Reading Roundup: December 2009
A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb
This book caught my eye on the library shelf so I picked it up without knowing anything about it. It turned out to be a strange combination of memoir and history book; the style is rambling and sometime it's hard to tell what happened when, and to whom. It took me a while to get through it, and in the end I mostly enjoyed it although it wasn't necessarily my favorite book.
The Midwife's Tale by Gretchen Moran Laskas
This was a quick and interesting read, but in the end I did not feel fully satisfied. Though it is well-written and I was drawn into the story and the characters, it ultimately felt just like many other books I've read that are set in Appalachia. I liked it but did not like the derivative feeling.
Fire Lover by Joseph WambaughI don't read very many 'true crime' books, but this one caught my eye because it was about arson (rather than murder) and because Wambaugh is known for being one of the better writers in the genre. I thought it was pretty fascinating, but the second half of the book went really slowly since it was basically just a rehash of the trial and all the legal wrangling that went into it.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
This is another 'classic' that I finally got around to reading (as opposed to just reading about it). It really is a good book; well-written and evocative of the time and place in which it was written. And though Abbey begins it with the caveat that he doesn't want any more casual tourists descending on the desert, it still made me curious about getting to know that area that I've never really spent any time in.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
This is the first thing by Chabon that I've read; about halfway through I realized that the main problem I had with it is the fact that I just don't like noir detective books. I like them as movies, but I'm not a fan of 'hardboiled' stories. That said, I still liked the book enough to finish it. Chabon is a gifted writer and I think deserving of the praise he gets, especially in his ability to create an alternate universe and compelling characters. The style and subject of this novel just weren't my cup of tea.
Abinadi by Heather Moore
This was a book that I did not think was my style and turned out to be much better than I thought. I heard about through the Whitney Awards last year and I've read a few posts discussing it around the blog world, so I thought I'd check it out. I've never had much desire to read novelizations of scripture stories, especially not ones with footnotes about historical research, but this book changed my mind. I was especially intrigued by the characterization of Alma and how the author portrayed both his time in King Noah's court and his repentance. Our modern conception of prophets and their lives is quite different from many of those in ancient scripture. I thought she did a good job fleshing out all the characters and really bringing the story to life. The ending left me hoping for a sequel about Alma.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
This book is getting a lot of buzz as an 'important' book and one of the best of this year. After reading it, I would agree with the reviewers. Cullen has spent the last ten years investigating the shootings, particularly the psychological aspects of the two killers. He is also a good writer and the book reflects his ability to both think and write clearly. It is also extremely difficult to read; I kept finding myself sucked into reading it and yet horrified by what I was reading (not just the graphic language). The hardest thing about the book is that it ends up leaving you with more questions than answers; the real truth is that there is no easy way to explain the shootings.
Waiting for the Light to Change by Annette Haws
This was another Whitney winner from last year that I thought looked good. I really liked it; I think it's a good example of where Mormon fiction can go: characters that struggle with real dilemmas and don't always find easy answers but still keep their faith. The main character is actually not even that likeable or sympathetic, but that just makes her growth through the book even more believable. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, uplifting read that still feels like it deals with real people and real issues.
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I put off reading these for some time, mostly because I tend to be hesitant about jumping onto the latest book bandwagon. But after Mr. Fob read them and recommended them I decided to give them a try. Also, the plot description and the fact that they are speculative fiction didn't do a lot to interest me. However I do feel like they deserve the hype they are getting. While the plot is fast-paced and very readable, it feels real and had many twists that I didn't see coming. The characters are all likeable and I found myself rooting for them along the way. The only thing I didn't like was the level of violence; I've read other violent things before and this one was probably right at my threshold for what I've what I'm willing to tolerate.