Books read in the past month or so...

Extra-large number partly due to enforced idleness from ice storms on five days in February, and because I liked that so much I've been sort-of-deliberately ignoring the intartubes on the weekends. This isn't even all of them, just the ones I've finished or deliberately gave up on.

Burr, Chandler. The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York - Fascinating look at the notoriously secretive industry and some of the people in it.

Capuzzo, Michael. The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases - Book about the Vidocq Society, an organization made of the top detectives and forensic specialists in the world (English-speaking world, I think, really). They meet periodically and investigate cold cases which have been brought to them. My problem with the book is that it focused a bit more on the personalities of a few of the society's founders than I thought was warranted (as I was bored by them), and it was focused on cases that were solved, or that the society thinks were solved, and not on their misses. The book claims a 90% success rate for them, but gives no stats to back that up, and doesn't look at their misses or why they happened. It's more of a forensic scientists as rock stars book than the book I wanted to read.

Notable for being the first book I checked out of the library electronically, and read entirely on my iPhone, which really only shows about a paragraph at a time. :)

Dench, Judi And Furthermore. A collection of theatre anecdotes arranged in roughly chronological order. Appealing if you like that sort of thing, which I do, although I don't really recommend reading it all through in one or two sittings. It's more of a pick up and stick your nose in for a few minutes every so often kind of book.

Edwards, Martin The Hanging Wood (Lake District Mysteries) (due out in April) - Picked this ARC up from NetGalley, because I really enjoyed Tana French's In the Woods up until the BOOK-DESTROYING SPOILER OF AN ENDING (I hear the sequels are much better, and follow the other two main characters, though!), and the description seemed like it might have the same feel. Unfortunately, if you were reading my iPhone posts during ConDFW, you will have realized that I ran into too many problems to continue. It starts with a young woman, upset that the disappearance of her brother years ago wasn't given proper attention from the police, drunkenly calls the police to complain, then kills herself (or was she PUSHED?!) in a grain silo. The next chapter concerns, I assume, our hero detective, a woman who spends the entire chapter having dinner with an ex that she is sometimes attracted to and sometimes not attracted to. If Edwards wanted to graphically show exactly how uninterested the cops were in the case, he succeeded, and bored the hell out of me into the bargain. And then our detective runs into the sexual harasser of the force and muses that she almost could like him, upon which I bailed because, honestly, I have zero respect for her and no desire to read about her. Maybe it's being set up so she has a big change during the book but it's too late because I have better things to do than hang around reading a book about a character I find repulsive on the off chance that she undergoes a major change later.

I note that it's one of a series, and maybe if I'd read earlier books I'd be more kindly inclined to the main character and willing to waste time worrying about her love life, but I'm going to wait for someone I trust to tell me OMG THEY'RE GREAT YOU MUST READ THEM!! to pick any up, and even then it'll be with severe trepidation.

Gilbert, Avery - What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life What it says on the box. Interesting, and recommended if you like this sort of thing.

Hines, Jim. Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero (Goblin Series). Fun, light fantasy. GH was a parody of typical extruded-fantasy tropes and I liked it enough to download the sequel to my Kindle shortly after I finished it. Naturally, that meant I had the problem of Too Much Too Soon and got glutted on goblins. :) So the third one will wait a while. I preferred the first, because it was more tightly focused on one character, while the second had several characters in the forefront.

Kent, Jasper Twelve - Historical vampire novel set during the French invasion of Russia. I'd avoid saying "vampire" except that the description of the book on Amazon gives it away. I liked it quite a lot - these vampires are nasty and brutish (but not short!), and fine antidote to the typical urban fantasy loverboy vamp of today. A twist at the end I was not expecting, which was foreshadowed nicely when I looked back at it. A couple of Amazon reviews claimed that the hero was flawless - my opinion is that he was more of a movie-style hero than a fully realized, nuanced protagonist and that I don't particularly care. Also, to answer another review that said he didn't change: well, no he didn't change, but the movement within his character was more of a revealing of motives and passions than actual change, and that's fine by me if it's handled well.

There's a sequel, and three more books projected after that,l but I'm really unsure if the concept can last for five full books. When the second one comes out on Kindle I'll give it a go, but will remain skeptical. :) More books like this wanted!

