ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Starting the 2010 list: 1-4

1. Third Girl, by Agatha Christie. I actually started this one last year. "Third Girl" has a different feel from the other Agatha Christie novels I've read. For starters, this is set in the 1960s. This mystery is easily the funniest I've read. Hercule Poirot gets a visit from a young lady who says she think's she's murdered someone, but can't remember who, when or where. She departs abruptly, leaving Poirot to figure out the puzzle. Ariadne Oliver, a mystery novel author, joins him in tracking down the girl and her identity. Those two are a pair and the ending left me guessing until the very end. But what makes this book a treat is the humor. Oliver, of course, is a bit of a caricature of Christie herself. Poirot's laments of the "good old days" and the sloppy fashions of the days youth is humorous, as is the remark the famous detective has to endure about his age.

2. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Another book I started last year. I listened to this on CD. I can't recall the last fiction book that shook me up as much as this newest book by Anderson. It is incredibly well-written and honest -- but I highly recommend following it up with a comic chaser afterwards. Eighteen-year-old Lia's life, already precarious, spirals out of control after the death of her former best friend Cassie. Lia struggles with the death, her relationship with her parents and her weight. She deceives her teachers, her parents, her family and even herself as she works to hide her pain behind her obsessive goal to become thinner and thinner. Lia sees herself as wanting to be in control, and her declining weight ...100...95...90... as evidence of her strength. But there are turns of phrase that slip occasionally, such as her thinking "when I was a real girl." The writing is so lyrical and symbolic. Lia is frozen, unable to move, a winter girl in every sense. One of the neatest scenes is when Lia is looking at some cupcakes, which includes a variety of strange flavors. She takes a pomegranate cupcake and extracts six seeds from it, eating the seeds. "Wintergirls" takes an honest look at anorexia -- not just the weight loss but the spectrum of issues behind it. Lia's family is not perfect -- but they aren't "the villains" either. They know something is wrong, but are helpless to do much, since Lia is technically an adult. Their pain, especially the father's, as they watch their daughter self-destruct, is palpable. One important point is driven home: while Lia had a support network, Lia, herself, had to want to heal. The narrator, Jeannie Stith, does a commendable job interpreting the characters. There is one section where Lia is thinking (I think, I no longer have the book) "Must not eat. Must not eat. Must not eat." This goes on for several moments, but it's not repetitive. Stith's rendition brings out the heart-wrenching nature of Lia's terrible matra. The author's notes at the end are well worth listening to. She also includes a poem she wrote in response to her book "Speak," which moved me to tears.

3. The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown. Finally got around to reading this one. It's been on my list for a while now. It was...amusing. I would have enjoyed it more had it not try to supposedly base so much on "real" things and events. Symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu are thrown together after the murder of the Louvre's chief curator. The curator managed to leave clues before his death as to what he was trying to protect, and the more Langdon and Neveu discover, the more they realize how explosive the secret is. In the meantime, a few different agencies are trying to track the duo down, for differing reasons. It's a fast read. The puzzles are quickly solved, but the reason is believable -- both Langdon and Neveu are experts in their fields and they make a good time. Teabing is a fun, quirky character who is full of surprises. So if you look at this book as merely entertainment and can ignore the very alternate history and outright fabrications, this is a fun book.

4. ArchEnemy, by Frank Beddor. The third, and looks like final, book of The Looking Glass Wars. The conclusion to this alternate take on Alice in Wonderland felt a bit rushed and choppy. It wasn't horrible, but it was the weakest of the three books. King Arch, at the end of the last book, attacked the Heart Crystal, and its energy is being drained. Queen Alyss has lost her best defense -- Imagination -- against Arch and her aunt, the wicked Redd. It's not just the queen either, but anyone with Imagination has suddenly lost their ability. Even on earth, poets, writers, thinkers and the like cannot create. Arch moves in to take over, and Alyss must consider the previously unthinkable -- an alliance with Redd. I would have liked to have seen more with The Hatter and Molly -- although I do like the not-to-subtle point about Molly having talents from both parents in equal measure (throughout she has to live up to her reputation as a halfer). I really liked the caterpillars in this -- the oracles kept you guessing as to what they were up to and why. Also, I was completely wrong as to the Everqueen.

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