Friday, July 20, 2012

May Books

CYPRESS HOUSE/Michael Koryta/B
WWI vet Arlen Wagner can see the smoke of imminent death in people's eyes, and he is never wrong. His gift leads him and a young fellow Conservation Corps worker to a lonely fishing resort on Florida's Gulf coast. The woman who runs the resort is haunted by past sins and present gangsters--who want Arlen out of the way before their next big smuggling drop--and they're smack in the path of a hurricane. When he sees his own death staring back at him, what will Arlen do? Noir with a twist of paranormal atmosphere.

BONE BY BONE/Carol O'Connell/B+
Twenty years after his younger brother's disappearance, Oren Hobbs returns home. He's not the only one--bones have been appearing on his father's front porch for weeks. Is it his brother being returned bone by bone? What happened to the boy who made a habit of photographing townspeople's secrets? Oren ran away from his past, but now he must face it head on to unearth past crimes and prevent further killings.

Memoir by the son of writer Kurt Vonnegut detailing his multiple descents into madness ending in hospitalization--and his remarkable ascent through Harvard Med School and a career practicing medicine in Boston. Rather fractured in the telling, which is probably appropriate considering the subject, but the disjointedness made it harder for me to connect to the story overall.

Let's face it--I'm never going to love any John Green book as much as THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, simply because that subject matter touched so near to my heart and experience. That said, I'm not sure Green could write a bad book if he tried--if what you're looking for is an uncomfortably excellent story about real teens and their real lives. In this particular story, Miles Halter is tired of his 'non-event' life and heads off to boarding school in Alabama seeking more. The 'more' turns out to be a girl called Alaska who is a whirlwind of adventure, literate articulation, and recklessness. Do not read if you don't want to know that teens away at boarding school will sometimes drink, smoke, and have sex. Do read if you're looking for a connection to how teens feel and what happens when life hands you a moment that divides everything into before and after.

CITY OF LOST SOULS/Cassandra Clare/A-
In book five of The Mortal Instruments series, Clare returns to fine form in her story of shadowhunters Jace and Clary, picking up after the closing moments of book four in which Jace vanished along with a presumed dead villain. Clary is frantic to find him, but he is not the first priority for the adults around her. So she launches into her own rescue, taking an awful chance for a Jace who is no longer the boy she fell in love with. Can he be saved? Well, there wouldn't be much point in next year's book six if he couldn't be :)

A book of its time, which means long passages of description, an occasionally overwhelming sense of melancholy, and too little character development. But still a good tale of a family curse, a possibly haunted house, and the two young lovers who can end centuries of decline. It was especially fun to read having visited the supposed house in Salem that inspired the title--and having seen Hawthorne's childhood home in the bargain.

How I adore Flavia de Luce. Forget Elizabeth Bennet--if I wish I had been anyone, it's this clever, curious, affection-starved girl in 1950s England. In this edition of the mystery series, Flavia and her family (along with most of their village) are snowed in at Buckshaw--the rambling house that her father is finding increasingly difficult to hold onto financially--along with an entire film crew and its stars. Of course there's a murder in the snowy night, and of course Flavia is right in the thick of things detecting. I recommend the entire series.

Seven years ago, two pre-teen girls found a baby in its carriage unattended and decided it needed looking after. After subsequently being convicted of murder in the baby's death, the girls have now finished their time in juvenile detention and return to the town where all this played out. Good girl Alice doesn't quite know what to do with herself, while bad girl Ronnie gets a job and tries to keep her head down. But then children begin disappearing and the police narrow in on the convicted killers. A psychological suspense that is as much about the characters as the plot.

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