Eat in Italy, pray in India, love in Bali (Indonesia). It's a charming traveling journal, but a spiritual journey it is not. Italy is the tastiest and...moreEat in Italy, pray in India, love in Bali (Indonesia). It's a charming traveling journal, but a spiritual journey it is not. Italy is the tastiest and most personal. The rest is light, prose included, and appears to be over the author's head. She seems more like a little girl experimenting the taste of various cakes than a fully grown woman trying to find meaning in her life. To do the latter, a travel of the mind needs no plane or new country, but maybe eyes, a heart, and involvement in causes beneficial to forces outside one's own belly-button. (less)
What do you do when you dump your boyfriend, end up missing him, find out his dad just died, sleep with him one more time only to find out you're preg...moreWhat do you do when you dump your boyfriend, end up missing him, find out his dad just died, sleep with him one more time only to find out you're pregnant? This time, it's your turn to be dumped, ignored, albeit not quite forgotten, since Boyfriend keeps writing humiliating articles about you in a monthly national magazine. The story itself is pretty formulaic and the ending, predictable. Less expected is Cannie, the witty narrator, a journalist at The Philadelphia Inquirer and not exactly your size 2 heroine. And that's refreshing. And that's the real story. She is the prisoner of a society that, while maintaining dictates on shapes, manages to oppress minds at the same time. In other words, Cannie (note the name, that includes "can" and implies "canned," "contained," "restrained") feels fat, and because she feels fat, she is unhappy and convinces herself she cannot attract other men. Our society, whose size has little to do with its stick figure models, is now taking baby steps to adapt to its new size by showing larger models, larger actresses. Some singers are displaying their voluptuousness with pride, and that's healthy. But when Good in Bed came out in 2006, this was not the case yet. My bet is that Weiner's book had some influence on women. My hope is that it will continue. The fact that Cannie's father abandoned her and her siblings, but not before judging her appearance, does not place her on the healing path. Not right away. But eventually she grows independent of daddy's and societal judgement, or of what she feels societal judgment is, since she herself is part of society and, when it comes to herself, she might be the toughest of all judges. She must therefore free herself by accepting herself. That's part of the healing path. Love makes for the rest of it. Love through different, and at times, amusing forms. Of course there is the romantic interest who loves Cannie and her size 16. But there is also Cannie's lesbian mom, who doesn't always know how to express her deep affection for her daughter, but never fails to be there for her. There is mom's lover, time and again rejected by Cannie, but who never gives up. There is the best friend. There is the young Hollywood actress who --surprise, surprise -- ain't shallow. And my favorite: Nifkin, the rat terrier. This is my first Weiner novel, and this is her first published novel as well. It's a good one. Well written, humorous, tender, entertaining. Not a masterpiece. But the solid writing and the solid message and the solid characters make it a novel worth reading.(less)
A troubled youth in want of a new image dresses like his psychiatrist, narrator Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, and ends up being killed. At first it is believed...more A troubled youth in want of a new image dresses like his psychiatrist, narrator Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, and ends up being killed. At first it is believed that the murder target is Rinaldi himself, that this is a case of mistaken identity. Determined to find out who is responsible for this and who may want to do away with him next, Rinaldi decides to investigate and help the Pittsburgh police. Things get troubled and muddled soon. There are clues, sure, but many of them are false. There are characters, I mean, real characters. Unpredictable, moody, gloomy, or all at once, that give the novel its dark, heavy atmosphere. Translated into cinema, this could become a film noir. Perhaps too noir? Possibly because Palumbo is by training a psychotherapist, the prose here is imbibed with a density that seldom lets go. Now, intensity is good, suspense is good, tortured characters are good. So is a thick forest. But once in a while the reader needs a clearing, a place for rest and relaxed breathing. And there are few of those in Mirror Image. The plot itself might be a little too convoluted , with too many false clues. Had Palumbo extended his novel to about fifty more pages, plots and subplots could have formed into more distinct patterns instead of packing up into an obsessive bundle, and the convolution itself wouldn’t have been a problem. Ultimately, what saves the novel is not the love story in my opinion. I really don’t like Daniel Rinaldi’s love interest, her extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. These actually seem to come as a late change of mind, as if Palumbo had thought of her as the villain at first then chosen someone else in the end. No, what saves the novel are some of its characters (My favorite: grouchy, macho, yet vulnerable Harry Polk from the Pittsburgh Police), the solid dialogues. Mostly the rawness in tone and language. Rawness, as in honesty with a razor blade. At its best, it reaches the entrails. This is naturalism reborn. Zola would approve the undertaking. Keep the rawness and simplify the plot in the next novel. Chances are the combo may produce a great read instead of a good one. That’s my advice to Dennis Palumbo whose ability as a fiction writer is definitely real, on this and that side of the mirror. (less)
It’s Grey’s Anatomy with a little bit of mystery mixed in, and a few apparently unsolvable deaths. Only on paper. Scenes are cut up the way scenes fr...more It’s Grey’s Anatomy with a little bit of mystery mixed in, and a few apparently unsolvable deaths. Only on paper. Scenes are cut up the way scenes from a TV series are, in order to accelerate the heartbeat of the work. I can understand C.J. Lyons’ reasons for slicing and assembling events this way. First, most of the novel happens in a hospital and jumping from one character’s drama to another might remedy to the monotony of the decor. It might also recreate the rush atmosphere of a city (here, Pittsburgh) emergency medical center. Technically, I would assume this is no easy task, and C.J. Lyons seems very comfortable handling such rapid pace.
