I'd hoped to do even better this year. After all, theoretically we're settled now, the moving over, the travelling perhaps less ambitious (in fact, we have a few plans up our sleeves, but nothing's sorted yet). There should be time for more attention to my Reading Blog.
While the cold/flu I'm (crosses fingers, knocks wood) leaving behind has sat me down for more reading time, it robbed me of the energy for writing about what I've read. I'm hoping I can change that pattern next month, but for now, I'll just tell you quickly what I've read this year, and then perhaps you can share your Just-Read list...
Not surprisingly, given my sad invalid state at the year's start, there's a high proportion of mysteries and light reading. I should also note that my reading was driven in part by having several books I had on hold at the library become unexpectedly available. Some of them were high-demand, and I couldn't risk saying "Not right now" and seeing them disappear for months. . . .
That's how I began the year with Michael Connelly's The Wrong Side of Good-bye. It's the first Harry Bosch mystery I've read for at least a couple of years (somehow I haven't been caught by Connelly's Lincoln Detective), and it was okay but without the development of Bosch's character which has been a central appeal for me. I'll probably read the next one, if there is one, but sadly, I'm feeling a bit ho-hum about this (probably Connelly is as well, thus Harry's Lincoln-driving half-brother).
Libraries are dangerous places if you're trying to control your reading and proceed through your To-Be-Read lists in an orderly fashion. If you have as little discipline as I do and you spot titles you'd forgotten about but wanted to read . . . . which is how Dionne Brand's Love Enough came home with me. Brand is a Canadian poet, novelist, essayist, memoirist whose work explores, if I can be so crude as to condense, both longing and belonging, individual identity and community. Her writing is always demanding but always -- even when, as she often does, she's writing about traumatic historical/political events, indicting colonial, imperialistic horrors--always her writing is beautiful, lyrical. This novel is slight, and despite an unavoidably central violent thread, it's surprisingly delicate, tentative, impressionistic even. Intersecting narratives follow several characters over a short period across the city of Toronto, which returns as a favourite character of Brand's work. Somehow, although the novel is slight, and the period it covers is very limited (the immediate wake of the (violent) action which provides its momentum), it draws clear lines between various characters' actions and their "root causes" (without ever being as simplistic as my scare quotes might imply). And as all of Brand's work seems to, and as the title emphasises, the novel seems to balance the personal against the political, and to wonder if our love for each other (and she can be so good on the complications of relationship) can be enough to overcome the social and political realities we're caught up in.
Yes, another important novel that I've seriously under-reviewed, but so far, remember, I've only intended this blog as a place to (briefly!) record and respond to my reading -- and, hopefully, to generate a bit of conversation around mine and yours....
As I finished Love Enough, the library emailed to let me know that two titles had come available. The first was by Hape Kerkelling, apparently a very popular German comedian, and its title describes it aptly enough: I'm Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago. (translated by Shelley Frisch). Entertaining enough, and it will help to form an impression I'm gathering overall of the walk to Compostela.
The other title I borrowed from the library was Ben Abramovich's Midnight Riot, the first book in Abramovich's Rivers of London series featuring Peter Grant, a young officer in the London Metropolitan Police -- who's recruited into wizardry by a special, kept-under-wraps division dealing with the Supernatural forces that "disturb the Queen's peace." I'm not often seduced into fiction with a supernatural element (although yes to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and more recently, Deborah Harkness's Book of Witches trilogy). But this mystery novel was a great romp through the streets of London -- fun to recognise streets, parks, historic buildings, and even more entertaining to tromp backwards in time through a few of them, watching the city's geography transform via its history. Thanks to Annie for recommending this one -- I'll probably get through the rest of the series eventually as well.
Next, my daughter pressed André Alexis' The Hidden Keys on me. I'd given it to her for Christmas and she'd chewed through it very quickly so that she could swap it for my copy of his Fifteen Dogs. Because I'm determined to publish this post in January, but also determined to make it to yoga today and to get to my physiotherapy appointment, I'm going to have to stop simply at recommending this one to fans of literary mysteries with interesting characters and a fascinating examination of moral dilemmas plus very stylish writing -- this is one of Alexis's not-yet-completed quincunx, and it's fun to note a trio of characters from Fifteen Dogs make a cameo appearance.
Patricia Cornwell's Chaos -- Pater gave me this for Christmas, knowing that we've both enjoyed the Kay Scarpetta mysteries in the past. This is not as good as the early ones, but it's better than some of this series' more recent volumes -- much less bloated, better edited, although I think the prolonged career of the uber-madwoman Carrie Grethen is long past straining credulity. I would say there's a return to the character development and focus on relationships that pulled me in to the early titles in the series. So, overall, not bad. . . . if you can borrow from the library and have time on your hands.
Elaine Sciolino's The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs. Paris lovers will enjoy this book if they're interested in the intimacies of its neighbourhoods. Sciolino blends historical/architectural research with her personal experience getting to know her neighbours in this street that runs through the 9th and 18th arrondissements. Her keen observation and her frank self-awareness make for a charming memoir/travelogue. Recommended.
And that will have to do. We'll see if February can see me write a bit more often here, although with only 28 days. . . .
But what about you? Perhaps you can make up for my paucity of writing here by telling me what you've enjoyed reading lately. Or what you've got on your nightstand for next month. . .