Thursday, June 02, 2022

May Reading: Highlights & Disappointments

It's been a while, guys, but I thought I'd post a really brief recap of my May reading today in hopes that I may hear from some of my old friends out there.

This is what May 2022 looked like for me:

  1. Savage Run - C.J. Box - Joe Picket #2 - modern range war
  2. Pudd'nhead Wilson - Mark Twain - slave-baby & master's-baby switched at birth - lots of social commentary of the times
  3. Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky - V.I. Warshawski #1 - good introduction to series main characters, but mediocre plot 
  4. 1979 - Val McDermid - OK 1st book of proposed 10-book series
  5. One Damn Thing After Another - William P. Barr - at almost 700 pages, it answered all the questions I had about truth in politics
  6. Last Stand at Saber River - Elmore Leonard - excellent character-driven post Civil War novel set in Arizona
  7. Old Man Country - Thomas R. Cole - Interviews of elderly men about living into the "4th Age" - somewhat disappointing
  8. Rediscovering Travel - Seth Kugel - travel stories and tips from a professional traveler 
  9. The Madness of Crowds - Louise Penny - Unnecessarily long, dark post-pandemic novel; Penny may have "jumped the shark"
  10. Tyrus: A Memoir - Tyrus - short  memoir that completely manages to ignore the author's marriages and children
  11. The Babes in the Wood - Ruth Rendell - excellent mystery until Rendell ruins it by having Wexford recount its climax second-hand: show me, don't tell me  
  12. Slow Horses - Mick Herron - excellent tale about group of MI5 castoffs with ideas of their own - Book #1 in Slough House series

Currently Reading:
  • The Splendid and the Vile - Erik Larson
  • Dolphin Junction - Mick Herron
  • The Hag - Marc Eliot

The book that knocked my sox off last month was Mick Herron's Slow Horses, and I only even became aware of Herron's "Slough House" series because Apple TV decided to make the first book into a six-part series. I was immediately fascinated  by the characters, the actors, and the premise that a bunch of MI5 failures were shunted off to a dump of a building to do nothing but paperwork for the rest of their careers. 

I'm really excited by the series and Herron's writing. Dolphin Junction is a new collection of some of his short stories and novellas, and for the most part, I'm loving those too. I'm also reading a brand new Merle Haggard biography and struggling a bit to get into The Splendid and the Vile by another of my favorite authors, Erik Larson.

I do have to say that I was disappointed by several of my old favorites, specifically by Val McDermid's 1979, Ruth Rendell's The Babes in the Wood, and Louise Penny's The Madness of Crowds. Oh, well, can't win 'em all, I guess. 

Here's hoping all of you had a wonderful reading month and that you are all doing well. I've not been able to check in on your blogs as often as I hoped, but I may surprise you with an appearance soon.

Stay well, guys.

16 comments:

  1. Sam, great to see you post and good to see you still reading. Sorry Louise Penny was a bit disappointing, I'm still behind on that series and haven't read that one. Did you know Sayaka Murata has a new book coming this summer: Life Ceremony. Can't wait to see what this collection has to offer:https://groveatlantic.com/book/life-ceremony/.
    2022 has been challenging for me but, reading has kept me somewhat sane:) Stay well.

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up on Murata's new book. Hadn't heard about it yet, so I'll be curious to hear what you think of it. I'll follow the link to see what it's all about. Sorry to hear that 2022 has not gone all that smoothly for you; nothing seems to be the same yet even all these months after the shutdowns pretty much ended. So, so many changes...and few if any of them good changes.

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  2. His Sam! Delightful to see you here with a post. You have been sorely missed. I hope things are ok with you? You had an excellent reading month. I keep seeing Mick Herron's books mentioned in various places and yet he's not a new author is he? I wonder why he's only just been discovered. Interesting. The Splendid and the Vile I have on my Kindle and I've heard it's very good so I must get to it. You take care.

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    1. No, you're right, Cath. Herron has been writing for a while now and this is his second series. He's a really good storyteller if you are one of those readers like me who don't need - or prefer - nonstop action in a spy thriller. His characters are very memorable even though they all have major character flaws. If the television version of Slow Horses is still available to you in the UK, you should take a look. The series follows the novel really closely, with only a few minor changes to plot details, and it will give you a good taste of Herron's style.

      You guys take care, too. Stay safe and healthy,

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  3. It is so good to hear from you, Sam. I do miss your posts and discussing books with you.

