Mini Reviews: Ruth Rendell, Lauren Graham, Marlon James

416MKFJY97L._SX292_BO1,204,203,200_Kissing The Gunner’s Daughter (Inspector Wexford #15) by Ruth Rendell:  Ah, there’s nothing like visiting an old friend, and after having read 14 previous Wexford mysteries, I consider the erudite Reg Wexford an old friend indeed.  It’s odd to say that murder mysteries are my comfort reading, but it’s true all the same.  This one starts out with a grisly (for Rendell) crime scene: three murder victims, including famed author Davina Flory, shot in the middle of dinner, with her teenage granddaughter, Daisy, the only survivor. Robbery gone wrong, or something more sinister? Meanwhile, Wexford’s favorite daughter, Sheila, is seriously dating a self-important ass, and Wexford is trying navigate this tricky terrain, desperate to hold onto his good relationship with her while wanting her not to settle.  I liked this mystery, but at 378 pages it felt a bit too long for me.  And for the first time I started to figure out who was behind the murders before the Inspector did.  I could have used more Mike Burden, Wexford’s no-nonsense sidekick, but all in all this was an entertaining mystery.  I’ve got nine more of these books, according to Goodreads.  I don’t read series in quick succession like some people do, so I imagine that it will take me 2 or 3 more years to complete the series.

Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls And Everything In Between by Lauren Graham:  I listened to the audio book version, read by Lauren Graham herself, and it was delightful.  (It was also my first downloadable audio book checkout from my library system’s Overdrive catalog – go me!  Embracing “new” technology!)  If you’re not a fan of “Gilmore Girls,” you can skip this one.  But if you are, you MUST read or listen to it.  Ms. Graham writes about her unconventional childhood, her days in acting school programs, auditioning and trying to make it, and most pleasingly to this fan, goes into great detail about both of her times playing Lorelai Gilmore. Just a charming, self-deprecating woman letting us fans in on what it was like to be a part of such a magical show.  I especially liked her smartly done skewering of ridiculous Hollywood body standards for actresses.  Ms. Graham seems genuine and humble, and this was a fun, breezy, entertaining celebrity memoir.

512--x+XDfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James: So, how much do we owe our favorite authors?  If you’ve followed me for a while you know that I ADORED both of Marlon James’s other novels, A Brief History of Seven Killings and The Book of Night Women.  Hopes for this one, his debut novel, were high, I admit.  At just over 200 pages, it was a total slog for me, I’m sorry to say.  It’s a story about two warring priests in 1950’s Jamaica, wrestling for control of the souls in a small village called Gibbeah.  Filled with biblical imagery and passages, it is also one of the most brutal, relentlessly violent books I’ve ever read.  However, there were some beautifully written passages, hinting at the mastery of his later works.

People had a way of carrying afflictions like possessions, thinking suffering was the evidence of life.

She hated him.  Her spirit rose and fell with his and she hated him.  Because of Bligh, the Widow’s heart was undoing her.  They had struck a deal, heart and mind, and now heart was cheating out.  It had begun by tricking her into doing things like adding more sugar to the limeade and looking at old dresses in red, yellow, blue.  She wished she could punch a hole in her chest and yank the frigging thing out.  The Widow has grown accustomed to death; the mossy, mothy grayness of it.  God had taken away every man who had unfroze her heart.

I made myself finish this because I loved James’s other novels so much.  If it hadn’t been him, or if this had been the first novel of his I’d read, it would probably have been a DNF. It was leaden, joyless, and his characterization was lacking.  I still don’t know what the point of the damn thing is, quite frankly.  Still, I gave it three stars on Goodreads, because I just can’t give him less.  So I’m wondering, do we treat lesser books by our favorite authors differently?  Do we grade them on a curve?  Or am I just a big softie?

How about you?  Do you tend to devour series quickly, or do you parse them out sparingly?  What’s the last good audio book you listened to?  Have you ever made yourself finish a book out of loyalty to the author’s previous work? I’d love to read your thoughts.

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27 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: Ruth Rendell, Lauren Graham, Marlon James

  1. Crime fiction is comfort reading for me, too, and Ruth Rendell is my favorite of comforting crime reads. I’ve only read a couple of her Wexford books, and those were out of order.

    I used to read series all at once, or at least very quickly, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. There are too many other books to read, so I get distracted! But I kind of miss reading series more quickly. It’s fun to be fully immersed.

    Thanks for the heads-up about John Crow’s Devil. I love James’s other books, so it’s on my list, but I’ll adjust my expectations.

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    1. That’s it for me, Teresa – too many other books I want to get to!

      I will be interested in your thoughts on the James book if you try it. I think it was just nor for me, but I also feel like maybe I just didn’t “get” it.

