Reading Through ‘The Cure’

I apologize for being gone so long but the  “Cure” is almost finished – another two weeks and then we go from there.  But I am HEP C free and eat all the time. No clue why.

President Clinton (love him or loathe him but no wisecracks please) was in the NYT Sunday Book Review and in the interview, he copped to loving ‘thrillers’.I do too. And to this end I have read many in the last month and everywhere they took me was a journey I enjoyed full stop.  So this is what I liked and pass along as a short list.  FYI:  I did not like “The President is Missing”.  I am sick of James Patterson.

Stephen KingThe Outsider.  I just love the way King writes and so for me the subject is less important than just the way it’s written.  I did love the first half of the book but kind of figured out where it was going by the second half.   He may be running out of monsters and their strange habits. But if you are King fan.  Read it because it is really a fine source of summer pleasure.

Arnuld Indriasson. A new Harry Hole by Jo Nesbo. Hellfire by Karen Fossum. More thrillers because that seems to be what is being written.  Works for me.  I reckon more research is put into thrillers than most novels.

Laura Lippman– Inspired by the picture by an author friend, of Lippman and her husband David Simon last week I decided to read more of her books and I am very glad I did.  Her husband created The Wire* and she is a former reporter and a wonderful writer of thrillers.  I LOVED ‘Wilde Lake‘; read last year and I still think about the story and know her style and her Baltimore location.  I wish the publishers would include maps.  The last one I just finished was excellent but the characters were all over the eastern part of the country and a map would have helped. It included “Modern Orthodox Jews as well and this was a bonus. *All the Pieces Matter” is Simon’s excellent book on “The Wire”.

Fast forward

And on and on and as of Friday, the Cure has worked. Hep C no more. Many more issues to face but one is out of the way.  Epclusa works.

I have lost track of what I read during the past twelve weeks; likely I was gulping down titles due to stress.  I was stressed. This blog will undergo some changes and will be back in July.  I lost control of it and I apologize.

Little mentions before I  start anew.  My friend Thrity Umrigar has a new book coming June 26 …“The Secrets Between Us” and I am so excited.   Just got the new John Connelly book as well as some odds and ends acquired from the library and book sales.  So many books; not enough shelves.

I plan to map out this site’s new look by Bastille Day.  July 14th, when I hang out my little Tricoleur.  And Canada Day is July 1st; our own National Holiday will get a pass from me this year.  Non-partisan comment. But great birthdays on the 3rd – a reason to celebrate.

Check in – it will be a work in progress, but it will be good to map it out.

Until then – read.

A Tad Ridiculous.

Last week I caved to the lure of titles I usually avoid. But they called my name (whispered actually) and I checked them both out of the library.  (Disclaimer: What follows is only my opinion.)  They are both selling well and coining money for their authors, but they puzzled me in excess.  Seriously folks.

Dan Brown took four years to research Origin.  For this, he must be given high marks.  I suspect he endured stinging eyes and headaches.  Reading it did this to me.   I own up to liking The DaVinci Code.  I found it clever and fascinating when I read it years back. I think I read The Inferno too, but not the others. Origin, though, has been selling like hotcakes and I thought, “why not”?

All the history-changing action took place – apparently, in one day.  I didn’t realize this until the end and then I was sorry for learning it.

First and foremost: It simply couldn’t have happened in one day for all the action, helicopters, crazy clerics,  overwrought scientists and Robert Langdon, who knows damn near everything.  He also knows everyone, in all echelons and cultures.  You get earth-shattering revelations from a  bizillionaire scientist, you get a murder, you get royalty and his about to be queen, nautch dancer, priests, religious sects and lots of fear and praying.  How can it miss?  (It is not as clever as the DV Code. It works hard at it though (did I mention Bilbao and the Goog).  For me, the star of the book was Barcelona and Gaudi. Just enough Gaudi info to make me want to know more about him.  The rest was silly.  And too long and Dan may write yet another blockbuster – but this was NOT it. Tired and let-down with Origin – but I did read it all.

And there came The Lying Game  (by Ruth Ware of Girl on the Train fame; another one that confused me)  What can I say?  I am not a chick-lit chick.  This is a serious chick book. I can only say it was pages of breastfeeding (in detail) and the slurper had a name that I didn’t like.  It was on almost every page.  Lots of drinking, smoking, cursing, unrequited, maybe incestuous love and a heavy hint of Lesbianism.  The latter simmered along underneath but never was part of the story.  This was a grueling novel.  I felt grueled as I read the last page – where the stars of the dog and pony show all seemed to escape  – with guilt, bloody hands, shame and the well-fed baby.  Also death and destruction.  And, voila, all the storylines to their end.  They could have come sooner.

