Friday, November 12, 2010

What I've Read This Month...

No More Dying Then, Ruth Rendell This is an Inspector Wexford mystery, sort of -- I mean, he's there, involved in the investigation, but the main focus seemed to be on one of his associates. It's always interesting to go back to the 1960s and earlier in mystery novels and see how the pages just drip with male chauvinism, even from female writers. Sadly, it was too distracting in this book for me to actually say I enjoyed it. And the resolution of the mystery was one of those ludicrous ones where it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the clues that were dropped or the suspects that were interviewed. That's one rule I like followed in my mysteries -- I don't want the ending to come out of left field. So a little off. But the writing was good. You may also remember this as being the "Booger Book" noted in my last entry. Good times!

Loose Lips, Claire Berlinski This one I picked up quite by accident as I was browsing the aisles looking for something else -- well, actually, the second book by this author was displayed with its cover out, and it looked pretty so I picked it up (I judge books by their covers all the time), and it sounded like fun when I read the jacket copy, and then I noticed this one sitting near it and figured I might as well read them both. So glad I did! This was a fun sort of "chick lit" book about a young woman who applies to the CIA sometime in the late 1990s and spends about a year in spy-training camp. She falls in love with a guy we're not meant to trust from the get go, and in the end, she doesn't quite make the cut. But it's a really fun read. Highly recommend this one.

Lion Eyes, Claire Berlinski This is basically kind of a sequel to Loose Lips. A metafiction sequel. If one can do metafiction in smart girl's chick lit. A fictional version of Claire Berlinski is living in Paris, struggling with writers' block following the success of her first novel (Loose Lips). She gets a random email from a man living in Iran one night, asking where he can purchase a copy of her book. She sends him a pdf file of it, and they strike up a correspondence, eventually falling for one another. Claire takes a trip to Istanbul to escape from her writers' block and falls in with an American couple; the wife turns out to be a CIA agent and wants Claire to convince the man she's been corresponding with to spy in Iran on behalf of the United States. I won't spoil the ending, although I kind of wish it had gone differently -- let's just say I'm a sucker for a happy, neat ending. The real Claire Berlinski isn't, though -- she's more a fan of allowing her strong female characters to be enough for themselves, just as they are. They don't need a man. Which is actually fantastic and made me love these two books all the more.

Last Night At Chateau Marmont, Lauren Weisberger I was all set to not like this book a whole lot, and I do have my problems with it, but all in all, I'm really glad I grabbed it off the New Releases tables at the library on my way to the check out desk. I'm just going to say that I hated The Devil Wears Prada (the book -- liked the movie well enough, though), and refused to even entertain the notion of reading Chasing Harry Winston. But this one sounded like a lot of fun because it involved rock stars. Sort of. Our heroine has been married several years to her husband, a musician with a local following; he is catapulted to stardom following an appearance on Jay Leno, and trouble for their marriage follows. They are both such decent, kind human beings that you find yourself rooting for them from the get go, and I will confess that at one point I did have to skip to the last few pages to make sure I was going to get the ending I hoped for. The things I had issues with: the cliche best friend, who wasn't even a very interesting character or sympathetic best friend; the failure to resolve a problem the main character has because of some very bad behavior on her brother's girlfriend's part; and some awkwardness in creating realistic dialogue. Otherwise, it was a really enjoyable read.

Blindman's Bluff, Faye Kellerman This is the latest of Faye Kellerman's Pete Decker detective novels, and it's an entertaining enough installment. I was sad not to see much of Pete and Rina's kids, but the plot was intriguing -- ripped loosely from the headlines as always. I am getting to the point of concern, though, with the casual racism in Ms. Kellerman's work against California's Latino population (all her novels take place in the Los Angeles area). I'm not sure if it's a misguided attempt at portraying the casual racism of some of the peripheral characters, or a poorly written attempt to do the same. Unfortunately, it just comes off as racism in the narrative. If this trend continues in her next book, I'll have to stop reading her stuff.
I've also been reading a bunch of free essays available from Amazon for kindle -- mostly literary criticism, but also some by Bruce Springsteen reflecting on the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, one of my all-time favorite albums. And I'm still making my way through Neil Gabler's Walt Disney, a biography of gargantuan proportions (I believe the print version is around 1000 pages, so I'm really glad to be reading this one on my kindle). It's an excellent work, but it's very detailed and gets a touch dry at times. The chapter on the making of Snow White was weirdly gripping, though. Hopefully I'll have some more time to really sit down with it this weekend, and then I can move on to something else... "something else" being Life, by KEEEEEEEF... er, Keith Richards. I cannot WAIT to read that book!!
Um, not in the same way I cannot wait for the new Harry Potter movie, though. That would just be crazy.

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