Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Reviews - September 27, 2008

It's been awhile since I did book reviews so I am going to do some short reviews tonight. I'm slowly losing my compulsiveness and don't feel the need to finish books that don't really interest me, so I will only review books that I enjoyed. The reviews will be short because there are so many (sorry). I am also going to start giving books I read letter grades indicating whether I think they're worth your time to read.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz - This is a highly entertaining book about a young woman who works for her parents as a private investigator. The book is highly readable and well-paced. Occasionally, I got a little lost since she tells most of the story as a flashback. The serious theme of the importance of family comes through clearly without any preachiness. The use of inappropriate language and the prevalence of immoral behavior precludes this book from being appropriate for teens, but it is a fun read for an adult. B

The Chamber by John Grisham - I've read a lot of Grisham lately because I really enjoy his writing. He captures the people and places of the South very accurately. This book is about a young lawyer trying to help a relative who is on Mississippi's death row. Grisham's opposition to the death penalty comes through. It's a good read and quite thought-provoking. A

The Brethren by John Grisham - This novel revolves around several inmates of a minimum security prison and a young presidential hopeful. And, yes, the two settings are connected. Another excellent book by Grisham. A

Welcome to the World Baby Girl: a novel by Fannie Flagg - I picked up this book because I had previously enjoyed a novel by this author. This one was another winner. It is the story of a New York news reporter in the 1970s and her rural family. There are a number of plot twists, but, in the end, I was happy for the main character, but saddened by the family history that was gradually revealed. A

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I haven't yet read The Kite Runner, but this is a more recent book by the same author. It is a terribly sad, yet uplifting, story about two women married to the same man in Afghanistan around the time of the rule of the Taliban. The idea that this plot could occur in this century anywhere in the world is disturbing. I highly recommend it. A

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory - I listened to the abridged version of this book on CD and greatly enjoyed it. It is the story of Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII. It was well written and enjoyable to listen to. The author took some liberties with history, but this was just motivation for me to look up the actual known facts. B

The Last Juror by John Grisham - This was actually the first Grisham book that I read and it got me hooked. It tells the story of a murder trial in a small Mississippi town and it's aftermath. The characters are believable and sympathetic. Grisham deals deftly with the racial issues in the town, which are complex. A

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant - A courtesan and her servant, a dwarf, are driven from Rome in the 1500s and settle in Venice. There they restart their lives and her career which become intertwined with a blind woman healer as well as many of the rich and powerful of the city. The plot is intricate, the characters well-developed, and the descriptions rich. It was an enjoyable book, but definitely for adults, given the subject matter. B

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham - This novel starts with a young man who is an up and coming lawyer in a major DC law firm. An incident in his office with a homeless man shakes his whole world and he finds himself a lawyer representing the homeless of the city. This is a great book with a theme of finding meaning in work helping others instead of making lots of money (a theme I found in several of Grisham's novels). A

The Partner by John Grisham - Summarizing this novel in a paragraph is just about impossible. A lawyer who is believed to be dead is found in South America and is brought back to the US for stealing money. The detailed plot kept me riveted. The main character isn't exactly a hero, but was still sympathetic. A very good book. B

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham - This is the story of the trial of a tobacco company and how a juror (along with some outside help) manipulated the jury and determined the outcome of the trial. It's hard to finish this book and not be a little cynical about the jury process in this country. Great read. A

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher by Rob Stennett - The premise for this book is highly improbable: a man (who isn't even a Christian) starts a church in a small town which grows to be quite large and a national sensation. You have to read the book to find out how it ends. Suffice it to say that I had trouble putting it down. A

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - The narratives of four women and their daughters are woven together in a story of family that reaches from China to California and spans from the early 20th century to the 1980s. The book is quite well written and kept me captivated the whole time. A

The King of Torts by John Grisham - Another fine work by Grisham. A young lawyer gets sucked into mass tort suits and becomes rich and famous - until it all falls apart. A

I realized that I gave all As and Bs to these books. I think it is because I quit reading books that aren't any good, so I don't review them. If I review it, I almost surely enjoyed it. I hope you find a book or two that you might like.

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