Sunday 7 April 2013

Books read in March

It's over a week since my last post, I still have comments to answer from that, but it's well into April so I will do my 'Books read last month' post before I do anything else at all. I will also do an update on my challenges and possibly say a word or two about what I've been reading over the last week or so.

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.


DesLily said...

holy cow! you really have read a lot! I only did 4 in March but I"m content with one a week. you are turning into a reading machine lol..

at least it sounds like you are having all good reads and that's really important! :o)

I am reading another for OUaT called a Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony.. I read it eons ago so it's a reread but I sure remembered very little about it!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I did a quick scan of my bookshelves when I read this post and sure enough, I have at least three James Lee Burke books there, so I can't think why I have never tried one before. Now I have also checked out the 'Robicheaux' series on Fantastic Fiction, I shall definitely be scheduling them into my reading somehow! I see that you are up to 'Black Cherry Blues', number three in the series, so you only have another seventeen to go, to catch up!! Good Luck with that!

We met up earlier in the week with my God-daughter, who lives up in Llandudno. She never reads a book, despite being a teacher and would seldom watch a film which wasn't a romantic comedy. I was therefore amazed when she started asking if I had read 'The Help', as she had both seen the film and read the book and loved both. Now I really do have to be the last person on the planet to need to read it very soon!

If you enjoyed the Maya Angelou book, then you might like this programme on the BBC iplayer, when she was a guest on the 'Front Row' programme.

A great post, full of information and some great recommendations, thanks.


Peggy Ann said...

Cath, you are putting me to shame with my measly old 10 books for the year! How I wish postage to you wasn't so much! I would send you some America books!

Susan said...

7 books is excellent, Cath! That's what I read also. I was trying for 8, but finished it on the weekend. And you read some really good ones that you enjoyed, that's what really counts. I'm happy you are enjoying James Lee Burke so much. I like the series very much also. I read several many years ago, and now dip into it.

I was wondering about Monsters Corner, I saw it a little while ago. Which stories did you like? I'm reading a horror anthology right now, as a matter of fact :-) A Book of Horrors ed by Stephen Jones. Some excellent stories in this one.

Susan said...

PS You know I want Walking the Lines now! :-)

Cath said...

Pat: Well some of the books I read were real pageturners and thus quick reads. The Dave Robicheaux books, for instance, I can read in a couple of days. So it looks like I've read a lot when really I haven't.

Piers Anthony? Is he one of the classic sci fi and fantasy writers? I don't think I've read anything by him but I think P has. Look forward to your review of that.

Yvonne: If you already have some JLB books then you can try his books very easily. Yes, Black Cherry Blues is book 3. I just got book 4 from AM and book 5 is on reserve at the library. I'm hoping to be able to get most from the library and my husband has a few that I've given him as Christmas or Birthday presents.

You know, life is full of tiny little coincidences. My nephew lives and works in the local comprehensive in the town where you live. One of his 3 sisters... lives in LLandudno like your god-daughter. And if she liked The Help that's now 2 of us encouraging you to read it. LOL.

Peggy: It's not how much you read but whether or not you love what you read. And you know, millions of people never read anything at all.

Susan: 'Loving' the JLB books, and I'm sure the sense of place is what's doing it. Yes, I liked all of the books last month. Oddly I tend to like most of what I read these days, perhaps this is because I'm more choosy now.

The one story that stuck out for me in The Monster's Corner was The Lake by Tananarive Due. It was set in Florida and was nicely weird. In fact I thought there was a book there, rather than a short story. I checked her FF page she doesn't appear to have written any actual books in the same vein. Shame. I loved the story.

Oh yes. I knew you would want Walk the Lines. LOL!

Nan said...

I think Tom may be interested in the rivers book. Seems like a lot were left out though; the Thames for example. (says the Anglophile) I love the idea of a 'travel book shelf.'

Cath said...

Nan: I didn't mention all of the rivers in the book, but yes you are right there weren't any from the UK. I thought it was slightly odd, The Thames for instance is quite an iconic river, but the editor is American and obviously had her own ideas about she wanted to include. Walk the Lines is a book that would certainly appeal to you, Nan!

Oh yes, I love my small but perfectly formed travel book shelf.