I’m going to stop pretending I’ll
find make time to catch up on my blogging and try to reboot for fall instead. Here’s a bunch of stuff I read and listened to this summer, which I’d be happy to chat about in the comments.
I finally finished Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings, the first of the Lymond chronicles. I think I would have loved it if I’d read it earlier. Instead, I really liked it but felt Lymond was a little too designed to be fallen in love with. Many other characters were more interesting, including lots of women. My tweet about trying to make it through this vacation–this was my third try–got picked up by the Dunnett society and I got advice from several strangers on how I “just had to make it to X point.” This made me laugh, because I had previously passed all those points (except the guy who told me it really takes off in Book 2!) and still didn’t finish. What I decided is that a) print helped because I could easily flip back and forth if I got confused/to look at the character list, and b) my problem in the past was not finishing while I was on vacation. It’s a dense book that I needed time to get immersed in, not one you can pick up and read for 15 minute stretches; when I got home, I stalled out until I consciously set aside longer chunks of reading time.
Airplane reading: page-turners that held my attention and lighter romance that didn’t demand too much of it worked well for me on planes. I enjoyed Rachel Grant’s Body of Evidence, with a riveting opening in North Korea, a forensic archaeologist heroine, and a political conspiracy and corruption plot. On the way home, it was Jill Sorenson’s Aftershock, with a group of survivors trapped with some dangerous men after an earthquake. I loved the heroine, a smart and competent EMT (the hero was good, too, but it’s great to read romantic suspense where the heroine brings skills to the table). I also read the charming Mr. (Not Quite) Perfect by one of my favorite category romance authors, Jessica Hart. This is one of those books with a ridiculous premise that still manages to tap real emotions. Less successful for me was Geoffrey Household’s The Watcher in the Shadows, an early 60s thriller that was kind of a slower version of The Thirty-Nine Steps.
While on vacation I also read Nicola Cornick’s historical romance Whisper of Scandal, which features a trip to Spitsbergen. I liked that part a lot, but the first half in London was less interesting and the plot was a bit of a mess.
A serendipitous library find was Lisa Bird-Wilson’s The Red Files, a collection of poems about the residential school experience and its aftermath, weaving together family and archival history, naming and reclaiming people and stories. In “The Apology” (which quotes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s public apology for the government’s role), Bird-Wilson writes “an ending doesn’t follow / a beginning / the story endures.” The examination of enduring effects on survivors, families and communities can make these poems painful to read, but there is also hope for reconciliation. I’m grateful this caught my eye.
I enjoyed Alain Mabanckou’s The Lights of Pointe-Noire (translated by Helen Stevenson), a memoir weaving together stories of his childhood in the Republic of the Congo with an account of his return after two decades in France and the US. I liked the insider-outsider perspective, loving, critical, estranged, melancholy, joyous, all blended together. I think I might check out one of his novels.
I listened to a huge number of Agatha Christie audiobooks. I mean, they’re short, but I still am not sure how I managed so many. Fourteen? FOURTEEN?! Think what I could have done with that time! The upshot is that I prefer Miss Marple to Poirot (the Poirot-Hastings dynamic reminds me too much of Holmes-Watson, and Miss Marple seems more human), and I enjoyed some of the stand-alones too. One thing that struck me, especially in the Miss Marple books, was how often Christie avoided “formula” despite so many books–the points of view vary so much, and sometimes Miss Marple appears as quite a minor character, perhaps reflecting how people overlook and discount this fluffy little old lady who is in fact so sharp. I have finally had my fill and my mystery listening has dropped off sharply, though I do have two on the go right now (Margery Allingham’s Sweet Danger and Andrea Camilleri’s The Shape of Water, because I decided to revisit the Montalbano series).