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.

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.

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.

It’s Still January. Isn’t It?

I am back after a too long delay but I am a happy reader.  Very happy.  I will start with the most excellent, simply wonderful new character in the the the many very good, literary mystery series on the shelves.  Sujata Massey of the Rei Shimura series (and you must read all these – I have),  had crept into India a few years back and dazzled me with her two books set in South Asia.  The Sleeping Dictionary is a tour de force that I recommend.  She promised a new mystery series set in 1920’s Bombay, India (my most-loved locale and in my favorite time-frame).  Perveen Mistry (a Parsi –   of a small, but unique and amazing group in that city) appeared on January 9th as the star of The Widows of Malabar Hill.  I was truly transported.  She is at the top of her game on a mesa with lots of room for more.  Brilliant and literary,  Perveen joins Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series to my delight the Sam Wyndham series set in Raj Calcutta by Abir Mukherjee, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh,  the Maharaja series by Arjun Raj Gaind. I am not familiar with Vish Puri – but I know he is another of this exalted group and I am waiting for a title by Tarun Tejal.

I love Bombay.  Love it.  And Widows is so diligently researched and is an example of superb authentic fiction.  I have read it in pieces so it would last longer and I am hoping Massey has taken a deep breath, some time off and has started another one.  She joins several other cherished Bombay novelists, Thrity Umrigar – {read all her books please!!} Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry,  Ardashir Vakil, Vaseem Khan, Shilpa Agarwal and Siddartha Dhangvant Shangvi, just a few on my long list ).  We are experiencing the welcome Indian (Anglo, Canadian, American) entrance into the mystery genre and about time. (I am a serious reader of India – for 20 years – so my enthusiasm is a long time and includes many South Asian authors – just about as prolific a group as the artists of Haiti).  This reading is not limited to fiction either. As an added bonus the Widows has two maps and a glossary.  This book tops my 2018 list so far and while the year stretches ahead – I think the Widows will endure.

Now that I have waxed deliriously about Widows, I must mention Tom Zoellner – whose book on diamonds was so marvelous; but his book Uranium was like a short course on Uranium itself, the atom bomb, yellowcake and the geographical locations of this heavy and very volatile, radioactive element.  It is a very frightening element and subject and has changed our world forever.  I found out, among much reading, that plutonium does not occur in nature but is a by-product of U-235 and that the infamous yellowcake must be weaponized. I also came away with a deep loathing of King Leopold of Belgium and his pimping and pandering of the Congo. As an unexpected benefit, Zoellner’s intensely researched, heavily referenced book relieved me of my continued, and laborious read of American Prometheus.  I am not surprised that J. Robert Oppenheimer died a man with many things on his mind.  I may finish this book eventually, but Uranium answered many questions.  Zoellner’s style is terrific.  It was a subject presented in a most engaging style that was very hard to put down – I think I liked it even better than The Heartless Stone.

Both the above books have whetted my appetite for further reading in these subjects  To this end I have expanded my hold list at the library

Fire and Fury – too much about a little, obnoxious man with small thumbs and a propensity for lies.   It is printed on cheap paper and not worth even that. This charlatan is a fat-assed, self-centered miscreant who has surrounded himself with disposable colleagues and has no business being in any part of politics and for that matter, business.  It is well written but also like reading the National Enquirer endlessly. Fascinating, but thoroughly nauseating.  Kudos to its author, Michael Wolff, however.

Is this it?  Seems as if I have read more, but could be magazines.  In the New Yorker, this week was Jill Lepore’s excellent piece on Barbie v. Bratz. (doll wars) .   Have also having appointments outside to make and this too takes time.  I promise I do search the library before I pile additional titles on my own bedside table (floor, dresser…).  Yet Amazon calls.  You too?

As a lagniappe – Must suggest a photo book by my longtime friend Dirck Halstead; Moments in Time.  A Time-Warner shooter, he has had 47 Time Magazine covers and is a photojournalist of renown.  He has covered the WH and been every damn where shooting the last century superbly.  The book is not a new one but the photos resonate indelibly.  I am bit biased but highly recommended.

Many on hold. And FYI – you can read short descriptions of all the books I mention on Amazon, your local library, and Goodreads.

Your comments are always welcome!

