READING ROUND-UP – APRIL 2020 & MAY 2020

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Theoretically, Lockdown is the perfect time to read – provided you can summon up the energy and concentrate. And then write up a blog review. In April I just didn’t manage it.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PAST TWO MONTHS
Literary Novels: The Bear – Andrew Krivak
Short Stories: A Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin
Memoir: Cat Chat – Helene Thornton.
Humour: The Sophie Katz mystery romance series – Kyra Davis

 

What a marvelous book The Bear is! Its an account of the last two humans remaining on earth, post-apocalypse. We’re not in Mad Max territory. The story concerns a man and his young daughter, living a hunter-gatherer life ruled by the need for survival by living in harmony with the seasons, and the natural world. The characters are un-named, which adds to the mythic quality of the story. The father tells his daughter stories, about their own personal history, the stars, and stories about everything he knows. Which she in turn passes on. To whom? To the Bear. At the end of the human race, the last human regains the long-lost   gift of speaking to the animals. At last, all are in harmony.
The tone is quiet, sober, and elegiac. The ending had me in tears. Don’t be misled: this is not a miserable, depressing book. This may well be my Book of the Year, and I urge you not to miss it.
Lucia Berlin’s collection of stories. Is set in (mostly) TexMex and the SF Bay area, about women who struggle with alcoholic and drug dependent men, or their own alcohol dependency, plus poverty etc. The American underbelly well and truly exposed, but lightened with moments of grace, humanity, compassion, humour and the clarity of the writing. Rave rave rave. Don’t miss this collection!

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews was a terrific spy story. The perfidy of the Russian spymasters knows no bounds. Written by a man who claims many years service with the CIA – I’m surprised he was permitted to publish the book, it certainly has the flavour of truth about it. A cracking story. Despite the violence, deception, backstabbing and the tragic ending, I enjoyed the book.

 

The Barbara Kingsolver novel Unsheltered, was a heavy read. The inequalities of contemporary American capitalist, consumer society are contrasted with Communist Cuba’s s egalitarian life. A parallel story about a forgotten female Victorian botanist Mary Treat, who once lived in the same house (now crumbling into collapse) inhabited by the modern family. I dislike books with parallel story lines, which was the format of the novel. An unmitigated tale of family trauma and woe. I was not in the mood for BK’s issue driven approach. Not a good choice for Lockdown Reading.
I parked Ducks, Newburyport, after struggling with my unfamiliar Kindle and the stream of consciousness, unpunctuated, 1 000 page, narrative. I’ll have another crack at it when I’m less agitated and feeling stronger.
Once I came to terms with the Kindle, I explored the world of Cozy Mysteries. The books ranged from highly entertaining to horribly bad with a hefty slice in between. See below.

FICTION
The Bear – Andrew Krivak. Described as an adult fable, but more mythic so far as I’m concerned. Beautifully written. Post-apocalyptic story of the last two humans on earth, and the natural world they live in. An unusual and thoughtful book. Highly recommended.
Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews. Uber-authentic spy thriller, written by retired long-time CIA official. A chilling thriller. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, and devastated by the ending. Recommended for thriller fans.
Unhoused – Barbara Kingsolver. Another hefty issue-driven novel, relating the many trials & tribulations of a middle-class American family struggling against poverty, insufficient wages, poor health care etc etc. Nothing but challenge & disaster piling up one after the other; a tale of unmitigated family trauma and woe.
The Art of Purring – David Michie. Basic Tibetan Buddhist teaching woven into a sweet story about HH the Dalai Lama’s Cat.
Pretty Is as Pretty Dies – Elizabeth Spann Craig. E-book. My first excursion into the world of cozy mysteries. Octogenarian Myrtle Clover solves two small town murders, lightened by touches of humour and quirky characters. A quick, easy read.
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte – Kyra Davis. Entertaining murder story, where the baddie copies plots from a novelist’s books. Novelist is the narrator and she’s in his sights. Urban setting, San Francisco, plenty of pizzaz. Also featuring an archetypal Jewish mother and a black, gay hairdresser. I intend to read more in the series.
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte – Kyra Davis . E-book
Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate – Kyra Davis. E-book
Lust, Loathing & a Little Lip Gloss – Kyra Davis. E-book
Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights – Kyra Davis. E-book ; All four books are entertaining, sassy, sexy, fun reads. I can’t wait for my next Sophie Katz read!
Sweet Masterpiece – Connie Shelton. First in a long series of cozy mysteries, featuring a female sleuth who bakes as a hobby, and cleans up deceased estate house & crime scenes for a living. An Okay Read , but lacking the sparkle and naughty fun of the Kyra Davis Sophie Katz novels.

 

SHORT STORIES
A Manual for Cleaning Women,. Collected stories of Lucia Berlin. Powerful, harrowing, brilliant exposure of America’s underbelly and the world of Latinos and the American Tex-Mex area. E-book.

NON-FICTION
Cat Chat – by Helene Thornton. LINK a delightful memoir of life and love in middle years; set in Provence so bags of good food & wine, Gallic charm and the happen -chance acquisition of a second husband and nine cats. Charming. Recommended read for cat lovers and Peter Mayle Provence fans.

5 thoughts on “READING ROUND-UP – APRIL 2020 & MAY 2020

  1. I know what you mean about not being able to read in these challenging times. I managed to read only six books this month and none in April. It’s difficult to read thrillers when we are living in one. And tackling non-fiction (history) requires much more concentration than I can muster in my state of high anxiety. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

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