Review: Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, by Jennie Shortridge

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe
Jennie Shortridge
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When I first picked up Love and Biology… at Half Price Books, I thought it would be exactly the kind of read I was looking for. After all, it’s about a woman who flees her troubled marriage and goes to work in a popular bakery/cafe in Seattle. “Oh,” I thought, “there will be rain and coffee and romance and she’ll find herself and be independent.”

Well there is rain, and coffee, and romance, but somehow this novel isn’t quite what I hoped. I mean – I don’t hate it, I just think the characters need depth. Mira Serafino, for example, is very much a stereotype of Italian-American women of a certain age (one older than my own), with a young daughter (young but grown – we’re beyond the age of acne treatments), a teaching position she doesn’t seem to particularly like, and a marriage in which she’s grown complacent, and her identity seems completely centered on home and hearth.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I was hoping for something in the vein of Bread Alone and got something more like Francesca’s Kitchen.

So I did what I always do when a book doesn’t fit: I set it aside to re-read later. I picked it up again recently because I needed bathtub reading, and was able to get more into Mira’s story – and the coffee shop scenes are well written, but I can’t shake the feeling that this book could have been something more, or that I’m missing the point.

Coming Soon: Julie & Julia – the Movie!

I never formally reviewed Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell, but I’ve read it twice and recommended to friends who like to read and friends who like to cook. In fact, it inspired me to read Julia Child’s My Life in France, as well.

I’ve been hearing murmurs about the upcoming movie for a while, but kept forgetting to look for trailers. I just did, and found out that the trailer was released on April 29th, and the movie is coming on August 7th, just ten days before my birthday. I shall consider it an early birthday present, especially as it stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

But don’t take my word for it, watch the trailer:

Booking through Thursday: Unreading


Booking through Thursday asks:

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?

While I’m generally a fan of Neil Gaiman, his book American Gods, which many think is his seminal work, really disturbed me, and I’d happily erase certain scenes from my memory if I could.

Was the book bad? No. I just didn’t enjoy it.

I also hated Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, because it is, quite possibly, the most unrelentingly dark and depressing novella ever published, and reading it made me feel slimy and grimy, and I had to take a bubble bath AND a shower in order to feel better.

Review: Justice Hall, by Laurie R. King

Justice Hall
Laurie R. King
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My Holmes/Russell reading fest draws to a temporary close with Justice Hall, which, while much later than O Jerusalem in terms of internal chronology, is nonetheless a direct sequel.

In this novel, Holmes and Russell are called to the aid of friends originally met in Palestine, Mahmoud and Ali, who are now back home in the English personalities, and dealing with all the angst and politics that large, wealthy families seem to corner the market on. There aren’t any mentions of modern diseases like mesothelioma, but there are hunting parties, hidden relatives, and even a severe case of sepsis.

It includes many of the favorite elements of all these novels – snarky comments from Mary, wry observation from Holmes, a near-perfect period setting, and great disguises. And, like all of King’s work in this series, leaves the reader wanting more.

I’ve noticed that when I read King’s work the Holmes I hear in my head speaks in Jeremy Brett’s voice, and I think that proves the excellence of her work.

Review: Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris

Dead and Gone
Charlaine Harris
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In this, the ninth novel in the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, and the second to take place post-Katrina (unlike the HBO series True Blood, which takes place entirely post-Katrina), we are given lots of big information that we didn’t have before, and we witness some huge events.

The book opens with the Big Reveal – the national coming out day for weres and shape-shifters, and as it happens on tv, it also happens in Sam’s bar, with him displaying his prowess at becoming a collie.

Of course, this light scene is a tease, because we are almost immediately confronted with the sight of Sookie’s brother’s estranged wife strung up – no not on a column of industrial hand wheels – but on a cross.

Of course, Jason is the prime suspect, but Sookie is sure he didn’t do it, and while she tries to solve the mystery – and preserve her own skin – we are treated to a significant amount of information about her great-grandfather the Faerie, and given more than glimpse into Eric’s backstory.

