Four More Books

Here’s a look at four more books I read during the last few months.

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran
Grade: A-

In The Reluctant Tuscan, a Hollywood writer is maneuvered by his wife into relocating to Tuscany and renovating an ancient farmhouse, a story that is supposedly autobiographical.

On the back cover, Doran is compared to Frances Mayes and Dave Barry. I’ve never read Mayes and I’m not a huge Dave Barry fan so I can’t speak to that. However, I thought this book was very similar to A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Like Mayle, Doran makes light fun of the locals, sprinkles the text with words from the local tongue, and goes on and on about the local food, except he does it in Italy instead of France. It’s amusing, but then Doran makes a giant misstep toward the end. One last conflict was necessary to finally bring the main character around, but the conflict wasn’t believable and neither was the character’s turnaround.

The ending wasn’t great, but I don’t think it was enough to ruin the whole book, so I still recommend it. I will probably read it again if I ever decide to visit Tuscany.

Get That Novel Started (and Keep It Going ’til You Finish) by Donna Levin
Grade: B

I read through this book quickly. I thought it was OK but not overly inspirational, and its effectiveness was certainly questionable, as I still have not started that novel.

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
Grade: C

I’ve read several books by Bill Bryson. Most of them have been tolerable. Some of them have been good. This one was neither. Bryson traveled across the United States looking for a perfect American town. What he found always seemed to disappoint him. He spent too much time alone, ate bad food, and drank too much. It was depressing to read about. I was also insulted by the way he treated Connecticut and Rhode Island, and it made me doubt his opinion about other locations. I would not recommend this book, not even to fans of Bill Bryson.

Death in Cyprus by M.M. Kaye
Grade: B-

In this mystery, the young Amanda Derington travels to Cyprus and is nearly killed en route. What was meant to appear as an accident is clearly not, and once on the island, she finds out that her life is still in danger.

I had the oddest problem with this book. I couldn’t keep track of who was who. I mean, “Captain the Hon. Tobias John Allerton Gates” is hard enough to remember, but if you then call him “Toby” sometimes and “Captain Gates” other times, you risk confusing the reader. And if you do it with all of your characters, you’ll definitely confuse me.

Not that I would let name confusion turn me off to a good book. I gave this book every chance to win me over. I like a good romantic mystery. This one was just a little too dated, I think. True, I often enjoy the datedness of Agatha Christie’s novels because it makes me feel nostalgic for faraway places and times, but M.M. Kaye is not Christie, and Death in Cyprus didn’t make me feel much of anything.

Now the big question: am I persistent enough to continue reading Kaye’s “Death in…” books or have I had enough? Stay tuned.

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