, Colleen McCullough( Booklist review )
I read The Thorn Birds
sometime in 2000-01 and was initially impressed with McCullough. Additional selections of this author's work, however, didn't appeal to me and I lost interest in her writing. I use Fiction Connection (through Global Books in Print, one of our databases) to guide me towards my next book, so imagine my surprise when the recommended similar read (similar to what, I can't remember...) was On/Off
. After reading the jacket, I thought it was at least worth a try.
The hardest thing to overcome, initially, was the story read as a British detective story in the early chapters. I had to continually remind myself that this was set in New England
, not Jolly Olde England. Once I got settled into the story, this wasn't a problem. Which was good, since there were plenty of other problems to deal with. Like, for instance, Lt. Delmonico made me salivate for grill medium steaks while his love interest (pegged from the first meeting, in my head) annoyed me with her Australian/American/English accent. Desdemona Dupre. What a terrible name. What a terrible character.
The serial killer was too predictable and it became obvious when next s/he would strike. As twisted as this might sound, I would have preferred more development of the killer. As it was, the killer's reveal was something of a let-down, an after-thought, a lack-luster end to an otherwise forgettable book.
More annoyances: the university in the book is called Chubb. I giggled like a schoolgirl whenever I read Chubb. The place where the first body part is found (but not the first body disposed of) is called the Hug. Apparently, this nickname is supposed to be derogatory, some sort of back-stab by a slighted colleague at Chubb. But, it's hard to take any of it serious. The characters, even Delmonico, are under-developed. What is revealed is largely only surface information, or it's characterization that is so overdone, you have to question you very existence for living. Yeah. I didn't like this book.
But, to be fair, I'm not a fan of detective stories. While nearly all novels have a predictable format (beginning, middle, climax, end), I prefer my stories to be way less predictable. I like to read novels that, once finished, I either want there to be another 100 pages or
I want to start the same book over again just to taste it once more. If I were giving stars, this would be 2 out of 4. It was readable and, believe it or not, mostly enjoyable (once I shed my literary snobbishness). The Night Listener
, Armistead Maupin( Booklist review )
A few weeks ago, on the extra ABC cable channel we get, I settled on watching an old episode of 20/20
about a sickly and abused foster child that somehow managed to beat the odds and was living and breathing despite his real parents' sexual deviancy and the fact that the boy contracted AIDS through pedophilic activities. Disturbing as that story is, the show was presenting something even worse: the speculation that the foster mother had fabricated the whole thing, right down to the most sordid of dirty details. By the end of the show, when I learned there had been a book written about one of the duped's experiences with "Tony", I went into my library account from home (YOU CAN DO THAT, YOU KNOW?) and reserved a copy of Maupin's story.
Since this story has a twist at the end--one that could be perceived as subtle and thus missed if not read carefully (as in, you start skimming the last few pages because you're sure you know where this one is going, damn it), I'm not going to give away too much of the details here. The things that I'd complain about... well, they are somewhat superfluous at the end. I will say that the twist is a bit of a dirty trick and that if the lines between reality and fiction are going to be blurred, the writer has to truly be a skilled craftsman. It's not that Maupin is unskilled, but the ending jerks a little too much to be smooth. I felt a little shorted when the twist was revealed. I felt lied to and, on some level, betrayed. But, perhaps that's the whole point, given the basis for this stranger-than-fiction tale.The Pilot's Wife
, Anita Shreve( Booklist review )
What I liked about this book was the behind-the-scenes look at air-craft tragedies. That sounds bizarre, but it's not. Reading about it, instead, revealed humanity in its fragile state. But, reading about it also confirmed the mechanicalness of dealing with souls lost during flight.
What this story suffers from, again, is predictability. With the climatic place crash out of the way, the possibility of the husband's double-life is expected. Also, from the moment the investigator enters the scene, it is obvious that there will be a romantic interlude between him and Katharine (how annoyingly amusing it is, then, that his name is Hart. har har.).
In a lot of ways, this story reminded me of Hoffman's Blue Diary
(and, in fact, this book may be the connection in my fiction tastes presently): double-faced history, secrets, unknown pasts. The different is the dead Lyons is balancing the double-life all at once; Hoffman's story took place in two separate and distinct times, a before and after of sorts.
I'm interested to read other books by Shreve. Her writing borders on literature: it's well-crafted, not over-cliched, and there doesn't seem to be a sort of writers' fear of writing outside the box. The characters could stand more development, but they're not so malnourished as to make the story itself suffer. I found it easy to lose myself in the pages and difficult to stop reading at the end of my lunch hour. If that's not a good review, then what is?
Next up: Hamilton's Book of Ruth
), followed by the colleague-recommended Mona Lisa Awakening
, an erotic fantasy that better be heavy on erotic and light on fantasy, lest I lose interest...