Of course, it’s all wrapped in the fast-paced, quip-laden action and dialogue we’ve come to expect.

Dead and Gone is a fast read…but a good one.

Teaser Tuesday: Justice Hall, by Laurie R. King

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

As I’m still on my Holmes/Russell kick, it should come as no surprise that this week’s teaser comes from Justice Hall. Speaking of “kicks” – I’m kicking myself for not picking up the Sherlock Holmes box set of DVDs when it was on sale at Circuit City before they went out of business.

In any case, here are my teasers:

“And over the week-end, particularly when the house guests arrive, listen and watch closely. Map out currents, as it were. And before you protest that you do not know what we are looking for, I am aware of that minor problem, and can only trust that you have sufficient mental flexibility to work a case that is not yet a case.” He swung the rucksack over his shoulder, and then, with his hand on the door-knob, paused. “But, Russell? Watch yourself. I believe that as the investigation develops, we will find that these placid waters have been concealing any number of powerful tides.”
from Justice Hall, p. 74, by Laurie R. King

Review: Pretty in Plaid, by Jen Lancaster

Pretty in Plaid
Jen Lancaster
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If reading Jen Lancaster’s last book, Such a Pretty Fat resulted in the loss of three pounds, without the use of weight loss pills, her most recent offering, Pretty in Plaid, led me to clean out my closet.

Or at least, it would have, if I could have put the book down, and if I wasn’t so easily distracted.

In this book, Jen gives us a pre-quel, of sorts, for it begins with Jen as a little kid, and ends just before the publication of her very first book, Bitter is the New Black, and every chapter centers around her favorite outfit or fashion trend of the era in question.

She also gives us the truth of the world, at least for many women: It’s not “you are what you eat.” It’s “you are what you wear.”

As funny, acerbic, and brilliantly observant as always, this book will have you reaching for your high school picture to show people that yes, you really dressed that way, too.

Review: The Moor, by Laurie R. King

The Moor
Laurie R. King
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My marathon of Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell series reached The Moor last night, and left it this morning. When I’m not sleeping, I’ve been reading, though mainly in fits and starts.

In any case, this book is sort of a loose sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is, of course canon Holmes, in that it takes place in and near Dartmoor, and involves Baskerville Hall, but it it’s not JUST about that.

Instead, this novel sees Holmes bringing Mary to see his old friend the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who lives at Lew House, and is near death (of old age), and wants Holmes to track down the strange appearances of a ghostly carriage and a ghostly dog. Of course this dog and the Baskerville Hound become intertwined, and the investigation involves both Holmes and Mary Russell (who are married by now) getting wet, dirty, and injured.

Need a refresher course on the original story? Since you’re presumably already at your desktop or laptop computer in order to read this, you can click over to YouTube where someone has put up the Granada television series version of The Hound of the Baskervilles in several parts.

Here’s part one to get you started:

Review: Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

Best Intentions
Emily Listfield
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Lisa Barkley, PR representative with a stalled career, mother of two girls who attend private schools didn’t seem at first to be a character I would like when I cracked open Best Intentions, the new novel by Emily Listfield.

I was wrong.

She may have two kids in elite schools, but she and her husband Sam work hard to put them there, and while never see her in a gym riding ellipticals, the fact that she has no great love of tone-y Pilates studios warmed my heart.

If there is a genre called “cozy thriller” this book is it’s poster-child. At the beginning of the novel, it seems like straightforward women’s fiction – Lisa intercepts a phone message on her husband’s cell phone and fears he’s having an affair.

When her best friend is found dead shortly thereafter, layers unfold, revealing many petals of mystery: the takeover at Lisa’s job, the stability of husband Sam’s journalism career, and, of course, the apparent murder of longtime friend Dierdre.

On the other hand, there’s still a very human thread – that of Lisa’s relationship with her older daughter.

At the end, this novel is gripping, both for it’s glimpse into a certain class of New Yorkers and for the mystery itself.