The Ruins by Scott Smith: Two American couples vacation in Cancun, meet some people, go to find the German character's missing brother and stumble on a Mayan village. Although the characters aren't that well developed -- it's often hard to distinguish between them except through very stereotypical traits (this is especially true of the women) -- the plot is tight. The novel also provides that one thing that almost every horror reader is looking for and doesn't often get -- that little frisson of dread. Since I finished this book, it's often been hard for me to look out at the vines in my back yard.
The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf: I loved this story of an Muslim girl, Khadra Shamy, growing up in a strict Muslim family in 1970s Indianapolis. The characters are interesting and believable. Khadra, herself, is a compelling, if occasionally whiny and self-involved, character. Her journey from a strict interpretation of Islamic law to one that feels more organic and true to her is paralleled by her journey from feeling an outsider in America to her realization that she is indeed American.
Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier: I picked up this book because I love William Blake and was interested to see how he'd be portrayed fictionally. I did know that he wouldn't be the main character -- that place falls to a young boy named Jem, who having moved from Dorsetshire to London with his family, falls in love with a poor girl, Maggie. It's the interaction of these two characters with the Blakes and with the circus owner, Philip Astley, that the novel centers on. Unfortunately, Blake is too shadowy of a character and his reasons for his actions are unclear. I haven't read Tracy Chevalier's novels before but I suspect this is not one of her best works.
The Murder Room by P.D. James: I generally like P.D. James but I didn't like this book, and I cannot blame it on the person reading it. I suspect I'd find this book just as boring if I'd read it instead of listened to it. For Pete's sake, I had listened to 11 chapters before I even got to the first body! And this is a murder mystery. Adam Dalgliesh, the Scotland Yard commander in charge of solving the murders which are made to look like historical murders showcased in the murder room of the Dupayne Museum, is boring in this novel and so is the subplot of his romance. The characters in this novel are pretty much stock characters and some other subplots -- like why British intelligence in the form of MI-5 would be interested in the Dupayne murders -- don't even make sense. Even more unforgivable to me is the fact that I knew who the murderer was the minute the character showed up and that was long before the body appeared.
Home to Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani: This is mostly a fluffy, light listen but it was a fun, fluffy listen that brought up serious issues -- the death of a child, mountain top removal mining, how secrets can affect friendships, and a spouse's health problems. How Ave Maria panics and eventually solves and handles these problems was fun. And even though I was never in doubt that Ave Maria would solve her problems, I liked being introduced to Cracker's Neck Holler and its inhabitants through this novel read, with great affection, by its author. The only thing I hated was her attempt at a Scottish accent -- she should have left that alone.
Friday Shuffle -- The Day Late Again Edition
- Bell Bottom Blues: Eric Clapton from The Cream of Clapton
- E-Bow the Letter: R.E.M. from In Time
- Ces Petits Reins: Angelique Kidjo from Black Ivory Soul
- Bold as Love: John Mayer from Continuum
- Are You Having Any Fun Yet?: Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello from Duets
- Wicked Man: Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama from There Will Be A Light
- Long As I Can See the Light: Creedence Clearwater Revival from Chronicle v. 1
- Don't Ask: Michelle Shocked from Don't Ask Don't Tell
- Four Winds: Bright Eyes from Cassadaga
- Sit Down Young Stranger: Gordon Lightfoot from If You Could Read My Mind