Monday, February 13, 2012

Mondays on the Margins: Books 2011 part two

Okay - the three star entries. I'm not going to lie, as I was typing out this list, there were several that made me think "that should have been two" or "why didn't I give that four again?" One of the essays in the book I read last week, articulated very well how I feel about reading a book. Unless the book has very obvious problems or flaws, I never assume that it's the book's fault if I don't like it. Sometimes it's just the wrong time for me to meet that book. I started The Shipping News three times and couldn't get past the first chapter - when I finally read it, I adored it. Last March I began reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I bought at the same time as Come, Thou Tortoise. Maybe it was that I loved Tortoise so much I just wasn't ready to engage with a Hedgehog. In any case, I started it again from the beginning yesterday and will probably finish it tonight, and it is SUBLIME.

So I'm not going to change the ratings, but I'll mention the ones that I seem to have subconsciously rethought in the intervening months.

Divergent by Veronica Roth - reviewed on Goodreads. 3 1/2 stars. A good example of why I try never to read the first book in a trilogy until all of the trilogy is published.

No Trace by Barry Maitland - Meh. Didn't live up to the jacket copy. 2 1/2 stars.

15 Miles by Rob Scott - a little disappointing, but only because I somehow got the impression that there would be zombies. As a study of a policeman in the process of self-destructing and how he faces the crisis, it's solid. Would have been better with zombies.

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman - one of my favourite authors, not my favourite book of hers. She deftly explores difficult family relationships with excruciating precision and skill.
I'd Know you Anywhere, by Laura Lippman - same. In my opinion, her Tess Monaghan books or To The Power of Three or Every Secret Thing are far superior.

Ultraviolet by, R.J. Anderson - Her name is ALISON (not enough Ls) and it takes place in SUDBURY, where I grew up (okay, I grew up in a small town outside Sudbury called Lively, feel free to mock). Still - first book ever. It mentions Paris Street - I've DRIVEN on Paris Street! It's also a great story. I offer up as proof that it stands out in my memory from all the other young adult science fiction books I've read in which the female protagonist thinks she's going crazy but there's actually a logical (but also mysterious) explanation.

Easy to Like by Edward Riche - reviewed on blog.

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis - read this for book club. 2011 CBC Canada Reads winner. Also won a Stephen Leacock award, which is appropriate, because I found some of Stephen Leacock's humour was the same as this - sometimes trying just a little too hard - sort of like the jokes that fathers make that make their children groan and go 'Daaaaad'...

You Could Live a Long Time, Are you Ready? by Lindsay Green - read for book club. The author interviewed several older people and put together some advice for making plans and preparations for growing older happily and well. Great advice, VERY dry writing style.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - reviewed on Goodreads. 3 1/2 stars, maybe 4.

House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne - more like 2 1/2. I've read other books of hers that have a great eerie atmosphere. This one wasn't as good.

The Identity Man by Andrew Klavan - I've loved this author for years - simple mysteries have a holy rhythm in his hands. Recently I discovered that he's ultra-right-wing and holds some opinions that I find quite objectionable. I really wish I hadn't discovered that. This was more cynical and pessimistic than some of his previous work, but was still well done.

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou - about the tribulations of Canadian Olympic hopefuls. It was a good story, but read more like a magazine article than a novel.

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson - honestly can't remember much

The Returners by Gemma Malley - need to reread. I remember thinking the premise was great but there were significant weaknesses, but now can't remember what they are.

Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris - 'very skillfully rendered, if not enjoyable in the least' is what I wrote on Goodreads. The story, the characterization, the setting, all are brilliant, but OH MY GOD, depressing.

Already Dead by Charlie Huston - really cool (well, vampire P.I., duh). I would have given it four stars if I hadn't read his other book Sleepless, which was amazing.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon - for some reason this sort of pissed me off while I was reading it and I almost gave it two stars, but now that I'm thinking back on it I can't really figure out why it pissed me off. People were looking for people and turning out to be other people, and it's actually kind of cool in my memory.


Warped by Marissa Guibord - a modern girl, an ancient tapestry, a 16th-century nobleman (young and handsome, naturally).... it was fun. Even though the most recent review on Goodreads recommends it for 'weaver douchebags'. I might have called this a 'romp' if I ever used that word. Which I don't.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - I've had some interesting discussions with people about this. It's a great story, I couldn't stop reading it, but (and I am NOT someone who goes overboard on notions of 'author intention') I could not stop thinking, "we all know how he feels about e-readers, but does Jonathan Franzen also really not like women very much?". I've discovered I'm not along in wondering this. The parts in which he has his character Patty Berglund write out her own writhingly bad and embarrassing behavious seems especially sadistic and woman-hating. When I think back to The Corrections it all gets quite disturbing.

Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison - 'a Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America' is the subtitle, and we all know the word Apocalyptic is like crack to me. But this turned out to be a mystery that could have taken place in any old America. I like the apocalypse to be integral to the plot.

Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon
The Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon - I read one. It was kind of good. I got another one from the library. I wondered if it was the same book re-issued under an alternative title. It wasn't. Look, honey, if you're going to reuse a device, don't make it one as obvious as "I found out my father was first married to my best friend's mother by finding a picture of them together". People notice stuff like that.

