Week 16: Mysteries and Book of the Month picks

Hello Everyone,

This week, I finished two books I got last year through my Book of the Month subscription which I have been meaning to get to for a long time, and finally took the plunge and finished Ann Cleeves’s great mystery quartet (Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones and Blue Lightning) set in the Shetland Islands.

I’m still happy to be enjoying reading again, and was happy this week to finally find a few good audio-books. Overdrive put out an app recently called Libby, which aims to make checking books out easier. It isn’t super user-friendly when it comes to rewinding, but other than that, it is the easiest way I have found to listen to audio-books I have checked out through the library.

Books I finished this week

American War by Omar El Akkad

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American War is a fascinating book. Looking up images for this post, I found someone who had reviewed this book along with The Book of Joan, which I talked about a couple of weeks ago. I loved that someone else saw the same connection between these two books. Like The Book of Joan, American War looks at how climate change and its consequences might affect our future, both physically and socially.

In this potential future, the banning of fossil fuels leads parts of the South to secede from the United States again, and we see a second civil war. This war however, takes its inspiration from current conflicts around the globe, and Akkad explores what refugee camps, suicide bombers, and biological and chemical warfare could look like on American soil.

This book wasn’t perfect, and there are definitely some weaknesses in the way the characters are developed, but the world itself is scarily real. I came away considering the way that I, and I think many of us, find it so easy to put the current conflicts and atrocities occurring in the world at the back of our minds as we lead our day-to-day lives. This sounds depressing, and this isn’t a “fun” read, but I think it is a great example of how fiction can so easily communicate something that is usually so hard to grasp.

 

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins

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This small book of short stories was written a long time ago by filmmaker and author Kathleen Collins, but only recently discovered and published. I really enjoyed reading these stories, which don’t all deal with topics of interracial love, but do look at love, relationships, and human connection, often through the lens of race and skin color.

This stories in this book are hard to describe, more like sketches than detailed drawings, yet communicating the full spectrum of human emotion and experience. They are playful in their structure and their subjects, yet also reflect a world that is often bewildering and hurtful.

These stories didn’t transport me in the way that some short stories and novels can do, but the collection was a great read, and I really enjoyed seeing the world through Collins’s eyes.

 

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves (on audiobook)

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I have had a spell of unfortunate audio-book experiences over the past few weeks, and although some of the books promised to be good books, I didn’t want to repeat my experience with Lab Girl, so I am being even more picky. This is one reason I came back to the Shetland series (the other is that I got to the episodes of the TV show that cover this book, and I didn’t want the book to be ruined).

I realized while reading this book that I think I liked them more because of the narration. The mysteries are fun, and this one was particularly dark and moody, but I think the endless internal conversations the characters had might have been slightly overdone here.The narrator is great though, and that makes it easier to make it past that irritation.

In addition, one of my mystery pet peeves cropped up here. I like to have all the information I need to solve the mystery on the page. A few details omitted is fine, but there was a major detail that was key to determining what happened that was never mentioned in this book.

Overall, I think this was still a satisfying end to a solid and enjoyable quartet of mystery novels, and if I can ever find the rest of the Perez novels on audio I will probably pick them up.


What went well

I said last week that I was not too happy with the whiteness of the books I had read. I made an effort to break that cycle this week, and I am happy I did. I loved the books I read, and got a lot out of them.

What did not go well

Everything went great in terms of reading this week. If I have to pick anything out it is that I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of great books I want to read but I am conscious I will never get the time to read them all.

What I am reading next week

I am finishing up a great cooking memoir called Mastering The Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen, and hoping to read some of the books by members of the Crow Nation about the Native American relationship with and history of Yellowstone, or at least the general area. I’m also reading The Wanderers by Megan Howrey which I love so far.

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