Since I'm temporarily out of Lindsey Davis novels, I've had to look to other authors for the past few weeks. Some recent reading:
A LONG WAY DOWN
This was exactly what I needed to cheer me up. Four very different people wind up on the roof of a popular suicide spot in London on New Year's Eve, and lacking the privacy to do the deed they've come for, wind up striking up this peculiar bond that's not quite a friendship (or is it?) and they wind up getting together again as a group at various points and for various reasons. Quirky and over the top, but at the same time very believable and full of sad and poignant and funny moments. And while it does have a hopeful ending, he doesn't go for the Hollywood Happy Ending which makes it all even more satisfying. Probably my favorite of Hornby's books so far.
FULL MOON RISING
This is a new supernatural chick-lit sort of series from an Australian author, featuring a half-werewolf/half-vampire character and her gay twin. Lots of blood and violence, with very little consequences. But also lots of fun. And interesting sexual dynamics, where the werewolves go into a sexual rut with each full moon, and are portrayed not so much as promiscuous as polyamorous. (Although if their sexual lust is not fulfilled, it turns into bloodlust.) These fall sort of in between the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse novels and the Kelley Armstrong series (with a lot more sex than either of those). I read it in a single sitting and enjoyed myself. Will definitely read the sequels.
THE QUEEN'S NECKLACE
I liked a lot about this mannerist fantasy novel, and the curious war between goblins and humans it describes, but I also felt it was very simple and also that nothing actually got resolved. Everything was left open (hoping for a sequel if sales warranted, which it seems they didn't). And perhaps having read some of Edgerton's earlier works (I own two, which are back in NYC, but haven't yet read them) might also have made me care a bit more about what was going on. It was a pleasant diversion, but it felt very much like watching a play you've already seen many other productions of so you know exactly what's going to happen at all times. And just when things get interesting, it stops.
Everyone was right; I do like Jenny Cain. Really human character, very warm and likable as she deals with all the things that go on (in addition to the mystery). Also a wicked sense of humor that shows through every now with fun one-liners and banter, but that doesn't work out of context. (One of Jenny's friends says at one point, when they're walking outside in winter, how she never thought she'd be glad for menopause but it was nice not to feel cold ever, and Jenny complains that her friend always has to find the positive side to everything.) This is a later book in the series, which is actually fine; they don't seem like they need to be read in order, and this way I have lots of other books in the series to try and track down now.
THE SEVENTH RAVEN
YA thriller. I liked this a lot more than I expected to, given that I'm a) not fond of opera mysteries, as a general rule, and b) I'm not fond of terrorist novels, as a genre. This was the first Dickinson I've read (either YA or adult) and I'm glad I've been picking up books by him whenever I find them. Very nuanced portrayal of a difficult political situation, an interesting original Biblical opera, without getting too twee about the theatre aspect. And also a really complicated and interesting dynamic between the protagonist and her mother, which is very much at the heart of the story even if it's never really focused on for long.
AIN'T GONNA BE THE SAME FOOL TWICE and I LEFT MY BACK DOOR OPEN
I read these back to back. Neither is anywhere near as good as her first novel, COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK. SAME FOOL is the continuing story of Stevie; but while I laughed a lot (lots of fun moments) it was as much from nostalgia and familiarity as anything else. (Of course, the San Francisco Stevie falls in love with no longer exists like that any more.) A lot of hit-you-over-the-head race and sexual-identity politics, although since I agree with them I was able to get through just fine. BACK DOOR suffers from a lot of the same problems, and I think it was less autobiographical than the first two, but it didn't really mean much to me. I don't regret having read them (although I hate when black jive is indicated through misspellings like "sho 'nuf"). Both books deal with inner city life and trying to raise kids today (well, a decade ago) and how much more difficult that is than when they were growing up. I'm afraid they were affirming in making me glad not to live in the U.S. (the way I respond to almost anything about Los Angeles, too.)
YA fantasy set in Ancient China by an Australian writer. Perfectly readable, but also perfectly obvious from beginning to end. I had hoped it would be more interesting, and also more authentic.
Somewhat obvious YA fantasy novel by a New Zealand writer (it is purely by accident that I read so many Antipodean writers this month; they were bought over the years in different places and I wound up picking them up without realizing until later--like writing this up--how many of them come from "down under") about a young man who becomes a healer and defies the corrupt empire to defend the displaced wild natives (who are by and large peaceful in touch with a different kind of earth magic) complete with a prophecy that each side (empire and natives) both share (in their own versions). I've also got her A RAGING QUIET on my shelf; I'd bought that first (which doesn't indicate anything about where the author is from, fyi) but when I came across this fantasy with a Leo & Diane Dillon cover how could I say no? The only thing I was surprised by in any way was the ending, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it or not. Lots of healing magic stuff. (Same goes for THE QUEEN'S NECKLACE above.) I'd have rather read a Tamora Pierce, though, if that makes any sense.
GIRL IN BUCKSKIN
YA novel. Girl whose parents are killed in an Indian raid winds up going to live in a valley with her brother and becomes friends with the Indians. This was sort of like her Madame Karitska books where, for all that she's a clairvoyant, everything is Obvious as Can Be. Perfectly readable and I needed something undemanding when I was a) tearing my hair out because of the lack of phone line and lack of response from Telefonica and b) under the weather, as it were, from the antibiotics.
CRUEL & UNUSUAL
This is the first of the Kay Scarpetta's I've read, and I quite liked it. I can easily see myself liking the rest of the series. It was very, very dark (like the Jonathan Kellermans in many ways) so I'll probably want to not read a lot of them back-to-back (especially in winter). But the characters and the suspense were well-done, and I like her integrity and her relationship with her niece (and other people around her).
I mentioned this book before, when I had first started reading it (and it was dragging). Once the protagonist discovers the white elephant in the living room around page 160 and kicks herself for not having seen it before, however, things pick up, and it came to a satisfying end with a bunch of more-interesting twists. Not going to rush out and buy her, but I got accustomed to the female London gumshoe voice. (Didn't have to buy this one, either, thankfully, since it was loaned to us by a friend of Sara's mother.)
Plus two books I started but couldn't get far into:
Alexander McCall Smith
PORTUGUESE IRREGULAR VERBS
Tries to be Jerome K. Jerome (c.f. THREE MEN ON THE BUMMELL) set in academia and falls flat on his face. Yawn.
DIM SUM DEAD
I bought it because it was a Mah Johng mystery and I learned to play at Clarion West and enjoy playing, although I haven't in years because no one I know knows how to play (or is willing to if they do--kind of the same problem I have with Boggle, although at least I do have a Boggle set here in Madrid). But, alas, it turns out to be about a caterer. (I'll probably read a few more Diane Mott Jones novels, but the genre is very overwritten and this lacks the charm of those characters.) And even worse, it's set in Los Angeles, a city I dislike and dislike reading about. But mostly I just couldn't care about the characters and their concerns. Whatever.