Booking Through Thursday: Twisty


On Thursday, January 28th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Jackie says, “I love books with complicated plots and unexpected endings. What is your favourite book with a fantastic twist at the end?”

  1. Do YOU like books with complicated plots and unexpected endings?
  2. What book with a surprise ending is your favorite? Or your least favorite?

Just as auto insurance quote don’t always give you the result you expect, nor do good novels, but it should be noted that a complicated plot means nothing if the characters aren’t well-drawn, and the story well-told. There are great writers who tell fairly simple stories, and great plotters who pretty much suck at storytelling. Given that, however, I do like it when a book surprises me – it doesn’t happen often. I vaguely recall being surprised by Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy, but I don’t remember if the twists came within the meat of the stories or at the end.

There’s a novel called The Stake that was completely twisty (it’s a vampire novel that opens with someone finding a body with a stake in its heart and moves forward and backward in time until the story is made clear. Richard Laymon wrote it, but it’s nothing like any of his other work…sort of melding classic horror conventions with a true crime sensibility.

And then there’s Possession by A. S. Byatt. Byatt is always difficult for me to read, and I’m not sure why…but that novel’s ending really surprised me, and not particularly pleasantly.

Review: The Ghost and the Femme Fatale

The Ghost and the Femme Fatale
The Ghost and the Femme Fatale
by Alice Kimberly
Berkley, 235 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

In the fourth installment of the Haunted Bookshop mysteries, The Ghost and the Femme Fatale, Pen McClure and the ghost of Jack Shepherd are once again teamed up to solve a mystery, this time, a multiple murder centered around old Hollywood, a film festival, and (of course) a tell all book about the sordid history of two actors. I don’t like rehashing plots, especially with mysteries, because even the smallest detail can be a spoiler, but I will say that the Jack/Pen relationship in this one moves into new territory – and I don’t mean HAVC filter maintenance – I’m a bit worried, actually, about where this relationship can go, and how Ms. Kimberly plans to address it, or if she does. Fantasy is nice, after all, but eventually Pen’s going to have to live entirely in the world of the, well, living.

Still, the detective duo works. In the dreamscape representation of Jack’s past, he begins to accept her help, and in the modern waking world, Pen is becoming more and more self-reliant, with Jack’s involvement reduced to cheering her on in more than once scene.

It’s refreshing to see Pen, the woman who still uses her dead husband’s name, standing more on her own feet, and even if the mysteries are sort of predictable, the ghost and Mrs. McClure remain compelling.

A word of advice, though: Never fall for a ghost.

Teaser Tuesdays: Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

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.

Sometimes the most effective diet pill isn’t a pill at all, but a bloody scene involving dead meat and sharp knives. I received Julie Powell’s second book on Tuesday (and why, pray tell, is Amazon suddenly using Velocity Express and requiring signatures?) afternoon, and couldn’t resist peeking at it, even though I have other books in progress, because I loved Julia and Julia, when I originally read it just after it came out in hardcover.

Here, then, even though it’s now Thursday morning, is my “Tuesday Teaser,” from Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, by Julie Powell (page 43):

So I’ve told you a little bit about seams, those networks of filament that both connect muscles and define the boundary between them. Now, the difficulty is that seams can be thick, or they can be thin. The seam of a tenderloin, for instance, is very thin indeed, and therefore hard to follow. It’s easy to lose your way, which is apt to make you nervous, seeing as how the tenderloin is the single most expensive cut of meat on the steer, thirty-nine bucks a pound at Fleisher’s. If you lose the seam in one direction you waste tenderloin, and there’s only something like eight pounds of it per animal. If you lose it in the other direction, especially right at the head of the muscle, what’s called the “chateaubriand,” you cut into the eye of the sirloin, another expensive cut, and one that short-tempered chefs won’t buy mangled. Beginning butchers, needless to say, don’t get assigned to pull out many tenderloins.

Booking Through Thursday: Favorite Unknown


On Thursday, October 29th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…

I don’t know that any of the authors I read are particularly obscure, but I do think both Kathleen Norris and Lauren Willig are underrated. Kathleen Norris’s most famous work is The Cloister Walk which had quite a lot of media coverage when it originally came out, but her other works, most notably Dakota: a Spiritual Geography tend to be underplayed, and her poetry is just amazing. She’s one of the authors I would most like to meet. If you like poetry, consider a copy of Little Girls in Church.

Lauren Willig, on the other hand, is prolific and amazing. I don’t know what kind of anti aging product she keeps hidden in her bathroom, nor do I understand where she finds the energy to be an attorney and write historical novels, about a book a year, in hardcover, but as a long-time fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was instantly hooked on Willig’s work when I picked up, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation several years ago. The newest book in the series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is new this month.

