Having (regrettably) set my Goodreads Challenge number higher than I ever had in the past, I felt the pressure to read faster. I have indeed turned on the jets and finished quite a few books in the past six weeks. But I haven’t been reviewing them at the same pace. So I’ve got this stack of books staring me in the face and, honestly, getting on my nerves. Plus, they just need to get back to the library (where I procured them all.) Because I’m sick of looking at them, here are some super quick mini-reviews to clear the decks.
Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by Sharon Bolton. Fiction Fan turned me onto this author. I really enjoyed this one. It’s got a strong female detective constable (Lacey,) a Jack the Ripper copycat killer with a mysterious connection to Lacey, and a nice slow-burning sexual tension between her and DI Mark Joesbury. Very suspenseful, and I really didn’t know how it was all going to work out until the end. High quality writing as well. Definitely will be reading more of this series and this author in 2018! Four stars.
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards (British Library Crime Classics.) My pick for Christmas reading this year. An uneven collection, but five of the Golden Age crime stories really stood out and made this a worthwhile pick. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock story, “The Blue Carbuncle” was entertaining as one might expect. “Stuffing” by Edgar Wallace was short and sweet. H.C. Bailey’s “The Unknown Murderer” featured an unlikely criminal and an unexpected twist. “The Chinese Apple” by Joseph Shearing (a pen name of Marjorie Bowen) is a masterpiece of misdirection. And my favorite, Ethel Lina White’s “Waxworks,” is a creepy delight. A young female journalist investigates a hall of wax where two people have mysteriously died. Determined to find out of the hall is indeed haunted, she sneaks in and gets herself locked in overnight on Christmas Eve. Suspense builds as the night goes on and she finds herself imagining things – or could there be a murderer locked in with her? I absolutely loved this one. Overall, though, for the collection, Three stars.
White Rage: The Unspoke Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson. This book grew out of an op-ed in the Washington Post in response to the 2014 Ferguson, MO riots after the killing of Michael Brown. I could call this book Important Stuff We Should Have Studied in High School. In a short but well-researched 164 pages (and 60 pages of end notes) Anderson lays out a map of white oppression tactics to every gain in status that African Americans have won since the end of the Civil War. From the unjust laws of the former CSA states during Reconstruction to the assault on voting rights after the election of our first black president, Anderson makes a persuasive argument that every time African Americans win a victory, there is always a well-coordinated and legalistic backlash by a segment of white people in power. The chapter on the aftermath of the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education was especially good. An eye-opening, enraging, important book. Four stars.
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. A debut novel about grief and identity. Unusual structure – some photographs, some graphs, a few pages include only three or four sentences. The main character is Thandi, born and raised in America to a mixed-race South African mother and a light-skinned Black American father. Thandi’s mother has died of cancer (not a spoiler) and we get to see how the event shapes Thandi’s life as she tries to find her place in the world as an adult. There were some beautifully written passages about grief, but it just didn’t come together for me as powerful, cohesive narrative. The most interesting sections of the book for me were explorations of contemporary motherhood and marriage. Three stars.
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud. I’ve loved Messud’s two previous novels, The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs. This one wasn’t on par with those, unfortunately. A portrait of two twelve-year old best friends on the cusp of big changes and growing apart. It moved along quickly and I was engaged, but I couldn’t quite believe that the narrator was supposed to be a seventeen year-old looking back and not a middle-aged author. The voice was felt too mature. There are some intelligent observations about the physical freedoms that girls give up as they grow into women, and there are scenes as the girls explore an old abandoned asylum that are lovely and creepy. Messud is a good writer, I just wanted more vitality from this book. Three stars.
Hear me now – I’m setting my Goodreads Challenge number nice and low next year! This (self-imposed) pressure is for the birds. Three more books by the end of the year to meet my goal. I can do it! Hope you all are enjoying some good reading this weekend. Will you meet your Goodreads Challenge goal?