Some time ago, I posted here about all of the fabulous books on my nightstand, and how much fun I was going to have reading them.
Well, the best plans of mice and men...
I haven't read things exactly as I had planned to, but I have had some delightful reading experiences since January, and I'd love to share them with you.
First of all, I read that mysterious book that C chose by virtue of its cover: Dead of the Day, by Karen E. Olson. It's pitched as a crime novel, and while it certainly is, I think it goes outside that genre to be even more than that. The protagonist, Annie Seymour, is catnip for me. She's smart, witty, hardboiled, and flawed. Just the kind of character stew that I go for. Karen Olson also fills the book with great regional touches about her native New Haven, and that's also a major plus in my eyes. The plot line concerns cross-cultural issues, as well, (a favorite of mine in any setting) so I was in reading heaven. The novel is well-written, compelling, and makes you think. It's a complete delight, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries. My only caveat is that I'd read Karen Olson's other books in the series first, because some character development had already occurred by this point, and I would have preferred to discover those details bit by bit. I'm definitely going back and reading the first two: Sacred Cows and Secondhand Smoke. Karen is also part of a group of four mystery writers who have a fabulous blog on writing (among other things) called First Offenders. If you love writing, I'd highly recommend checking it out.
The second book is getting all kinds of press and hype. Many times I read these books and am puzzled by the accolades. Not so this time. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is sublime. It's the story of a young man on the verge of becoming a veterinarian, who loses everything when his parents meet an early death during the Depression. He ends up joining a completely corrupt circus, and we follow his passions and adventures there. The framing device for this book is the narrator as a 92-year-old, now reduced to living in a nursing home. While any of these elements could make this maudlin or depressing, it's not. It's an anthem about life during hard times, told with humor and glory. Simply fabulous stuff!
The last book was already mentioned in last Sunday's post. My friend, Marianne Arkins, of Reading, Writing, and Stuff that Makes Me Crazy, released her first novel last week through Samhain Publishing - One Love for Liv. Since I'm hosting her as part of her blog tour on March 5th, I thought I'd better get cracking and read her novel pronto. Now, I am not a romance fan. I'm kind of romantic, but when I get around the romance genre my skin tends to crawl. I've read several of Marianne's stories, and I'm happy to say that not only does her work not have that effect on me, it also makes me laugh hysterically as well as cry at times. (Not in One Love for Liv, though - that's a laugh all the way). Marianne has written, about herself, that she doesn't really have a romantic bone in her body, and this may be why I find her romances so much fun. They are told with a wink and a smile, and her characters are real and touching. I won't go into great detail here (because I'm sure we will on March 5th), but I just had a blast reading this book. Marianne's friend Allie Bonaface made her a wonderful trailer, so if you want to know what Liv's about, go here to see it.
I'm still reading Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett and I've been reading both Two Meatballs in an Italian Kitchen by Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman and Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma for research for my novel. I'm also hoping to start The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone within the next week or so.