I think I might have lost track of at least one book I read in June. Ah well, it’s been a lose track of things kind of month. Super busy and firing on all cylinders. But look, it's only July 1 and here I am posting for June. Is that a new leaf I hear?
I started the month cozy-style, with Farmed and Dangerous by Edith Maxwell. Not a challenging read and it’s not out to bust any conventions of the genre. Still, it offers a mostly enjoyable take. The plucky female entrepreneur is a small-scale organic farmer facing the challenges of her first winter greenhouse growing season; when someone dies after eating her produce, she becomes a suspect. A pretty typical set-up and story, though I did enjoy learning more about the farming aspect.
The narrative gets irritatingly preachy in parts, and I say this as someone who makes deliberate efforts to buy local and organic where possible. That said, I’d certainly give another installment in this series a chance.
Kerry Greenwood’s Death Before Wicket, another mystery, was my next choice. Set in 1920’s Australia, the wealthy, startlingly independent protagonist is a something who something. Plus there was a lot about cricket, which zzzzzzz…. Oh sorry. Yeah, it didn’t set my world on fire. I'm not even going to search up a pic of the cover.
Next up is one of my favourite contemporary popular authors, Sharyn McCrumb. Her Appalachian mysteries are particularly brilliant, heartrending, beautiful. She’s also responsible for kooky, intriguing titles like Bimbos of the Death Sun and If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him. Irresistible.
The Ballad of Tom Dooley is her version of the real story behind the old folk song. The author did piles of research in an effort to get the details right and to ensure her hypothesis was entirely plausible. (Spoiler alert: she doesn’t believe Tom Dula was the killer.) I’m fascinated by her ability to create a world in which there are almost no innately likeable characters––the book is told from the perspective of a truly awful woman––yet tell a story that is nevertheless fascinating and enjoyable to read. It wouldn’t be at the tippy-top of my pile of Sharyn McCrumb novels, but that’s a very high bar indeed.
And now for something entirely different, Lock In by John Scalzi. Okay, it’s not entirely different. It opens with a murder that needs to be solved, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This riveting novel takes place in the near future, in a North America highly similar to our own. A virus has run through the population, rendering a significant number of people “locked in” to their own bodies. They are alive: they can hear, feel, think, but they can’t move or speak without the aid of implanted neural networks and the use of external technology.
The more enabling technology allows them to be back in society, the more society wants to limit them. The government votes to cut funding for research and support because it’s no longer popular. That changes the landscape for private companies involve in R&D. Then, the enabling technology is used in an unforeseen way as a diabolical weapon. It’s a fascinating and original story, and so strangely plausible. You should read it, for sure.
Edit to add: I remember the book I forgot! This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. I was hesitant about this book because I don't really relish thinking too deeply about a family mourning their dad. (My dad passed about 20 months ago, and I still miss him all the freakin time.) Yet I did enjoy it thoroughly. The book was very much about family dynamics, particularly sibling dynamics and it's pretty over-the-top. No surprise that it's been made into a movie because it reads as if that was the end game. Which, incidentally, is not meant to be snarky – just an observation about the feel. Anyhow, that's that. I feel better, don't you?
Oh, and here's one more, Dead to the Last Drop by Cleo Coyle . I knew the list seemed short! So I can't say it stands out in my mind if I'm being honest, but I did appreciate the bits of jazz background as well as Underground Railroad history, which were handled with a light touch. Okay, so that's it for now. Any other books that re-emerge in my consciousness can join the July list!