First up, books for March. I did quite well, seven in all and this be they:
13. The Monster Corner edited by Christopher Golden. This was an anthology of horror stories which was not bad, some very good stories, some not so good.
14. Walk the Lines by Mark Mason. An excellent non-fiction recounting how the author walked the entire London Underground 'overground'. Funny and quirky.
15. Keeping the Dead by Tess Gerritsen. Book seven of her excellent Rizzoli and Isles series. All Egyptian archaeology and mummies and thoroughly entertaining.
16. The Neon Rain by Jame Lee Burke. The first book in the author's Dave Robicheaux series set on the coast of Louisiana. Great stuff. Loved it.
17. The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. First in the author's Peter Grant series, a sort of urban fantasy. Funny and inventive.
18. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 1960s Mississippi dealing with how black maids were treated. Simply amazing.
19. Heaven's Prisoner by James Lee Burke. Book two in the Dave Robicheaux series and every bit as good as book one.
As I said, seven books in all and thus quite a good month for me despite being busy towards the end of the month. I think it might be down to the lack of good TV at the moment. It's meant we often turn the TV off and read. Of course there are exceptions to that, the new series of Foyle's War has been terrific for instance. (The war is over but he's now working for MI5.) Last of three tonight. And there are some good cooking shows on, Masterchef, The Hairy Bikers and Paul Hollywood's bread baking series. We're beautifully spoilt in the UK for cooking shows. I digress. Favourite book of the month? Without question, The Help.
OK... Book challenges. We're a quarter of the way through the year so time for an update.
I'm doing the What's in a Name challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads. For this you have to read six books that fit certain categories and I've read two so far:
I. Up or Down: High Rising by Angela Thirkell
2. Kitchen: The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
I have Party or Celebration, Fire, Emotion and Lost or Found to go.
I'm doing the Southern Literature Reading challenge which is being hosted by The Introverted Reader. For this you simply have to read four southern USA based books in 2013. So far I've read two:
1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Both of these were stunning.
I'm doing Carl's Once Upon a Time VII challenge, which is to read five fantasy books before the 21st. June. I've read one book so far:
1. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.
My own 'Read around America' challenge is also still ongoing. It's going slowly but surely and I'll do a separate post about it soon, but at the moment I seem to be very involved with Louisiana, Montana and American rivers!
So now we're into April and I've finished two books so far.
Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke is book three in his Dave Robicheaux series. (Why yes, I do seem to be hooked...) This one finds Dave still running his fishing business after resigning from the police. He's fairly settled, looking after his adopted daughter, Alafair, but is still haunted by his demons: his alcoholism, the death of his wife, events in the Vietnam war. Back into his life comes friend, Dixie Lee Pugh, who needs his help. Dave resists at first sensing trouble, and when he relents he certainly gets it, finding himself head suspect in a murder case. Dave discovers that the source of his problems may be in Montana and he and Alafair head off to live there for a while to try and discover who is trying to frame him for murder. This installment of the series was an excellent one. I have to say that the plots in this series are a trifle samey. Generally the head of some organised crime ring is out to get Dave. But that's fine... they're different enough to keep my attention and anyway I suspect that's not really why I'm reading them. The thing with these books is the sense of place. Burke's writing when he's describing the coastal area around New Orleans and New Iberia is beautiful. No other word for it. I've never been there but when he talks about a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, or driving the roads across the swamps, or fishing on the rivers, you are *there*. And of course in this book you are also there with him in Montana, and the descriptions are every bit as good. James Lee Burke is a stunningly good descriptive and atmospheric writer and I think that answers why I'm so hooked on this terrific series. Oh and I even picked up a book rec from this story - Of Love and Dust by Ernest J. Gaines which takes place on a plantation in Louisiana in the 1940s.
My second book for April is actually one I've been reading for a few weeks now and it's The Gift of Rivers edited by Pamela Michael.
This one does what it says on the tin... it's a book about rivers and what they mean to various authors. Hard to review this, partly because I've been reading it so long but also each story is more about atmosphere rather than concrete experience, but it's none the worse for that. About half deal with American rivers, the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Kentucky, the Arkansas, the Colorado, and so on and that's fine with me as I have an interest in the USA. Others that have sections are the Ganges, the Nile, the Congo, the Amazon, and many more. My favourite was Rebecca Lawton's 'Headwater' about the Missouri. She included a lot about Lewis and Clark's travels and I found that fascinating... I must, at some stage, read a proper account of their journeys as I've only read bits and pieces. I also enjoyed 'Northwest Passage' by David James Duncan, about his boyhood on the Columbia river, and 'A Room on a River' by well-known travel writer, Jan Morris, about the Nile. (And she's another travel writer I really must get to one of these days.) I did plan to put this in the charity shop box when I'd finished as I only paid 80p for it from a charity shop. But I find I can't. I want to keep it, partly to reread it at some stage but also... it has the most brilliant 'recommended reading' list at the back, listing hundreds of travel books that are about, or involve, rivers. It stays on my travel book shelf.
So, onwards and upwards into April. I want to read more for the Once Upon a Time challenge, more Dave Robicheaux books, The Glass Guardian by Linda Gillard, This House of Sky by Ivan Doig, about Montana, and maybe read Mark Twain's book about the Mississippi. How much of that will actually happen remains to be seen. Not as much as I would like I suspect... but it's good to have reading goals. Happy reading.