Friday, September 22, 2023

Book Stack ~ August 2023

  A monthly post about what I've been reading.

Usually I take a photo of the books I read on the last day of the month, so that even if I don't get around to posting about them for another three weeks, I at least know what they were. This time I forgot to do that and had to recreate the stack! Luckily I hadn't gotten around to putting/giving them away so I'm pretty sure this list is accurate.

After reading some heavy stuff about the former Yugoslavia in July, I had gotten onto a Mary Stewart kick for something light. I continued that streak into August with Madam Will You Talk, a fun and suspenseful romp through the French countryside (and the second of her books that I've read recently which not only relies heavily on characters smoking to give them something to do while they converse--to avoid talking head syndrome--but also to provide a significant clue to solving the mystery. Interesting how dated that device is now!). I also read The Stormy Petrel, which had such a great setup--a remote Scottish Island, two mysterious men appearing out of nowhere into the narrator's life (and cottage), and a whole bird-watching sub-plot, but I felt like she wrapped up the mystery too quickly and neatly, and while I support the instinct of using the rest of the book to resolve a conservation/land development/bird protection issue, it didn't make for suspenseful, or even all that interesting, reading. 

Back in the romantic suspense/romp through the countryside vein, I re-read (probably re-re-re-re-read) Elizabeth Peters's Her Cousin John, which has an alternate title in some editions of The Camelot Caper, because I'm interested in the caper as a genre (sub-genre?) and most suggested titles in articles about the style are by dudes. It's an entertaining and amusing book, and as a bonus it introduces a character who becomes a staple in the later Vicky Bliss series. I even found a scholarly article about it, which I also found entertaining, both the fact that someone wrote it and the article itself.

In a more serious but still thoroughly enjoyable vein, I read Hotel Cuba, the new novel by my friend and mentor Aaron Hamburger. It's based on the story of his grandmother's experience of emigrating from Eastern Europe to America via Cuba in the 1920s, when the US was not exactly welcoming of Jewish immigrants. Such an interesting peek into a slice of history.

In the nonfiction realm, I read Christian Cooper's Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a black Man in the Natural World, which delves into science fiction, growing up gay, Black, and nerdy, writing comics, traveling the world, and, of course, bird watching and the notorious events of the day on which a white woman decided to call the police on him for birding-while-Black, coincidentally on the same day George Floyd was murdered by white police officers. Fortunately  Cooper came out of the incident intact and has since gone on to host a National Geographic program and do other great things around birding and social justice, as well as write this book, which is super engaging.

And, finally, I finished reading Elizabeth George's first craft book Write Away, which gives very useful advice for crafting a novel in general (not just a crime novel), the most useful of which is: 

You will be published if you possess...talent, passion, and discipline.

You will probably be published if you possess...either talent and discipline or passion and discipline.

You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline....

But if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published.

 Which is to say, sit your butt down and get to work!

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