Book Twentytwo: Twilight

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

I know, I know. But would you believe that up until one week ago I had no idea that this book even existed? And once I knew the few things I needed to know about it--YA novel (check), vampires (check), Olympic Peninsula setting (yay! check), forbidden teen love (sure, ok, check)--I was pretty much sold. Also I watched the trailer for the movie that is going to be coming out later this year, and it stars the kid who played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, who I find far too cute because, yes, he's so very very young, so then I knew that I just had to read it. Yes, like a dark force compelled me to do so.

I'm not going to say that this is the best book ever written. Far, far from it. And it's certainly not the worst. But, it has that special something, because what other book would have me up before 8am reading on the sofa with a mug of tea, frantically racing to find out what will happen to dear Bella Swan and her vampire love, Edward Cullen? Will they find true everlasting love, or will he rip her carotid artery open and drink her blood in a moment of passion whilst they make out in her bedroom? Oh, the suspense!

Book Twentyone: Ten Days in the Hills

Ten Days in the Hills, Jane Smiley

Have you ever had a book that was trying to kick your ass? I mean, it sucked so bad that you felt like it was actually defeating you? Well, my response to that kind of book is to fight back. I know, I know. The rational response should be to simply admit defeat, give up, and move on to another book. But I just can't help myself. I'm like Rocky. I feel like I just need to go the distance, even though I know I'm clearly outmatched. Simply put, this book is Apollo Creed and even though it bested me in the end, I'm the one at the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art pumping my fists in the air and punching sides of beef. Wait... what? I think that metaphor got away from me in the end.

Okay, so what's this book about? A bunch of characters gather in someone's house in the hills of LA (for ten days, duh), and some of them have strangely graphic but not-at-all erotic sex and then they all just talk and talk and talk and talk. When it was suggested by someone in our book club, I had hopes for something like The Anniversary Party. But no such luck. This quote, from the perspective of one of the characters (and I didn't even like this guy!), pretty much sums up how I felt about everyone in the book.

It was as if he had somehow embarked on a cruise, something he had avoided all his life, and suddenly here he was, far out in a sea of languor with a group of people who on land could be avoided, and were therefore fine enough, but here, on this cruise, were insufferable. He sighed. They made him sigh. It was not precisely that they were boring, but more that they caused the expansion of time, so that every second, every moment, swelled to infinity.

Book Twenty: The Poisoned Chocolates Case

The Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley

The Poisoned Chocolates Case is a neat little mystery about a group of wannabe detectives who are members of a group called the Crimes Circle in 1920s London. They are given an unsolvable case by Scotland Yard and each member is allowed to try and solve the case on their own. I'll allow the back blurb on my edition of the book to explain the plot further (and far more eloquently than I):

The detectives are the members of the Crimes Circle--a lawyer, a woman dramatist, a detective-story writer, a woman novelist, and a little man called Chitterwick, with Roger Sheringham as the president. Provided by a Scotland Yard inspector with the details of the murder of a Mrs. Bendix, each member prepares a statement of his or her theory of murderer and motive. Piquancy is added to the situation by the fact that the chief characters in the dramatic story that is gradually unfolded are personally known to all present.

What makes it even more fun is that each member of the club employs different ways of solving the murder and ends up putting their own spin on the solution. Sometimes it seemed that Mr. Berkeley was mocking each member's profession a bit, in the best and most entertaining way, of course. For example, in a description of Sir Charles Wildman, the barrister, Berkeley writes:

There was no one at the Bar who could so convincingly distort an honest but awkward fact into carrying an entirely different interpretation from that which any ordinary person (counsel for the prosecution, for instance) would have put upon it. He could take that fact, look it boldly in the face, twist it round, read a message from the back of its neck, turn it inside out and detect auguries in its entrails, dance triumphantly on its corpse, pulverise it completely, re-mould it if necessary into an utterly different shape, and finally, if the fact still had the temerity to retain any vestige of its primary aspect, bellow at it in the most terrifying manner. If that failed he was quite prepared to weep at it in in open court.

And of course, he doesn't just have it in for lawyers. He makes fun of the playwright, the novelist, and even the detective writer (like himself) with equal enthusiasm. The end result is highly entertaining, because it ends up being more than a mystery--it's a study in characters and how one's own view of the world can taint your interpretation of what should be indisputable facts.

Chris ordered this book for me, and while I had never heard of it until now, research--um, I mean, wikipedia--tells me that it's a classic of the Golden Age of detective fiction.