Catching up

Books I Read During Baseball Season: Part II

More catching up on books I read during baseball season, while I was busy blogging elsewhere but still reading. Part I is here. One more part after this, which will focus on non-fiction. A reminder about the Book Score system:

4: Great book. Re-Readable. Seriously, why haven’t you read this book yet so we can talk about it?
3: Good book. Not necessarily re-readable, but well worth the time and effort.
2: Fair book. You’ll never get the time back you spent reading this book. Then again, there are worst ways to waste a day than reading.
1: Ugh. Don’t. Just…don’t. I read this book so you won’t have to. Don’t make my sacrifice be in vain.

And away we go!

Dark Places & Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Book Score: 2

I bought a Kindle edition that had all three Gillian Flynn novels when Gone Girl was in the theaters. I read Gone Girl right away and loved it. Dark Places and Sharp Objects, not so much.

In Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker — a reporter with a history of self-injury — returns to her hometown to cover a story on two dead girls. In the process, the confronts old demons from her past. In Dark Places, Libby Day is the lone survivor of the massacre of her family, a crime for which her 15 year-old brother was convicted and then-child Libby was the star witness. The story follows her as she uncovers what really happened that dark day.

Sharp Objects was okay and a solid 2, if a bit telegraphed, but Dark Places was contrived and the ending too convenient. I would have given it a 1, if not for the writing chops of Flynn, which are clearly here. They’re just buried under a dopey story.

The Secret Place by Tana French

Book Score: 4

I feel like Tana French and I are old friends. I’ve been reading her books since her debut In the Woods, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. The Secret Place is particularly strong. It follows Detective Stephen Moran (last seen in Faithful Place) as tries to work his way out of the dead end of Cold Cases and onto the Murder Squad by solving a gone-cold boarding school murder investigation with the irascible lead detective, Antoinette Conway.  The dialog sparkles and the story is tight. But where French excels is putting you into the shoes of the different characters and feeling what they feel, from teenage girls to middle-aged men.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

Book Score: 3

Joan Castleman is the wife of acclaimed writer Joe Castleman. But on their way to collect the Helsinki Prize, the fictitious second fiddle to the Nobel, she decides she’s had enough. The story chronicles how she got to that point, and what happens next.

Wolitzer writes beautiful sentences. I can’t tell if she inspires me or makes me want to quite writing altogether. As for the story, it’s not great, and the “twist” isn’t really a twist, in that you guess it (and are supposed to) very early on. But the writing is just amazing. Seriously, why aren’t reading more Meg Wolitzer?

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Book Score: 3

Rosemary is the 22 year-old twin sister…of a chimpanzee. Raised together from birth by her scientist father as an experiment, she is devastated when her “sister,” Fern, disappears while Rosemary is still a child. Then her brother disappears. The story utilizes flashbacks to help Rosemary piece back together the story of what “really” happened. More interesting than entertaining, the book takes a look at what it is to be human.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book Score: 4

Set mostly before and during World War II in France and Germany, All the Light We Cannot See follows two parallel stories that eventually intersect. Marie-Laure is a young blind Parisian that the war chases with her father — a locksmith with a McGuffin — to San Malo on the Brittany coastgirl. Werner is a tech-obsessed German orphan whose ingenuity and intelligence frees him from a future in the mines — and leads him to the SS.

This is not an easy story, and there is no “happy ending.” It took me several stabs to even get into to it. Once I did, I was hooked. It is beautiful and compelling and heartbreaking. It won the Pulitzer for a reason.