Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty by Diane Keaton
A breezy little volume by an actress facing old age with aplomb.
Now in her late 60s, Keaton, an Academy Award winner in 1977 for her role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, sprinkles memories of her long career, including her friendships and more with certain leading men, into a mishmash of thoughts about childhood, beauty and parenting. The author’s attitude toward her own physical flaws—drooping eyes, a less-than-perfect nose, thinning hair—is meant to be reassuring to self-critical female readers. There is a rationale behind the omnipresent hats, tinted glasses and turtlenecks that other women might consider, but Keaton’s message is that everyone should do their own thing. Never married, she is raising two adopted children, now teenagers, who figure prominently in the narrative. Even movie stars, it seems, have ordinary parenting problems and bad days. Woven into the domestic scenes are recollections of film roles and fellow actors. Readers looking for chitchat about celebrities will be gratified; Keaton drops plenty of names, although at times, they seem to be somewhat forcefully injected into her narrative. The author is generous in her comments about others, giving full credit to her longtime friend Allen for launching her career and speaking well of the leading men in her life. For the record, Keaton reports that Warren Beatty, her co-star in Reds, had a pretty face, but Al Pacino, with whom she acted in the Godfather films, had a beautiful one. There are no illustrations; however, Keaton’s eye for detail makes them unnecessary. One caveat: The text is exceedingly brief, an afternoon’s read at best. The type is heavily leaded to fill out the pages, giving the impression that there’s more than is being delivered.
Light entertainment from a witty woman.
Live to See Tomorrow (Catherine Ling) by Iris Johansen
A female CIA superagent must protect her son, rescue a humanitarian journalist and defeat a shadowy crime kingpin.
In this latest thriller from best-selling author Johansen (Silencing Eve, 2013, etc.), we're introduced to elite CIA operator Catherine Ling. Initially recruited as a teenager living on the streets of Hong Kong and a veteran of countless covert operations, Catherine is now just hoping to spend quality time with her rapidly maturing son, Luke. However, when her mentor, Hu Chang, is tapped for the job of rescuing a kidnapped journalist from a Tibetan mountain fortress, Catherine shifts from mother back to superspy. During the rescue attempt, Catherine begins a telepathic dialogue with the mysterious "Guardian," Richard Cameron. Their relationship fluctuates between an unusual series of extrasensory exchanges and a roller-coaster ride of sexual escapades. At the same time their affair is developing, Catherine and Cameron must match wits against a mysterious underworld boss who has his hands in every type of evil and will stop at nothing to grasp at power. In this story, that power takes the form of access to an unknown Shangri-La–type destination, whose location (and very existence) appears to be protected by Cameron. Along the way, the reader is treated to gratuitous action sequences (gunfights, explosions and "karate" showdowns) with dubious believability. Short on narrative details and high on lust, it seems that the novel’s primary concern is building the sexual tension between its primary protagonists, only to leave the characters unsure of themselves once they are in each other’s arms.
High on action and sensuality but with questionable plausibility.
Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas) by Charlaine Harris
An online psychic settles in Midnight, Texas, an unusual small town where all the residents have shadowy pasts and a lingering mystery brings unwanted attention.
There are just a few houses and a few businesses at the crossroads in Midnight, and everyone seems to socialize at the Gas N Go, Home Cookin or Midnight Pawn. Psychic Manfred Bernardo has moved here for a variety of reasons, and isolation is just one of them. An outsider himself, he is completely surprised when he winds up in a community full of outsiders, which kind of makes him one of the crowd. Not at all what he was expecting, but somehow comforting and welcome: “In fact, it’s just like he belongs here.” Trouble soon appears, though, when it becomes clear that town resident Aubrey, who everyone thought had run away, was actually murdered. Bobo, owner of the pawnshop and Aubrey’s ex, has been mourning since she disappeared, but now that she’s dead, her history with a violent religious sect puts Midnight's close-knit community in danger. Luckily, the town’s residents are uniquely talented at survival, and they’ll do everything they can to keep their little band of misfits safe—a band which turns out to consist of a vampire, a witch, a mysterious Black Ops character and an assortment of enigmatic humans. Harris, of the spectacularly successful Sookie Stackhouse books, begins a new series that is not as overtly supernatural, revolving more around human foibles than vampire ones. Yet she maintains her ability to build intriguing worlds and create fascinating, textured characters, combining them with dark, complex tangles of plot and motive.
A little magic, a little mystery and a lot of imagination make for a story that is both fun and edgy, and some unresolved details will keep readers coming back for more.
Miss Julia's Marvelous Makeover: A Novel by Ann B. Ross
From Booklist -
Miss Julia, that “lady of age with years of correct deportment behind her,” is back for her fourteenth (!) adventure. This time around, husband Sam decides to run for the North Carolina state senate and then is sidelined by emergency gallbladder surgery. Miss Julia reluctantly agrees to campaign on his behalf, in spite of her misgivings about her political skills. Another challenge is presented by Trixie, granddaughter of a very distant cousin, who is dumped in Abbotsville for the summer in the hopes that she will absorb something from Miss Julia about “la-di-da living.” To everyone’s surprise, the charmless Trixie soon lands a boyfriend, Rodney, but Rodney turns out to be a schemer. Miss Julia’s efforts to thwart his plans to get hold of a piece of her property so he can build a mortuary complex lead to a typical Miss Julia escapade. A number of the series’ regular characters, such as Hazel Marie, are very much in the background here; introducing new characters and shuffling old ones around help to keep the series fresh. --Mary Ellen Quinn