Monthly Archives: February 2012

Books I meant to review in 2011, part 3










Here’s the last of them:

  • AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SECRET NOTEBOOKS by John Curran – This is definitely for intellectual types who love Christie and want to know more about her world and how she thought. It also contains two unpublished Poirot stories. The book won the Edgar Award last year for Best Critical/Biographical, and while I’m sure it was worthy, I found it a bit dry. It was interesting in a historical way, but I didn’t find it compelling. I have to conclude I must not be:  a) be intellectual enough or b) love Christie enough.
  • DEAD EX by Harley Jane Kozak – This is book #3 in Wollie Shelley series that began with DATING DEAD MEN. Wollie (pronounced Wally), the main character, creates greeting cards and often condenses her situations into greeting card sentiments, which is endearing and quite funny. Even  better, in this book Wollie is the dating correspondent for the reality show “SoapDirt.” Of course, there’s a murder, and her friend Joey is the prime suspect, but the best thing of all is that these books are breezy, funny romps. Harley Jane is an excellent writer—be sure to check out her short story in the MWA anthology THE RICH AND THE DEAD—and I’m really sorry her publisher decided not to extend the series. Here’s hoping she gets a new series going soon.
  • NICKEL AND DIMED by Barbara Ehrenreich – I read this book for a leadership class I was taking, and it really opened my eyes to the plight of the working poor. Ehrenreich is a freelance writer who accepts an assignment to see what it’s like to try to survive on a minimum wage job in three cities in America. Even giving herself a bit of an advantage over those who are the working poor—she starts herself out with a little seed money—she proves over and over again that it can’t be done.  Even trying to manage two jobs just to make ends meet proves impossible, with managers who won’t work schedules around second jobs and unreliable public transportation. The people she works with give you a sense of how resilient the human spirit is—even those poorer than her, who don’t know she’s not one of them—start bringing her food when she can’t make ends meet and is trying to survive by eating less. It’s a heartbreaking book, and it reminds us that unions get a bad name when they’re greedy (and we’ve seen that happen), but they still have a purpose when they fight for those who don’t have the power to do so. Wal-Mart comes off as one of those employers whose executives rake in millions and millions of dollars but can’t share it with their minimum wage employees.

Books I meant to review in 2011, part 2

….As I mentioned in Part 1, I let myself get overwhelmed in 2011 and didn't post reviews of some of books I read. But before we get TOO far into 2012, I wanted to post these. The last post covered all the books on the left, this post will cover the first four on the right. Next week I'll post the remainder.
  • THE NINTH DAY by Jamie Freveletti—Book 3 in the Emma Caldridge series. This is my favorite so far in the series. Freveletti  does a great job of setting up a horror that’s easy to imagine—a wasting disease that infects a prized marijuana crop and within nine days will kill anyone who inhales it or even touches it. When the crazed drug lord who can’t find a way to stop the disease from contaminating the plants decides to deliver massive quantities of the marijuana to the United States and start an epidemic, it’s up to the intrepid Emma to find a cure for the disease and stop the shipments from reaching their drop points. When Emma discovers that she has disease herself, it’s truly a race against the clock to find the antidote. Brilliant work from a terrific thriller writer who’s only getting better.
  • DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris—I’ll admit that I’ve never watched TRUE BLOOD on HBO, nor had I been much of a fan of this type of genre since DARK SHADOWS in my teenage years (which were, regrettably, a very long time ago).  But after having had breakfast with Charlaine at Bouchercon 2011 (a perk that came with being Midwest Chapter President of Mystery Writers of America), I bought a copy of the novel that started it all and asked Charlaine to sign it. Well, I couldn’t put it down. It had a narrative drive and a mystery that kept me going until the end. Loved the premise that vampires could become an accepted part of the world and go mainstream once a synthetic blood was developed. I’m still not a big fan of the vampire genre, but there’s no question in my mind why Charlaine has and deserves a legion of fans.
  •  GRACE INTERRUPTED by Julie Hyzy—Book 2 in the Manor House mystery series by the author of the White House chef series. When a group of Civil War re-enactors comes to Marshfield Manor, it’s murder on the staff—even more so when one of the most hated of the re-enactors is murdered. Grace must wade through a myriad of people who may have wanted the man dead, including relatives of the man she’s just started dating, to figure it out. Delightful stuff from a hardworking cozy writer whose latest book (AFFAIRS OF STEAK) just hit #22 on the NYT extended bestseller list.
  • WILD AT HEART by John Eldredge—I came to Eldredge’s book after completing Henry Blackaby’s excellent workbook, EXPERIENCING GOD. I was searching for another study to bring me closer to God and closer to the man he wants me to be. While I disagree with Eldredge on a few points (from his stories, I think he was an angry young man and some of that still colors his perception of the world), I feel his call for us to return to our masculine roots, not to strive to be ‘nice guys,’ but rather warriors who seek to right the wrongs of the world. He points out that when we were kids, did we dream of being nice? No, we dreamt of being Luke Skywalkers and (more recently) Harry Potters. It dovetails with the biggest thing I took away from Blackaby—to see where God is at work and seek to be a part of what he is doing in the world. I recommend WILD AT HEART to all Christian men.