Friday, October 31, 2014

Glory in Death

Book 59 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Glory in Death by J.D. Robb
Book 2 of the In Death series

Summary (via Goodreads)
It is 2058, New York City. In a world where technology can reveal the darkest of secrets, there's only one place to hide a crime of passion - in the heart.
Even in the mid-twenty-first century, during a time when genetic testing usually weeds out any violent hereditary traits before they can take over, murder still happens. The first victim is found lying on the sidewalk in the rain. The second is murdered in her own apartment building. Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas has no problem finding connections between the two crimes. Both victims were beautiful and highly successful women. Their glamorous lives and loves were the talk of the city. And their intimate relations with men of great power and wealth provide Eve with a long list of suspects - including her own lover, Roarke.

My Opinion
Even though I predicted the victim right away, there were still surprises.  I'm continuing the series fairly quickly but am a little nervous; I hope some of the things that happened in this book (such as Roarke being a suspect again) are not themes as I continue the series.  

Overall, I liked the first book better but this one was fine and I look forward to seeing how Eve's storyline progresses. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"The dead were her business. She lived with them, worked with them, studied them. She dreamed of them. And because that didn't seem to be enough, in some deep, secret chamber of her heart, she mourned for them.
  A decade as a cop had toughened her, given her a cold, clinical, and often cynical eye toward death and its many causes. It made scenes such as the one she viewed now, on a rainy night on a dark street nasty with litter, almost too usual. But still, she felt.
  Murder no longer shocked, but it continued to repel."

"He could do that to her, and for her, she realized. He could open little pockets of peace."

An Embarrassment of Mangoes

Book 58 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: a Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof

Summary (via Goodreads)
Who hasn’t fantasized about chucking the job, saying goodbye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Canadians Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve did just that.
In the mid 1990s, they were driven, forty-something professionals who were desperate for a break from their deadline-dominated, career-defined lives. So they quit their jobs, rented out their house, moved onto a 42-foot sailboat called Receta (“recipe,” in Spanish), and set sail for the Caribbean on a two-year voyage of culinary and cultural discovery.
In lavish detail that will have you packing your swimsuit and dashing for the airport, Vanderhoof describes the sun-drenched landscapes, enchanting characters and mouthwatering tastes that season their new lifestyle. Come along for the ride and be seduced by Caribbean rhythms as she and Steve sip rum with their island neighbors, hike lush rain forests, pull their supper out of the sea, and adapt to life on “island time.”
Exchanging business clothes for bare feet, they drop anchor in 16 countries -- 47 individual islands -- where they explore secluded beaches and shop lively local markets. Along the way, Ann records the delectable dishes they encounter -- from cracked conch in the Bahamas to curried lobster in Grenada, from Dominican papaya salsa to classic West Indian rum punch -- and incorporates these enticing recipes into the text so that readers can participate in the adventure.

My Opinion
This was a book club read.  It read slower than I expected based on the content.  I think the typeface made my eyes tired; I could only read it in short bursts before needing to take a break with something else.  

Comparisons are inevitable but if you're looking for something similar to Wild or Eat, Pray, Love, I don't think you'll find it here. Besides the obvious difference that she wasn't alone, this was definitely more travelogue than self-discovery.  This isn't a criticism of the book (I wasn't a huge fan of either of those books so it didn't bother me at all) but I mention it as a 'heads up' to avoid disappointment for those looking for a certain type of book.

The book made me very hungry while I was reading it because I love seafood! There are recipes included at the end of each chapter that looked simple to follow if you're so inclined.  I'm definitely more of an eater than a cook, plus Iowa isn't known for its wide availability of fresh fish, so I skimmed those pages.

I wish there had been pictures in the book.  I was told at our book club discussion that her blog has pictures and updates on their more recent travels but I was not interested enough to go look for myself.

She pushed herself out of her comfort zone to take this opportunity and I hope it brought her what she was looking for.  I also believe that not every relationship would be able to withstand such constant intimacy so I'm happy that the journey brought her and her husband closer together.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"In one corner: The security of a job, a steady income, a home, a daily routine - comfortable, safe, predictable.
  In the other corner: Escape from work, winter, and daily routine; the excitement and risk of the unknown - tempting, and more than a little scary."

