Tuesday, October 1, 2013

let me sum up

Oh my, I have been very remiss in updating this to reflect my reading. I shall have to be brief:

Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom, by Sara Benincasa. A quick little entry in the "I had a nervous breakdown" memoir genre. Mildly amusing, mildly perceptive, with a rushed "I'm all better now!" ending. 

Last Night's Scandal, by Loretta Chase. Chase takes the child characters from a previous romance novel and has them all grown up and falling in love. They're not as interesting as adults as they were as children, and Chase, whose previous novels are all set in Regency times, cannot stop talking about how ridiculous the fashions of the 1830's are. True, but it doesn't make it easy to believe in the heroine's unstoppable beauty, when on every page we're reminded how stupid her clothes are. And the story kind of dragged. 

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin. Sort of a mystery - the hero is a constable and there's a murder - but mostly a novel about race relations and poverty in a tiny Mississippi town. Very rough stuff but really, really well written and I was utterly captivated. 

North and South, by Elisabeth Gaskell. When it is autumn, a not-so-young woman's thoughts turn to fluffy nineteenth-century literature she has not previously read. I have a ton of Trollope on deck, too.

Kiss of Steel and Heart of Iron, by Bec McMaster. More steampunk vampire / werewolf romance fiction, which is a much more prevalent genre than I ever realized until I started rummaging around in it. There's tons of it! The queen, as far as I am concerned, is Gail Carringer, whose books are just hysterically funny on top of being well-crafted. But McMaster is also really good. Her world-building is excellent and I was able to follow the rules and logic of that world with hardly any info-dumping on her part. There is a fair amount of "my woman" stuff going on, but, well, they're romance novels. I knew what I was getting into. 

Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind, by David Quammen. Quammen studies the Asian lion, the Australian crocodile, the Amur tiger, and the Romanian bear as he travels around the world examining man's relationship to large predators. It's a good and interesting (and very sad, considering how we are exterminating these predators) book, but mostly it made me want to re-read Vaillant's The Tiger

Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust, by Richard Rhodes. Aeeiiee. Rhodes details both the mass killings which led up to the Final Solution and the psychology behind convincing groups of men to engage in said killings. It's a really brutal read, as you can imagine, but the discussions of inciting mass violence and how people react to that were interesting enough that this book was more than just a recitation of horror after horror, though it had that element as well. (Reading about Babi Yar made me try to like Shostakovitch again, but that is just never going to happen.) 

Disaster at Sea!, by Edward Rowe Snow. This is three unintentionally hilarious volumes of marine disaster and "mysteries of New England" in one. It's... not well written. Snow, I gather, was all about quantity, cranking out three or four books a year his entire adult life. He never uses a period where an exclamation point will do, and he goes on digressions within a five-page story which leaves the reader completely confused. But I gleaned some fun from reading about places I know, and shipwrecks and cannibalism are always my cup of tea. 

In life-news: Berowne is moving his stuff in a little bit at a time, and I am clearing away as much of my stuff as I can, although this means - gulp - getting rid of some books. Sacrifices must be made! Particularly when they are books I didn't like but still held onto for some reason.  

Speaking of disaster at sea, I went on a sailboat with Berowne and some friends a few weeks back. I got terribly seasick and the outboard motor not only died but tried to fling itself into the ocean on the way back, so the other gentleman aboard had to hold it on while Berowne sailed us back to the mooring, which you're not supposed to do because it's a narrow channel with lots of other boats in it and sailing doesn't give you enough control over your direction. Unless you are a totally bad-ass sailor with a calm and collected assistant (not me; I was busy not throwing up). The boat and all aboard arrived safely. Of course, I still am pretty sure the "it's designed not to capsize" statement was a total lie, and so those moments when the boat was traveling more or less sideways were a little alarming for this landlubber. As I said later, I do know how to swim but I was not going to be thrilled if I had to. 

Autumn is here! I am thrilled about that. Bingley has only eaten a little bit of Berowne's couch! The two of them are working out some pack-level issues. He's got a bit of an attitude, that brindle dog of mine, possibly because he was such an easy puppy that I never had to really establish dominance the way I did with the traumatized adult Darcy. But we'll work it all out. Life is pretty good. 


  1. How was North and South? I was told recently that we should all be reading more Mrs. Gaskell.

    1. I liked it! I have added some more of her stuff to the Kindle. All I'd ever read of hers before was Mary Barton, in college, and I found that very boring, but I enjoyed N&S. (Also, the BBC series is easy on the eyes, and gets rid of the endless soliloquies by the dying Beth-March-character about how our heroine is A Real Live Angel.)