This is why I do not like to write negative reviews.  But I read them and I thought I would share what I took away.

I also took out more of the Akashi Noir series – these are new ones and I just hope they keep on.   I read the first batch in its entirety and loved every one.  This new round comes as a pleasure and they are covering cities around the world. A lovely way to pick and choose those you like best.  It features various authors – and good wide offering. I see these as great spring reading and the best way to pass the treatment of my improving condition.

Back soon.

Why Do I Love Thrillers?

Jumped the shark. Swam. Then Jumped Again 

The last few weeks the library has gotten many titles from my hold list and this last one of Jeffrey Deaver’sThe Cutting Edge was the one I started and finished.  (Yes, I am still on the “cure” so reading a lot). Why do I love thrillers? Well, I do like blood and gore but I truly admire and welcome an author who does so much research for authenticity it creates a shared learning experience…with a mystery and forensics and clever criminal activities!!!!

The Cutting Edge – in which, sadly I think, Deaver truly jumped the shark, was so full of information it was like a textbook.  As it so happens I had read two books on the subject he was writing about and had a comfortable understanding of the material.  Then I  was taught to do something I had never known how to do.  Very happy.   As I read found three errors (some fact checker missed them), only a nitpicker would even mention these.  And so many plotlines and minutiae I am exhausted.  However,  the thorough research done by the really good writers, to establish a plotline or a character is such is so much more than just the story.  I learn something in just about everyone..  Not just murder and mayhem and clues – serious information you might never encounter reading other kinds of fiction.  Read The Cutting Edge.  Jumped shark or not – you will love it and learn about things you probably never considered and the ending sort of makes sense.  Sort of.

During this hiatus, (a result of the “cure” – another eight weeks to go)I read all four of James Thompson’s Helsinki series and one called Darling by another Finn.  I thus stayed very chilled out (sorry) and I loved the Thompson’s. Darling was so-so, but much of Scandanoir is still some very fine sleuthing.  And LOTS of detail.

I also have read the latest Yrsa (and if you have not discovered her – she is an Icelandic author of acclaim.)  Start with her first title 2005) and read all the way to this latest one.  This latest I could not put down. It started a new series of detectives.  Her Thora series is wonderful. She is prolific too; a bonus and for fans – She has created two new sleuths: Freya and Huldur in a series – two so far

The latest Helsinki/ Ariel Kafka by Hari Nykanen is waiting to be read. I frankly love Jewish detectives in odd locations. and this detective is in Helsinki.  (We do wander.) He is what I consider one great creation. And it seems there is a five book series of which I have found three. I will look for the first two and be sure to list them.  And if you really want a thriller about Jewish cops and robbers in a strange location; The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.(Warning you will laugh a lot – a knowledge of Yiddish is suggested too).

I tried very hard to read Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth.  The writers chosen are to reimagine Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits and bring them to us as they grow in the author’s mind.  I just could not do it.   If anyone has or does.  Tell us about it.

I am developing a better format for this blog and hope to use it as a template of sorts for “Books” in the future.  More compact and uniformly structured.   Soon and will add a poll.  (it’s a perk from WordPress.)

And. Save money – buy used or better still use your local library.  I have made it a habit and it is (online holds) convenient and free.

See you soon – after I finish two or three books on the bedside table and more of the “cure”.

 

 

 

Sick Leave: Taking the Cure.

Sick Leave.  I have been reading while dealing with a medical problem but trying to deliver a nice blog post about the reading and not the sick leave.  It will be a while …perhaps until I sit down and write that blog but I am simply on the “cure” and reading  tons to delight anyone who needs a little delight in their life. (I am delighted by both the cure process and the reading).  Lots of India. Just finished Death at the Durbar.   Read it so you can catch up with #2 of the Maharaja series and learn some Indian history easily and enjoyably at the same time.  There is a third promised.  And hopefully more after that. His Highness Sikander Singh is too good a character for only three  titles.

Currently NOT on my bed table: James Joyce, Dostoyevsky or the Brontes.  I am, instead, taking a whodunit tour of Finland with a stack of five Helsinki  detectives;  James Thompson’s Inspector Vaara, Jarko Spila and the new Ariel Kafka.  In between the Finland move  I checked out the new Jonathan Kellerman.  Night Moves and it is way up to snuff so far. Worth the time and he is always – for me – lots of fun.  Reading in spurts Thomas Childers’ new, upsetting and necessary history of The Third Reich (needed info, especially about his transformation from boring whiner to the monster inside him full-blown; especially fascinating is his becoming a full-fledged anti-Semite.  There are entire paragraphs that I have  swear I have heard spoken recently in this country.  They scare me.  And Josephus, The Jew of Rome.  FYI Reading about Roman emperors is a nerve working progress and process.

