Reading Lists

My blogging mojo has been even scarcer than my reading mojo of late. I’ve spent a lot of my free time watching melodramatic cop shows on Netflix instead. Sometimes a problem that’s resolved in 45 minutes really hits the spot.

To try to get back on track, here’s a list of what I’ve been reading and trying to read lately. I’d love to talk more about any of them in the comments.

Actually Read It! (I’ve been having most success with mystery here, too)

Cathy Pegau, Murder on the Last Frontier I enjoyed this historical mystery set on the Alaska frontier in 1919, with a female journalist heroine. I had an interesting Twitter conversation about whether this is a “cozy” and how exactly you’d define this type of mystery.

Lucinda Brant, Deadly Engagement, read by Alex Wyndham Lots of people I know love this Georgian set mystery series. I felt like I was reading about a gang of emo middle-schoolers who are shagging, assaulting, and murdering each other–too over the top for me.

Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect X, translated Alexander O. Smith  Although, as the title suggests, intense emotion is a the heart of this Japanese mystery, the focus is on unraveling the puzzle and I found the style somewhat flat. Clever and engaging, though.

Jo Bannister, Desperate Measures Third in a series featuring Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best. Ash’s wife and sons were kidnapped several years ago, and at the end of the last book there was a cliff-hanger twist in this story. Many more twists in this one before it was resolved. I enjoy the unusual friendship between Ash and Hazel, Ash’s very special dog Patience, and the way Ash begins to overcome trauma. The series could satisfactorily end here, but if there were more, I’d follow these characters further.

Seicho Matsumoto, Inspector Imanishi Investigatestranslated by Beth Cary A serendiptous library find, this was originally published in the early 60s. Like many post-war (any war) mysteries I’ve read, it reflects on the ways that war’s disruption allows both individuals and a society to reinvent themselves. An older, fairly traditional detective pursues a case involving the Nouveau group, a collective of young avant garde artists, writers, and musicians engaging with Western culture.

Lucy ParkerAct Like It  I might be the last person I know to read this romance. It’s probably my favorite kind–fairly light with fun banter and a core of real emotion. It’s set in the London theatre world, which was believably rendered. The story, with its slowly developing relationship and fade-to-black sex scenes, would fit well in Harlequin’s Romance line. A delightful weekend reading escape.

Have Read at Least Some of It!

Hope Jahren, Lab Girlread by the author I’m really loving this. Her love for her research, her beautiful descriptions of the natural world, her portrait of her devoted friendship with Bill, who works in her lab. And her Midwestern pronunciation of “root” (to rhyme with foot, more or less). It’s been ages since I heard someone say it that way. Slate’s Audio Book Club captures its charms.

E. F. BensonQueen Lucia  Normally this kind of comedy of manners in which characters spar over who will rule a small village society would be exactly my cup of tea, but right now a story about genteely passive-aggressive social combat is the last thing I need. I know I’ll enjoy this tremendously one day but for now I’ve set it aside.

Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer  I’ve only read a couple of chapters, but I’m loving the voice in this novel of a man divided between cultures and loyalties in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. It won the Pulitzer, among many accolades.

Library Stash, Imagining/Pretending/Hoping I Will Read It! 

Elizabeth Mckenzie, The Portable Veblen  The title appealed to me, and it made the Baileys Prize shortlist. I have only the vaguest sense of what it’s about. Except squirrels.

Svetlana AlexeivitchVoices from Chernobyl  I put this on hold when she won the Nobel; it may have come in at the wrong moment for me.

Peter Lovesey, Upon a Dark Night  I usually feel compelled to read series in order, but I’ve had good luck picking up random volumes from the Peter Diamond mysteries from the library shelves.

Catherine M. Roach, Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture and Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance, ed. by Jayne Ann Krentz Roach’s book showed up when I was browsing new acquisitions, so I clicked on the subject codes to see what other romance criticism my library had and requested both of these. I’m vaguely thinking of a summer reading project (I have Pamela Regis’ Natural History of the Romance Novel) but may not actually get to it.

