Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Middle Sister's May Reads

May was a good month, not because I read a lot, but because I finally finished a book group selection that I started in January. January! I will freely admit that I just passed over the 400-page March/April selection and have no intention of starting it. Call me Rebel Middle.

Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic I first encountered Miss Seeton back in the 1980s, when I worked in a bookstore. I read every one, and I think the paperbacks may be moldering somewhere in my mother's house. Imagine my delight to learn that a publisher is reissuing these as digital books. Hooray! So I started with the first, in which we meet Miss Seeton and become quite fond of her. The Battling Brolly is her nickname, and as much as I'd like to grow up to be Miss Marple, I think a crossover between Miss Seeton and Mrs.Pollifax is more illustrative of the old lady I'd be. Cosy mystery lovers will welcome discovering this elderly female detective and her English fictional world. Very recommended. NetGalley

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne This is the two-volume book it took me 5 months to read. Partly because it was so long and partly because long stretches of it were so boring. I don't remember The Scarlet Letter being this obtusely verbose. Maybe Hawthorne was paid by the word? I read that he wanted this to be his gothic novel, and while there are certainly gothic elements, it falls far, far short of the subgenre in terms of plotting, characters, even setting. Just be grateful this is not the Hawthorne assigned as school reading. Not recommended, and I hope his ghost doesn't haunt me for that opinion.

The Lunatic at Large by J. Storer Clouston This was the May/June book club selection, and it was a nice palate cleanser after The Marble Faun. I had never heard of Clouston, but apparently his novels were very popular during Victorian times (at least, so says the Interwebz). I enjoyed the sly humor, the ridiculousness of some of the lunatic's escapades, but still wonder at how he managed to be deemed a lunatic in the first place (which takes place before the novel begins). Trick ending that I admit I was too naive to see coming (my only excuse was I was still clambering my way out of the sinkhole that was The Marble Faun and should have given this more attention). Recommended for those that think all Victorian literature was Dickensian in style and substance.

Murder Under the Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona Cute concept, although it seems a bit after the trendy mark, to have a bunch of senior women staging photo shoots to create their own sexy seniors calendar (a point that one of the characters makes herself). I am reaching a certain age myself, and I like spunky older female detectives. I experienced some confusion early on keeping all the women separate; only a few had, to me, really distinguishing patterns of speech or some characteristic repeatedly commented on by the author (one walked very slowly) to allow me to recognize her when she was named. My biggest problem is that we are told right away our spunky seniors are recreating the illicit one-night romantic stand of one of the women's ancestors, and then, as if it was a huge secret, we find out, many chapters later, that a child was the result. Well, yes, if her great-granddaughter was recreating her one night stand, then it's no secret there was a child (location 1709 vs. Chapter 1). What was unknown was what happened to the carriage driver, which makes the discovery of the diary and all the passages related to it pointless. Some of the women's inner thoughts and comments were, well, the only word is, stupid. "Was he [the shooter] waiting for them to bring the body up top so he could finish him off?" If the shooter was a sniper, she wouldn't have had this thought because they'd all be dead already. "For as remotely located as the bridge is there's almost no graffiti." Um, that remote location would explain why there is no graffiti, ladies. And they take evidence off the murder victim, the first diary. Ever heard of withholding evidence? "...she was descended from Mediterranean stock" [location 809] and "Hispanic-looking faces" [location 2453]--cringe worthy phrasing, and not just because of political correctness. I got tired of the repetition of the term Sixty List and the constant references to pop culture (Dr. Oz, really?). The final straw was stealing the key off the body of Belinda Flowers in the funeral home, which the author calls "taken off." Nope, call it what it is--stealing. And they are going to let Dolly be convicted of something she was duped into and hope that "God takes care of it?" Too many typos, too many inconsistencies, too many bad plot devices--not recommended. NetGalley

Horses of the Night by Geoffrey Aggeler I like historical mysteries, and I don't care if the protagonist is gay or bisexual, but I had to stop reading this after only a few chapters. There was a dramatic sword fight with some very atmospheric prose, but even that could not salvage my interest. I got tired of the main character talking about, referring to, judging every person he knew or met by whether he had/would/could/wanted to sleep with them. Frankly, I didn't like the character enough to care. Not recommended.  NetGalley