I am, kind of. When I ditched Goodreads, I still wanted to keep track of my reading. I tried using Evernote, but found it too cumbersome for making a note if I’m reading a paper book. So I got a notebook (this one in periwinkle, for my stationery fetishizing friends). I love notebooks, I love a chance to use my fountain pens, it’s a good system for me. It’s not social like Goodreads, but that’s what the blog is for, right?
So I know that I read 4 1/2 books in January, and listened to 6. Normally, I would hope to read more, but I read some longer books this month. Also, I really loved some of my recent audio choices, and sometimes chose to listen when I might have been reading. Here are the January/early February books I haven’t already written about:
Tina Whittle, The Dangerous Edge of Things. This was a kind of quirky mystery that reminded me a bit of P.J. Tracy’s Monkeewrench. The heroine, Tai, is drawn into a
murder mystery involving her brother and the secretive Atlanta security company he works for when she discovers a body outside her brother’s house. There’s a romance thread involving an ex-cop named Trey who has had a traumatic brain injury (some parts of this seemed realistic to me, others not so much, but I’m no expert). I can’t say I remember a lot of the twisty-turny plot, but it was fun and I’ll probably check out the next in the series.
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: The Ordinary Lives of North Koreans. I think this would interest readers who, like me, were impressed by Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son. Some of the details from that book I was sure Johnson had made up appear in the real lives Demick chronicles. There’s some general background, but the main focus is on telling the stories of a handful of people–how they survived the economic breakdown and famine of the 1990s, how and why they eventually defected (that’s no spoiler; Demick could never have interviewed ordinary North Koreans still in the country, so I knew they’d all eventually get out). There’s a lot of tragedy in these stories, but also resilience and hope. Demick, who reported on Korea for the LA Times, has a clear reportorial style and sympathy for her subjects. Defection isn’t an entirely happy ending for most of them, as they struggle to adjust to life in South Korea and miss things about the North, especially loved ones they had to leave behind (some of whom, as a result of their family members’ defection, died in labor camps). I’d like to read a book by a defector now.
Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn (read by Tony Britton). I got this because of Rohan’s interesting post, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. Britton’s female voices were a bit falsetto, but I forgave that because his accents and expression were wonderful. This is classic atmospheric Gothic, and the suspense and melodrama make gripping listening. Mary Yellan is young, impetuous, and somewhat naive, as a Gothic heroine must be, but she’s tough and not stupid. I liked that the characters were common people–no crumbling castles or mysterious nobles, just the scarily villainous landlord of Jamaica Inn, Joss Merlyn. And like Rohan, I was intrigued by Mary’s frankness about desire and its discontents: one theme of the book could be “desire is a pain in the ass.” Rohan read it for the Slaves of Golconda reading group, and there are more good posts there.
Kerry Greenwood, Heavenly Pleasures (Corinna Chapman #2, read by Louise Siversen). I am loving this series. Basically, these are cozy mysteries: the heroine runs a bakery, there’s an eccentric cast of characters including a witch, and this book revolves around someone sabotaging a chocolate shop. But the books are not sweet or twee. Part of this is the realistically urban (Melbourne) setting–Corinna’s apprentice is a teenage recovering heroin addict, for instance–and part is Corinna’s acerbic, ironic voice. Corinna is a woman of appetites, for good food, sex, bubble baths, sensual fabrics, and I enjoy the way the books celebrate that. Definitely listening to the rest after two successes.
Allllllmost Done With:
M. K. Hobson, The Native Star (read by Suehyla El-Attar). I’ve had this in my electronic TBR forever, so I felt a bit guilty about picking it up in a 3-for-2 Audible sale. On the other hand, now I’m getting to it! I remembered almost nothing about it except that it is set in an alternate Old West with magic, and I’m enjoying not knowing where it’s going. It’s not a great book. The characters read like types to me (although well-drawn): feisty witch Emily, from a small California frontier town; mysterious, supercilious, upper-crust warlock Dreadnought Stanton; a Native American holy woman, etc. But I really like the magical world-building: Stanton, for instance, is a credomancer, and his power depends in large part on the faith people put in him. There are various factions of magical and anti-magic people fighting over the mysterious stone that’s become embedded in Emily’s hand. Two hours from the end, I still don’t know which one I trust and want to win (maybe none of them). I think this is working better for me in audio than it probably would have in print–the fast-paced action carries me along, and I don’t mind as much about the parts that seem predictable or under-developed (yes, there’s a romance between Emily and Stanton, but only because they are the hero and heroine–it doesn’t seem very well motivated, nor is its development really depicted on-page).
Stella Gibbons, The Matchmaker. I think I will give this one a post of its own, partly because I don’t feel I have a handle on it and want to think about it more. It reminds me of Austen’s Emma in that Alda is a bad matchmaker, choosing wrong for those around her–or if she chooses right, she goes about directing them in a way that messes things up. But she never learns from her mistakes or even sees them. The setting–post-war rural England–is interesting and there are very funny moments, particularly in the omniscient narrator’s commentary on her characters, but parts felt meandering and I found myself skimming some.
No idea. I have to return Katherine Angel’s Unmastered to the library Saturday but haven’t gotten to it yet, so I’m going to browse through it and decide if I want to request it again/buy it myself. Then perhaps a dip into my TBR. Oh wait! I have downloaded James Salter’s All That Is from the library. But before that I’m likely to choose a Friday Night Book.