Mini-Review: Decaffeinated Corpse

Decaffeinated Corpse
Decaffeinated Corpse
by Cleo Coyle
Berkley, 288 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

Let’s face it, the recipes in the backs of Cleo Coyle’s coffeehouse mysteries are not exactly keys to quick trim weight loss, but the reality is, as much fun as the recipes are (and I’ve actually tried some of them) it’s the cozy Village Blend coffeehouse and the adventures of cafe manager Clare Cosi that keep us reading.

In Book 5 of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, Clare is investigating her husband’s friend, a coffee grower and playboy from Costa Gravas, who just happens to be the breeder of a decaffeinated coffee plant – as in, no need to water process the beans. There are, of course, corpses in the story, and the mystery this time seemed a bit trickier than the first four novels, but I also read this one out of sequence, since I reviewed another of Ms. Coyle’s books, Holiday Grind in All Things Girl over the holidays.

In that book, the relationship between Clare in NYPD Detective Mike Quinn had become pretty solid; in this one, they shared their first kiss.

As always, Ms. Coyle’s blend of romance, mystery, intrigue, and coffee suits me perfectly when I want light reading.

Mini-Review: The Ghost and the Dead Deb

Ghost and Dead Deb
The Ghost and the Dead Deb
by Alice Kimberly
Berkley, 272 Pages
Get it from Amazon >>

Reading about dead debutante’s is not exactly the way to lose weight fast. I mean, skinny rich girls, even when they’re corpses, are hardly good role models. Fortunately, I don’t read Alice Kimberly’s haunted bookshop novels for fitness inspiration, but to be entertained, and this book succeeded wildly in its humble mission.

In this, the third outing for Penelope McClure and the ghost of Jack Shepherd, we have drug abuse, fickle lovers, fashionistas, and, of course, a mystery of how one pretty rich girl became the latest in a pair of connected murders.

As always, while the mystery is enjoyable, the developing Jack/Pen relationship is why I read, and in this installment the friendship between ghost and bookseller continues to deepen.

Am I the only person wishing a haunted bookshop was in my neighborhood?

Mini-Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Art of Racing in the Rain
The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein
Harper, 321 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

I have such a backlog of books to review that there are likely to be endless days of me sitting up late writing little blurbs until the dark circles under my eyes are permanent. Well, I’ve always had minor goth tendencies.

In any case, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a lovely, sad book by Garth Stein about a dog, his person, and the concept of the souls we love never truly leaving us. It’s told as much from the dog’s perspective as the man’s, and I’ve had to put it down more than once while reading it because it was too close to issues with some of my own dogs.

If you love animals, and can stand a good cry, this novel is worth a read.

In Memoriam: Robert B. Parker

robert b parker

Photo Credit: John Earle

I confess that my first introduction to the wonderful fictional detective Spenser was not via Robert B. Parker’s books, but through the television show, Spenser: For Hire. which I watched when I was – well, I’m not sure how young I was – definitely before I ever even considered purchasing anti wrinkle eye cream.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school, however, Spenser and I had been more properly introduced, and I was hooked on Parker’s words and images, plots and characters. I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers, and the Spenser novels were a nice bridge between the cozies I began with and the analyticals I also enjoy. They’re a wonderful mix of poetic rhythms and gritty reality – and their popularity is a testament to the man who wrote them.

A series of novels, isn’t a bad legacy, as things go.

I don’t have the kind of reader’s connection with Mr. Parker that I had with Madeleine L’Engle or Douglas Adams, but I mourn the loss of Robert B. Parker, nevertheless.

Escape into a Good Book

It’s been so cold lately – and by cold I mean “there’s a sheet of ICE across my swimming pool” – that those advertisements for weekend getaways to cancun mexico are looking awfully tempting. Of course, I still feel kind of, well, craptastic, and I can’t afford a trip right now, anyway, so instead I’ve been reading a lot.

Currently, I’m reading:
Decaffeinated Corpse, by Cleo Coyle
Whom God Would Destroy, by Commander Pants

I tend to have more than one book going at once, and I promised the Commander I’d read this book in October or November, then lost it in the house, then had food poisoning, and now I think I’m getting the flu, so I’m not reading as quickly as I usually do, and I don’t have a lot of stamina, either. When I AM reading, lately, things that are familiar and formulaic are the easiest. Hence my current addiction to cozy mysteries.

I always have one book in progress that I keep near the tub, strictly for bathtub reading. My bubble book, at the moment, is The Summer Kitchen, by Karen Weinreb, which I bought MONTHS ago – MANY months ago, and just wasn’t in the mood for once I got it home. (Does that happen to anyone else?)

On Deck, I have:
The Ghost and Femme Fatale
The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion

which are the last two novels (so far) in Alice Kimberly’s Haunted Bookshop series.

And on that note, I’m going to curl up with a good book, and read until I’m ready to sleep.

Happy Reading!