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 It also contains two unpublished Poirot stories.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.

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