May 31, 2006

Promise Me

Promise Me by Harlan Coben
Finished on 5/17/06
Rating: A (9/10 Terrific!)

He’s baaaack! After a 6-year hiatus, Myron Bolitar returns along with his psychotic (yet undeniably useful) sidekick, Win. The rest of the gang (Esperanza, Big Cindy, Myron’s parents, and Jessica) all make an appearance, which should satisfy the devoted fans of this entertaining series. Reading Coben’s latest mystery is like visiting an old friend, picking up as if we hadn’t been apart for all these years. I’d forgotten how funny Myron can be; his dry wit never fails to crack me up.

In addition to reacquainting myself with this crazy group of friends, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery in spite of a few difficult pages dealing with missing daughters and their parents' angst. Overall, it’s a great read and, just in time for summer, should prove to be the perfect beach read, as it’s quite the page-turner. I liked it so well that I’m toying with the idea of heading over to Barnes & Noble to buy the previous 7 Bolitar books and treat myself to a re-reading fest this summer.

May 30, 2006

Secret Prey

Secret Prey by John Sandford
Mystery (#9 in Prey series)
Finished on 5/12/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very Good)

In spite of the weak (and largely irrelevant) introductory chapters (too many confusing details about a corporate merger), this may be the best Lucas Davenport mystery thus far! I thoroughly enjoyed the book, yet should caution those who might chose to read it as a stand-alone or before reading #7 and #8 in the series. Sandford is generally very good about establishing the backstory to these mysteries, but this particular novel has several details interwoven from previous works and not only is there potential for confusion, but spoilers, as well. Great suspense and an intense finale!

May 29, 2006

Dinner with Anna Karenina

Dinner with Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 5/8/06
Rating: B+ (7/10 Good)

This started out to be such a good book, but my enthusiasm began to wane the further along I read. It’s another women’s friendship book, centered around a monthly book group; a plot device that has been used ad nauseum of late.

They were readers for whom literature was a drug, each complex plot line delivery a new high, suspending them above reality, allowing them a magical crossover – now onto the snowbound avenues of St. Petersburg, now into the pretentious opera house of provincial Rouen. They had spoken often, with rueful honesty, of how the books they read represented escape, offered pathways to literary landscapes that intrigued and engrossed.

As I began to read, particularly the sections devoted to the actual book discussions, I was optimistic and felt that this book would be different. More intellectual and less “fluff” than say, The Book Club (Mary Alice Monroe), The Reading Group (Elizabeth Noble), The Jane Austen Book Club (Karen Joy Fowler), or Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons (Lorna Landvik).

Theirs was no ordinary book group, because they themselves were not ordinary readers. Each of them had visited other book groups, heard superficial comments, pseudoanalysis, words offered in games of intellectual one-upmanship….

They themselves were different. Literature was their passion, each book they discussed a challenge to heart and mind, each of their meetings a celebration of ideas. Their friendship, their intimacy, was rooted in that shared passion, unarticulated but silently acknowledged. In discussing books, they revealed themselves to one another, exposed their dreams, their deepest fears, their brightest hopes….

I’ve read several of the books the women chose and thought the discussions were well-done. Goldreich devotes several pages to each book, and the women were well-prepared and quite serious about their contributions, reading additional material about the author and comparing the work to other books they’d previously read. Just for fun, here are the titles the group read:

Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
Madame Bovary (Flaubert)
The Letters of Edith Wharton and The Reef (Wharton)
The Lottery and Life Among the Savages (Jackson)
Reading Lolita in Tehran (Nafisi) and Lolita (Nabokov)
The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems (Plath)
Little Women (Alcott)

Unfortunately, the relationships didn’t ring true and the dialogue between the friends was so poorly written that I began to cringe each time I came upon their enthusiastic but superficial chattering. I also think the book could have used a bit more editing. Goldreich has a tendency to repeat the details in which she describes the characteristics of the various friendships and one particular subplot that is revealed in the first chapter (and continues for the duration of the novel) became very tiresome and petty, resulting in a weak backdrop to the book’s focus.

That said, it wasn’t a bad read, in spite of the minor flaws, and I’m a bit tempted to start my own F2F (face-to-face) book group with my close friends. Anyone in Lincoln interested??

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Contemporary Fiction
Quit on 5/19/06
Rating: DNF (Did Not Finish)

I read several pages, but couldn't get interested. Skimmed ahead quite a bit (I almost never do this!) but remained unimpressed. I don't mind stream-of-conscious writing, so that wasn't the problem. I just wasn't interested in the main character or the storyline.

The Reader

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Contemporary Fiction
Quit on 5/19/06
Rating: DNF (Did Not Finish)

Read several chapters but couldn't get interested. Life is too short...

May 22, 2006

Sudden Prey

Sudden Prey by John Sandford
Finished on 5/4/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very good)

I’ve had mixed feelings about John Sandford’s “Prey” books (some are very good and others just ho-hum), but Sudden Prey was well worth my time. It was quite intense and only took a few days to zip through. In this particular book, the “bad guys” are out for revenge and Lucas Davenport and several of his co-workers are scrambling to not only protect themselves, but their own family members, as well. There were a few scenes that felt strangely familiar (different setting and characters, but basically a reenactment from previous books in the series, perhaps?), but other than that, I have no complaints. Entertaining read.

Enslaved By Ducks

Enslaved by Ducks: How One Man Went From the Head of the Household to the Bottom of the Pecking Order by Bob Tarte

Quit on 5/4/06
Rating: DNF (Did Not Finish)

After 100 pages, I finally decided to give up on this memoir. Didn't do a thing for me and I never felt a connection to the author or the crazy life he led with all the animals he and his wife managed to acquire. The animals (ducks, rabbits, parrots, doves, etc.) seemed more demanding than "normal" pets and I couldn't help but think, "Get a dog and quit your complaining!"