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Saturday, August 08, 2015

July and August

I read obsessively in July and have continued in early August.  The weather is too damn hot for much of anything else.  After the rain and flooding of late May and early June, the drought returned. Prediction for today:  102 degrees with heat index readings from 105-109.  For the next few days the temperatures are expected to climb to 104-105 degrees--with who knows what heat index readings.  

My best friend was here for about 10 days and found our weather more uncomfortable than New Orleans.  Huh?  At any rate, miserable.  And dangerous, with heat advisories every day.

So I have read and read, mostly forgettable books, but always with some that kept me engaged and truly involved. 

The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen kept me interested.  I did not, however, relish it as much as I have all of his previous books.  The plot was not as suspenseful or believable, the dialogue felt forced and lacked the usual humor, and my reunion with Carl, Assad, and Rose didn't intrigue me as much as I hoped.  Department Q takes on another cold case involving the death of a seventeen-year-old girl found hanging in a tree after having been hit by a car.  Originally dismissed as hit and run, the policeman who discovered the body did not believe it was an accident and never gave up on his investigation.  Enter Dept. Q.

Read in July.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand.  I find it difficult to resist haunted mansions or hints of ghostly images on photographs.  Add an edgy 1970's folk/rock group that is sequestered in an ancient country house to keep focus as they work on a new album, and you already have a great premise. The story is told in retrospect by various members of the
group, their manager, and a local photographer as they recall events from decades previously.  None have a firm explanation or a resolution concerning the events that took place, but the reader gains insight from the different points of view and forms a better understanding of the individual members of the group and of group dynamics as each one puzzles through his own personal recollections of that summer.  

The work is very short, a novella, not a novel and is reminiscent of Turn of the Screw (yes, my favorite ghost story of all time) in the sense of foreboding and the lack of explanation of events; a pastoral idyll that becomes something else entirely.  If you don't care for ambiguity don't bother with this one because Wylding Hall provides an account of events from different perspectives, but offers no solution.  It works in that nebulous atmosphere of the unexplained and possibly, unexplainable.  I couldn't come to any conclusions about the truth of the events of that summer--nor was I intended to.   Mysterious and atmospheric, and I liked the documentary aspect.  Recommended by Gin Jenny of Reading the End.  

Read in July.  NetGalley/Open Road Integrated Media

Crime/Mystery.  Sept. 8, 2015.  Print version: 512 pages. 
Disclaimer:  A Novel by Renee Knight

Whew!  Great premise:  Catherine Ravenscroft picks up a book by her bedside table that she doesn't remember buying.  Initial interest in the novel gives way to concern, then the chilling realization that the novel is about her.  

Disclaimer is one of those novels that gives you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you begin to dread the outcome.  A game of revenge is so subtly played at the beginning that Catherine cannot even conceive of how it is being played or by whom.  Secrets will be exposed.  Lives destroyed.  It is always unpleasant to read something that makes you feel there is nothing the protagonist can do to avoid the outcome--even if you don't particularly like the protagonist.  I read Melody's review a while back and purchased Disclaimer because I was intrigued by the premise.  Was it suspenseful? Yes.  Interesting?  Yes.  

In the end, I completely agreed with Melody's assessment that the book was "an emotional roller coaster ride " and "unsettling."  She also mentions that the book left her cold--and I can agree with that.  Disclaimer has that harrowing feeling that makes reading it disturbing, almost painful; there is an icy bleakness to the novel--after all, "revenge is a dish best served cold."  I felt a little more sympathy toward Catherine than did Melody, but found the secrets kept just as frustrating. 

This was an unsettling and uncomfortable novel, and one of those novels that can be appreciated in some ways rather than enjoyed, but it is not one that I will soon forget.  

Purchased and read in July.  Originally offered on NetGalley, but I missed it.

Psychological Suspense.  2015.  Print version:  357 pages.
Unlikely Traitors by Clare Langley-Hawthorne was another Kindle Unlimited book.  A mystery set in England in 1913, Unlikely Traitors is the 3rd book in the Ursula Marlowe series. 

A plot to sell naval secrets makes it appear that Ursula Marlowe's fiance Lord Wrotham is guilty of treason.  Ursula must uncover the secrets that have led to Wrotham's arrest.  Lovely cover, but the book was a little bland.  The possibilities for development of the pre-WWI Britain storyline were not advanced in a meaningful way, nor were the possibilities involving the Irish Question.  This is a favorite period of mine, but overall, I found the book a bit lackluster.  I wasn't that impressed with Ursula and found her repetitive in reminding the reader of what she had already said or thought.  I have not read the first two books in the series, but overall, I did not find characters, relationships, or plot compelling.  I suspected the antagonist almost immediately, so when the conclusion finally arrived, I was not surprised.  The book was OK, but not a series I am likely to pursue.

