November Reading Retrospective

Remember how I said (way at the bottom of that post) November was going to be National Journal-Writing Month for me? Yeah, me either. Actually, I did write almost every day for the first half, but then I forgot all about it. It was a pretty good reading and listening month, though.

Favorite Reads this Month:

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall; Joanna Chambers, The Lady’s Secret; and Jill Sorenson, Stranded with Her Ex, discussed here

Favorite Listen:

 Probably Deborah Blum’s Poisoner’s Handbook. I picked it up in an Audible sale because the blurb made it sound sort of like Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, or The Murder at Road Hill House (if you like mysteries and/or Victorian sensation and detective fiction, I highly recommend Summerscale’s page-turning account of a real-life Victorian murder case and how it shaped cultural perceptions of detection. Does my father-in-law still have my copy? I must get it back for a re-read). Blum’s book was fun but not as good. It’s about the birth of forensic medecine, particularly the detection of poisons, in Jazz Age New York. It was a bit too hagiographic of its main subjects, chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler. I would have liked to see them as more fully-rounded people. Blum makes science exciting and sexy, and this would make a great setting for a historical mystery series.

Fun with Traditional Regencies:

Carla Kelly, Marian’s Christmas Wish Not very plausible as a romance, but funny. Turns into a spy-farce, but not really in a bad way.

Barbara Metzger, Snowdrops and Scandalbroth I’m planning a separate post on this one. I loved the beginning, which was a really funny reflection on/of the sexual double standard in romance, but again, found the last third or so a bit too farcical. I wanted it to be more genre-bending than it wanted to be.

Other Reads:

Neil Plakcy, Mahu Surfer Second in a series about a gay cop in Hawaii. The solution to the mystery came a bit out of the blue, but I still really like Kimo as a character and will probably read on.

Theresa Weir, Amazon Lily A contemporary romance from the late 80s. Check out the original cover, people! The one on my Kindle version was not nearly as much fun. You can tell it’s an 80s book because the hero smokes. Some things about this novel really bugged me: the innocent heroine/bad boy hero trope; the natives who exist mainly a) to provide an aphrodisiac drink, and b) to show the hero isn’t such a bad boy because he cares about them; some weird conversations about rape. To be clear, this isn’t a book where the hero rapes the heroine, but she accuses him of doing so (even though she has only vague memories of the incident–see aphrodisiac, above–and those are vaguely pleasurable) and it isn’t totally cleared up. But but but, I still enjoyed the book. A lot. There’s something about Weir’s voice (I hate when reviews talk about “voice,” because I never know exactly what they mean, but I’m going there because I’m not sure exactly what I mean). I found the book really affecting, even when I was annoyed by it. I liked the characters, even though I thought they were clichés. I definitely want to read more.

Other Listens:

On the less successful end, Stephanie Laurens’ Viscount Breckenridge, discussed here, and Darynda Jones’ First Grave on the Right, mentioned in the tropes post.

More successful: Nora Roberts, Key of Light. I don’t think I’d have liked this so much without Susan Ericksen’s wonderful narration. This trilogy has paranormal/supernatural elements, and though I find the Celtic woo-woo pretty silly (OK, very silly), I am fascinated by the way Roberts largely sticks to her straightforward contemporary narrative voice throughout. It makes the woo-woo somehow more plausible; it also draws a strong parallel between the three heroines’ woo-woo quest to find the magic keys and free the souls of the demi-goddesses (really, don’t ask) and their realistic quest to make lives for themselves, starting their own businesses and finding their partners. I’m already well into book two.

Jonathan L. Howard, Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer Another book made for me by an excellent narrator, Christopher Cazenove. I don’t know that I’d have finished it in print. An odd Faustian fantasy, both mordantly witty and moralistic. There’s a second, but with another narrator. Still, might give it a try.

James Church, Bamboo and Blood Third in the Inspector O series. What I like best about this series is how well the hard-boiled mystery works to depict life in a totalitarian society (North Korea). A lot of this one was set in Switzerland, so I missed that. I still enjoyed it, though, and recommend this series to anyone who likes mysteries with an unusual setting.

I’ve already finished one really good book in December (check back later in the week to see what) and am hoping for more. If ever there’s a time to escape to the comfort of books, for me December’s it!

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2 Responses to November Reading Retrospective

  1. I am fascinated by the way Roberts largely sticks to her straightforward contemporary narrative voice throughout. It makes the woo-woo somehow more plausible…

    YES. That is exactly it. I think that’s why her J.D. Robb mysteries work, as well.

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