Georgette Spelvin: I'm not the person Sister Mary Murderous should ask for help in kicking her book-buying habit. She lays waste to my own pocketbook with her emails that begin, "I just ran across a book with your name all over it, Georgette." I've been afraid to ask her exactly what this means, but she definitely has my number. In addition to directing me to Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings last year, she suggested several of my favorite reads from the year before: Philipp Meyer's The Son, an epic about the McCullough family of Texas, from the pre-Civil War days to post-9/11; and The Infatuations by Javier Marías, a novel that uses a supposedly random homicide to examine guilt, mortality, and truth. And we both loved Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker, and Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project in 2013 (see here).
I agree with Della Streetwise that Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, a sci fi/fantasy/horror/dystopian genre-bender, is amazing. I also concur it's imperative to read the books in order, beginning with Annihilation. The movie rights have been sold to Paramount, and Alex Garland, who wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later, is set to adapt and direct it. This isn't as exciting as the news that Matt Damon will star in the movie based on Andy Weir's The Martian, but I'll still look forward to seeing Annihilation.
Another of Della's picks, Station Eleven, by Emily St. John, is an original take on a post-apocalyptic America, and I enjoyed it. I haven't read James L. Cambias's A Darkling Sea, with Earthlings, lobster-like Ilmatarans, and six-legged Sholen at loggerheads on a planet far from Earth, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
I'm always anxious to meet fellow literature lovers, even if they're fictional characters like Aalyia Sohbi of Beirut in Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman.
|Sir Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes|
|Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves|
Okay, let's straighten up in our chairs and think about books that are more serious before we look at some satire. In Malcolm Lowry's masterpiece, Under the Volcano, Geoffrey Firmin's most important relationship isn't with his wife, Yvonne––it's with alcohol. On the Day of the Dead in 1938, he resigns his post as British Consul, sits at a bar, and resolves to drink himself to death. It's a powerful read about guilt and the struggle for redemption. I'd like to read Alice McDermott's Charming Billy, featuring another alcoholic.
here), in which a man likes the image of himself as a grieving widower so much he sets out to murder his wife. Unfortunately, his skill set doesn't include pinpoint killing, and his neighbors pay the price for his bumbling. After seeing this other Williams book, Unfaithfully Yours, on Lady Jane Digby's Ghost's list and reading Sister Mary's comments, I scurried to the Book Depository website to order it.
LJDG's comments about Lissa Evans's Crooked Heart are too much for me to resist: "A small part of the reader's heart will be left with the suffragette medal given new love in Noel's charitable hands. This is a wonderful, unforgettable read." (Regarding India Knight's blurb about the book: Sister Mary isn't the only one who loves Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. You really should read that book and also Dodie Smith's witty and moving coming-of-age novel, I Capture the Castle. It has one of literature's best first lines: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.")
|Not only eggs are hardboiled|
If you haven't read any of Block's hardboiled Scudder books, I'll suggest a couple you could start with: Eight Million Ways to Die (a prostitute finds big trouble when she wants to quit her profession) or When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Scudder looks back to the 1970s when he was drinking heavily and juggling several investigations for friends). Or, if you want to start at the beginning, that's The Sins of the Fathers, in which the father of a dead prostitute asks Scudder to investigate.
Della Streetwise: Around Thanksgiving, I resolved to increase my reading speed in 2015. I have now made a startling discovery that will have me reading at warp speed by year's end. As my reading velocity has increased, so has my rate of new book acquisition. Because these two activities are positively correlated, my reading pace should therefore increase if I merely step up my purchases and library requests. I can utilize these Read Me Deadly year-end lists guilt-free because they're helping me keep my New Year's resolution!
|What is this other than a bird's eye view?|
I haven't read a Camilleri mystery for quite some time and am glad to be reminded of his cynical Sicilian police inspector, Salvo Montalbano. Montalbano knows how to live by balancing work with pleasure. I'm going to bring some Italian warmth into my living room this winter with Camilleri's Treasure Hunt and MC's other Italian suggestion, Maurizio de Giovanni's I Will Have Vengeance.
Michel Faber's sci fi, The Book of Strange New Things, looks like a must read. I'm interested in how people balance pressures exerted by their own needs against their loved ones' and society's. I'd like to see what happens when Peter Leigh, a human minister on another planet, is caught between his employer, his congregation of extraterrestrials and his wife on a disintegrating Earth.
Of course, we're sorry to learn Sister MM is in any kind of distress. Notwithstanding the benefits we all receive from her books researching, reading and reporting, we're more than happy to respond to her request for help with a books addiction. Might I suggest she go to bed an hour later so she can squeeze in more reading and feel better about the number of unread books on her shelf? Perhaps her husband could read to her at breakfast. There's also lunch and dinner.
While she's contemplating these ideas, I'll thank her for several books on her list that I already read at her suggestion, Robert Harris's Ian Fleming Steel Dagger winner, An Officer and a Spy, and Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy. I have Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart in the pipeline. That weird William Heming, who keeps the keys to houses he sells, gives me the shivers so I must read A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan.
I'm pondering my next read (quickly) as I bid you goodbye. I hope everyone is off to a good start reading in 2015.