The Calling of the Grave by Simon Becket - I don't know why the title is in English but the synopsis is in Dutch (on Goodreads). I read it in English. Again, a medium entry in a series I generally really admire.

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay - Didn't realize this was a ya book when I took it out of the library. This author's Wandering Fire trilogy is one of the best fantasy trilogies I've ever read and I highly recommend it. This was interesting and sweet.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton - not sure now why I didn't give it four stars. Very interesting hook, good characters, nice suspense, a sense of melancholy fatefulness with a chance of redemption.

Stones by William Bell - reviewed on Goodreads

Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes - reviewed on Goodreads. I would probably more readily recommend her Richard Jury mysteries.

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman - 'Amazing that it's so much less cheesy than it sounds' is what I wrote after reading it.

Foundling by D.M. Cornish - I wanted to like this more than I did and might give it another crack. It's quite original, and some of the images from it have stayed with me, I just kept losing the urge to keep reading for some reason.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins - the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

Such is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan - Reviewed on Goodreads. This kind of book always makes me wonder if the author is imposing more modern sensibilities on a character than is fair or realistic. But then some people are always ahead of their time, right? Still, it bugs me that I can't know for sure.

A Cold Night for Alligators by Nick Crowe - reviewed on Goodreads. It seems I liked it more than I remember liking it. My Mom gets me to request books from the library for her, and then sometimes by the time the request is filled I forget who it's for. Then I'm reading this book thinking "wow, this is great, I wonder who recommended it to me" or "why the hell did I think it would be a good idea to read this?"

Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner - I just could not get a handle on this. My friend Mary Lynn loved it and said it seemed like a great Canadian novel, but it left me out in the cold, cold streets of Montreal with a wonky compass. Maybe I should try it again.


The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant - Reviewed briefly on Goodreads.

Old Devil Moon by Christopher Fowler - Reviewed briefly on Goodreads. Short stories.

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Christopher - reviewed on blog.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness- will include with the trilogy in next post

Teenagers, a Natural History by David Bainbridge - reviewed briefly on Goodreads. Read for book club.

Haunted Legends by Ellen Datlow - a little surprised I only gave it three stars because I generally love anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow. Can't remember many of the stories, though.

11 comments:

Mary Lynn said...

Reactions to books are such personal things. In my younger days I remember thinking things like, "I just couldn't get along with someone who didn't like such-and-such as much as I love it!" Now I find the different reactions that people can have to the same book quite fascinating. You're not alone in your ambivalence toward Nikolski. In my book club there were three of us who loved it, but everyone else had a lukewarm reaction. I'm not even sure I could articulate why it appealed to me so much (which is why I don't write book reviews!).

Your comments on The Shipping News (which I also loved) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (which I'd like to read) make me think I should go back and try to reread all those books I started and then set aside. Maybe there's hope for me and Captain Corelli's Mandolin after all!

By the way, did I know you were from Lively? Surely I must've known this by now, and yet it doesn't sound like a familiar tidbit of information. My dad grew up in Copper Cliff, and my grandparents lived up there, so we used to go up to that area all the time.

StephLove said...

"I like the apocalypse to be integral to the plot."

Don't we all?

StephLove said...

"I like the apocalypse to be integral to the plot."

Don't we all?

rockygrace said...

Oh, man, I'm reading "Songs in Ordinary Time" right now. It's like I hate all the characters, but I HAVE to find out what happens to them. I'm hoping the women all get together and beat Omar to death in the end, but I kinda doubt that's gonna happen.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

My opinion on a book is so intertwined with what's happening around me in the real world, and what book I read before it. If I've read nothing but whatever books and then I read something semi-engaging I tend to think it's AMAZING!...until I read it again and wonder what I was on about.

Also I never realized how attached I was to half stars until I started reviewing books on Good Reads. Pretty much every single review I'm saying "wish I had a half star!".

Julie said...

holy cow. this part II of your list is more books than i read in a year! phew. must bookmark this page for future reference.

have you read the virgin cure?

Nan | Wrath Of Mom said...

You have truly eclectic taste in books.

alison said...

I like Tess Monaghan books too. I haven't read "The Lock Artist", but I like Hamilton's Alex McNight series very much, although the first, "A Cold Day in Paradise", is the weakest of the series. They can be violent, but well-crafted stories set in northern Michigan and northern Ontario. The last one I read, "Misery Bay", was very, very good.

Do you read Dana Stabenow? Her Kate Shugak series, set in Alaska, is stellar. I like how the author never takes the easy way out -- as the times change, her characters change with them, and Kate has to deal with native politics and the encroachment of mining and oil companies into the wilderness. I'm always so excited when I get an email from the library telling me that a new Kate Shugak book is in.

Sarah said...

I like Laura Lippmann, too.

And I read the Dan Chaon book -- found it a little pretentious but not bad.

Sarah said...

I like Laura Lippmann, too.

And I read the Dan Chaon book -- found it a little pretentious but not bad.

Sarah said...

Do you like Kate Atkinson? Love her. Loved Case Histories.