Hmmm, not my best reading month ever. I don't think there are any A grades in what follows:
EVANS ABOVE/Rhys Bowen/B+
Evan Evans (known as Evans-the-law) is a police constable in a small town in Wales. When two men die on the local mountain on the same day, Evans suspects it's more than a climbing accident. A good enough mystery and I did like Evans--I don't know why this wasn't a better book for me. Maybe it was just too slender, and I don't mean in length. A good way to pass a couple of hours, but not compelling enough for me to rush out and find more Evans books.
DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY/Douglas Adams/B
I really wanted to love this one, being as I'm such a fan of HITCHIKER'S GUIDE. But for whatever reason, the off-beat humor didn't gel into a great book. It's got odd situations (a horse appearing in a bathroom in Cambridge, a ghost wondering why he was just killed, and an alien trying to destroy the world. Maybe that was it--too many disparate threads. At least in HITCHIKER'S GUIDE you could name the central problem--Earth is destroyed, Arthur is the only human survivor. Maybe I'll re-read that this month.
TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT/Lawrence Block/A-
Block is a prolific (was? he might be dead now, that's bad that I don't know) author of mysteries and thrillers. This non-fiction book is a collection of essays grouped thematically for writers. Some I really enjoyed. The book ends with "A Prayer from a Writer" that I thought was particularly good.
A SPIDER'S THREAD/Laura Lippman/A-
Another one I really wanted to love and it came close. I've loved the two stand alone's of Lippman's that I've read--this is the first of her Tess Monaghan series that I've picked up. Tess is a private detective in Baltimore who's asked by an Orthodox Jew to find out why his wife has vanished with their 3 children. I liked the multiple viewpoints in the story, liked Tess herself (although not overwhelmingly), and thought the mystery was quite good. It didn't get an A because it became more of a thriller than a mystery and just didn't engage me as much when I knew what was going on before the end. But a good book.
A WALK IN THE WOODS/Bill Bryson/A
A ha! An A book. It was a re-read, me reading aloud to my husband as we drove to and from Oregon over spring break. Bill Bryson on the Appalachian trail, I reviewed it sometime last year. Still funny. Still engaging. Still Bryson.
CRITICAL CONDITIONS & MANNER OF DEATH/Stephen White/B
White was the guest of honor at Left Coast Crime and I got these two paperbacks free in my bag. I enjoyed them well enough, but doubt I'll look for more on my own. Both are part of the Alan Gregory series about a clinical psychologist in Boulder, Colorado with an attorney wife and a cop friend. They're thrillers, with Gregory in both books trying to balance his ethical requirement to keep patient confidentialiaty with his need to keep himself or others alive. Gregory himself didn't do much for me, probably the number one reason I won't bother with more books about him unless they fall into my lap. But I read both of them quickly and did want to know how the stories turned out, so take that for what it's worth.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS/Phillip Pullman/A-
This was my favorite of the new books I read this month. Actually, we started out listening to it on CD while we drove to Zion National Park last week. When we got home, I picked it up in my daughter's room to finish. Lyra lives in a world a good deal like ours, but with some signifcant differences --like the fact that every human has a daemon, a sort of soul embodied outside of them. Lyra and her daemon become caught up in the world of religion and politics and when a rare instrument falls into her hands, she must use it to help save abducted children and her imprisoned uncle. There are wonderful fantasy touches like armored bears and mechanical spy bugs, but Pullman's gift is in creating a world with people who are as real as anyone around you. I loved Lyra and can't wait to finish the series to see what happens to her.