Thursday, June 25, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

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Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows

I loved Addison's first book, The Goblin Emperor, and I like the books she wrote under her own name well enough. So this one was an automatic read.

It's not the book I was expecting, but I loved it. The main character, a doctor wounded in Afghanistan in the 1880s, is wounded by a supernatural monster, who turns out to be a Fallen Angel. And when the doctor returns to England, badly injured, he finds himself in need of a roommate. His new roommate? A non-fallen Angel named Crow.

Who is a consulting detective for Scotland Yard. And lives at 221 Baker Street.

Oh my God.

This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling like you've never seen more -- the hellhound in The Hound of the Baskervilles is an actual hellhound, for instance -- and so much fun.

Written in Addison's compellingly readable prose. I gulped in down in one day. It's not as great as The Goblin Emperor, but it's more accessible and just a delight.

Christina Clancy, The Second Home

I didn't dislike this one, and it was engrossing enough. It's the story of three siblings, one of them adopted, and how one summer in their late adolescence shapes the rest of their lives.

I like the characters, especially Michael. I like all the details about surfing. I can't say why this one left me so meh. Maybe the plot? It's well-structured enough, but I found it hard to care about Ann, who I think is supposed to be the main character. She was so deeply unlikable that I wasn't moved by her trauma, which is the main engine of the book. I also really disliked the family she is supposed to have fallen in love with -- which leads to her downfall -- and had a hard time believing she was so entranced with them. (They are obvious assholes and creeps.)

The details about Cape Cod are great, and Michael and his story line are good. If you like family dramas, maybe this is for you.

Laurie King, Riviera Gold

This is another addition to King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. I liked it better than the last one, and Zelda Fitzgerald (and her husband, some sort of writer) show up as minor characters, which was fun. The mystery wasn't all that interesting, and the relationship between Russell and Holmes has sadly stopped developing.

So readable, but not one of the best books in the series.

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Susan Scarf Merrill, Shirley

I love Shirley Jackson, so I was interested in this one. It's from the point of view of  Rose, a young professor's wife. She and her husband are hired to teach at Bennington with Stan, Shirley Jackson's husband, and also to move in and live at the Hyman/Jackson household.

The wife is pregnant, and forms a case of hero worship for Shirley -- which who could blame her -- and Fred, the husband, gets mentored by Stan.

So far so good, and the bits with Shirley being a writer and being witchy are all pretty well done. I also like Rose's background story. 

But mostly it's just a mean-spirited book -- I can't count the number of times that Merrill makes the point that Shirley Jackson is fat and ugly, she's a slob, she's vicious, blah blah blah. 

Worse, the story goes nowhere. I think we're meant to assume that Jackson murdered this student who went missing ten years before, because she was angry about the student sleeping with Stan, but none of that really makes sense. And the parts about Jackson's house being like Hill House are just unconvincing.

The writing is good. If you're interested in life among writers in the 1960s, you might like this one.

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