I have finished several books and neglected to post reviews about any of them. So here are some short reviews of what I have been reading lately.

Flying Crows, by Jim Lehrer

Did you know that Jim Lehrer, the PBS News Hour anchorman, is also a fiction author? I didn’t, so I was surprised to learn that Lehrer has written over a dozen fiction books. Flying Crows concerns two mentally ill men who are inmates in a mental institution in the 1930s and a present-day cop trying to unravel their interwoven stories. Lehrer writes good dialogue and has a real feel for the mid-west, particularly Kansas City. Flying Crows was a quick and enjoyable read, although not necessarily mind-altering or deeply memorable. I would definitely read another of Lehrer’s novels if it were to drop in my lap, but I likely will not go out of my way to find another one.

Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey

I used to say that I did not care for fantasy and I still do not care to read about non-human characters or worlds that do not resemble our own. Kushiel’s Dart is fantasy, with human characters and a setting that is almost, but not quite, European. Kushiel’s Legacy is an epic trilogy (think Tolkein), that revolves around the trials and tribulations of its heroine, Phedre no Delaunay. Carey weaves a masterful plot in Kushiel’s Dart, creating memorable characters and provides plenty of good dialogue and rousing action. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and could not wait for book two, Kushiel’s Chosen, to become available used, so I went out and bought myself an early Christmas gift.

Word of caution: Kushiel’s world revolves around a religion that has one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. With that rule, you can expect some very adult sexual themes to occur throughout the book. While Carey does not become explicit when dealing with these sexual themes, the reader has a very good idea of what is occurring, and it is not your usual “vanilla” situations. So if a book with a non-Christian religious theme and sexual topics bothers you, you might wish to skip this series.

On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work, and Life, by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is an author, political commentator and owner of the Huffington Post, a very popular blog. I first became aware of Huffington when she ran for governor in California several years ago, but had never read any of her books. Huffington wrote this book for her daughters when she realized that they were being negatively affected by societal messages. Those messages, from media, from well-meaning friends and relatives, and even from ourselves, often cause women to live their lives fearfully, cautiously, slowly losing confidence in themselves and their abilities. Huffington relates stories and anecdotes about her life and other women’s lives, showing by example ways to become fearless. I am not sure what I expected, certainly something more than inspirational anecdotes, some concrete exercises or actions to take, but there were none of those. Overall, while the messages were inspirational, I did not really feel that my time was well spent reading On Becoming Fearless.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman wrote one of the weekly “rah-rah” letters for this year’s NaNo participants, reassuring us that we could reach our 50K writing goal. Not ever having read any of his works, I took a chance and requested one of his more popular titles from PaperbackSwap. I will say one thing for Gaiman, he created some memorable characters in American Gods, ones I am not likely to forget right away. The plot, too, was memorable, although I did figure out two major plot twists about two-thirds of the way through the book, which disappointed me. While it was difficult to put down American Gods until I finished it, at the end I was left with that familiar post-Christmas “is-that-all-there-is” feeling of disappointment. And a vague wondering “what was the point?” of reading this book. I think I will reserve judgement on Gaiman until I read another of his books … if I read another one. There are just too many authors out there that I wholeheartedly enjoy to read more by an author that I was so-so about.

I know I said there would be four book reviews, but I thought I would throw in a bonus and add the book that I am currently reading.

Iguana Love, by Vicki Hendricks

I have not finished Iguana Love yet, but already I can see that I will not be recommending it to anyone. It is not a genre I usually read (Amazon lists it as a “Mystery & Thriller), but that really is not the problem. The characters just are not engaging me in any way. I am about half way through and I really could not care less what happens to anyone in the book, let alone wonder how it will end. I need a book with memorable characters, either those you love or those you love to hate. This has neither. What does it have? Ramona, who lives in southern Florida and who kicks out her husband because she is bored with her life. She goes deep into debt in order to take diving lessons. She has sex (and it does get explicit) with any breathing male that appears before her, or for that matter, behind her! Of course, she does not like the nice guy but goes for the dark, seedy guy who seems ready to involve her in drug running. I will finish the book, but only because it is a short book and I would like to see if it improves, even just a tiny bit. Given my current feelings, though, I doubt I will read another book by Hendricks.