Recent Reads: April + May ’17

All fiction the last couple months. I’ve still got some non-fiction in progress, but it’s been slow going. With marathon training right around the corner, a bunch of non-fiction running books are on the TBR pile.

From this batch, I’d recommend Ove, if you, like me, are one of the few people that still haven’t read it. I’d also recommend another Nordic book, a bit bloodier than Ove, in Nesbo’s latest Harry Hole thriller. Keep reading people…..


Say Nothing by Brad Parks

Thriller. Big plot. Conspiracy. Family secrets. This book seems almost tailor made for me to finish in about two days. And I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I’ve read a few of Parks’s PI series and enjoyed them but here I ended up skimming through the end to see how it resolved.

It’s a big book and a big plot, but I’m not sure it had to be. A couple hundred pages less might have tightened it up and kept me turning the pages. It’s an oddly slow burn with so much going on. There is a lot of time spent with the judge and inside his head in the first two hundred pages.

 

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Another book that I was eagerly anticipating, but didn’t quite hold my attention. I really enjoyed the first two books in this fantasy series. This was the third in a trilogy and suffered from some of the usual trilogy problems. After establishing the world in the first book, resolving a cliffhanger or conflict in the second, the third book can be tricky. There’s not a lot of time to introduce anything new, so any big resolution has to hang on what was set up in the first two books. 

This series did a wonderful job with introducing characters and world-building, but I think the fatal flaw in the last book was the big bad. I just never found it/him compelling enough and many of the obstacles introduced to the characters just felt arbitrary and a way to add pages before a final resolution took place. Seems like a case where there was more than enough for two books but not quite enough for three.

 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

Disliking this book feels like saying you don’t like It’s a Wonderful Life. You just come off looking like a curmudgeon I can’t say much more about this book that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. I’m just surprised it took so long to come to my attention and for me to actually pick it up and read it.

It’s the rare pop culture piece that lives up the hype. The type of book that you are sad to see end and would happily keep reading another 300 pages of just the characters you’ve come to know living their lives.

 

The Highway Kind

This was a book of short stories centered around the theme of cars or highways. It features some big names, though not all the best stories were from names I immediately recognized. Like most story collections like this some were better than others. Some felt like a bit doggerel the author had hanging around and others felt like they might have been written specifically with the collection’s theme in mind. Standouts for me were the stories by James Sallis (a sort of secret Drive epilogue), CJ Box, Joe Lansdale and George Pelecanos.

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Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

Leanne is one of my favorite writers. I think this is the third time I’ve read his second Kenzie/Gennaro book, but the first time in maybe ten years. After a series of lackluster thriller reads, I was really looking for a book to just hook me and make me want to stay up and late reading. Even though I knew how it ended, this book still did the trick.

I’d forgotten just how dark it gets with the violence. It’s actually a bit of a standard serial killer setup, but the writing and some of the sub-plots that intertwine raise this up for me. I’d also forgotten some of the humor Lehane used with Kenzie. It was almost jarring. I feel like that dropped out a bit of later books (mostly for the better). Along with Connelly’s The Poet, this is one of my go-to recommendations for people looking for a good serial killer thriller. 

 

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

The return of Harry Hole did not disappoint. Despite these being almost unrelentingly bleak (even when Harry is feeling a modicum of happiness) and Nesbo often reaches into the same narrative bag of tricks (undistinguishable pronouns), his plotting is so intricate and Harry such a strong character that I can’t resist.

I will admit the almost four year lag since the last book and Nesbo’s habit of letting characters and plots span books made it difficult to remember some of the smaller plots, slights and conspiracies that were carried through, but it was a small complaint. If you’ve liked previous Hole books, you’ll like enjoy this one. Like Bosch’s daughter in Connelly’s series, it’s interesting to see Oleg slowly inching more into the spotlight.

 

Every Night I Dream of Hell by Malcolm Mackay

I picked this one up based on a strong review, but came away a little disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high. The plotting and machinations of a local organized crime syndicate trying to sort itself out after it’s leader is jailed was appropriately convoluted and full of double crosses, but there is a lot of internal monologue throughout this book from the main character navigating all the players and it just dulled most of the momentum for me.

I think maybe it would have played better if I read some of the previous books set in the same world. Or maybe I’m just a plot guy first and foremost. I should have heeded my rule about being wary of any book that starts with a long list of characters. 

 

Coming up on the TBR pile:

Since We Fell

Hanson’s Marathon Method

Meb for Mortals

Guns, Germs and Steel

 

MIKE'S WINDOW