Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Reading

August was a slow reading month for me.  There were several birthdays, including mine and Jack's.  None required much effort on my part, but they were interruptions in the usual routine.  I've had a few things on my mind to distract me from reading.  I gave myself a vacation from worry until after Labor Day, but they obviously don't know when Labor Day is.

Scent of Evil  -  Archer Mayor  -  I like the Joe Gunther series Mayor writes.  It takes place in Vermont, a place I know a bit about, having lived in New England for more than thirty-five years.  There's always enough action to keep things moving and enough detecting to keep me interested.  I also enjoy Joe and his girlfriend.  This book was about a local man found murdered, strapped to a chair, killed in an unusual way.  One of Gunther's officers is implicated  -  and later found dead.  Suicide or murder?  And was he the killer?

The Patience of the Spider  -  Andrea Camilleri  -  From Vermont, I went to Sicily to spend some time drooling over Inspector Montalbano's meals.  And watching him solve a kidnapping.  A lovely young girl is kidnapped, but it doesn't seem like an ordinary kidnapping.  Something's off.  When Montalbano discovers what really happened, he considers that justice has been done and that nothing more is required of him.

The Art of Travel  -  Alain de Botton  -  This book was reviewed by Belle at Belle, Book, and Candle and caught my interest.  Belle often recommends books I like.  If you were anywhere in my vicinity recently, I bored you to tears relating all my favorite parts.  I couldn't stop talking about it.  I gave my copy of the book to one of my nephews-in-law this past weekend.  The author relates his own experiences while travelling, his expectations and his disappointments with the reality of travel, and takes us into the past with literary travellers and artists.  There are Edward Hopper's paintings of motel rooms, trains and train stations, and highways, Van Gogh's colorful interpretation of Provence, John Ruskin's firm belief that everyone should draw, not to become artists but to become more observant.  None of that 'been there, got the T-shirt' stuff for Ruskin.  It's a wonderful small book that excited me.

Memoirs of a Book Snake  -  David Meyer  -   This is another small book, a birthday present from my sister.  I've never heard of the author, but he shares our love of books, especially old books.  He's been a book scout and has worked in bookstores.  He keeps a lot of the books he finds, and he bemoans, as many of us do, the decrease in interesting, nicely bound older books.  He likes oddball books, as I used to.  I still have a very slim volume on Odin, old travel book, but I rue getting rid of one called Fighting the Devil's Triple Demons, which I recall was about rum and white slavery, but I forget what the third demon was.

Miss Mapp  -  E. F. Benson  -  I normally adore Lucia and Mapp books, but I found myself slogging through this one.  Maybe because I read it on my Kindle, or because I've had all those things on my mind.  If the stories weren't exciting enough, my mind would drift off to those worrisome things.  I'd love to strangle Miss Mapp.  Haven't we all known people like her?  Delighting in making her enemies look foolish while exaggerating her importance, delighting even in having enemies.  There are numerous tempests in teacups:  she steals an idea from Diva for decorating old dresses, then they both have their dresses dyed the same color, with disastrous social results.  There's the scandal about what Major Flint and Captain Puffin do together late at night (get your mind out of the gutter!).  Mapp hilariously disgraces herself in front of royalty and 'friends'.  She would be mortified to know how many people laugh at her rather than admire her.

A Cruise to Die For  -  Charlotte & Aaron Elkins  -  This is a mystery I got at a deep discount for my Kindle.  I'm a sucker for those, but I've scaled back to only authors I've heard of.  I read an Alix London book before and enjoyed it, so I plunked down my $1.99 or $2.99 and read on.  In this one, Alix, whose father is a convicted art forger, recently out of prison, is asked to go on a cruise with a multi-millionaire and a group of rich people who have invested in fractional ownership shares of masterpiece art works.  They're not in it for the love of art, only as investments.  Alix has a talent for telling if a painting is real or not.  She sniffs out a Manet immediately  -  and gets conked on the head when she can't keep her mouth shut.  There's a fake Manet and a fake Monet  -  and a real Manet and real Monet.  I was surprised when I found out who stole the real ones, and Alix was, too.

The King's Grave  -  Philippa Langley & Michael Jones  -  We all heard the news a year or two ago about finding the bones of King Richard III in a car park in Leicester.  Archeology has always interested me, I even thought about studying to becoming one at one point in the 1960s.  That or a parapsychologist.  But I didn't end up as either.  There have been several books about the find, this one written by the woman who instigated the dig, her intuition telling her that Richard was there.  The King's Grave was reviewed at I Prefer Reading, which is where I first read about it.  It's written by the authors in alternating chapters:  one about the dig itself and the science involved, and then one about the history of Richard III and that time period.  I will be the first to admit that British royalty gives me a severe headache.  Richard, Duke of this or that later becomes King Richard III, Edwin Prince of something then becomes king of this or that.  And everyone is named Richard, Edward, Edmund, or Henry.  Everyone.  I have so much trouble keeping all straight.  But I enjoyed the book and, despite myself, I learned a bit about the history of the time and the people involved.  It helped  that I'd watched The White Queen on TV last year and that I just finished a free online course at FutureLearn about England in the Time of Richard III.

That's all for this month.  I know I won't finish any of the books I'm currently reading before the end of the day, so I think I'm safe posting this now.

For those of you in the US, Happy Labor Day!  For those not in the US, I hope you're having a relaxing or exciting weekend doing whatever makes you happy.


  1. Wow, that's a slow a month?! I loved The Art of Travel when I read it. Loved it so much I bought a copy and gave it to someone I know who likes to travel. She never told me what she thought of it so I don't know what that means. But I am glad to find someone else who liked the book too!

    1. Doesn't it feel good to be so excited about a book that you want everyone to read it? That doesn't happen a lot, but I love when it does. It's also disappointing when the person you recommend it to (or give it to) never says if they read it or what they thought of it. But you know how we book people are: we're excited about a book, we get the book, but we're reading something else, so we put it aside and it may be months or years before we get to it. Each in its own time, I guess.

  2. I was so drawn in by The Art of Travel and all the threads de Botton ties to so many other subjects, I felt the need to write a whole series of blog posts to process all my resulting meanderings. I also read The Architecture of Happiness, which was a helpful -- if unorthodox -- introduction to the topic of architecture in my case, though with that book, too, it was sometimes my arguing with de Botton that made it enjoyable.
    I appreciate your ability to write short reviews of books - maybe I should study how you do it, and save myself from getting so bogged down in my reports.

    1. I think you should keep writing the longer posts and I'll keep writing the shorter ones. The secret behind mine is that I'm lazy! I'd rather be reading the next book than writing about the last one!

      I did love The Art of Travel, though, and told everyone I ran into about it. I'm sure I bored the pants off a few people. But, as you said, the threads de Botton spun out into different subjects were fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading his book on Proust, and then I'll see where I want to go with him.