Monday, March 01, 2010

A few recommended reads

Since Mira has been trying to post more about the "and books and movies and music too" part of our blog, I figured I might as well contribute as well. So here are a couple of books I've read and enjoyed lately. (Although, I rarely finish books that I don't like. So basically every book I've read outside of an English class is one that I've enjoyed on some level....)

In the Woods by Tana French - I don't read very many mystery novels--maybe due to the same reason I don't watch police procedurals--but every once in awhile I find one that makes me think I should read more. In the Woods is a pretty classic police murder mystery but I thought everything about it was just extremely well done. The first-person narrator, Rob Ryan, is a police detective assigned to his first big case: a murdered 12-year-old girl found in the woods outside of Dublin. The twist is that, in a unsolved case from twenty years earlier, two children disappeared in the very same woods. A third child was found, his sneakers filled with blood and unable to remember anything about what happened to his two friends. Rob Ryan was that third child. He and his partner/best friend, Cassie Maddox, investigate the new murder while trying to keep Rob's identity a secret, even as details start to tie the two cases together. The author does a great job developing all the characters and building up suspense all while keeping the readers guessing. There's a sequel of sorts, this time featuring Cassie Maddox, called "The Likeness" that's next up on my reading list.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - Some books make me realize how little I know about the history of countries outside of the US and maybe Europe and some parts of Asia. This book is about a Dominican family living in New Jersey but also delves into some modern history of the Dominican Republic, namely the reign of the dictator Rafael Trujillo, who I have to admit I'd never even heard of before. This is definitely not a dry, serious novel though. The writing is super colorful, with tons of science-fiction and comic book references, a lot of Spanish slang thrown in, and cheeky footnotes containing relevant historical details. The story is split up into several sections, weaving Oscar's story with that of his sister, mother, and grandfather, set in both America and the Dominican Republic, and the world the author creates just feels so full and layered. There's a lot to take in, culture and history and politics and romance and family--but all wrapped up in a really funny and page-turning package. Highly recommended!

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - It seems that with this second novel (the first being The Time Traveler's Wife) Niffenegger is kind of carving out a little niche for herself--novels that are based around some science fiction or supernatural element but are really not in the science fiction or supernatural genres. In the Time Traveler's Wife it was obviously time travel; in this novel, it's ghosts. The story is set in and around Highgate Cemetary in London, and revolves around two sets of twins, Julia and Valentina, and their mother, Edie and her twin Elspeth. (Like I've mentioned before, I'm pretty fascinated by twins so I totally loved that aspect of this book.) Somehow the author just has this knack for giving a modern setting a kind of old-fashioned feel and then shaking it up with a supernatural storyline and making it all work together. Well, in this case, for at least for the first half of the book. The story takes some surprising turns in the second half and the characters started doing things that were just plainly BAD IDEAS and the way it all turned off was pretty bizarre and I thought, unsettling. (Though perhaps that was the intent?) But I still really like Niffenegger's writing and originality and am looking forward to what she does next.


Mira said...

I read In the Woods and enjoyed it, too. But it also kinda depressed me. The ending wasn't satisfying enough for me. I liked Cassie, but I dunno if that would get me to read a sequel unless I knew it would tie up loose ends for me!!

burkie said...

i'm really intrigued by The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and will definitely have to remember to pick it up! and the others--i really liked TTW, too, so i'm sure i'll pick up the niffenegger book at some point.