Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buncha books - issue 7

Before we get into this post, I want to say that FINALLY my new motherboard arrived and my husband put it in, but now in true husband fashion, he is deciding whether or not to also, while he has the computer open on the workbench, install some fancy tape drive, a decision which, if the past is any indicator, could delay my getting to use my computer for another two weeks or so. My husband suffers from a lack of decision making ability. But YAY it's here, so SOMETIME in the not too distant future I will once again have access to my photos, which I will IMMEDIATELY back up to another computer, and I will be able to post my November, December and first part of January synopses.

Moving on...

I need to pump out some of these "Buncha books" posts so that I can pack up the already read piles on my bedroom floor and put them in my attic to be brought out again when my dream of an in-home library becomes a reality, which could possibly be when one or more of my children move out and I take over a bedroom (or two) for that purpose. So to that end, at some point in the last six months or so I read A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus. This novel has a very interesting premise: A husband and wife have reached a point in their marriage where they truly despise one another. Enter the 9/11 tragedy. The husband is heading to a meeting in the World Trade Center (WTC) and the wife is heading to Newark to catch a flight. Planes hit the WTC. The wife thinks her husband was at a meeting there, but he ran late and wasn't there when the planes hit. The husband thinks his wife is on one of the hijacked planes that crashed, but something had happened at work that made the trip unnecessary, so she didn't go. Both of them rejoice in the other's demise, but then they arrive home to bitter disappointment that the other has not perished after all. And it goes from there. I was disappointed in this book. With such an potentially awesome premise, I felt that it fell flat. I did enjoy the dark bitter humor interspersed throughout, and there were some scenes that made me laugh aloud, but overall I just thought it was okay. So I award it 3 1/2 picklebottoms.

There are a few of you wondering which camp I'll join when it comes to The Road by Cormac McCarthey. Because I am a rock star and my opinion MATTERS. Will I stand with lonely Shauna who loves it (by the way, Shauna, when I was reading it, everyone I ran into loved it, so you have that) or will I join the swelling ranks of haters? Well, when it comes to The Road, I'm middle of it. The Road. Get it? *collective groan* OK, lame. I'm the master of lame jokes. If they can even be called jokes, which I'm thinking is a stretch on this one, so let's pretend it never happened and move on. This novel was about a man and his son, who are traveling south on foot in a post-apocalyptic time, scavenging for food and clothing items and trying to avoid other people who may or may not pose a threat. Amazingly, the boy seems to maintain his childlike innocence and idealism throughout, even when faced with the grimmest of lives, though there are a few glimpses into the fact that, like most children, he knows more about what's going on than one would assume from his words and actions. I thought the book was stark and gray. Everything in it was stark and gray. Reading it made me feel stark and gray. Desolate. And yet, the fact that McCarthy was able to convey that grayness in the simple language he used was impressive. It took me about a third of the book to get into it, but then I liked it. I didn't LOVE it, but I'm firmly in the liked it pretty well camp. The ending felt unsatisfactory to me, but I don't think a satisfactory ending would have been true to the novel. Basically, I was left with an "okay, but NOW what?" kind of feeling, which I think may have been the point. Or one of them, anyway. So Shauna, while I don't quite get all the hype surrounding this book, I am leaning more toward your camp than the haters'. I thought it was a good and compelling book. 4 picklebottoms.

Third Degree by Greg Iles takes place over the span of a single day. Laurel Shields' awakens to find that her husband had apparently stayed up all night desperately looking for something. She then discovers she is pregnant, but is it her husband's child or that of the man with whom an affair had recently ended? When she decides to leave work early, she arrives home to find her husband is still there. The nightmare begins. I enjoyed this book. The main characters were all too human in that their actions would lead one to question their morality, yet one could also see why they made the poor decisions they did, making them all sympathetic to the reader. There really wasn't a good-guy, bad-guy thing going on here, just a human thing, where everyone was both good and bad and had to reconcile those parts of themselves while dealing with the fallout from the bad. Overall a good, edge-of-your-seat read. 4 picklebottoms.

