Saturday, June 25, 2005

Three Very Good Reads

I've read three and a half books in the last week (and started one more that I gave up on), which is more than I've read in a long time. A huge part of this recent interest in reading for me has been that I have been reading new authors and trying new genres. All five of these books are by authors I have never read before. I'm going to try to stick to this for a while until I feel good about reading again. It's not that I have started to grow bored or uninterested in books in general, but that the books I had been picking up for a long time were too much of the same old thing being recycled. I really needed this injection of freshness.

The short version on the one I put down: I've been trying to find some chick lit that I would like. I still haven't decided against the genre because I rarely do that, and I know there is good stuff out there, but I picked a major stinker. It was Dating Can Be Deadly by Wendy Roberts, a mix of chick lit and mystery that I had high hopes for. But the heroine was everything I hate in heroines, and after reading the first few chapters, I decided to skim ahead. Yep, still the same 100 pages later. Not for me. I don't expect perfect characters (two of the books I enjoyed have less than perfect characters) but I do expect characters I can understand and at least respect. Obviously, the characters here were not for a reader like me.

Oh, and the one I am halfway through is Hammered, which you can see on the right. It's science fiction and so far, it's quite good. And from another debut author.

But now that the bad and the business is out of the way, here are my three good reads from this week:

Hide Your Eyes by Alison Gaylin -- I read this one over the weekend. It is a mystery, and by a debut author. Samantha, the main character, is not at all a perfect person, and I like that. She went to Stanford, but she works in a movie ticket office and teaches at a preschool because she likes to. She's got some interesting and odd friends, but they aren't cariacatures. She sometimes does stupid things, but she isn't stupid about doing it (does that make sense?), for example, she leaves her wallet on a chair at the subway and it's stolen -- yeah, it's stupid, but she doesn't sit around giggling about it and saying "oh, funny me" to herself. She goes to the cops and reports it. Like a real person might do. The mystery plot is well-crafted, Samantha is a far from perfect investigator, which also makes sense (what normal person spends their free time solving crimes?). And there's a very nice romance with the cop who tries to help her out. If you like romance and mystery, this is a good one to pick up.

Here's the blurb from the book cover and the author's website:
New York Rule #1: Don't get involved.
Samantha Leiffer already has a self-centered self-help guru for a mother, a cadre of off-kilter Greenwich Village pals, and an ex-boyfriend who cheated on her with both sexes. She doesn't need more grief. But when she accidentally spies two people dumping a dubious-looking ice chest into the Hudson River, she has an unsettling feeling about its contents...

New York Rule #2: Don't make eye contact.
So, not being the kind of girl to let some psychos get away with murder, Sam sets out to unravel a mystery - and is soon being stalked by a sinister, shadowy figure who's wearing one-of-a-kind mirrored contact lenses...

New York Rule #3: If you must break Rules #1 and #2, get some help from New York's Finest.
Now, aided by a hard-as-nails (but still very hot) homicide detective, Sam is poking into some unsavory places - and finding out more creepy stuff than she ever wanted to know...

New York Rules #4 and #5: Don't expect anything to be what it seems ... and when necessary, fight like hell.

Ghosts in the Snow by Tamara Siler Jones -- PBW links to and talks about this author's blog frequently, and I thought the premise sounded interesting. Since I am a fan of both fantasy and mystery, and I like seeing cross-genre books, I brought it home from the library. It was good enough that I am going to order a copy for myself.
Dubric Bryerly is the head of security at the castle in the town of Faldorrah. He is responsible for dealing with criminals and solving crimes, including murder. When a servant girl is found murdered one morning, he has to try to find out who did it before more bodies pile up. And they do.
The plot starts out as a pretty standard mystery plot, but as you read you realize this isn't a standard mystery story. It is technically a fantasy, but you aren't bashed over the head with fantasy elements. Early on, you find out that Dubric sees the ghosts of the victims killed at the castle. That is part of how he knows that there is a murder to be solved. As the story goes on, other little fantasy elements are included, but they never take over the characters and the plot, which are the most interesting parts of the book. Dubric is a complex character, with a painful past. His assistants, the people who live in the castle, and the killer and victims are all fully drawn characters, not just cardboard cutouts. If you like mysteries, don't worry if you are a big fan of fantasy, because the fantasy elements are minimal. And there's a nice romantic subplot involved, even though the girl bugged me some of the time.

