These are the last 5 books I have read, ending with the one I am currently reading.
1) Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin
If you like your detective stories raw, layered and enigmatic, this series about the detective Aurelio Zen is for you. He works with the Criminalpol in Rome but for this story is transferred temporarily to Venice at his own request. Michael Dibdin lived in Italy for 4 years and his descriptions of Venice ring authentic as he weaves his way through the streets and palazzi of the City. As most of you know, I lived in Italy for nine years and have been to Venice numerous times but I learned a lot from his descriptions of the politics and multi layers of this dying city. This book is gritty and dark just like the protagonist. You feel like you have been drawn into another world that you would never normally have a chance to experience.
2) The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
A completely different story to the previous one. This is a light histrorical which takes you on a fast, easy ride. I don't read a lot of this genre but won this at a conference so decided to give it a go. I read it all the way to the end, which doesn't happen with a lot of similar books so that says a lot for Quinn's story telling skills. It's not a book that will stay with me long, unlike Dibdin's, but I imagine that's not its purpose.
3) Mercy by Jodi Picoult
On the whole I love Jodi Picoult - she is one of my favorite writers. However, this one, which was first published in 2002, didn't hold my attention like the others. Picoult usually chooses a topical subject and fictionalises it . In this case, it is mercy killing. A man kills his terminally ill wife. The moral standpoints taken by various people on such issues are central to her books, and that's one of the interesting facets of her writing. Her books are usually fast paced with twists and turns you don't see coming. However, this one had no twists and was a little pedestrain. So I was disappointed. My favorite of hers is still My Sister's keeper though Second Glance is a pretty close second.
4) Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Yes, it has taken me a while to get around to reading this, but I saw it in a bookshop last week and grabbed it. I was drawn in immediately from the first words, and it kept me all the way through with just a couple of slow patches of insight into minor characters that I felt was a little unnecessary and didn't further the story any. Also, there was only one attempt to give any of the villain's back story and I thought that was a little light for it didn't really give any explanation for his actions. However, each of the main character's are drawn well and their personal ways of dealing with the tragedy are diverse and thought-provoking.
5) Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is the book I am currently reading so I can't give a full account of my feelings about it, but so far, she has captured me with her lyricism, her pain and her candidness. I am still in the section on Rome and, despite a few bad translations from Italian into English, she has captured the atmosphere of Rome and the Romans well. She was only there for four months so it will always be a superficial view but she has an ability to get to the nitty gritty of what she observes and to describe it in a delightful way. Stereotypes do creep in, but it isn't worrying me too much. Her joy for life, despite her own personal darkness, shines through and carries you along with her through the good and the bad. I hope the rest is as good.