November 12, 2005

On Books: October

Once again, it's time for a review of stuff I read the previous month. And it looks like October was a little heavy on the crime fiction...

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
Ahh, another gonzo tale of crimes gone wrong and the not-too-bright criminals who commit them. I like Hiaasen. I don’t think his novels are laugh-out-loud funny but rarely do I read something that is. They’re amusing, though. Hiaasen does run the risk of repeating himself. His formula is straightforward and his characters are two-dimensional. My dad and I were talking about his novels not long ago and it became clear to both of us that, in retrospect, his novels are almost indistinguishable from each other aside from vague plot differences. Yet, for some reason, they’re enjoyable, compelling and very entertaining. This is not fine literature. But not everything needs to be.

Dispatch by Bentley Little
I used to really like Little. He wrote a string of horror novels – The Town, The Association and The Store – that were incredibly well done and insanely creepy. Little has the ability to take an everyday thing, like a store or homeowner’s association – and turn it into something terribly malevolent and scary. I know it sounds strange but it’s true. Little dropped the ball on his last few novels – The Policy and The Resort – so I was hoping he’d pick it back up. He didn’t. No two ways around it, Dispatch was complete crap. The only thing that really scared me was how an author as competent as Little could write something so terrible.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
You have to give Lindsay credit for trying something new and different. Our hero, Dexter, is a crime lab technician who helps hunt down serial killers. Lame, and certainly nothing new there. But wait. What if Dexter is, himself, a serial killer? What if he’s somehow likable and funny? And what if he only kills people who are really pretty terrible to begin with? It sounds like a strange formula but Lindsay makes it work. Darkly Dreaming Dexter is unusual, just a tad violent, and very morbidly funny.

Seconds of Pleasure by Neil LaBute
LaBute is, supposedly, a well-known and critically acclaimed playwright. I didn’t know that but I was so informed when I took the book to the front counter at my local Borders to pay for it. I just liked the blurb on the back of the book. Here, LaBute tries his hand at short stories. If LaBute’s plays are any good, he really should stick with his day job. Seconds of Pleasure is tedious, repetitive and, above all, crap. Each story is remarkably similar to the one that preceded it. There’s conflict revolving primarily or tangentially around sex and/or a relationship. And then there’s a twist. A man and a woman fight over his infidelity. At the last possible moment in the story, we’re hit with the stunner – he was screwing his next door neighbor. A man! Duh daaa! We’re you shocked? You might be the first time but that’s LaBute’s M.O. Shake things up at the last minute and we, the readers, might overlook the fact that the stories were crap to begin with. Save yourself $12.

Secret Prey/Certain Prey by John Sandford
After reading 10 or so volumes of the Prey series not to mention all of Sandford’s other books last year, I was burned out. So, it was nice to pick up the next in the series and return to the world of Minneapolis Police Chief Lucas Davenport. Secret Prey so much, I launched right into Certain Prey. Here’s the thing – Sandford cranks them out at a relentless pace. Yet each novel is astonishingly well written. That could have something to do with the fact that Sandford is actually Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp. And Camp knows how to write. His characters are engaging, the crimes are engrossing and the back-story is compelling. And Sandford has some absolutely priceless lines. I enjoyed returning to these so much, I just cracked open another one last night.

Derailed by James Siegel
Yes, this is the book on which the movie is based. There’s a reason the movie hasn’t been well-reviewed. Derailed is a decent thriller but its obvious how it’ll play out by the time you hit page 20. I desperately wanted to be wrong. I wanted a few more twists thrown at me to keep me on my toes. But I didn’t get them. It didn’t spoil the ride – it was still a decent read – but it could have been much, much better.

Posted by Chris at November 12, 2005 11:14 AM

ooooo.... it just so happens I am going to the bookstore today. I am going to have to look for Darkly Dreaming Dexter. That sounds like something I would like.

Posted by: jodi at November 12, 2005 11:24 AM

You have a new baby. You work full time. How? Just how do you have time to read 5 books in a month????
I'm struggling for one...

Posted by: Steph at November 12, 2005 12:46 PM

I am so irritated because our professor is giving us extra credit to read "The Smartest Guys in the Room", but I usually read so much faster when I'm not reading UTTER DRIVEL.

I suppose it wouldn't be extra credit if it were fun.

Posted by: alektra at November 12, 2005 1:20 PM

you read SIX BOOKS in one month?! seriously? WHEN?

Posted by: RazDreams at November 12, 2005 2:03 PM

Gee, and my reading list includes "Principles of Neural Science," "Child Neuropsychology" and "Analysis and Design" along with some sort of Microsoft system crash analysis.
Wanna trade?

Posted by: Jaycie at November 12, 2005 2:41 PM

I love Sandford myself. I read everything he writes.

Posted by: Theresa at November 12, 2005 2:54 PM

Ooh I'm all excited at the prospect of a new crime series! I'll have to check that one (Sandford) out! What's the beginning?

Posted by: Heather at November 12, 2005 3:03 PM

You are a husband....

You are a father....

You are an employee....

You are a blogger.....


You are a reader....

Is there anything that you DON'T do? :)

Seriously though very very hot that you read a lot!

Posted by: Kelly at November 12, 2005 6:02 PM

the hell?? you read?? ummm may I ask when you have the time to do this? Or better yet, what amazing wonder do everything drugs are you on? may I partake?

Posted by: Heather B. at November 12, 2005 8:43 PM

You definitely do NOT sleep, nor do you really WORK when you're at "work".... you're reading! Does Beth know this? Does your employer know this? I am NOT married, I DON'T have children, and yet I struggle to find time to read books for pleasure during my school year. I read 'em like they're picture books during the summer, but I just don't understand how you do it all year long whilst you wear your many hats.

I bow to you in your presence. I am not worthy!

Posted by: ironic1 at November 12, 2005 9:26 PM

Since you liked Darkly Dreaming Dexter, you should definitely check out the next book in the series, Dearly Devoted Dexter. It's as dark as the first one, but (IMHO) much funnier. I think you'll like it!

I've read all of John Sandford's books, and his latest (Broken Prey) is one of his best. I thought the one or two books before that one were a bit lacking (although still much better than most other books out there!), but he really got everything right with Broken Prey.

Happy reading! :)

Posted by: Tania at November 13, 2005 3:30 AM

Dude. I want to read Darkly Dreaming Dexter. I, too, am among the many who are in complete awe that you find time to read. You must have graduated from Evelyn Wood because there aren't enough hours in the day to cover all that you do! The only other thing I can think is you never watch tv. If I cut that out completely, I might be able to read like you.

Posted by: anita at November 13, 2005 12:52 PM

Seconds of Pleasure sounds about as tedious as Oblivion by David Foster Wallace, which is what I'm reading right now... It's a book of short stories and 10 pages into the first story i wanted to gouge my eyeballs out.

Posted by: Dawn (webmiztris) at November 13, 2005 4:43 PM

okay, when do you sleep?

i know the caffeine thing and all (i'm right there with you babe) but really, how do you find the time??

Posted by: bellacara at November 13, 2005 10:52 PM