Puzzled. I have yet to figure out how such a tightly knit group of current writer’s have becomes critics, panel participants and gurus of what we need to read.  Seriously.  And they  live near each other generally.  And how the hell do they get Pulitzers for books that truly seem ordinaire – entertaining some,  but quite run of the mill?  You can offer up your list of your annoyingly over-worshipped literati if you like and if I get any lists, I will then list mine.  Mine rarely adds a name and is short. Yours can be any length.  Also wondering about “Girl” on Train, In Water, At Window, Gone, Remembered and therefore every single imitation is also profitable and mundane for Girls come lately.

Stephen King has a new one just out, not yet in my library and I  am languising on “hold” lists for him and for about 10 other very sought after tomes.

As my best friend said the other day, by way of compliment:  “nobody reads the kind of books you read”.

This post lacks charm and wit – part of the meds, I hope.  Just thought it seemed as if I fell off the planet.  Much as that is tempting,  I’m back and it’s already April and not a drop of rain today.

Sick Leave.

I have not been up to par recently and while I have been reading – my energy level has been very low.  Nothing serious.  Perhaps age plays a part.  I have read many books and have a list.  Assure you I shall be back soon.  We shall be out of India as intensely and with a  varied list to share.  Accept my apologies and see you soon.

Why Must There Be A Reader’s Guide?

I realize it may seem that I read books primarily under the categories: India.  And Jews.  Those interest me but it’s not always those I write comments about.  And if it seems that way, I shall widen the scope.

Caveat:  When a book includes a “Reader’s Guide” in the back – my advice is to ignore it.  Pass. Seriously.  Their Q&A’s astonish me.  I tend to avoid groups like the plague, but when it comes to “Reading Groups”, I think Ebola and  Spanish Flu.  Do folks really gather to discuss Oprah’s Book Club selections?  Why?  A lot of folks need Oprah to enhance their lives.  I am not one. And while I really don’t care for Jonathan Franzen after his books   The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion( these he wrote before ).  He is just too adored for reasons I cannot figure out. (Donna Tartt too).  But when he became exercised over the Oprah Seal of Approval –  on the cover of The Connections, I had to approve his ire. I read for pleasure.  I  like to form my own opinions and I find reading a solitary pleasure.

Some of the RG questions beggar belief.  I recently read a novel entitled A Bollywood Affair – a debut by a new voice in India and discovered a bodice ripper writ large (and well writ) that I read in full and wished I hadn’t.  No shade thrown on the author – I just was not prepared.  Neither did I notice the “Reading Group Guide”  mentioned on the back cover.  I promise the book deserved better.  None of the questions would have been sustained in any court. I was about to show you what I meant and could not do it.  All I can say is – dumbed down.  If it’s your drink of choice, by all means, read and respond, but I find they insult many reader’s intelligence.

Tarun J. Tejpal, an author new to me but clearly one who is respected by his readers in India.   The Story of My Assassins just arrived.  The story is true, slightly confusing but what a book.  No helpful glossary and his use of Hindi words and curses did indeed inspire me to look them up.  My own confusion arises from a belief on the author’s part, that the reader has some knowledge of Indian history and politics.  I have more than when I began and caught on to the rhythm as soon as my prior reading recall kicked in.. The event that prompted the book is factual but the layers of the events before and after are woven into a tight fabric set in Haryana, Delhi and other areas of Northern India.  Descriptions of the air in Delhi in previous books have stayed with me and I suspect much coughing and wheezing – and Delhi is not a favorite locale.but this book is a lulu. Political, parochial, authentic and alarming – highly recommended for the story and the writing. Lots of sex, violence, cursing, Hindi and unshuttered windows for closer looks at the India between now and then. (It has been compared to the White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire*;  I find this book far more intricately delivered and much larger in scope.  (Tejpal is also the founder of the Indian news magazine Tehelka.)  It does have a damn reader’s guide but I am not certain why.  I realize however that I must read the Mahabharata and the Gita.  One hopes there are versions for each in the category of “For Idiots”.

Because I have Lubavitchers as close friends and know their daughters from birth to their marriages and children, Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Levine was truly a joy and allowed me to answer questions I would not feel comfortable asking even these women so close to me. Within this community; so many personalities and viewpoints. Much like the six girls of my friend.  I saw each one in the profiles and it added to the pleasure of this book.  Well cited and indexed (I love indices) and within the cites – other titles to explore

Fire and Fury remains infuriating.  And still best in small servings. Looking forward to picking up yet another look at the man In the White House as measured by over two dozen mental health pros. And no, I did not watch the SOTU.

