejudiced towards Irish writers. That is because she has had first-hand experience with both of those (addiction and depression, oh and being Irish too), so she walks the line between black comedy and heart wrenching really well. That being said, The Brightest Star in the Sky is a hot mess. I hated it! It had way too many storylines going on, a whole apartment building full of people, running intertwined stories. As my writer friend Melanie says, "Most writers think about doing the apartment scenario at some point, but then realize it doesn't work." And the weird thing about this book is that it's narrated by...what? Some sort of spirit? The spirit of life? The spirit of an unborn baby? And I know Marian does quirky things like that--I loved Anybody Out There? when the protagonist kept talking to her husband throughout and you were about halfway through the book before you realized he was dead. But this wasn't working for me. Skip it and read one of her older books instead.

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

A long time ago after I read The Secret History for the first time, I got one of those recommendations from amazon like, if you like this book, you'll definitely like The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman. That was her first book, narrated by a Latin teacher at a girls' prep school in New England (and you know you just read some magic words for a good book for me right there as I've said before). It was pretty good, and since then I've read every book Carol has written. They're all in the sort of literary thriller/ghost story genre, but she does incredible research. I find myself learning all sorts of history and other things I didn't know about--Celtic fairy tales, stained glass-making procedures, Herculaneum, I don't know what all. You can't beat her for some gothic spookiness chock full of information. So I'm sad to say that Arcadia Falls disappointed me a bit. It was basically Lake of Dead Languages II: Electric Boogaloo. Again, set in an upstate prep school, this time an arts academy, with the protagonist being an English teacher. And this time it was missing all the detailed research on a specific subject. AND it does this thing that I hate--the heroine falls in love with the cop. How does this happen every time? And how come every small town cop is handsome, heroic, sensitive, smart, and single? I'm willing to go out on a limb and say lots of them are portly, balding, and alcoholics. Those poor guys never get the love. So, as with Marian, try one of Carol's earlier books, such as The Night Villa or my personal favorite, The Seduction of Water.

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

Ahh, the piece de resistance. This is the best book I've read in months. Since last May, precisely, when I read Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Oh, how I loved loved loved this book. It's about two recent college grads, Billy and Mona, who work in a Massachusetts small town dictionary publishing company. They write definitions for words for a living. Part of their job is to search the company citation files for any previous definitions to incorporate into the new editions. While searching the old files, they come across some odd citations from a book called The Broken Teaglass. Their interest piqued by the citations, they search for the book (so like something I would do) and find it does not exist. They also notice that the citations seem to be telling a story: of what sounds increasily like...duh duh duh...a murder. And the more citations they read, the more they become convinced that they were written by a former employee. In addition to the mystery, it's also a coming-of-age story, which is equally as interesting.

Here's a bit that made me laugh out loud, as Billy meets the guy who lives in the apartment below him, Tom, and Tom finds out that Billy is working for the Samuelson Company.

"Tom shrugged. 'Just check out their definition of "civil liberty" sometime, and maybe you’ll notice something funny going on.'

'Really?' I asked.

'Or maybe it’s "libertarian." I can’t quite remember. Bottom line, though—those dictionary guys gotta have their hands in everything. Think they’re so clever.”

I stared at Tom. It had never occurred to me that there might be a townie/lexicographer rift in Claxton."

It's a great, great book, and you must read it. I had to return it to the library today, and I was loath to let it go. I'm going to buy it so I can read it whenever I want.

That's all for this time!


Kacie said...

I'll add that last one to the list!

Melanie said...

Yay! I think I'll have to come up with a library day jingle for you. I love your book reviews. Okay, and as a p.s. I read The Cradle yeserday - yep, a one-sitter read for sure. It was really good - I thought I had it figured out from the start but then it shifted and I really liked what that did to the tale. Thanks for the additional book titles I can now add to the list and for the ones I can make sure to skip!