Saturday, August 30, 2014

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty


Moriarty is great.  She writes with humor and unconventional insight about contemporary issues, in this case, divorce and parenting after divorce, domestic violence, and school bullying.  The novel's structure is also clever, bringing the reader closer and closer to the school trivia night, where something dreadful occurred. Quotes from parents and police introduce each chapter and offer clues about what happened and why it might have happened.  In contrast to What Alice Forgot, Big Little Lies paints with a broader brush, but is still enjoyable and effective.

Murder on Bamboo Lane, by Naomi Hirahara

My first book club book!   This is the first in Hirahara's Ellie Rush series, about a rookie bicycle cop in downtown Los Angeles.  Ellie has problems with her love life, work life, and family life.  Hirahara has problems with dialogue, character development, and plotting.  All in all I think it's a series I'll forego.  I didn't care about Ellie, and didn't like the writing.  But I might read one of Hirahara's Mas Arai books, as they draw from Hirahara's father to flesh out the Japanese-American gardener hero.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls

Walls took all of the stories she could find about her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, and cobbled together a narrative that is no more than the sum of its parts.  Lily was quite a character, but she never really comes to life.  Perhaps her granddaughter wasn't the right person to understand how a woman of her time (she was born in 1901 in West Texas) came to be a mustang breaker, horse racer, schoolteacher, pilot, rancher, driver, college graduate, wife and mother of two.  Lily's daughter Rosemary was Lily's sidekick in a number of her adventures, but Rosemary and Lily never really seemed to understand each other either.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher

Chicago's ghosts are in a tizzy, and the border with the Nevernever is very tenuous. Harry is called in to exorcise a ghost who is sucking the breath out of newborns, and is subsequently drawn into conflicts with ghosts, vampires, and faeries galore as he tries to discover the root of the problems with the supernaturals.  Everybody he is close to is in danger.  If Harry weren't funny from time to time, I would give this Picaresque series up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cop Town, by Karen Slaughter

Atlanta in the 1970's seems to have been a tough place to try to be a female police officer.  Sexual harassment was the norm, race relations in the city and the department were tense, and the glass ceiling was very very low.  In this book, Slaughter pits three women officers, rookie Kate Murphy, cop-in-her-blood Maggie Lawson, and seasoned, undercover Gail Patterson against the old-boys network and a serial cop killer -- hard to say which is more dangerous.  Slaughter does her usual fine job, and her sketching of the new characters is assured.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Devil's Workshop, by Alex Grecian

Grecian can be kind of tough going, but here he goes completely over the top.  Five horrific killers are set lose on Victorian London, each introducing his own form of bloody and sadistic mayhem.  Walter Day and Neville Hammersmith are off trying to catch them, and blunder about rather badly.  The police procedural gets second billing to romping around in the minds of pyschopaths.  Claire's pregnancy is another fairly frustrating thread that ultimately makes you wonder how mothers and babies survived in the new modern era.  Walter and Neville are going to have to finish the story in the next book, but I'm not sure I'll go there with them.

What Alice Forgot, by Lianne Moriarty

After a whack on the noggin at the gym, Alice forgot ten pretty important years of her life; the years when her three children were born, her marriage fell apart, her sister fought a losing battle with fertility, and she became a completely different person.  The book deals with the infertility issue with empathy, the way that the accretion of bad in a marriage can overcome the good with insight, and the transition from free spirit to supermom with humor.  Quite a lovely book.