Sunday Sum-Up

Another week has gone by, and once again I don’t know where the time has gone. I’ve spent my days getting the last few things done before I pack up and head to the airport on Tuesday. I bought a watch, got in touch with my hotel in Reykjavic about mundane things like check-in time and parking, and have been trying to get over the fact that my first time driving in a foreign country will be a stretch of highway about 40 miles long after a night of very little sleep. Fun!

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy, busy week. Today, my book club is going to an orchard to Nebraska City (about an hour and a half drive away) to pick peaches, and then if it doesn’t starting pouring tonight I’m planning to go to the annual lantern float at a local park tonight. Then tomorrow I’ll be packing, Tuesday I head to the airport, and Wednesday my adventure in Iceland begins! I’ll update as I can while I’m away, but no guarantees.

And now for books!

I finished up a couple of in-progress books, started and finished another, and finally remembered a short story by my favorite mystery writer.

24612045I listened to the audiobook version of Eddie Izzard’s memoir, Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, narrated by Izzard himself. While I do love Izzard’s comedy and the random little asides he has in his stand-up routines, I wish I had read this book instead of listening to it. There are tons of footnotes, especially early in the book where Izzard finds it necessary to explain the 1960s and 1970s British culture of his childhood. He interrupts the narrative to read the footnotes and it really disrupts the flow of the story. Had I read the book, it wouldn’t have been so distracting. It does get better as it goes, with fewer footnotes and a faster-paced narrative, but that’s something like eight hours into a twelve hour work.

644655I also finished up Ann Cleeves’s Raven Black, which is the first of her Shetland Islands mystery series. I’m not sure what to think of this one. The story was interesting, the writing was good, and the characters were interesting, but 1) it didn’t spend that much time with the detective, Jimmy Perez, who was wonderful in the television show, Shetland, and 2) the show follows the book fairly closely, so I spent the whole book knowing whodunnit, wondering how they were going to find the killer there vs. how they found the killer on the show. I might give the next book a shot. We’ll see.

 

 

25908693I started and finished The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, and it was wonderful! The only problem I had with the book was that it wasn’t long enough. It’s about 260 pages and covers almost twenty years of A.J.’s life, so Zevin has to race through the story. Her characters were complex and interesting, and the story was engaging, so she could have spent more time engaging with the characters and taking a deeper dive into their lives. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely and would definitely recommend it.

 

 

The last thing I read this week was a Barker & Llewelyn short story by Will Thomas, An Awkward Way to Die. I knew it was coming out at the beginning of August, but I’d forgotten all about it until I saw a posting about it on Facebook. It’s short, fun, and provides a little taste of my favorite detective duo until the next book in the series comes out this fall.

I’m currently reading H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. It’s a memoir of the author’s life in falconry and her training of a goshawk, how she recovered from her grief after her father’s death, and her relationship with a particular book by T.H. White. It’s not a linear narrative, so it’s initially a little strange but once you get used to it, it’s rather beautiful. I’m about 15% of the way through it.

And that’s all for now! If I don’t get moving I’m going to be late for peach picking!

Have a great week, everyone! I’ll write more when I can!

The Cuckoo’s Calling

I’ve spent much of February starting and then not finishing books. It’s been pretty frustrating, and I have to wonder how much of it is due to the books themselves, or how much of it has to do with the fact that my patience with winter is wearing thin. I don’t mind the cold, but after a couple of months of short days and being stuck indoors, my attention span is too short to hang on to much of anything unless it can grab my interest in short order.

Hence the mysteries.

8680417One of my book club friends recommended Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot, a supernatural murder mystery set in modern London. It’s hard to say no to a book that can seamlessly reference everything from Star Wars to Isaac Newton, and be snarky and funny, and talk about the process of magic in a logical sort of fashion. I found Peter Grant, to be a clever protagonist, and even though the plot itself was maybe not fashioned as well as the first book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I think I like Midnight Riot just a little bit more than Storm Front.

 

51m4P63APoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I started reading J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling yesterday. I think part of my interest had to do with the author- would Rowling write mystery books as well as she wrote about teenaged wizards? Well, I’m thirty percent of the way through The Cuckoo’s Calling, and so far, I’d say yes. It’s a little weird to see harsh curse words coming out of her characters’ mouths, if only because the worst things said in the Harry Potter books was, ‘blimey’ and the like, but it fits the gritty world Rowling is writing about.

In this tale, Cormoran Strike, a war veteran turned private detective, takes the case of Lula Landry, a supermodel who fell to her death one cold winter’s night. The police ruled her death a suicide, but Landry’s brother is convinced that she was murdered. So far, Strike hasn’t found any evidence of foul play, but that will undoubtedly change.

I’m guessing so, anyway, or there would be no mystery.

But both books have caught my interest in a time when a certain kind of malaise generally falls over me. Perhaps I should make February my ‘murder mystery reading month’.

I’ve also been making my slow way through Stefan Klein’s We are Stardust, and I finally(!) started Colm Tóibín’s Story of the Night. I’m about twenty pages into it. The problem is I read it before bed, and I’ll fall asleep after a few pages- not because it’s boring, but because I’m really tired.

In Which our Heroine Encounters Something Inexplicably Russian

 

I don’t know what it is about historical mysteries that I find to be so much more entertaining than mysteries set in modern times. Perhaps it has something to do with how quickly modern suspense and mystery novels date themselves. A masterpiece of suspense written and set in 2002 feels so very last decade while a mystery set in 1902, like a fly caught in antediluvian amber, gives you a snapshot of the time- a time that is very much separated from what we know of our own world.

And so, after seeing a recommendation for Boris Akunin‘s novel The Winter Queen on the Facebook feed of one of my favorite mystery writers, I decided to give it a shot. I’m not terribly familiar with Russian history (not so much of a Tolstoy fan, am I), so most everything about the setting was fresh, the plot twists unexpected, and I didn’t spend any of the novel wondering if some famous historical figure was going to make a cameo. That, plus the clever chapter titles (“Chapter Eight, in which the jack of spades turns up most inopportunely”, for example). I think I’ve found my next historical mystery series to tide me over until the next Barker and Llewllyn title (written by Will Thomas) comes out early next year.

Also, I finished The Tiger’s Wife, which ended unexpectedly in that the stories didn’t wind together the way I thought they would. And that is perfectly fine. I don’t expect an author to end a his/her story the way that I prefer. That’s not the way of it. A story should end in a manner that is true to the characters, the story itself, and the author’s intentions.

 
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Books I have read so far this year:
1. The Fellowship of the Ring– J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Two Towers– J.R.R. Tolkien
3. The Return of the King– J.R.R. Tolkien
4. The Tiger’s Wife– Tea Obreht
5. The Winter Queen– Boris Akunin