Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reading at Random: Lake News

In an age of ARCs, book tours, challenges, readings lists, and neverending prize-winner projects it seems we've lost something, or at least, I have lost something. Gone are the days when I could just wander up to my bookshelf and select a book totally at random and sit down and read it. This and a plethora of books that are leftover from days when I read different sorts of books than I do now, have prompted me to consider a new method of picking books to read, at least, on occasion. Of course, it can't be so simple as my simply walking up to a shelf and picking a book to read lest I do the obvious and pass by those books that I'm not sure I'm interested in anymore yet can't seem to get rid of on the offhand chance that I might still like them. Some mental block precludes me from simply casting them off without even putting them to the 50 page test. Obviously, at some point, I thought I would like each and every one of these books, else why would I have bought them to take up space in my house? Also, I might accidentally forget to randomly choose from those books stacked in boxes, tucked in cubby holes of the unused entertainment center or in a random nook of the desk.

So, with the help of my Library Thing library which, I heartily believe and hope is an accurate representation of all of the books in my actual library compiled in one place and the ever-useful, I have devised a way to make myself read my books. It's all very simple, really. Just sorted my library by rating so I knew how many pages of books I had that I hadn't read and a few randomly generated integers (one to choose the page of 50 books, another to choose the one of 50 on the chosen page) later, I had a book. The only caveat, then, was that regardless of the book it chose, I had to unearth it from the stacks and give it at least 50 pages to hook me. If it didn't, I could be free of it. If it did, well, then I finish it! It's a little fun, a little scary, and a lot unpredictable. And I think it might just work as a means to help me work through my stacks of unloved TBR books.

Thus was born another totally erratic, possibly never recurring (though I hope it will) feature and a creative way of justifying reviewing sorts of books that I almost never seem to read anymore. This one, however, has a pretty picture. See? Pretty, no? We'll say it's even random because you can't see the titles of the, uh, random books, if you will. And the words go funky directions! Don't laugh - you can't imagine the untold hours it took me to make that. I'm good with words, not pictures, okay?

Alas, the system did just what I hoped and didn't hope it would do. It picked for me a book that's been on my shelves for as long as I can remember that I was pretty sure I could knock out with the old 50 page test, Lake News by Barbara Delinsky. A little romance. A little intrigue. A little more "commercial" than my average read as my mother so insightfully pointed out when I took it with me on vacation. So with some trepidation, some cynicism about my past reading tastes, and not a little distaste (I have all these great books and I'm reading this?) I started in on my 50 pages and found that I read past the 50 page mark in no time at all. That's right, I read it to the bitter end and proved myself right in my total unwillingness to cast off the untried book. Okay, so maybe it's not a marvel of literary art, but I was engaged, I did like the characters, and what woman can't go for a little romance once in a while, even if it's just in a book? (Especially if it's just in a book?)

Lake News is the story of Lily Blake whose passion is for music and for performing. She has a comfortable, if not extravagant, life in Boston where she teaches music at a private school and moonlights as a singer in a posh dinner club. All that changes when an off-the-record conversation with a reporter about her friend, a newly promoted Cardinal in the Catholic church, is twisted into a libelous front page story of her supposed affair with the Cardinal. Suddenly, Lily's life is crumbling around her as countless reporters hound her and dismantle the reputation she has worked so hard to build for herself in Boston. Before long the negative publicity drives both her bosses to fire her, and she becomes a virtual prisoner in her apartment where even her neighbors are in a fury at the hoards of reporters laying siege to her building. Soon, Lily knows she has no choice but to return to the small hometown she wanted nothing more than to escape. But what will she find on the shores of Lake Henry? Will the denizens of her old town protect her or turn on her? Will she be able to patch up longstanding problems with her mother? And why does John Kipling, editor of the town's weekly Lake News, keep turning up? Is he looking for a story? Or is it something more?

This is not the sort of book that it takes rocket science to figure out. As a matter of fact, I'm sure you can guess just about all the answers to my questions. That said, though, I actually quite liked this book. Both Lily and John are fully fleshed out characters struggling with scars from the past and hurts from the present, each looking to somehow prove their worth to themselves and to their still difficult parents. It's easy (or perhaps I mean difficult?) to feel Lily's pain as her life is stolen out from under her based solely on lies and easy to know her uncertainty about how to go about remedying the situation. Lake Henry and its citizens are good-hearted, close-mouthed when it counts, and refreshingly quaint in that small town way. Delinsky's story has a great flow, unloading bits of intrigue and leaving a trail of romantic encounters between John and Lily that carries readers along to its satisfying conclusion. No, it's no literary masterwork of the sort that I usually read (LOL!), but it is a refreshingly good story that leaves you feeling fulfilled in a way that those literary fiction types with frustratingly ambiguous endings can't do.


So, there you have it. My first experience with reading randomly, and an oddly rewarding one at that. Are you searching for an escape from your regimented reading schedule? Feel free to join me in reading at random. Perhaps you'll find it as refreshing as I have. It's not your method of random choosing that matters so much - I've obviously taken my randomness to the limit (though I do recommend this method which is so very...random) - as long as you're reading a book that you are in no way obligated to read whether that obligation is to yourself and some insane book list you've made or to authors, publishers, challenges, or even friends. Here's to making reading a little more random again!


  1. Sounds like a good plan. Right now, I am practicing the 'Read what I want' plan, no commitments etc.

  2. What a fun experiment! I'm glad the book turned out better than you expected.

  3. Barbara Delinsky does that to me, too - somehow, I just get sucked in. Love this idea - personally, I am trying the "read my books in the order they appear on the shelf" idea, but if that fails, I might give the random thing a shot.

  4. Hope your plan works...I am way to random to be randomly organized. LOL
    I do like your review on Lake News by B. Delinsky. As a former concert musician, I think I would like this.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Have a great week.