Current Reading January 18 – 24

woman with blue pencilI finished The Builders, review this coming week. Also read was Woman With A Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine. It’s a difficult book to summarize or explain. It’s a multi-layerd story of a Japanese-American author writing a book which he started and submitted to his publisher just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Writer Sam Sumida’s wife was murdered, the police aren’t interested in the death of a Japanese woman, so Sam tries to  investigate it himself. His book’s editor, the woman with the blue pencil, demands a rewrite after Pearl Harbor. But there are layers in layers. The writer, his wife, their world fades, all signs of his existence seem to have been erased. Sam discovers that, inexplicably, he is a discarded, fictional creation.

A is for ArsenicBut there’s another book, a pulp spy story, also in the mix. It’s author  has been relocated to an Japanese internment camp. Then there is that editor… As I said, layers in layers. The book is well-written, but can be confusing with the plot jumps.

Also read, partly, was A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup, about the various poisons Agatha Christie used in her books. I expected more discussion of the books’ use of poisons and a lot less chemistry and biology. I read through the third chapter on cyanide before giving up and sending it back to the library.

ghosts of altonaNow I’m reading Wait For Signs by Craig Johnson, a short story collection. It’s the first Longmire I’ve read, I decided to start with stories instead of a novel. One story in, I’m enjoying it.

Barbara just finished  The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell. It may be the most recent in the Jan Fable series. It’s a thick mystery she enjoyed a lot. She hasn’t decided what she wants to read next.

How about you?
What have you been reading?

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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15 Responses to Current Reading January 18 – 24

  1. Bill Crider says:

    Woman with a Blue Pencil has been in my TBR pile for a while. I don’t know when I’ll get to it, though.

    • Richard says:

      I’ll be very interested to read any review of it you might do, Bill. I had a hard time summarizing it. It’s a clever plot idea, well executed, but I had a hard time following, sometimes.

  2. I’m chipping away at the stack of Library books that grew during Winter Break. Now that I’m back to work, Reading Time is at a premium. I read four Library books over the weekend while “watching” the NFL Pllayoff games. Just three more to go.

    • Richard says:

      I can’t seem to read while watching TV, one distracts me from the other. I need to concentrate on a single thing, I guess. I read two short stories and took a short nap between games, though, missing the first quarter of the second one. No big deal as it turned out.

  3. Deb says:

    A group of books I had requested from the library came in last week, so I’ve been spoiled for choice when it comes to reading material. I’m about halfway through Elvis Costello’s UNFAITHFUL MUSIC & DISAPPEARING INK. It’s not a traditional chronological “I am born” autobiography, instead he jumps around through time following the thread of a song or even a line from a song. I would say if you’re a fan of Costello’s music, this is an interesting book; all others need not apply.

    • Richard says:

      Sounds interesting, Deb, but I’m probably one of the “all others” in this case. I never got into Costello except maybe a song or two, which I couldn’t even name now. The book has a great title, though.

  4. Jerry House says:

    I’m finding the Longmire books addictive and just finished JUNKYARD DOGS, the fifth in the series. This one had a bit more humor than others I’ve read. It starts with an old man trying to clean a chimney from his roof with a broom soaked in kerosene. To be sure he doesn’t fall, his grandson secures him with a rope tied to the back of his truck. Then the wife takes the truck to go shopping, pulling the old man off the roof and dragging him for more than two miles, blithely unaware. The action then moves to the discovery of a thumb in a cooler, with the owner of the thumb trying to track it down so he can make a keychain out of it. And then there’s the murders. A good read with a nice balance between humor and thrills.

    The other novel I read this week was CARTER & LOVECRAFT, a Lovecraftian (naturally) detective story by Jonathan L Howard, the author of the Johannes Cabal series. Daniel Carter, an ex-cop turned P.I., inherits a bookstore in Providence, R.I., from a man he never heard of. The bookstore is run by an attractive Afro-American woman who is a descendent of H. P. Lovecraft. Carter, it turns out, is a descendent of Randolph Carter — the H. P. Lovecraft character who was (for the purpose of this book, anyway) a real person. People start dying in mysterious and seemingly impossible ways and Carter is dragged into the mystery by unseen forces. A surprisingly effective novel.

    My FFB for this week was Ross MacDonald’s STRANGERS IN TOWN, a 2001 collection of previously unpublished stories. The stories, besides being pretty effective tales, also show the progression of macDonald as a writer.

    I’m also continuing my self-imposed story-a-day challenge, reading a story by a different author each day. Stories this week were by Emma Frances Dawson, Shirley Jackson, Arthur B. Reeve, Barry Pain, Robert Barr, Walter Besant & James Rice, and Jack London.

    It’s been unseasonably cold and windy here this week with temps in the thirties and forties, but if I were back in Southern Maryland, I’d have no power and be snowbound for several days. Guess this one goes in the counting my blessings department. Hlope everything and everyone is treating you well.

    • Richard says:

      The Longmire stories in Wait for Signs are simple, clever short, a good thing. I’m ripping right through them and enjoying the writing. I’ll be trying a novel soon, probably read them in order. One of these days, I’ll actually FINISH a series I do that with.

      I want to read STRANGERS IN TOWN, but I want to read some of the Archer novels I’ve yet to read first. So, your short story reading plan is specifically a different author every day, not just a short story every day?

  5. Woman with a blue pencil sounds pretty convoluted but maybe worth a look

  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    That Japanese book sounds quite interesting to me. I liked the Longmire collection a lot. I hope you can easily sort out the relationships among the characters.

    I’ve been trying to clear up some short story collections that I’ve downloaded – mostly for free – to the Kindle over the last couple of years. First I read Kate Blackwell’s YOU WON’T REMEMBER THIS (I liked that title), set mostly in her native North Carolina. They were readable but nothing to get excited about (IMHO). I read my second collection by Heath Lowrance, DIG TEN GRAVES. The title gives a fair idea of how dark many of them are. I have one or two other collections by him yet to read. And now I’ve started AT THE GATES OF MADNESS by Shaun Meeks.

    I did read one mystery this week – SHOTGUN WEDDING (2009) by Susan Rogers Cooper, in her Sheriff Milt Kovak series. In some ways, Kovak reminds me of an Oklahoma version of Bill Crider’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes, only Kovak narrates his books. This is not one of the best in the series as it rambles far afield, with two of the deputies getting married and going on a Caribbean honeymoon in a hurricane, with pirates. I think I have two yet to read, but I’d recommend the early books in the series, starting with (great title) HOUSTON IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR.

    I am finally into James S. A. Corey’s LEVIATHAN WAKES, the first in The Expanse series, which I am enjoying more than the somewhat murky SyFy Channel series. I should finish it today or tomorrow.

    We are hoping to get out of here at last on Wednesday (after a 10 day delay for illnesses and weather) and I have to finalize what books I’m taking.

    Now to read the earlier comments.

    • Richard says:

      I’m kind of surprised to be the first to read WOMAN WITH A BLUE PENCIL, since it’s been out a little while and has been nominated for an Edgar. Now I’ll be interested to see what others think. I’ll skip those story collections. The title of that last you list makes me think of the MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS title of the Lovecraft book.

      I liked LEVIATHAN WAKES, and read it a second time to return to speed before starting the second book, then got bogged down and distracted away. That second book is still on the TBR with a bookmark at about page 30. I didn’t watch the SyFi version.

      I thought you’d left last week, before the big storms. Sorry Jackie is still sick! I’m sure you have enough “books” on your tablet/device to last you through Florida trip.

  7. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I wish we’d left last week, but first I was sick, then she was – she is better now but still has an occasional coughing fit – and then the weather kicked in.

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