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Since I know you’re all dying to know, I’ve successfully brought a healthy lunch in to work three days this week! And since I stayed home sick on Tuesday, that’s actually a 100% success rate. And todayI just zapped leftover Chinese from last night… since I did technically bring it from home, I think I’m going to count that as a “packed lunch” as well – what a way to start the year right!

While I abhor being sick (I really don’t like weakness all that much), it did give me some time to catch up on my reading.  So Tuesday I coughed and hacked my way through Jennifer Weiner’s latest bestseller, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, along with the newly released #1 bestseller from Sue Grafton, U IS FOR UNDERTOW.  Oddly enough, this chick-lit novel and the crime fiction tale shared similarities…

I’ve read every one of Weiner’s novels and I can’t tell you why.  Pressure from society, I believe, because it definitely isn’t due to any overwhelming desire for the characters or relating to the writing.   I enjoyed GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES enough to give GOODNIGHT NOBODY a try… But GOODNIGHT NOBODY (and now BEST FRIENDS FOREVER) attempt to tie in a crime with the relationships/bonding/family/other “women issues”, which I find unnecessary.

In BFF, the Chief of Police enters a the house of a suspect and smells her pajamas – yes folks, I am not kidding.  I don’t find that sweet and sexy – I find it creepy. I want the police I read about to be enforcing the law, not skulking around remniscient of the Ohio Police Officer convicted in the eerily similar case of Sarah Jessica Parker’s surrogate!

U IS FOR UNDERTOW was my first Sue Grafton experience (though I launched into the book trustingly, since Pop Culture Nerd had positively reviewed it), though her 21st book.  As I assume you know, Grafton has been working through the alphabet, consistently with Kinsey Millhone as the Private Investigator protagonist.  I enjoyed this trip back to the 1980’s – a time before cell phones and the internet, and relished joining Kinsey in the library as she looked through – gasp – telephone books!

I also find Sue Grafton to be an interesting character herself, as she admits she started writing after dreaming of ways to murder her first husband.  Also, she and fellow bestselling author Robert B. Parker did a little Q&A on each others Amazon pages, which is rather endearing (not to mention I admit I grabbed this book from a box under my desk – always a bonus)!

So next time you find yourself needing a sick day (though I wish you a plethora of help and happiness in the new year), I encourage you to reach for the nearest Grafton, A-U, and give her a try.  I don’t actively dislike Jennifer Weiner – I especially enjoy her on Twitter, but think I need to give up on the reading of her novels as they’re not a match for me.  But I welcome any thoughts you may have.

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Although many argue that there’s a lack of women authors acknowledged in the literary world, I’m consistently surprised, impressed and intrigued by the women protagonists kicking ass in the mystery and thriller genre, written well by authors of both genders.

From the talented hand of Sue Grafton, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has had many bestselling mysteries and is starring in Grafton’s 21st, U IS FOR UNDERTOW out 12/1/09.  There’s also V.I. Warshawski written by Sara Paretsky, the Women’s Murder Club series from James Patterson, and I’ve also discovered many strong female characters on both sides of the law in John Sandford’s titles.  I’ve found the mystery genre is especially generous with women in important roles (CERTAIN PREY, my favorite Sandford title, features a hit-woman) instead of simply being the victim.

Kay Scarpetta?

One of the most iconic and recognizable female characters is Kay Scarpetta, penned by the renowned Patricia Cornwell.  Cornwell’s latest, THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, hit the NYT bestseller at #2 (behind only Dan Brown).  For those rare readers unfamiliar with the series I urge you to give them a try (and I have found they’re not necessary to read in order); not only are they tantalizing and smart mysteries but you’ll want to be ahead of the media storm when, drumroll please, Angelina Jolie appears on the big screen as Kay Scarpetta (watch Cornwell share this information on Good Morning America).

Because I enjoy Scarpetta’s character, when shopping for a new mystery I found the following quote from James Patterson:

“Karen Vail is as compelling a character as any created by Patricia Cornwell, or yours truly…”

I bit it hook, line and sinker and proudly walked away from the register clutching THE 7th VICTIM by Alan Jacobson in my hands.

Some may say my standards were set too high by the Cornwell quote, but whatever the reason my disappointment was genuine.  Karen Vail is supposedly a profiler (comparable to Benton), so I find it either too far fetched, or just doubt her skills, that she would be completely clueless as to the background of her own immediate family.  Additionally, I understand we as readers are supposed to connect with “flawed characters” – but she was too unrelatable.

Also, I enjoy mysteries with some clues to keep the pages turning and not just assumptions, hints and lucky guessing.  This book offered very little to the reader by way of the serial killings taking place and seemed to focus much more on the personal life and happenings of Karen Vail.

Bottom Line: Scarpetta gets a blackberry in her latest, and while SCARPETTA FACTOR may not be my favorite Cornwell title, it’s worth reading.  While I suggest avoiding THE 7TH VICTIM for reading purposes, I think the book is very high quality as it’s been keeping my big heavy window open for the last three weeks with hardly a divet in the board of this repurposed hardcover.

**Mark your calendars to join me this Tuesday, November 24, as I guest blog about mysteries (and working on some of the biggest names in the genre) on Meritious Mysteries! **

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