Slew of reviewlets

When I first started blogging, I was never behind on reviewing what I had just read. If a book took longer than expected to finish, I remember worrying that in the meantime I had nothing to write because I’d already reviewed the previous book. Well, those days are over. I usually have a backlog now, which is actually not an unpleasant thing.

So this is kind of a clean-up post. I thought about leaving some of the books completely unremarked upon. I don’t want to feel compelled that I should write about every book that I read. But writing about them all does give me some satisfaction, so here we go.

The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg

I actually read this book back in June and had to turn it into the library right before I left for my San Francisco vacation. My reason for not reviewing this book up is not because I have little to say on it. Indeed, this book may possibly be one of the most personally impacting books for me this year. Borg offers a refreshing take on the Christian faith and the Bible. I love his muses: the quotes Borg uses from writers throughout the ages are very choice and memorable, such as “hatching of the heart.”

Another excerpt: “Charity never offends; a passion for justice often does. To paraphrase Roman Catholic bishop Dom Helder Camara from Brazil: ‘When I gave to the poor, they called me a saint; when I asked why there were so many poor, they called me a communist.'”

I’m still quietly and internally filtering through the book’s presented ideas and perspectives at this point. I would like to read it again.

Diplomatic Incidents by Cherry Denman

One of my co-workers picked up this 224 page book in an airport while on the way back from a trip to Iceland. Denman is British and her husband was a diplomat for about 25 years in various posts. The book is a collection of anecdotes both from her own experiences and also from stories told to them by others in the diplomatic community. These are tales of cultural faux pas, suspected surveillance, and travel. I’m betting that Denman is a hoot at parties, the guest who tells all the best stories. The book is very light and breezy. I recommend consuming it as a literary sorbet between meatier reads.

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All by Beth Patillo

My mom gave this to me as a birthday gift – yes, she is a supplier for my book habit. I haven’t read too many Austen spin-off books. There are so many out now. The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is about two very different sisters whose mother – an Austen aficionado – bequeaths her estate to them in her will on the condition that they both take an Austen tour in England together. I appreciated that the sisters were not Austen fans themselves. Also, I could tell that the author did her research on the places, which was both good for Austen tidbits of knowledge and bad because sometimes the book sounded exactly like an author’s research notes. The characters were slightly slavish echoes of the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility. I wished that they had felt more like real people. I found the Austen diary mystery subplot to be silly. So, in the end, the book wasn’t my cup of tea.

“Alpha and Omega” from the compilation On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs

This is a short story that kicks-off Briggs’ “Alpha and Omega” series, which is a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson werewolf series. I had actually read the first two books in the “Alpha and Omega” series before reading the short story that truly starts off Charles and Anna’s story. So let me just say that the short story really should be read first.  I definitely feel that a re-read of the series is in order, now that I have the groundwork and setting tone of the short story in my head. About the story itself, well Briggs is my urban fantasy catnip. I like the world she has created in her books. Her main female characters – Anna and Mercy – have a number of meaningful relationships – not just romantic ones – and both are occupied with figuring out their place in the supernatural order of things. I skimmed the rest of the stories in On the Prowl but they weren’t really my thing.

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

I think this author and her series was recommended by Savidge Reads. This is a medical mystery by an author who does have a medical background, so the descriptions of the murder victims and surgery scenes are full of gruesome, but presumably accurate, details. (I quickly learned that this is decidedly not a lunch break book.) The main characters include Catherine Cordell, a surgeon who, a few years back, shot dead a serial killer after being drugged and raped by him. Now relocated to Boston, she is stunned to hear from police detectives Thomas Moore and Jane Rizzoli that someone in Boston is murdering women using the dead serial killer”s M.O. There is a romantic subplot between Cordell and Moore. Rizzoli spends most of the time having a chip on her shoulder but gets some redeeming moments near the end. The rest of the series apparently follows Rizzoli.

I kind of get tired of this trope of the brilliant serial killer. I have enjoyed serial killer books before (see: Monkeewrench series by P.J. Tracy) but in this one, I was just wincing through the police profiler’s description of the killer and the sections told from the killer’s perspective. Maybe I’m just getting tired of reading about the unique ways that literary serial killers brutalize their victims, according to their particular twisted philosophy.

I was drawn in to read this book because of the author’s background. I do like it when the author’s other or previous job informs their writing. But I think what I truly like is when the author conveys their work culture well. This medical mystery had scenes set in the hospital, but the medical know-how came out mostly in the descriptions of the victims and the procedures used to save them. Not the book’s fault for failing to meet my own predilections. Now I know more about what I look for in a thriller. (Something like Kermit Roosevelt’s In the Shadow of the Law comes to mind. There is a mystery there, but heavily wrapped in interesting descriptions of life in a law firm.)



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4 responses to “Slew of reviewlets

  1. My mother got her degree in pastoral theology a number of years ago, so I saw loads of Marcus Borg books around the place. I’ve heard wonderful things about him and indeed I think I own a book by him myself! I need to get around to reading it.

  2. Diplomatic Incidents sounds like it could be fun. I’ve read a couple of diplomat memoirs recently and they weren’t very good. Not all diplomats can write well!

  3. Nan

    I just began watching the Rizzoli & Isles shows on tv this summer, and I love them. I’ve looked into the book series, but it seems more gruesome than I usually enjoy reading. So, (whispering here) I think I’ll stick to the television version. :<)

    Where is your blog header photo? I assume that is a real photo? What happens if a sleepwalker lives there?

  4. Jenny – The ideas I read in the book were not necessarily new to me (though a few were) but I just like how he (and the authors he quoted) worded things. It just really clicked with me.

    Kim – The stories are the best thing about Diplomatic Incidents. I don’t remember having an opinion on the writing, so it must have been good enough. She’s mostly aiming to be funny with the book, and for the short length that it is, that tone is right.

    Nan – I don’t blame you for opting out of the books. My blog header is a photo of Angel Island off of San Francisco. The building is part of the historic Camp Reynolds located on the island. One would hope not to be assigned to that building if one were a sleepwalker for sure!

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