These are the books I read in August, 2013:
14 books, 4 crime, 3 classics, 3 non-fiction, 7 women authors, 6 non-US authors, 2 translated.
Note: I rate crime and other “formula/genre” novels on an A – F scale and everything else on 1-10. Genre fiction has it’s own conventions and usually emphasize plotting. The best of these should not be compared to “fine literature,” but still should get their own reward.
** The Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Galbraith (Brit)
Read by Robert Glenister 15 h. 54m.
Rating: A- / Crime
Comment: Author is better known as J.K. Rowling and the book is quite good! – an “A.” If the super-model with the messy will and funky friends and weirdo relatives didn’t jump or fall accidentally, who pushed her?
** Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
by Susan Elia MacNeal (Brit)
2012/ 384 pages
read by Wanda McCadden 9 h. 48m.
Rating: D / historical crime/spy
Comment: Stupid – don’t go there – what kind of genre is this where a possible murder occurs in a WWII spy organization and the amateur detective falls in love? Gads – I should have known better. It’s a Harlequin spy/murder! (my term)
** The Bellini Card (#3 in Yashim the Ottoman series)
by Jason Goodwin
2008 / 304 pages
read by Steven Hove 10h 24m
Rating B+/ historical crime – mid 19th century Istanbul and Venice – okay for fans – a “B”
** The Shell Game
by Steve Alten
2009 / 488p.
Rating: A- /dystopian
Comment – more of a political treatise or dystopian future fiction than an actual crime novel – If 9/11 is so messy politically – to the point of conspiracy paranoia – what’s going to happen the next time we need some oil or stats about oil?
I find classics totally fun because I’m interested in the history and classics are like getting a real eyeball peek into the times. These books generally get a 10 – sometimes a 9.5
by Charlotte Bronte (England)
1853 / 432 pages
rating: 10 / classic
Strange 1st person character in a somewhat gothic setting. Could be a fictionalized slice of Bronte’s biography. The usual Victorian literary techniques with emphasis on weather as metaphor but only a bit of the old “Dear Reader” type intrusive narrator.
** To the Lighthouse
by Virginia Woolf (Brit)
Rating: 10 / classic
A reread – early 20th century England – WWI, the peace before, war and clean-up. There are many ways to read this novel – I tend toward the historical but others focus on the psychological.
** The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French)
Lovely, fantastical story – more for adults than children, imo, although an adult reader should read as though through a child’s eyes.
** The Flamethrowers
by Rachel Kushner
Rating 10 /contemp fiction
Excellent! One of the best fictions I’ve read this year. It’s about the 1970s in New York art scene and Italy’s troubles in those years – themes like speed and art – reminds me of Delillo in some ways – Delillo meets Patty Smith (heh). A 10 (one of two for contemporary fiction this year so far – both by women.)
** The Blue Fox
by Sjon (Iceland)
2003/117 pages (Kindle)
Rating 9 /historical – magical realism
Takes place in 1890s in Iceland – magical realism of it’s own variety – Sjon is very good and I will read more.
** Love Medicine
by Louise Erdrich
1984/4o0 pages (rev. 1993, 2009)
Rating: 8.5 / contemp Native American fiction
Tales of contemporary North Dakota reservation Chippewa (back to about 1930). I like Erdrich but she’s not everyone’s cuppa – this is one of her best books.
** The Burgess Boys
by Elizabeth Strout
2013/ 320 pages
Rating 9 / contemp fiction
A page-turner – about racism and dysfunctional families and guilt and stuff like that, but it’s interesting because the characters drive the plot drives the characters drive the plot. Strout is so good.
** Telex From Cuba
by Rachel Kushner
rating 8.5 / historical fiction
The end of US based United Fruit Company operations in Cuba – 1952-1959. The coming of revolution. Themes of identity, race, social status, corruption (on all sides), ex-pat issues. Much of it told through the eyes of a child.
by Paul Alexander
2011/ 77 pages
read by Paul Christy 2h 47m
rating 8 / true crime
A contemporary True Crime – very short procedural – good stuff if you’re into it – a freebie from Audible.
** The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
by George Packer
2013/437 pages (Kindle)
Rating: 8.5 /contemp. US non-fiction
– very, very good look at today’s socio-economic mess as told by various folks from different sectors and situations. Interview style, not oral history but still the same feeling as Studs Terkel’s Hard Times.
** Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America’s First Female Tycoon
by Charles Stack
Rating: 8 / biography
Fun! Hetty was a much more complex woman than I ever imagined. She seems to have been a lot of positive things as well as miserly. The focus is on Hetty’s business acumen but there are lots of surprising things about the woman.
** The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age
by Janet Wallach
2012/ 304 pages
Rating 7 /biography
Another Hetty Green biography, newer but not really better. The secondary focus is on the Gilded Age without adding one whit to my knowledge of that. There’s a better psychological treatment here – less on the court and business dealings. Some interesting tid-bits which weren’t included in the Slack book. Wallach is much more sympathetic toward her – she comes off almost as a sweetheart.