In order for the medical milieu not to be too cold, she adds elements of romance and a little bit of sex. I said it before, Grey’s Anatomy. Cute, despite a few dead people here and there.
The story: Amanda, who is about to become a pediatrician, is going to die like a few other patients at the Mercy Medical Center if some antidote to what is bringing her paralysis is not found. Only no one is sure what is causing the gradual loss of the use of her limbs, so finding a way to counterattack an unknown enemy is quite a challenge.
I don’t mind the concept. But is it because I don’t want to be in a hospital during a whole novel? Or is it because I never play computer games and thus don’t like to skip from one thing to the next after a few seconds? But I never get hooked on the novel. It takes me forever to get acquainted with the characters, even if I manage to find out who is responsible for the aforementioned mysterious deaths early on. Still, in the end, that’s all I am, acquainted. “Hello, nice to meet you, see you.”
Can I say this is a bad novel? No. I would say it’s well done, and a good commercial undertaking, with just the right amount of romance and mystery, and good solid prose. It is the type that addresses a specific, albeit wide, audience. It’s comfort food with just the right amount of excitement and the right amount of predictability. It’s just not my cup of tea.
And I do wish it had been. For I had the opportunity of meeting C.J. Lyons herself, and she is kind, professional, and generous. But I am certainly not worried about her career.(less)
While I didn't expect an intense, à la Simenon mystery, I didn't contemplate reading something so chatty, either. For the first one hundred pages, it'...moreWhile I didn't expect an intense, à la Simenon mystery, I didn't contemplate reading something so chatty, either. For the first one hundred pages, it's just useless talk, talk, talk. About the friend of narrator Abby moving out to California, Abby's dog Eggy, Abby and Eggy having breakfast together, Abby's moody clients. I wonder: Does Victoria Laurie perhaps confuse chatty with witty? While there are entertaining moments, and a murder plot finally emerges, Laurie is neither a Janet Evanovich nor a Mary Higgins Clark. Nor should she be. But should she perhaps aspire to slightly more than whipped cream and a little cherry on top? For underneath all that there is very little substance.
Does being entertained necessarily mean plunging into vacuity?
Laurie is herself a psychic. I would have hoped then for a more interesting character. Although the reader is being warned on the very first page of Chapter One -probably the best, funniest page of the whole novel, that she is boring like vanilla ice cream. All in all, the book has all the commercial ingredients: a superficial mystery and a predictable love story. Plus, on occasion, a voice that could shine but chooses to glow instead. It's fun fluff to take to the beach. As soon as you will be done, your brain will act like waves on sand and erase it all. (less)
Kerry McGrath, prosecutor and candidate for judgeship decides to reopen a criminal dossier at the insistence of a (handsome) defense lawyer who thinks...moreKerry McGrath, prosecutor and candidate for judgeship decides to reopen a criminal dossier at the insistence of a (handsome) defense lawyer who thinks his client is locked up for a murder he has not committed. This angers one of Kerry's friends, who happens to be one of New York senators and thinks that this will compromise her future as a judge. He might not be able to recommend her if she stirs up the past. Political reality, or threat?
At the same time, Kerry's daughter, who was in a car accident, needs plastic surgery. She's treated by a very competent, albeit very strange, doctor, who happens to be connected to the file Kerry has reopened. He is the father of the young woman who was murdered --allegedly by her husband, now in prison. Despite the fact that the latter never stops claiming his innocence, noone but his mother, the woman he loves, his lawyer, and finally, Kerry, believe him.
Fantastic plot. With inner dramas and traumas as well. But I am surprised at the beginning by the apparent simplicity of the writing. In fact, the prose appears almost frail. This is my first Mary Higgins Clark experience. I know her reputation, and because of that, I have expectations. Not particularly low, as you might imagine. The novel is built with very short chapters. Scenes, actually. Because it is a fun, easy read, the power and the richness of the intrigue never hit me until the end.
I read this novel over a month ago, and what I realize now is this. Higgins Clark deals with a murder mystery, marital and parental issues, a couple of love stories, the despair of an innocent man, the obsessiveness of a plastic surgeon who sees himself as an artist (not the least interesting aspect of the novel), the one of an art thief, political intrigue and manipulation; she deals with all this de main de maitre. No confusion here; everything is in its place. Just for that, hats off. (less)
New to Ann Harbor, "the man who calls himself David Loogan" befriends Tom, the publisher of mystery litmag Gray Streets, and becomes the boyfriend of...moreNew to Ann Harbor, "the man who calls himself David Loogan" befriends Tom, the publisher of mystery litmag Gray Streets, and becomes the boyfriend of his wife, Laura. For a short while, for David has a conscience, and he likes Tom more than he loves Laura. Soon after David is hired as a Gray Streets editor, bodies start to fall. First it's an "intruder" in Tom's office --whose body David buries with a "shovel [that] had to meet certain requirements," as the novel's irresistible first sentence indicates. Then it's Tom himself, soon to be followed by a student who was working as a Gray Streets assistant. Finally (not really, for a couple more cadavers come up at the end of the novel), Dave finds the man who was helping him solve this mystery stabbed.
