02 September 2007

August Book Report

I was surprised when I realized that I had read four books in August - maybe because it was just too flippin' hot to do much of anything else!

Lethally Blonde, by Kate White. I have read the other mysteries written by Kate White, who is also known as the editor of Cosmopolitan (which I seldom, if ever look at), and have really enjoyed them. Her heroine, Bailey Weggins, is a journalist who finds herself embroiled in murder mysteries on a regular basis, and although they are not classic literature, the writing is enjoyable to read, and the characters are usually funny or snarky, or both. So I was looking forward to this one.

Well, it was a big disappointment. It just seemed to me that in this book, Bailey spends more time thinking about having sex, or having sex, than she does thinking about/doing anything else. There are two men that she is involved with, and though they have a reason to be included, the main plot gets kinda pushed aside so that we can be privy to Bailey's thoughts about each man, and so that we can read passages that are entirely too long about the two of them having sex. Now, you may say, "Well what do you expect from the editor of Cosmo?" I expected something like her earlier books in the series, where Bailey has boyfriends, and yes, she does have sex with them in the course of the book, but she spends more of her time trying to resolve personal issues and solve murders in a highly amusing way.

But I may have hit the end of the road here.

Dance of the Happy Shades, by Alice Munro. This book was one for the Book Awards Reading Challenge, and it won the Governor General's Award in Canada during 1982. The book is a collection of short stories, all of which take place in rural Canada. The stories cover pretty much every aspect of life, death, and relationships within families. This is the first I had ever read anything by Alice Munro, and I will definitely seek out more of her writing.

I found the stories to be extremely evocative of time and place, and Munro takes several chances by making some of the primary characters somewhat unlikable. Though set in a different place from where I live, the themes resonated, as I think she was able to capture the thoughts and feelings that all of us have had from time to time.

The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende. I have had this book on my shelf for a few years, and decided I would read it as part of the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge. Set in Chile, the story is of the del Valle and Trueba families, who are joined by marriage. The main character, Clara, can commune with spirits, and can predict the future. Her elder sister Rosa, was originally meant to marry Esteban Trueba, but she dies before they can be wed. Years later, Esteban marries Clara, and the book is about their life together, their children, grandchildren, and the changes that take place in the country throughout their lives.

This book was different than what I was expecting, but I loved it! The language is not just evocative, but at times mesmerizing (like Clara is to some of her friends and family!). Knowing/remembering some of the details of Allende's father's rule in Chile, it was interesting to see how she portrayed certain characters, particularly those in government positions, and the individuals who worked to make the general population aware of what was happening in the country.

This particular passage struck me when I read it, and has stuck with me since finishing the book:

She did not understand the state of civil war, nor did she realize that war is the soldiers' work of art, the culmination of all their training, the gold medal of their profession. Soldiers are not made to shine in times of peace. The coup gave them the chance to put into practice what they had learned in their barracks: blind obedience, the use of arms, and other skills that soldiers can master once they silence the scruples of their hearts.

I don't know about you, but as for me - wow.

Some Danger Involved, by Will Thomas. This one was recommended to me by The Tim, who read it shortly before I did. We seldom read the same things, particularly around the same time, but he said he thought I'd like this one, and I did. The title comes from an advertisement in a London newspaper during Victorian times. Cyrus Barker, a detective ("enquiry agent") is seeking an assistant, and the ad warns that there is "some danger involved." Thomas Llewelyn, a young man down on his luck, applies for the job, and is hired. The first case he assists with involves the murder of a young Jewish man by crucifixion.

This book is a really enjoyable read. The two main characters are well-drawn, and interesting in and of themselves. The book is told from Llewelyn's standpoint, and some of his observations are not just interesting, but also pretty amusing. Victorian London is described in the daytime as an appealing, bustling place, but a dark, threatening place at night.

Thomas references actual historical figures in the story, which - to me at least - made it more interesting. He manages to keep you as interested in the secondary characters that are involved in the story as you are in the two main characters. The ending had a real twist as far as I'm concerned. (Though in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I'm almost always unaware of "whodunit" until they are actually exposed!)

I enjoyed this one enough that I am looking forward to reading the next one in the series.


Unknown said...

The Will Thomas book sounds really good! I'm adding that to my tbr list. Thanks for the review.

Carol said...

A book written by the editor of Cosmo is filled with sex?

I am shocked.