If I don’t get off Netflix, I’ll never read any of these!

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19 Responses to Reading Lists

  1. Jorrie Spencer says:

    Well, I admit to being curious about the melodramatic cop shows you’ve been watching. I have done my share on Netflix—most lately Scott & Bailey, and Major Crimes. But I’m never quite sure why some crime shows hit the spot for me and others really do not.

    I read Voices From Chernobyl which is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I thought the writing was stellar. Obviously the subject is very difficult. Hard at times to process.

    I’m curious about the Pegau.

    • Jorrie Spencer says:

      Oh, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      The setting of the Pegau is great, and though the themes are more serious than a cupcake-shop-style cozy mystery, it shares the charms of cozies, IMO: small community, focus on character, amateur sleuth heroine who’s a reporter and suffragist, budding romance. The setting was original and well drawn. I also read it in a day, picking it up when it was exactly what I was in the mood for.

      My husband and I tried the first episode of Miss Fisher and neither of us really liked it. I enjoyed the first book on audio, but I found the show–I don’t know, too mannered for me? I used to love those PBS crime shows (loved the original Morse with John Thaw, and the books, and I see that’s on Netflix so might try it) but I’ve kind of gone off them. I seem to be in a phase of wanting more “grit”–just not too much.

      I watched Scott and Bailey a while back and I really liked the first couple of seasons, but then it kind of went off the rails with personal life drama. It was great to have such a female-centred cop show, though, and I loved Janet.

      Most recently I’ve watched the available seasons of Law and Order: SVU (much prefer the original L&O) and now I’m on to Crossing Lines, about a special squad drawn from all over Europe doing cross-border crimes. It’s silly but the settings are lovely and Donald Sutherland has a recurring role.

      It’s funny how crime works for me in hard times–maybe because it’s engrossing enough but not too emotionally gruelling? (It can be, but I try to pick ones that are OTT and resolve the plot in an episode, to avoid that). In grad school I was in Southern California and there were old cop shows on all day long on the local LA station. I survived on Perry Mason, Columbo, Hunter, Hawaii 5-0, etc.

      • Jorrie Spencer says:

        They sure do have a lot of personal life drama on Scott & Bailey. Too much! Very soapy. I just love the performances so much, though, of the two main woman, and in season three, Nicola Walker’s—despite the fact that I found it a very dark storyline and I wasn’t crazy over the S3 end.

        Because like you sometimes I really like the tidiness of an hour-long episode, where justice is served (in some way) and people care about justice for the victims.

        Despite the draw of the settings, I couldn’t get in to Crossing Lines. They all seemed to be acting! Of course, they are, but I don’t want to be aware of it quite so much. I don’t mean to suggest that what I watch is better, but we probably trip over different things.

        I only watched Columbo of those listed but loved it! Especially as he transformed near the end from bumbling incompetent to the guy who was going to nail the bad guys. I always associate Columbo with McCloud who I also liked though I suspect that show wouldn’t stand up.

        Strangely, despite my love of procedurals, I’ve never seen a Law and Order episode.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I really liked Inspector Imanishi Investigates & I’m happy to find someone else who has read it. I don’t read much Japanese fiction, crime or other, but I keep hearing good things about Suspect X. Happy reading!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I liked it too–Imanishi was a really appealing character. I’m trying to read more translated fiction (or fiction in English!) from places outside Europe, and for me crime fiction is a fun way to do that.

  3. Kaetrin says:

    No Liz! *I’m* the last person you know who hasn’t read Act Like It yet. LOL. It’s on the TBR. (but so are a lot of other books….)

  4. Rosario says:

    We’re reading The Portable Veblen for my July book club. I think it was the squirrel that did it for us, too!

