The Late Show

Finished The Late Show by Michael Connelly. I received a copy for review. 

This is the first in a new series about Detective Renee Ballard. She’s working “the late show,” or overnight shifts in the LAPD. Here, she’s investigating two different cases–and reluctant to turn them over to the day shift, which is what typically happens. 

This isn’t a departure from his usual series. Like his Harry Bosch novels, this is a police procedural. And, like Harry, Renee tends to maybe skirt acceptable cop behavior a tad in order to get results. Not like Dirty Harry or anything, but the ends definitely justify the means. 

October will see the release of a new Bosch novel, and I am very happy about that (he is my favorite). But I very much like Renee Ballard, too. I look forward to spending more time with her. 

Recommended. 

Weekend Update

What I’m reading: I’m reading the new Michael Connelly and it’s so great. Everything he does is great.  So I recommend The Late Show; review soon, I hope.

What I’m watching: I love The Bold Type.  I love it so much.  Everyone’s a feminist, the friends are actual friends and not frenemies and even the jerky characters are more “demanding” and not really just assholes for no reason other than malice.

What I’m listening to: I’ve just started listening to podcasts at work.  I’m auditioning a bunch of different ones, and I’ll have a ton to talk about next week, I bet, but so far, my favorites are NPR Happy Hour and My Favorite Murder.  I started listening to My Favorite Murder on my friend Kathy’s recommendation and it is SO GOOD. (Yes, I have other friends who like it, but Kathy has talked about it so much and once I decided to listen to podcasts, I knew it was going to happen.) I’m probably not going to listen to all of the podcasts’ backlists but My Favorite Murder? YES TO ALL OF THEM.

What I’m looking forward to: the 24 in 48 readathon, which hopefully I’m doing right now.

The Reason You’re Alive

Finished The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick. I received a copy for review. 

David is a Vietnam veteran. He has health issues (physical and mental) stemming from the war, and he decides to right a wrong he committed against a fellow soldier. 

That’s the vaguest possible description of the plot, I know. But this is more of a character-driven novel anyway. David is a hardcore conservative but at the same time, he’s very good friends with a bunch of minorities (including a gay couple). He contains multitudes. And he’s incredibly funny, though I hated myself for laughing at some of his lines. 

This is a super short novel (under 230 pages) and it’s mostly character-driven, like I said. But if you like clever, funny novels, you have to pick this up. It’s wonderful. 

A Stone of Hope

Finished A Stone of Hope by Jim St. Germain. I received a copy for review. 

Jim and his family left Haiti and moved to Brooklyn when he was a child. By the time he was a teenager, he was dealing drugs and had already been arrested multiple times. Before he could legally drive, he had been convicted of a felony. Generally speaking, we know how this story ends: life in prison or dead at a young age, right?

But instead, Jim was put in Boys Town (a group home that works as rehab, almost) and surrounded by people who expected him to succeed, get his GED and go to college. And he did all those things. 

This memoir shows how Jim’s life was turned around, yes, but also shows how the system is largely failing us. For the most part, young men (and specifically young black men) aren’t helped. More money is spent on prisons than schools, and people are being almost set up to keep going from the street to prison, over and over. 

This is an inspiring read and, more than that, an easy to follow blueprint of how the system can improve. 

Recommended. 

The Identicals

Finished The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand. I received a copy for review. 

When Billy and Eleanor divorce, they each take one of their twin daughters. It sounds like The Parent Trap, right? Except Harper and Tabitha know about each other. They used to be close but after the divorce, it all changes. Now they’re adults and each is falling apart. Billy has died and Harper and Tabitha will have to spend time together. And THEN they decide to do a brief life swap. (They won’t pretend to be each other, obviously.)

I am a new fan of Elin’s (this is the second book of hers I’ve read) and this book is enough to make anyone fall in love with her. 

Even though it’s about seriously identical twins, it’s easy to tell Harper and Tabitha alike. It’s also easy to identify with one (I like to think I’m Harper; I’m totally Tabitha). And even though this book has just as much substance as style, it’s also a completely fun book. 

I had a great time reading this. You will, too. Recommended. 

The Force

Finished The Force by Don Winslow. I received a copy for review. 

Detective Sgt. Denny Malone is practically famous in his Manhattan district. He’s part of an elite unit devoted to getting the worst criminals off the street. And he’s dirty.  There’s so much more going on, but you should go in blind. Trust me. 

I’ve read 175 books so far this year and this is easily the best one. It’s so smart and so well-written; it’s a fun, gripping read but it’s also a social commentary, taking on cop culture and guns and racism and drugs…it’s basically the perfect read. It’s fun enough for vacations but also great enough that you won’t feel guilty for reading it. 

This book is an absolute masterpiece and you need to read it. Highly recommended. 

Weekend Update

What I’m reading: The Force by Don Winslow. It’s so good! It’s like INSANELY good. I haven’t gotten very far in and it’s hard to summarize with a sentence or two. So read this. 

What I’m watching: I’m still caught up on Younger (so in love!) and am about to catch up with The Bold Type. It’s 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and EW raved about it. It’s sort of Devil Wears Prada or Ugly Betty and is really funny and also fun. 

What I’m excited for: I’m seeing The Big Sick and cannot wait! It may be later today or may be early next week after work. 

