Sep 18, 2007

What I'm Reading

I love books that surprise me. Not in a twist of plot, but in how much I enjoy them, once I make myself sit down and read it. Usually this happens when I've been to the library, I've taken out 4 or 5 books, thumbed through them and read them according to how much the first few pages interest me, and suddenly find myself with that last title. The one I thumbed through and didn't care for, that didn't grab me, that didn't pull me in. I stack all my read library books on a bench near the front door, throw in the last title just because I don't think it's worth reading. Then I notoriously forget to take them back to the library and am suddenly stuck with nothing to read, so I pick up that last book just because it has words on a page and I can't go one night without reading something... And isn't it wonderful to find out this book that I thought wasn't worth my time, WAS worth my time and ended up being an absolutely terrific read? So it was with BAREFOOT by Elin Hilderbrand -- the last book in the library pile. The first chapter did nothing for me -- in fact, I found myself confused and couldn't sort through the characters enough to follow the story line. (This is what caused me to put it down the first time through.) Slowly, but surely, I figured out the characters -- which sister (Brenda) was a young college professor recently fired for having an affair with a student, which sister (Vicki) was a young mother with two small children and lung cancer, despite never having smoked, and which was the best friend who'd just found out she was not only pregnant after years of going through infertility treatments, but that her husband was having an affair. The cohesive character in the story is Josh, a sophomore in College who quits his job at the local airport and agrees to babysit for Vicki's children during their summer in a small Nantucket beach house. He weaves his way through very different relationships with each of the women, their spouses, the children, both observing and participating in their daily lives. Although it sounds like a soap opera, the depth of characters, the variety of relationships and situations, make this a very pleasurable and soul-satisfying read. Another title on it's way back to the library today is Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel, LEAN MEAN THIRTEEN. I was surprised to find that this is one of my favorites in this series! I am of the opinion that often authors whose books are on the bestseller list make it there more for their name than their writing. After five or six titles, authors run out of ideas. Jan Karon's Mitford series is a prime example of books that sold simply because the author's name was on the cover, not because the fifth or sixth title had any new or fresh ideas that we hadn't read in the first four titles of the series. Daniel Steele is another good example. That author hasn't had a fresh idea in fifteen years, yet every title makes it to the top ten list, while newer, more worthy authors can't climb over the good-ol'boys list of authors and get the recognition they deserve! But Janet Evanovich is the exception to (my self-imposed) rule. I thought LEAN MEAN THIRTEEN was one of her better stories. Yes, Stephanie is doing the same ol' same ol' and yes, Lula pretty much puts out the same lines, but the story line had some great twists and turns that I hadn't seen in the previous titles of this series. There was no sister and weird kids, no clown attorney, and grandma was much more in the background than usual. And hey - I don't think Stephanie car's got blown up once! I plan on continuing to read this series just because I want to read about the day Stephanie and Morelli get married :) Now THAT will be an unexpected plot twist! And by the way -- if you happen to be a Janet Evanovich fan, you do not want to miss the "Dortmunder" series by Donald Westlake. Like Evanovich, the antics of his characters will make you laugh out loud as they bungle their way through robberies and foolishness. You'll become thoroughly attached to each and every character, but hold a very soft spot in your heart for John Dortmunder. The series does not have to be read in any particular order, and will always, always leave you wanting more. There's not been a new title for several years, so in case Donald Westlake stops by my blog and reads this -- PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can we have more Dortmunder books in the very near future???

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