18 March 2012

Briefs: To Wed a Wild Lord (Sabrina Jeffries), Pink Smog (Francesca Lia Block), The Thief (Fuminori Nakamura)

Three books I don't have much to say about, but deserving of mention nonetheless:

To Wed a Wild Lord, Sabrina Jeffries: Decent Regency pairing up a reckless horse- and carriage-racer, Gabe Sharpe, with Virginia Waverly, who blames him for the death of her brother in a race years before. Fourth in a series wherein Sharpe's grandmother, worried about him and his siblings, gives them all a year to marry or be disinherited. There's an overarching plot here about their parents' deaths: conventional wisdom holds that their mother shot their father when she mistook him for an intruder and then turned the gun on herself (I KNOW, HEAVY), but their recent investigations point to an even darker truth. I liked the mystery aspect, and Gabe and Virginia were eventually a sweet couple, but I think my lack of interest in horses (yup, never went through that phase as a little girl) kept me from really digging it.

Pink Smog, Francesca Lia Block: I've been regularly disappointed by Block over the past decade, but I couldn't resist this Weetzie Bat prequel because, hey, Weetzie Bat prequel. Here, she's thirteen years old, still Louise, suffering the departure of her father, Charlie, and her mother's increasing retreat into alcohol. It seems to be set in the 1970s (Block herself was thirteen in '75), but it never quite places itself explicitly in time despite the cultural references being dated, which is somewhat confusing. And Louise/Weetzie's conflict with a witchy black-haired neighbor is pretty derivative of her later/previous (prequels to 23-year-old books make temporal adjectives difficult!) clash with Vixanne Wigg (their names are even similar). Too, the prose just isn't as dynamic as WB's, which inspires me to wear boots with skirts to this very day. The novel has a vulnerable, aching heart, however, and I imagine it'll resonate with girls of that age. Probably the ones who read Rookie. Those lucky, lucky girls.

The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura: Japanese thriller about a pickpocket whose participation in a seemingly simple robbery pulls him into an underworld far crueler than his own. It's a dispassionate noir without a lot of twists, but well done. And I adore that it won the 2009 Kenzaburo Oe Prize: not a mystery/thriller award at all, but one given out by the Nobel-winning author to the best "literary" novel of the year! Perhaps there's more genre fluidity in Japan than there is Stateside?

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