Tuesday, April 24, 2007

March Reads--part 2 (otherwise known as the books I enjoyed on my trip to Dubai)

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman: My second Lippman book, just as good the first one I tried. Thirty years ago, the Bethany sisters disappeared from a Baltimore shopping mall. No trace of them was ever found. Now a woman involved in a car accident claims to be the younger girl. But she clams up afterward, releasing only bits and pieces of her story and the detective believes at least some of what she's telling them is a lie. If she is Heather Bethany, why won't she tell the truth about what happened? And why does she not want to see her mother?

THE MINOTAUR by Barbara Vine: The pen name for Ruth Rendell's psychological novels, the minotaur referenced in the title is John Cosway, a schizophrenic for whom a Swedish nurse has been hired. Kerstin can't figure out the Cosway family--controlling mother and four beautiful but odd sisters--and she spends her time searching for the famous maze that is supposed to exist but can't be traced anywhere in the gardens. Kerstin grow suspcious about John's diagnosis and treatment and the motives of his mother, and a sudden death strengthens her fears.

THE STOLEN CHILD by Keith Donohue: I wanted to like this book club choice, really I did. And I was on vacation, so it's not like I was in a bad mood when I read it. But it just didn't do anything for me. The idea is intriguing--the concept of changelings who steal a human child in order to take its place. The stolen child is condemned to live forever (barring accident), accumulating years of experience living in the wild but never changing physically. The book follows both Henry Day (who used to be a changeling and steals Henry's life at the age of 7) and Aniday (which is the name the original Henry Day takes when he reaches the wild as a changeling. My major problem with this book was that it didn't have a story. At least not enough of one. I like things to happen in a book, threads to weave together, unexpected moments of connection and revelation, an ending that leaves me feeling I've made a journey. None of that happened for me in this book--I felt as though I was reading a condensed calendar of events in the two lives and it frankly bored me.

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson: I love Bryson's travel books, particularly NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND (about England.) In this book, he brings his humor and unique observations to, well, short history of nearly everything. The natural world, in other words, and the cosmos, and humans, and how we ended up where we are on the planet we are in the solar system we are. If you'd told me I'd ever love a book that talks about evolution and quarks and paleontology, I'd have laughed you to scorn. But not only did I love this book, I now feel that I have at least a basic grasp of many concepts that went right over my head in school science classes. That's what good writing can do--make anything accessible and interesting!


Ginger said...

I've got to read that Bryson book! Thanks for putting it here.

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