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Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 28 update

Clark, Clare. The Great Stink. Difficult book to read. Set in the sewers of London in 1855, the novel follows William May who has been invalided out of the army after having been wounded in Crimea. May suffers from what would today be called post-traumatic stress as a result of both the horrors of the war and the concomitant horrors of "hospitalization." On returning home, he recovers slowly, but begins improving thanks to his position as an engineer involved in the overhaul of the sewer system, responsible for so much disease in mid-century London. Then the corruption of one individual threatens May's hard-won sanity...

I did not enjoy the book. The stress, the dread that Clark creates is palpable and forced me to put it down again and again. In that regard alone, Clark is a powerful writer. I did like Long Arm Tom and Lady--although their situation was every bit as full of trepidation for me as that of William May. Historically fascinating, but ultimately unpleasant.

Robinson, Peter. In a Dry Season. Well, what can I say, I'm a fan. Another Jackson between the hospital and Mila play and when everyone else was sleeping.

Khoury, Raymond. The Last Templar. O.K. read...took it with me to Jackson and read it pretty quickly.

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Excellent fun. A relaxing and comforting re-read.

Bernhardt, William. Dark Eye. The first I've read by this author, and probably the last. This is one belongs in the category of "the more fantastic and terrible the crime, the better." Story line and character are secondary to graphic, despicable crimes (and the more that can be packed in, the better). Poor Poe, writers of much less imagination and aptitude twist his plots into commercial perversions, playing on the fact that his name alone is enough to draw an audience. I've heard some positive things about this author, but not inclined to try again.

Lackey, Mercedes. The Wizard of London. Another fun read, this one is about a school for psychic children in Victorian England. This is the 4th in Lackey's series The Elemental Masters. I have to go back and pick up the previous novels. Again, light reading, but fun.

Quick, Amanda. Second Sight. A fast and fun read about an Arcane Society in Victorian England, the discovery of a notebook by an alchemist who had died 200 years before, murder, mayhem, photography, and love. Entertaining, light, amusing.

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Windy Poplars. A delightful re-read after many years. Wrote about in progress here. I must order a set and read them all again.

Shreve, Susan Richards. A Student of Living Things. Initially merely annoying, the novel eventually intrigued me enough to finish (and it is a small book). I liked Uncle Milo and the musical correspondence, but overall was not convinced by any of the other characters.

Harris, Joanne. Gentlemen & Players. From the beginning, this novel lived up to its designation "suspense." The suspense and dread are maintained throughout the novel. There were plenty of clues, but even when you picked up on them, they didn't always turn out the way anticipated. There is a good deal of dark humor, some excellent characterization, and a narrative that pulls you on even when sometimes you don't really want to know. St. Oswald's is a school for privileged boys, but as the fall term gets underway, things that have run relatively smoothly for generations begin to fall apart. I picked up on the names right away and was puzzled by several other things, but failed to quite work it out. I've enjoyed most, but not all, of the novels I read by Harris; this may be her best.

Pickard, Nancy. The Virgin of Small Plains. Completely implausible, first to last. Annoyingly so.

Davis, Lindsey. See Delphi and Die. Marcus Didius Falco sets out to solve the mysterious deaths of two young women who died in Greece while traveling with a group of fellow tourists. Davis uses humor and historical details to bring alive the adventures of Falco and his wife Helena Justina. Falco the family man -- husband, father, brother-in-law, uncle -- provide the most amusing and endearing parts of all of the novels. I thought the twist at the end was too clearly announced throughout and was the least appetizing aspect of the latest in the Falco novels.

Russell, Mary Doria. A Thread of Grace. The novel begins with a Preludio--a terrible portrait dated 1907, then moves to Porto Sant'Andrea on the Northwestern Coast of Italy in 1943 and introduces the first of the novels characters. The highest praise I can think of for this novel is that it is populated with believable characters. Not just one or two or three; Russell has several stories that merge into one and all of her characters ring true. I couldn't put this one down so quickly was I drawn into the lives of these people, Jews and Italians, trying to survive the Nazi occupation. The heroic attempt of Italian citizens to save 43,000 native and refugee Jews makes a fascinating, inspiring, and remarkable tale. Russell spent five years researching this period of Italian history and produced a novel that avoids sentimentality, but fully recognizes the heroism and horror of the time. Excellent.

Dunning. John. The Bookwoman's Last Fling. Asked to assess a remarkable collection of juvenalia (flawless copies worth tens of thousands of dollars) that needed evaluation before an estate can be settled, Cliff Janeway discovers there is more involved than just missing titles. The original owner of the collection had died 20 years ago, and Janeway needs to discover more about the circumstances of her death. Not only the interesting information about books that is always part of the Janeway series, but the details about horse racing played an interesting part in the mystery.

Turow, Scott. Ordinary Heroes. Not the usual Turow novel, although lawyers play a role. This is a novel about WWII and family secrets and judgments and misjudgments. After his father's death, Stewart Dubin sets out to learn more about the man who maintained a distance from him in life. Through letters, a surprising memoir, and military archives, Dubin learns more than he could have imagined. Dubin, a character in Presumed Innocent, unravels a past that surprises him, but ultimately brings him to a clearer understanding of his father's strengths and weaknesses. Slow at times, it is still a worthwhile read.


  1. A Thread of Grace sounds wonderful! I've added it to my TBR Mountain.

  2. I loved the way Russell was able to make so many characters real. I'm going to look for her previous novels.

  3. I read her first one. It was very good--but very different. It would have been a great book to read in a group as there is much to dicsuss in it. I made the mistake of loaning it to someone and never got it back! :(

  4. Oh, don't you hate it when some books never make it back to the fold. Many books I "lend" permanently as I seldom re-read, but some books I like returned so I can have the pleasure of lending them again and again.

  5. I am going to have to add the harris book to my list! It didn't seem to appeal to me at first, but you make it sound good. I loved Chocolat, and have most of her other books.

  6. I looked at The Bookwoman's Last Fling at the bookstore today. I've not read anything by Dunning before though, and couldn't tell if I ought to read the previous Janeway books first.


  7. I read the Robinson as well. I need to read more of his mysteries. I thought about reading The Great Stink--it sounds pretty heavy though. Maybe I'll look at it in the library.

  8. Danielle, I did not enjoy TGS, but felt compelled to finish...just to find out.

    Robinson, I do enjoy. Decent mysteries and characters I like checking in on. :)

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  10. jenclair, thanks for the great recommendations. I'm well into Gentlemen & Players and am enjoying it, but I think I figured out early on who the culprit is. Also, I added Mary Russell and John Dunning to my list. I'll be checking back.