Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Book Chase July 2021 Reading Plan

As another month draws to a close, I've just finished my eleventh June book, Reavis Z. Wortham's The Right Side of Wrong, so ready or not, it's time for me to start looking forward to what my July reading might look like. I see that I ended up reading six of the nine books I expected I would be reading in June (and abandoned two others), plus five others that were not even on my radar thirty days ago. That near 50-50 split has become pretty much par for the course this year. 

Here are my initial picks for July-reading:

I've had a paperback copy of this 1980 travel memoir around for a while, but because I hate movie-tie-in covers with a passion, I've decided to use this cover in place of the one I actually own. Here, Robyn Davidson recounts her "solo trek across 1,700 miles of Australian outback" that she made along with her four camels in 1977 as a 27-year-old. As much as I dislike the cover of the copy I have, I think I would probably enjoy the movie version of this tale, so I'll be looking for a way to watch the 2014 movie soon. 

She's Leaving Home is a 2014 standalone novel from William Shaw, a crime fiction writer whose work I've really come to admire. I found the book in the library while searching for the later books in Shaw's Alex Cupidi series. Those books are proving to be particularly hard to find, and since I was curious about Shaw's standalones anyway, I decided to grab this one while it was available. I did buy a British copy of the third book in the Cupidi series, but I don't expect to read that one in July. 


As everyone probably knows by now, I am a huge fan of the Akashic Books long, long series of crime fiction noir short story collections. There are well over 100 books in the series now, most of them collecting stories all set in one of the various cities around the world. Palm Springs Noir is to be published on July 6, so I really want to get it read and reviewed soon. This fourteen-story collection of almost 300 pages, is edited by Barbara DeMarco -Barrett, a Los Angeles-based writer.


Wednesday's Child (1992) is the sixth novel in Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series. I'm reading this one as part of my 2021 personal challenge to finally read some of the earlier novels from series that I only started reading at the mid-way point or later. I'm pretty sure I watched a television version of Wednesday's Child sometime in the past, so this one may seem overfamiliar to me once I begin reading it. It begins with the abduction from her home of a seven-year-old girl by a young couple posing as social workers.

The Child's Child is a 2012 standalone novel written by Ruth Rendell under her Barbara Vine pseudonym. The Vine books are generally suspenseful, character-driven thrillers and I've enjoyed many of them in the past. This one is about two adult siblings who put aside their differences to live together in the London home they've just inherited from their grandmother. The siblings manage to get along OK until Grace's brother moves his boyfriend into the house with them. The cover calls this one a "novel-within-a-novel."

I've been fascinated by John Lennon ever since I first heard the Beatles sing a song back in 1964. I always thought he was the most talented of the four Beatles, with Paul McCartney a relatively close second, and I vividly remember the news bulletin that announced his murder during a Monday Night Football game in 1980. This biography by Lesley-Ann Jones promises to "delve deep into (the) psyche of the world's most storied musician - the good, the bad, and the genius."


I picked this one up in late May, and I'm hoping to finally read it sometime in July. It is a series of interviews conducted by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager in which they ask notable authors to talk about "the books that shaped them and inspired them to leave their own literary mark." Among those interviewed are: Russell Banks, T.C. Boyle, Michael Chaben, Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, Donna Tartt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Susan Choi, and Jennifer Egan.


I've become a Ragnar Jónasson fan this year, and I'm looking forward to reading his standalone novel The Girl Who Died. Some of you have already read this one (the latest one, I think that is available in the US), and from what I can tell going in, the plot sounds almost claustrophobic in the sense that a young woman who wants to get a fresh start in life decides to move to one of the most isolated villages in all of Iceland - a village in which a grand total of ten people live. She finds herself an outcast there with no way out.

I suspect that only five or six of these eight are going to be read before the end of July, and I'm looking forward to learning which other books I'm not even thinking of right now will cause that to happen. In addition, I'm still reading three or four short stories per week from Wastelands: The New Apocalypse

It's hard to explain why, but the first day of every new month always fills me with a new enthusiasm. The ringer in July is that I am also hoping to finally hit the road for a couple of weeks to do more exploring in states like the Dakotas, Utah, New Mexico, Iowa...maybe even Wyoming again. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I feel safe and confident enough to stay in hotels again by mid-July. If not, no trip.

