Monday, August 27, 2007

The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks

I began this trilogy when the first book, The Traveler, came out in 2005. I feel slightly hooked into the series and plan on finishing it. That said, I would not push this book on anyone. The characters are rather flat and the writing just isn't that good. I can forgive a lot in my junk reading, but this one makes me cringe at times when I run across a less than lyrical passage--okay, way less than lyrical.

So why am I going to finish the trilogy--so many books so little time and all that? I guess because I like the idea of it. I know there are other books out there about big brother watching and the taking away of our freedoms and privacy and people living off the grid, but this one came to me at just the right time after 911 when these started becoming major concerns of mine.

I was still working in a public library at the time and one of the big tenets of public librarianship is the right that our patrons have to privacy. Things happened after 911 that lead me to believe that that privacy was being chipped at from the highest levels of government. I did not then or now think that was right, and John Twelve Hawks got in my brain with his ideas in this area.

You know, these books are fast reads and if the topic intrigues you, go for it, you won't be alone since the book made bestseller lists all over, otherwise, I advise saving your reading time for something with a bit more meat to it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

I got this book from the library and started to read it and was not excited, then I read a blog-review and was convinced that it wasn't for me. But alas, my some of my bookgroup members had already read it, so it was too late to change. I got it back from the library and read it.

This is the story of Rachel Kalama who contracts leprosy at the age of seven and is removed from her family and sent to the island of Moloka'i. It is about her growing up on the island and dealing with her own disease and leprosy in all of the people she lives with. This is a tragic story. Hawaiians had no immunity to Hansen's disease and it hit them hard. The only way to keep the disease from spreading was isolation. But it was a mean process stealing children from parents and parents from families. This book covers the years 1891 to 1970.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the history part of this book. I knew nothing of this Hawaiian leper colony until I read this book. But I didn't think it was particularly well written. I think because the writing felt too contemporary, especially in the beginning when it starts in the late 1800's. I guess ultimately it was too lightweight for the topic.

Last year I read a book called The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo about a Japanese pearl diver who contract Hansen's disease and is sent to an island in Japan. It was so much better, that if I was going to recommend a novel on this subject, this would be the one.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It took me ages to finish this book. In fact it is overdue at the library even as I write. I think I read four other books while in the process of reading this one. And it is such a good book that my excuse may seem lame, but here is it. This book was so sad and heartbreaking that I just had to take breaks from it. The plot was good, and it is incredibly well written and I have already advised a number of reader friends of mine to get it, but it still hurt my heart so much, that I couldn't read it straight through.

The big picture of this story is the war between the Nigerians and the Biafrans in the early 1960's. Adichie doesn't hold anything back. The starvation and rapes and genocide is all in here and it will break your heart. But it is the smaller stories that will really stay with you when you are finished with this book.

There is 13 year old Ugwu who becomes a houseboy for a university professor. He is a wonderful, smart young man who aims to please and who loves his job. His fate is the one that I think I followed most closely because I really liked him as a character.

The professor's love is the beautiful Olanna who has a twin sister Kainene. They come from a good family and are passionate about the cause of Biafra and about the men in their lives. They are quite different from each other, and how they come together is a big part of this story.

And Kainene's love interest is Richard. An English ex-pat who came to Africa to write and ended up being caught up, by choice, in the war and the war effort. In a moment of drunken foolishness he has sex with Kainene's sister and that changes everything.

This is such a sweeping novel I feel that it is hard to do it justice without giving too much away. If you know the history of Africa, you know how the war ended, but it is the small dramas of these characters that make this a stunning novel, perhaps the best that I have read this year.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dirty Martini by J. A. Konrath

Just a couple of weeks ago I read Konrath's last entry in his Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery series and I didn't like it. It was needlessly violent and just didn't seem to fit into the spirit of the series. With this new book, he is back in form.

This book is funny, it has tension, and a well done bad guy who is planning on doing great harm to the city of Chicago. High points of the book are Jack getting a marriage proposal, her partner, Herb, transfers out of homicide for a less dangerous job, her father may not really be dead after all, and oh yeah, there is a bad guy poisoning food all over the city.

I like Jack Daniels and I am impressed that a man writes these books. He seems to have an understanding of how women think. In fact, if I didn't know for sure that Konrath was a man, I would never guess it from reading the books. One other thing I like about these books is that Konrath writes chapters from the point of view of the "bad guy." He writes crazy psycho-killer very well.

This book is a worthy addition the the series. There are only four books so far and I have liked three of the four quite well. And like many of the series mysteries I read, these go fast. A day or two and your done.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller

Another series that I am pretty much hooked on. I have been reading the Sharon McCone mysteries for years and am always happy when a new one comes out. I think the thing I like about Marcia Muller's books is that they are smart. Some series are much more fluffy than these, and some, like the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell, have gotten kind of dark and off track for my taste, but I can alway count of Muller.

In this one, private investigator, Sharon McCone, is hired by her husband's firm to find out who is bombing the company workplaces. She has to do deep background checks on the three men who hold the company, her husband included. She finds out some stuff about her husband that puts a major strain on their relationship. And people are getting killed or going missing. All the elements of a good addition to the series.

In some ways this felt like a transitional novel. It was good, but I am looking forward to the next one because so many things changed in this one that will lead to new directions in the future books.

I always find Muller satisfying to read. If you like series mysteries I think Marcia Muller is one of the best authors in the field.