Sunday, December 1, 2013

fall reading list

This is probably my shortest list so far. Just haven't been reading as much lately. I've had my current book for 3 weeks now and am not even half way through. Just haven't been able to settle into it. Some good ones here though I think.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht – A young woman and her friend and colleague, both doctors, are en route to a small village to bring health care to the children of the orphanage when she receives a call from her grandmother informing her of her grandfather's death. Upon learning that the clinic where he went to die after keeping his cancer secret from everyone except his granddaughter, is in a nearby village, she makes the trip to collect his things. As she works with the children and observes a family dig up grape orchard looking for a body buried during the war in an effort to stop the sickness that has infected the whole family, she remembers the tales her grandfather told her of The Deathless Man and The Tiger's Wife, stories from his childhood and life that shaped the man he became, and weaves them into the narrative. The stories are full of small village peasant tales and superstitions and history and background of the characters, sort of a cross between folk tale and personal history. A good read.

The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg - One of the longer books I've read lately but it pulled me in early on. Two story lines, one about a young stonemason and the other about a police investigation of the murder of a young child, the daughter of someone the detective knows. It seems a simple accidental death until the results of the autopsy come in and the search for the murderer, with no leads, begins. Other crimes are uncovered during the investigation. A lot of characters are woven in and it kept me guessing until very near the end when the two story lines finally come together. It was a good story and was told well and moved at a good pace.

Runner by Thomas Perry – Jane Whitefield, now in her late 30s, makes people disappear. Or she used to until she retired 5 years ago. Now, a former runner has sent a pregnant 20 yr old to her who needs to disappear because life with the father has become too dangerous. Not only is he physically violent, she knows too much about his business dealings to be allowed to leave or live and he has sent a team of 6 to find her and bring her back. More pressure is added by his parents who have finally accepted that their son will never be the kind of man they want and have placed all their hopes on raising their grandchild, threatening their son with disownment if he doesn't get them their grandchild. Jane is kick ass and takes no prisoners and her adversaries are no match for her while they consistently underestimate her.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Ursula is born on a snowy February day in 1910. She's early and neither the doctor nor the midwife can get there because of the snow. She has the cord wrapped around her neck and is stillborn. Ursula is born on a snowy February day in 1910. She's early but the doctor just manages to get there despite the snow and slips the cord off the baby's neck and she lives...for a short while. Ursula is born several more times before she survives infancy, dies many more times before she survives childhood. She's beginning to have feelings and dreams and so starts to try and prevent her death even though she does not yet realize that that is what she is doing. She starts experiencing deja vu. She is born and dies and is reborn immediately in the same circumstances to the same family in the same place. Through her many lives and her march through childhood and adulthood we read the same familiar passages with subtle and not so subtle changes as she grows and manages to avoid earlier pitfalls, as her life changes with her survival so the lives around her are affected. Eventually she survives WWII and one day it comes to her what the purpose of all this is, her purpose. Ursula is born on a snowy February day in 1910. She's early but the doctor just manages to get there despite the snow and slips the cord off the baby's neck and she lives... I enjoyed this story a lot. I didn't get tired of reading about the same events as the details and outcome were always different in sometimes big ways and sometimes small ways. Plus the author doesn't make us go through every event of every life. At times, Ursula is born and then jumps her straight to a young adult. It's a longish book, 500 or so pages, but it kept me engaged to the very end.

Dance For The Dead by Thomas Perry - Another Jane Whitefield novel.  Jane is half Seneca, which I don't think I mentioned about the previous book, and she draws on her heritage a lot which I like.  This book precedes the first one I read about her by more than 5 years since she is not married yet in this one.  She is called to 'disappear' an 8 yr old boy and his nanny after his parents are murdered.  Two years later, she is back to get him safely in the hands of the court when the firm that controls his inheritance tries to have him declared dead.  A simple mission that ends up getting Jane arrested and the boys two guardians killed.  On her way home she is approached by a woman who knows who Jane is and what she does and asks for her assistance in the airport.  When Jane sees the men following Mary she reluctantly agrees to help her.  The two instances finally become connected as Jane faces an opponent that seems outthink her at every turn.  He under estimates her though, and Mary as well, in the end.

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry – And another Jane Whitefield novel. A later novel that follows Runner. Jane executes a daring escape of a convicted murderer, James Shelby, from the courthouse where he had been brought to testify against the inmate who had stabbed him in the back two months previous. Innocent of murder, the real murderer is trying to get him killed and so Jane is contacted by his sister to try and save him. Before she can meet up with him at the pre-arranged location, she is accosted by two 'police officers' and kidnapped by the hired goons of the real murderer. Before she can escape, she is shot, beaten, and tortured in an attempt to find out where Shelby is. When they discover how many bounty hunters and other undesirables would like to get their hands on her they decide to auction her off to the highest bidder. She manages to escape while they are waiting for the bidder to arrive and once free, she sets out to join Shelby, picking up an abused woman trying to escape her abuser on the way. Jane is pretty ruthless herself when it comes to protecting her runners and herself and she sets a trap for those who are still pursuing them.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – essentially a murder mystery. 30 year old Camille, a reporter for Chicago's fourth largest newspaper, is sent back to her small hometown that she escaped from to write a series of stories about the disappearance of a 10 yr. old girl nine months after the disappearance and murder of a 9 yr old girl. She shows up to stay at her mother's and step-father's house and returns to the Pandora's box that is her dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional is putting it mildly. Camille is the illegitimate product of a one night stand who doesn't even know her father's name. Her mother was immediately married off and a younger sister, Marion, is born who sickens and dies at 13, an event that the family never gets over. Camille internalizes her rejection by her mother by cutting herself. Words. Words that buzz and tingle underscoring her emotional state. Her body is covered with scars written with a knife, a compulsion she has only recently been able to resist. Camille also drinks a lot, it helps keeps her skin 'quiet'. She has another younger sister, Amma, who is 13, born after Camille left. She's ill a lot. She can also be cruel. Unable to get any information or cooperation from the police, Camille uses her connections to her past to get the story and in the process learns some very disturbing things. The wrap up of the murders at the end of the book happens fairly quickly because this isn't about the murders so much as it is about this family in this small town. Camille does, I think, begin to get her redemption at the end. At least I hope so.


  1. I am in awe of your ability to make art, maintain two houses, function as the best grandma ever AND read books. Wow!

  2. That's not a small amount of reading! And I've read none of them, so thanks for putting them on my radar. :)

  3. Rereading a book since I read it too fast, but this is going slow.

  4. A great list this time, Ellen. Only one I've read is the Tiger's Wife, which was a good, sobering read. Not light.
    I've avoided Gillian Flynn since reading Gone Girl which was intense and creepy & I'm not ready for another one like that. I think I'd like The Stonecutter.

  5. I’m just reading the Atkinson book. I love her, have read everything she has written.

    I like thrillers too, so perhaps I shall have to give yours a go. Poorly written books, or predictable books are not my idea of entertainment.

  6. So I just checked out the first Jane book (audio version) because you know I have to read series' in order :) & the Stonecutter. And I have the Atkinson book on hold. That should do me for a while.

    Have you ever read any of the Harry Dresden books? I'm on book 5 (I think) & I find them pretty entertaining. I'm listening to the audio versions & I find myself laughing out loud in the car quite often (the stories themselves aren't usually funny, but Harry Dresden is).


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.