The Serial Killers Club by Jeff Povey has what I think is a great premise: a support group slash club for serial killers. A problem, of course, is screening members. The club solves this by allowing members through invite only, publishing the invitations in personal ads. Unfortunately, one day a man is attacked and, in the process of defending himself, kills his attacker, who turns out to be a serial killer known as Grandson-of-Barney and who has one of the personal ads in his wallet. The man takes over the identity of his would-be killer and joins the serial killers club. A detective figures out what is going on and between the two of them they hatch a plot to eliminate the serial killers. It all sounds good, right? Like it would be a good read, right? WRONG. All of the characters are despicable with not a single redeeming quality between them. I don't know why I even finished the book, but I did. What a waste of my time. Don't bother. 2 picklebottoms, and it only got those because I managed to finish it.

Next by Michael Crichton posed a problem for me before I even read it: it came in multiple color schemes. Which to choose, which to choose... I ended up with lime green with purple lettering. Basically this novel centers on genetic research and experimentation and what is morally acceptable versus what may or may not actually be done. There is a bird that helps a boy with his homework and multi-lingual talking monkeys. There is a potential cure for addictions and overall juvenile behavior. I have always enjoyed genetics and so I usually enjoy novels with genetic experimentation as a component. This was no exception. I enjoyed it. BUT, I enjoyed other Crichton books much more, so compared to his own work, I thought this was sub-par. Overall, though, it was good. 4 picklebottoms.

I have fairly recently discovered Nelson DeMille as an author I really enjoy. I currently have two of his novels awaiting review, so I will cover Plum Island today. Plum Island is an island off the coast of New York state that houses a federal research facility dedicated to the study of animal diseases in the same way that the CDC in Atlanta is dedicated to the study of human diseases. When two of the island's scientists, a husband and wife, are killed, detective John Corey abandons his lazy days of recuperation at his uncle's beach house to try to solve the murders. Surely, the crime is linked to the island and the couple's research. Or is it? I continue to enjoy the lovable rogue that is John Corey, particularly his sense of humor, so this novel was a pleasure to read. Nelson DeMille is quickly becoming an author for whom I scan the bargain tables at my local bookstores (which is where I get most of my books) and the library sales (where I got two bags full of books this past weekend for $8.50). 4 picklebottoms.

Lastly in this issue of Buncha Books is T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton. I have followed the heroine, Kinsey Millhone, from her first adventure in "A" is for Alibi, and have really enjoyed all of the novels. I think I could be Kinsey Millhone, since I have her fashion sense and hairstyle, or her complete lack of both those things. Also, we are the same age and I'm damn good with a pistol. Or was last time I shot one, which has been at least 15 years or so ago, so you might want to get behind me if I ever try to shoot one again. You know, just sayin'. Anyway, this novel involves one of Kinsey's neighbors, a crotchety old man who falls and needs companion care. Kinsey tracks down the man's daughter, who finds someone and asks Kinsey to do a quick background check. The woman seems to pass muster and is hired. Kinsey takes an immediate dislike to the woman and feels that she is mistreating the old man, for which Kinsey feels responsible, since she cleared the woman for hiring. So she begins to investigate more deeply and uncovers some interesting and disturbing information. This book was on par with the rest of the alphabet mysteries, meaning I enjoyed it and it earns 4 picklebottoms.

The rating system can be found here.


Pickles and Dimes said...

The Road just stuck with me forever. I couldn't decide how I, if I was in that same situation, could maintain any sense of normalcy for my kid without completely breaking down.

I read T is for Trepass. I didn't like it as much as her other work.

Tess said...

For once, I've read nearly ALL of these books!

If you like Nelson Demille, try The Gold Coast. It's one of my favorites.

Alice said...

ok so now the problem is i have TOO MANY BOOKS on my list right now! waaah!

Shelly said...

As usual, I have several of these books but haven't read them yet. I'm now really looking forward to Third Degree and Next (I think I have the white with red text pictured there). And I certainly understand your (and Shauna's) points about The Road. It was just the total lack of story that bothered me so much.