While the rest of the world is celebrating May Day, International Workers Day, and Beltane, I thought I would use this opportunity to do another catchup roundup of what I've been reading lately.
The Gulfside Musing Book Club Selections
When I read a review of a book that sounds great, I add it to my GoodReads TBR list. Then, when I want to fill up my hold list at my library, I scan the list and see what I can get. As it turns out, JoAnn at Gulfside Musing reads a lot of books that appeal to me. It just so happens that I got a rash of library books that originated with a JoAnn review, so with no further ado, here are my recent reads recommended by JoAnn.
Dinosaurs, by Lydia Millet - the premise is pretty low-key, but the writing was excellent as was the character development/arc. Essentially a wealthy New Yorker (Gil) is dumped by his atrocious girlfriend and so he relocates to Arizona and makes friends with the family who lives next door.
There are a couple of quirks that make this a bit more than run of the mill. Gil doesn't just relocate to AZ, he walks there! Yes, all 2500 miles or so. I like to walk and have walked the width of England, but walking from NY to AZ is beyond my ability to comprehend. And the family next door? They live in a glass house.
The quirks are interesting but they are not what make this a good book--they're probably just there to get the attention of someone looking for a fresh angle. Anyway I came to love and respect Gil just as the family next door does. He is a good guy with a good heart and a hardluck story despite his wealth. He strives to do the right thing and learns how to rebuild a life from the ground up, finding connections with the people in his orbit and doing the work to make those connections solid.
I cannot quote the ending because the book has been returned to the library, but it was a lovely, lyrical ending that wrapped the story very nicely.
Oh, and dinosaurs are really just extinct birds. Anyway, the bird theme runs through the novel in a gentle, not overbearing, not in a hit-em-over-the-head-with-a-metaphor way. I love birds and so I enjoyed how the themes of connectedness and metamorphisis made the novel work.
Signal Fires, by Dani Shapiro - I read this immediately after Dinosaurs, and I confess that the storylines kind of merged in my mind. Another family/neighborhood-based novel about living with the consequences of our actions, finding the connections between each other, and trying to do the right thing, even when it is harder than you think possible to do. Essentially, this is the story of two families and how their lives intersect in ways that are not always obvious. I particularly loved the little boy genius whose Dad simply doesn't know how to deal with him and the good doctor across the street who will gaze up at the stars with him and find solace in knowing exactly where they are in the universe.
Now is Not the Time to Panic, by Kevin Wilson - the other two were solid 4-star books, but for me, this was a 5-star winner. I absolutely loved this coming of age story--such a fresh, interesting approach. And actually, I labeled it a coming-of-age story, but I think it's way more than that. It's about the courage it takes to be an artist, to create something and share it with the world and then watch the world take it and exploit it and turn it into something else that you didn't intend. While I was reading it, I was thinking about literary criticism, fan fiction, TV and movie adaptations, derivative art, and a host of other things all while being immensely caught up in the story of Frankie and Zeke and the poster they created and how that poster took on a life of its own. Loved this book.
The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly - this is the first in the Harry Bosch universe, LA cop series. I liked this author's later Mickey Haller books so much that I decided to travel back in time to the 1990s and learn more about Mickey's half brother Harry. Definitely a great mystery with Vietnam vets, a bank heist or two, and plenty of action.
White Nights, by Ann Cleeves - I am working my way through both her Vera Stanhope and Shetland series, and this is the second in the Shetland series, featuring island boy Jimmy Perez. It was a good solid mystery in a fantastic setting (up near the Artic circle the nights never actually get dark in the summer) with a great cast of quirky characters and deceptive red herrings.
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer - I just finished this yesterday. It was okay--somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, so I rounded up. I read it mostly for the travel bits, which were great as the protagonist, Arthur Less, travels around the world all to escape going to the wedding of his former boyfriend. Arthur's whining about turning 50 got on my nerves a bit, and I can't say I found his story arc particularly compelling, but I do like travel novels.
Off to Europe
I am headed to Europe on Saturday for a 2-week vacation with my daughter, who just graduated from college. We are starting in Paris, and moving on to Munich, with a short trip to Berchtesgarden, then ending up in Berlin. We are both interested in WWII, and so most of our sightseeing will be visiting museums and sites that figured in the war, although Paris is all about relaxing and getting over jet lag before Germany.
I just got a new keyboard for my laptop, so I may find the time to do some travelogues while on the road. If not, I will share pictures when we get back.
Happy May Day! Hope you have a wonderful reading month ahead of you.