Wednesday, October 18, 2017

book review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The backstory: Michael Connelly is my favorite mystery writer. I've read and reviewed all of his books.

The basics: The Late Show is the first in a new series featuring Los Angeles detective Renee Ballard.
"They worked the midnight shift, the late show, moving from case to case, called to any scene where a detective was needed to take initial reports or sign off on suicides. But they kept no cases. They wrote up the initial reports and turned the cases over to the appropriate investigative units in the morning."
My thoughts: One of the (many, many) things I love about Connelly's novels are that they pass in real time. Harry Bosch, the series of his I love the most, was born in 1950. The first mystery featuring Harry, The Black Echo, came out in 1992. I've wondered how and when Connelly will end that series, and what might come next. The Late Show attempts to answer that question. As a character, Renee Ballard thinks and acts a lot like Harry Bosch in her detective work, but her life outside of work looks quite different. Her work on the late show is also an interesting context for mysteries.

The verdict: The Late Show is a dynamite feminist police procedural novel and an excellent start to a series I hope is just as good and just as long-running as Harry Bosch. Connelly introduces a lot of personal and professional backstory about Ballard, but the central mystery is compelling and filled with Connelly's signature twists.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 405 pages
Publication date: July 18, 2017
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Late Show from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Connelly's websitelike him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Ruth Ware, book ratings, and enjoying what you're reading

When Ruth Ware's third novel, The Lying Game, came out this summer, I decided to finally read her first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I've been meaning to read since before it came out. I like to read books, particularly mystery and thriller authors, in the order they were written and published. 

I liked In a Dark, Dark Wood immediately. I realized for a book I'd been meaning to read for so long, I didn't really know much about it. I found the narrator's voice fresh, fun and deliciously dark. It didn't necessarily feel like a thriller, but there was a clear sense that something was going to happen and make it darker. The novel is at its best when the narrative has two timelines. When the timelines merged, the pace slowed, and I grew impatient. The conclusion, however, reduced what was an enjoyable 3.5 or 4-star read to me to a 2-star read. I found it maddening and not grounded in the reality the rest of the book was. While I rated it only 2 stars, I was still eager to read her second book, The Woman In Cabin 10 because I did enjoy so much of In a Dark, Dark Wood.

The opening scene of The Woman in Cabin 10 is amazing. Despite one misgiving with the plot, I also enjoyed this one from the beginning. I found myself thinking: this premise is really interesting. When the action slowed (SO many pages are devoted to the first night on the ship), I was rewarded with a fun twist. And then...there a twist so unbelievable I completely lost my faith in this book. It doomed the entire book for me, but I still wanted to finish it. Despite hating this twist, I still was enjoying parts of it. Around this point, I tweeted, "When did an unreliable narrator come to also mean completely fucking stupid?" So I finished, and along with a few mildly fun twists, there were more ridiculous ones. Once again, a book I began by enjoying immensely ended with a 2-star rating.

When I finished The Woman in Cabin 10, I begged Litsy not to let me read The Lying Game because I didn't want to experience it again, but as time passes, I find myself wanting to give Ruth Ware another try because despite major flaws in both of her first two books, there were some really interesting premises and characters. Perhaps if I go in expecting it to be as poor as the other two, I'll be able to enjoy the good parts and not get as frustrated with the bad parts. I will likely make time, maybe even before the end of the year to give Ruth Ware (at least) one more chance.

This reading experience has also made me rethink my rating system, which reflects a combination of quality and enjoyment. Exceptional books might only rate a 4 or 4.5 if I don't also love them. Similarly, books I love may only rate a 4.5 if they're not exceptional. A 4-star read may be a good read, a fun read, or a really good book that I didn't particularly enjoy. Rarely do I recommend books universally. When people ask me for picks, I ask several follow-up questions before trying to pick the right book for the right person, and at the right time. Right now I'm reading What Happened by Hillary Rodham-is-back-in-her-name Clinton and Origin by Dan Brown for very different reasons.

Rating: 2 stars
Source: library

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Looking Back on September 2017

I thought August was a disappointing reading month, but September was much worse. I hope October will get me reading more. Here's what I read in September:

Books read: 5
Fiction: 5
Comics: 1
Mystery/Thriller: 1
Audio: 3
New-to-me authors: 2
My Favorite September book: Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Now tell me: what was your favorite book read in September?

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