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Another effort to put my currently-reading list into order.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but I actually do read books written for grown-ups.  Sometimes they slow me down, since I’m used to quicker, shorter books, but I whizzed through this batch fairly quickly – especially The Help and Blackout.  I’ve been getting into the summer reading spirit, what with all of the kids signing up and getting prizes at the library, and it’s been fun having big fat novels that I can sink into.
Juliet, Naked Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

An enjoyable read, filled with the same blend of humor and realism as most of Hornby’s books. Not something that’s particularly stuck with me, but satisfying and funny in the moment. I appreciate Hornby’s willingness to avoid any pat resolutions.

Source: my library system

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I’ve never gotten the fascination with the Salem witch trials, but this story managed to hook me by starting from a different angle. In the main storyline, a historian in the early 90s finds clues leading her to a previously undiscovered primary source, while flashbacks show us the lives of women descended from one of the books early owners, Deliverance Dane. Definitely recommended to anyone interested in either the witch trials or in stories focused on historical discoveries. The resolution was a bit anti-climactic for me, but I definitely enjoyed the ride, and Katherine Kellgren’s reading was, as usual, spot-on.

Source: my library system

A Study in Scarlet A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

This was my first venture into a Sherlock Holmes novel, although I read a few short stories a while back. It’s easy, of course, to see Holmes’ influence on other fictional detectives, and the mystery was the sort where the reader couldn’t possibly solve it from the clues given, but it was fun to go along for the ride with Watson. The only downside to the story was the extensive flashback to the American West that really bogged things down.

Source: my library system

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Books with 200+ holds don’t usually live up to the hype…or maybe I just assume they won’t and never put them on hold. In this case, I’m glad I waited. The story follows three women in Mississippi in the early 1960s – two black maids and one white woman just out of college. While I can’t speak to the accuracy of any of the viewpoints, it certainly rings true and is compelling in a way that’s never forced or cheesy. It gives a glimpse into the way things were and the reasons it was so hard to change things. Definitely recommended to anyone looking for a novel with compelling characters, a vivid setting, and plenty of meat on its bones.

Source: my library system

Blackout Blackout by Connie Willis

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the fact that I have to wait until the fall for the conclusion. I would’ve happily broken my back carrying around a massive single volume, if only it meant I could spend more time with the characters and find out what happens. As usual, the book has Willis’ brisk, almost frantic pace, and uses time travel to illuminate history. Unlike in some of her other time travel novels, we don’t get to flip back to the “present day” along the way – like the historians, we’re stuck in 1940s England. This serves the plot, but it also makes the historical elements that much more engrossing. Instead, the story is broken up by switching points of view, following three main characters. A few other characters are thrown in, but I’ll have to wait until All Clear comes out to see their significance.

I have a few theories about things, but I mostly just enjoying the story too much to stop and think about them. Several clues were dropped early on but left hanging, presumably to be resolved in All Clear – I know she’ll follow through. In addition to the full of wondering how all the plot-lines will converge, the story is also satisfying as a piece of historical fiction, bringing alive London during the Blitz. While I’ve read other books set during that time, Willis is the best at putting you there.

Not a work of literary genius, but a perfect couldn’t-put-it-down summer read.

Source: my library system

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July 2014
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Ben remembered that he likes yogurt.

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Dinner success - the rare occasion when we eat exactly the same thing (except no hot salsa on his rice & beans).

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