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Several Short Reviews.

Finished books:

Some Girls – Jillian Lauren

The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner

Cleo – Helen Brown

It’s All About Him – Denise Jackson

Exploiting My Baby – Teresa Strasser

Cheap Cabernet – Cathie Beck

Strip City – Lily Burana


Currently reading: Hungry – Crystal Renn


Next on the list: Perfect (I’m too lazy to walk to my bookshelf and see who the author is)


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When we join Rennie Stride, ace rock reporter, at the start of "A Hard Slay's Night," she's in England for a holiday visit.

What Rennie's plans do include:
* Keeping friend Prax McKenna company while Prax and her band are recording;
* Attending a Christmas party at the country estate of friends Gray and Prue Sonnet;
* Attending the New Year's show presented by friends Dandiprat at the Royal Albert Hall;
* Trying to recover from her break-up with rock superstar Turk Wayland.

What Rennie's plans don't include:
* Murder, in most spectacular fashion, at the Royal Albert Hall;
* A plot which she slowly discovers is endangering several of her friends.

"A Hard Slay's Night" is the fourth book in Patricia Morrison's Rennie Stride series, set in the 1960s. Morrison knows both journalism and the '60s music scene -- her books are packed full of the details that leave a reader thinking "this is right ... this is the way it was." For example, as Rennie begins to track the murders in London, she discovers a story that no one has yet spotted -- her pleasure when that becomes front-page fodder will have the journalists in the audience smiling. (Side note for Bona journalism graduates: Morrison provides the full name of Rennie's mentor from j-school. Make sure you don't miss that detail.)

Another side note: You can start with any of the Rennie books; Morrison provides enough backstory that you can catch up easily. But here, I'd go back at least one book, since the story of Rennie's romance with Turk Wayland begins in "Love Him Madly." And by the time you read that book, I suspect you're going to want to go back to the beginning and meet Rennie as she starts her rock writing career. She's an interesting lady to know.

All four Rennie books are available from lulu.com. The first two are also available from Amazon.com.

Ranking Narnia

Sick of Narnia yet? I know my blog has been full of entries about the series, but I feel like I’m just shedding the skin of my childhood by reading this series and jotting down thoughts about it.

Sometime this year, I hope to read a book or two analyzing the characters in Narnia; there are so many metaphors, so many characters that mean something else and so many hidden pieces in these books that I can’t find them all myself. In fact, I don’t believe I have scratched the surface.

Overall, as far as a first read through, I’m glad I read them the way I did. (Remember I read them according to the date they were published, not the chronological order of the story.) Although jumping from the beginning of time (The Magician’s Nephew) to the end of time (The Last Battle) in one book, you could tell that’s how Lewis wrote them.

Next time I read them, though, I’m going to read them chronologically and see which I like better.

And now, before I take a vacation away from Narnia for a little while, I’ll put the series to a temporary rest by ranking the books in the order I liked them. These are in order of interest, story line and overall page-turning.

There’s a lot of numbers in this list, but I’ll explain: they are ranked in the order of my liking. The first number in the parenthesis is the book publishing order, the second is the chronological order (keep in mind the written order is also a bit different, but let’s not go there):

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And so draws an end to the first complete read through of the Chronicles of Narnia. Although I loved the series and it will most likely stay as some of my favorite books of all-time, the ending could have been a bit better.

It was great — don’t get me wrong — but things seemed rushed in the final two chapters. The first half of the book was spectacular, the second half was a bit weaker than I had originally expected.

But it was another interesting read that had me turning the pages. Also, like the last couple books in the series, I found myself already trying to guess which character was a metaphor for which biblical character and how everyone was going to be involved in what is basically a children’s telling of the book of Revelation.

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It’s hard not to talk about The Last Battle without including other books, so I’ll leave it at that. I’m hoping to write a blog summarizing the entire series in the next day or so.
Less than 48 hours after I had complained about a slower-than-the-other-books A Horse and His Boy, I couldn’t pull myself away from The Magician’s Nephew.

The book is the only one in the series which takes place before the popular The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe book. I finished it four days ago, and with at least three more future blog posts about the series in general coming up soon, I don’t want to write a lot.

But the reason I found this book so intriguing was that there was never a dull moment, which seemed to be my biggest qualms with A Horse and His Boy as well as The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

This one would, without a doubt, be one of the best in the series to make a movie out of. The world-to-world jumping, the new characters and the opportunities for the imagination to run wild are prevalent in this book.

Definitely one of the top three books in the series.

'Just Kids:' Just an engaging memoir

Despite the headline, I almost didn't stick with Patti Smith's "Just Kids." Smith's memoir of her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Her early pages, detailing her decision to live for art and move to New York, seemed to plod.

Then she actually did move, and the storyteller in her came alive. Then you start to see what New York City was like to a young woman newly arrived and not at all sure how she'll even provide a roof or some food. And then you, like Smith, meet Mapplethorpe, who becomes friend and lover and occasional muse and cheering section.

Smith's strong eye for detail makes her portrait come alive -- you see the city, the man and the people they met along the way. She illustrates the often-repeated writing maxim: Show, don't tell.

At book's end, Smith notes she had promised Mapplethorpe to write about their friendship, and thanks those who helped her keep that promise. I also thank them.
If time to complete the book was any indication, I’d have to put The Horse and His Boy at the bottom of my list so far of my five completed Narnia books. It wasn’t awful, but I struggled through it with less interest than the rest.

The book seemed a bit drier than the others, and the introduction of a thousand and one new characters and places — there were really no old characters in this book despite it being the third in the series chronologically — made things confusing. Interestingly (and something I’ll blog about later), in a case like this I could see reading the books chronologically instead of by publishing date. But so far I’m still glad I did it this way.

Funny thing, I actually enjoyed the book much more after reading the final two or three chapters. They really put the book into perspective, and I feel that reading this one the second time around might be a bit more enjoyable.

Next up is The Magician’s Nephew, which actually takes place before the Wardrobe. I think I’m really going to enjoy this one.

The brain was willing ...

... but in the end, I couldn't get engaged by "Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion." I really did want to like the biography, written by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel. I'm fascinated by the workings of the Supreme Court, and a number of decisions by Justice William Brennan come up regularly in media law.

But wanting to like the book doesn't always equal liking it. Stern and Wermiel have produced a well-researched but dry book. After plugging through for awhile and realizing I still couldn't find the Justice in there, I gave up (very much short of the end) and returned the book to the library.

Other reading awaits ...