Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wait, it couldn't really have taken me almost three effing weeks to read The Night Life Of The Gods by Thorne Smith, right? Right? Man, that's lame. Sorry about that. It started out as so amusing and satirical and I loved Daffy and her uncle Hunter and the family dynamic and was excited to get to the whole bringing the Greek gods to life thing, but it started dragging on and on and Hunter and Meg didn't even hit the museum until past the halfway mark and by the time I got there, I'd lost any momentum and my rational thinking started up, so my reading slowed. When the book finally did get to the gods, they lacked depth and were each reduced to one or two buffoonish personality quirks, which disappointed me quite a bit. Plus Daffy, the character I liked the most, and her family, who were good foils, virtually disappeared for a good third of the book, and the descriptions of the chaos created by the gods newly brought to life was exhausting and a little horrifying, considering my idea of a good party is inviting a couple of people over for pizza followed by a game of Stock Market Tycoon (true story). That's not to say I didn't enjoy a good part of the book or that it didn't give me anything to think about. For instance, I found Hunter and Meg's conversation about the nature of wicked people (and those desperately pretending to be wicked because it was fashionable) to be insightful and still very much relevant, but there wasn't enough of that kind of deeper satire. So, while it made me laugh, I think I'll stick with Evelyn Waugh instead.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

It seems you can't mention Raymond Chandler without also talking about James M. Cain, and since I love Chandler, I decided it was high time I checked him out. The Postman Always Rings Twice was the first one I picked to read and it won't be my last. It's a swift moving story of a drifter who lucks into a job at a rest stop where he begins an affair with the wife of the owner and soon is conspiring with her to kill her husband. So far I prefer Chandler (how can you not love Marlowe?), but I'm still looking forward to reading some more of Cain's books.

I've been meaning to read Jess Walter's books for a while now, but finally got around to them this past weekend when I raced through Over Tumbled Graves. There's an obvious Ridley Pearson comparison to be made, especially in the romantic subplot between two detectives, but there are definitely worse writers to bring to mind. It was funny and thrilling and I didn't even have time to speculate about the identity of the killer because I was so caught up in the action. I'm so happy to discover another good mystery writer!

I read The Queen Of Cool by Cecil Castellucci on the bus ride home earlier this week. It's a cute, but not terribly deep, book about what happens when the most popular girl in school suddenly realizes she's bored with her friends and her life and with being unhappy. She impulsively signs up for an extra credit science internship at the zoo and slowly discovers her true self.

The reason why I finally checked out Jess Walter is because I picked up Land Of The Blind for $1 at the SF library book sale, but it was a sequel and I hate reading books out of order. While Over Tumbled Graves was an above average mystery, Land Of The Blind was even better. A man who won't give his name is brought in to the police station and says he needs to confess to a murder that hasn't been discovered yet. He refuses to say who is dead, but begins writing his confession. We get this confession, which begins all the way back with the bullies at his elementary school bus stop, interspersed with a burnt out Detective Caroline Mabry just trying to keep it together while she looks for who it is he murdered. Along the way we get a fascinating portrait of Spokane as a city where everyone has one foot out the door. It was fantastic and I can't wait to read his other books.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'm behind again because I hit a streak of really excellent, involving books that pinned me to the couch until I finished. First of them was The Dead Hour by Denise Mina, who is just all around awesome. Seriously, I went to one of her readings and she was so funny and smart and interesting that I wished we could be friends and hang out all the time. Plus she had on great shoes. Anyway. This book is the second in her excellent Paddy Meehan series and it might even be better than the first one. The economic milieu is fascinating and a source of believable tension in Paddy's family as she struggles to hold on to her job during a management change at the paper. Meanwhile she wrestles with ethical concerns, her burgeoning love life, and, oh yeah, a horrible murder that the police seem to want to avoid solving.

Then I read Eat The Document by Dana Spiotta, which follows a woman who went underground after a protest action in the early 1970s interspersed with chapters about her and her son and various other characters in the 1990s. It presents an interesting juxtaposition of protest styles and types of activism and the consequences of those actions without being preachy or obvious about it. I loved the characters, especially Mary's music-obsessed son, and the writing was lovely. I definitely recommend it.

And yesterday I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, which reminded me again that there is a definite difference between predictable and inevitable. Camille is sent by her Chicago paper back to her small Missouri hometown to cover the unsolved murders of two little girls, which forces her to face the truth about her own damaged past. At no time was I in doubt as to the identity of the killer or what really happened to Camille's sister, but the knowledge didn't make me impatient or detract from the ominous tone that builds as the novel progresses.


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