Saturday, October 12, 2013

mysteries, book clubs, insects

There is nothing new going on in my life which is fit for blogging, so this post will just be the books. 

I've read lately:

A Death in the Small Hours, by Charles Finch. This was my Early Reviewers book. I have read two previous entries in Finch's series, which follows a wealthy Victorian gentleman solving crimes in his spare time. In both the other two I was irritated by how brief and obvious the crime-solving part was. After reading a third, I think I've realized that the crimes aren't the point. The "mystery" in this one was also brief and obvious, and concluded when there were still about fifty pages left to go, which made me think that the conclusion would turn out to be a red herring, but it didn't. Finch is more interested in the scene-setting and the rhythms of his characters' daily lives, and while he's not quite good enough yet at creating characters sufficiently fascinating for this to work, he's getting there. I didn't at all mind how fluffy this book felt.

The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler. It's... not all that much about Jane Austen. And the women in it all have their lives orbit around men (one is a lesbian but her relationships didn't ring true to me; they were just heterosexual relationships with the pronouns switched, I felt). The one who is supposedly obsessed with her dogs doesn't talk nearly enough about said dogs and gets paired off, in strained fashion, with a dude by the end (they all get paired off, which I know is a conscious nod to Austen but which also has a lot of them going back to partners who treated them abominably, and that's not cool). I can see what Fowler was trying to do, and why this book was a best-seller, but... meh. I got initially excited by Crazy Dog Lady, but when it becomes clear that her life is empty without a man and she must stop wearing clothes covered in dog hair so that she will be loved, I barfed in my mouth a little. 

The Death of a Joyce Scholar, by Bartholomew Gill. Mystery set in Ireland. It was very intelligently written, for sure, but I didn't feel that fascination with the detective hero/heroine which will keep me reading a mystery series. 

The Janus Stone, by Elly Griffiths. Definitely a weaker sequel to The Crossing Places. Our heroine is knocked up and has become All Maternal Instincts All The Time, complete with no conflicted feelings whatsoever about suddenly becoming a single mother at age forty. (Also there's that inevitable moment where she's in danger and she feels the baby move and knows she must survive! for the baby's sake!!, which chafes my britches anyway [women: not allowed a survival drive unless it's for someone else's benefit!] and in this case happens when she's about ten weeks along, at which point feeling the embryo [it's not even a fetus yet] move is not a thing.) And there are the insertions of diary entries / thoughts from the killer, which I just dislike as a stylistic choice (I blame Val McDermid for starting that). But all that complaining aside, I like Griffiths' writing and she did at least keep the heroine passionate about her line of work. I'm sure I'll read the third, though I'm wary about how Ruth will handle motherhood. 

Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects, by Amy Stewart. Don't read this if you have a tender tummy or are feeling at all sick. Just don't. 

Marion Fay, by Anthony Trollope. What an incredibly odd book. The title character develops consumption solely to prove a point, as far as I can tell. It wasn't nearly as charming as most Trollope, though it had some of his wit.  

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