The intrigue is complex, circumvolute, even byzantine. The general tone, often detached and amused. Shy, when it comes to the romance part of the story. More than a mystery, this is a parody of a mystery, a book that accumulates plots, stratagems, murderers, possibilities. Not to be taken literally.
"It this were a story in Gray Streets..." It's something that David repeats time and again as he tries to figure out what is happening. I see it as a leitmotiv, as the main clue of the story. This is no straight storytelling (is there such a thing) in my view, but a mystery about mysteries. "I am going to tell you a story about a certain type of fiction," Dolan seems to say all along. And so he gluttonously accumulates the various elements of the genre: bodies, murderers, weapons, motives, clues. When to this concoction he adds among his characters not one, not two, but several mystery writers; when he regularly mentions the unpublished novel authored by a literary genius and about to be stolen by the only murderer in Bad Things Happen that won't be caught, he confirms the notion that he is writing about writing. Plot-wise it's impossible, implausible, but Dolan's smooth prose and playfulness (note some of his characters' names) make this basically irrelevant. Probably because, literary-wise, it's funny as hell. It doesn't stop being entertaining, and it doesn't give up on the love of words. It's Ionesco meets Agatha Christie. (less)
A boy shows up on his doorsteps years after he has disappeared. Apparently untouched, and with no memory of what happened. An intriguing plot in this...moreA boy shows up on his doorsteps years after he has disappeared. Apparently untouched, and with no memory of what happened. An intriguing plot in this Henry Parker novel which, I must admit, is my first Jason Pinter experience as well.
What saves part of the book is the engaging, colorful prose, the lively dialogues. But with such a fascinating premise, Pinter could have done so much more. Here, he pulls out an implausible, yet predictable conclusion.
At some point, there even seems to be a shift of style and I started wondering if there was some ghost writing involved.
This leaves a bitter taste in my literary heart. It looks like things come too easily for Jason Pinter and that he takes his own talent for granted. Or that he treats it as a simple commercial product and nothing more. I hope I am wrong. (less)
I had seen years ago adaptations of Le Carré's novels on PBS. I remember I was not too familiar with the English language then, being a young immigran...moreI had seen years ago adaptations of Le Carré's novels on PBS. I remember I was not too familiar with the English language then, being a young immigrant from France. To the young girl that I was, a spy movie was a James Bond movie. Fast paced, humorous. And what did I get instead? A Balzac of sorts examining the mechanisms of the undercover world. I didn't expect the slowness, the introspection. The subtlety. And subtlety is tough when you're none too familiar with a language, as I mentioned above.
So I was intrigued by Le Carré, but I abandoned him. Or, should I say, I let Le Carré be. Maybe we'll meet again, I thought. Hopefully we will.
And we did. When during one of my trips I saw A Most Wanted Man on a bookstore shelf at the Pittsburgh airport, I decided to grab it. I had other readings in waiting, so the book waited patiently, as only books know how.
And then it was time. Would I like Le Carré? Would I be disappointed? Would there be a distance between his world and my reading? Would I plunge right into his universe?
The fact is, I was seduced by Le Carré's prose from the very start. It is elegant, mysterious. It is a long walk into the night. Incidentally, night is a crucial element in this novel.
The story, a Russian Muslim who seeks refuge in Germany and is defended by a beautiful civil rights lawyer, is what caught my attention at first. What maintained my interest was the superb way Le Carré is able to weave the personal with the political, without rushing anything. He writes like a spider, catches the reader in his web. At the same time, he adds layer upon layer of issues: immigration, love --both reciprocated and unreciprocated; the chicanery, duplicity, cruelty and/or brutality of international secret services. Not only do they trick the innocent, but they trick each other, or vice versa.
So, of course, don't expect to dance the cha-cha-cha as soon as you finish the book. But reading a good book does not necessarily equate a trip to Disneyworld.
Is there some weakness in the novel? It is debatable. Personally, I have trouble believing in the attraction the lawyer, who is a modern young woman, has for such a traditional Muslim young man who doesn't see women as equal to men. But within his religious assertions the young man is vulnerable, and touching. Furthermore, Le Carré suggests that, on the sentimental level, our beautiful lawyer is troubled, lost. Now, if this love is to be taken on the metaphoric level, as compassion toward immigrants, as an all encompassing humanitarian love, then the weakness just mentioned is no longer a weakness but an additional strength. The poignancy lies in the fact that governments and their spying minions have absolutely no respect for what makes us humans. In the end, it is not our tragedy, but theirs. (less)