You know you’ve taken a self-imposed deadline seriously when you start cramming the night before it ends! Caught myself trying to finish A Murderous Procession, one of the books I had committed to read during the winter break. Fell asleep before I finished but with only 20 pages to go I am going to indulge in some creative accounting.
So here’s the tally -
Gorky Park: Brilliant book, but I don’t think I will be seeking out the further adventures of Arkady Renko any time soon, mostly because they are really long and I am afraid my attention span has permanently shortened. However, a good choice for the next vacation when there’s plenty of time on my hands.
The Boy in the Suitcase: This Danish thriller turned out to be quite engrossing, with a heroine who gets involved with domestic violence and child custody cases as a social worker. Lena Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis co-wrote this book, the beginning of a series, and it is a page turner. Nina Borg, the heroine, is a very flawed character, (of course!) prone to panic and flight, but she is also very tenacious and appealing.
Shanghai Girls: This is the least favorite Lisa See novel for me. I loved Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, but I just could not connect with the two Shanghai sisters whose upper middle class lives in China get uprooted violently and make way for a future in San Francisco’s Chinatown. For those who enjoy historical fiction based in the orient, I recommend Laura Joh Rowland’s samurai thrillers.
Matched: I can see now why Ally Condie’s novel got such rave reviews and fan devotion; there’s teen romance, dystopian intrigue, and well-developed characters. Condi is quite a gifted writer, so the similarity of Matched’s central premise of teen-heroine-battling-adults-who-think-they-know-best to other trilogies like The Hunger Games doesn’t grate. Still, I don’t think I will pick up the sequel Crossed..there’s only so much teen angst I can deal with. Condi’s book reads a little overwrought to me, but maybe that’s just professional jealousy talking!
Beta: Another dystopian YA novel, also primed for a sequel! I sense a formula here – teen girl lives a blissful life in futuristic utopia till she discovers all is not as it seems. She then leads a band of rebels to win a precarious freedom. The tragedy is that my own proposed novel had a pretty similar trope, so now I have the unpleasant choice of continuing with a theme that has been and continues to be used ad nauseum, or ditch the whole project and begin afresh. Sheesh. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed Beta, and thought it a better written novel than Matched, possibly for older teens, since there are themes of sexual harassment, rape and pregnancy for our 16/17-year old protagonist. Great dialogue, just great.
Death in August: Now this was the sorbet to cleanse the palate between all those misery-laden teen novels. Inspector Bordelli leads a police station of misfits in 1960s Florence as they bumble and stumble their way to solving a local crime. Refreshing and light.
A Murderous Procession: I know I was planning to save this delectable treat for a rainy day, but there were plenty of those in the last couple of weeks. Plus I discovered a book I had forgotten I bought called The Midwife of Venice, so I have another truffle tucked away. Of the three Ariana Franklin books I have read, this one is my least favorite, because of a serial killer character who is uncomfortably reminiscent of psychos in modern thrillers that authors like John Sanford and Jonathan Kellerman churn out every year.
Blackberry Winter: This novel by Sarah Jio was probably my least favorite. A decent premise of congruent events that take place across two unseasonal snowstorms in May several years apart, but the plot is just too neat and tidy. Again, slightly overwrought writing; I guess I like my philosophizing on the acerbic side.
Oil on Water: Helon Habila’s book is really interesting and well written but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it for an odd reason – the dialogues are not enclosed in quotation marks. Instead they are marked by a dash at the beginning, and this method just puts me off. I’m growing old, groan!
The Search for Wondla: Only read the first chapter so far, but this is a book I plan to complete. I think this is a must read for authors planning to write kidlit.
Books I Never Got to and Never Will:
Steve Jobs: The moment has passed.
813: This book will stay on my Kindle forever as a reminder that there are plenty of classics available for free online, but just as I don’t think I will ever get to Tess of the D’Urbervilles, this is another book doomed to remain unread.
Garlic Ballads: Sorry Mr. Mo Yan, but Nobel Prize or not, this book is just too depressing for me. Who knows, there may be a moment in the future when I come across this book in a nice large type and in a nicer frame of mind, but for the moment, life is short and there are too many other books ahead in the queue.
I never did get to my friend’s Dropbox of goodies about good kid lit, but it is the very next thing I am going to read.
Hope everyone had a great winter break and lots of lovely books to read around the fire on snowy days. Here’s to another year of happy reading.