Rambling and/on Reading

Seattle's Space NeedleThis weekend, three of our family took an overnight trip to Seattle (leaving son in charge of the pets–everyone lived and nothing burned down! guess we did OK at parenting). Our daughter had long been hatching a plant to meet up with Twitter friends, and my husband and I decided if we both went it would be fun for the parents too. We spent a day walking around downtown playing tourist while the teens did teen things.

 

 

The best part of the trip was taking the train home: it runs right along the coast a lot of Sunset over the Georgia Strait, seen from a train window.the way, and the sunset was gorgeous. My one regret was not having time for my own Twitter meet up. Maybe next time!

My bus/train reading was Troublemaker, the third book in Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter mysteries, a ground-breaking series from the ’70s with a gay hero. I think the mystery plots are good, but I like this series most for the portrait of gay life and the complex relationships created by people forced outside the mainstream. Dave’s relationship with his father, whose insurance company he works for, is especially interesting: he can’t inherit the business, because the board will fire him for his sexuality. His father would like him to just “give up” being gay, but he also clearly loves Dave. I think part of what I enjoyed about reading this just now is the reminder that some things have gotten better. But it’s also a window into an alternative world that has been partly lost, to AIDS, certainly, but also, perhaps, to increasing acceptance into mainstream society.

Other recent reading?

View of water and hills from a train window. A girl looking at her iPhone is reflected in the window.

My daughter in the train window. This is a weird review to put this image beside!

Chemistry, by Weike Wang. A Chinese-American PhD student freaks out when her boyfriend proposes and her experiments aren’t going well. Can she figure out how to escape the weight of her parents’ expectations–and their unhappy marriage–and make a life she wants for herself? Summarized that way, this novel feels like a cliché child-of-immigrants story, and it has familiar elements. But they wry voice won me over. It’s larded with scientific facts, which our unnamed narrator both hangs on to because they make sense, and eventually uses as metaphors to help make sense of her life. I struggled at first with the “grad school is a nightmare” story, but the voice won me over, and by the end the book (and our narrator) had real depth and heart. I pretty much agree with Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s review.

Hans Olav Lahlum, Satellite People. 2nd in a Norwegian mystery series (set in the late 60s, but in both books I’ve read, the crimes are rooted in the allegiances and tensions of WWII). I find the prose, or translations, pretty turgid in these books, but I like Lahlum’s homage to Golden Age puzzle plots like the locked room, with a closed circle of suspects.

Marion Lennox, I don’t know what the heck this book is called! No, seriously. It’s part of Sign reading "Public Market" (Pike Place Market, Seattle)Tule romance series called “Christmas around the world,” and I had previously read Kate Hewitt’s entry, A Yorkshire Christmas. This–I have the Kindle book–says Christmas Down Under on the cover image, Christmas at Waratah Bay on the title page, and A Family for Christmas on the page header. Get it together, Tule! Anyway, not the best Lennox I’ve ever read, and perhaps a bit treacly for this time of year, but it had all the things I like about her romances–farmer hero, heroine who is more competent than she first appears, dogs, problems that feel emotionally real, even if they’re wrapped up quickly and easily. The hero’s very pregnant sister shows up on Christmas Eve, and you know just what’s going to happen, because that’s the kind of book this is. And it’s the kind of book I happened to be in the mood for this week. Nothing wrong with reliable.

Later in the month, we’re off to New England to visit my parents. I picked up a paper copy of Dorothy Dunnett’s Queen’s Play, since I read A Game of Kings there last summer. I’ve also cleaned out my e-reader TBR, though there’s still more than enough to choose from. I’m not quite sure where my reading rambles will take me next.

 

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3 Responses to Rambling and/on Reading

  1. Rohan Maitzen says:

    We made many trips to Seattle when I was growing up in Vancouver but never by train – I didn’t even realize that was possible, but I’d love to try it. In fact, in general I’d love to take the train more places, but from Halifax it takes about 12 hours to get anywhere at all.

    Queen’s Play is my least favorite of the Lymond books, but I just reread it (and in fact the whole series, as I am trying to write about it), and it’s pretty damned good. I think rereading Dunnett has had a bad effect on my summer reading overall, actually, because (for me) she sets such a high standard. It’s not super-artsy fiction, but my patience for fiction in which the main unit of currency is the elegant sentence is low right now.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I’m not sure if this train ran in the 80s/early 90s. It’s technically a leg of the Amtrak Cascades, but you can’t take it all the way from here to Oregon. It was not speedy, but nicer than the bus, which we took down (though that wasn’t bad either).

  2. Your Twitter meetup sounds fun! I also need to really get my hands on Chemistry — I’ve been hearing a ton of stuff about how winning and great it is.

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