Read in July.  

Historic Mystery.  2014.  Print version:  262 pages.
The Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt is not my usual reading choice, but nevertheless, an entertaining diversion!  A novel about two sisters--well, half-sisters, who barely know each other--coming to grips with residual family grievances.  When Lucy's life seems to disintegrate around here (mostly through her mother's callousness), she calls her older half-sister Julia in England.  Julia, acting decided out-of-character, invites Lucy to come stay in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a small Lake District village.  Juliet almost instantly regrets her decision, and when Lucy arrives hoping for a warm reunion, she finds Juliet cool, reserved.  A little romance lies in wait for both sisters, but that does not dominate the novel.

Although this differs from my usual reading, I have to admit that it was a pleasant respite from crime thrillers and mysteries.  :)

Read in August.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Women's Fiction.  Aug. 4, 2015.  Print version:  368 pages.

Cold, Black Earth by Sam Reaves was a Kindle Unlimited book.  

It was free, which is a blessing because it was pretty tedious with a whiney and unsympathetic protagonist.  Some murder and mayhem and then... I whined about why I wasted my time.  Admittedly, the final third of the book was mostly skimming to see if my thoughts about the murderer were correct.

Crime.   Aug. 1, 2015.  Print version:  274 pages.


  1. Whew! You have been doing a lot of reading. :) From your reviews, the books I'm most drawn to are Disclaimer and Wylding Hall. They both sound like books that I would like. So thanks!

    1. It really has been obsessive! I have a bunch of reviews scheduled for closer to to publication that were part of the July marathon of reading. I need to find another activity. :)

  2. I'm quite curious about the Clare Langley-Hawthorne series, as the Amazon reviews are terrible but other bloggers seem quite keen. I feel this is one where I'm going to have to just give it a go, as the period is certainly one that interests me.

    1. When I posted my review to Goodreads, I noticed that several reviewers were very happy with the first two books, but not so much with the third. Maybe I should reconsider the early books because this is period fascinates me, too.

  3. I enjoyed reading all your thoughts of the books you read, Jenclair! I'm especially intrigued with Wylding Hall; it sounds very atmospheric!

    Disclaimer was indeed an unsettling read and one I wouldn't forget, too. The secrets Catherine kept was frustrating, isn't it? I've no idea why she did it but I suppose there won't be any mystery otherwise. ;)

    Speaking of weather, we've been getting some rainy weather over here so it isn't as hot as humid as usual. But it's strange since it's only August so I suppose the weather changes, too. Hope the weather will get cooler there!

    1. :) I almost quit reading Disclaimer several times because it made me so uneasy. The author is certainly skilled at producing apprehension and anxiety. It was not a book I enjoyed reading, but boy, was it effective.

      We could use some rain right now; everything is burning up. Glad you are having a little respite from the heat and humidity!

  4. Ugh, the weather's been so horrible. Stepping outside is like subjecting myself to punishment, and my air conditioning bill I already know is going to be hideous this month. Down with summer! I want it to be fall!

    I'm glad you liked Wylding Hall, also. I got such a kick out of reading it, esp. the documentary aspect.

    1. This has been a particularly miserable summer. It is a 101 degrees right now--the high today is now predicted at 105. Our ac bill will be awful, too, but I'll willingly pay.

      Wylding Hall was an interesting concept that left me wanting more. What happened to Julian? Oh, those darn Fae, tricky devils!

  5. Reading is a great way to spend the time when it's hot out. :-) The temperatures here are supposed to start rising above 100, which is actually pretty normal this time of year for my area. It doesn't mean I have to like it. We've had unusually high humidity all summer long.

    Wylding Hall sounds a bit different, and yet not. I wonder if an ending like that would drive me crazy or not. Maybe I should find out. :-)

    Disclaimer sounds really interesting. I remember reading Melody's review of it. Scary stuff!

    1. We've had temps like this in previous summers, but the heat indexes are higher. I'm grateful that I don't have to work outside! I have to admit that Wylding Hall can drive you a little crazy with its lack of resolution, but I loved the way it was written.

      :) Melody's review really caught my interest, and when I finished, I felt much the way she did. The book evoked some high anxiety.

  6. Wow that's hot! And here I am complaining to anyone who will listen that we are having a heatwave through the weekend with temperatures in the low to mid 90s and tropical humidity. I don't think I have the right to complain anymore! At least you have had some great reading to keep you occupied!

    1. It has been a hot summer, especially since we haven't had any rain in weeks. Trees losing leaves, plants burning up. Thank goodness for air conditioning! And books. :)