Sunday, May 1, 2011

April Round Up


A little more about the other books I read in April...

Blame by Michelle Huneven
Did I tell you about the biblioracle? Every once in a while, one of the TOB guys opens a thread where if you post the last 5 books you read, he'll recommend one he thinks you'll like. This is the first time I actually participated, and he recommended Blame. It's the story of an alcoholic named Patsy. One night while rip-roaring drunk, she kills 2 pedestrians while driving. She cant remember doing it, the whole evening was a blackout for her. She ends up in jail, and the story follows her transformation back to society and her path to sobriety. It's not very plot-heavy, the narrative mostly centers around her struggle to figure out who she is and how she can live with the crime she's committed. It was an enjoyable, but not brilliant read. I think my "problem" with it was that it was clear the entire time that some new information was going to come to light that exonerated her. Instead of enjoying the story, I just kept waiting for the twist to be revealed.

In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French
These are great. If you know a mystery/thriller reader, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. I enjoy a series, but I especially like what she does here. Instead of the same narrator, she's creating the fully realized world of the Dublin police department one detective at a time. In the Woods is narrated by Rob Ryan, a police detective in the murder squad. Rob and his partner Cassie are investigating a murder that happened in the same woods where Rob and his 2 friends were abducted as children some 20 years earlier. Rob's memories of that event are gone, but he slowly starts remembering bits and pieces of his past as the investigation continues.

The Likeness is narrated by Rob's partner, Cassie. It's a year or so after the first book. A girl named Lexie has been found dead. But it turns out that Lexie's whole identity was in fact the alias that Cassie used years earlier when working undercover. Lexie and Cassie could twins, the physical resemblance is so strong. Cassie goes undercover, again, into the life Lexie has created for herself using the fake identity. This book is even better than the first. Totally creepy and claustrophobic and I was really left guessing what was going to happen right up until the very end.

Tana French is a great writer. I'm impressed by her plotting. In many mysteries, the novel ends as soon as the murdered is revealed. In these books, the work and life of the detectives are primary. Even after the murderer is revealed, the books continue with no real cessation of suspense. It's not figuring out WHO the murderer is that is interesting, it's watching the detectives struggle to make all the pieces fit into the puzzle. There's a third book, Faithful Place, that I picked up from the library. The narrator of that one is Frank, Cassie's liason in the Undercover Unit. I'm trying to wait to read it because I know I'll be sad when it's over and will be left anxiously waiting for the next one.

Ablaze: The Story of the Victims and Heroes of Chernobyl by Piers Paul Read
The first 2/3 of this book were brilliant. The last third was a total snore. What a bummer. The book's divided up into three parts. The first is pretty short and gives a brief overview of the Soviet nuclear power program. Interesting enough. The middle third is fucking awesome. It goes through the events at Chernobyl, almost minute by minute. Who was working, how the explosion happened, etc.

The human drama of this book was just unbelievable. I had NO idea how little the plant workers really knew about radiation. The radiation was so high that their dosimeters were unreliable. One guy climbs up to the next building and looks down directly into the open reactor core. This is not good. All of the men who were on that shift acted heroically to avert a further meltdown and they all died of horrible radiation poisoning within weeks. The author keeps a pretty tight focus on the events *at* the plant through these first 2 parts, and that's really why I wanted to read it. But I started to lose interest as he widened the scope in the third section and began to talk about the political reaction to the crisis. I almost gave up. Once he left the Chernobyl plant and it's workers, I lost interest. Reading about the machinations of the Soviet cover up and scapegoating just wasn't that interesting. I wanted him to go back to the plant, the workers, the containment, the building of the sarcophagus, etc. I'd even read another book about Chernobyl just to get more of that story.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
What a great book. This is a novel told through a variety of points of view over a period of years in a small Maine town. I really liked it. It's beautifully written, and the question of how people grow and change over time was explored thoughtfully. I liked the different characters and figuring out how they fit together. It's a mediation on family and what it is we can and should expect from the people who love us the most. It's also about aging and loss. I'd recommend this book to anyone.

Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead
I love a good supernatural romance type of book. Not sure what else there is to say. This was the second in the series, and I will definitely read the others. Again, trying to pace myself. Sometimes with a series like this I read them all right in a row and then can't remember them.

Also, I read this on my Kindle, so I never saw the cover. It's so hilariously cheesy and good! It's cracking me up.

