The Mauritius Command (Book 4) by Patrick O’Brian. In this episode of the historical fiction series, the focus is very much on Lucky Jack Aubrey as a through-going Navy leader. Very little of the romantical stuff. I feel like O’Brian’s dude-bro readers were like “more cannons!, less chick-stuff!” after the last novel. I’m sure they were pleased. I’m not damning with faint praise though; I enjoyed it too. I do like me some longing looks and fluttering hearts, but between KiIlick and the “last of the true short French bastards” and a drowned baby (a type of pudding!), there was plenty to keep me amused.
The Girl From Long Guyland by Lara Reznik. The blurb describes it as “Memoir meets Thriller.” It’s an entertaining book, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller as the reader is more clued into what’s going on than the protagonist. It’s told in the first person by Laila, the “girl” of the title, in chapters that flip between present day Laila – a long-married IT professional with grown children – and wanna-be-hippie, student Laila, who gets way in over her head with an older, rougher crowd. I think the tension in the book probably would have been better served by some judicious editing of the present day layers of drama that take the plot over the top and makes it seems like Laila has perhaps grown chronologically and in the trappings of maturity but not not so much otherwise.
The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher. If you loved Bridget Jones back in the day – and I did – you are bound to enjoy Tara Babcock and her quest to recover from the end of her marriage. The novel opens a year after her husband has left her, so it’s not like she’s rushing into anything. Her friends find a Cosmo article about the seven steps to closure and insist it’s time she follows them. Light, fluffy, fun and (almost) completely inoffensive, it's an excellent vacation read.
Serial Date: A Leine Basso Thriller (Book 1) by DV Berkom. Here’s an actual thriller with a female protagonist in the dudely mould of like, I don’t know, Jack Reacher or Hieronymous Bosch. Will keep you turning pages, and you won’t roll your eyes.
Hushabye: A Kate Redman Mystery by Celina Grace. A murdered nanny and the baby is gone. Was it a creepy stranger? Someone in the family? Motivated by revenge? I was hooked from the first page and powered through in a day. Another excellent vacation read.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Masterful. Why didn’t I know about this novel before there was an Amazon Prime series? I had watched one episode of the series and didn’t get it at all. At the time, I realized it was probably not a knit-and-watch, requiring more attention than I was willing to give. Having now read the novel, I’m looking forward to viewing the series to see how they could have possible attempted to captured its intricacy. It’s a great read. I just finished, and I want to reread because I know I missed layers. I’m also deeply aware that it was written almost 60 years in a very different cultural context. So intriguing, and I’m going to have to dig in to learn more.
Anathem by Neil Stephenson. For most of this year, I probably wouldn’t have even attempted this novel. As it was, I had to get my courage up before I tackled it. It’s big, has lots of coined words (but linguistically sensible ones to English speakers), and takes place in a world like ours but most definitely not ours. Stephenson has built an entire universe, cosmology, history… and manages to explicate much of this thinking throughout the novel. Yes, daunting. But it’s also a page turner adventure story with fighting shaven-headed-ninja-monk-types, magic, a love interest, best friends, nuclear waste, a dinosaur skeleton, and a bottomless pit. Believe me, none of those details are spoilers. You should probably just read this book. When you do, could you explain the dinosaur skeleton part? I didn’t really get that. Thanks.
The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983–1992 by Tina Brown. These diaries showcase an interesting, intense, fiercely bright woman capturing her interior monologue from the racing pulse of an absolutely manic period of American culture. Her British outsider’s take ensures she has a much broader perspective than many of the “Masters of the Universe” and other icons she rubs shoulders with. These diaries cover Ms. Brown’s editorship of Vanity Fair after its precarious relaunch to its glory days. The inner look at the machinations of a brilliant editor and the boldface names (Kissinger, Madonna, Calvin Klein, Trump, the Reagans, Dominick Dunne....) that are all in a day’s work – or an evening’s socializing – are fascinating; more intriguing still to me is the personal side she reveals. Each generation of “having it all” women with careers must lay tracks for the women (and men) we work with to ensure that career success and family success are not competing goals.
On the pod:
Series: Revisionist History, a podcast from Malcolm Gladwell, who grew up in Elmira of all places, just down the road from My Little Corner in Waterloo. East episode of Revisionist History reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. "Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance." With three seasons of ten episodes each, there's yet to be an actual dud in my opinion. But several have really opened my eyes to some interesting ideas.
As a tasting menu, might I suggest: