I was always aware of Jackie Collins’ books. She’s a prolific writer (32! over the course of her career) and it’s nearly impossible to miss her section at the local library. While I have always seen her books, I didn’t read one until a few years ago.
My first Jackie Collins novel was The Power Trip. I picked it up one afternoon when I had a few hours to burn before covering a town meeting for my old newspaper job. I was wandering around Rite Aid, looking for a snack when this book caught my eye. Dangerous Kiss is actually the first Jackie Collins novel I picked up at the library. The others I’ve read were all purchased at either the drug or grocery store.
I ended up reading the last few Lucky Santangelo novels – Dangerous Kiss being part of the franchise – last year on spring break. I didn’t realize they were part of a series until I was 50 pages in. But by that point, I was hooked and there was no going back.
I thought DK was the first of the Lucky novels, but again, I goofed up. What I love about these books are how they can be read out of order. Sure, there’s merit to read the novels in order. But Jackie fills in all the details – if you forget something or pick up the books out of order it doesn’t matter. I love the dramatic and over the top action. Lucky Santangelo always preaches about “Santangelo Justice” as a consequence of any and all horrific events that go down in Collins’ version of the world. And trust me, there are plenty of incidents that involve any and all methods of Lucky sanctioned justice.
In this Santangelo novel, there’s a horrible crime that rips multiple families apart and drives a wedge between Lucky and her husband. Brigette, Lucky’s niece and one of the richest women in the world, meets a devastatingly handsome and dangerous man and Lucky’s friends, Alex, Venus and Charlie Dollar all give the reader a glimpse of Hollywood life.
I like a Jackie Collins novel for the same reasons I like watching the various Housewives franchises – it’s so beyond my own experience. Dipping out of reality and into a bananas world of drama and intrigue can be exhilarating. These books are great for the beach or waiting rooms or any time you need a break. Collins herself never claimed to be a literary author, but she delivers a great story. Her books are fun and I adore them. Sure, the characters are a little contrived and the drama is completely over the top, but books like these have merit too.
Plus, she apparently loves leopard print, which is a neutral in my closet. I’ll give any woman a chance when I notice she rocks a great animal print.
Unfortunately, our author died last year after six years fighting cancer. So thanks, Jackie, for giving the world so many delightful, crazy books. I know I love them.
Oxford Blue – Veronica Stallwood
Second Glance – Jodi Picoult
Dangerous Kiss – Jackie Collins
Schlump – Hans Herbert Grimm
I know, I know, it’s too early for Christmas. I agree completely. However, I couldn’t help but pick up Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand when I was at the library. I read the first book in this trilogy, Winter Street, when it first came out and I devoured it in one sitting. I haven’t had a chance to read the final installment, Winter Storm yet, but I’ll be picking it up soon. I highly recommend grabbing all three and checking them out.
So as not to spoil anything, I’ll just say this, Winter Stroll picks up a year after the first book ends, a few weeks before Christmas on Nantucket. The story follows the Quinn family in the aftermath of a hard year full of huge changes.
I’ve read a few of Hilderbrand’s books at this point. And what I like most about her writing deals with her characters. It’s easy to pass her books off as fluff, with the covers full of beach scenes. But this is serious literature. If a man had written any of her books, the covers wouldn’t give off such a beachy vibe. What she does brilliantly is write truly complicated characters. None of them feel cliched or like they’re filling in the spot of a troupe. Instead, especially the women of her books, they are nasty and joyful and full of cracks and imperfections. At first glance, her characters come off as perfect preppy women of a certain social class in New England. As the reader gets to know them, we realize how they’re actually complicated women who are jealous, have bad relationships and try their best to be good mothers, partners and friends.
Sometimes I find myself trying to like a book others have recommended but I find the characters boring. That’s usually because they aren’t realistic. No one is perfect and Hilderbrand’s aren’t. She writes women that we assume have it together. Instead, they have fascinating inner dialogues and actions. They’re real and they could be the woman in front of you at Starbucks or the woman who you help gather the contents of her purse after it explodes in line at the grocery store. I recognize the women I’ve babysat for, who I teach yoga too and even sometimes myself in her characters.
In Winter Stroll, I enjoy how each section of the story is broken up by point of view. The cast of characters is large and diverse and getting a chance to hear from them all is an interesting way to digest a story like this. This novel takes place over the course of a stress filled weekend, one of those intense family times when everyone is edgy. Getting to experience it from everyone’s point of view makes the book even more interesting and enjoyable.
Over Thanksgiving, start with Winter Street, Winter Stroll and Winter Storm. These books will be a nice break and allow you to focus on the Quinn family drama, not your own.
When I was growing up, my nanny, Jojo always read mystery novels that prominently featured a cat on the cover. Those books she read and introduced me too could be blamed in part for my book addiction. Reading with her, sitting on the couch together will always be some of my most cherished reading memories.
The other day when I was wandering around my library, To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton caught my eye. On the spine, there was a blue mystery sticker and a small picture of a calico cat. The front cover has the same cat, an Underwood No. 5 typewriter and some fancy pens. I knew I had to check this book out. I can’t help but take a book with that kind of cover home.
The book follows Chester Henry, proprietor of the Rescued Word, a typewriter repair shop, and Claire Henry, his granddaughter and business partner. They live in Star City, Utah, a sleepy mountain town dominated by the ski industry. Mystery and intrigue comes into Clare’s life when a strange man from out of town asks about an Underwood typewriter in the shop for a tune up. Later, the same man ends up dead in the alley behind the store. Like any good mystery heroine, Clare takes the sleuthing into her own hands and tries to figure out what’s going on.
Not every mystery novel needs to be filled with spies, explosions and dramatic kidnapping attempts. Some of the best ones tend to be a little more realistic. What I liked about Helvetica is how I could imagine myself as Clare. Her nosiness and curiosity to what was happening around her was completely believable. She was interested in what was going on around her place of business and how to keep all her her grandfather and niece safe. Any information she came upon, Clare would share with her best friend and police officer in town, Jodie.
While To Helvetica and Back is not a fast paced thriller, it’s a fun mystery. I didn’t devour the book in one setting like some books, I also didn’t feel wrecked after reading it. I enjoyed the book and will definitely be checking out the other books in the series once their published.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good old typewriter and a grouchy store cat?
The Knight and Death – Leonardo Sciascia
Nine Lives: The Search for the Sacred in Modern India – William Dalrymple
The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson