Posted by: Jeanie F | December 3, 2012

Catching Up

It’s hard to believe that two months have passed since my last post. I don’t know exactly where the time has gone – the flu, family obligations, Thanksgiving, general laziness. No great explanation, but I have been reading through it all. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before – just post a running summary and a few comments to get me caught up from my disappointed posting on Ken Follett’s Winter of the World.

Front Cover

I began with the first of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, Never Mind. This bleak and disturbing introduction to the series tells the story of Patrick’s childhood, the son of a sadistic father and alcoholic mother. The writing is outstanding, but it takes a certain amount of courage to work your way through it. I found that I needed to take a break when I was done, but I’m not giving up on reading more. I just need to gather up my courage!

Grade: A

I was very excited about the release of this follow-up novel to Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day. It follows the Coughlin family from Boston to Tampa, Florida when young Joe gets seduced and then trapped into the early days of organized crime, brought on by Prohibition. If you haven’t read The Given Day you will still be able to understand and follow the story line and characters. If you have read The Given Day you might, as was I, be mildly disappointed in this second in what is planned as a trilogy about the early 20th Century. I am a big fan of Lehane’s, but this is not one of my favorites.

Grade: B-

This one was a book club selection and, to be perfectly fair, I would never have picked it up otherwise. I’m not an Alice Hoffman fan, nor do I enjoy magical realism, so you can see that I began from a biased point of view. This is the story of the Jews disastrous escape from the Romans to the Judean desert in 70 CE. If it had not been for the magical realism mentioned above and the ham-handed writing, this could have been a fascinating story. For me, it was so irritating and annoying that I gave it up after 100 pages.

Grade: D

This was a quirky little story about a man who received a letter from a co-worker from his past that ultimately inspired him to walk 500 miles across Britain in the belief that by doing so, he could keep her alive. It was a light, enjoyable read with odd characters and a sympathetic hero that made the longlist for Britain’s 2012 Man Booker prize. Not nearly competition for the Man Booker winner, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (read my review), but an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

Grade: B

'The Round House'

Winner of the National Book Award, I recommend that you run to the nearest bookstore, buy a copy, clear your calendar, and immerse yourself in this outstanding piece of literature. I believe it is Erdrich’s best book yet, out of a series of great books, and will be a strong contender for my favorite book of the year. It’s a coming-of-age novel based on a young Ojibwe boy’s attempt to deal with the aftermath of a family crisis. I loved everything about this book -the narrator, the narrative, the sociological and legal issues that arise when a crime is committed on an Indian reservation, and the deft play between tragedy and comedy.

Grade: A

The Black Box

I am a great fan of Michael Connelly, particularly the Harry Bosch series, so when I heard in September that this was scheduled for release Nov. 26, I pre-ordered the Kindle version and prepared myself for the long wait. I was not disappointed. If you are a fan of police procedurals and/or crime in LA novels, I recommend this book. It’s genre fiction; if you only read literary fiction, this isn’t for you. If you sometimes like to read for pure entertainment, you could do a lot worse than Michael Connelly.

Grade: A

Front Cover 9780307596888

Along with the above novels, I have intermittently been reading these two outstanding short story collections by two extremely gifted writers. Although very different in style, voice, and “topics,” there are some remarkable similarities in theme. I haven’t come across one story in either collection that doesn’t pack a punch. If you like short stories, I highly recommend both.

Well, this about sums it up. As you can see, I’ve been busy reading. I’ll try to be a little more focused on getting busy writing!



  1. Interesting mix here. I guess I like Hoffman better than you do, and I agree with you about Michael Connelly.

    • The Hoffman book was well-reviewed, and most of my book club really enjoyed it. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one.

  2. I’m struggling with the Hoffman book, too, and I *love* Alice Hoffman. This is not her best writing IMHO, in spite of the fact that it is a bestseller. I think Green Heart is miles ahead of this one.

    • I’ll have to take a look at Green Heart. I know a lot of Hoffman fans. Maybe I just haven’t found the right example of her work.

      • That can happen. I know that if Dovekeepers were the first book of hers I read, I would never have become a fan. I didn’t read Margaret Atwood for years because I disliked Handmaid’s Tale so much.

  3. Currently reading the Alice Munro short stories and liking them – a lot. I have Winter of the World, but it has been sitting, and now is almost due back to the library. After reading your review, I may not feel so guilty about returning it unread. As for Round House, I had been avoiding it after reading a lukewarm review, but now that you have recommended it, I will find it and read – after all, it is the National Book Award winner – an your reviews do ring true – with me, anyway.

    • Rosemary, I think Munroe is a master of the short story! Thanks for the vote of confidence – I’ve read some lukewarm reviews of Round House, too, but I loved it. Will be interested to hear what you think!

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