Matheson, Richard. Hell House. I felt in the mood to read a haunted-house book. This one is supposedly the scariest one ever written. My opinion: er, perhaps the stupidest one ever written. "Ridiculous" is maybe how I'd term it: house is reputed to be haunted due to its satanic past filled with dissipated people practicing decadent sexual and murderous arts. And when I read that bit, near the beginning of the book, my thought was Oh, really? And while it was seriously over-the-top, it wasn't cracktastic. Spoilers rot-13'd because LJ has apparently been messing about with CSS in ways that sometimes turn spoiler protection off: Fb gur Ovt Erirny va guvf obbx jnf gung gur ubhfr jnfa'g unhagrq ol znal fcvevgf, vg jnf unhagrq ol whfg bar zna, naq ur jnf fhpu n wrex orpnhfr ur jnf FUBEG? Tvir zr n oernx! Vg jbhyq unir orra avpr gb frr jbzra nf fbzrguvat bgure guna zrjyvat, cnffvir ivpgvzf be pbzcyrgryl onzobbmyrq, naq gb unir gur rssrpgf bs gur ubhfr ba gurz or bgure guna frkhny, ohg V nz nsenvq V zhfg fbzrjung nfpevor gung gb gur gvzrf va juvpu gur obbx jnf jevggra. Naq Zngurfba frrzf gb unir orra nggrzcgvat gb perngr n zbqrea-qnl Znedhvf qr Fnqr, ohg raqrq hc perngvat n jrnx, onq-snasvp vzvgngvba. Nu jryy.

So: does anyone [personal profile] octopedingenue have any recs [personal profile] octopedingenue for haunted-house books that feature likable characters or non-ridiculous hauntings [personal profile] octopedingenue?

Mazzeo, Tilar J. The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume A biography of a perfume. Quite interesting for a look at the times and the world in which Chanel No. 5 was created, and at the life of Coco Chanel as it centered around the perfume - her couture house is treated secondarily, and it's definitely not what you want if you're looking for a book that explores all her life.

McDevitt, Jack Echo (Alex Benedict)
The next Alex Benedict novel. My review: the next Alex Benedict novel. McDevitt drives me nuts in some ways, in that while his books are usually set several thousand years in the future, the characters are named, look, dress, act, and speak exactly like 20th and 21st century middle-class white-bread Americans. His books are formulaic, but it is a formula that appeals to me on a particular level and his books are comfort reading for those times when I don't particularly want to think or be wowed. (And he was our guest at ConDFW and I can report: a very nice man.)

Nicholson, Meredith. The House of a Thousand Candles (Library of Indiana Classics) -I'm not even sure why I downloaded this one in the first place, but I'm glad I did because: cracktastic! Published in 1906 and set in 1901, a young flighty man inherits an estate and house built by his mysterious grandfather under the condition that he remain in it for one full year, otherwise it goes to a young lady who the will expressly forbids him to marry. Hidden treasure, conspiracy, mystery, adventure, and the occasional swash buckled. (And, if you're a slasher, plenty of opportunity for that!) The link above goes to the Amazon page for it, but it's also available free in many formats from Project Gutenberg.

Olshaker, Mark, Douglas, John. The Cases That Haunt Us - True-crime book, focusing on forensic profiling, where the authors take a look at several well-known crimes from Jack the Ripper to Jon-Benet Ramsey and offer up their opinions on the perpetrator, in some cases naming a particular person, in others offering a profile. My problem with it is that being a skeptic, I've read an article - I think it was by Malcolm Gladwell? (who does have his share of problems, I admit) - that points out that a lot of profiling is pretty much woo, subject to immense amounts of confirmation bias (remembering the hits, forgetting the misses). So it's an interesting book from the point of view of solving mysteries, but you do have to consider exactly how well the profiling works.

Shirazi, Roxana. The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage - I admit to a weakness for groupie memoirs, like Pamela Des Barres' I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. Shirazi's intrigued me because of the contrast inherent in the usual image of an Irani woman (Western and stereotypical, I admit!) and that of a groupie. Her upbringing would have been unusual to me no matter how you put it: her mother was a political radical and a single mother, and Shirazi was packed off with her grandmother to England partway through her childhood, where she had to learn to deal with racism. Shirazi eventually fell in love with rock and roll and men (honestly, boys, no matter how old they were!) who made it, and embarked upon a dual life as a student of literature during the day and an uninhibited groupie at night. I'm not entirely sure how she intended to portray the scene - as empowering in a way for the women who who knew the rules (don't fuck the opening act! don't get emotionally involved!), perhaps? - but it ended up feeling tawdry and slimy: yes, she has some sort of power as the desired sex goddess who can get just about any man she wants but, as I said, there are rules in the groupie scene and any woman who breaks them gets screwed in more ways than one.

Warning: EXPLICIT. Really. EXPLICIT. Seriously NSFW! I admit, I am not convinced by the argument that to be truly honest you have to be graphic in your description of your sexual behavior, because I think that ends up objectifying you instead of empowering you. I rather felt I needed a shower after finishing it, and not in a good way, either!

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