News of the Words

It has been a reading week.  And on my nightstand – for real – are The Widows of Malabar Hill, Uranium, The Outside World, A Fatal Grace, Still Life, American Prometheus (and Uranium is like a companion volume to AP), Kardamom Kisses, and (drum roll) arriving today Fire and Fury (Escapades of a Shit in a Shithole). and am trying to decide if it’s going to  be Malabar Widows (my heart is beating very fast – this promises to be a fantastic start to another India mystery series by a killer writer Sujata Massey.)  Or shall I dive into the slurry of Fire and Fury.  I suspect I will not be able to put it down.  And having started Uranium last night – I have fallen into yet another considerable tour de force by Tom Zoellner my new favorite non-fictionist.  I realize that books about specific ‘things’ (one subject that turns out to be dozens along the way) are very enticing.  In any subject, but especially in subjects I have little knowledge of and this is an education + great reading.  So Zoellner is a do not miss.  He is a wonderful writer and his notes and facts are so well checked.  Check him out. He is at Chapman U. in Orange County, California and worth a Google.

Kardamom Kisses was a surprise.  Shinie Antony is a very prolific yet under mentioned Indian writer. Outside India that is.  Her book(s) are published in India, in English, by Rupa (Delhi) –  so this can mean no glossary in the back.  She is extremely funny and a sharp and accomplished writer.  This is her debut novel  and I found myself laughing out loud often as I read – and was often confused because the story jumped around in terms of regional languages.  Malayalam  to Punjabi and English and a visit to her website didn’t help much.  Shinie Antony.net   FYI. From Kerala to Delhi and names and characters were the same but not in each place they lived.  The Baby Auntys were very funny and I am trying to get one of my Indian authors to help me sort this all out.  I recommend it but wait until I get a better glossary in hand. Shinie is active in Malayalam writing events in South India and her website is ShinieAntony.net.  If I get some info on terms – I will post them here.  (BTW – the last book that made me laugh so hard I had tears down my face was The Luminous Heart Of Jonah S. by a great favorite of mine, Gina Nahai. Magical Realism appeals to me bigly – and she has it nailed. Not to leave out Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and most South American and South Asian fiction writers.  Sometimes I actually think there is more truth than poetry in the genre of Magical Realism.

The Penguin Papers is wonderful and sad and I sobbed.  So if you read it, this is my only caveat.  It is a tender and lovely true story and you will want a penguin of your own to love.  You will want Juan Salvado.  I do.  Read it – a good cry never hurt anyone.

A brilliant WISHLIST idea emerges in the form of the book catalogues I receive. I use them as a wish list of what and where the books I like will be from.  Check them off with some to borrow and some to buy.  Some are L’s and other are $s – and from this list I can order online from the best price site or even cheaper, the L.A. Public Library {that’s the ‘ L’.}  Never fail to look on Amazon.   So, next time a book catalogue drops into your mail – try this method to get your reading wishlists in a row.  Get catalogues (paper) from university presses, Daedalus, regional stores and UK and Aussie  titles.  My university press list I like best are Chicago, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, University of California and it is easy to find them online.  Daedalus has a very varied catalogue that I love, but any catalogue you receive is a new world of titles.   Snail-mailed orders allow you to use paper checks.  Not everyone has credit cards.

The NYTimes Sunday Book Review was better this week.  Of course my favorite crime critic, Marilyn Stasio, led off and that is never a bad sign. The sacrosanct “Best Seller” list is still largely ‘nom nom’ novels – bowl of salted snacks and your drink of choice.  They sell well largely because they require little thought and are better (to me) than movies. And fast.  Some I have already read some and a few more are on my list.  The staff picks can also be very good but the pretentious “Shortlist” still annoys me.  And speaking of the shortlist – The Man Booker is 50 years old and is having a celebration and  a contest.  Check their website Manbooker.com.  I am ashamed to say that of the fifty winners I have only read a dozen, but I may have done better on their short lists.   I will check for next time.  I love this entire competition because their finalists are so eclectic and smart and the Booker’s inclusion of global entries is even better.

MAIL DROP JUST NOW:  Fire and Fury.  Not opened yet  (that’s next) but when I am done – I will tell you why it was incredible or that I knew it all anyway.

And…although I prefer printed books, don’t forget e-books, audible books and almost daily new ways to read books.

 (As promised, I have kept my library receipts).