Friday, April 24, 2009

I don't know why I'm having such a hard time finishing stuff this week.

I'm sure I'm working on something you were expecting to get from me days or even weeks ago. I'm working on it, and can't explain why I've been having such a hard time getting anything done for the last few weeks. I can only apologize, and promise that I haven't forgotten, and have been spending more time thinking about you and your project than you realize. In some cases, I may even have been dreaming about it -- and since some of these projects involve violent death and grown men pounding each other in illegal fight clubs, let me assure you that you've made an impression.

I'm going to spend the next few days trying to catch up, and if I can't catch up over the weekend, I may take next week off the blog altogether. Too much time on the road, too many distractions; every working parent and every traveling salesperson has my profound respect and admiration. I do not know how you do it.

The one good thing about travel was that it allowed me to read actual books, since the battery on my laptop isn't holding a charge, and I've misplaced the power cord for my Kindle. So here's a two-week edition of

What I Read This Week

John Connolly, THE LOVERS. I contributed a small piece of research to this book, and the author is a friend, so I scored an advance copy of this novel, which will be out in June. The sequence of novels about Charlie Parker, doomed PI and ex-cop, has walked a fine line between the natural and the supernatural, with readers uncertain about whether Charlie's visions are truly other-worldly or just the product of his tortured mind. The Lovers makes the nature of Charlie's struggle clearer, and I don't want to say much more than that. Parker, stripped of his PI license at the end of The Unquiet, launches his own investigation into the suicide of his father, a New York police officer who killed himself after shooting two unarmed teenagers in a parked car. Connolly, one of the genre's best prose stylists, gets clearer and sharper with each book, and this one flies like a bullet; I read it in two sittings.

Tony Earley, THE BLUE STAR. A deceptively simple coming-of-age novel set in 1941 North Carolina, in which Jim Glass falls in love, graduates from high school, and leaves for the war, learning along the way that the world is both crueler and kinder than he expected. Lovely and old-fashioned, appropriate even for young readers.

Alison Gaylin, HEARTLESS. I don't know how I missed this when it came out last year, but it was perfect train reading -- and I mean that as a high compliment. Zoe Greene is a reporter for a soap opera magazine with secrets present and past. In the present, she's having a smoking affair with soap opera star Warren Clark; in the past, she's changed her name and left mainstream journalism after a too-close encounter with a serial killer. She joins Warren for a romantic vacation at his home in Mexico, and soon discovers that things in the idyllic village of San Esteban are not what they seem. Great fun and very smart, as Alison's books always are. (Yes, she's my friend; I'd say that even if she weren't.)

Susan Gregg Gilmore, LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN. Catherine Grace Cline grows up in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, knowing one thing: she's leaving town as soon as she turns 18. Her father, the local preacher, has done his best to rear her and her sister after their young mother's early death; her boyfriend, football hero Hank Blankenship, is sincerely devoted to her. Those aren't enough to outweigh the attractions of Atlanta, until one weekend changes everything. A sweet, perceptive, ultimately surprising first novel.

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