Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What I've been reading: October 2012

October seems to have passed in a mere blink of the eye, and somehow, I don't seem to have read as much as usual. Lots of work, a bit less free time than I'm used to, social obligations...they've all been cutting into my reading time!  Still, there have been some real winners this month, so without further ado, here's my list.

The Keepsake, by Tess Gerritsen.  Gosh, it feels like I read this eons ago!  I'm still working my way through Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles thrillers, and enjoying them greatly.  You'll notice as I get toward the most recent titles, I'm slowing down a bit to savor them.  This one was right up my alley--in a Boston museum's storage, a perfectly preserved mummy is found.  The carbon dating of the wrappings estimates the age at about four thousand years old, but when the body is CAT scanned, a modern bullet is detected in the mummy's leg, making it a murder case for Boston P.D.   What follows is a cat-and-mouse game full of red herrings, and plenty of antiquities talk in between.  Really a stand-out.  349 pages

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.  I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Strout's work, and somehow I'd never gotten around to reading Olive Kitteridge before now, for October's book club meeting.  A novel told in stories, each features main character Olive at different points in her life, though often she is a secondary character seen through the eyes of someone else in her small community.  This was a particularly great book for discussion, as there are many connections and echoing themese and elements of foreshadowing to talk about.  And it wouldn't be Strout without some of the most thoughtful, beautifully restrained prose I've ever read.  Highly recommended, both in print and in audio format.  270 pages.

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling.  Rowling's first foray into adult fiction, five years after the close of the Harry Potter series, has come under close scrutiny and has certainly had mixed reviews.  If you've been reading here for awhile, you know that I encourage people to give all books a chance, but not every book is for every reader.  While The Casual Vacancy is billed as a black comedy, it is not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny.  Rather, the humor comes in small, sly, often nasty bursts that took me by surprise more than once.  But dark?  Yes, it is.  Dark and raw and gritty.  I believe Americans in particular have an idyllic view of village life in Britain, and Rowling very calmly turns that view on its head in this calculated tale.  When a well-loved parish councillor dies suddenly, the result is a casual vacancy on the council.  In the weeks that follow, petty squabbles over who should fill this vacancy turn progressively more vile.  An unflinching look at the worst, and best, in people--I loved every minute, but this is not for the faint of heart and most certainly not appropriate for the under-18 crowd.  503 pages.

The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom.  Another book club book, as I'm working to prep for November's meeting.  This is a tale with an undertone of menace throughout, of a girl orphaned into indentured servitude on a Virginia plantation, where she is raised in the kitchen house on a large tobacco plantation.  Young Lavinia, by a twist of serendipity, goes to Williamsburg for several years, enjoying an education and society while playing companion to her master's distant family.  When she returns to the plantation years later, it is to find that she is no longer welcomed with open arms by the people who had a hand in raising her, and old villains return to create mayhem and ill will at every turn.  The narrative is taught and it is a compulsive read.  Thoroughly enjoyed and looking forward to discussing this with the group in November.  368 pages.

What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman.  Lippman is a new-to-me author, and this title is a bit older, published in 2007.  A woman heading home after years away is involved in a traffic accident and leaves the scene, injured and dazed.  Detained and hospitalized, she mentions knowledge of a decades-old missing-persons case and Baltimore homicide detective Kevin Infante is brought in to help uncover the details.  I can honestly say that this was riveting and constantly surprising.  I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Lippman's work in the future.  376 pages.

And that's it for the month.  Looking over these titles, I'm foreseeing a lighter, fluffier list for November, like a holiday-inspired palate cleanser.  I've been reading a fair amount of dark, serious fiction lately, and I'm feeling the need for a bit of a break.  Any recommendations for something a little lighter?  I'd love to know--leave me a comment!

For my reading challenge this year:

October totals:
5 titles
1,866 oages

Year-to-date totals:
64/100 titles: 64%
26,250/50,000 pages: 52%

Ah well, I'll keep tracking til the end of the year, but a challenge isn't a challenge unless it's challenging, right? 

I'll be back on Thursday with the list of new fiction titles coming out in (gulp) December!  Happy reading!

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