September 2007: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).


This is a beautiful Chicano-American literary novel about a family living on the border between the US and Mexico, Texas and New Mexico, lawlessness and lawfulness, piety and pragmaticism. I found it enjoyable and engaging, and while I’m not usually interested in the “Latino voice,” this novel really brought me in and made me feel at home.


Another Stephanie Plum mystery novel. This time, I listened to the unabridged audiobook (and enjoyed it very much!)


This book is more of a “troubleshooting guide” to cat ownership. It covers 101 topics related to cat ownership and cat care, from adoption to tricks to end-of-life care. None of the topics are covered in any great depth or detail, and there are some cases where the author’s information is suspect or perhaps outdated (but I don’t think even in 1994 that you needed a recent veterinary certificate to cross state lines with a cat in your car). It’s not really a book for “training” a cat, at least not in the sense of training your cat to do tricks and go beyond the ordinary “don’t scratch the furniture” type of training. It does what most cat training books do: covers how to train away bad behaviors, without really dealing with more advanced techniques.


Read as an unabridged audiobook. I suspect this is one of those books with the potential to change a person’s life, as long as they don’t take it too literally. It’s not that it’s bad advice, but rather that some of the specifics are implausible, to say the least, and the majority of the strategy is to “invent something that can sell for about $200 each, then sell them!” Great, if you’re a salesperson, but not terribly applicable to everyone’s life. Also, it’s very easy to take a step beyond the advice in this book and feed into the continuing consumer-sales-exploitedworker cycle that characterizes the American market economy.


I am, honestly, trying to figure out why I stuck with this book. It was like, if you were a rock climber, and someone wrote a book of fiction in which everyone was a rock climber, but they had absolutely no story going on in their lives aside from rock climbing– and nobody ever fell off a cliff. I suspect these appeal to a certain kind of reader, but I also think there are about a hundred better ways to tell a story involving knitting and friendship. Part of the problem was that the book was a lot of “tell” and not nearly enough show (but hey, if you forgot the “telling” part from before, don’t worry…. it’ll be repeated later!) The heart of story is conflict– this didn’t have any heart.


Another audiobook. Lots of conflict in these murder mystery novels. They are a little gritty, I suppose, but I like them.


Another cute Regency-era romance in the Bastion Club series. I keep feeling like I’ve missed some kind of “in” joke by joining the series so late. I also wonder how on earth a fluffy romance novel series author ends up writing (and getting published) and encyclopedia on her setting. I mean, writers should know that much about the world in which they write, but I question whether they should actually publish that encyclopedia of knowledge except when there’s a huge fan base asking for it. Are there really legions of fans clamoring for this?


Gritty. Gritty. Gritty. A very gritty murder mystery thriller set in New Orleans after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have essentially destroyed “the Big Sleazy.” I listened to this in audiobook format, and really enjoyed it as a different change of pace.


A “cozy” murder mystery in which a knitting store plays a prominent role. Maybe it’s just me. I mean, I’m a knitter, so I appreciate having my hobby appear in a novel. However, being a knitter, I am aware of something that, apparently has escaped the attention of these writers jumping on the knitting-as-setting bandwagon: not all knitters are nice! I mean, seriously! None of the ladies in the knitting group ever had anything bad to say about one another, aside from lighthearted bantering. Never any tension in the group. And heavens forbid if anyone might be a suspect! GASP! Seriously: I want someone to write knitting-setting novels in which there’s all the intrigue and backstabbiness I see in the online crafting communities (or, for that matter, which I see in any community of humans.) Knitters are not superhumanly nice!


Listened to this audiobook with my husband while he was driving. If you haven’t read this, or Gladwell’s other book, The Tipping Point, I highly recommend them. Gladwell has a knack for putting his researcherly finger on the pulse of the small stuff that adds up to big changes.