BOOK & BLOG
February 17, 2009
I know the B&B has been irregular the past few weeks. Blame the variable weather, which has had my sinuses in a tizzy, and my heavy writing schedule. I’ve accumulated quite a few books since my last entry, so here we go.
Books of the Week:
Dana Stabenow is one of the most consistently sound writers in the mystery world. I haven’t read an entry in the Kate Shugak books that hasn’t been excellently plotted, true to the characters, and thorough in its details about the day-to-day facts of living in the bush in Alaska. For those of you who would rather listen to books than read them, this series is fabulous on tape or cd. Dana writes other books as well, but the Shugak ones are my favorites. These can be read out of order (I certainly did), but like most series, they’re probably more fun to read in order. Check out Dana’s website for all the titles.
THE WHEEL MAN is another shocker by Duane Swierczynski. If you like Charlie Huston, you’ll like Swierczynski. Their works are similar in being short, violent, and having a kinetic graphic art quality. THE WHEEL MAN is wonderful crime novel dealing mainly with Lennon, whose specialty is driving the escape car for robbers. Following a bank job, the escape goes terribly wrong, and the catastrophes just keep piling up. It’s like watching a train wreck you just can’t stop reading.
Anton Strout’s first book, DEAD TO ME, was an antic romp featuring psychometrist Simon Canderous. Simon, now working in the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, feels the secrets piling up around him. Something is fishy in the department, and maybe with his girlfriend, too. If you enjoyed Strout’s first book, you’ll really enjoy this one.
Harlan Coben and I have known each other for many years. I loved his early work, the Myron Bolitar mysteries, which featured one of the best psychotic sidekicks ever invented. I also rooted enthusiastically for Myron’s awful girlfriend to bite the dirt. But for the past few years, Coben has been leaping to the top of bestseller lists with his thrillers. HOLD TIGHT is one of the best. Coben’s specialty is taking a sensitive white collar worker and putting that guy into a vise. Then he squeezes. Coben’s plotting ability makes my mouth water. In HOLD TIGHT, Tia and Mike Baye begin spying on their teenage son’s computer use through a spy program. He’s had behavioral changes that alarm them. Tia is all in favor of finding out what’s happening, while Mike has misgivings about invading his son’s privacy. Starting with this premise, which could happen anywhere, to any parents, the plot ratchets up to incredible tension. If you haven’t read Harlan Coben before, you have wonderful hours ahead of you.
THE SHADOW QUEEN is a Black Jewels novel by Anne Bishop. Here’s a word of advice; if you’ve never read one of the Black Jewels books, READ THE MATERIAL AT THE FRONT. Bishop has constructed a wonderful and consistent world, but if you ignore the notes, you’ll spend too much time floundering around trying to figure out what’s happening. This series is a favorite of mine, since no one is a standard character. Good people are misguided or prejudiced or flawed, but somehow they work their way toward acceptance and a new understanding. In THE SHADOW QUEEN, the nobles of Dena Nehele are looking for a new Queen, and they are offered one. However, Cassidy is plain, unpretentious, and more interested in gardening than governing.
I’ve enjoyed all Carrie Vaughn’s books, and KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN’S HAND is no exception. Kitty Norville, radio show host and werewolf, goes to Las Vegas to do a live show and oh, yes get married to her fellow alpha, lawyer Ben. Vaughn’s unusual take on the Vegas animal acts is a hoot, and of course Kitty’s wedding plans have their ups and downs.
A little spell of a little sickness can be like a vacation. If you’re not very sick, you can enjoy some self-indulgence without feeling guilty. Staying in bed a little longer, easing up on your work schedule, reading a little more . . . this can be kind of fun. Unless you do it twice in four weeks. Then it’s just irritating. The common cold is a nuisance, nothing more. But having a variation on this theme in two close-together episodes has been too much. I’m ready to feel good, to be back to full strength, and to be able to have my sense of taste returned.
Last night was the big fundraiser for Daughter’s softball team. The owner of a local restaurant kindly opens up on a Monday night, the team sells tickets, and people drive through to pick up their fish meal (fried catfish, of course or come in to sit down and eat. The team moms make desserts and sell them to the highest bidder, and the girls leave tip jars on every table. They really hustle, too, getting drinks and refills, offering more fish and hush puppies, and bussing tables. I am not a mom who shines at this kind of thing, but I made the two desserts, and they sold, and I guarded the dessert table vigilantly. Last year, I tried to help keep track of tickets turned in; but this was not a huge success, since my math skills are (shall we say) minimal. Guarding food is much more my thing. (And let me say right here, good people: If you’re bringing any kind of food to a public event, please label it. In this era of food allergies, that can be important information. Also, it’s simply good to know what any item is. An iced cake can be any flavor, and some pies are not always easily identifiable, either. Okay, my rant is done.)
In between mom stuff and sick stuff, I’ve been trying to finish my short story for the anthology Toni and I are assembling. It’s almost done. I have to finish it this week, so I can move on to the next project. Ah, the writer’s life! What glamour!
© 2009 Charlaine Harris