Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Book #1 and Book #2

As one of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to try to write more short reviews or commentary about the books I’m reading (and to keep from boring you with only toddler stories). January 5th and two books down already, so here goes.

The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton
(from the public library)

Book #1 of 2005 is the first in the Eve Diamond series written by Denise Hamilton, originally published in 2001. I believe I found out about this series from a post or link on Sarah’s website and since I love series, I decided to check it out. Eve is a beat reporter for the LA Times, which is a legitimate profession for getting involved in a crime, so that appealed to me right away. Even though she’s young, she has a somewhat tragic past, which is slowly revealed throughout the book and is part of the motivation for some of her actions. I liked the basis for the story – Chinese immigrants adapting to life in America and “parachute kids,” a topic I know very little or nothing about, so learning something new made the story more enjoyable for me as well. Eve is a likable character (who wouldn’t like someone with a dog named Bon Jovi?) with room to grow, so I’m sure I’ll check out the second book in the series, Sugar Skull. Other than a few trite phrases from some characters (Eve’s boyfriend jumping from the shadows to yell, “Drop the gun, Michael!” during a climatic scene), it is a well written, fast-paced mystery that made me want to read more about Eve Diamond.

Twelve by Nick McDonell
(from the public library)

Twelve is not a crime fiction book, just a regular old fiction book from 2002, which I probably added to my “To Be Read” list from a review in the NYTBR. I say that because otherwise I probably never would have read this book. I only finished it because the chapters were very short, so the pace was fast and I finished it in a few of hours. I actually started this book at the end of 2004, then set it aside for several days while reading the Denise Hamilton book, so it definitely didn’t hold my attention.

Apparently, Nick McDonell is a whiz kid who wrote this book at age 17 and it received all kinds of praise. I found it terribly dull and boring. None of the characters were particularly likable, just a bunch of self-involved, selfish rich kids living in Manhattan and doing whatever they pleased, mostly drugs. I found it hard to keep all of the characters straight, since they all knew each other through “a friend of a friend,” none of them had any qualities to make them stand out from the others and chapters would go by before some of them were mentioned again. A superfluous murder and arrest added little to a story that already jumped around randomly. The surprise ending wasn’t a surprise at all – you could see it coming from a mile away – nor was it very original. The epilogue only addressed what happened to one of the characters, leaving you to wonder about the fate of several others. I think I’ll stick with crime fiction for awhile.