24 comments:

  1. Well this is a good list ... Several years ago -- maybe 3? -- we watched the Tracks movie about Robyn Davidson's journey ... I remember it being interesting ... though maybe sad about her dog? (if my memory is correct). It's on Prime (i think) ... The actors are good Mia Wasikowska & Adam Driver. Let us know what you think ...

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up about it being on Prime. I watched it last night and found it interesting even though it did not nearly catch the real accomplishment of that trek, IMO. Almost one half of the book is about how a woman who knew absolutely nothing about camels or the desert prepared herself in Alice Springs for the trip. What she went through in Alice Springs was, in a way, even more difficult than the trip itself, and the movie glossed over that in about its first ten minutes.

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  2. I read Tracks maybe twenty years ago? And I totally loved it. It was the right book at the right time for me. Never got to see the movie, though. And I'm looking forward to the new Ragnar Jonasson book, too. But I can't check it out until I manage to finish all the library books already cluttering my room. ;D

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    1. The book is much, much better than the movie. I can't imagine watching the movie without reading the book first or at the same time. Luckily, I'm half-way through the book and I could fill in some of the gaps left by the movie...huge holes in explaining things.

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    2. I'm not surprised the movie doesn't quite do justice to the book with this one. I think it'd be impossible to condense Davidson's amazing trek into just two hours on screen. I'll have to pull out my copy of her book and reread it before I see the movie.

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    3. I've read another 50 or so pages, and it looks like the movie made a few changes for dramatic effect, also. I'm struck by the racism on exhibit in the book that is just barely hinted at in the movie, too. Here's hoping the aborigines have a better time of it now than they did in the seventies.

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  3. A man with a plan! Looks like a good month of reading for you.

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    1. It's a start, Dorothy, but half the fun is watching how the plan changes over the coming weeks. The new discoveries are always a nice surprise.

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  4. I knew Palm Springs Noir would be on your list and was fairly certain of The Girl Who Died. My husband, the Lancashire Lad, would join you in being a tremendous John Lennon fan, and through him, I've learned to appreciate the man and his talents much more. I persuaded Denis to spend a week in a bothy on Balnakiel Beach in Durness by telling him that Lennon spent a lot of his summers there as a child.

    And a small aside about She's Leaving Home: I have that book on my TBR "short shelf," and it's listed on Stop You're Killing Me as the first Breen & Tozer mystery, with four books being in the series.

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    1. Palm Springs Noir is one I really look forward to because those are always fun. Best idea a publisher has had in years.

      Glad to hear that Denis is also a big Lennon fan. Over the years, I've come to appreciate Lennon's work more and more, and I'm really looking forward to this bio even though it will probably be later in the month before I can even begin it.

      I finally figured out that She's Leaving Home is the first of a series and not a standalone. Breen is another of Shaw's characters that I would never have dreamed would be used as the basis of a series. 100 pages into it, and wondering how he ever solves a case. By the way, the title of the book is also the title of a Beatles song from the Sgt. Pepper album, and all of the action is taking place around their Abby Road recording studio in 1968. That's a lot of fun.

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  5. Nice selection! I think the William Shaw standalone would be my first choice, but there are several others I'm interested in. Look forward to your opinions, Sam. :) How exciting that you are preparing for another road trip--and to the west instead of Bluegrass Country.

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    1. Jen, turns out that the Shaw book is not really a standalone as I had thought it was. As Cathy points out up above, it's actually the first book in another of Shaw's series featuring two of the cops in this one, Breen and his new female partner Tozer.

      Looking forward to the trip. It will be a lightly planned one, but since my grandson is going with me, I will be showing him some of the things I like most about that part of the country. He's only 19, but he's a big fan of Buddy Holly's music, so we are going to start with a stop in Lubbock to visit the Buddy Holly museum there, etc. and then on to Clovis, NM, to visit another little museum and hopefully visit the recording studio where Buddy & the Crickets made their early recordings. Should be fun.

