What I Read: August 2013

I read 8 books in August, 7 fiction and 1 non-fiction. 4 were on the Kindle and 4 were in print. BALANCE! One was even from my much-neglected “Read it or Lose it” list.

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear. The 7th book in the Maisie Dobbs series – this one deals with the suspicious death of a military cartographer during World War I. I immediately followed this book with book 8 below. Of the two, this one was better.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear. In Book 8, Maisie takes a gig as a professor in order to do some top secret spying (in addition to her investigator day job, she has been recruited by British Intelligence). Enjoyable, but not my favorite of her books.

One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler. Having an only child has been on my mind lately. Because we have one. At least we only have one child and we have no plans right now to have another (and planning is generally required for queer folks to add a kid to the family). This was a good book to pick up as I ponder what it might mean to have an only child. It takes a good look at actual scientific studies about family size and puts to rest some of the negative stereotypes that people have about only children (that they are selfish or that they are often lonely). The author makes the point that we often ascribe particular characteristics to our sibling status – only or oldest, middle, youngest, that statistically don’t have any correlation. It’s just one of the lenses through which we view our life. It wasn’t the best written book ever (and had a surprising number of typos!), but it was an interesting read.

Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell. This was my “Read It or Lose it” book, and it was good. Rendell is a well-known British mystery writer, but I haven’t read much of hers. Her big series is the Inspector Wexford one. I’ve read the first 2 in that series, and thought this was the third, but it’s actually the 15th (clearly there was a mix-up somewhere), so this was a big jump. It was still enjoyable though. Rendell’s writing is more graphic and her crimes more violent than, say, Agatha Christie’s. Still good, just something to be aware of. Cozy mysteries, these are not.

Atonement by Ian McEwan. It took me an embarrassingly long time to read this book. I would check it out as an eBook, read it fitfully in the background of other reading, it would expire, I would put it on hold and wait a few weeks/months for it to come in, and then start back with it. This is especially funny given that I think that this is one of the best written books I’ve read all year, seriously. It’s just a beauty to read, and the story is engaging too. I don’t want to say too much, but it deals with the aftermath of an event that happens in a British family before World War II. The story is told from a variety of perspectives, which is interesting as well. I guess is was just a slow read (for me).

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. I read and loved Fox’s first book which was about the linguistics of sign language and what it tells us about how language (and our brains) work, so I was eager to give this book a try. It tells the story of the deciphering of Linear B, an ancient written script for an unknown oral language found on clay tablets in Greece. It was also really interesting, although I still thing I like Talking Hands the best.

Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. This is the first book in a little 4-book series written in the late ’50s and ’60s about the adventures of a London charwoman (aka, house cleaner). I discovered the series because the last two books (Mrs. Harris, M.P. and Mrs. Harris Goes to Parliament) have been recently rereleased as eBooks. I saw them when browsing on Overdrive and thought they sounded like fun reads, but wanted to start at the beginning (like most series readers, I would think). I have no idea why a publisher would rerelease just the later books in a series, but there you have it. I decided this would be a good Beach read for our Labor Day trip, and I bought an old, beat-up print copy of the book. It’s hard to read the Kindle Fire in bright sunlight anyway, so I would want to have at least one print book with me. Mrs. ‘Arris did not disappoint, her trip to Paris to buy herself a Dior dress was just the ticket for the beach – especially with a toddler, which means your reading is often interrupted!

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. If you could call a dystopian novel, sweet, that’s what this is. The city of Ember is from the indeterminate future and that entire city is underground – supplied by store rooms and lit by electric light – now things are beginning to run out and Ember’s survival is in question. 12-year-old Lina Mayfleet and her friend Doon Harrow think there must be a solution though, and set out to find it. Nothing violent or particularly scary in this one.

What I Read: August 2013

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