Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hanging in there, and a review of The Lake of Dead Languages...

Work has been a bear lately, no other way to say it. I have a class to teach in an hour and a half, and as you can see, I'm distracting myself by blogging. I've already practiced my lesson plan, so there's really nothing else I can do. But I certainly can't concentrate until then. Sigh. I have three more classes next week *sweat trickles* but then, thankfully, I have a short teaching reprieve. I also need to get other things done aside from creating lesson plans. So this is good.

Next week, I have to write a column for the university newspaper. It's a column published weekly by a librarian that highlights relevant web sites on a topic of the librarian's choice. In the past, I've written on fall foliage, bellydancing, and crochet. I was having a hard time coming up with a topic for this semester. Of course, that may have been because I had no time to actually think about topics. But this morning, over breakfast, I had a flash of inspiration. I was reading a copy of Romantic Times Book Review as I munched my Special K. I turned the page and happened upon the reviews of this month's releases in inspirational fiction.


Mike pauses, egg sandwich halfway to his mouth. "What?"

"AMISH FICTION!!!! That's what I'm going to write my column on. Oh, I love it so much!!"

Mike gives me that smile that he does whenever I do something particularly Tiff-like. I mean, how many people bypass the bodice-ripper historical romances to pore with fixation over inspirational Amish fiction?

So, now I'm all excited. But first, several classes and lesson plans lay in front of me. Sigh.

Ok, so book review. Last month, my book club read The Night Villa by Carol Goodman, and I enjoyed it very much. I wrote about how the author really had a knack for portraying a vivid sense of place, and I enjoyed her expertise in the study of classics that played a role in the story. Thus, I picked up a copy of one of her more well-known books, The Lake of Dead Languages.

Quick plot summary: A newly divorced Latin instructor returns to her alma mater, a boarding school located in the Adirondacks, with her young daughter to try and create a fresh start for them. Soon, mysterious occurrences, all relating to some deaths back when she herself was a student there, begin to present themselves. Seems our heroine, Jane, was roomates with 2 girls who took their lives via drowning in the school lake all those years ago (or so it seems...). Someone clearly blames Jane for a part in their deaths, and copy cat events begin to transpire...

Intriguing plot. I started reading, and honestly, I couldn't wait to get home in the evenings after work and read more. This really kept me on the edge of my seat. I was taken in by the setting, given that it takes place within my own New York State. And all of the mysteries, by way of what really happened to the people that died, as well as other relationship tangles, really grab you. The book starts out with Jane's contemporary perspective, then the middle section takes the reader back to her final two years at the school, when the original deaths of her friends occurred. The third and final segment takes us back to present day, when the mysteries are all resolved. *Very* well done. Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously.

Some cons. The book dragged a bit toward the end. I had figured out a few of the mysteries, and it seemed to take Jane an annoying amount of time to catch up with me. The author also spends a *lot* of time talking about the enigma of the lake, and the process it goes through in order to freeeze over each winter. Certainly, this all contributes to her refined skill of transporting the reader to the setting, but after a while I was sick of all the drawn-out water and ice analogies. Finally, the thing that bugged me the most, by far, was how incredibly stupid the characters acted sometimes in regards to the lake. I know, I know, we're suspending our disbelief for the sake of drama. But COME ON...

"Oh, I know that a fiendish murderer is stalking me. I need to get away from it all and go think. It's 3 am. I think I should wander down to the giant rock that juts out over the icy lake, where at least one other person has fallen in and drowned, and stand right on the edge in order to do this..."

"I'm pissed/terrified/upset/contemplative. I think the best idea is to run right out onto the frozen lake surface despite the fact that temperatures have been rising for weeks..."

In fact, the "people running out onto the frozen (but melting) lake" thing by the end made me so irritated that I found myself yelling at the characters that I simply couldn't feel sorry for them if they were going to act SO STUPID. YOU ARE SO STUPID. STOP BEING SO STUPID. How hard is it to simply stay on land? Apparently quite difficult for our characters, since every single one of them had a bad run-in with the lake in either liquid or frozen form.

That aside, the book is really an attention grabber. Definitely a recommended read.

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