Sunday, May 31, 2015

June: playing catch up; May wrap up

Hester Prynne on trial

At the rate I'm currently reading, I won't finish my stack of American novels for years so I'll be spending June mainly in the 19th century trying to catch up. No excuses. May -- things are in great shape once again as they should be, and my husband's making me laugh most days as he continues his quest to fully automate our house Jetsons style.  Yesterday he managed a successful voice command that turned the front door lights on and off.  When he said "Computer" it answered "Yes, Sire?" ... I hope it doesn't go to his head.

On with the show. Most recently, it was Gabriel Urza's All That Followed (Holt) that gave me hours of reading pleasure. Not out until August, I was lucky enough to have received copy through LibraryThing. I'll be writing about this one soon; in the meantime it's a big fat yes, go get a copy. Urza is a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and it shows in this book.  More pertinent to this year's American-novel plan though, The Adventures of Captain Suggs took me down into the South for a nice change of pace.

Mystery and crime sucked up most of my reading energy in a very good way. Highsmith's Strangers on a Train gave me an entirely new perspective on this book; funny how that happens after returning after x number of years.  In my obscure women crime novelists project,  the letter "M" was represented by Merlda Mace, an extremely-unknown American crime novelist who published Motto For Murder in 1943.  My usual country-house murder preference is for novels written in interwar Britain, but this time the action takes place in the Adirondacks during a blizzard.   Moving along, in May the world lost the great Ruth Rendell,  and in a sort of homage I decided to read five books labeled by The Guardian as her "key works" :  From Doon With Death, A Judgement in Stone (my favorite as Rendell), A Dark-Adapted Eye (my favorite as Vine), Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, and Not in the Flesh.  I changed tack midstream and read a true-crime history called Square Mile of Murder by Jack House, which explores four horrific murders in Victorian Glasgow which took place all within one square mile. Helene Tursten's The Beige Man, Christopher Brookmyre's Dead Girl Walking and The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins filled up the remainder of my crime reading.  A word about Girl on the Train: feel free to disagree, but I thought this book was just awful. Oy.  If this is the new face of crime fiction, then no wonder I prefer the old stuff.

I haven't written about any of these books yet, but in the realm of the strange, E.M. Forster's The Celestial Omnibus came out on top this month. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. Jeez -- talk about being lost in a book! I hadn't planned on reading it, but I had picked up The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood to read with my online group and one of the stories in this collection came up during the conversation. Three Valancourt books  kept me entertained in May: The Day of the Arrow, by Philip Lorraine,  Benighted, by J.B. Priestley (the source of James Whale's 1932 movie "The Old Dark House") and The Moorstone Sickness,  which is from the 1980s and may seem a bit old hat to modern readers, but the ending of that book was a big OMG.

Finally, coinciding with the release (and my reading of) a new book from Soho called Innocence; or Murder on Steep Street, by Heda Margolius Kovaly, I read the author's memoir Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968.  I'll be posting about Innocence this week; Under a Cruel Star offered a lot of insight into Kovaly's novel.

and now 

--- the other stuff

  • the book group read The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett. While most of us loved the mystery of the historical provenance of a work in this novel, and we were impressed by the love that goes into book repair etc., the way the author decided to structure his crime elements left us sort of cold. As one of my friends said, all the book was missing was Ned and a roadster, and you'd have a perfect Nancy Drew mystery.  Maybe the comment was a bit harsh, but it made us laugh.  Oops. Bad choice on that one!  
  • Once again a large number of books were delivered this month, mainly Valancourt titles (I should buy stock in this company, I swear), but others as well, including two more collections of Forster's short stories. I normally don't even like short stories, but his are just amazing.
  • currently reading: The Sleepless Men, a novel written by obscure American crime novelist E.H. Nisot (an original Crime Club first edition) , and Aickman's Heirs, edited by Simon Strantzas, new from Undertow Publications. 
I have to go see what his majesty is automating now, so  happy reading!


  1. So glad to hear things are going well at your house -- and that it's being automated. Maybe the computer will bring you books and make the coffee.

    There is not agreement about The Girl on the Train. I've read absolute pans of it as well as good reviews. I'm getting it from the library so I don't spend money on it, but I don't think I"ll like it. Too much hype; not a good sign to me.

    1. My goodreads group read it and I seem to be the only one so far who can't stand it, so maybe I'm just too picky. Personally, I thought it was awful -- with bored and whiny housewives complaining about their lives. The big reveal I saw coming very early on. But as I said, people are loving this book.


Say what you will, but at least try to be nice about it.