Gods of Manhattan: Scott Mebus
The Resistance: Gemma Malley

Vacation Reading: Grown-Up Books

On my recent vacation, I read a number of books published for adults, instead of my usual children's and young adult-focused fare. It was actually a nice change. Here are the books that I read, with a few comments on each:

Fearless FourteenJanet Evanovich: Fearless Fourteen. St. Martin's Press. Completed July 25, 2008 (on MP3). This is the latest in the Stephanie Plum series, about an irrepressible and not particularly competent New Jersey bounty hunter, and the two loves of her life. I think that this series is hilarious, and I especially enjoy listening to the books on MP3. For me, narrator Lorelei King is Stephanie Plum. In this installment, Stephanie and her boyfriend Morelli find themselves saddled with a teenage hacker, a benign celebrity stalker, a spoiled celebrity, and an immature stoner, while battling rabid treasure-hunters.

The WoodsHarlan Coben: The Woods. Signet. Completed July 27, 2008. This is a standalone thriller by the author of the Myron Bolitar series. Paul Copeland's sister disappeared from summer camp 20 years earlier, the presumed victim of a serial killer. As the novel begins, another one of the presumed victims turns up, only recently deceased, calling into question the fate of Paul's sister. It's funny. Coben's thrillers are a bit formulaic - there are several on similar themes about crimes from the past haunting people in the present, and whether missing people are or are not deceased. And yet, I still find them compelling. His writing flows smoothly, and I find myself puzzling over the details when I'm not reading the book.

The Spellman FilesLisa Lutz: The Spellman Files. Completed August 1, 2008. This was on my mental "to read" list for a while, after seeing a review somewhere. Right before vacation, the City Librarian where I'm a Foundation Board Member offered me her copy (we share a taste for mysteries). It seemed like fate, and I took it with me on the trip. The Spellman Files is the first book in a new series about a quirky family of private investigators living in San Francisco. The book begins with a car chase that turns out to be the parents chasing the main character, 28-year-old Izzy Spellman. Things get even more entertaining from there - I thought that this book was a riot, though a bit more episodic than I normally look for in mysteries. There's also a highly resourceful teenage sister who participates in the family business, making this an excellent YA cross-over series. I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series, The Curse of the Spellmans.

Index to MurderJo Dereske: Index to Murder. Avon. Completed August 4, 2008. This is the latest in the Miss Zukas series, about a librarian from a medium-sized town in Washington State who stumbles across various mysteries. What I love about this cozy series (see my review of an earlier title here) is the way that Miss Zukas' character is so clearly defined - she's a lovingly exaggerated version of a librarian, a woman who can't help alphabetizing her best friend Ruth's oil paints, and cycles through her set of plates so that they'll wear equally. In this installment, Ruth turns out to have ties to two suspicious deaths, and the two friends are forced to investigate. I saw a key point at the end coming, but that was a good thing, because it meant that I understood the character well.

A Field of DarknessCornelia Read: A Field of Darkness. Grand Central Publishing. Completed August 6, 2008. This is the first book in Read's Madeline Dare series (followed by The Crazy School). I've intended to read this one for a while - the reviews have been quite impressive - and I picked it up when I started running low on reading material. Madeline is a very junior, part-time reporter for a local newspaper in Syracuse. She's the poor relation from a wealthy Long Island family, exiled to Syracuse by her choice of husband. She becomes involved in a solving a 20-year-old murder mystery when evidence turns up linking her favorite cousin, a Gatsby-esque character, to the crimes. Personally, I thought that the book was very well-written, but I didn't like it all that much, if that makes any sense. One too many unpleasant supporting characters, one too many bitter references to slumming in Syracuse... I'm not sure. I'm still likely to give The Crazy School a try, though, because I think that the story sounds more appealing.

The Paper MoonAndrea Camilleri: The Paper Moon (Inspector Montalbano). Penguin. Completed August 7, 2008. This is the latest in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano series, set in a fictional Sicilian town. These books are quick read, but highly entertaining. Salvo is irritable and clever, and doesn't always follow the rules (not that he's corrupt, but he's not above protecting someone if he thinks it's in the interest of justice). He's also very focused on eating well, which is a nice change from many fictional detectives. In this installment, Montalbano investigates the shooting of a man who worked in the pharmaceutical industry, a man with a freakishly devoted sister and a rapacious mistress. I love these books, even though the oversized paperbacks are ridiculously overpriced relative to the density of the books.

The Black SheepGeorgette Heyer: The Black Sheep. Sourcebook. Completed August 8, 2008. This is a recent re-issue of a classic Georgette Heyer novel. I adore Heyer's regency romance novels (though I never cared for her mysteries or historical epics). They are escapist fiction at its best, reminiscent of (if not quite up to the level of) Jane Austen's novels. In this title, 28-year-old Abigail Wendover seeks to break off an alliance between her innocent heiress niece and a fortune hunter. Abbie seeks help from the fortune hunter's uncle, the former black sheep of his family, and, needless to say, falls in love. Heyer pretty much has two heroines (am I missing something here?). The slightly older, intelligent woman who wins over the man through her compatible wit and the young heroine, who reforms the more experienced man through her innocence. I prefer the former, and enjoyed this one.

And now that I'm home, I'll be getting back to my hundreds of children's and YA review titles.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.