Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The back cover and buzz around Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies makes it sound fluffy and beachy, so I brought it to the beach. Fluff or not, it’s tremendously funny and impossible to put down (I was up until 3am to finish). It begins with a murder, but the victim/motive/means are obscured from the reader. The story rewinds six months to pick apart the petty spats, squabbles, and gossip that led to the mysterious death. Though the story cycles through multiple perspectives, it’s driven by newcomer Jane Chapman and her son Ziggy. At kindergarten orientation, Ziggy is accused of bruising Amabella’s [sic]* neck and many mothers forbid their children from playing with him. Jane is unshakeable in her belief of Ziggy’s innocence and her two new friends, Madeline and Celeste, take her side as well. While Jane frets over Ziggy’s prospects, Madeline is coping with an increasingly distant teen daughter, and Celeste is hiding the evidence of her husband’s abuse. read more

Review: My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk has been on my list of writers to sample for a while. I started with My Name Is Red because its focus on illuminated manuscripts appealed to me. I disregarded the reviews which suggested this is not the ‘best’ place to start with Pamuk. Alas, I was cocky. I thought my knowledge of history, memories of Istanbul, and hours spent copying/painting manuscripts would give me a leg up. They didn’t. I’ve read books set in unfamiliar cultures before, but My Name Is Red feels truly foreign and reminiscent of that moment in Istanbul when I realized Turkish is a tricky language. But instead of squinting at signs, I was scratching my head at Pamuk’s mythical, artistic, and philosophical diversions. In all cases, something was familiar, but I was miles away. read more

Review: The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

Paul Collins’ The Murder of the Century was briefly everywhere and I found a cheapo copy when I saw it linked with The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which is a surprisingly engaging piece of non-fiction (I preferred Dead Wake, ftr).

From the back cover:
On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. The police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.
The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the year’s most perplexing murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus, as an unlikely trio—a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor—all raced to solve the crime. What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial.

read more

Review: Eli Marks, Books 1-3 by John Gaspard

This is my first time combining reviews and I don’t plan to do this often. I saw a tempting review a while back by FictionFan for The Miser’s Dream, the third Eli Marks mystery by John Gaspard. Books 1 & 2 aren’t strictly required to understand the third, but they sounded fun so I started at the beginning. The general premise of the series is that a magician, Eli Marks, helps solve crimes between performances and shifts at his uncle’s magic shop. I love this angle. When I was a kid, I bought every magic set and trick deck I could find; I’d have enjoyed these books even if Eli never left Uncle Harry’s magic shop. Their strengths and weaknesses are fairly consistent so it made sense to write a single review to spare you all the repetition. [Note: The books aren’t repetitive.] read more

Review: The Tale of the Unknown Island by Jose Saramago

I tracked down a copy of José Saramago’s The Tale of the Unknown Island after reading the opening lines:

A man went to knock at the king’s door and said, Give me a boat. The king’s house had many other doors, but this was the door for petitions. Since the king spent all his time sitting at the door for favors (favors being offered to the king, you understand), whenever he heard someone knocking at the door for petitions, he would pretend not to hear, and only when the continuous pounding of the bronze doorknocker became not just deafening, but positively scandalous, disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (people would start muttering, What kind of king is he if he won’t even answer the door), only then would he order the first secretary to go and find out what the supplicant wanted, since there seemed no way of silencing him. (1-2)

read more