Friday, April 22, 2011

TRH Books - Catching Up

I don't have time these days for individual posts but I do want to catch up so that I can take the time in the next couple weeks to really talk about a few books on my TBR pile. I've abandoned my stacks lately and have been reading library books for the most part, or books that the publishers have sent over. But here goes:

#33 - The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

At first, I didn't quite understand the premise of this novel. The narrative -- an omniscient "being" trying to figure out where to "land" -- tells the story of the inhabitants of a building in modern-day Dublin. Each person and/or couple who lives in the flat has his/her/their issues in terms of life, work, relationships. You know, vintage Marian Keyes. It's a swift, sweet and predictable read, but I enjoyed the book.

#34 - The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman

Rear Window meets She's Having a Baby (without the histrionics) -- Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan is laid up with pre-eclampsia prior to the birth of her daughter. When she sees a dog race by without its green raincoat wearing owner, she finds herself embroiled in a missing persons case she needs to solve from her bedside. I missed the novel when it was serialized in the New York Times Magazine, but I loved the story anyway: it's short, yes, but it's also vintage Lippman, smart, sassy, and truly addictive. In the post-script, Lippman explains the particular challenge of writing an ongoing character and/or story in serial format, and how she made each chapter complete while progressing the larger narrative as a whole. Fascinating.

#35 - Foursome by Jane Fallon

Jane Fallon's latest novel, Foursome, tells the story of two married couples who have spent the last fifteen or twenty years being a, well, foursome. The two fellows are best friends; their wives the same. They make perfect pairs -- happily married, great kids, fun, full lives in London -- until everything starts to crumble the minute that one half decides to get divorced. Or, rather, one husband decides he simply isn't happy and doesn't want to be married any longer. When her safe, secure group breaks down, Rebecca isn't quite sure how to put her life back together. Sure, her marriage is stable, and she's got a job that she loves, but the minute Alex, the husband of her best friend Isabel, professes his undying love for her (oh boy; he's her husband's best friend!), which she has absolutely no interest or willingness to reciprocate, well, all hell breaks loose. And it only gets worse before it gets better when Alex starts to date the loathsome Lorna, her "work enemy." In the end, it's a book that knows that life can never stay the same once major shifts have happened, and whether it's for better or for worse, change really must be accepted. Fallon's such a refreshing chicklit writer -- it's hard to describe these novels as "chicklit," though, they're well-written, with great characters, more family drama than shoe shopping, and I just adore her sense of humour.

#36 - A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes

My reading affair with Barnes continues, and I adored this book of short stories. In fact, I'd say that the opening story, "The Stowaway," might just be one of my all-time favourites, moving right up there beside "Hills Like White Elephants." I love the tradition of writing back to our creation stories -- Timothy Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage, Tom King's Green Grass, Running Water -- and Barnes does it exceptionally well. He winks at the reader throughout with the woodworm popping up in the most peculiar of places, and "Parenthesis," might just be the most heartbreakingly beautiful discussion of love I've read in ages. Overall, these stories are brilliant, vintage Barnes and I can't wait to read Flaubert's Parrot, which is next on my Barnes Read-a-thon.

#37 - The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg

I wasn't too terribly impressed with Lackberg's first novel, The Ice Princess. But The Stonecutter is a definite improvement, despite its utterly confusing title -- perhaps it should have been called The Stonecutter's Wife, but whatever. After reading an article from NPR about other Swedish crime mysteries to equal THE Swedish Crime Series of the Century (The Girl With The...), I thought I'd give her another try. There's still a lot of sloppiness to her novels: far too many characters and subplots meant to throw you off the "scent" of the main mystery and its conclusion. But I enjoyed the back and forth, past to the present, of this truly horrible character named Agnes -- she's was deliciously wicked in an awful way. And how Lackberg ties everything together in the end is quite satisfying. And I'm ever enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Erica and Patrick, who's charged with solving the murder of a seven-year-old girl.

So, short mini-reviews of my reading this month. Now I am desperately trying to finish Anthills of the Savannah for book club tomorrow evening. No napping for me today! I think RRBB's still got a contact high from all the Easter chocolate his mother may or may not have ingested yesterday anyway.

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