Just past the halfway point in Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, by Cay Van Ash, I decided to take a break to read a book that came in from the library, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I’m at the point these days where I read many blogs and book review sites, and have a difficult time recalling just where I saw which book. Somewhere I read a review of The Underneath, and was intrigued enough to get it from the library.
I’m glad I did, though there are some tough scenes in it, for it’s about a very evil man living alone in the east Texas pine and swamp country with his dog that he mistreats and keeps chained. But the dog befriends a couple of kittens who find their way under the disintegrating cabin. In addition there’s a magical thousand-year-old water moccasin, a hawk that changes into a man, trees that listen and a very old, hundred-foot alligator. The writing and structure are unusual and though I timorously picked it up, I polished it off in a day.
Finished with that, I’ve returned to the Fu Manchu – Sherlock Holmes book I’d been reading and expect to wrap that one up before the end of the week.
Barbara had more bad luck with another blind pick from a review, this time The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson, in which very bad people did enough very bad things that she set it aside to return to the library.
Instead, she’s started Make Me by Lee Child, a Reacher novel. It’s certain she’ll enjoy it more that the last two she tried.
So how about you?
What have you been reading?
This week I read the new Martin Cruz Smith The Girl From Venice. I found it disappointing and not up to his usual standards. A SF/Mystery by Robert Kroese called The Big Sheep which I found likable but nothing special. Read a couple of novellas by Ursula K. Le Guin in her collection The Found and the Lost. And am finishing up a Norwegian private detective novel Cold Hearts by Gunnar Staalesen which I am enjoying.
Never enjoyed Lee Child. I find Jack Reacher to good to be true. The same problem I have with Robert Crais’s Joe Pike.
Steve, I haven’t tried a Reacher novel yet, but Barbara enjoys the books. Could he be any more too good to be true than James Bond? These days, maybe a dose of too good to be true isn’t so bad anyway. I haven’t read any Cruz Smith since Gorky Park, which I liked a lot. Been a long time ago.
Haven’t read a Bond book since the early 70’s altho I remember them as a bit tongue in cheek whereas I don’t get that vibe from the Jack Reacher books.
Martin Cruz Smith has written a whole series of very good books using the main character from Gorky Park. The new one is a standalone.
Glad to see the praise for THE UNDERNEATH. I know Kathi; great person.
I liked it even more than I may have hinted, Bill. Did I see mention of it on your blog? I’ll do a slightly longer separate review soon.
I’m reading two non-fiction books that happened to show up on my library list simultaneously; interestingly, both of them deal with different aspects of the science of Home Economics (which was often the only field in which women with college degrees could find employment in the late 19th/early 20th centuries):
A SQUARE MEAL: A CULINARY HISTORY OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe. The book starts in the years after WWI when the food being eaten by the urban/immigrant population began to evolve away from “traditional” rural/farm cooking. Then it follows into the 1930s when hunger and need swept the country and every penny had to be stretched to the maximum. A well-written book–but disheartening in that you read the same political jeremiads against welfare for the “undeserving poor” 80 years ago that we still hear today. Sigh.
THE LOST ART OF DRESS: THE WOMEN WHO ONCE MADE AMERICA STYLISH by Linda Przybyszewski. This book focuses on the “Dress Doctors” of the first half of the 20th century. They provided guidance, advice, and patterns that allowed women to sew their own wardrobes and, as with food in the previous book, make every penny count. The book is full of lovely illustrations and highlights a forgotten aspect of mid-century domestic history, but there’s a lot of snark and body-shaming from the author (she seems affronted by the idea that larger women don’t want to drape themselves in dark color and matronly styles), and I’m not sure I care for her complete disdain for the ready-to-wear and more inclusive fashions of the 1960s and beyond.
I remember my mother (we’re talking the early to mid Fifties here) laying out patterns with that thin tissue paper and cutting and sewing dresses, blouses for herself. My father’s clothes where bought at a men’s store (Desmond’s) in L.A., my school clothes at Penny’s, and her clothes were purchased there too, but she made things for herself too.
I just picked up a couple of Winnie the Pooh books and am looking forward to reading those.
A.A. Milne, a favorite of my childhood and I still read those books.
