April’s reading

My reading is inching up, which is a good thing even if I’m not finishing everything I start.  I think part of the reason for that is that I’m going to the library again.  The branch near my old house was not very good, while I’m now closer to the main library, with a larger selection.  (Yes, holds are always possible, but at a certain point, immediate gratification is an issue when borrowing books.)

1.  The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas.  Literary fiction.

2.  North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Non-fiction, travel memoir.

3.  The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley.  Mystery.

4.  The Liar by Nora Roberts.  Romantic suspense.

5.  Off Side by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.  Mystery.  DNF.

6.  One Kick by Chelsea Cain.  Mystery.  DNF.

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Most recent DNF

Today’s DNF, after five chapters and 63 pages, is Chelsea Cain’s One Kick.  As much sympathy as I feel for the narrator, I’m just not interested in reading her story.  And extra-judicial justice vigilantes do not thrill me, nor does the whole “friends in government” who share confidential information.

Next up: one of Susanna Kearsley’s books, borrowed from the library.

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I want to like noir mysteries…

…but somehow they haven’t worked for me.  Maybe I’m picking the wrong ones?

Off Side seemed promising – a mystery set in Barcelona in the years just before the Olympics.

Pepe Carvalho could care less about soccer, but then an executive from Barcelona’s world-famous soccer team pays him a visit. “The center forward will be killed at dusk,” reads the note the exectuvie gives to Carvalho.

With that, the detective, former communist and one-time employee of the CIA, must find out where this note is from.  Is the threat real? Is it the work of one person? Or is it one of the real estate moguls tearing Barcelona apart in their battle over the most important properties of Catalonia?

Here Montalban does for the game of soccer what he has done for food. In an exquisite portrait of Spain’s most beloved sport, soccer and politics mix in a gripping mystery about the reckless excesses – and limits – of power.

I only managed to finish 86 of 275 pages; I’m not sure how many chapters that worked out to be because although there are what appear to be chapter breaks, they aren’t numbered.  The writing was fine, but I was just not interested in the story or engaged by any of the characters.  Carvalho came across as remote, aloof, and condescending.  The women were all pathetic prostitutes or greedy prostitutes or drunk shrews or twits.  The characters all complain about foreigners a lot — they are a worse class of criminals than old-fashioned Catalan criminals.  Eighty six pages in, and I’m not sure why anyone really cares about the center forward enough to make him a possible target.

The book might get better.  But I’m beginning to think that noir mysteries are just not for me.

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Reading non-white authors

This article in the Washington Post caught my eye today.  I was really interested in the authors the writer mentioned.  Since the piece has links to a bunch of books at Amazon, I went looking.  Unfortunately, very few of the links were to Kindle books, and even the books with print profiles were often not available.

Then I checked my local library; two of them could be found and requested.  And both of those were available on Amazon, albeit at prices I am unwilling to pay for authors I don’t know.

~~~

Joseph Stiglitz gave a presentation today at work.  If you were one of the first 150 people into the auditorium, you got a copy of his book, The Price of Inequality.  Stiglitz was a pretty good speaker, in terms of boiling down economic theories to something a layperson like me could understand easily. I’m looking forward to reading the book…as soon as I finish my library books and Frank Turner’s memoir.

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Library haul

Despite the fact that I only liked The Splendour Falls, rather than loving it, I still checked out two other Kearsley books, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.  I’m not sure if I’ll get to both of them since abject adoration is usually the setting I need for a good glom, but we shall see.  Also borrowed Chelsea Cain’s One Kick; I’m pretty much finished with her other series and I found her behavior online re: this new release pretty ugly, so I’m not inclined to either buy her books any longer or read immediately upon release.

The library had a display of mysteries in translation, which made me think of Keishon and her enjoyment of many translated mysteries.  I ended up borrowing Off Side by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.  I know almost nothing about futbol except that El Clasico is a Very Big Deal and the team in the blurb (Barcelona) has a long history.

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Recycled plots and characters

Nostalgia has me pick up Nora Roberts releases every so often.  And her new one, The Liar, was for sale on Kindle for $5.49 a while back, which is a bargain given the hardback price.  So…

This new one wasn’t terrible.  It was pretty standard NR.  NR is a good storyteller.  She is.  And she has a distinctive voice.

But I’m really over the home reno and gardening porn.  And I find her dismissal of urban community to be problematic.  Rural communities are not inherently better or kinder or closer, which is the implicit message I get in a lot of her work. (Which makes the NYC setting of her In Death books kind of jarring, to be honest.)

I found the characterization of the narrator-heroine to be pretty inconsistent.  She was young and naive and a victim, and not at all responsible for anything.  She’s strong and independent and bounces back from a years-long emotionally abusive relationship immediately; and she’s beautiful, and has a professional-quality voice, and has business acumen, and wonderful design taste, and is the best daughter and mother ever.  In short, she’s perfect and the hero falls in love at first site.  The hero was a non-entity really.  All the Bad Guys (and there are bad guys and Bad Guys) are one note evil and/or petty, targeting the heroine because they are Just That Evil/Mean. And the plot twist is pretty predictable to almost anyone who has ever read suspense or watched a Julia Roberts or Ashley Judd movie.  I kind of wonder if NR has written something similar in the past, but don’t care enough to dredge my memory through her backlist to figure it out.

I’m sorry to say that I think I’m entirely done with NR.  It was a good run while it lasted.  (It lasted 25 years, since I started reading her as an early teen, which is a pretty good run.)

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Just finished

North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – engaging voice, easy reading of their adventure. Not a great deal of substance in some ways, but snapshots of different places. And interesting to read Morrow’s thoughts about sexism in journalism even then.

The Splendor Falls by Susanna Kearsley – I think maybe my expectations were influenced by all the praise from rom-readers’ raves. The mystery/suspense was good, if lacking any real sense of urgency. I liked the bits of Queen Isabelle and WWII Isabelle. The thin romantic thread failed for me entirely: I felt like I was told of love at first site but it was pretty irrelevant to the plot generally and felt extraneous and wedged in.

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