13 August 2009

The Lace Reader

by Brunonia Barry

Perhaps some of you remember that I set out to read this book a few months back. What can I say? I lost track of time, and I forgot about it. Then, I was preparing for a child abuse trial, which took all of my time. And then I lost the trial on directed verdict, so I had to grieve for a while. And so finally, I picked it up again last week (which is interesting, since I’m again in the full throes of preparing for another child abuse trial).

About the book: all the reviews are right. The worst thing about this book is that I didn’t have time to read it all in one sitting. Now that I know how it ends, I’m anxious to reread it so that I can fully appreciate the author’s pacing and plot development. Speaking of the plot, you are perhaps wondering what a lace reader is. I’m not sure that they actually exist. At any rate, according to the author, lace reading is form of fortune-telling; the readers “read” Ipswich lace, or bobbin lace, and look for pictures or visions about a person’s future. The story is set in Salem, so the city’s history weighs heavily on the plot, but it’s not so overpowering that it becomes the same old witches-in-Salem story that we’ve all heard 100 times.

Towner Whitney, the main character, returns to Salem following her great-aunt’s death, which happened under somewhat suspicious circumstances. What follows is a series of strange events that awaken tragedies and mysteries from decades before. The pacing is perfect. The narrator begins the book by telling us her name, and then immediately tells us that she is a liar. So, from the get-go, we are wondering what is really happening. And, if something isn’t really happening, then is the narrator lying to us, or is there something affecting her perception?

After reading the book, I’m now really fascinated with the process of lace making, and I’m thinking of teaching myself how to do it. We’ll see how that goes. None of you better be rolling your eyes.

04 August 2009

The Dawn Patrol

by Don Winslow

Another book that I'm reading for a book club. The guy at the bookstore described it as "surfing crime noir." I commented that that was possibly the most specific genre I'd ever heard of. Is there actually more than one book that would fall into this category?

The book was okay. Fairly fast-paced, and definitely an easy, quick read. I bought it on a whim, based entirely on the bookstore guy's recommendation, and the fact that because I'd just been to San Diego the weekend before, and I thought it would be intriguing to read about a place I'd just visited.

My main problem with Mr. Winslow is that he jerks back and forth between plot development and backstory and information-sharing. I appreciate his chapter-long, scientific explanations of how waves work, and his description of this specific section of the 101 highway in California, and the fact that he inserts chapters here and there to explain something that happened years before. All of these things help me understand the characters and the setting. Nothing wrong with including them.

Here's the thing: For some reason, he decided to insert these soliloquys right in the middle of the action. Literally, something big is about to happen, then there's 8 or 10 pages of blah-blah-blah, and then the next chapter starts and that big something happens. Only, I have forgotten by that point that something exciting is about to happen, and I have to go back and read the lead-up again so that I remember. It makes for herky-jerky reading, and it makes for a lot of flipping back and forth, is all I'm saying.

This is probably the crime version of chick-lit. Not challenging to read, doesn't require a lot of thought. A good summertime read; would have been perfect if I'd been lying on the sand instead of contemplating my return to work the next day.