Recent Reading Roundup

The-Life-Writer-207x325It has been a while since I’ve posted, and also a while since I posted a reading roundup! The two things are related: because I haven’t been posting often, it might seem as if I haven’t been reading much, but I have — it’s just that much of my recent reading has been for reviews, which means it feels redundant to post about it, or else it has been light reading I don’t have much to say about. Or, in a couple of cases, it has been books that deserve more to say than I’ve got in me, or that I hoped to have a lot to say about but that came up short. These are the rare converging conditions that are just right for a roundup post!

Books that I’ve read for reviews include: David Constantine’s The Life-Writer and In Another Country, both exceptionally good (my review will be in The Quarterly Conversation in the fall); Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York, which I thought was just okay (my review will be in Quill & Quire in November); Yasmine el Rashidi’s Chronicle of a Last Summer, which is understated and thought-provoking (my review will be in The Kenyon Review Online at some future date); and Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words, which I found fascinating, evocative, and just a bit odd (my review will be in the September issue of Open Letters). Today I’m settling in with Maurizio de Giovanni’s The Bastards of Pizzofalcone, which, along with its sequel, Darkness for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone, I’ll be writing about for 3:AM Magazine. (I also recently read an academic book with an eye to reviewing it for 3:AM but I decided in the end not to review it, because although it is almost certainly a good book of its kind, it turned out to be of a kind I have little tolerance for these days, and I didn’t want to take that somewhat personal frustration out on its author.)

knox-trulyMy light reading has included some good contemporary romances: Ruthie Knox’s Truly, which I really enjoyed, and two of Molly O’Keefe’s ‘Boys of Bishop’ novels — Between the Sheets and Never Been Kissed. O’Keefe’s are just a tiny bit too angst-ridden to become real favorites of mine: I like my romance with a bit more comedy and a lot less suffering. But both of these authors write well and create convincing characters, and Truly had some really excellent “neepery” about urban bee-keeping. I’ve started several historical romances but tired of them all before the half-way point — including Julia Quinn’s Because of Miss Bridgerton and a forthcoming Mary Balogh, Someone to Love. Not too long ago I read Sarah MacLean’s The Rogue Not Taken, and I did really like that; I think it’s just that for me right now, I’ve had enough of that particular flavor and none of the ones I tried seemed novel enough. I also just finished Sue Grafton’s X, which some of you may have seen me griping about on Twitter. When I say “finished” I mean that once I realized it wasn’t going to pick up, I skipped along hastily until I finally reached its big climactic scene, about 5 pages before the last of its nearly 500. Grafton assembles her pieces competently, and Kinsey’s still a pretty good character, but that book was way too long to be so completely lacking in interest or suspense.

mementoA book that deserves better than I can give it is Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which I finished without ever quite being converted to it. Another read, another time, and probably my experience of it will be different. It was interesting to me, though, that I began it with much higher expectations than I began Moby-Dick, but it was Moby-Dick I found thrilling. Maybe I’m not quite the reader (or the person) that I thought I was. And a book I hoped to love and have a lot to say about was Christy Ann Conlin’s The Memento. It looked perfect for me, and individual moments or sentences often struck me as really good, but as a whole the book never quite grabbed me — not the way a ghost story, especially, really ought to.

I think that about catches me up, on my reading at least. Usually another regular feature here is more discussion of teaching-related business, but of course classes aren’t in session right now, and the work-related business I’ve been preoccupied with is my promotion application, which I can’t really talk about in any detail. Last week I did, however, finish what is almost certainly the very last written submission I will make about it (and that’s another 6000 words I’ve labored over in the last little while!). My fall course outlines are drafted, though, and it won’t be long now before “This Week In My Classes” begins its exciting 10th season. 🙂

P.S. If that David Constantine cover looks familiar, it’s because its design is basically the same as the cover for Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch.

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