Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer

The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel

Astonishly good, tricky, literary book. This was like watching someone juggle while dancing a tango on the back of a moving horse. Incredible narrative tricks, plot inversions like a mobious strip, and some of the cleverest turns of phrase I've read in a LONG time made this an absolutely delicious, delightful, deceptively light serious book about fiction and publishing today.
Ian Minot, struggling writer and barrista, is working on his growing pile of rejection letters, even as his beautful and heavily accented Romanian girlfriend is ising fast on Manhattan's literary scene. A Confident Man enters the scene, and in a dazzling take-off of noir pulp, Ian is on his way into some of the most convoluted and literary troubles possible.  Fakes, memoirs, fake memoirs, and fake people are the key characters and plot devices here, but if I had to pick one favorite trick of the book, it would be the use of some terms which, to a reader, felt like they were the only possible way to describe things or people.
"Like the writers at any book party, the artists were easiest to find, self-consciously dressing down - ripped kowalskis and torn Levi's - or dressing up, in gatsbys and ascots, all ironic."

Can you not see them????
Franzens are styling eyeglasses, fitzgeralds are drinks, a golightly is the LBD the publicist girls wear (!), a humbert is a lonely perv... a scherherezade is a cliffhanger.

Fairy Houses Everywhere, by Barry and Tracy Kane

Fairy Houses ... Everywhere! (The Fairy Houses Series)
So beautiful! I love this series of children's books. The authors inspired communities all over the country to create their own completely natural fairy villages out of found materials, and they are so, so wonderful.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Faithful Place, by Tana French

Faithful Place: A Novel Once again, Tana French took a minor character from her last Dublin murder squad book, and created an intense and twisted novel about them. This time Frank Mackey, Undercover detective, receives a call that shatters all he thought was true. The girl he was going to run away to England at 18 with, Rosie Daly, the girl who he thought had left him behind, is found dead, and her body hidden, presumable since the night she never showed up.
Psychological suspence at its best.

Stork Raving Mad, by Donna Andrews

Stork Raving Mad: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries) Very fast and funny addition to Donna Andrew's long-lasting bird series. Meg Lanslow, blacksmith, is pregnant with twins, yet she and husband Michael are still hosting an amazing amount of guests- students of Michael's from Caerphilly College, where the heat has malfucnctioned. The ususal amusing supporting cast of secondary characters continue to entertain, and despite a busy plot involving lots of academic shenanigans, it was a blast to read, and still looking forward to the next.

The Darling Dahlias and The Cucumber Tree, by Susan Wittig Albert

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree (Darling Dahlias Mysteries) Really pretty badly done cosy mystery, set in Alabama during the Great Depression. Aside from the sickly sweetness of the whole thing, the improbable conversations about sex between the ladies of the Dahlia garden club and the uncomfortable portrayals of the African Americans left a horrible, sticky aftertaste.

Cut, Paste, Kill, by Marshall Karp

Cut, Paste, Kill: A Lomax & Biggs Mystery Another smart, sharp, snappy mystery from Marshall Karp. Quick, with witty dialogue and some pretty funny scenes, this one had a scrapbook-creating avenger for justice loose in LA, righting wrongs that had fallen through the justice system's cracks. Very clever and very fun and fast.

A Vintage Affair, by Isabelle Wolff

A Vintage Affair: A Novel Surprisingly moving book- I had rather expected a kind of Katie Fforde real-estate porn-y shoes and champagne kind of book, but this had unexpected depth. Emma, who has left a successful career in the vintage textiles department at Sotheby's, has just opened a new vintage clothing boutique, and is trying to re-invent her life after losing her best friend and also her fiancee. Through a woman whose wardrobe she is buying, Emma becomes involved in a quest to find out what happened to a young French Jewish girl in WWII, and the book had a real emotional impact. Lovely, and cleverly done.

Leave it to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse

The always funny Wodehouse, not at his best, but his worst is so much better than almost anyone's best, that it's great anyway. I prefer Wooster and Jeeves, but just about any goings on at Blandings Castle are a good time.

My Life and Hard Times, by James Thurber

I LOVE James Thurber. I laugh until I can't breathe. One of the all time best American writers. Wonderful beyond words or reason.

The Starlet, by Mary McNamara

The Starlet: A Novel Fun, breezy mystery- sequel to the very good Oscar Season.  Juliette Greyson is avoiding Hollywood by retreating to the family estate in Tuscany, when she encounters troubled starlet (think Lindsay Lohan) Mercy Talbot, about to dive into a fountain in a public piazza. Juliette, unable to watch a young actress break her neck without interfering, takes in Mercy, and eventually a whole film crew, and while various shenanigans go on, all the original characters from Oscar Season grow and become even more interesting, and Mercy was a great character with a very believable set of problems. Fun, and very very well done.

