9.29.2010

Book Reports

A bit about what I've been reading in the last month or two. Just highlighting the good stuff. (You can find all the books I've read this year ... and more ... at Goodreads which I like quite a bit for keeping track of such things).
  • Jane Eyre: Looking for some fiction, my eyes fell on Jane Eyre and I realized just how long it had been since I read it. You tend to remember the big events of a favorite book but rereading has reminded me of just how many small things get lost in memory. This book is truly delightfully and subtly written, for all the over-the-top elements it contains. And just how could I have forgotten the old gypsy? It was even more wonderful than I remembered. This has everything ... true love, sacrifice, redemption, steadfastness ... and that crazy cousin who Jane may have understood and admired but I certainly couldn't. Talk about giving me someone to hate. Oy veh! If you haven't read Jane Eyre for a while (or ever), just go get it.

  • One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz: UFOs, aliens, an empathetic dog, a crippled girl, and a host of supporting characters overcoming past traumas to reach out to others all are combined by Dean Koontz in a book that is the most compelling statement I have ever seen made about the right to life, no matter what one's condition. As always with his novels, few things are what they seem.Two basic plots run parallel before their heroes find themselves coming together to fight off a very evil villain. "What is one door away from heaven," is a question that one character has asked another since her childhood. The answer, along with the overall theme of the book, is enough to make us all examine our lives more carefully ... and be thankful that Koontz's writing reflects his beliefs so honestly. A favorite for rereading and that's what I'm did ... reread it and it held up beautifully.

  • The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri #1) by Tarquin Hall: I learned about this series from Mystery Scene magazine. A judiciously quirky Indian detective (meaning realistic) and his operatives are highlighted, as well as his Mummy who sets out to solve a  mystery that her son does not take seriously. This was an enjoyable "cozy" sort of mystery, like a trip to India, and also somewhat frustrating as I have to look up many of the native words in the glossary in the back of the book. I understand if a word requires complex descriptions, as do some of the common terms. For example could not the author simply have used the native word for gardener and then put "gardener" in parentheses? Yes, I am just that lazy, or possibly there are just that many native words used in this book. Ultimately, this was a classic mystery in many ways and yet it still managed to fool me. Extremely well done and gave a bird's-eye view of India without needing tons of info-dumps. Highly recommended. (P.S. I am a big fan of his Mummy.)

  • The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri, #2) by Tarquin Hall: I enjoyed the first in this series so much that I was delighted to find the second book had just come out. A few chapters in, there is the main mystery in which a professional skeptic who exposes fraudulent, famous gurus is apparently murdered by a manifestation of Kali, in full view of a group of friends. Then there is the sub-mystery which Vish Puri's Mummy is investigating and taking Vish's wife, Rumpi, along for the ride. I love the Punjabi characters and see that the author says that one could say Punjabis are the Texans of India. No wonder I like them! All the characterizations were very enjoyable as were the insights into Indian life. However, if the author is going to continually use native terms then they should all be included in the glossary. I don't have the first book available for comparison, but I feel that the glossary was much more complete than in this second book, where sometimes there would be a sentence with no translation following and which was not in the glossary either. Now, the argument can be made that there was context, and so there was, but one could make that argument for many of the terms that were in the glossary. I felt the main mystery was unnecessarily complicated. I understand that Vish Puri explores the big mysteries but this felt rushed and with too much crammed into it ... still recommended, I just didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first book. I will still look for the third book when it comes out though.

  • Sweet and Low by Emma Lathen: John Putnam Thatcher, Wall Street senior vice president at The Sloan (one of the largest banks in the world), has been named as a trustee on the Dreyer's Chocolate charitable board. Think "Hershey's" and you'll get a good idea of Dreyer's power and money. Early in the series of meetings, a cocoa buyer is found murdered in the hotel pool. Luckily Thatcher's long experience on Wall Street means he has a deep experience of that always-present commodity, human nature. Only Emma Lathen could make Wall Street riveting as happened in every one of her mysteries (yes, I know the author's name was a pseudonym for two cowriters ... don't care). Written with understated humor, these books are a joy to read and reread, which is what I did, being a big fan of the Lathen mysteries. It is too bad that so few people seem to have heard of Emma Lathen these days.

1 comment:

I can't hear you ...