Saturday, August 1, 2015

My July Reads, 2015


Only seven books read this month - but all good ones. One 3.0, two 3.5's and the rest 4.0's.

The 3.0 was Jan Burke's Eighteen. Honestly the lower rating is due only to my lack of enthusiasm for the short story form. All of the stories in this book are worth reading. I especially liked 'Miscalculation' in which I learned about the deadly overcrowding of troops on the Queen Mary when it served as a troop ship during WWII and 'An Unsuspected Condition of the Heart' - a Regency tale.
Burke is the author of the Irene Kelly mystery series. A few characters from those books made it into some of the short stories.

Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith are my two 3.5's. Moggach is the author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Heartbreak Hotel is similar in tone. A retired actor inherits a B&B in Wales and decides to move there and run it on his own. The rundown inn attracts a motley menage of characters. The book is fun and at times, touching.

Smith's Emma is a modern day retelling of the classic - part of the Austen Project. An enjoyable read in Smith's inimical style.

Tana French is a new author for me and I am hooked. The Secret Place is #5 in her Dublin Murder Squad series. I did have the culprit identified before the ending, but getting there was quite the work. French weaves a fine tale.
A young man is found murdered on the grounds of an exclusive girls' school. The case goes cold until a year later when a note is pinned on the school's 'secret place' board. (A way for the students to post about what is bothering them without anyone knowing their identities.) The note is a picture of the murdered boy with the notation, "I Know Who Killed Him". It is given to a cold case detective trying/hoping to make the murder squad. He partners with the lead detective from the year before - the first woman to be part of the murder squad. Their interaction is an interesting part of the book. I definitely want to read more by this author.

A God In Ruins is Kate Atkinson's follow up to her Life After Life which featured Ursula. This book features Ursula's younger brother, Teddy. He is an RAF bomber pilot during WWII - an experience he does not expect to survive and which colors the rest of his life as a husband and father.
Reading about Teddy's experiences as a bomber pilot was very interesting to me. The book's ending was surprising. I have to say I enjoy Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books a lot more for the pleasure of reading, but these last two books of hers are excellent - just deeper reading.

Lighten up with Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust. A young woman from Ft. Wayne, IN is trying to make it as a screen writer in Hollywood during the filming of Gone With The Wind. She becomes Carole Lombard's assistant. This book has lots of GWTW background and is an interesting look at the Lombard/Clark Gable romance as well as 'old Hollywood'. Entertaining read.

Anne Tyler's 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, is the last of this month's reads and, if she doesn't change her mind, Tyler's last novel. I have always enjoyed this author. She has a way of writing about ordinary lives that makes a lasting impression. This book is about three generations of the Whitshanks of Baltimore - where and how they started out, who they became, their trials and tribulations and the house that was so important to them. I liked everything about the book except the ending. It just seemed to stop. Kind of like this blog post right now.