My big coup was finishing, at last, finally, after months of reading, and switching from my Kindle to a nice floppy paperback, where I could move my bookmark farther and farther instead of watching my Kindle's percentage marker move glacially forward.
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas - I loved this book, but it was SO long. There was excitement and intrigue on every page, but there were also a lot of characters. Those characters often changed names throughout the book, so I found it difficult to remember who was who at times. Because it was so long, I often left it for a few weeks while I went off to read shorter, more quickly read books. Edmund Dante is unfairly imprisoned without a trial by because he's envied by some of this 'friends' and because the magistrate he's taken in front of discovers that Edmund innocently knows something that could sink his political / legal career. But Edmund has revenge in the end.
Rounding the Mark - Andrea Camilleri - I was slow to become addicted to this series of Inspector Montalbano books, but now I'm hooked. I've read all but the last four and I'm trying to decide if I should pace myself or have an orgy. It's summer, so it feels like orgy time! Montalbano goes for a swim in the ocean and a body floats into him. There's a mystery about how long the body's been in the water and who the disfigured body once was. No fear, Montalbano gets to the bottom of it. As he eats his way through many delicious meals. Even though, as a vegan, I would not eat a lot of the dishes he does, his enjoyment is infectious.
Love, Life and Elephants - Dame Daphne Sheldrick - Now it's off to Africa. Dame Daphne Sheldrick was born in Kenya in 1934 and lives there still. She lived through the uprisings and turmoil of Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, when her grandparents were beaten almost to death by militants. She and her husband and daughter lived in a remote location, where Daphne learned to nurse orphaned animals. It was heart-breaking trial and error for the most part. She especially loved elephants, but there was no suitable formula for the elephant babies at that time and she lost most of them. She finally hit on one that worked and the rest, as they say, is history. This is a love story, too. Daphne fell in love with a friend of her husband's and he with her. When both are divorced, they marry and have a daughter. Dame Sheldrick, a long time widow, is still very much in love with her late husband. Here's a link, if you are interested in learning more about the work of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org). Elephants and other wild animals, African or not, need our help.
Being George Devine's Daughter - Harriet Devine - This one was interesting not only for the behind the scenes stories about actor, teacher, and director George Devine, and stories of the stage and screen in England during the swinging 60s and earlier, but because it was written by a fellow blogger, Harriet Devine (http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog). Reading Harriet's blog, I never imagined she'd had such an interesting and adventurous life! You never know! Her parents had an unusual relationship, apparently not so unusual if you were in the theatre, but difficult, especially for her mother. Her mother, Sophie Harris, and aunt were well-known as set and costume designers.
Glass on the Stairs - Margaret Scherf - I had a bit of trouble staying interested in this one. It's a comedic mystery, of which I'm not a fan. It takes place in New York in the 1940s or 1950s, I'd say. A woman walks into a gun shop / antiques store and, while the proprietor is out of the room, shoots herself. Or did she? Interior decorators (how's that for odd detectives), the Bryces, a husband and wife team much like George Burns and Gracie Allen, if you're old enough to remember them, solve the mystery.
Gone Away - Hazel Holt - I'd say this is an English cozy. Widow Mrs. Sheila Malory's good friend Charles is planning to marry the beautiful but cold Lee Montgomery, estate agent. Charles works in the US, so when Lee disappears, he asks Mrs. Malory to find her. She's dead, murdered at a remote farm she was selling. Lee is not who she's represented herself to be. She has quite a history and that history has come back to haunt her. This is a series and I've read one other in it.
Mr. Popper's Penguins - Richard and Florence Atwater - Now for a change of pace. More and more, I find myself wanting to be about 8 years old again and trying to relive some of those days. Must be the headlines on the news. Seems like the world's coming to an end. I want my Mommy and Daddy! Anyway, Mr. Popper is a responsible painter and decorator who comes home to his family every evening and wants nothing more than to read about the North and South Poles. He's seen all the documentaries and read all the books. He dreams of one day visiting one or the other. He writes to an Antarctic explorer who sends him a penguin. The family refits the refrigerator to provide a chilly home for the bird. When their penguin seems to be dying of loneliness, a zoo sends them a female penguin who's also languishing. Eventually, they have a LOT of penguins and are having trouble keeping up with expenses. They train the birds and set out on the road. In the end, they decide the birds need to be where there's snow and ice, and the explorer who sent them takes Mr. Popper with him to the North Pole, where they hope to establish penguins to amuse North Pole explorers.
Natural Causes - James Oswald - This is going to disappoint some people, but this book made me angry. It's quite a good mystery, involving an old ritual killing of a young girl. Today, elderly men are being savagely murdered. There seems to be a connection. The pacing is good, it was hard to put down, the characters were interesting, but the ending! I think it violated the Mystery Rules of Fairness! I did not see it coming and I don't think there were clues to steer the reader in that direction. Unfair!
Diary of a Provincial Lady - E. M. Delafield - This will also make some of you angry, but I did not find this as charming and as addictive as many do. The unnamed diarist tries unsuccessfully to control her two unruly children and please her uncommunicative and stick-in-the-mud husband. She also strives to maintain some sort of independence for herself and to follow the rural rules of society. It just didn't do anything for me. Do I slog through the other three Provincial Lady books? I can't blame my disinterest on mood because I read this quite a few years ago and my notes say that I wasn't enthralled then either.
Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell - To me, this book achieves all that Provincial Lady attempts to. Cranford is a rural town whose social set is populated almost exclusively by older ladies. Men are frowned upon. The narrator is a younger woman who has moved away with her father but who visits often. The book tells the stories of the old ladies and their adventures. The ladies comply with the very strict social rules, most of which they seem to have made up themselves. Visiting is only to be done between noon and three. They must all go home by 9:00 in the evening. There's a scare, when one lady is sure there are burglars about. The antics of the ladies to protect themselves - hysterical! But when one sweet lady loses most of her money, some of the other decide to secretly share some of their income with her. It's touching and very funny in places.
That's it for this month. Back to the books! I hope you're all having a good summer, with lots of time to read.