Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My April Reading ... Part Two

I sure read a fair number of books this month, and I sure talked a whole lot about them. It was a good idea to split my over-long reading post up into three parts. The month isn't over yet, so I'll have a third post up next week.

The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh
Categories: rom, regency

Commentary: Recommended by author Megan Frampton and bloggers MissBates, Vi_dao, and DabneyGrinnan. The book started with a love scene between utter strangers who despised each other with no sense of there being any attraction between them. I was disappointed. I do not like books where the protagonists boink their way to a HEA. This was the book so highly recommended? I felt distanced from my romance-reading peers—perhaps my tastes had changed. Yet, for some reason I continued reading with what Victoria Jansen called a "vague completiest instinct." And thank goodness I did.

The book quite suddenly got better. I found I had some sympathy for Mary and then gradually for Edmond. I enjoyed reading about Edmond's very earnest soul-searching—a drink of water after being parched in the wasteland of London's gutters. As I read on, my sympathies with Mary didn't evolve but for Edmond they sure did, to the level that Mary started losing brownie points every time she gave Edmond a setdown. Despite his history of debauchery, he was willing to be vulnerable, to search through his emotions for the whys and wherefores, though he did leap for the security of his previous "devil may care" attitude from time to time. I did understand where Mary came from and why she was so reluctant to commit to Edmond, but her character arc was quieter, less dramatic as compared to Edmond's. Towards the end, I did wonder what it was that Edmond saw in her, what it was that inspired his passion and his love for her. She redeemed herself right at the end by her leap of faith.

On some level, this book had a predictable storyline and the characters, including the secondary characters, played their respective parts correctly. What made this book acquire a "re-readable" status was the emotional responses of the protagonists in their dialogues and their internal monologues.

A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh
Categories: rom, regency

Commentary: This book was less successful than The Notorious Rake. It's the prequel to Rake and tells the story of two couples, the parents and their daughter and her childhood frenemy. Trying to tell two stories in 261 pages makes for sparse character development, a light hand at moving the romances along, and severely limits the choices for the impediments to the success of the romances. I prefer more focus, more in-depth exploration of plausible issues, and a slow build-up.

Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
Categories: mystery
Diversity: Book in translation by a male author

Commentary: Recommended by authors Jo Bourne and Sarah Mayberry. This is book one of the Inspector Maigret series. Originally printed in French as Pietr-le-Letton (1930), this is a 2013 translation by David Bellos. I had seen two episodes of the miniseries produced in the UK and France and so was when I found out that the book had been reissued with a new translation, I was eager to read it. After reading some of the star-studded reviews, of the book, I was even more eager. André Gide: "The greatest of all, the most genuine novelist we have had in literature." P.D. James: "A writer, who more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal." And so on.

Well. It was plodding and boring. There was anti-Semitism, sexism, disparaging comments about Eastern Europeans, fat people. Then there were quite a few passages like this:

When they [suspects] had got back into their car there as a moment of indecision. The couple were having an argument. Mrs. Levingston was agitated. her husband lit a cigarette and put out his lighter with an angry swipe of his hand. Eventually, he said something to the chauffeur through the intercom tube, and the car set off, with Maigret in a taxi following behind.

So if Maigret was in a taxi behind, how in the world did he see all of that? Even if he was standing curbside, how could he observe all of this inside a darkened car? Assuming the dome light was on for him to observe, would he be able to find a taxi to follow so quickly given that the theater show had just ended and a huge crowd of theatergoers were thronging outside and looking for taxis? This book was a DNF for me.

The One Skill: How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta
Categories: nonfiction, life skills
Diversity: Self-published in e- format by a male author

Commentary: Read this book first in January, and re-read it this month to write the March TBR Challenge post. (Yes, I was late! Eep!) Excellent meditation on how letting go of idealism in life about situations and people leads to a happier, calmer life. This is not a cerebral book, but rather a very practical how-to book.