"What I want to warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fra"What I want to warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass . . . This is my job, and you don't go into it--or if you do, you don't last--without some natural affinity for its priorities and demands. What I am telling you, before you begin this story is this--two things. I crave truth. And I lie."
These are some of the opening words of the narrator of In the Woods. Tana French's first novel is a combination police procedural and psychological thriller set in Dublin. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, are investigating the murder of a 12-year-old girl. Her body was found in some woods adjacent to a housing development--woods that may soon be razed to make way for a highway. However, what makes this case more complex is that 20 years earlier two kids vanished in those woods and a third child, their friend, was found bloody and traumatized but with no memory of what happened. That third child, Adam Robert Ryan, was sent away to boarding school shortly after his friends' disappearance and came back to Dublin many years later with a new name, a British accent, and the desire to be a police detective. As Rob and his partner investigate this new case, echoes of that old event keep emerging and Rob begins to remember more and more of what led up that fateful day 20 years ago.
Told from Rob's quite unreliable and sometimes frustrating point of view, this novel refuses to go where you expect it to and the style is both elaborate but engaging. ...more
This novel was a bit of a glorious mess . . . a lot of creepy atmosphere, a great concept, some compelling writing but I kept feeling like maybe the aThis novel was a bit of a glorious mess . . . a lot of creepy atmosphere, a great concept, some compelling writing but I kept feeling like maybe the author didn't know where he was going with this. The story begins a few days before 16-year-old Jack is supposed to go on a trip to London with his best friend, Conner. At a typical high school party, Jack gets drunk, wanders into a park, and ends up getting kidnapped by a man (possibly a doctor) named Freddie Horvath, who has unsavory plans for Jack and who clearly has done these things before. By a quirk of fate, Jack manages to escape but instead of going to the authorities, he goes to his friend Conner. Clearly suffering from PTSD, Jack begs Conner not to tell his grandparents (who are his guardians) and allow them to go on the trip as planned.
Basically, this is what happens, Jack heads to London a few days ahead of his friend while still reeling from his near-death/violation experience. On his way to the hotel, Jack encounters a man who gives him a strange pair of glasses that Jack soon discovers transport him into an alternative universe--a violent, bloody, and horrific world where some sort of plague has turned most humans into crazy fiends (a bit 28-days-later or Reever (sp?) like) and those who haven't turned are just trying to survive. Jack exists there as a survivor with two other younger boys but he soon discovers that Conner exists here too--as one of the fiends. Jack moves between these worlds in a confusing fashion--for him and those around him. Does this world exist or is Jack simply having a break down? Clearly, the answer is supposed to be murky but where it started to break down for me was with the introduction of Seth, a ghost of a foundling from turn of the century California whose presence and story play a crucial role. Add that to some very large plot holes--does anybody really send their 16-year-old kids to London unsupervised?
This piece didn't quite work for me and I keep feeling like a better novel was hiding in the bones of this story....more
Each time I jump into the complex, noir-y, and slightly dizzying world of Richard K. Morgan's sci fi novels featuring Takeshi Kovacs, I wonder how MorEach time I jump into the complex, noir-y, and slightly dizzying world of Richard K. Morgan's sci fi novels featuring Takeshi Kovacs, I wonder how Morgan does it. He creates a future world that is both disoriently different from our own yet also eerily (and perhaps depressingly) the same. Money still rules. People are still oppressed. Rebellions and resistance occur but are often crushed. In this future world, death is postponed for most because one's consciousness can be downloaded into a new body (or sleeve). The ramifications of this technology are just one of the many thorny issues that Morgan wrestles with as he once again sends Kovacs on a journey that has an extremely high body count. The plot is dense and twisty and I'm not going to go into it here, but it's worth the trip. That said, I wouldn't start the series with this book. Begin at the beginning with Altered Carbon and watch both Kovacs and Morgan develop....more
Not only could I not finish this, I could barely start this. About 30 pages in, it suddenly occurred to me that life was way too short to waste time oNot only could I not finish this, I could barely start this. About 30 pages in, it suddenly occurred to me that life was way too short to waste time on a book like this. I love a good chick lit read but this was not a good fit for me. I like a good Jennifer Crusie heroine, a little chubby but with loads of idividuality, not these consumer robots. On to something completely different....more
I had high hopes for this book based on the title (and the Sherman Alexie shout out on the cover) and I wasn't disapointed. This was a fun, funny, andI had high hopes for this book based on the title (and the Sherman Alexie shout out on the cover) and I wasn't disapointed. This was a fun, funny, and addictive beginning to a series set in Seattle (but a Seattle much like Cincinnati in the Kim Harrison novels . . . a city teaming with supernatural folks).
