What I'm Reading Now: 11 August 31

The guinea pig diaries: my life as an experiment-- A. J. Jacobs (non-fiction)
Before I go to sleep-- S. J. Watson
The rook-- Steven James
Dancing in the dark-- Mary Jane Clark
Copycat-- Erica Spindler
The Nonesuch-- Georgette Heyer (Regency romance)
Sunshine-- Robin McKinley (fantasy)

I've come across mentions of A.J. Jacobs before. He's an editor at Esquire magazine who practices what some people call "stunt journalism"-- basically, the journalist fully involves him/herself in whatever it is he/she is writing about. (I remember two examples, by other journalists, from back issues of Reader's Digest: one about joining the percussion section of an orchestra, and the other about spending half an hour playing goalie in the NHL.) It may not be very highly regarded as a professional technique, but I find it fascinating. In The guinea pig diaries: my life as an experiment, Jacobs writes about his experience as a beautiful woman (setting up an internet dating profile on behalf of his nanny-- with her full permission, by the way), outsourcing his life to India, practicing Radical Honesty, and spending a month catering to his wife's every whim. It's funny, it's informative, and it makes you think. I will be seeking out his other two books, The know-it-all and The year of living Biblically.

Before I go to sleep poses the question: what is your life without your memories? Christine wakes up every morning beside a stranger, and every morning she has to be told where she is, and that the stranger beside her is her husband of twenty-seven years. But on this morning, she receives a phone call from a different stranger who tells her that he is a doctor helping her recover her memory, and that there is a journal in a shoe box in her closet. Christine reads the journal, and discovers that anything she has learned during the day vanishes when she falls asleep. She uses the journal to try to figure out what is going on, and begins to notice some discrepancies between what she writes and what other people, especially Ben, are telling her... It's a book of building suspense and confusion, and the ending is not at all what I expected. This is a debut novel, and if this is where Watson starts out, I look forward to seeing what he can do once he really gets going.

The rook is book two in the Patrick Bowers thrillers series. Patrick is called to San Diego to investigate a series of arsons. A seemingly-unrelated suicide and a couple of kidnappings later, the pieces start falling into place-- or do they?
I have to admit that I tend to be biased against Christian fiction in general, so that may be affecting my opinion, but I didn't think this was as good as his first, The pawn. The subplot with Bowers' stepdaughter seemed to distract from the main plot, and I found it annoying that the ending is so obviously setting up the next book. That being the case, I still needed to finish it, because I had to find out what was going to happen, and James doesn't fall into the easy cliches or standard tropes of forensic thrillers. I suspect I'll be reading the next one, too, but I may need time to let the disappointment of The rook fade a little first.

Since I'm admitting biases, let me also admit that I react badly to Mary Jane Clark on the basis of her name. Mary Higgins Clark is a famous author in the same genre, and the similarity of their names leads to some spillover. It smacks of unfair advantage to me... but I'm probably reading more into  it than is actually there. However, Dancing in the Dark is the second Mary Jane Clark I've read, and it was fairly decent. KEY News Diane Mayfield is assigned a "Girls who cry wolf" story featuring a young small-town woman reported missing for three days. She is rescued unharmed and claiming kidnapping, but is not believed until another girl goes missing. I don't have a lot to say about the book itself. It was an okay story, a reasonable way to spend a few hours, but it's not enough to make me think I need to read anything else of hers.

In Copycat by Erica Spindler, The Sleeping Angel Killer, who arranges the suffocated bodies of 10-year-old girls in their own beds, perfectly displayed, has returned after a five-year absence. Kitt Lundgren is going to catch him this time: she failed five years ago, falling into alcoholism and destroying her marriage in her pursuit. The catch? someone contacts Kitt to tell her that he is the Sleeping Angel Killer and the current crimes are the work of a copycat. Kitt has to match wits with the killer while trying to keep her own baggage from sinking her into the bottle again. Mary Catherine Riggio, the rising young star of the department, does not take well to working with Kitt, but their personal differences could save them... or let the killer go free again.
This was just plain good. Lots of twisty bits, suspicion falling on everyone, and a nuanced take on how alcoholism (and workaholism) can destroy so much for years to come. There is a second book featuring Kitt and Mary Catherine, which I will be tracking down once my to-read pile drops a little.

The Nonesuch is a Regency romance by Georgette Heyer. It's somewhat Jane-Austen-like, in the sense that it evokes that time period and that society. Unlike Austen, who wrote about her own time, Heyer wrote about an era about a hundred years before her time. In The Nonesuch, Sir Waldo Hawkridge leaves London to examine his inheritance in a small town. This new arrival is the greatest event in the village in years, as he is a Nonesuch-- one of the cream of society. The young men all want to emulate his wardrobe and driving skills, the young women are taken by the romantic possibilities, and the adults are torn between wishing him away and wanting to impress him. Fortunately, he is a character well worth emulating, and a spritely governess catches his eye. It was a fun read, and although it's fluff, it's very high-quality fluff.

I re-read Sunshine this last week, and enjoyed it as much as I had the first time I read it. I won't repeat my review; you can find it here.