Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Potboilers and Beach Reads

In honor of the last days of summer, and because the bright blue sky outside beckons so I simply can't stay at home scanning old maps today, here's a review of the books that topped my list this year instead.

In A Lonely Place
Dorothy B. Hughes

It's been so long since I read In A Lonely Place (I started in July) that I can't give an adequate review -- I point you to this blurb on the Feminist Press website -- but I had to mention it, if only in passing. Everyone, go out and read it. We all know I loved the movie, and the book is vastly different, but it's so good and hardboiled and suspensy and written BY A GIRL no less. And it predates Highsmith and blah, blah, blah, oh, just read it.


No that's out of the way... My second favorite summer read was "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" by Katherine Howe.

Sure, it's a total beach read, and it's kind of silly -- it's about witchcraft, how eerie! -- and so forth, but come on! It's like a Nancy Drew for grownups! If you enjoy finding secret house filled with spells and think it's funny to call it "The Phsyick Book of Danity Kane" you'll like this book, I guarantee it. The fact that you're reading something a mere step up from the Da Vinci Code? Whatever, it's summer, and it's a pretty big step. The prose, in other words, won't make you choke. Sure the third act is inane (it involves stealing pee!) but it starts off so well that I forgave it any number of missteps (like, say, extreme obviousness). Our heroine, Connie, though oftentimes oddly dense for a Harvard grad student, is engaging and awkwardly charming, and the story speeds along at a brisk clip. I also like little touches, like the Wiccan at the local magic shop being kind of useless and unhelpful, and a purveyor of expired herbs (what can I say, I respect anyone who shows restraint whilst dealing with the eminently mockable neo-pagans). Anyway, if you enjoy witchcraft and whiling away the summer hours, you could do worse.

But Danity Kane is only recommended reading. In A Lonely Place is required reading.

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