Thursday, June 29, 2006

Digging to America

Anne Tyler’s latest novel on two topics immigration & adoption is really very interesting. It begins with two families meeting at Baltimore airport, both awaiting the arrival of their adopted daughters from Korea. The story follows the two families, one an American family & the other an Iranian American family. Tyler’s subtle observations about the immigrants & the way they try to assimilate themselves to the American life is perfect.The characters seem so real & believable. The story seems to slow down with the day to day descriptions, but keeps up to an interesting ending.

Night Fisher

This is a debut graphic novel for artist Kikuo Johnson, a name we’ll likely be seeing more of. The artwork is stark, and the story is touching. The book follows Loren, a teenager studying at a private school in Hawaii, as he grows into himself and away from his childhood friends.

Friday, June 23, 2006


It all began with an experiment. Then something went awry... David Ambrose's supernatural thriller had enough twists and turns to keep me interested without being too eerie or scarey. I don't read much in this genre but this one came recommended and I enjoyed it.
Joanna Cross is a journalist who wants to do an article on the paranormal. With the help of a university psychologist, a group begins meeting to try to conjure up a ghost completely from their collective imagination. The group gets results--table knocking, writing on windows and other ghostly behavior begins. Then one of the group members dies. Then another... That part is suspenseful enough. But the last quarter of the book takes a huge turn. It'll keep you reading past midnight.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


A plain story about plain people that is told plainly beautifully. It took me 7 years to get around to reading this 1999 finalist for the National Book Award. Sorry I hadn't gotten to it sooner. Kent Haruf introduces each character in his or her own chapter. Their stories are then carefully woven together into what I felt was a realistic conclusion. The ends are all not neatly tied up but I found it very satisfying.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

This book was on the best-seller list for a substantial portion of the 1990s, and I now wish I had picked it up then. For a book about a real-life murder, it shows remarkable charm. The first part of the book introduces a cast of characters any work of fiction would be lucky to have. The second part follows those characters in the wake of a shooting. Through it all, the city of Savannah, Ga., lurks in the background. Author John Berendt portrays the storied city as an almost magical place where appearance counts for at least as much as mundane reality.


Graphic novels have a reputation for being a touch heavy-handed. The same is usually true of pulp fiction; they often show all the finesse of a sledge hammer. Yet the artwork in the graphic novel Blacksad, a noir detective story in graphic novel format, shows moments of unexpected subtlety. In one notable panel, a ballerina almost imperceptibly meets the gaze of a background onlooker reflected in a mirror. It’s a drawing of remarkable technical sophistication, yet artist Juanjo Guardino makes it look easy. There’s an attention to aesthetic detail rarely seen in graphic novels. The story, written by Juan Diaz Canales, is perfectly suited for the format. This is a beautiful example of the graphic novel playing all the strengths of its hand.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ice Haven

Dan Clowes is one of the most prominent names in graphic novels today. His book Ghost World was made into a successful and highly regarded film. Clowes’s characters tend to maneuver through his stories in a strange kind of desperate somnambulance that imbues his work with a distinctive feel. Ice Haven shares much of that tone with Clowes's previous work. This book features a collection of characters living in the shadow of a small-town tragedy. Each character struggles to define his or her direction in life, with the abduction of a local child serving as a unifying backdrop.

White Ghost Girls

This debut novel by Alice Greenway is set in the summer of 1967. This is a story of two American sisters living in Hongkong when the Maoist revolutionaries seem to be spilling over to Hongkong. Their father is a Time magazine photographer stationed in Vietnam and the mother is a painter and very remote. The author is able to convey the inner turmoil of these teenagers and Hongkong comes alive with its heat and color in her description. Set against this political background of Vietnam & Hongkong, this tragic story about the two sisters really keeps you engrossed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


This is March not to be confused with THE March by Doctorow. I listened to Geraldine Brooks' Pulitzer prize-winning novel on cd. Who knew something more could be done with Alcott's classic Little Women? Brooks takes the perspective of Mr. March and suggests what his experiences might have been like while he was away from his little women. As with many characters of Civil War novels, March starts out quite naive with idealistic expectations and ends up wiser as well as a great deal sadder.

The Historian

Elizabeth Kostova has taken the vampire legend and created what I found to be a compelling historical novel--emphasis on historical. Readers who are looking for a horror story of vampires may get bogged down in the historical details. A fan of history, however, will appreciate Kostova's detail and coverage of history of the Ottomans and Byzantines. Yes, it's a hefty read but very satisfying. The book on audio (unabridged, of course) is narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. The accents they used were effective but not overdone--no I VANT to bite you in the neck. I recommend this one.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable

It’s hard to pinpoint the appeal of this graphic novel by David Rees. It appears to have been made using stock art or clip images; the artwork has the same repetitive, bland quality of the images often found in office manuals. There are no developed characters, and no discernible storyline. These elements come together to create a weird kind of draw to this book about office culture. Workers fawn over meaningless bar graphs, and someone is apparently stealing generic printouts for their intrinsic value. The effect is like that of listening to a joke without a punchline: Not entirely satisfying, but not without its merits, either. It’s an unusual, and brief, read.