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  2. I feel the same about crime fiction. That said, I’ve only read one if Rendell’s Wexford series but I liked it. You just reminded me that I should revisit her. I really love her standalone novels.

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  3. I’m glad you read John Crow’s Devil, so that now I know *not* to read it – I will focus on getting the other two read at some point instead. But, yes, I have forced myself to finish books because I’ve loved books by the same author in the past. I feel like someone should read them!
    My daughter has read the Lauren Graham book, and she loved it. I haven’t read it yet – but she did a pretty good job of filling me in. 🙂

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    1. Naomi, yes, I would say DEFINITELY prioritize James’s other two novels before John Crow’s Devil. But that’s just my opinion! 🙂

      I’d say the Lauren Graham isn’t an absolute must-read or must-listen, but if you’re wanting something light and fun that won’t take long, it’s a good choice.

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  4. That’s so ironic that James’s shortest (I’m assuming) book was a long slog for you! I’ve not read anything of his beyond A Brief History. Some of my favorite authors have disappointed me with one or two weak books, usually early in their career or when they were trying something different.

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    1. Ha – I’d not thought about that irony, but you’re right! 200 pages never felt so long. Ah well, it just shows how much writers can grow – or maybe it’s just not the book for me, maybe I just didn’t get it.

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  5. At least the Marlon James was the last one you read of his books, and not the first.

    But yes, there are some authors that I will try to push through a book I don’t much like: William Boyd, Jim Harrison, Margaret Atwood, Paul Theroux. I have mostly loved all their work, but have read an occasional stinker by each one of them.

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  6. I absolutely have continued plowing through books I wasn’t enjoying because I was trying to be loyal to a beloved author, or even to an author that I just really really *wanted* to like. Good to know that Marlon James’s debut novel isn’t the one to start with. I want to read his NEXT book! The one he says will be an African Game of Thrones! When will that book come out?

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  7. Shame about the Marlon James, but to answer your question – yep, I definitely find myself giving an extra star to favourite authors for old times’ sake, even when they let me down… and I look for things to like when with other authors I’d just abandon it and move on…

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  8. This is a great series of post-review questions. I love to binge read series– I try really hard not to read series books without the whole series being published. When I fall in love, I never want to stop!

    Hm. The last good audiobook I listened to? I listen to quite a few audiobooks, actually. I really enjoyed listening to Echo by Pam Munez Ryan (YA historical fiction) and Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. I always love listening to authors read their own books in the case of the Angelou. 🙂

    As far as forcing myself to finish a book due to loyalty… Yes, but not because of loyalty to an author. I haven’t run to a disappointment which turned into a DNF for one of my favorite authors– though, I did almost DNF A Casual Vacancy (I’m sooo glad I didn’t, though!) That’s just so disappointing… I have forced myself to finish a book for book club. A different kind of loyalty, I guess?

    I hope that the next Marlon James book you find the original magic comes back. 🙂

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  9. Great reviews. The first series look good and it seems like you enjoyed the book despite the few issues that you mentioned. I am impressed that the series has so many books and you are pacing yourself as you get through them. My favorite series has 4 books which have been released over a period of two years so I have read them pretty fast. This is the series that I have read with the most books. I think I would pace my reading if I found a series that already has like 10 books published though.

    I like Gilmore Girls though I am yet to watch the latest season. Talking as fast as I can sounds like my kind of book though so I will check it out.

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    1. Oh, the new Gilmore Girls updates were so much fun. There were a couple of minor things that annoyed me, but overall I really enjoyed it, especially Lorelai’s storyline arc. What a great show! Lauren Graham’s book is so fun – hope you get a chance to check it out.

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  10. I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan (my life motto is ‘Eat like a Gilmore’), but I haven’t read o listened to Lauren’s book yet even though everyone keeps telling me that it’s a must for GG fans. But now that I’ve read your mini-review, I need to get it as soon as possible.

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    1. Yes, I agree it’s a must for fans of the show. Among other things, she shares her reflections on her fashion choices for the seasons and some behind the scenes tidbits that make me want to re-watch all the original shows!

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  11. Happy to hear you enjoyed Talking As Fast As I Can! I have been a HUGE GG fan for years and I cannot wait to read it. I did hear that some were disappointed that Lauren seemed to “play it safe” and not get into any juicy details or gossip… but I would think that is just Lauren being classy… thoughts?

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  12. I’m so excited that you read John Crow’s Devil though your reading experience with it wasn’t so great. I have a copy and would like to read it too. I think it’s good that James’s writing improved since his debut novel, but I judge authors’ books on the book itself without considering their other works. So if I love an author, like James, but read a book by him that I thought wasn’t great, I’d rate it as such. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s still one of my favorite authors.

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