The Female Detective, by Andrew Forrester

I requested Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective from my library after a Twitter conversation with lawless about an obituary of Sue Grafton that implied she more or less invented the female private eye.

Forrester’s detective–whom I vaguely remembered from my dissertation-writing days, when I read up on Victorian detective fiction–is not a private eye; she’s a police detective, dreamed up in 1864, half a century before Britain had real-life female officers. This collection of stories isn’t great. G., the detective, doesn’t emerge as a fully-formed character, though that’s perhaps deliberate. The writing is frequently awkward. And many of the stories will seem odd to readers of modern detective fiction: G. doesn’t always appear in them, and many of the plots are unresolved.

But I did find it a really interesting precursor of the modern genre, and it made me want to go back and re-read some scholarly work on Victorian crime fiction. Here are some threads of thought that The Female Detective made me wish I had time to follow further.

Continue reading

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TBR Challenge: In the Clear, by Tamara Morgan

I decided to sign up for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge again; I missed it last year–the fun of checking out others’ posts, the kick in the pants to read some of the giant romance backlog lurking on my ereader.

This month’s theme is We Love Short Shorts, and I thought “Hey, don’t I have a novella with a winter search and rescue in it? It could fit the #FireandIce theme for that Twitter reading challenge as well!” Of course I couldn’t remember author or title, but browsing my library brought it back: In the Clear, by Tamara Morgan. When I started reading and found it checked off “book with characters who are twins” for the PopSugar Challenge as well, I felt extremely smug. Continue reading

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New Year Check-In

Well, 2018 hasn’t given us a break from the firehose of ridiculous and horrifying news. But so far, I’ve been successful in my goal of “bookending” my days, and that’s meant less exposure to the stream via Twitter. My FOMO is lessened by the realization that I still know way more than I want to about Someone’s latest words, even though I’ve been spending less time on Twitter. It’s not like you can miss this news.

I’m pleased that I’ve managed to start (almost) every day with a book, even when my daughter started school again this week and I returned to the 5:30am alarm. In the morning, I’ve gone for reading that’s easy to dip into, either a chapter of the romance novella I’m reading for the TBRChallenge or a handful of poems–I read Carol Ann Duffy’s Standing Female Nude and the current US laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars. I enjoyed the way poetry affected my morning pages: they always started with looser syntax or more surprising vocabulary. So even if my groggy pre-dawn poetry reading wasn’t the most thoughtful, the experience was doing something to my brain. Continue reading

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“Brain Groove” Books

Over my winter break I re-read Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, a childhood favorite–starting on Midwinter Eve, as the book does, and finishing January 2nd. I was prompted by a Twitter readalong hosted by the writer Robert Macfarlane, though I didn’t participate on Twitter. On the final day of the readalong, Macfarlane tweeted a message from Susan Cooper, who wrote, “Writer, reader, when our imaginations speak the same language, we can change each other’s lives.”

Did The Dark Is Rising change my life? I don’t know, but it does feel to me like one of those childhood books that helped make me who I am, that speak my language in a very deep way. Such books feel like part of me; when I reread them, a small part of me may be critical, but mostly I feel as if a puzzle piece is clicking into the place prepared for it in my mind, my heart, my soul. When I tweeted about this experience, Victoria Janssen commented that these are books that made grooves in your brain. Continue reading

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My Year in Reading, 2017

I started this year reading Serious Non-Fiction for This Political Era (most of which I’ve forgotten) and binge-listening to Agatha Christie. And in many years that was the kind of year it was: outrage and escapism.

But in the second half of 2017, especially, I had a pretty great reading year, both in the books I selected and the online book conversations I shared, grateful for the break from politics.

Here are some highlights: Continue reading

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