Here's the blurb:
Dubric Bryerly woke to find a ghost next to his bed this morning. It's the fourteenth this year.

Thus begins Dubric Bryerly's entrance into the most chilling investigation of his long career as the head of security at Faldorrah's castle keep. Not long after the first body is discovered, savagely disfigured, a second comes to light, also violently mutilated. And over the next few weeks, another, and another, and another. Each one announced by the arrival of a silent, gruesome ghost that only Dubric can see. Haunted by these silent spectres, and his dark secret, Dubric must use the rudimentary forensics available to him to uncover the identity of a ruthless serial killer living within the very castle walls and bring him to justice before he kills again. But the killer seems to be practically invisible, leaving no sign of himself even as he slips past a guarded post to kill again -- and all signs point to the worst of all possible suspects, the king's own grandson. As the pressure mounts, so does the danger...will Dubric manage to find the killer before another girl dies, or before the frightened and frustrated castle inhabitants rise up against the very man sworn to protect them?

A combination of forensics, fantasy, and sheer horror, this fast-paced "historical" thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats.

Fall From Grace by Megan Chance -- Thank you Tara for sending this to me, and thank you to everyone who has recommended this on AAR and on their blogs. Megan Chance has been around for a while (and this is a book that's been out for a while -- 1997), but I've never read one of her books before. I am so, so glad that I did.
I loved this book. It is not a perfect romance, and the HEA is somewhat ambiguous. You know they are together, but you don't really know exactly what happens to them. But that's okay, because what I loved about this book is that the characters are so original and so real. Basically, Lily is twelve when her parents are killed by outlaws. But one of the outlaws feels bad about, so he takes her home with them. And she is raised as an outlaw. One of the other outlaws is 15 at the time, and basically falls in love with her immediately. Fast forward twelve years (and a marriage to the once-15-yr-old, Texas) and she's finally found the chance to break away from them. But it doesn't turn out the way she planned, and Texas comes after her. Up until this point, he has been completely in love with her, but she still sees him as part of what has come to be a suffocating, horrible life. And he does take her for granted and I think in many ways sees her as his pet. When he captures her and finds out she betrayed them, at first he is understanding and forgiving. But she finally breaks through that trust and he realizes she really hates them. He decides that he must take her back to the outlaws for them to decide what to do with her.
The great thing about this story is that Chance took two people who aren't perfect, who are both killers, and who both have desires and dreams for their own lives, and brought them together. This is not the story of the perfect girl who is innocent and sweet, and so deserves to be swept away by a rich, handsome, perfect-lover type of man. If you want that type of book, don't get this one. This is the story of two people who have made some bad decisions, whose lives haven't turned out the way they want for themselves, that find out that they can find some of what they want together.

Here's the blurb:
Lily lost her childhood the day the Sharpe gang murdered her parents and "adopted" her. Soon, Lily the Cat was wanted by the law. But Lily betrayed the outlaws. And then she deceived Texas Sharpe,--the man who loved her, married her, and defied his father for her. But although he desired her like no other, she used him, and his love. And he was about to show Lily just how ruthless a man betrayed could be ...

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Karen Scott said...

The Megan Chance book sounds great, I'm gonna check it out on Amazon.

Jay said...

Is Dating can be Deadly the one with the pink cover and the martini glass? I keep picking it up because I like the cover then putting it down again because I havent really embraced the whole chicklit/mystery subgenre yet

Beverly said...

cw -- I am really glad that I got to read it. I think it will end up being among my favorite romances.

Jay -- Yeah, and with the skull on the end of the stir stick. I actually really like the idea of chick lit/mystery, but I did not like this one at all.

Tara Marie said...

I am so glad you liked "Fall from Grace." It's one of my all time favorites, so off beat and different from average romances. Megan Chance is such a talented, have you read "The Portrait"?

She also has 2 hardcovers I may try to find "Susannah Morrow" and "An Inconvenient Wife".

Kate R said...

One of my favorite reads last year was Megan Chance's An Inconvenient Wife.

Kate R said...

It's not a romance though!!