"I've realized how disconnected my daily life had been from the natural world. The weather, the wind, the moon, even the seasons - and the attendant plants, insects, birds, and animals - came and went. But I was removed, at a distance. So what if the moon was new or the sky was pissing rain? I still had to go to the office. The natural world - in all its forms - is so much more immediate now. It forces me to pay attention."

"Shortly afterward, friends arrive at their boats and island houses, and a spontaneous party happens. But for us it's bittersweet. I know the last two years have to end, but I can't bear the thought. I don't want just to sink complacently back into our old existence. I've seen too clearly there's more to life than that."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Naked in Death

Book 57 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb 
Book 1 of the In Death series

Summary (via Goodreads)
It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing: passion. 
When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washington politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome... and the leading suspect in the investigation.

My Opinion
I'll read most genres year round but for me, mysteries are best read in the fall.  As the weather changes, I'm searching for a paperback mystery series to work my way through under a blanket on a rainy day.  I've never read any of the In Death series but they've been around for awhile and I know there are quite a few of them, so I decided to give them a try.  In order, obviously...

This book had a nice pace, both from the storyline/action perspective and from the character perspective (there wasn't a lag between when I solved something as a reader and Eve solved it as the detective).  It was also nice not to have a love triangle, at this point at least.  Roarke and Eve look like they may continue to play cat and mouse for awhile but is it too much to hope that the romance settles down and either stays or goes after a few books?  Time will tell, I guess.

I had two other random observations about the book.  First, the section on profiling was very interesting.  Second, I was surprised to discover Eve was only 30; she 'read' older to me.

Overall, this was a perfectly passable way to spend a few hours and I'll definitely continue the series.   

A Few Quotes from the Book 

" "You like rules, lieutenant?"
   The question was mild, as was the insult under it. Her shoulders stiffened. "Without rules, chaos."
    "With chaos, life." "

"She stepped inside, closed the door. Eve, no longer a rookie, didn't feel her stomach revolt at the sight of the body, the torn flesh, or the blood-splattered child's toys.
 But her heart ached.
 Then came the anger, a sharp red spear of it when she spotted the antique weapon cradled in the arms of a teddy bear."

"Families are a source of comfort, and a source of irritation. No one outside can ever understand what goes on in the privacy of a home."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Candy Girl

Book 56 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Candy Girl  by Diablo Cody

Summary (via the book jacket)
Diablo Cody was twenty-four years old when she had a revelation - surely, there had to be more to life than typing copy at an ad agency. On a whim, she signed up for amateur night at Minneapolis's seedy Skyway Lounge. While she didn't win a prize that night, Diablo discovered a rush she had never felt before, and an experience she couldn't forget. Although she didn't quite fit the ordinary profile of a stripper - with a supportive boyfriend, equal parts brainpower and beauty, from a good family, and out to do a little soul searching - she soon immersed herself in this enticing life full time.
But don't be misled - this is not the story of a girl gone wrong who find herself stripping just to scrape by while living life on the wild side. Far from it. It's the captivating fish-out-of-water story of a young woman who tried something outrageously new, providing a behind-the-scenes look at this dark world while she keeps her wits - and wit - about her. Chronicling her descent into the skin trade - from quiet gentlemen's clubs to multilevel sex palaces - and the effect it had on her self-image and her relationship with her now-husband, Candy Girl will keep you entertained until the very end.

My Opinion

I love Diablo Cody's work.  She's an excellent writer and her voice is so unique and entertaining.  She's very descriptive; for example, she described a place as smelling "like an old rug that had been latch-hooked with navel lint and cigar butts" (yuck but I can picture it).  She's full of witty quips as well, such as when she described veteran strippers as "punch-drunk on Haterade".

I was surprised to discover this book came out before her Juno success.  Not because they're related in any way but because I assumed that she used the attention gained to generate interest in her unusual experiences.  The book definitely stands on its own merits and I probably would've read and enjoyed it without the name recognition, but I'm just sharing my own assumption and how it was proven wrong.  I can be wrong sometimes!  (good thing my husband doesn't read my reviews...wouldn't want that admission to haunt me later)

My criticism is slightly tongue-in-cheek.  Why call Iowa a "dank armpit"?  I can expect Midwest scorn from other areas of the country but c'mon, it's hard to stomach in a book taking place in Minneapolis...Iowa is not inferior to Minnesota!

