Thursday, December 5, 2013

travel reading

Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide, by Peter Allison. Cute and a quick read.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. This book is incredible. Ursula, born in the English countryside in 1910, dies over and over and gets a restart on her life each time. She starts retaining hazy memories of her untimely ends, and thus has a small ability to change things going forward. So much of this book, however, is really just about her family and growing up in England during the first World War and then surviving (or not!) the second World War as an adult. Although at times it gets a little How Many Ways Can You Die, especially at the beginning (which is a fairly brutal recitation of How Many Ways a Child Can Die, and probably not what I should have been reading while pregnant), that tapers off once the story gets into its stride. I loved it.

Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong, by Raymond Bonner. Rather interesting but not as compelling as I wanted it to be for plane reading (I get serious anxiety and nausea when flying, and couldn't take anything for either condition on this trip), and Bonner's argument ended up depending too much on a theory that the defendant was set up by the police. Which he may well have been, but that wasn't quite what I was expecting.

For the Love of Mike, by Rhys Bowen. I gave the second entry in this "female detective in turn-of-the-century New York" series a try, but remain underwhelmed. Not reading any more.

Cambridge Blue, by Alison Bruce. Completely forgettable police procedural. I finished this two days ago and don't remember the main character's name. 

He Who Fears the Wolf, by Karin Fossum. Norwegian mystery. Awful. I don't know why I finished it. 

Faithful Place, by Tana French. God, she's good! 

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, by Alexandra Fuller. Fuller clearly wrote this memoir as an apology to her mother, who was very upset by Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. It's still well-written and interesting, but it's, well, racism and colonialism apologia in a lot of ways, because that's what made her mom upset about the first book: that Fuller accurately documented her racism and people said, "Wow, your mom is racist!" (Fuller also attempts to equate Scottish clan pride with inevitable racism, which chuffed my Scottish hide.)

The Naming of the Dead, by Ian Rankin. A known quantity, which is absolutely not a bad thing.

Watching the Dark, by Peter Robinson. Also a known quantity. Less impressive than Rankin, but I will keep reading this series as long as he keeps churning them out. 

Black Hills, by Dan Simmons. I have no idea why I kept reading this. It was immediately apparent that it is nothing but info-dumping - there are entire, enormously long, chapters which might as well be the Wikipedia entries for "Lakota manhood ritual", or "Chicago World's Fair", or "construction of Mount Rushmore" if they aren't already - and this just goes on and on for six hundred pages. The only shred of originality was Simmons' belief that General Custer and his wife were horny as badgers, which he shares with us via passages that, combined with the encyclopedia-entry-style of the rest of the book, made me remember the greatest romance novel plagiarism scandal of all time. (I'll wait while you read that. It's worth it.) Other than the delight of that recall, this book had no redeeming qualities.


  1. I read Faithful Place in October, and was disappointed that I was able to put it down for hours at a time, unlike In the Woods and The Likeness. Did you find it as compelling as the first two? I wondered if I missed Cassie. Not sure I'll get the next one.

    I think I'm going to give Cocktail Hour a miss, based on your review, though I do recommend an NPR interview that I now can't reliably find (the latest one seems to be 2011, but I heard it recently--maybe I heard a rerun. Interesting interviewee, anyway). I was shocked and delighted by Fuller's mum in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, and don't want her spoiled for me. Or spoilt.

    And recalling Faithful Place reminds me of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which I read in one day the same week. Have you heard about it? I think you might enjoy it, and I'd be interested to know what you think of it whether you like it or not.

    1. Oh, Faithful Place definitely wasn't as good as the first two, but I read so many crappy attempts at atmospheric character-driven British mysteries this month that coming back to French was a delight. I'm sure I'll keep getting her books from the library.

      Cocktail Hour is whiny-by-proxy: a sort of weird attempt to say that being raised by crazy people and losing several small children makes having a Victorian-era pro-colonialism attitude in the 1970's totally okay.

      I have not read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P... adding to the list!