      I've become a little disappointed in the "New Grass" direction that Bluegrass music has taken in the last couple of years. The festivals just aren't as much fun as they used to be now that fewer and fewer bands are using the traditional bluegrass band style. Just as country music got ruined, it seems to be happening now to Bluegrass.

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  6. An interesting mix for July. The William SHaw and Palms Springs Noir have me curious. Hope they are all winners.

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    1. Should be a good month, Diane, but since we may be on the road for two weeks, this will probably end up being my lightest reading month of the year. Probably will end up with a lot of carry-forwards into my August reading plan.

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  7. Quite a few of those books look interesting to me. I think I heard about Robyn Davidson before, was there a National Geographic article on her once? -or perhaps it was another woman who trekked the desert with camels, but I distinctly remember photographs.

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    1. You remember correctly, Jeane. Same woman...she must be 70 or 71 years old now

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  8. Tracks has been on my radar for several years so I must get to it. I want to read more about Australia to be honest, so far I've pretty much restricted myself to Down Under by Bill Bryson, which admittedly is wonderful but more is needed. The couple I read about recently who cycled round the world were surprised at how much they loved Oz.

    John Lennon was always my favourite Beatle which made me an oddity amongst all of my Paul McCartney fan friends. I'll be interested to hear about that book if you get to it.

    And Oooooh! The Writer's Library. How can that fail. (Well, I suppose it could...)

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    1. Cath, Tracks is a look at an aspect of Australian culture that probably doesn't get written about enough. The author's sympathy toward, and desire to get to better know, the Aborigine population is a big part of her memoir. What happened to those people over the centuries has been horrible - and shameful.

      As for the Beatles, I suppose Paul was always the most charmingly likable of the four (Ringo struck me as more of a buffoon than a clever man), so John only really started receiving his due from most people after the band grew up. And then, too, Yoko's influence alienated a lot of Beatles fans, so he had that going against him. The songs he sang were always my favorites because he seemed to be able to sing so many different styles so well.

      I'm planning to take The Writer's Library along on my planned road trip in a couple of weeks. My reading hours are going to be very limited if that trip comes off as planned.

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  9. Sounds like it'll be an interesting July. I'm especially interested in The Writer's Library... think I'll add it to my library list for when we get back to FL.

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    1. I'm going to struggle to get them all in, JoAnn, but that's one I have high hopes in after thumbing through it a couple of times.

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  10. Such interesting books on your list. I had forgotten exactly when John Lennon died. In 1980 my husband and I had just moved to Santa Barbara and gotten married. A coworker where I worked at a publishing company was devastated when he died; she sang in a band on the side.

    I want to read She's Leaving Home also. I would be happy to start with either that one or the book that follows The Birdwatcher. But I am not shopping for books at this point. I want to catalog the books I have bought since the pandemic began first.

    In 2020, I read A Necessary End by Peter Robinson, book 3 in the series. I have three more in the series, including Wednesday's Child. Then I will have to decide whether to continue on with the series or not.

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    1. Lennon's death was a major event around the world; the irony that he was killed by a fan that way was a real shock to everyone.

      As for Shaw, I don't think you can go too far wrong with either of these books. I'm only a third of the way through She's Leaving Home, but I'm finding it interesting to see how Shaw is slowly developing his lead character into someone readers will want to keep reading about beyond this first book. He is a cop with problems, that's for sure.

      Wednesday's Child may turn out to be one of the books I can't get to in July because it's due back at the library before my planned road trip is set to begin. Not much of a waiting list, though, so it will be relatively easy to get my hands back on this one when we get home.

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  11. I've never read a Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell novel. I need to remedy that soon. THE CHILD'S CHILD sounds like a good place to start.

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    1. Coincidentally, it's looking like I'm going to have to return this one before I get to read it because its due date clashes with my planned road trip that begins (I hope) on July 18. I do recommend her books, though, if you get the chance to work one of them in.

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