August 15, 2003
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich

To the Nines by Janet Evanovich: the tenth in the Stephanie Plum series (you have to count Visions of Sugar Plums as part of the series).

If you’re not familiar with who Stephanie Plum is, the answer is that she’s probably New Jersey’s least inept bounty hunter. She regularly blows up cars, her captures always include some element of mayhem, and she has some serious man issues in her life. She’s also endearing, funny, tough, and a delight to read every time.

To the Nines finds Stephanie on the trail of Samuel Singh who’s skipped out on a work visa. The clues to where he might be are few and far between and usually end up with someone getting killed. Stephanie’s manged to pick up another psycho stalker as well. She’s got to try and figure out how all these strange clues add up before this becomes her last job.

After I finished this book, I thought how “typically Plum” it was. I also thought how typical is not a bad thing when it comes to a Plum book. There was lots of love and sex with Joe. Ranger made quite a few appearances, so the sexual tension was pretty heavy throughout the book. Lula, a ho in a former life, was there in spandex and sequins, loud and lovable as always. Stephanie’s family even managed to get more unbalanced.

These books are always good fun and the characters are wonderful. If you haven’t read this series, I would recommend them as a great way to pass some time.

August 14, 2003
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: when I was in high school I read the most amazing short story ever that was about a murdered angel. It was in this great little anthology that I somehow misplaced and was never able to find again. About five years ago I came across the short story again in one of the ever-excellent Years Best Fantasy and Horror collections. Over the years the story has stayed with me, though never the name or the author. Imagine my delight when, while coming to the end of this amazing collection, I find it contained within.

Neil Gaiman has always been a favorite of mine through both his short stories and his novels (especially American Gods), so I can’t describe how happy it made me that he wrote one of the best short stories that I have ever read (the title, by the way, is Murder Mysteries).

I simply can not recommend Gaiman, especially this collection, highly enough. Everything that he writes is pure magic. There’s heartbreak, there’s happiness, there’s sorrow, and there’s joy, but the most important this is that his stories always ring true.

Pick this up as soon as you can. It is not to be missed. Forgive me if this review seems a bit disjointed, but I am so excited that the title of that missing anthology was mentioned and I have been able to find it again.

Favorite stories of mine from this collection are Chivalry, The Price, Don’t Ask Jack, The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, Queen of Knives, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar, Bay Wolf, Mouse, Desert Wind, Babycakes, the aforementioned Murder Mysteries, and Snow, Glass, Apples.

August 12, 2003
How to be Good by Nick Hornby

How to be Good by Nick Hornby: Hornby is one of my friend’s favorite writers, so when I found this at a half price book store I picked it up. I’m certainly glad I did.

Apparently, this is one of Hornby’s more depressing and less fun books, but I found myself enthralled nonetheless. Katie, a GP who likes to think of herself as a good person despite having an affair, is married to David, the Angriest Man in Holloway (that’s actually the title of the column he writes).

Pretty soon into the book, David has a spiritual experience and decides to live his life the right way, the good way. He talks his neighbors into housing homeless children, he plans on how to redistribute wealth to those in need, he even talks his children into giving their toys away to those less fortunate.

The real story is Katie’s struggle with how this makes her feel. Sure, she’s against homelessness and for helping others, but why do all these good works make her hate David even more than she did? What he’s doing is good - why’s it driving her insane?

I was fascinated with how this book was going to end and what was going to happen to the people involved. It’s definitely not a cheery, light-hearted book at all, but I enjoyed it anyway. Hornby’s got a very easy to read style and his characters are very much real. Good book and highly recommended.