Friday, January 14, 2011

Disappointing Reads by Favored Authors - Winter 2010-2011

Sometimes I stumble upon a book when perusing the library shelves and think, "Oh, I've read some things by that author that I really enjoyed.  What a treat it will be to read something else that she's written."  Sadly, sometimes things just don't turn out that way.  Here's a short list of some recent reading disappointments:

--Anne Tyler's Back When We Were Grown-Ups.  This books starts in a promising fashion.  "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person."   Like the protagonist, I'm at that mid-century mark and am spending some time thinking about my life, where I've come from and where I'm going.  So I guess I might have been hoping that this book would provide some illumination -- or at least would stir a few thoughts.  Nope.  Tyler tells the story of a woman who was widowed very young and is now running the family party business and living with a family that she doesn't seem to feel part of, even after 25+ years.  She starts thinking of what might have been and decides to look up her old beau--she was her "authentic" person then, and she decides that being with him (and resuming her college research on Robert E. Lee) might be just what she needs.  Conveniently, he is recently divorced and when she meets him for dinner, she learns, among other unappealing tidbits, that he cooks a pot of chili every Sunday and parcels it out into seven servings for the week.  OK, I'd be lacing up my running shoes right then but she persists.  Bottom line, she decides at the end of the day, in a Dorothy-like manner, that there's no place like home.  Maybe some of Tyler's earlier works like The Accidental Tourist and Digging to America wouldn't hold up for me now, but I remember them as having interesting quirky characters that I enjoyed reading about.  Not so in this missive.  Enough said. 

--Laura Lippman's Another Thing to Fall.  I generally like Lippman's books, most of which feature Baltimore-based private investigator Tess Monaghan.  I love getting into a series featuring a character, learning about him or her as I go from book to book.  (Think Lee Childs and his Jack Reacher character or, to a lesser degree, Harlan Coben and his Myron Bolitar character.)   In this book, Lippman takes us onto the set of a TV show being filmed in Baltimore.  Things are not running smoothly, however, with acts of sabotage occurring on set.  Monaghan is brought in to act as body guard for one of the stars and does some sideline investigation of what's going on.  Suffice it to say that I returned this book to the library a few days ago and I couldn't remember the title when I sat down to write this (even after looking at a list!)   A big "who cares?" is in order.

--Dennis Lehane's Moonlight Mile.  Even more of a "who cares" is in order for this very disappointing book by an author I love.  Both Mystic River and Shutter Island were powerful, engaging stories.  Moonlight Mile--not so much.  In fact, I would have quit reading this book if I hadn't taken it on Playmobil with me for a day long cruise with no other reading material available.  It tells the story of a case taken on by Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, the protagonists from some of his other books, including Gone, Baby, Gone which was made into a movie with Ben Affleck.   I don't even want to talk about the plot, which was hard to follow.  The good news is that (spoiler alert) at the end of the book, they decided to give up the investigation business for good.  Hopefully Lehane will stick with this promise and get back to writing the stand alone books that have made his reputation.

I'm heading on a road trip on Monday and have three audio books packed for the ride.  Hopefully one of them will be "worthy" about writing about upon my return!  Happy reading!

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