There are now TWO ways to see reviews from the Meg's Monthly Booklist
archives. You can go to the Monthly
or try out the new
BookSearch search engine (where you can search for a specific
book). With choices like those, you just don't have any
Book Archive | The
- (10/31) The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell.
- After I read the previous Kay Scarpetta novel, which stunk to high
heaven just like the one before it, I promised myself and the world that
I'd give her one more chance. If "TLP" was as bad as the previous two or
three, I'd give up on the series for good. Well, Patricia must've heard me
(or else I'm not the only person out there who thought she was losing her
touch), because this one was a little bit better than the last few. Not
great, but better enough to make me promise to try one more after THIS
Essentially, The Last Precinct is a continuation of the previous novel,
Black Notice. It opens with Scarpetta packing her stuff up to leave just
hours after Le Loup-Garou Chandonne attacked her in her own home. Remember
that? Yeah, I didn't either. The previous novel had been so forgettable,
it took me a few pages to get back into the storyline. Luckily, Patricia
seemed to know this as well, because she was very careful to remind us
subtly of what we'd forgotten. Occasionally a little TOO careful, but
let's not get into that here.
By the middle of the novel, Kay has actually been accused of killing Diana
Bray, one of Chandonne's earlier victims, who was known to be a nemesis of
Scarpetta's. From there, the plotline revolves around Kay's attempt to
prove both her innocence and Chandonne's guilt. But first, a bazillion
pages of Scarpetta on the couch in front of her shrink pal, spilling out
all her troubles and getting brilliant tidbits of professional analysis in
return (sample tidbit: "You feel lonely and misunderstood" --
see? BRILLIANT, I tell you!). Anyway, as Kay's investigation moves
forward, it becomes apparent that Chandonne was working with someone
else. Someone who is NOT in custody, as is Le Loup-Garou. And someone who
knows a LOT about Dr. Scarpetta and her routines.
Plot aside, what makes this novel slightly better is the writing. In
Cornwell's last couple of Kay Scarpetta novels (I don't even read the
other series -- it's so badly written I can't stand it), her writing was
sloppy and overly emotional. The characters were suddenly completely
different people, which just never rang true and the dialogue and
description was clumsy and cliche, not to mention just downright in
violation of Strunk and White from time to time. Here we're back to the
old gang, and someone proofread this one a little more carefully before it
went to press. The major problem with this one is that it's too much a
rehash of the previous two. It felt like Cornwell had a direction she
wanted to send Kay in, but just wasn't sure how to get her going. Maybe
she realized too late she should've ended the last novel with the bulk of
the plotline of this novel (except weedled down to one chapter). But she
couldn't start the NEW book until she'd gotten Kay to go through that one
last change. So there she was, stuck having to write an entire novel just
to get that one chapter accomplished. But it's over now and I'm curious to
see where Kay is headed after this. So, if you're listening, Patty, you've
got one more chance. Make it a good one! I beg you!
- (10/20) The Bellwether by Connie Willis.
- Another crazy sci-fi novel from the master of kook. This one
is about two scientists (Sandra and Ben) who work for a company run by a
bunch of management-knuckleheads. When the mailgirl (a truly amazing
space cadet) loses the grant proposal that was going to continue the
funding for Ben's study, Sandra (whose field is the study of fads -- their
origins and impact on society) decides to share her funding with him by
coming up with a project that will combine their two fields. Since his
field is chaos study, they decide they'd better get some sheep. Yeah, I
dunno either. Initially, Sandra's motivations are purely selfish -- she
wants to study Ben, actually, because he's absolutely fadless. He's so
out of style and unhip, he's actually an enigma. Only after they start
spending tons of time being butted around by their sheep, who turn out to
be even more stupid than they imagined, Sandra starts to realize her
motivations have changed. She's got a crush on Ben and she's got it BAD.
This novel is wacky. I totally loved it. Highly recommended!
- (10/16) Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs.
- At long last! The new Tempe Brennan novel is out! If you
idea who Tempe Brennan is, you are waaaaay behind in the game, folks.
She's the best thing since Kay Scarpetta, though that used to mean a lot
more about 5 years ago (before Patricia Cornwell started to get sloppy).
Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and in this installment, she's
called in to investigate the bones of two skeletons found next to a known
biker hangout. When she also discovers the partial skeleton of a young
girl, she knows this was no simple biker gang hit. As Tempe begins to
investigate, a full-scale biker gang war breaks out, making it difficult
for her to track the clues. And things pretty much go straight downhill
from there. In the backdrop, as usual, is a ton of fascinating forensics
stuff (blood spatter patterns, bones, crime scene investigations, etc.).
As always, this was extremely well-written and fast-paced with characters
that never once came across as two-dimensional or false. It's a real
shame Patricia Cornwell lost her touch, but at least we've got Kathy
Reichs around to replace her! Highly recommended!
- (10/15) Best Places for Weddings, Seattle/Tacoma by Allison D.
- Very useful book (though outdated) full of black and white
photos of various great places for weddings and receptions in Seattle.
Contains descriptions not only of what the sites look like, but what the
staff is like to work with and what the history of the location is. I'm
going to look for an updated version, but since I haven't seen it
somewhere already, I suspect it doesn't exist. Too bad, too. This book
would be even more helpful in a 2000 version!
- (10/15) How to Have an Elegant Wedding for $5000 or Less by J.
Wilson and B.W. Hickman.
- Ties with "Bridal Bargains" as being the best and most useful
wedding book I've read so far. Not only does it have killer advice on how
to save money, it also is organized extremely well -- almost step-by-step
instruction on how to plan your wedding. And there's a reason for that --
the two authors, a mother and daughter, are professional wedding
coordinators. They've planned zillions of weddings step-by-step
themselves. Ack! If only they lived in Seattle! I need them! I learned
a lot from this book, something I thought must be approaching impossible
after all the stuff I've read in the last 3 weeks (NOW I think I know
everything about weddings). Very very highly recommended!
