Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A few reviews

This is a pretty random assortment of reading here!

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn: This is the first Daisy Dalrymple mystery, and I thought it was lots of fun. These are set in the 1920s England and Daisy is a Town & Country reporter, shocking her family (I think her father is a baronet or something). Anyway, Daisy is likeable and I think Dunn evokes 1920s England well, at least to someone who's seen Gosford Park. The plot is well done. Daisy is at a family's country house when an apparent accident takes place. Daisy's photography uncovers a suggestion that it might have been murder. I'll have to find the second in the series--I think there are 16 or something. It was cute and well-written. I think cozy readers and those interested in historical fiction might get a kick out of this.

Duma Key by Stephen King: It's been hit or miss for me with recent Stephen King, but I had a hard time putting Duma Key down, even with 600+ pages. He's used his personal experience with recovering from a terrible accident and placed in on Edgar Freemantle, who loses an arm and scrambles his brain in an accident. His 25-year marriage ends, and when his doctor suggests "geographical therapy," Freemantle (randomly, he thinks) chooses Duma Key, an isolated island off the coast of Sarasota. He takes up painting with a vengeance, stunning gallery owners in Sarasota, and haunted by his phantom arm and the voices of the shells under his house, he begins to uncover the truth about Duma Key and its oldest inhabitant, Elizabeth Eastlake. His hired help, Jack, and Elizabeth's companion, Wireman (who has also suffered a head injury, as has Elizabeth), help him find the source of his talent. If any part of the novel dragged, it was pages 500-600 or thereabouts--the exciting conclusion was really kind of long. But I found Edgar's emerging talent engaging, and King did a great job of the terror gently creeping into the story.

Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber: I read the first of these, The Shop on Blossom Street, ages ago. It took me a while to get into this one. The intro in which Macomber basically explains everything that happened in the series so far was very long and dragged, but once I got into it, it was pretty fun. These are the most wholesome romance novels you've ever read, seriously, but they're also about the personal struggles of the various characters. She writes from the point-of-view of several, which is totally cheating, but it works for the stories she's telling. The prose is...saccharine is a good word to use here, maybe a really long Hallmark card is another way to put it. But if you're in the mood for uplifting, obviously telegraphed happy endings, and women solving their problems in a knitting group, this book is for you. I don't mean that as negatively as it maybe reads. I enjoyed the book, I did, it's just not particularly challenging and it's not my usual fluffy reading (very little sense of humor here). Anyway, Lydia owns a knitting shop and decides to have a class on doing prayer shawls. Each of the women in the class has a different problem going on, and everyone's happy at the end. There are really no surprises in this one, but it's pleasant and comforting.

I also zipped through How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich. She co-wrote this with a creative writing professor, to make it more credible, I guess. Anyway, the poor professor's parts are fairly dry, but useful and well-organized. The book is mainly Q&A with Evanovich, based on questions asked by fans on her website. It's often interesting to read how a writer writes, and Evanovich is funny and entertaining. As a writing book, it doesn't hold a candle to Stephen King's On Writing, but it was interesting, and samples of query letters and manuscript pages, and advice on joining groups and attending conferences, is worthwhile. All in all, not an essential read for writers, but a fun one for Evanovich fans.

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