Random Reviews

The cover of Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun caught my eye, so I took it home, stuck it on my TBR-soon shelf (alas, some books only stay there until they get demoted to the TBR-eventually shelves—I can’t keep Girl Waits With Gunup), but didn’t read it until a friend raved about it on Facebook. I had picked it up expecting a mystery, but this is actually a rather slow-paced novel about the three Kopp sisters (who were real people, as were many of the supporting characters and the situation), told in first person by the eldest, Constance. The three sisters are delightfully distinct, and rather eccentric, characters, whose adventures over a year or so in 1914 New Jersey swing from terrifying to exhilarating. A well-written, imaginative, and thoroughly enjoyable look at the lives of three unusual women a century ago.

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Ria Parkar, the heroine of Sonali Dev’s second book, The Bollywood Bride, is a woman with one foot in Bollywood–and one in Chicago. In India she’s a movie star; in Chicago she’s one member of a large, loving Indian-American family, gathering to celebrate a wedding. But Ria has secrets she has guarded since she was a little girl, secrets that tore her away from the man she still loves, Vikram Jathar.

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By the middle of the book I was growing a little impatient with Ria’s insistence on keeping her secrets to The Bollywood Brideprotect other people, never giving them, and Vikram in particular, a chance to make their own decisions, but then I got caught up in her past and sat up way too late reading the second half of the book straight through.

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Aside from the rekindling romance between Ria and Vikram, Dev paints a fascinating picture of Indian culture joyously preserved in the suburbs of Chicago. I want to go eat in Uma’s kitchen!

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I really loved Fannie Flagg’s I Still Dream About You, the story of Maggie I Still Dream About YouFortenberry, former Miss Alabama (forty years or so ago), one-time model, never married, now a real estate agent in an office that seems to be sliding down hill. Maggie has decided that it’s time to leave this life on her own terms (but this is NOT a depressing book, far from it) and has devised a detailed (complete with to-do lists) suicide plan. But Maggie is so responsible and conscientious, socially and financially, that her obligations keep getting in the way. She can’t bear to leave a bill unpaid, an account unsettled, or a friend in need.

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This is a delightful book about a woman of a certain age finding unexpected meaning in life and in the future, and coming to terms with the past. It’s full of quirky characters, the history and culture of Birmingham, Alabama, and even an entertaining historical mystery involving a steamer trunk and a skeleton. Alternately hilarious and touching, this is a wonderful novel. Highly recommended.

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Fair Play, Deeanne Gist’s second book set at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (following It Happened at the Fair) follows Dr. Billy Jack Tate, a female physician who finds herself working at the Women’s Building atFair Play the Fair, where she meets (and treats) Hunter Scott, a Texas Ranger spending six months as a Columbian Guard. When Hunter finds an abandoned baby on the Fair grounds, the two of them team up to find the baby a refuge at Hull House, where they learn of the terrible conditions of tenement living and the sad fate of so many children. Their desire to help the children brings them together, but will Billy’s career drive them apart? Another sweet romance from Gist, tempered with heartbreaking descriptions of life in the late 19th century slums of Chicago.

More Reading

The other night I stayed up late to finish reading Rachel Grant’s Concrete Evidence, one of the tensest suspense novels I’ve read in a long time.  I mentioned the book recently when I started reading it, and it turned out to be just as good as I expected.

The heroine of Concrete Evidence, Erica Kesling, has a job and a life far from the troubles that cost her a career in underwater archeology, but she knows she’s still in danger.  If the truth comes out, she may lose the job she has now, and her entire archeological career.  The incompetent intern assigned to her, Lee Scott, is far too attractive to ignore, and may not be what he seems.  When the man who caused her career-changing disaster appears on the scene, apparently thick as thieves with the management of the Cultural Resource firm where she works, Erica no longer knows who the real thieves are.  Who stole the artifacts, and where are they now?  Who is smuggling what?  And who is out to silence Erica, by killing her if need be?  Concrete Evidence is an edge-of-your-seat ride, all the way to an ending that I did not see coming.

Grave DangerAs soon as I finished Concrete Evidence I looked for Grant’s next book, Grave Danger, another archeological thriller which has just been released on Amazon.  I’ve added it to my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

At lunch yesterday (a pork fiesta bowl with extra onions at Pollo Campero in Webster, Texas), I pulled out my Kindle and read Tempest in the White City, a short story by Deeanne Gist.  The story, like her new release It Happened at the Fair, which I picked up Tempest in the White City(the paper version) last weekend, takes place at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  The story introduces Hunter Scott, a Texas Ranger serving as a Columbian Guard at the Fair, and the lady doctor who treats him for a rather embarrassing illness. (Even Gist’s short stories come with beautiful covers!)  Hunter and Dr. Tate will be back in Gist’s next novel.  Meanwhile, the download includes a peek at this year’s book, the recently released It Happened at the Fair, which is high on my To Be Read list.  I even bought an extra copy for a friend–books do make such wonderful gifts.

Abibliophobia Strikes Again

Abibliophobia

I’ve suffered from abibliophobia all my life, but until recently I had no idea some kindred soul had coined a name for the problem.  Mind you, there’s no chance of running out of reading material in my house.  Along with the shelves of book I Really Want To Read, there are whole walls of books I can’t give up because I might want to read them again one day.  But I never go anywhere that might involve a waiting room or a meal eaten alone without a book (or these days my Kindle).

The truth is, I’m an incurable bookaholic, and I have no desire to change.  There are far more dangerous (or anti-social) addictions.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped at the local Barnes & Noble, armed with a Christmas gift card, and bought one book, a lovely large volume called Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions by Brian J. Robb.  I’d spotted the book on line and bought it brick and mortar; on the same trip I spotted several books at the store to order on line.  I have gift cards for Amazon, too, and they stretch farther.

Yesterday I made another stop at Barnes & Noble, gift card balance in hand, but I didn’t buy anything.  The particular book I was looking for hadn’t hit the shelves yet, and I knew that the box of books I’d ordered from Amazon was due to arrive.  And sometimes I find a bookstore the size of B&N overwhelming.  So many, many books that I would like to read.  So many, many books that I will never have time to read.  So many, many books that I should be writing myself.

book pileWhen I got home from my errand-running rounds, the big box of books from Amazon was waiting on my doorstep.  Four of the books are recently released romances by my Firebird sisters (that group is beginning to make me feel like a serious underachiever!):  Highland Surrender by Tracy Brogan, Midnight Shadows by Carol J. Post, and two by Kim Law, Caught on Camera and Sugar Springs.

Beguiled, by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand, is a romantic suspense novel set in Charleston.  Dee used it as an example in her workshop on research, and it was the only one of her books I didn’t have, so when I saw it on sale at Amazon, I clicked it into my cart.  Darynda Jones’ latest tale, Fourth Grave Beneath my Feet is the latest release in her series.  I’m running behind on those; I’ve read First Grave on the Right (a Golden Heart winner), but Fourth Grave will be joining Second and Third on the TBR pile.

For pure mystery, I’d ordered Aaron Elkin’s latest Gideon Oliver novel, Dying on the Vine.  I’ve been reading this series since the beginning.  I’ve also read Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone novels since the beginning (the latest is wating for me), so I couldn’t resist The Bughouse Affair, the first in a new historical mystery series set in 1890s San Francisco by Muller and her husband, Bill Pronzini.

I should be able to hold off the Heartbreak of Abibliophobia for a good while yet.  Say, the next twenty-five years or so.

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