Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blood Orange by Karen Keskinen, a review for Feminist Fiction Friday

Reading BLOOD ORANGE will give you a tingle--that tingle you get when you read a book by an author that's new to you and you realize right away that you are going to love the book and the characters and the writer. Karen Keskinen's debut mystery opens with a horrific crime and then plunges us into the complicated life of Santa Barbara private detective Jamie Zarlin. Jaymie's just barely paying the rent on her office when the formidable Gabi shows up. Her schizophrenic nephew has been arrested for the rape/murder and she is convinced he didn't do it. Jaymie is skeptical, but she's still grieving the death of her own mentally ill brother and she doesn't have the heart to say no to Gabi.
Not that Gabi is giving her the option.
Jaymie's ensuing investigation brings her closer to two men who are both very interested in being closer to her, a sexy cop who's got marriage on his mind and an even sexier attorney who operates just on the right side of sleaze. (And yes, if this reminds you of the love triangle in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, that's probably not an accident although Keskinen's characters seem a bit more real and Jaymie's reasons for holding back her commitment seem to be more solid than Stephanie's.)
The Santa Barbara of the book is at once the lovely beach town beloved of tourists and home to an upscale community and a place of dark alleys and shadowed corners where gangs lurk and violence has a racial edge. The mystery itself is extremely complicated, even convoluted, but it's also setting up a world where race and class permeate everything that takes place.
Keskinen's got a real knack for character and the characters who are going to be "regulars" in the series are definitely people we want to see again. Those who may just be passing through for this one story--like the murdered girl's tough-talking little sister and a wealthy old woman who is sharper than everyone around her and has no problem letting them know it--are vivid and memorable.
The death of a beautiful young woman during a solstice festival is only the beginning of the mysteries here and BLOOD ORANGE is only the first of what I hope will be many mysteries "starring" Jaymie.

Here's an interview with Keskinen.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I admire a writer who isn't afraid to kill his darlings.

for the TBR pile: Blood Orange by Karen Keskinen

Blood Orange is a debut novel and the first, I'm sure, in a series about a Santa Barbara detective named Jaymie Zarlin. I've done a "Fresh Meat" segment on the book over at Crimional Element, but I'll be doing a full review later in the week. I really, really enjoyed this novel. The heroine feels real and she's got her quirks but she does not, as a friend of mine likes to say, wear a parrot on her shoulder. Keskinen has a knack for character and dialogue and also for setting her stage. The book takes place in Santa Barbara and takes us from the century-old houses inhabited by old money to the grittier parts the gangs refer to as "Santa Bruta." the crime Jaymie's investigating is brutal--the rape/murder of a lovely young woman--but the women she encounters in her investigation are anything but passive victims. Well, with the exception of one wife who may or may not know what's going on with her husband and his long-time lover. The book shares some elements with Janet Evanovich's popular Stephanie Plum series, but with more heart. If you like mysteries by and about women, you should check it out.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Month of Streaming Netflix: One for the Money

One for the Money is a perfect example of why Netflix streaming has a bad name. If you type "Katherine Heigl" into the search engine, you find out you can stream episodes of Grey's Anatomy or Roswell; you can get a documentary she narrated (Shelter Me, about adopting pound pets) and you can get One For the Money. There's no sign of any of the romantic comedies she's done--27 Dresses or Knocked Up or or even Life As We Know It.

One for the Money was based on Janet Evanovich's book of the same name, the first in her long-running series about Stephanie Plum, a Jersey girl turned bail enforcement officer who is torn between two hot men--high school bad-boy Joe, now a cop and the intriguing Ranger.  The books were a lot of fun for a long time--they've gotten kind of formulaic lately--and a movie based on the series was in development for a long time. Sometimes....that's a bad sign.

It was a bad movie. Just.  Bad.  Heigl had the sass to pull off Stephanie but Debbie Reynolds as her trigger-happy Grandma was utterly cartoonish. Daniel Sunjata--or as I like to call him, the best-looking man on the planet--made a sexy Ranger but didn't quite bring the character's danger to the movie.  (In fact, the PG-13 rating kept everything at a low-level simmer.) Just disappointing all the way around, the movie made me glad I didn't spring for it when it was in theaters. So that's another minus for Netflix Streaming.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Month of streaming Netflix--SAFE

Netflix has a large selection of B movies (and C and D movies as well).  I'm quite fond of B movies, actually, especially when they star Jason Statham, so when SAFE popped up, I figured it was worth checking out. Statham plays a former cop-turned-cage fighter whose life has taken a spectacular downward spiral. (And the filmmakers do a GREAT job of making his world incredibly gritty.) When his path crosses a young Chinese genius who's fallen into the hands of a Russian mobster, he finds the fire in his belly to save her and himself.
The violence here is pretty brutal--lots of stomping and kicking and beating. Statham's character is introduced in a brief scene where he punches an opponent into a coma and the way it's shot, he looks massive and bestial. 
I lasted less than half an hour, checking out before Chris Sarandon showed up as the Mayor. 
I did enjoy Reggie Lee's performance as the young genius' "foster father." Lee is my favorite actor on Grimm, where he steals every scene he's in. Here he's understated and dangerous and really effective.Too bad not that many people saw it. The movie was written and directed by Boaz Yakin, whose career is all over the place.  He directed the sports movie Remember the Titans and co-wrote the screenplay for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He's also one of the co-writers of the upcoming thriller Now You See Me, which looks like a lot of fun. This movie was ... not a lot of fun. So, minus for Netflix.

Month of Streaming Netflix: Butter

It's been a pretty good year so far at the Tomlinson household but I still feel like I'm geting nickel and dimed to death by monthly fees for this and that. I keep coming back to that $9.95 a month Netflix subscription. Month to month, it's not that big a deal but over the course of a year it adds up to $119.40 and I have to wonder, is it worth it? Soemtimes when I log onto Netflix in search of an aafternoon's entertainment, it seems like the only thing available is several season's worth of How I Met Your Mother and the Adam Sandler movie Anger Management. (It reminds me of the early days of HBO where Bill Murray's movies Scrooged and Ghostbusters seemed to be in heavv rotation with precious little on offer. (I confesss I think  "the Night the Reindeer Died," the  Christmas movie pitch sequence from Scrooged with Lee Majors saving Santa Claus is pretty hilarious, but I digress.)
I decided to see if I could find a month's worth of Netflix streaming movies that would entertain and engage me enough to convince me that keeping the subscription is worth it.  Movie #1 is Butter, starring Jennifer Garner. I like Garner. I thought she was terrific in the unerrated romantic comedy Catch and Release (which featured a wonderful supporting turn by filmmaker Kevin Smith). I wasn't as charmed by 13 Going on 30 (a female version of Big) but that wasn't her fault. She could probably spend the next decade doing the kind of movies Sandra Bullock made early in her career and that would be fine. But she's not really playing it safe, and I like that. (I cannot wait to see her in Draft Day, which is the movie Moneyball wanted to be.)

Butter is the kind of quirky little movie that hits theaters for a week and then disappears. It's got a great cast. In addition to Garner, there's Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman but the subject of the comedy--competitive butter sculpting--is so nutball that you're surprised the movie wasn't some USC film student's thesis project. (It made a grand total of $175,700 at the box office, and that's counting global ticket sales.) The movie remnded me a lot of the Nicole Kidman film To Die For. My favorite performance in the movie was probably Olivia Wilde, playing a slutty sculptress who enters the contest just to mess with people.

Butter sculpting is a real thing, by the way, with its own Wikipedia entry and everything..

butter was fun, so that's a plus for Netflix.