Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This 'n That -- Catch-Up

This is the pile of Books-I-Have-Read-Recently-But-Not-Blogged-Yet.  I think I've mentioned before that, in order to keep myself honest, book-blogging-wise, I don't let myself put Books-I've-read away until I've at least made a note, here, of having read them.

We're coming up to year-end; I'm finally closing in on the marking of student papers and might even be able to file grades soon. But if I free up some time, quite honestly, it's going to go to family time, relaxing, and reading even more books! There's almost no chance I'm going to be able to say anything meaningful about these titles, but that pile's going to topple if I don't do something.

So, quickly:
If you like a good mystery novel, I heartily recommend Carol O'Connell's The Chalk Girl or, for that matter, any of the splendid titles in her Mallory series. Long before Girl with a Dragon Tattoo was rocking her rather feral brilliance, Mallory was taking hers to the streets of New York and the computer networks of bureaucracies . . . and doing it in better clothes. I've often wished that Uma Thurman would bring this role to the screen -- it deserves that kind of intelligence and restraint. Mallory's backstory is fascinating and although each of the novels is satisfying on its own, there's an added hook in a reader's desire to put together this beautiful, uncannily smart, damaged woman's narrative.

I also recomend Susan Hill's The Betrayal of Trust and, again, would similarly recommend any in this Simon Serrailler series. The troubled, loner, sensitive, intelligent, culturally refined cop figure has elements that have been played with in other series, but Simon is particularly interesting for his relationship with his sister and her family -- who add a welcome note of domesticity along with the perspective of an intelligent woman balancing career (she's a family physician) and family. And the fictional cathedral town in Southern England makes a lovely setting for some armchair travel.

I read Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop at the end of the summer and any response I make to it here will be  obviously inadequate. No worries -- much has been said and written about it, and my contribution to that conversation is unnecessary. I will say that despite the griping I've read about the over-the-top-ness of the novel's melodrama, I enjoyed the story-telling and the caricatures. Yes, the tension gets ramped way too high; yes, coincidences abound; yes, little Nell is way. too. good. And Quilp might be the devil himself. But I wouldn't have missed reading this, so I'm glad I enjoyed the disclaimers.

On my daughter's recommendation, I read Ami McKay's The Birth House and enjoyed it, although not as much as she did (she says it's one of her top 5 books, and she's a devoted reader). Nice depictions of Maritime life in the early 20th century, and it weaves in some fascinating history and traditions around female knowledge of healing and midwifery.

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