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!

A Quick Trip to Colorado and New Acquisitions

I took a quick trip out to Colorado to visit a friend, and I didn’t want to come back. It’s so beautiful out there! Cute little bookshops, shopping zones just for pedestrians, tasty coffee, a store completely devoted to old maps, and fantastic breweries. Not to mention the mountains, endless hiking trails, and gorgeous weather. I wished I could have stayed longer than just a few days.

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I bought a book while I was there (surprise, surprise). The title caught my eye first. I’m a long time Star Trek fan and so is the friend I was visiting, so the shows and movies had come up in conversation. So when you see a book titled, The Hunt for Vulcan, you’re going to pick it up and investigate. And if you’re me, the synopsis makes you want to read it, and so of course you have to buy it.

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Once I got home, I was finally able to pick up Hell Bay, Will Thomas’s newest Barker & Llewelyn novel. I had pre-ordered it from the indie bookstore downtown, and while it arrived before I left for Colorado, I couldn’t get it until I came home, since the release date was the 25th- when I was gone.

I started reading it on Friday, and so far it is fantastic! I haven’t been able to pinpoint the guilty party yet, though I have my suspicions.

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Malaise

I hate being just a little ill. I mean, I hate being sick in general, but having just a touch of some illness is awful. I’m too sick to go anywhere (I don’t want to make anyone else sick), but I’m well enough that I can’t justify sitting on the couch getting caught up on Blacklist while there are dishes to wash and vacuuming to be done.

Once they’re complete, though, it’s off to the couch for me for Netflix and reading.

I’m still in the midst of Mary Beard’s SPQR- Julis Caesar has just crossed the Rubicon with his army and is set to take power as Rome’s first emperor. This is, fortunately, an engaging book since I’m reading it in little spurts on my phone and eReader whenever I have a few minutes to kill.

I put Breath of Earth down a few days ago and haven’t been interested enough to pick it back up again. I might give Cato’s Clockwork Dagger a try, but I’m just not that taken with the world and characters of Breath of Earth.


Friday night, before I got sick, I headed to the indie bookshop to pre-order a couple of books- the Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. It’s a compendium of weird and wonderful places all around the world, and is sort of an offshoot of their website, another guide to strange places and happenings.

I also pre-ordered Hell Bay by Will Thomas, the next in the Barker and Llewellyn mysteries set in the darker parts of Victorian London. I’m planning to re-read the most recent three books in the series, just to reacquaint myself with what’s been going on in the series. That, and they’re an awful lot of fun.

I need to visit this bookshop more often. It’s a beautiful place.


I got my fountain pen and notebook! I actually received it on Thursday, a whole two days after it shipped. I’m in love with the pen, as I’ve had a hard time finding a fountain pen where the ink flow doesn’t up and stop in the middle of a word. I keep reading that fountain pens work for left-handers, but that has not been the case for me. But my Pilot Metropolitan has a smooth inkflow with a fine enough nib and line that my scrawly handwriting doesn’t blur together into an unreadable mess.

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My Rhodia Webnotebook looks great, too, though opening it will come later, when I’m ready to start setting up my 2017 bullet journal.

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Do These Glasses Make Me Look Nerdy?

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I got my first pair of glasses today. I’m still getting used to them.

It’s an odd thing, wearing prescription glasses for the first time. The world is suddenly sharper and seems more three-dimensional than before, while at the bottom edge of the lenses there’s this weird distortion that makes me feel like I’m about six inches taller than I really am. These changes are pretty cool right up until I want to do something like walk up stairs or step off a curb.

I haven’t fallen down. Yet. Although I nearly face-planted while walking out of the opthamologist’s clinic this afternoon.

Sadly, I had to go straight back to work after I picked them up, or I would have spent the day at the library indulging my inner librarian. It’s strange what a pair of glasses and a stereotypical hairstyle will do for you.

I thought I would be more reluctant to wear my new glasses, seeing as how I got them because my astigmatism has finally gotten bad enough due to nothing more than…. age. I’m getting older, like we all are, and my eyes are starting to show it. I’m fortunate in that I didn’t need them in junior high like my siblings did, but still. I need glasses because I’m not nineteen anymore.


In other news, I pre-ordered Will Thomas’s new book, Anatomy of Evil from my local indie bookstore. When I arrived at the store to pick it up, however, I discovered that they had ordered the wrong book. It was the right title, but by the wrong author. The woman at the shop said she would talk to the buyer the next day and put a rush on it. I’m hoping to get it over the weekend, or Monday at the latest.

Lyndsay Faye’s new book, The Fatal Flame, came out this week, as well. I knew it was due out this spring, but I had forgotten what the exact date was. Turns out it was last Tuesday. I’ve read the first two books in her Timothy Wilde trilogy, and they were brilliant. Lyrically written, and with the kinds of twists and turns that felt logical within the story and kept me guessing about the ending. With a lot of mysteries, I can figure out what’s going to happen fairly early on. I will probably end up picking The Fatal Flame up after I finish Anatomy of Evil.

The Best Laid Plans…

I know I was going to read Oates’s Bellefleur and Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, but I didn’t do that. Instead, I read a book about fear and how the media influences us to be mortally afraid of things we shouldn’t be afraid of (The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner), and then I started re-reading part of the Barker and Llewellyn mystery series by Will Thomas.

I found this series quite by chance, just after the second book had come out. I was wandering around the library and the cover art caught my eye, so I picked it up, read the synopsis, and decided to give it a shot. Well, partway through I realized that it was the second book in the series so I tracked down the first book and have been hooked ever since.

I’ve read other Victorian-era mystery novels, but none of them have really sparked my interest. It seems they’re either cozy little stories about husbands and wives living their proper little lives while also solving grisly murders, or they’re about put-upon officers of Scotland Yard trying to do too much with too little, and neither of those have appealed to me.

Enter Barker and Llewellyn. Cyrus Barker is a private enquiry agent and Thomas Llewellyn is his assistant. They undertake their investigations in the underworld of 1880s London, encountering the Mafia, Chinese Triads, and a whole world of people and cultures trying to make places for themselves in proper old England. It’s a different take on the Victorian murder mystery imbued with interesting people and places, exacting (but not annoying) historical details, and plenty of humor.

I re-read this series one a year or so, and even though I know how the stories unfold, they’re still fun. The next book, Anatomy of Evil comes out May 12.

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I’m also interested in reading Andrea Chapin’s The Tutor, a story that takes place during a relatively unknown period in Shakespeare’s life. The synopsis looked interesting, but we’ll see how it goes. I may not have time, given that I’m trying to get through The Black Hand and Fatal Enquiry before the next installment comes out.

Sick of Being Sick

I’ve been sick for the past couple of weeks. Nothing major, just enough to tire me out completely after a day at work. I felt well enough the other night to do some neglected housework, but otherwise,  I haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading.

I did fly through most of Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewellyn mysteries, though, during the first week. They’re my favorite historical mysteries, showcasing the darker side of late Victorian London and edging toward Steampunk now and then. There’s fighting, secret societies, criminal organizations, smart and smartly written characters, clever women, and a snarky narrator. I’ve read the series several times now, and it never gets old.

2. To Kingdom Come
3. 
The Limehouse Text
4. The Hellfire Conspiracy
5. The Black Hand

 

I’ve ventured back into the world of non-fiction and am slowly making my way through Sam Keane’s The Violinist’s Thumb, which is all about DNA. It’s super-interesting, and I wish I weren’t so tired at night, or I’d have read the whole thing by now.

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