Based on the content I won't list this as a blanket recommendation for everyone.  But if you can handle some squick, this book is well-written and very readable.

A Few Quotes from the Book

"...I'd always been a well-behaved human female. Evidence: I'd never ridden on a motorcycle, not even a weak Japanese one. I'd never gotten knocked up or vacuum-aspirated. I'd received every available Catholic sacrament with the exception of matrimony and last rites. I'd completed college in eight tidy semesters (one nervous breakdown per). I'd never thrown a glass of Delirium Tremens in anyone's face. I'd never even five-fingered a lipstick at the Ben Franklin. I was a drag, baby. I could feel my wild oats dwindling. My mid-twenties crisis weighted my gut like a cosmic double cheeseburger. I guess that's one reason I ended up half-naked at the Skyway Lounge."

"There was one inviolate principle that even I came to recognize: Men dig white shoes."

"The world of stripping is populated with such contradictions, suburban girls with bruised veins, ghetto girls on Atkins, innocents who strip to get dirty and dirty girls who strip to clean up. The whole scene is bananas."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Book 55 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Sequel to the book Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Summary (via the book jacket)

Jane Mansfield has long wished to escape the confines of life in nineteenth-century England. But awakening as twenty-first-century Log Angeleno Courtney Stone is not what she had in mind. Nor is Courtney's barred-window urban box of an apartment. Gone are the rolling lawns and hovering servants of Jane's family estate. Gone is even a single friend who sees her or knows her as Jane. Nothing - not even her face in the mirror - is the same. The only thing familiar, the only thing she appears to have in common with the strange woman in whose life she has landed, is a love of Jane Austen.
Not everything about the modern world is disagreeable. The apartment may be tiny, but it has a delightful glass box in which tiny figures act out scenes from Pride and Prejudice. And Jane may not be rich, but she has her first taste of privacy, independence, even the chance to earn her own money. Granted, if she wants to leave the immediate neighborhood on her own, she may have to learn to drive the roaring, horseless metal carriage. And oh, what places she goes! Public assemblies that pulsate with pounding music. Unbound hair and unrestricted clothing. The freedom to say what she wants when she wants  even to men without a proper introduction.
There are, however, complications. Such as the job she has no idea how to do. The bills that must be paid, despite the dwindling bank account. The confusing memories are not her own. And the friend named Wes, who is as attractive and bewildering as the man who broke her heart back home. How is Jane to navigate a world in which kissing and flirting and even the sexual act itself raise no matrimonial expectations? With only Austen's words and a mysterious lady to guide her, Jane cannot help but wonder if she would be better off in her own time, where at least the rules are clear - if returning is even an option.

My Opinion
This is listed as a sequel to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict but a better description to me is that this is a companion book.  I actually think the two books would've made a more cohesive story if they had been combined, perhaps in alternating chapters.  But they are what they are.  I'd written my review of Confessions... before knowing this "sequel" exists and will go back and edit it to reflect that and rate it slightly higher since some of the questions that went unanswered at that time were answered at the end of this book. 

Now to move on to review Rude Awakenings... on its own.

Meh.  Jane is the kind of character that frustrates me because she made things more difficult than they needed to be -- just accept the help you were offered already!  I also didn't buy the explanation of how she suddenly knew how things (phones, cars, etc.) worked when they had befuddled her for the first half of the story. 

I found the random body descriptions ("as I dry this well-formed body..." and "It is strange to watch these hands which are not my hands, these plumper, stronger, broader hands, hold the pencil.", for example) awkward and oddly placed within the story. 

I've since discovered that there is an edition that contains Confessions..., Rude Awakenings..., and the original Pride and Prejudice together in one edition.  I don't know that seeking that out is necessary, but if you're going to read one, you have to read them both (and in the correct order - Confessions... first). 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Each of us has the power to create heaven or hell, right here, right now. I do not know how I have come to be in this time, in this place, in this body. But I do know that any place where there are six novels by the author of Pride and Prejudice must be a very special sort of heaven."

"And so I entered the fortune-teller's tent, leaving Mary outside. And I wished with all my heart for a different life. I wished with all my heart to be somewhere, anywhere else. To be someone else. If only that were possible, I thought.
And here I am."