What are you reading the week of November 30, 2019?
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I had a busy week so there wasn't a lot of time for reading. I generally celebrate the holiday with a themed all day movie festival, but this year I elected to sleep as much as possible. Either way, I didn't have a lot of time for reading. I'm about halfway through Sumer and the Sumerians by Harriet Crawford which I hope to finish this weekend.
I've been watching a lecture series on The History of the English Language from The Learning Company, and now I really want to read The Canterbury Tales. The lecturer does such a wonderful job of reciting it in the original Middle English that I would love to hear the entire thing as an audio book. But I'll settle for a good annotated edition if anyone knows of one.
It was a pleasant Friday-night occupation for after my Young Gentleman Caller went back to the city.
First published in 1948, Rampart Street is part swashbuckler, part romance that takes place in New Orleans from the years just after the Louisiana Purchase, through the War of 1812 and up into the 1830s or so. Woven into the intrigue, murder and passion, however, are lots of interesting historical threads about life in New Orleans during that time, provided in matter-of-fact exposition that lets us see the conditions as the characters would have seen them. For example, we observe the cultural conflicts between the older Creole society and the upstart American newcomers. When the Yellow Fever epidemic hits it is noted that the rise in the mosquito population is a good thing, as mosquitoes are known to help clear the miasma over the swamps that causes the illness.
As we begin our story, the brave and noble merchant captain John Carrick has just fought off an attack in the Gulf of Mexico by a Barbary pirate ship. Carrick is an American is trying to win the hand of the beautiful young Elizabeth, from a Creole family and already betrothed to a rich but (of course) dastardly Creole adventurer. Adventure and intrigue ensues. This book is a lot of fun, if one is in the mood for this sort of thing.
Since getting home, I've been reading through a few rounds of my "between books." Here's yesterday's set:
* "Too Queer: Caitlyn Jenner" from Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen
* "Clara Driscoll" from American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchison
* “Stars and Saints” from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
* “Freight” from Blues Poems edited by Kevin Young
* The “Talk of the Town” section from the December 2, 1967, issue of The New Yorker
Summer At the Little Beach Street Bakery – Jenny Colgan
Digital Audiobook performed by Allison Larkin.
Book two in the Little Beach Street Bakery series
From the book jacket A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.
This is an enjoyable chick-lit romance with food. There’s the usual drama one expects from new-adult relationships, life choices, career moves, etc. Wonderful cast of supporting characters! I do love Neil, the puffin – or more appropriately, I love how much Polly loves Neil. And I really like the recipes at the end of the book (and the editorial comments gave me quite a chuckle).
I read book three last year, so I was a little confused at first about some of the relationships until I realized I was reading the series “backwards.” My bad. It’s still and fun, fast, light read. Perfect for a vacation read, or anytime you want something entertaining.
Allison Larkin does a fine job narrating the audiobook. She sets a nice pace, has clear diction, and enough skill as a voice artist to differentiate the many characters.
This is the fascinating history and evolution of the rise of cats and their dominance in the animal world. Tucker talks about their popularity as pets and the extremes humans will do to take care of them. Definitely for cat people but others who love animals will also enjoy this book.
What I'm especially enjoying is how she uses a different character in the family to relate succeeding periods of time. It all begins in the Edwardian era, with the eldest son's story, WW I was taken over by his obsession and wife, now the era of the 20s is being "told" from the younger son's p.o.v., who is nothing alike in character to his brother, the first narrator.
"Tour de force" may be overworked when used to describe the scope of a book. But in this case, no better phrase exists.
It's a medium-future Earth-at-war series with gay male leads. They prove to be uniquely compatible with the task of making Earth's attackers, the Faceless, acknowledge Humanity's right to exist...in deeply surprising ways. Trigger warnings for non-consensual alien/human sex; in general, the more eww-ick your idea of gay-male sex is, the less likely you are to enjoy the reads.
The world-building is on a par with that done in the 192pp novels of the past, before book-bloat took hold with its good and its bad side effects.
The Prisoner Of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Audiobook performed by Peter Kenny
Book three in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.
