A quick update, only.
Lately I have read:
A Question of Blood, by Ian Rankin. Another in his Inspector Rebus series. I liked it better than the last one I read (Resurrection Men), but as always it's a rough ride through far too much drinking and self-destruction and the general sense that Things End Badly. In this one we get a good deal of plot and perspective from the point of view of Rebus' partner, and I like her quite a bit, so I am a fan of this development. A solid, gripping read.
The Passing Bells, by Phillip Rock. I referred to this in my last post as the inspiration for "Downton Abbey", which it pretty much is (speaking of which, thank you VERY MUCH, internet, for making it impossible for me to avoid the giant Season 3 spoiler, sheesh). Rock's book goes much deeper into the actual battlefields of WWI, though, and focuses almost exclusively on the male characters - wisely; his attempt to write a sex scene from a female perspective is as amusing as such things usually are (and as weirdly similar to all the others I've ever read; somewhere there must be an ur-text from which male authors are all cribbing - D.H. Lawrence, maybe? I don't remember anything about Lady Chatterley except that it was hilarious even to an eleven-year-old sneaking a peak at the "dirty book"). Anyway, I really got into this book, one awkward sex scene aside. The war parts are tough to read, in an appropriate way.
The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie. This weird, beautiful, somewhat superficial book seemed to me to be Rushdie's extended riff on Italo Calvino, and there's nothing wrong with that. He brings Machiavelli into it, and other historical figures like the Medicis, and the historical figures mentioned in the India sections (the novel and its characters move back and forth between India and Italy in the sixteenth century) are probably also real, though my Western ignorance wasn't able to identify them as such. The woman of the title, and the other female characters, are not as interesting to Rushdie as the men, who are allowed to be conflicted and complicated; the women are either beautiful or not, and if they are beautiful they have infinite power. (Mind, I'm not disputing the accuracy of this, just saying that they're not developed characters.) Rushdie, I think, wanted to write about places more than people in this; very Invisible Cities. The writing is gorgeous and I felt a little bit unsatisfied upon finishing it, as if I had just eaten a sleeve of Thin Mints instead of a proper dinner. Oh, wait, I had just done that. I stand by my statement.
I continue to drag through Twenty Years After, which has a LOT of riding scenes and a disturbing number of those conclude with the horses dying under their riders. Ugh. But I am tied to the Dumas-stake! For some reason!
The last month of winter is here; I hope it treats all of us gently.