Monday, April 13, 2015

What I Read in March 2015

What I Read in March 2015

Even though I read six books last month and I'm on track (actually ahead!) for reading 55 books in 2015, only one of those six books was written by an author from the ARRT Popular Fiction List. Since I'm trying to read at least one author from each of their identified sub-genres, I went gung-ho this month and tried to stay on track. I have come to realize that I really like complex suspense novels.

Also, to those of you who anxiously await my monthly post, I apologize for the delay in posting about my reading last month! Right at the end of March, I caught the stomach flu and was out for about five days and missed work. It's been a lot of time scrambling to catch back up. After this week, things should be back to normal.

The Secret Place by Tana French
Dublin cold case detective Stephen Moran receives a tip that the girls at St. Kilda's boarding school may know more about the murder of playboy student Chris Harper than they originally let on in this novel of friendship, loyalty, and manipulation.

The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French (start with In the Woods) is one of my all-time favorites. The Secret Place is the newest (2014) installment of the series and while it wasn't my favorite of the series (that would be Faithful Place), it was still a fantastic read. I love the mystery, the twisty plot, the vivid writing, how involved you as a reader get with the characters; I love it all! Speaking of characters, I think that is my favorite aspect of these books. Each novel focuses on a different character. The main detective in the first novel is a minor character in the later books, but he still pops up. Other background characters remain present as the series progresses, but along with the new mysteries, you get new perspectives on and from the characters. You could read them out of order, but they are written chronologically and I would suggest reading them in that order if you can.

Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton
Psychological Suspense
A family moves in next to a recently reopened church only to discover that the bizarre and bloody traditions of the town are not the only thing putting their children at risk.

Decidedly creepy. I've added everything else by Bolton to my to-read list.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Urban Fantasy
Despite tension in their working relationship, Harry and Murphy team up again to put a stop to the monthly brutal maulings that are plaguing Chicago in the second installment of the Harry Dresden Files.

I want to like this series so much. It has so many things that I like: a cool gritty protagonist, paranormal elements (wizards, werewolves, demons...), mysteries, the promise of a next book with a new mystery... but Harry is just a little flat and I'm not on board with how women are treated and represented so far. (I get that this character is a female werewolf, but do you really have to refer to her as "bitch" when she is being difficult to work with?) I have heard that the later books get better, but I think I'm going to wait a bit before I start them.

Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins
Contemporary Romance
After being jilted by her fiancĂ©, Grace makes up a new boyfriend -- a hotshot pediatrician -- to get her relationship-obsessed family off her back, but the pediatrician may prove to be an obstacle in her relationship with her new, very real ex-con neighbor.

I just might not be a contemporary romance reader. As much as I love a love story and romantic comedies on film, I found myself rolling my eyes at the bizarrely boyfriend-focused main character (and her relationship-obsessed family) and her weird behavior less than one chapter in. I don't like liars. Unreliable narrators, fine. Characters who sometimes tell lies, okay, I guess depending on the situation. But characters who tell bizarre, unnecessary lies that somehow hugely impact the plot and find themselves having to tell more lies... I'm just annoyed. That being said, the story was fun (if a bit flat) and if I'm looking for another contemporary romance, I wouldn't be unhappy with another Higgins book. I just might check to make sure the crux of the story doesn't have to do with the heroine making up a boyfriend.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
When the body of the local sweetheart is discovered beaten and shot in a park, three men who were once friends find themselves mired in past conflicts thought resolved and present prejudices barely hidden as all try to solve the murder.

It helps that I've been craving gritty thrillers recently, but I think I would have thought this was fantastic regardless. Intense characters with compelling backstories that don't bog down the present plot, a frustrating and inexplicable murder mystery, and gut-wrenching social turmoil propel the reader at breakneck speed.

Codex by Lev Grossman
When investment banker Edward Wonzy takes a vacation before starting his European promotion, he does not anticipate being swept up in an intense search for a mysterious 13th century manuscript that hides Annotation

This suffered from trying to be too many things to too many people. Part literary thriller, part techno-mind games, Codex failed to satisfy either. Character motivations were unclear or unrealistic, astonishingly helpful coincidences were frequent, and all of the technology felt like it was written by someone who asked someone else who plays some video games a couple of questions. The connections between the missing 13th century book (this part of the story was really interesting and I wish Codex had just been a literary novel about the book and libraries) and this bizarre video game felt tenuous at best, except that they were a major plot point. I really liked The Magicians by Grossman and was pretty disappointed by Codex. If you're looking for a book about uncovering literary mysteries with a more intriguing love story, try Possession by A.S. Byatt instead.
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