Monday, February 7, 2011

Reading Roundup

I'm currently cycling through some meh fiction titles but my reading over the last six weeks has included some enjoyable stuff. A few of them were review books so I'll post links to those later but below is a little roundup of what I've read recently and haven't posted about:

Title: Dark Alliance
Author: Gary Webb
Publisher: Seven Stories Press (1998)

I guess I did post a bit about the stranger than fiction aspect of this topic but I'm back to say again that this is a book worth reading. It's hard to know where to begin with how great this book is but if you've ever wondered just what was going on with the Contras, or just where the heck all that cocaine came (comes) from, when and how crack became popular (and how it was dealt so successfully in South Central L.A. and other inner cities), the value our government places on life, or how little you can depend on mass media then this is the book for you.

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Title: One for the Money
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: Scribner (1994)

This is one of my picks for the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge so a review will be coming whenever I get around to it.

rating: coming soon(er or later)

Title: These Old Shades
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: reprinted by Sourcebooks Casablanca (2009)

Ah, Heyer, how you comfort me. This is set before Devil's Cub and is more serious in tone than my favorite Heyers but I still enjoyed it. I also re-read April Lady just cuz.

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Vintage (2006)

This is very well written but a little outside what I like to read. I got through about half of it. Let's just say "metaphysical" and sgwordy do not often spend time together. It's not that I don't get it, it's that I just don't care. My book club members really liked it though so there's something here for someone, just not me.

rating: DNF

Title: The Sentry
Author: Robert Crais
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (2011)

The latest Joe Pike novel and worth a read if you're into the series. I had some quibbles that I'm too lazy to list here but they definitely kept it in the realm of 'enjoyable because I like Crais and Pike' and not shooting to the top of my RC favorites list. I'm curious what other RC fans thought of this one...

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: The Heretic's Wife
Author: Brenda Rickman Vantrease
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (2010)

I'm all over historical fiction that takes a little known historical figure and creates a life for her/him but this did not grab me. I never really got that much into any of the characters and felt everyone's ending was pretty obvious from the get-go (and, no, I didn't know the history beforehand:).

And I remain irritated at all these titles about someone's wife or daughter. They have names, you know!

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Title: Bury Me Deep
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2009)

A much better job of taking historical figures and creating a story for them. In this case, there was a lot more information available regarding the actual people but this story is still very much Abbott's. I especially liked how this was not only thriller/noir but also very much contained a psychodrama theme that was well done.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

What have you been reading lately?


  1. Re: THE SENTRY, I'm in the 3 -3.5 star realm. Not in the top echelon of Elvis & Joe. I enjoy how it started, but not how it ended. I thought it ended too quickly, like it needed more exposition (especially with the Daniel character). It felt rushed at times (perhaps by Putnam editor's to get another Joe Pike into publication?). Your thoughts? Thanks, Rachel.

  2. Hi Rachel!

    That Dark Alliance sounds really interesting...and probably a bit disheartening. I'll have to find that one. I've got Power of the Dog sitting on my TBR pile.

    I made the mistake of reading the Stephanie Plum series all together. As a lot doesn't change after the first 3 books, that was a mistake. However, I will continue to check these out of the library, because there is always a scene or two that makes me laugh out loud. What I would classify as good beach reading.

    I've seen or read a recommendation for Georgette Heyer before and thought I should give her a try. Any recos on which I should start with?

    The Sentry rated about the same for me. Felt like a short story drawn out, if that makes any sense. My husband felt the same.

    Bury Me Deep is another in my TBR pile.

    As for my other recent reads, I enjoyed being introduced to P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench for book club.

    Thanks for the roundup, Rachel!

  3. Speaking of books, I seem to recall that you read Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series. I'm a fan as well. Did you hear that Ms. Franklin (sorry, I can only recall her pseudonym at the moment) passed away recently?

  4. I really enjoyed THESE OLD SHADES; the public suicide is one of the best climactic scenes ever. Though it may sound strange after writing that, Heyer is indeed great comfort reading. During times of great stress, I find myself easily retreating into the worlds she created.

    THE SENTRY: I, too, had quibbles. Some to do with how easily Joe gave away a piece of his heart, but more to do with how things like how Joe could almost sense Daniel's presence without even knowing who he was, while letting that ex-Fed get the drop on him. There were some other things like that, things that just felt not right. So I go with le0, 3-3.5. Not every book can be a winner, but Crais has estab'd an enormous amount of credit with me, so I still look forward to the next one.

  5. Forgot to add, I was very much impressed with BURY ME DEEP. Abbott has always a wealth of detail on and insight to noir at her command, but with this book it's as if all of that has taken a supporting role to a really compelling voice and style.

  6. re: The Sentry - I also felt it was a tad rushed. Additionally (and this is spoilerific) I was really excited to see Joe faced with knowledge that challenged his ethical obligation in mission commitment and I thought that avenue of potential conflict and growth was completely side-stepped. And I completely agree with Naomi, I thought Joe falling for the woman was too hard, too fast (though she had some characterisitics that I feel are in line with what Joe would be susceptible to) and the ex-Fed was so obvious that even I picked up on it and I never do that. And of course I'll read the next one, RC would have to eff up royally to lose me now. :)

    Christine - Your TBR pile has some nice reading in store for you. :) I doubt I'll read any other Plum books. They are just not my type. Def beach read if it was the type I was into. As for Heyer, I have so many recs but all in the historical fiction/romance category. I don't read her mysteries. Her romances are almost exclusively comedy (sometimes drama) of manners. She is fantastic at capturing period sentimentality and tone. Also, she has explored every type of hero and heroine so if you don't like the first you read then def give another a try before walking away. THE GRAND SOPHY makes me laugh out loud and gives you a good idea of how she orchestrates her supporting characters and brings her protags together. And, again, I agree with Naomi, even with the public suicide THESE OLD SHADES still has Heyer's comfort. I hadn't heard about Franklin and am so sad to hear it. I was just recently looking for book updates at her website and nothing was posted at that time. What very sad news.

    Naomi - What an excellent perspective on BURY ME DEEP. I would not have thought to express it that way but it's perfectly correct. Thanks for adding that!

  7. You are so right...whatever issues I had with THE SENTRY are a loooooong way from keeping from reading RC. :-D

    Thanks for the Heyer recommendations! ;-)