What I'm Reading Now: 11 July 11

The kitchen daughter-- Jael McHenry (literary fiction)
Dark road to Darjeeling-- Deanna Raybourn
The abortionist’s daughter-- Elisabeth Hyde
Escape--Carolyn Jessop (memoir)
How Shakespeare changed everything-- Stephen Marche (non-fiction)
State of wonder--Ann Patchett (literary fiction)
A very modest cottage--Teresa Surratt (non-fiction)
The girl who disappeared twice--Andrea Kane
Voodoo river-- Robert Crais

The kitchen daughter was recommended by one of my fellow librarians at a professional development day. It took a few weeks to cross my desk, but I'm very pleased I got it. Ginny is the kitchen daughter; she's a genius in the kitchen, pretty much a wreck anywhere else. When her parents die in a car accident, she has  to find her way in the world, with, or  in spite of, the well-meaning attempts of her older sister to run her life. “I do not have a problem,” Ginny insists, “I have a personality,” and her personality helps and hinders by turn as she makes friends and tries to answer questions of grief, how well one knows one's family, and what constitutes normal.
McHenry's images of food are lush and mouthwatering, and Ginny's stumbling progress through life on her own both ring true and open up the landscape of someone who is... well... differently normal. Read it.

Dark road to Darjeeling is the start of a second trilogy about Lady Julia Grey. I devoured the first one as the books came out, then lost sight of Raybourn for a while. I'm very glad she's continued with Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane, who are an amateur and a professional sleuth, respectively. They crossed paths (and metaphorical swords) frequently in those first three books (Silent in the grave, Silent in the sanctuary, Silent on the moor), and have finally given in to the inevitable and admitted their feelings for each other. In Dark road, they are just completing the eighth month (!) of their honeymoon when Julia's sister summons them to join her in India, as she rushes to the aid of her best friend Jane, whose husband has died under somewhat suspicious circumstances.
Raybourn has done a lot of things right that many authors can't quite master: creating an impetuous heroine who remains sensible, for one, and depicting a relationship that continues to be interesting once the ring is in place. Julia and Nicholas are hardly speaking to each other for a good third of the novel, as they try to work out how two strong-willed people from very different backgrounds can fit together into a marriage. I'm almost as interested in seeing how they're going to make their marriage work as I am to watch them solve the next mystery.

The abortionist's daughter is somewhere in the misty area where “novel” and “mystery” intersect. There is a mystery-- a doctor who performed abortions is found dead in her lap pool. There are conflicted relationships-- both her husband and her daughter are, to varying degrees, estranged from her, and later from each other. The characters are interesting, and the plot throws in a number of twists. It's a good read.

Escape is Carolyn Jessop's  memoir of growing up in a polygamous sect, becoming the fourth wife of a fifty-four-year-old man at the age of eighteen, and finally managing to escape the cult with her eight children when the cult became dangerously apocalyptic.
It's gripping reading, and it's true. Jessop and her co-writer Laura Palmer do an excellent job of bringing across  Carolyn's perspective, beginning with her childhood belief that polygamy was the right and moral thing to do, to a growing realization of how horrifying it was in practice, to finally escaping and creating a new life in the world she was raised to think of as evil. I'm planning on reading her other book, Triumph: life after the cult.

How Shakespeare changed everything is a slim volume that makes the claim that without Shakespeare, we wouldn't have adolescence, the name Jessica, a healthy sex life, or starlings in North America. Marche explains how Romeo and Juliet changed the way we look at teenagers, how Othello paved the way for Obama's presidency, and how Tolstoy believed Shakespeare was a hack. Worth reading for the myriad of Shakespeare-related trivia, even if you don't believe Marche's arguments.

State of wonder is the latest from Ann Patchett, who also wrote Bel canto. It is possible that “author of Bel canto” will appear on Patchett's tombstone; it seems more likely than citing State of Wonder. Not that it's a bad book-- it's odd, and haunting, and it will stay with you for a while-- but it's not her best.
Be that as it may, State of wonder finds Marina, a pharmacologist, traveling to the Amazonian wilds to track down a doctor so that she can give an accounting of the research into some new wonder drug. Marina's co-worker, Anders, has already made this trip and died in the jungle; guilt and a sense of responsibility force Marina to follow. However, things that seemed so basic and straightforward in the US become muddled and multilayered in the tropics, and Marina finds that very little can be accomplished easily, or without pain. Definitely, read it-- but read Bel canto, too.

A very modest cottage is basically the picture book of the restoration of a small tourist cabin. Not a lot of text, lots of pictures. It's interesting, but it wasn't what I expected, and so my opinion of it has suffered a bit from that.

The girl who disappeared twice is a very enjoyable read. I thought at first I'd fallen into the middle of a series again, as there were a number of very well-drawn characters with well-rounded backstories, but apparently this is the start of a series. I'm very pleased about that: Forensic Instincts, Inc, is a group of three people of varying backgrounds and approaches who will work with the law, but are not above doing things expediently rather than strictly legally.  Casey, Marc, and Ryan are a firm for hire, and they've just been hired by a judge whose daughter has been kidnapped. The judge is hiding a secret. So is her husband, the nanny, her mother, her father, and, well, practically everyone in the book.  Kane gives you just enough about a character to make them look suspicious, so there are plenty of leads and dead-ends before Forensic Instincts and the FBI close in on the kidnappers. My only complaint is that I figured out a few things well before the investigators did. I will be looking for more of Kane's work.

Voodoo river was a booksale purchase. I'd read some Robert Crais before, and had been somewhat underimpressed. However, I had run out of library books, and this was handy, so I thought I'd give him another chance.
Elvis Cole is a wisecracking PI based out of Los Angeles. A TV star approaches him about finding her adoptive parents, which sends him out into Louisiana. He runs into a lot of dead ends and stonewalling before a gimcrack PI who is tailing him gets killed, and after that, the plot complications come flying in.
My verdict? I'm not going to bother with Crais's Elvis Cole again. When I'm looking for a wisecracking PI, I'll read Robert Parker instead.

What I'm Reading Now: update schedule change

Apparently, when I decided that Saturday would be a good day for updates, I failed to take into account that I wanted to have a social life.

Update now (tentatively) scheduled for Monday(s).  See you then.

Reinland Golf Tournament

It's time for the 16th Annual Community Centre at Reinland Golf Tournament!

No experience is necessary (although you may find that a passport is).

July 26, 2011, at the Walhalla Golf & Country Club (which is why you'll need the passport, or other acceptable border-crossing identification). First start time will be at 4:30, and will continue until 6:00 pm. You can enter solo, or as a foursome. Format is best ball, so all skill levels are welcome. Cost is green fees + $1.

To enter, email Werner at ( werner at reinland dot ca ) or call him at 325.4495.

(We don't have online signups available this year. Sorry).

Eden Tractor Trek and Community Breakfast: July 16, 2011

Once again, The Eden Foundation is putting on a Tractor Trek to raise money for community mental health, and once again, our own Armin Ens is at the forefront. As last year, it begins in Reinland with a community breakfast.

The breakfast itself runs from 7:30-10:30, and will buffet-style this year, so people won't have to wait as long for their breakfasts. As registration for the Trekkers begins at 8, you probably won't see many tractors before then. The opening ceremony is at 10, outside the community center.

Breakfast is open to everyone who wants to come by. Trek participants' breakfast is included in their registration, and for everyone else, it's by donation.

 

See you there!