Never liked Milne once I got past 7 or 8. Thought they were too cutesy. You should read Dorothy Parkers review of Milne.
Just finishing up Giovanni’s Room . Boy am I slow. Next up a Highsmith Megan recommended.
Patti, I’m a slow reader too, but your slowness may be due to outside influences and events. Highsmith is very good, but can be depressing. I’m trying to read happier stuff, though I took a chance with THE UNDERNEATH. It paid off.
I’d rather reading depressing stuff than upbeat stuff, than you end up reading garbage like Mitch Albom.
Richard, I just finished the Reacher that Barbara is starting. I think she’ll like it.
Otherwise it’s been a very slow week: the Ellery Queen non-fiction crime collection THE WOMAN IN THE CASE that was my FFB and four more by Roald Dahl: THE MINPINS (very short, very minor), THE WITCHES (interesting and fun), DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD (the best of the four by far, a loving non-fantasy about father-son relationship and — perversely — about the joys of poaching), and ROALD DAHL’S MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM (a sampler of excerpts from his juveniles, along with some rather meaningless jokes from the compiler; the excerpts were poorly chosen and seemed to drain the life out of each book).
On hand I have Megan Abbott’s newest, a Richard Wheeler western, and another Reacher.
Wild and windy rainstorms, tornado warnings, and pea-soup fog were the order of my week. Hope yours was better.
Each time you mention Dahl, I think I have to read more of the short stories! but then I return to whatever book I’m reading and forget. Seems your having fun with his books. That weather sounds lousy. We had that bloody big snow, then freezing rain, then rain, then more rain and gloom. Today is the first sunny day in 2 weeks.
Lee Child’s MAKE ME made a big impression on me. The stack of Library Books is slowly melting. Now that we have two weeks without NFL football, I can up my reading another notch.
I asked her how she likes it so far, but she’s only 30 pages in, so no opinion yet.
Both games yesterday were very lopsided. I was surprised.
I’m like you. I read a lot of reviews and recommendations on blogs and elsewhere and can’t always remember who recommended what book. THE UNDERNEATH does sound interesting to me. I see my library has it listed under “Juvenile” fiction.
What with the road trip (we got here Wednesday night), unpacking and stocking up, I didn’t have a huge amount of reading time last week. Then there was the cold I picked up along the way, which seems better today, I hope this week will be better.
I did read Jennifer Egan’s collection EMERALD CITY, as mentioned previously. I’m waiting for her A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD to be available from the library. I do have two library downloads, one of which (Bill Loehfelm’s THE DEVIL IN HER WAY) I’m more than halfway through.
I did get one book delivered yesterday, the new Salvo Montalbano book by Andrea Camilleri, A VOICE IN THE NIGHT.
Yes, it a juvenile, the plot and characterization are at that level, but it has a certain depth that pulled me in. It’s a book that’s stayed with me over the week since I read it. I really do need to read another Montalbano book, I’m only up to #3.
Hope that cold goes away soon. Enjoy the warmth.
Forgot to mention that I’m now reading Brian Freemantle’s collection (one of the free downloads from several weeks back) called THE FACTORY, a collection of stories about a mole inside British intelligence. The Director won’t order a full-scale investigation because he’s afraid his drinking and affair will be revealed. Meanwhile agents are being caught, arrested, and jailed.
Just not into spy stuff any more.
Read some Freemantle back in the 70’s and liked them. Never read any short stories by him.
A lot of his stuff was offered free by Open Road last month, including a bunch of Charlie Muffin books, some stand-alones, and the short stories. I downloaded the ones I didn’t have.
The Super Bowl looks like a good match up. Could be a high-scoring game!
I’m so glad you enjoyed The Underneath, and I totally agree that something about the writing just resonates, even if it is simplistic in some ways.
I’ve just picked up Holding by Graham Norton from the library, it is a book club selection and not my usual read so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve heard very conflicting things about it.
It’s a book that stayed with me days after I was reading something else other than your review (thanks!) I knew nothing, so I’m glad I’ve read it.
Richard, “The Underneath” sounds good with elements of YA and fantasy, and it has a feel-good thing about it.
An interesting book, a fast read.