Saturday, May 08, 2010

Three Recent Reads

Lady Dragon, by Jewel Mason, What Men Want by Deborah Blumenthal and The Calder Game by Blue Balliett are the three books I've read in the past 3 weeks, so I thought I'd jot down some of my thoughts about them, especially since I'm still slightly miffed about Jim Butcher shooting Harry Dresden at the end of book 11, Changes (How could he leave all the Dresden Files fans in the lurch, wondering about Harry's fate for two years while he gets out another book?)
At any rate, Lady Dragon was discovered at my local dollar store, and it appeared to be a fantasy or paranormal fantasy at the outset, however, it is, in reality, just a garden-variety historical romance set in the era of knights and swords. The heroine is the usual thin blonde who is fierce because she has to be, and the hero is the usual royal manly-man, who inevitably falls for our fierce but frail and broken-hearted heroine. There is also the inevitable good grandfather and evil uncle who is trying to seize power and land from our heroine. Things turn out all right, however, and the Lady Dragon gets her guy, after some 'nursing back to health' moments on both sides. This is the kind of book you can finish reading in an afternoon, because you can see the plot moving along at an ordered pace to the conclusion you know is coming, the HEA.
While the author had a fairly firm grasp of the language and didn't make any huge errors, there was still a bit too much cliche woven into the text for my liking. Still, I think it would suit the nonchalant romance fan who just wants to escape for a couple of hours in a book that doesn't require much thinking.
What Men Want, in contrast, is poorly titled but a great read, full of fun and characters that intrigued me because they were reporters. Jenny George and Slaid Warren have been dueling journalists with columns in competing newspapers for years. Jenny, who is a cliche'd pert/petite blonde (why do so many authors assume that short blonde women are the only protagonists worth writing about? Why do they assume you have to be tiny/skinny to be sexy and desirable? Especially since the average American woman is a size 14, and 62 percent of women in America qualify as 'overweight.' I would be willing to bet that a majority of women are also brunettes, not blondes, especially natural blondes, which are hard to come by unless you live in Minnesota or Norway) finds out that a movie producer is paying city officials off to get himself a deal for filming in New York by taking them to the Caribbean. George sets off for the Caribbean to investigate with her newspaper editors blessing (you can tell this book was written before the recession when all the newspapers started closing and firing all their reporters, particularly the ones who had expense accounts and traveled to other countries for stories).
While in the tropics, Jenny flirts with the movie producer to try and get him to admit to wrongdoing and also eventually flirts with Slaid, who has followed her down to the vacation spot to try and scoop her on the story. The two try to work together, but, of course, they end up at cross-purposes. Jenny does way too much vacationing and flirting and not enough investigating and reporting to make this scenario seem real, but the witty bandinage between the two characters was well worth the fantasy element added to make journalism seem like the glamorous career it once was. Blumenthal's prose is zesty and her plot purrs like an expensive Italian sports car. While I am sure the publishers of this novel stuck it firmly into the 'chick lit' category before putting it between covers, I think that is doing this work a disservice. It should be considered general fiction and a good 'beach read' at that. I was surprised that the author chose to leave the ending a bit up in the air, but I was glad that Blumenthal didn't force Jenny to be a doormat for her wimpy slimebag ex-boyfriend who cheated on her with a starlet and then had the temerity to ask her to come back to him once he got bored with the starlets narcissism. I'd recommend this book to any woman who enjoys a good story about what being a reporter used to be like, and also likes office romances.
The Calder Game is the third of Blue Balliett's books that I've read, following Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3. Though they are young adult books aimed at the preteen and early teenager market, I've found Balliett's sensitive, smart and quirky triumvirate of teens to be delightfully entertaining as they make their way through each mystery with courage and just the right amount of awkward teen antics.
In the latest installment, Chicago teens Tommy, Calder and Petra are separated when Calder's father takes him to England for several months, leaving the uneasy Petra and irritating Tommy together without calm Calder as a buffer between them. The trio are studying the works of Alexander Calder, maker of mobiles and sculptures, in school, and Calder (who was named for the artist) finds that the village he's staying in has a large modern Alexander Calder sculpture near his B&B.
Unfortunately, the sculpture and Calder go missing the same day, and Calder's father decides to fly in Tommy and Petra, as well as their detective elderly neighbor, Ms Sharp, to see if they can come up with any leads on Calder's whereabouts. A perceptive and realistic account of British people's resistance to change, their feelings toward Americans and art, and teenagers ability to find trouble in places that were previously peaceful ensues. The kids set up a game and a code based on Calder the artists works, and those puzzles are layered throughout the novel. Though it wasn't as wonderful as Chasing Vermeer, which left me breathless with fascination (I couldn't put it down)The Calder Game is still a brisk and intricate YA novel that I'd recommend to all teenagers (and adults) who enjoy art and puzzles, as well as English history.


Priscilla said...

(How could he leave all the Dresden Files fans in the lurch, wondering about Harry's fate for two years while he gets out another book?)

Changes is book 12, not book 11, and the next Dresden novel, Ghost Story comes out next April. One year to wait, not two! And this October will bring an anthology of Dresden Files short stories, including "Aftermath," a story from Murphy's POV that takes place 45 minutes after Changes.

Jim may be evil, but he's not "two-year cliffhanger" evil. :D

DeAnn G. Rossetti said...

Hi Pricilla,
Thanks for stopping by to read my blog, and thanks for letting me know Changes is book 12, not book 11. I am glad to hear that beloved Harry Dresden will be back next year, but the name of the book, Ghost Story, still makes me uneasy...hopefully Dresden isn't the ghost in the title! I don't know if I could handle an incorporeal wizard instead of our usual manly guy in a trenchcoat. I will be on the look out for the short story anthology, which should be wonderful, especially with a Murphy POV! And you are right, I shouldn't assume Jim Butcher is evil enough to make us wait so long for another shot of the delicious Harry Dresden...I swear the Dresden Files are as addictive as cocaine!
Thanks again for the information on the books, it is much appreciated! :)