Books I read recently, don’t have a ton to say about, but wanted to mention.
Ruth Saberton, Dead Romantic
Romantic British chick lit, featuring an archaeologist heroine who starts seeing ghosts and the former rock star who wrote a Christmas hit about their brief meeting years before (and his ghostly brother, who wants to reunite them). I first saw this in the “Hidden Gems” column at All About Romance (I love lists of books people think deserved more attention). Then Jayne reviewed it at Dear Author; she reads more romantic women’s fiction/chick lit type books than I do, and I find her taste a reliable guide when I’m in the mood for something light and sweet and charming like this.
In the best tradition of chick lit fluff, it also managed to say some serious and moving things about grief, loss, and coming to terms with the past (often a theme of ghost stories). I found Ellie’s friendship with Alex the ghost more developed–and more interesting–than her romance with Rafe. Rafe’s drinking problem sometimes gets depicted as alcoholism and sometimes as something more transient; either way, it was too easily resolved, and a silly Big Misunderstanding took the space that could have been occupied by a more serious conflict. But the book was charming and engaging and just what I was in the mood for when I read it.
Judith Flanders, A Murder of Magpies
I requested this from the online library largely on the basis of the cover, and because I’d enjoyed listening to her non-fiction book The Invention of Murder. The I read this glowing review. I didn’t like it quite that much, but it was a lot of fun. Robert Galbraith’s mystery The Silkworm is a dark and slimy satire of publishing; this is a frothier cousin. I really enjoyed Sam, the 40ish heroine, who has something of the self-deprecating chick lit protagonist about her, but more self confidence. There’s a romance thread, too. I hope we’re going to see more of these characters.
More of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time series on audio
I’m up to book 11 of 12 now. I think the three “Autumn” volumes covering the WWII years are going to end up being my favorites, if one can have favorite individual volumes in this series, which really only achieves its effects as a series. It’s in these volumes that Powell’s technique really paid off. The war is in some ways at a distance: Nick joins the army but isn’t at the front. For most of the war he’s a liaison to various allied armies in exile (Polish, Belgian, Czech). So the focus is still mainly on social life and relationships, meetings and parties. But there are also a lot of losses, and because we have watched these characters wander in and out of Nick’s life for years, their deaths matter; I mourned the fact that they would never return to these pages. Powell doesn’t describe deep emotion, but he nevertheless conveys it. I expect I will be revisiting this series, both in print and audio.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
I had this from the library, and the downside of that was that it would repay dipping in to, with time between readings to meditate on the short intense pieces, most describing everyday microaggressions. I didn’t have time to read it that way, and so couldn’t fully engage with all of it. But I still found it a very powerful book, giving concrete illustrations of what was largely an abstract concept to me. One thing lyrical poetry does well is convey intensity of feeling and experience. Rankine shows what microaggressions feel like. I found Dan Chiasson’s New Yorker review helpful for providing some literary context for Rankine’s work.
Most of my reading over the last couple of months came from the library, not my TBR, though I intended the reverse to be true. I’m still working on shifting the balance. I read a lot of good books, but I also felt pressure to get through them which diminished my enjoyment. I think part of my library hold habit is TBR avoidance. It’s too overwhelming. But if I were reading more from it, I’d feel better about my book-buying habits. I’ll just have to try again. After I read those three library holds that just came in.