BREAKING DAWN/Stephenie Meyer/B
The finale of the TWILIGHT quartet, this novel was greeted with midnight release parties all over the place. I didn't get to it on the first day, since we were still on a boat, but I did read it in two days flat when I got home. As I said earlier, my favorite of the series is and always will be TWILIGHT, but it was a pleasure to wrap up the storyline of human Bella and her vampire boyfriend Edward. I was surprised by several twists, which is always nice, and there was a happy ending which I always like. But the happy ending was a little too easy for my taste--not enough sacrifice, too much of Bella getting everything she ever wanted without having to give up anything--and I doubt I'll re-read it. But by all means finish out the series if you've started.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE GARDENS/Anne Perry/B+
Somewhere along the way, I stopped buying all the new Perry Victorian mysteries and started getting them from the library. Still, this was more enjoyable than some of the her other recent offerings, with a tighter storyline and less jarring writing. (Or maybe it's just that the storyline was strong enough for me not to notice the writing.) When a prostitute is found eviscerated in the Prince of Wales' bedroom, Thomas Pitt is called in to investigate discreetly. His maid, Gracie, goes undercover in the servants' quarters at the Palace to help and the story is a rich one of Africa, ambition, and personal loss.
NAMING OF THE DEAD/Ian Rankin/B
I keep picking up random Rebus mysteries to see if I'll like the next one better. I haven't yet. Not that I dislike them, it's that I really need at least one strong sympathetic character in a book and John Rebus just doesn't do it for me. He drinks too much, he has no close relationships, and he lives only for the job. I find his worldview depressing and only pushed through this book because of its interesting setting. Scotland is hosting the G8 in the summer of 2005 and Rebus is drawn into several murders that threaten to disrupt the forum. I did like his brief encounter with President Bush on a bicycle, and there was real emotional power to the London bombings that occurred that week. Rankin is extremely popular and his books are well-written. They're just not for me.
JUST MURDERED/Elaine Viets/A-
This was a book I got for free at Left Coast Crime in March and didn't read forever because I thought it wasn't my type of book. But I found out it was just what I needed for a couple of days--light and funny and a good story. Helen is on the run from her ex-husband and takes a series of Dead End Jobs to survive. In this book she's working in a bridal salon in south Florida and has to deal with the mother-of-the-bride from hell. Things look bad for Helen when the vicious mother is murdered shortly after Helen was heard arguing with her. To save herself, Helen investigates the downtrodden bride, her golddigging new husband, and a host of other eccentric characters. Great for a quick and fun read.
FIELD OF DARKNESS/Cornelia Read/A
I'm kind of glad I put off reading this first in a series, because now I can go out and get the second one straightaway. Maddie is a journalist living in Syracuse during the 1980s, with an impeccable bloodline and none of the family money to back it up. When an old murder is raked up, Maddie is drawn into investigating by the fact that her favorite cousin's dogtags were found at the scene. Great characters, fabulolus first-person voice, evocative settings both scenically and culturally, and a wonderful mystery with lots of subtext. I loved it.
A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS/Khaled Hosseini/A+
The second novel by the author of THE KITE RUNNER, which I loved. I loved this one even more. It's the story of Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women who are raised very differently but end up married to the same man while the city of Kabul disintegrates around them. From the Soviets to the Taliban, one sees a country being ripped to shreds while most people try simply to live their lives. Beautiful, heartbreaking, life-changing.
LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF STYLE/Nina Garcia
GUIDE TO QUALITY, TASTE, AND STYLE/Tim Gunn
I'm not going to grade these here, because this whole style issue is going to gets its own post. Soon. I promise.
And last but not least, I went on a Vicky Bliss spree, to celebrate the newest entry in the series--the first Vicky Bliss book in 14 years. So I went back and read the previous ones:
BORROWER OF THE NIGHT
STREET OF THE FIVE MOONS
SILHOUETTE IN SCARLET
NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS
From German castles to Roman villas, Swedish islands and lost treasure and Egyptian art, these books are the best for two simple reasons: Vicky Bliss, art historian, and John Tregarth, reformed antiquities thief. And after this orgy of reading, I was totally ready for . . .
THE LAUGHTER OF DEAD KINGS/Elizabeth Peters/A+
The best thing I can say about this book is that I smiled the whole way through. I had fun, and clearly so did Peters. King Tut's mummy has been stolen from its sarcophagus in the Valley of the Kings and John is the prime suspect. Vicky belives him innocent--mostly. They set out with her boss, Schmidt, to prove John's innocence but his habit of silence and his increasingly frequent disappearances make it hard to put old suspicions to rest. Would you like it if you haven't read the rest? I have no idea. But when the rest are as wonderful as they are, why not start at the beginning and go on to the end? You won't be sorry.