  5. I think your idea for a summer project re: romance studies sounds like a good one. I haven’t read Roach’s book (just Jackie Horne’s 3 part critique over at ‘Romance Novels for Feminists’). I did,however, read the Krentz when it first came out. Be very aware that ‘Dangerous Men’ was published in 1992–so the romances they examine were (for the most part) published in the 1970s and ’80s.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Oh yes, even the title/chapter titles suggest that Dangerous Men is the product of a particular time, but I think it’s interesting to see if and how views change. I’ve seen these books referenced so much on Twitter, blog posts, etc. that I would like to read some of them for myself. I think I first meant to read the Regis two summers ago, but sometimes projects have to be aspirational for a while before I actually get around to them. 😉

  6. Janine Ballard says:

    I enjoyed reading this post so I hope your blogging mojo returns. Maybe in summer? I’ll be realy interested in your thoughts on Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women. Inspector Inamishi Investigates sounds really good and so does Lab Girl. And I’m glad you found another romance you enjoyed in Act Like It.

  7. lawless says:

    There is something very attractive about a guaranteed resolution in 45 minutes. I think it makes me pickier about my genre reading. A happy ending alone won’t do it for me.

    I’ve read one of Cathy Pegau’s romances (Caught in Amber) and own a second (Deep Deception), but for some reason I struggle with her books.

    Act Like It was the last of three contemporary romances I read this year that really hit the spot, but I’ve read other books (mysteries, not romances) set in the same milieu, so in some ways it felt familiar.

    I picked up the first Peter Diamond book after you reviewed another one. At this point I’ve read almost everything Lovesey’s written.

    I don’t know if this is something that would interest you, but I’d like to read Nathalia Holt’s recently-published Rise of the Rocket GIrls about the women who calculated velocities and plotted trajectories by hand for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory back when computers were humans, not machines.

    Good luck with your summer romance research project, if you decide to undertake it! While I have not read it, I get the feeling that some have taken the 8-point arc Regis meant to be descriptive as something prescriptive, which is the kind of thing that makes me cranky.

  8. Oh man, I want to read that Catherine Roach book — looks super interesting. Alas, my university library hasn’t ordered a copy, and I’m already awaiting a couple of ILL books from them at the moment. Trying not to be greedy!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I got it from the public Iibrary. My college doesn’t have an especially deep humanities collection but the public library is surprisingly good for these things, especially when it’s more popular culture related.

  9. Sunita says:

    I look forward to your thoughts on Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women. Yes, it’s dated, but there are still some interesting pieces (and some that don’t age nearly as well). It’s the type of half-lay, half-scholarly compilation that can be valuable taken as a whole. I’ve read an article by Roach on her project; I thought it interesting that she didn’t run any of her participant-observation fieldwork through the IRB (she gives reasons for that, as I remember). We would have to submit to IRB in my field. The Roach seems to be available in our library too, so I’m off to pick it up.

    I can’t believe we have no overlapping books right now, we usually managed to tag-team at least one. I’ve been reading TBR and library stuff mostly, and nothing new. I tweeted about the Kendrick we discussed on Twitter and liked it a lot, and I have the first novel in Sarah Morgan’s Manhattan trilogy ready to go.

    Oh, and I discovered that not only has Simon Brett written a new Mrs. Pargeter book, my county library has that one and the six preceding installments in its Overdrive collection. I’m so excited. It’s been years since I read/listened to the first few.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Oh, I started that Kendrick book too! I liked the first chapter but I really seem to be in a mystery mood right now (the Lovesey is the one from my stack that stuck and I’m having to force myself to stop reading at night).

      My public library actually got Roach’s book–I was a bit surprised.

      I read one of Simon Brett’s theatre-set books when they all showed up in Overdrive, and should go back to them. I enjoyed it a lot.

  10. Stefanie says:

    Portable Veblen! I read it last month and liked it quite a lot. Other than squirrels, it is kind of a relationship/family/mental health/ sort of story.

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