I saw Spider-verse with a friend since my last post. I was tempted to relate about it here, but given how my prior two were movie reviews, I thought another reading list was a safer bet. The last one was in October; since then, I have read a further five books to finish the year. I am about a third through a new one. This list is an eclectic catalogue: there are big names like Grisham and Reilly and a newbie like Sam Felsen. I have remained a Connelly specialist, as someone had observed. Indeed, I crossed the new year while contending with Connelly’s latest. The following are my five books to end 2018:
- The Black Echo. Connelly’s debut novel won the Best First Novel award in 1992. Having perused the book, I could say that, structurally, the book is very different compared to the author’s other work. At the time, Connelly was still working as a police reporter for the LA Times. There are far fewer sections, and they are notably divided by date. Longer though the sections are, they are evenly spaced, which gives some pauses for the reader. Early on, Connelly’s talent is on full display. From a well thought out plot, gripping action, pulsating dialogue, and all the bells and whistles, Connelly looked as though he had been writing for years. A Vietnam War veteran, Harry Bosch, barges into the scene, trying to solve a murder that involves a former colleague in the tunnels of Vietnam. Along the way, he crosses paths with the FBI, is under investigation by his own department, and has to stave off the Deputy Police Commissioner all in an effort to solve the case. As he goes deeper and deeper, he inches closer to the identity of the killer, a perp whose true face would shock him. Rating: 5/5
- The Reckoning (Grisham). I’ll admit that I haven’t been reading as much Grisham lately. There was a time where all I borrowed was Grisham. Altogether I’ve read in excess of twenty Grisham novels, and this one certainly lived up to the hype. The murder of the reverend Bell astonishes a small town in rural Mississippi. What’s even more unsettling is how the local war hero, Pete Banning, refuses to say anything to his family, friends, and even his lawyer. The book is not only a stage of small town politics, but also tackles family dynamics, 1940s America, and of course, World War II in colour. A whole section, all hundred pages of it, is dedicated to the war effort in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. This was the best part, a history lesson on the shortcomings and casualties of WWII, highlighted by the infamous Bataan death march. While I do not dig the gruesome detail and war portraits, I loved the guerrilla warfare, the kindness of strangers, and the Pinoys and Americans fighting alongside each other. While I thoroughly enjoyed this bit, others weren’t so enamoured. In fact, many people admitted to skipping this section as it was ‘boring’ and they didn’t get it. Personally, I could NEVER do this, to skip an entire part of a book and then read on like nothing happened. I find that very convenient and rather privileged. It’s like getting a chopper lift from base camp to Everest; what’s the fun in that? As readers, we have the right to devour the best books, but we shouldn’t pick and choose the best sections. Otherwise, we would be making a mistake. For instance, twenty pages into Marcus Zusak’s latest release, I got fed up with the flowery prose and painstaking description, so I hit the abort button. I wouldn’t skip the middle chapters though just to have a smooth read. Rating: 5/5
- The Three Secret Cities (Reilly). I’ve finished the last three books in the Jack West series, including The Four Legendary Kingdoms (2017). Already a fascinating set, the Scarecrow (Shane Schofield) crossover adds even more spice. I was lucky to be the first person to borrow said book from my library. The series is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones film franchise and there is no shortage of adventure and artefacts. In this instalment, a blend of mercenaries and villains hunt down West and his circle. Loyalties are tested, myths reimagined, and secrets revealed in this race against time to save the world. Along the way, West will gain help from places he’s never imagined, and readers would scratch their heads as the fabled Atlantis and Knights come to life. In true Reilly style, every page has a purpose and thus nothing is wasted. You certainly couldn’t skip a hundred pages without feeling lost!
- Green: a novel (Sam Graham-Felsen). Recommended by a former colleague, Green is a relatively short read. At 300 pages, the young adult novel is the thinnest book I’ve read all year. Focusing on middle school blues, race relations, and 90s pop culture, Boston is the setting for this impressive debut. As you skim the book, you would easily relate to Dave, Mar, and the rest of the kids at the King. The latter could stand for any high school, with warring kids, gym class, subpar cafeteria food, and big dreams. You don’t have to be black, white, Latino, or Asian; you need only have been a teenager once. Admittedly, it’s a time warp, with Sega’s, Larry Bird, Charlotte Hornets, VCR’s, and NBA cards. It is also very well written, making for easy reading. The peer pressure, basketball, and 90s Boston all gets to young Dave, who aspires to enter Latin like the rest of his school. By getting into Latin, you’re a shoo-in for Harvard. He befriends Mar, a black boy from a nearby neighbourhood who has his own struggles. Together this odd couple attempt to defy the odds, whether from within or beyond. Highly recommended. Rating: 4.5/5
- Dark Sacred Night (Connelly). My last book of 2018, bringing my total to 19. Like Scarecrow’s crossover in Reilly’s series, this time it’s ‘late show’ detective Renee Ballard as she intersects with Bosch. There are a few cases covered here, but the main one involves troublesome Mexican gangsters in San Fernando. They are well connected too, since San Fernando’s not LA, so everybody knows everybody. People who’re supposed to help do not cooperate. Therein lies the problem: there are walls everywhere, and roadblocks disrupt Bosch’s progress. He likewise seeks the killer of Elizabeth Clayton, the erstwhile junkie who he helped rehabbed. Will they get to said murderer in time? Or will it be too late? Not as good as Connelly’s earlier work, but not bad either. Rating: 4/5
At the moment, I’m fighting with City of Bones (Connelly). I’ll make sure to include it on my next inventory. Five books in two months, including two Connelly’s. The list includes some of my favourites such as Grisham, Reilly and of course, Bosch. Sometimes, it pays to stick with the tried and tested, but I wouldn’t growl when trying new books either. Every now and then, it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone, but for the moment I remain (mostly) a Connelly specialist. Count me in.