Great House by Nicole Krauss
You know how fast I read, so you also know what a compliment it is for me when I tell you that I specifically tried to slow myself down when reading this book. The novel's characters are connected through time and space by a great, big writing desk. As each section is revealed, the different characters examine their lives and their relationships. I loved this book. I'm not really doing it justice, but I'm not sure what else to say about it without ruining the way the book is constructed. It's lovely.

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
I guess this doesn't really count since I finished it today, but it feels like a book I read in April. I gotta say, this book was awesomely bizarre. It's a first novel, and it feels like it. The main plot is about a man named David Pepin who is accused of murdering his wife, Alice. This book is so WEIRD. There are 2 detectives investigating the murder: Ward Hastroll and Sam Sheppard. Yes, that Sam Sheppard, he of the famous Cleveland murder case. Anyways, all 3 of these guys are obsessed with killing their wives as a way out of their unhappy marriages. There's a bad guy named Mobius, a strange obsession with Hitchcock movies, and the introduction of characters and events that are completely implausable. It jumps around in time and it seemed like there were a million loose ends. In other words: a mess. And yet, it was also interesting and enjoyable. Ross is a great writer. He's descriptive and funny, insightful and caustic. I was curious to see which pieces would fit together and which wouldn't. I theorized and speculated about all kinds of connections as I was reading, some that came true and some didn't. It was engaging and at times the writing was spectacular, and so I didn't mind that the pieces don't really all come together. I think this guy has a lot of promise, and I'd definitely give another novel of his a try.

I'm also pretty impressed with myself since 3 of the April reads came from the Borders bender. At least they're not just sitting on the shelf, destined for future TBR challenges! Whew!

Looking forward to Sookie Stackhouse's next adventure, which comes out Tuesday. I've already pre-ordered an actual copy since it's cheaper than the kindle version. So annoying, but whatever. I'll play their silly little games. I can ship it to you when I'm done.



  1. As always, I'm envious of the speed at which you read. I'm barely pulling off my 1 book per month on our TBR journey! The Tana French books sound great -- verrry interested in those now.

    Chernobyl must be on a lot of people's minds right now -- did you hear the This American Life that touched on this topic? Interviews with people who had *no* idea what the danger was that they were dealing with. Wow. Super freaky. The episode was See No Evil and the story was excerpts from a book called Voices From Chernobyl. Powerful, freaky stuff. Heartbreaking.

    I gotta read that Olive Kitteridge -- sounds great and Judy loved it, too. Two solid good reviews from my two favorite readers! :)

    Love those Succubus books and I knew you would too -- she's a great character. (And YES! The covers are HILARIOUS!) My other problem with getting into a series is that I *cannot* keep up with when new ones are coming out -- especially if I'm into multiple series. I've had some success by creating an RSS feed that points directly to the authors' websites, but this is somewhat exhausting. In a world of notifications, I wish there was a simpler way of getting a heads up when the authors I like have new books coming out. Am I missing something? Is there a simple solution that I've totally overlooked?

    I am intrigued by both Great House and Mr. Peanut -- it looks like you had a *stellar* book month in April!

    WTF is with the Kindle version of Sookie being *more* that the physical version?! I would even take the *same* amount. Maybe. But more?! MORE?!

    The only good think I can say is that at least they *have* a Kindle version on the release date this time. But they are *losing* money by pulling this BS. Last time, six of my co-workers passed a single copy around. We are all Kindle users (and Sookie addicts!) If there had been a Kindle version, all six of us would have *bought* it. This way, we were so mad, we just bought the one. Ugh.

    Yes. Send it to me when you're done. I'll pass it around at the office when I'm finished. ;)

  2. K,

    Maybe we can make our millions on a website that lists upcoming book releases. I think you've hit upon the last untapped market of the internet.

    I will definitely send you the Sookie book and have you pass it around the office. I get that Amazon is discounting the hardback (to 14.70), but the idea of paying 14.99 for the Kindle version is just galling. We are *saving* you the money of the printed book. Don't jerk me around with the price gouging. It's annoying. I am happy to enable the "stick-it-to-the-publishers" spirit. And you know I'll just read it super fast, so you won't have to wait for long.

    Thanks for the link to the "This American Life" (um, this Russian life?) link. Definitely the amazing part of the book was that the workers knew nothing about the risks they were taking. It was appalling.