Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend Book Reviews

I had a very exciting and busy weekend in which I managed to read no less than five paperback novels. Yes! Five! Well, actually, it doesn't really count as five because I started one on Thursday and finished one today. Still, I am rather proud of my inert self and besides I also managed to work on Saturday and take the dogs hiking on Sunday morning and clean half the house. But I grant you I spent a lot of time burning brain cells with the kind of literature that has a lot in common with crack cocaine: it's widely available, addictive as hell and destroys your brain and finer instincts. Oh well! Here are some synopses and reviews for anyone who might want to emulate this kind of weekend trick.

Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris. This is the Sookie Stackhouse lady of True Blood fame and can I just say, ick. She should stick with vampires. This one, instead of the undead, has an uptight independently wealthy librarian protagonist in a small town around Atlanta somewhere and a dumb murder - really dumb - and of course there are all kinds of men who are madly in love with her and there's one steamy-ish sex scene. I have pretty much completely forgotten this one already and that's okay. As I said on mecha today, I eat them like candy and forget them like dreams.

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. Yeah, this one pretty much sucks too. I read another one in this series by mistake (this is the problem with the grab 'em and go Goodwill approach to picking books) a few months back and it was confusing and not very good. But I'm a glutton for punishment, apparently, and this is I think the first one in the series; it's even more confusing. Anyway, the important part is that get this, after most people die off of some kind of tomato plague (I am not making this up) then the vampires and pixies and stuff all come out of hiding wherever it was they were hiding for all of however long it's been since anybody has seen one. Also, while this is going on, somehow, it totally becomes normal to murder employees who quit their jobs. It's like a Republican dream come true, basically, with pixies. Did I mention the pixies?

A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton. A hardboiled murder mystery set in hardboiled and cold Michigan where everybody is pretty much hard boiled and, um, I don't believe in any of them. I was sure throughout the book that the protagonist was going to turn out to be psycho and the murderer but he wasn't and it was somebody else and, la, whatever. No to the weird small ugly millionaire and no to his horny wife and no to the incredibly wonderful bartender and his wonderful nonexistent bar that might as well be written by Spider Robinson except then it would be more realistic. This book won a bunch of awards although I could not tell you why.

The Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters. This is an old old book and I have read it before because I love Ellis Peters and I love Brother Cadfael and I love their perfect beautiful medieval world where murder barely disturbs the peace and the birds singing and the faith and the pastoral analogies. Ah, you can just sink into these things and not only feel better when you come out but actually learn a little something about 13th century Britain and Wales. Which, you know, is a subject that comes up all the time.

Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. I also love James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux but for completely different reasons than I love Brother Cadfael. His books have a deeply loopy inner core that I can never quite figure out and I'm never sure if it's that the plots don't actually make much sense or just that I'm not all thtat good at plots. Or possibly it is because I do not live in either New Orleans or Montana and I'm not convinced that everyone is all that venal. I don't care though because once he goes into one of those four page mystical rants I'm completely sold. This is an early one and some day I'm going to read them all in order to try to make some sense out of Dave Robicheaux although I have a feeling it's going to bug me because, like a child in a sitcom, he's either not aging at all or aging too fast: I can't tell which. Sometimes that unnerves me, because people who never leave their forties and yet are not undead unnerve me, but, whatever, as long as he goes on writing paragraphs about the color of the water in the marshes, I'll go on reading.

ADDENDUM: I forgot one! There was another book and this one was the best if by best you mean most action packed and highly ridiculous yet containing a local angle. It was the inimitable Bloodstone, by Gwen Hunter, which I thought originally was called Gwen Bloodstone Hunter, due to a tragic failure of cover design. It's set in WNC and the protagonist is a jewelry designer who hangs out at gem and mineral shows and lives in a fabulous loft in, I think, Highlands, because it's the only town outside Asheville that could conceivably support not just one but three high end jewelry designers with fabulous lofts, although, hey, verisimilitude is just not what this book is about. The protagonist doesn't like to swear so she says stupid shit like Spit and Decay! instead, which little rhetorical trick gets old by about, oh, page 2. She's from a psychic family from the lowcountry, which is to say, she's probably related to me except for the actually being usefully psychic instead of just neurotic part. Her fabulously wealthy fabulous brother (everyone and everything is fabulous in this book) gets kidnapped and there are firefights and gold up on the mountain and an Eeeeevil Guvvermint Plot and a Wise Old Auntie and a Perfect Gay Best Friend and the whole thing is totally unbelievable but at least it is fun and not so horrifically written (except for the swearing part, I mean, fuck that shit) that you want to throw it across the room.

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