January 2007 Books
AMONG THE HIDDEN by Margaret Peterson Haddix: a younger YA book about a society where third children are illegal. The first in the Shadow Children series. My boys and I have read them all, but this one remains my favorite. Luke has lived his whole life isolated on a family farm. Then houses are built behind their farm and he makes friends with another third child, Jen. Reckless where Luke is cautious, Jen is determined to change the plight of the shadow children.
A LONG SHADOW/A FALSE MIRROW by Charles Todd: the two most recent in the Inspector Rutledge series. Set in 1920, Ian Rutledge is still haunted by the trenches and the many men who died under his command. I like Rutledge and the feel for post-WWI England and I generally like the involved plots--but the author often hides information near the end so that I often feel thrust outside Rutledge's experience since the writer doesn't share everything Rutledge knows or does. It's a fine line between being coy and cheating and these books are starting to stray into cheating.
THE WELL OF SHADES by Juliet Marillier: my husband had a work friend in Australia send him this third in a trilogy for my Christmas present (it won't be published in the U.S. until May.) Marillier writes historical fantasies, and she delivers a winner in this conclusion to The Bridei Chronicles. Set in Pictish Scotland in about 500 A.D., Marillier has wonderful characters, complex love stories, battles and traitors and a spoiled, psychopathic princess who has no problem killing when life gets boring. Plus the magic of the Druids--what's not to love!
PARDONABLE LIES by Jacqueline Winspear: the third in this 1930's series find Maisie Dobbs trying to prove that a WWI pilot actually died when his plane was shot down more than twelve years before. It's Maisie's most personally difficult case yet, taking her back to France where she served as a nurse and where her first love was taken from her. I love the mood of these books, it feels like you're in a different time and world reading them. Maisie is a sympathetic and strong heroine, one of many English women who were left behind when a generation of young men died.
TOWER OF SILENCE by Sarah Rayne: Secluded Scottish town. Asylum for the criminally insane. Quiet spinster whose childhood was marred by tragedy. When Joanna Savile arrives in Moy with the aim of interviewing its most famous inmate, she sets off a course of events that began with a bloody uprising in India fifty years ago. No one is quite who they seem and connections are everywhere as the story moves back and forth in time. A new-to-me writer, I devoured this book in two days. Not for the faint of heart or those prone to nightmares, but a great story for a winter's afternoon when you just want to be swept away and not think too hard.
BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE by Rennie Airth: John Madden used to be a Scotland Yard Inspector. Now, in the early 1930's, he's a gentleman farmer with a doctor wife and two children. But when he's caught in the search for a missing child, Madden can't keep entirely clear of the subsequent murder investigation. A portrait of England still reeling from one war and verging on the brink of another, I especially enjoyed the German detective who's working on what may be connected cases involving and the delicate negotiations between protecting a British spy and the rise of the Nazis to power.
FREAKONOMICS by Levitt and Dubner: "Morality is how one thinks the world should work. Economics is how the world actually works." A book club read, with titles like "Why do Drug Dealers still Live with their Mothers" and "What do the Ku Klux Klan and Real-estate Agents have in Common?", this economics book barely talks money at all but rather shows thinking beyond the conventional wisdom and opened my mind to a new way (upside down and sideways) of asking questions and gathering information. Recommended.
TWILIGHT/NEW MOON by Stephenie Meyer--a BYU graduate, Meyer woke up one morning from a vivid dream which she promptly wrote down. That scene, of a girl and her vampire boyfriend in a meadow, became the linchpin of her first novel, TWILIGHT. Within six months of that dream, Meyer had written the book, found an agent, and signed a six-figure, multi-book contract. Amazingly, I don't hate her. Mostly because TWILIGHT is a fabulous book. I devoured it. I inhaled it. I dreamt about it and completely forgot I was reading someone's work and just dove into the story itself. Bella Swan doesn't know what's she in for when she moves to Forks, Washington and meets the enigmatic and unearthly beautiful Cullen family. But I can tell you what you're in for if you pick up TWILIGHT and the sequel NEW MOON--storytelling at its best.
ART OF DETECTION by Laurie R. King: I'm a big fan of King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes' novels. Not so much her contemporaries. I picked up this Kate Martinelli police procedural because it involves the death of a Sherlock Holmes fanatic and includes the text of a previously unknown Holmes story. I thought with King crossing lines between her two series that I would enjoy it, but I didn't. It was okay, just not for me. I'll stick to waiting for another Mary Russell.
ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn: my brother-in-law recommended this and I'm so glad I finally read it. Ella lives on the fictional island of Nollop, where the villagers revere Nevin Nollop, the creator of the infamous sentence that uses all the letters in the alphabet: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." When letters start to fall from Nollop's statue, the council begins to forbid their use. As the letters disappear from the islanders' vocabulary, they also disappear from the novel. The book is more than a clever exercise--it's also a spirited look at totalitarianism and one girl's fight for freedom of expression.
THE CHRISTMAS SECRET by Anne Perry: a Christmas novella featuring one of Perry's minor characters. Dominic Corde and his wife, Clarice, have come to a quiet Oxfordshire town to take over the parish for three weeks. But when the vicar is found to have never left home at all, the Cordes must sift through a multitude of village secrets to find the one worth killing for.