Just before Christmas 1957 a mysterious stranger appears in Barcelona’s Sempere bookshop. He knows much more than he lets on but it’s clear he poses a threat to Fermin Romero del Torres. Fermin is about to be married and the secrets the stranger threatens to reveal will destroy him. Daniel pledges to help but first he must understand the events of 1940s Barcelona during the Franco regime.
Oh, I love Zafón’s writing! The book is very atmospheric; I can feel the chill of a wintery wind, smell the candlewax and dust, practically taste the delicacies offered at 7 Portes restaurant (a dining establishment I have, in fact, visited in real life), or feel the pain of blows inflicted by a ruthless prison guard.
There are twists and turns and changes in time line that confuse, obfuscate, tease the reader and illuminate the plot. I caught references that helped tie in the first two books, though, in fact, any of them can be read as a stand alone novel, and they do not need to be read in any particular order.
Peter Kenny did a fine job of narrating the audiobook. He had many characters to deal with and managed to give them sufficiently unique voices to differentiate them. HOWEVER, he chose to use British accents for everyone and that drove me nuts. The book is Spanish, the characters are Spanish, NONE of them should have a Cockney accent! Lost a star there.
Zafón is my favorite living European novelist. I fell in love with him when I started the "Sempere Quartet." It had been a long time between love affairs with favorite authors. Before him, there was only Dorothy Dunnett.
Sadly, my pursuit of the entire series was interrupted and I haven't found the reading opportunity to get back into the saga again even though I have all the books and yearn to find the time to take it up and subsume into the Master of Atmosphere's fairy tale like world that explores fictionally the human horror of Spain under Franco.
Blast from the past -- LoL! Wheel of Fortune is a masterpiece of novelistic construction. I am in awe of her integration of plot, character and theme that recurs in elegant and graceful transitions from narrator to narrator and scene to scene. The development of order from chaos and linking it to English-ness vs Welsh-ness, and also inauthentic roles vs authentic lives is jaw-droppingly good.
Could you rec what I should read next by her? And what's your fave Howatch?
P.S. Visited your Profile and has a sad -- private.
* “Thinking the Unthinkable about John Lennon” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
* Excerpt from Motherwit by Onnie Lee Logan from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “The War in Asia” from The Secret History of the War, Volume 2 by Waverley Root
* “My Affair with My Landlord” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock
* “Justice/Justicia” from It's All In the Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom by Yolanda Nava
* “Finale (For Bessie Smith)” from Blues Poems edited by Kevin Young – Finished!
* “Passion” by R. Prawer Jhabvala from the December 2, 1967, issue of The New Yorker
As noted above, I finished Blues Poems, a small, very enjoyable collection from the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series. The first section of the collection is comprised of lyrics from famous old blues songs. The rest of the volume is made up of poems that have been inspired by blues songs and/or by the life and trials from which the Blues arose. Many of the poems here are very moving. My wife brought this book home from her recent cross-country drive with her friend Kathy during which they spent a lot of time in the Deep South.
I've now started Kate Remembered, a memoir about and biography of Katherine Hepburn by noted biographer A. Scott Berg.
Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman
(a Navajo nation series/present-day bombing mystery)
I'm reading a library copy of the book, reissued with a new afterward by the authors, copyright 2014.
On return to his parents’ home in Australia after the years following WWII, Alan Duncan finds the family and staff quite upset. Their former maid, Jessie, who was very good with her job had been found dead, possibly by suicide. The family was very fond of her and could not understand why she killed herself; they also can find nothing of her possessions. Alan searches the house and finds hidden in the attic, her suitcase and passport. When Alan sees the name on the passport, he realizes that the maid had used a different name and it was someone he knew personally. But why did she do it? Shute weaves a tale of love and loss and the effects of war on the women and men who served.
There are two titles for this book. The one I listed was the English version but the American version is titled The Breaking Wave.
I’d Kill For That – Marcia Talley, Gayle Lynds, et al
This is a cooperative / team effort among thirteen women mystery writers, each one writing a different chapter.
I thought the characters were over the top, and there was little character development. I thought there were far too many murders, almost as if each author needed to add a murder in her chapter. I thought the final critical scene where all is revealed was unbelievable, though I won’t outline my reasons here as that would be a major spoiler.
I would have abandoned it but it satisfied a couple of challenges. At least it was a fast read.