 

Comments welcome.  Share.  Thanks

 

  • *I read Slumdog as “Q&A” before it was renamed

Pink Cat Ears, Jewish Women, ​and Perhaps, the Times They are Changing​.

I expect that my over the moon adoration of Sujata Massey’s first Perveen Mistry Mystery may not have hit the spot for everyone.  But dammit, she did such a well-researched job on her depiction of 1921 Bombay – the delight for me was in the details.    Now I ‘m watching daily for Amazon to arrive and the library to receive my holds. Meanwhile, I have chosen some sociological and religious titles that intrigued me –  the one below in particular.  This not interest some but the lesson it left with me was a very simple.  “You cannot pray away the gay”.  Nor should you try.  We are born who we are or very close to it.  Love is not restrictive.   Happiness is how you feel when you love someone or something.- if you believe in a deity – you should believe this is true.

I have very close friends who are Lubavitch Jews.  I have known them for almost 35 years and I adore them.  Meals at their house are performance art on so many levels and coupled with spiritual enthusiasm from everyone; each time I go there, I  leave with a very good feeling.  I am Jewish so I am not a fish out of water and this makes a difference as well.  My friends are frum from birth, observant and very open-hearted.   As I border on being a heathen by comparison – I  can and do share things in my world in an exchange of wonderful learning and laughter.

It was this friendship that led me to read Uncovered By Leah Lax, the autobiography of a  Jewish college girl – very confused and part of a very Orthodox Lubavitcher family.   She was also gay.  Her deep and difficult secret. But because there was no way to have an observant life and a woman partner,  she decided she would deny her own sexuality and become the perfect Hasidic wife.

Being an accomplished frum wife is a very taxing job.  It never stops, and the rules are ironclad.  the job of Hasidic women, in their marriages, is (to my thinking) to teach, show, observe, uphold and find joy in these male-dominated and very narrow holy pathways. Her psyche, however, was in a pain so intense and her motives – in her own mind, so confusing it, the story was like reading a captive’s memoir.  The self-doubt, her distant husband, and their 7 children had run her into the ground.  And in the midst of all this tzuris, she says not a word about her long ago female lover and the feelings she does not forget and still pines for.  She has erotic dreams.  She has driven her doubts and anger at her chosen life beneath the surface, but not close enough;  they bubble up often.  Her disillusions and dread appear on every page.  The constant noise of children, the smell of cooking, the repetitive existence of Shabbos – (meant to be the high spot of each week),  the work-intensive holidays, the cleaning and her job (yes, she also works) felt, to me,  like trying to squeeze uranium from a toothpaste tube without causing Armageddon.  It ate at me as I read and what I could clearly feel was her valiant, abiding, faithful adherence to her chosen life; sucking her dry.  She suffers in so many from her feelings and she suffers greatly.

Tangible details: the clothing, the wig, the rigidity, the childbirths and her husband are not left to guesswork.  And eventually, by chance, the happy ending finally arrives and the long struggle she battled, allows her to keep her better self as a Jew, to embrace her sexuality and create a life with her partner and oy, was it a relief.

I suspect this book will speak to many religious women in many diverse communities, not only Orthodox Jewry. It sheds another bright light on a much-needed look at how women in male-dominated societies narrow their vision and the toll it takes. It was a difficult memoir, well written and it spoke to and will continue to speak to the many oppressed and repressed females who are now – perhaps – coming to the front and pointing fingers at a hierarchy that needs a good deal of work. As feminist commentary and cautionary tale – especially in these difficult times, I highly recommend it.

 

I read the “Guru of Love”, set in Nepal and found it fascinating.  Mores and manners I had not often encountered in other South Asian fiction and others, wholly familiar.  Nepal was a new locale but within a religious and politically fragmented country – it continued a thread that is present in so many books from this area.  I liked it.  It plays a timeworn song, but one that keeps playing – even now.

A desire I have had for some time has been to improve my understanding of science, After I failed “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” (sorry Neil – I tried)  I found and ordered two small books that promised to teach me The Periodic Tables (a work of art) and the Cosmos.  I am still hopeless, alas, but I am not finished.  The fact I didn’t catch on to “Astrophysics” ( and I was in no hurry)- chips at my belief it will suddenly all make sense.  But I do love Fibonacci numbers, the Large Hadron Collider, the Boson Higgs and numerous elements I hardly understand must indicate something.  My burning question still exists without an answer though:  If the Universe has an age, began with some sort of event and is going to end – what will be in its place instead?  

These little books are from Quercus and at Daedelus, part of their winter sale.

I would love your comments.  Tell me what you read and share your favorites (and give a hint why).  It’s free and there is no deadline.