    And what an interesting group of books you read. I am glad to hear that you liked Slow Horses so much. I think it is a great series. I have read all of them except for the very last one. I also have Dolphin Junction but haven't read any of it either.

    I did not particularly care for the first book in Sara Paretsky's series either, but I know I need to try more of them.

    This month I did not get much reading done but I read the first three books in the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, which was a new direction for me. I now want to read the fourth one immediately but I may wait a while.

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    1. Hi, Tracy. I'm really excited about the Slough House books, so it's nice to hear that they have held up well for you. The man is just a really good storyteller and I love his sly sense of humor just when you least expect it.

      I think the biggest disappointment to me was the Ruth Rendel book because of how she used the last 20% of the book to have Wexford explain the whole crime solution to his sergeant rather than just letting it play out in real time. I really hate when authors use that shortcut approach to ending a novel; it seems lazy to me and rushed.

      I've only read one of the Durrell books, but really enjoyed the PBS TV series based on the books. That family's life reads like fiction, what an amazing bunch of people.

      I hope things are goin OK for you and yours. Stay healthy.

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  4. I agree on Mick Herron. I have also read two books from his Zoe Boehm series (also called the Oxford Investigations).

    I did not like the last few Inspector Wexford books by Rendell as much as earlier ones, but I read Babes in the Wood in 2007 and don't remember what I did not like. I believe that there are a few of the books in that series from either the 1980s or 1990s that I missed and I may try to read those some day.

    We are getting out a bit more lately, but being careful and wearing a mask in most situations. I feel like I am reading more slowly lately and not happy with that; maybe my eyes, maybe not. But we are mostly good and feel very grateful.

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    1. The short story collection I just finished had some Zoe Boehm stories in it...her and her partner. At least to this point, I'm not as taken with the Zoe character as I am with those in the other series, but I do hope to try one of the Zoe novels at some point, too.

      It was the long "recap" that annoyed me in Babes in the Wood. I find that approach both annoying and boring, and this recap was really long.

      I hope it's not your eyes that are causing you to slow down a bit, probably just one of those slumps avid readers all go into from time to time.

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  5. Hi Sam, So glad to see you posting and interesting about Louise Penny. She is great but I wonder if even the best mystery series have a point where the author has to move on. Penny has published 17 books set in Three Pines in the past 20 years and the danger is an author begins to repeat themselves because it's all been said in terms of the characters in this book.

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    1. Hi, Kathy. The thing about this latest Penny novel is that her recurring characters, even though everything is happening in Three Pines again, are all largely very secondary and she doesn't allow them to show their personalities and individualism very much. Penny seems personally to have been in a rather dark place when she wrote this one, and I think that overwhelmed her approach to the novel. Good to hear from you.

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  6. Hi Sam! I've missed you. Hope life is treating you well. That's quite the list of books you read in May. The one that interests me the most is Slow Horses. I will definitely be adding that one to my TBR list. Have a great week! :D

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    1. Still very busy, Lark, but managing to keep reading books at a decent pace by adding more audiobooks to my reads. Those are lifesavers right now. I just finished the second book in the Slough House series today, and I'm still loving Mick Herron's work (I've read three of his books now). Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Sam - So happy to see your post! May was definitely a good reading month for you. I'm drawn to the recent political books, but have mostly resisted them. Bill Barr's book fits in with my interest in the law, Supreme Court, etc., but am not sure I have the stamina to wade through 700 pages. It took me a while to get interested in The Splendid and the Vile, too, and I think approaching it as a read/listen combination helped. Hope it hooks you soon.

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    1. I've been an admirer of Bill Barr back to his first stint as attorney general, and I trust his account of what was happening around him. He is an excellent writer, too, despite the dryness of some of the topics he covers. Still struggling with The Splendid and the Vile...reads too much like a straight history book, a problem I didn't have with his previous nonfiction books. Great to hear from you.

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  8. hi Sam, Great to see your post! Good to hear about the book Slow Horses. We thoroughly enjoyed the TV series on Apple. It was entertaining with Gary Oldman. And I hope there will be a Season 2. I look forward to your thoughts on the Erik Larson book. I haven't gotten to it yet but it's still on my radar. Happy reading.

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    1. So far, there are 10 books and 1 novella in the "Slough House" series, so I'm hoping there are multiple seasons on Apple. Gary Oldman is just about perfect for the role, and I can't read the books now without seeing him in my head...and, in this case, that's a good thing. Thanks so much for stopping by. Apologies for not seeing your comment sooner.

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