Laurie R. King
I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan for as long as I can remember, first because I read the stories, and second because of the Granada Television series starring (the late) Jeremy Brett. Because my reading patterns tend to be immersion-style (I read everything I can find by one author, all at once, then move on), when I was introduced to Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, I read the first three over the space of a weekend. I bought The Moor, started it, then apparently didn’t finish it – probably my reading mood changed mid-way through.
I finally picked it up again the other night, needing something to distract me for a while, and I finished it this morning. As with all the Mary Russell novels it’s fairly formulaic, but then, the original Holmes stories were, as well. The lead character – Holmes protege and wife, several decades his junior – is a bit too perfect at times. Yes, she gets hurt, but she still comes off as a Mary Sue too often. Still, the novels are enjoyable, written in a style very like the original Arthur Conan Doyle creations.
One note: While they can be read singly, these novels are full of in-jokes and references to previous adventures. If you haven’t read the original canon, or if you don’t read these books in order, much of it won’t make sense.
It’s always a little scary reading a book by someone you know – what if you don’t like it? In the case of The Marysburg Chronicles: Critical Mass, that worry was gone by the second page.
The thriller part of the story had me going almost to the end, the romance had me rooting for the leads to finally get together, and the science involved was plausible. The details of the Mankato and Madison areas were vivid. I could feel the humidity of summer, hear the endless prairie wind.
The title implies there may be further Chronicles – I really hope that’s the case.
I don’t usually read series out of order, but I’d picked up the sequel to this book a bit over a week ago, when some woman standing next to me in the bookstore recommended it. It was funny and interesting, so I went back to find the first book in the series.
Ladies with Options tells the story of the founding of the Larksdale Ladies and their investment club – how they begin after being told they’ll have almost no financial cushion once they or their husbands retire, and how they decide to take matters into their own hands.
It’s the beginning of the ’80’s and personal computers in every house aren’t yet a reality. The Ladies have a young college student they are mentoring, who is taking computer science classes, and suggests they look at these new companies called Dell and Microsoft, and invest in them.
It’s fairly easy to predict what happens. The side stories of the Ladies are not so predictable – one has a marriage that must be rebuilt, one discovers her sexuality, and one finds true love.
This novel is a lovely light read, if you want a book that will make you laugh and cheer.
Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.
–from Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, by James Patterson
Sometimes chick-lit can be completely engaging and entertaining. A perfect example of this is Catching Alice, the story of a young woman who loses her boyfriend and her job, and is dragged to LA for a life-makeover.
While some of the situations stretch the envelope of plausability, the dialogue is good, and the depiction of the Hollywood publicity game is completely believable.
Carrie Karasyov & Jill Kargman
I picked this up as an impulse buy because I’d seen a blurb about it in some magazine that compared it to The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada both of which I enjoyed for the guilty pleasure froth they are.
Alas, this book is nothing like either of those. Yes, it’s about a similar segment of society, but the characters in Prada and Nanny Diaries were at least reasonably three-dimensional, and there were some moments of normalcy.
The characters in this book are total cartoons, and there are no real moments of connection. It’s better, I suppose, than reading the back of the tampon box, but not by much.
When I want to read a good story that includes not just a plot, but also fashion and other girly stuff, I pick chick-lit books. Marian Keyes’ Sushi for Beginners is just such a book. I finished it last night, and wanted more.
It’s fairly typical for the genre – women protagonists in their late twenties and early thirties, seeking better jobs and stable relationships, while wearing fabulous clothes and getting manicures. This time, the story is set in Ireland, and involves starting a new women’s magazine.
The characters were fairly realistic, and there were some sections that were moving, albeit in a predictably pc sort of way.
Anne Rivers Siddons
We all have “guilty pleasure” authors – Anne Rivers Siddons is one of mine.
I’ve just finished her most recent novel, Islands, and while I have to agree that it’s not her best work, it was still an enjoyable read. She’s returned to the South Carolina Low Country she loves so much, which means that even when you hate the characters, you love the houses they live in, and even when the plot gets rather cheesey, you can still feel the sea breezes and smell the sand, and feel the humidity.
People are often surprised that I read Siddons’ work, because her target demographic is really my mother’s generations, but there’s something compelling about her tragic heroines in their weathered beach houses. Though, admittedly, my favorite of her novels didn’t take place anywhere near a beach.
This novel tells the story of a group of friends – doctors and their wives – who own a Low Country beach house together. It’s fairly typical beach reading: entangled relationships, personal tragedy, a dash of romance. It’s not as meaty as, say, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but I’d still recommended it.
I picked this up about a week ago in Barnes and Noble, not because it grabbed me, but because the woman standing next to me said, “That was a really great read. I always wonder if things are any good, so I’ve decided to tell people when I see them looking for new things to read.”
I thought that was delightful, and I recommended The Red Tentin return, since it was sitting on the same table.
In any case, Ladies With Prospects is the second book to feature the Larksdale Ladies Investment Club, a group on Minnesota women who formed an investement club back in book one, and since then have made it big, and are now controlling stockholders of a company in the midst of the tech boom from a few years back.
It was a fast novel, well written, and funny in spots, and the characters were believable, especially if you’ve ever spent time in the midwest. I definitely recommend it as a summer novel, because it’s light without being stupid. And I liked it enough to go back and find the first book.
I picked up Bee Season not long after I’d finished reading The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, but, as happens, I didn’t read it for a long while later.
It’s a stark story about a young girl who is looking for something to excel at, something to pull her away from a rather tragic, and extremely dysfunctional home life. She finds it in the form of a spelling bee, which she wins on a fluke.
I had a hard time reading this book, because the lack of communication among the family members made me want to throttle them, and because the depression in it is completely unrelenting.