Sam (Samhaim) Corvus LaCroix is a 19-year-old fry crook who works at a fast food joint (Plumpy's) with his friends, Ramon, Brooke, and Fred. An ill-timed game of potato hockey in the alley leads Sam to encounter Douglas Montgomery, a powerful necromancer who not only controls the city but also sees Sam as a potential threat. Though it's news to Sam that he is also a necromancer, Douglas gives him an ultimatum, a time limit, and a horrible lesson involving Sam's friend, Brooke, in how far he will go to control Sam.
Sam has days to figure out what is going on and how he can avoid becoming a slave to Douglas or even worse, a victim. With the help of his friends, his mom, and a Harbinger named Ashley, he might just stand a chance.
This summer, I read an excerpt from this book in one of my AFT magazines and was struck by Ravitch's thoughtful analysis and measured tones. Though I'This summer, I read an excerpt from this book in one of my AFT magazines and was struck by Ravitch's thoughtful analysis and measured tones. Though I'm new to this educational historian's work, I was impressed with the way she presented her arguments in this book (though the last chapter, where she makes her own recommendations for educational reform, relied a little too much on her 1950's public school experiences). Ravitch, who leans toward the conservative side, has long been suspicious of educational fads/trends and has spent much of her academic life writing about them by exploring histories of educational reform in specific settings and nationwide.
As she points out, she accidently drank the koolaid as an educational policy wonk when the choice/accountability models first began to sweep the nation. Though she was initially supportive of NCLB, the implementation of this model troubled her and this book is in a sense, her attempt to explore the problems when a standards movement (which she does support) turns into a testing movement. Though her argument is complex and historically situated, the gist of it is that the private corporate takeover of education under the auspices of choice and accountability, is actually destroying the public schools and educating students less. The focus on test scores in two areas (math and reading) leads to all sorts of bad practices--teaching to the test, abandonning any learning not connected to the test, and punishing teachers and schools for issues they cannot change (learning disabilities, poverty, etc.). She also shows how charter schools, which were originally developed to work with difficult to educate children and to develop innovations that could be taken back to the public schools, are now simply siphoning off the most motivated and best prepared students (think about what the primary tension is in Waiting for Superman).
Though I think Ravitch fails to theorize how public education might need to change given the incredible diversity of students now going all the way through high school and beyond (and the literacy demands that this incredibly complex world will make of them), she makes a strong argument for why things can't continue the way they are (and what it might look like if they do).
It's a sobering look at what's coming down the pike and required reading, I think, for anyone with children in school and anybody in education. College Readiness is all the rage in post-secondary ed but this book suggests that more and more students (even if they have improved test scores) will not be ready for college level work....more
Though this is not the best of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels, Smith once again gives a vivid (often horrific) picture of Moscow and the newThough this is not the best of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels, Smith once again gives a vivid (often horrific) picture of Moscow and the new Russia. There are hordes of street kids, drug dealers and pimps, millionaires looking to spend their money, and lots and lots of corruption. Though he is days from being suspended for being a little too good at his job, Investigator Renko takes on a new case that the rest of the police want to write off as a drug overdose. Meanwhile, Zhenya (a young hustler and chess genius who alternates between living on the street and staying with Renko), befriends a teenage girl, newly arrived to Moscow, who has lost her young baby and is fleeing her past. Though this novel felt a little rushed, I'd still take Martin Cruz Smith on an off day over most writers. However, don't start your relationship with Arkady Renko with this novel--go back to Gorky Park,...more
I found this young adult novel okay but not as "Armstrongian" as I had hoped . . . it started off well, with main character, Maya, pondering the mysteI found this young adult novel okay but not as "Armstrongian" as I had hoped . . . it started off well, with main character, Maya, pondering the mysterious death of her best friend and wondering about the strange things that seem to be happening to her--vivid dreams, strong connections to the animals she takes care of, etc.. She's the adopted daughter of the town's forest ranger and the town, contrary to the Goodread's description, is not an ordinary town. It's a company town out in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and the company is the research wing of a large drug manufacturer. That means a couple of things--that everybody in town knows everybody's business, that the company both provides for and strangely monitors the kids in town, and that strangers are not usually welcome (since they are either reporters or corporate spies). As Maya and her best friend, Daniel, struggle to make sense of their friend's (and in Daniel's case, girlfriend's) death, they also begin to stumble into larger mysteries including who Maya really is and what it has to do with the new kid in school.
Maya is a spunky heroine (no Bella here) but the plot itself seems a bit wander-y, as if Armstrong isn't really sure where she's going with this--not a good sign when this is part of a series and the current book seems to end mid-stride (quite annoying that!). ...more