Usually March is not a big reading month for me, since I am otherwise occupied with college basketball. This year, for reasons that shall go unnamed but will be readily apparent to other long-suffering Syracuse fans, I had plenty of time to hit the books. Here's what I got through:
1) Bloodthirsty, by Flynn Meaney: Finbar Frame’s troubles unfortunately do not stop and end with that terrible name. He’s also saddled with a tall, gawky physique, an awkward personality and an actual allergy to sunlight. All of that makes it tough to start over at a new school…until Finbar notices how many of the girls around him are obsessed with sexy vampires and decides he may have more to work with than he thought.
2) In the Woods, by Tana French: On a warm summer day in 1984, three Irish children went into the woods to play. That night, two were gone, the third found clinging to a tree with someone else’s blood in his shoes. He remembers nothing.
Twenty years later, detective Rob Ryan is pulled back to his hometown to investigate the murder of a young girl. The two crimes are mostly likely unrelated, but that’s cold comfort to a person who has spent his entire life trying to escape his identity as the boy by the tree.
I can’t give a full review here without ruining the book, which something I would never do. But if you’ve read this one, hit me up so we can talk about it. AND YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT.
3) Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories, by Agatha Christie: Some Agatha Christie facts: She is the best-selling novelist of all time, she is outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible, and my favorite of her books, And Then There Were None, has sold over 100 million copies. The secret’s out about Agatha Christie.
Over the course of her career, she created two famous mystery solvers: Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. Poirot is Belgian detective whose skills of deduction are surpassed only by his incredibly grating personality. By the 1960s, even Christie hated him. Miss Marple, in contrast, is simple and unassuming. She has barely been outside of her small town, but uses her keen observations about village life and human nature to solve even the most puzzling mysteries.
I enjoyed these stories, but found it very hard to “solve along” with Aunt Jane. If you have a working knowledge of early twentieth century automobiles, farming equipment and British slang, you may have better luck.
4) Wicked, by Gregory Maguire: I recently sat through a Continuing Legal Education course during which a public defender on the panel said, “Bad guys are complicated, too.” I didn’t really buy that in the context of the CLE’s topic (human trafficking), but it does seem like a good gateway to Wicked. What makes a bad guy bad? And who gets to ascribe that label? I’ve tried my hand (poorly) at fantasy writing, and so I was really impressed by the world-building here. Maguire develops a complex, multilayered political system so controversial that characters are believably willing to die to advance their positions. That’s a lot harder than it sounds. Also, flying monkeys.
5) The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt: It always makes me smile to picture the conversation between a very famous writer and his editor when said writer announces he’d like to publish this new book under a pen name no one’s ever heard of. I bet the editor is not that excited, which is how both names made it onto the jacket of this one.
“Whites” does not refer to race (a distinction I wanted to quickly make to every person who saw me carrying this around last week). Instead, it’s a term for someone a detective knows is guilty as sin but has never been able to put away.
Detective Billy Graves and his small group of intimates each has his or her own white. It’s one of the parts of the job you just have to learn to live with—until the whites start disappearing one by one, with no one but Graves’ closest friends to look to as suspects.
6) Foreigner, by Nahid Rachlin: I was already looking forward to reading this lightly fictionalized account of Feri, an Iranian-born woman who marries an American and moves to the United States before returning to Iran after a fifteen-year absence. Then I realized it was published in 1978 and got really excited.
At first, Feri feels as displaced in her homeland as she initially did in the United States. She seems to have little in common with her family and grows frustrated by the patriarchy (which, among other indignities, requires her husband’s permission before granting a visa to leave the country). To paraphrase Neil Diamond, Iran was home, but it wasn’t hers anymore. But the more time Feri spends in Iran, the more she finds pieces of herself she didn’t even know were missing.
This is an introspective little book that I’m having a hard time describing, but I really liked it. The Iran of today is usually presented as a political hot topic, rather than a real place where real people live and grapple with real issues. I enjoyed experiencing the country through the perspective of a native whose eyes are open but untainted by rose-colored glasses.
7) The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler: I don’t even have to describe this, right? You’re going to read it just based on the title?
Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves is the only blight in an otherwise perfect Upper East Side family. Her (thin, brunette) mother is a lauded adolescent psychologist, her (thin, brunette) siblings are brilliant and popular, and her (guess) father makes no secret of his preference for skinny women. That’s a hard row for (heavy, blonde) Virginia to hoe. She lives her life by the Fat Girl Code of Conduct, which basically says to be grateful for what you get and not make waves.
When an unexpected phone call changes everything, Virginia considers for the first time that there might be worse things to be than fat.
And the best thing I read this month…
8) The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney: Summer, 1986. Oklahoma City is shaken by two tragedies: first, a shooting at a movie theatre leaves six young employees dead and one unexplained survivor. Second, a disappearance at the state fair is destined to remain unsolved.
Twenty-five years later, both crimes bear heavy repercussions. Private investigator Wyatt fights a growing need to understand why he alone was left alive after the shooting. Meanwhile, nurse Juliette still grapples with the loss of her beautiful and charismatic older sister. Did her sister really abandon Juliette, or did something darker prevent her from coming back?
I saw this book in an airport, read that it took place in Oklahoma City and bought it on a whim. My husband and I have a special connection to that city and I wanted to learn more about it. If you follow this page, you know that I read a lot in the mystery/crime genre and usually the stories get sorted into “okay” and “pretty good.” This one really stood out to me, enough that I’d ordered a second book by this author before I finished the first (don’t tell Arthur).