Monday, July 19, 2010

One Day, by David Nicholls

This was compulsively readable, romantic, sweet, sad, charming, and would be perfect for fans of Nick Hornby. Emma and Dexter circle each other for years, illustrating beautifully the ways long term friendships develop and grow, and I really hope the movie that is being made will be good- starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Hugh Grant must be wishing he had a time machine. I think its an interesting choice that Vintage is only releasing this in paperback, definitely makes the book more accessible, but with the level of buzz behind it, I would have ordered 2 hardcovers for the library, rather than the 2 paperbacks- and I am sure I will have to replace them, because this book is sure to be a hit. Really lovely.

This is Where We Live, by Janelle Brown

Fantastic book. Starting with an earthquake in their $600,000 'starter home' in LA, this story of Claudia and Jeremy just got tighter and rockier. Aspiring filmmaker Claudia is on the rise- her first movie is about to be released, and Jeremy's band is doing well, recording, his 'job' at a friend's hipster t-shirt company pays well enough, and things are looking rosy. Even the news that his ex-girlfriend, genius/artist Aoki is coming to town for a gallery show can't rock their world- but then, the recession does. As surely and even more damaging than the earthquake, their gradual compromises and concessions shake apart everything that they assumed was solid, in what really was a wonderfully written post-real-estate collapse fiction.

Hell House, by Richard Matheson

Well, this was all right, but it was not "The scariest haunted house novel ever written," Stephen King. Your usual group of psychic researchers go into haunted house, are DOOMED, etc. Was ok, but The Haunting of Hill House was way scarier, if that's what you're looking for.

Pretty in Plaid, by Jen Lancaster

Another very funny Jen Lancaster book, this time talking about her fashion evolution. I don't know.

My Fair Lazy, by Jen Lancaster

Very funny, quick non-fic about Jen Lancaster's attempt to lay off watching reality TV and to get a more 'cultured' worldview.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Somebody Everybody Listens To, by Suzanne Supplee

Surprisingly good YA novel about trying to make it as a country singer in Nashville. Retta's struggles (living in her car, trying open mike nights, being scared and humiliated and thinking of returning home) could have read as clicheed, but the voice was somehow refreshing and the character was one I really ended up rooting for, despite having absolutely no interest in country music. The title really sums up Retta's motivation, and that drive is what made the book so appealing.

Crashers, by Dana Haynes

Technobabble thriller about NTSB workers and a new kind of in-flight data-recorder than can (gasp!) crash a plane on its own. Implausible plot, improbable characters, really cheap villains, and dated politics made this kind of hard to read.

The Ice Princess, by Camilla Lackberg

Taut, well-written Scandanavian noir. Writer Erica is back in her small home town, to clean out her recently deceased parents' house, when her childhood best friend is found dead (in a graphic and visually arresting manner). Having been, in the past, close with that family, Erica becomes involved with the investigation, and gradually dark secrets from all levels of the town are revealed. This was really well done, with excellent characterizations, and a solid plot that kept tightening. It was really good, and I am definitely looking forward to her next title that will be released, The Preacher.
This was no The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, in that it was not a high-speed techno thriller, but it was a carefully paced Christie-esque mystery, with that atmospheric Swedish flavor. I liked it much more than Karin Fossum's Down By The Water, which, while dealing with the same subject, managed to be much more offputting and depressing.

Sizzling Sixteen, by Janet Evanovich

Silly sixteen. More of the same, with less flavor and appeal. Stephanie's indecision about choosing between Ranger and Morelli has led to books as celibate and boring as the Twilight series (with which I can actually imagine some audience overlap, so ugh to that), Lula, Connie, etc have become cariacatures rather than characters, previous plot lines have been dropped altogether, and the charm that held it all together, like, say, the marshmallow in Rice Crispie bars, has dried up, leaving nothing but a crackling pile of stale nuggets.

Matched, by Ally Condie

Pretty excellent YA dystopian futuristic love-triangle. In an oppressive, Big Brotherish society in the future, citizens are carefully matched for ideal genetic potential and similarity in tastes and skills, and when Cassia is Matched with her best friend Xander, she is initially thrilled. A technical error, however, leads her to question all she has known, and issues of freedom and manipulation take over the story. Really solid world building and a sinister vibe set this one above the pack of YA dystopias.