While plans are in motion for my next release, Killing the Kordovas, I’ve been busy reading this summer as well. Some of the highlights:

A Spear of Summer GrassA Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

ARC received from NetGalley

I chose to read this title because the time and setting interested me. The story begins shortly before the marriage of Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – the early 1920s, right where we’d be currently in Downton Abbey. Only Delilah Drummond hardly resembles the titled ladies of that show – she’s unapologetic and comes off as vain, yet is capable of compassion when the situation calls for it. Delilah volunteers to a temporary exile to Africa in order to let her latest scandal fade, and soon discovers the exotic continent calls to her…and she’s willing to listen.

Without spoiling the story, I’ll say that the story combines moments of tense romance with suspense – this isn’t a romance in the traditional sense, and if you’re expecting such you’ll be disappointed by Delilah’s behavior. I’ll admit there were times I thought she needed a swift kick in the rear, but if you keep with the story you’ll succumb to her charm. Her match, the adventurous Ryder White, is the other well-developed character in the story, and they shine in the foreground of a supporting cast of British residents. It’s a vivid book and worth reading if you enjoy early 20th century set fiction.

Hollywood ForeverHollywood Forever by Christopher Herz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very interesting story about an actor willing to do anything for a role, even go so far as to change his identity. The “role”, however, is not for a typical TV drama but for a program designed to recruit people to take charge of their own careers through entertainment.

There’s a sinister undertone to the story, which is told in first person. It’s slow to build toward the action, and an ambiguous ending left it a bit flat.

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a ClassicMary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the old Mary Tyler Moore show, and Rhoda, and if you did you’ll likely enjoy this book as much as I did. It’s a thoughtful history not only of the show and the various MTM Enterprises projects that followed, but the story of an era of change in television. It’s amazing to think at one time you could cold send spec scripts to producers and actually receive feedback, or even a job. What went on at MTM probably couldn’t happen now given the changes in television (more channels, more reality). I read this and long for the golden age of television comedy.

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil ReturnsRevenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got into an argument once with somebody about The Devil Wears Prada. This person loved that book, and I enjoyed it up until a point. I never liked the climatic scene where Andy finally confronts Miranda – it played too weakly for me, and the denouement did little to save it. I have not seen the movie.

Nonetheless, sequels intrigue me, and I picked up Revenge despite the less than glowing reviews here. Seems this is not the book everybody hoped to read – readers wanted an actual revenge plot. I’ll agree with other readers that Andy’s character doesn’t appear to have grown since Devil, but I did like that she was determined not to go along with the resurrected interest in Miranda and the “devil’s” interest in her wedding magazine. Miranda is not a major player in the book (maybe in spirit, as she forever lingers as an evil specter in Andy’s mind), and people wonder “Where’s the actual revenge?”

My theory: it’s all mental. Andy had finally found success in her chosen field, had the man she loved, etc. Contact with Miranda after ten years, which led to the latter’s interest in acquiring Andy’s property, instigated the revenge. Just hearing the woman’s name sets Andy spiraling into anxiety and paranoia, to the point it eventually takes nearly everything from her.

That said, I didn’t hate the book. I still wish Andy had grabbed Miranda by the neck in the first book and plunged her head into a toilet. I don’t know if we can expect a third book.

Desert of the Heart: A NovelDesert of the Heart: A Novel by Jane Rule

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you have seen the film Desert Hearts, on which the book is based, and have it mind to read the book, know that there are quite a few differences. Where Roger Ebert took points off on the movie for its simplicity, the book offers a more complex character study of Evelyn Hall (called Vivian in the film). It’s been years since I saw film and I remember the basic plot, the core is which stays true to the book. Evelyn comes to Reno in the 1950s for a brief residency in order to satisfy requirements for a quick divorce. Her existence there is quiet and frustrating due to limited sources for intellectual stimulation. She maintains cordial relationships with her landlady and his son, but finds something deeper with Ann Childs, a young woman of means who works at the local casino, ostensibly for something to do.

The concept of time is a major theme in this story – Evelyn as a temporary resident, the time running out for her unsuccessful marriage, and Ann’s tendency to cut romantic relationships short. While the movie implies their romance progressed with some reluctance on Evelyn’s part, the book shows woman better equipped to handle their feelings for the other. The literary style of the narrative gives great depth to the people in this story, and Rule creates a vivid and timeless sense of place. Many people here have remarked that they couldn’t believe this book was originally written in 1964. Nearly fifty years later, the story remains fresh.

View all my reviews