- (10/14) "I Do" Veils -- So Can You! by Claudia Lynch.
- Very explicit instructions, complete with a glossary of
supplies you'll be using (and sketches of what they look like). But the
problem is there aren't any photographs. It's hard to tell from a sketch
what a veil truly looks like. I'm not planning on wearing a veil, but I
thought I'd check out this book and see if it changed my mind. It didn't.
Recommended only if you have seen a veil you really liked somewhere and
want to reproduce it. Take a picture of it first, though!
- (10/14) Tabletops by B.M. Ohrbach.
- Book all about creating interesting and pretty centerpieces
for tables. Gorgeous photos and lots of good ideas I may be able to adapt
for the tables at my reception. Very useful step-by-step instructions for
the more complicated displays. Recommended!
- (10/13) Flowers for Your Wedding Day by Diana Tonks.
- Step-by-step guide to making bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres,
centerpieces, hair wreaths, and lots of other flower creations for your
wedding. Beautiful pictures, though the instructions weren't explicit
enough for some things to make me feel like I could truly make them. Got
some great ideas, though!
- (10/12) The Longest Aisle by R. Mintzer.
- Semi-funny "guide" to planning your wedding. Could've been a
lot funnier in places (really, a woman should've written it -- what do men
know about planning a wedding? Nothing! Therefore, how can they turn it
into a joke successfully?) Nevertheless, contains some pretty useful
advice (ha ha) such as, "Choose people [for your bridal party] who will
start drinking AFTER the ceremony" or "Hang out at a local hospital and
'borrow' flowers from the rooms when patients are sleeping." All in all,
a nice diversion from the tons of REAL wedding advice I've been reading
- (10/11) Beautiful Wedding Decorations and Gifts on a Small
Budget by Diane Warner.
- Very useful book full of creative ideas for making your own
wreaths, centerpieces, flower arrangements, gifts, etc. for your wedding.
A chapter for each event (rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, get-away,
etc.) and even a few recipes for making edible gifts for your bridal
party. This is a book I will be checking out again when I get a little
bit closer to The Big Day.
- (10/10) CyberBride: The Complete Online Guide to Planning Your
Wedding by Denise and Alan Fields.
- The authors of the great book "Bridal Bargains" also have
written this book on using web sites to help you plan your wedding. It's
not as great as the Bargains book, but a lot of the sites do look useful.
Many of them I've stumbled across on my own, but it was interesting to
read what Denise and Alan liked and disliked about each one, as well as
what features on each site I might have missed. Also has information on
buying invitations, dresses, etc. from on-line vendors. All and all, a
useful resource! Recommended!
- (10/9) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K.
- The second book in the HP series, this one has Harry returning
to Hogwarts for his sophomore year. School's barely gotten off the
ground, however, before strange things start happening to our intrepid
hero. First, it's the voices he hears in the walls and that silly
creature Dobby who keeps trying to warn him away from the school. Then
it's a rash of attacks on students, ghosts, and cats. Soon the school is
in an uproar -- students are blaming Harry for the attacks, saying he is
obviously the descendant of an evil wizard who built a secret chamber at
Hogwarts housing a terrible creature. But the administration thinks it's
Hagrid who has let the creature out and packs him off to Azkaban! When
Hermione is attacked as well, Harry and Ron risk their lives to find the
legendary beast and close the Chamber of Secrets. But will they get out
in one piece? And, is it possible He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is behind
this? Even worse, is it possible that Harry really is the descendent of
an evil Dark Lord? Eek! It was fabulous! If you haven't started
reading this series yet, you need to jump on the bandwagon, my friend.
I swear it'll be a great ride. Highly highly highly recommended!
- (10/5) Open House by Elizabeth Berg.
- Novel about a woman who is divorced by her husband, kind of
out of the blue. As she struggles with her self-esteem and her devastated
11-year old son, she begins trying to create a new life for herself. It's
a slow build, and one she resists all the way (because even though
she doesn't think she really still loves her husband, she misses the
security and comfort of just having someone next to her in life).
However, eventually she realizes that not only has her life rebuilt itself
while she wasn't looking, it's actually better now than ever before. I
enjoyed this novel -- it's written as though it really is the thoughts
plucked straight out of the narrator's head -- but I thought the ending
had a few flaws. There's no way to tell you what they were without giving
away some things, but I will tell you this: there are two scenes near the
end that were just totally unnecessary and wholly unbelievable. It kind
of wrecked the flow. This was an Oprah Book Club selection, but not one
of her strongest.
- (10/4) Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
- Collection of autobiographical short stories telling tales of
Sedaris' family, his youth, and his years spent in Paris. They mostly
focus on Sedaris' struggle against the forces trying to reshape him so
he'd fit in. He writes about trying to overcome his stutter, trying to
learn the guitar, trying to learn French, etc. The stories are crazy
sometimes, crazy in a way I can totally relate to (man, that stuff on
gender assignment with French nouns was so right on!). And even when he's
talking about something mundane or even bleak, he can make you
absolutely crack up with one simple turn of phrase. I can't wait to get
my hands on his other stories. Recommended!
- (10/3) Jim the Boy by Tony Earley.
- Sweet but kind of meatless young adult novel about a boy
growing up on a farm with his widowed mother and three zany (and
wonderful) uncles in the early 20th century. Reminded me a bit of the
Little House series, except it wasn't as smoothly written. While I loved
all the characters, the plotlines seemed clumsy and somewhat pointless.
Still, I know I would've loved it when I was ten, so if you've got kids,
you might consider pointing them in Earley's direction.