Beware the Ranger

Finished Beware the Ranger by Debra Holt.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve years ago, Kaitlyn Russell had a dream: living happily ever after with Clay Morgan. Except her grandmother had bigger plans for her beloved granddaughter and they didn’t include life in the small town of McKenna Springs as the wife of a young, poor deputy. Kaitlyn’s heart was broken when Clay and her grandmother convinced her to pursue her second love, Broadway stardom.

Texas Ranger Clay Morgan is a widower with a young son to raise. A dozen years before, he had to make the most difficult decision of his life when he agreed to let go of the only woman he’d ever loved so that she could pursue her dreams.

Now, fate and an old woman’s guilty conscience conspire to bring Clay and Kaitlyn back together once more. Will they be able to lay the past to rest and rekindle their love from the ashes?”

I completely adored this story! The characters feel like people I know and the chemistry between Clay and Kaitlyn is almost tangible.

I absolutely dare you to read this and not smile and/or sigh at least once a page.

The best part is that this is the first in a series! I can’t wait to see what happens next and I hope that Clay and Kaitlyn make a cameo (and I bet they will).

Recommended.

Off the Cliff

Finished Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge by Becky Aikman.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“You’ve always been crazy, – says Louise to Thelma, having just outrun the police in a car chase and locked an officer in the trunk of his own car. “This is just the first chance you’ve had to express yourself.”

In 1991, Thelma and Louise, the story of two outlaw women on the run from their disenchanted lives, was a revelation. Suddenly, for the first time, here was a film in which women were, in every sense, behind the wheel. It turned the tables on Hollywood, instantly becoming a classic, and continues today to electrify audiences as a cultural statement of defiance. But if the film’s place in history now seems certain, at the time its creation was a long shot.

Before Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, and a young up-and-coming actor named Brad Pitt got involved, Thelma and Louise was just an idea in the head of Callie Khouri, a thirty-year-old music video production manager, who was fed up with working behind the scenes on sleazy sets. At four a.m. one night, sitting in her car outside the ramshackle bungalow in Santa Monica that she shared with two friends, she had a vision: two women on a crime spree, fleeing their dull and tedious lives–lives like hers–in search of a freedom they had never before been able to realize. She knew in that moment that she had to be the one to write it.

But in the late 1980s, Hollywood was dominated by men, both on the screen and behind the scenes. The likelihood of a script by an unheard-of screenwriter starring two women in lead roles actually getting made was remote. But Callie had one thing going for her–she had no idea she was attempting the almost impossible. And she pulled it off, by dint of sheer hard work and some good luck when she was able to get the script into the hands of the brilliant English filmmaker Ridley Scott, who saw its huge potential. With Scott on board, a team willing to challenge the odds came together–including not only the stars Davis and Sarandon, but also legends like actor Harvey Keitel, composer Hans Zimmer, and old-school studio chief Alan Ladd Jr.–to create one of the most controversial movies of all time.

In Off the Cliff, Becky Aikman tells the full extraordinary story behind this feminist sensation, which crashed through barricades and upended convention. Drawing on 130 exclusive interviews with the key players from this remarkable cast of actors, writers, and filmmakers, Aikman tells an inspiring and important underdog story about creativity, the magic of cinema, and the unjust obstacles that women in Hollywood continue to face to this day.”

I first saw Thelma & Louise when I was 12 or so.  I remember renting it the first weekend it was available (at my local Blockbuster–this was back in the days when one did such things), and I didn’t know much about it.  But I liked Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon (I had already seen The Fly and Bull Durham; my parents were very liberal about what I watched), and I loved the movie immediately.

I don’t think I could have articulated why then, but now I realize that I love the fact that–while there are guys in the movie and some of them are good or great guys and some of them are complete jerks–the movie is about their friendship.  It was probably the first movie I had ever seen (and there haven’t been that many since, either) where the guys were in the background and the women were centerstage.  It felt like a bit of a revelation, and it still does.

I like to think of myself as a Louise (in fact, one of my mantras was stolen from her—the unsympathetic but no less true “You get what you settle for”) but I’m probably slightly more of a Thelma.  I can be scattered and I may not be the best person around in a crisis.  Honestly, though, I’d be incredibly proud to be either of them.

But that all doesn’t matter.  If you love Thelma & Louise (or movies in general), you need this book.  It’s so well-written and thorough and I feel like I love the movie even more now.  And, of course, it’s always great when people are passionate about the same things I’m passionate about–and people were so passionate about this, and still are–even decades later.

Highly recommended.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 

Monique Grant is not a household name. She writes for a famous magazine but you probably haven’t heard of her…which is what makes it so weird that Evelyn Hugo (one of the most famous actresses EVER; think Elizabeth Taylor, but even bigger) wants her to write an authorized biography. For the first time, Evelyn will tell the entire truth about her life. 

If you love Hollywood (especially old Hollywood), you need this book. Many reviews have already pointed out how real Evelyn and her movies seem; it is incredibly sad that we can’t see any of her movies (seeing as how, you know, it’s all fiction). 

I completely adore this novel and Evelyn Hugo. She isn’t perfect at all but even her flaws are almost endearing. She does horrible things sometimes but generally for the right reasons. She may destroy someone to protect someone she loves…and, if we’re being honest, most of us would follow her example. 

This is an absolute masterpiece. Highly recommended.