Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What I Read Over My Summer Vacation

I'm back from Maine and hoping no one has forgotten who I am, seeing as I posted not a single blog entry while I was gone. Perhaps I could have, but it was such a pain to have to go to the library for Internet access, especially when there was hiking and swimming and good eating to get done. Oh yeah, and there were books to be read, too. Thought I'd get back into this whole blogging business by sharing with you what I read.

The Collected Stories of Richard Yates
Richard Yates
My infatuation with Yates is as strong as ever, as I continue to be amazed by his descriptive ability. I've decided that if you were to visit his grave, paying close attention, you just might hear a bourbon-husky voice whispering, "Greatest generation, Mr. Brokaw? My ass!"

Do Evil in Return
Margaret Millar
I've now read two of Millars. Sadly, because I want to root for the woman/wife, especially in that era, I have to admit that she just can't hold a candle to her husband. A perfectly fine mystery writer, yes, but nowhere near the perfection of Ross Macdonald.

The Female Brain
Louann Brizendine
Fascinating. I learned quite a lot from this one, not the least of which is we still have so much to learn when it comes to the brain (male or female). Brizendine makes it all very easy to understand and provides plenty of "Ah-ha!" moments. A little too much "nature over nurture," and some gaps (like completely ignoring what might go on in the brains of women who choose not to have children), but nonfiction writers making a case often need to focus like that, and she still gave me plenty of food for thought.

A High Wind in Jamaica
Richard Hughs
A pirate adventure on the surface but really one of the most brutally honest portrayals of children -- both their tender and their savage sides -- I've ever read. Brilliant. A must read, if you've never read it.

Holly's Inbox
Holly Denham
Just what "chick lit" should be: implausible, fun, made me laugh, choked me up...And I loved the technique of a story being told through emails (an idea with which I've toyed from time to time).

Jude the Obscure
Thomas Hardy
(Still reading.) This is a book discussion group read, one I'm very glad we chose. What can I say? It's Thomas Hardy (whom, I'm suddenly realizing, is kind of like a Victorian, British Richard Yates). It's Jude (only the most callous of hearts could not feel for Jude and the fact he's just oh-so human). It's real; it's tragic; it takes to task all that's wrong with life in Victorian England; and I love it.

The Killing Kind
John Connolly
You know, I had to read something set in Maine, didn't I? Remember how Connolly's Book of Lost Things so impressed me? Well, I'm now extremely impressed with his skills as a spooky detective novelist. I'm also impressed that this Irishman knows New York and New England so well and writes about them better than many Americans I've read. Anyway, I can't wait to read more in the Charlie Parker series.

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
Full blog post on this (probably tomorrow, since the Connecticut detective book club is meeting on Friday). Advance warning: I will be gushing so much, you may be tempted to build a dam.

Notes from the Underwire
Quinn Cummings
Full blog post on this one coming soon, too. Love Quinn's blog? Then you'll love this book.

So, not a bad collection of reads, huh? Feel free to agree/disagree with my assessments of any of these you've read.


Susan said...

Well, at least I've heard of John Connolly, since i have the first two in the Charlie Parker series on my TBR pile! I can hardly wait for your post on The Moonstone (a book I've read several times), I want to try Holly Denham's book, and I've got others of Margaret Millar (I keep forgetting she was married to Ross MacDonald, who my mother read every single Travis Magee mystery ever written, so I remember them for the colours of the titles!!), and I've heard of a High Wind In Jamaica but not read it yet. It sounds like you had exactly what you needed, a lovely holiday spent reading.......*sigh* can I live vicariously through this idea for a while??? lol

I was thinking about the letter I owe you.....I meant to get it done before now, and I'm so sorry! It's not waiting for you in your mailbox :-( like I wanted it to be.

When do you start your new job? And more importantly, did you get anything written while you were gone, or was this a complete relaxation and spend time with Bob holiday?

Andrew Goyder said...

Welcome back, Emily! We missed you!

That's some fantastic reading you have there. I've also got A High Wind In Jamaica on my tbr pile, so I'm delighted you loved it. And looking forward to your review of Wilkie Collins. I very much enjoyed No Name which I read earlier this year.

Oh bother, this is going to come out under my husband's name (how does he manage to colonise the computer when he never comments on blogs? It's a mystery!) but this is actually from

Litlove xoxo

Emily Barton said...

Susan, do read the John Connolly. He's terrific. And please don't worry about the letter. I owe two other pen pals long overdue letters myself. I'll enjoy it when you get around to writing it, no matter when that is. I want pen-pal-dom to be fun, not something that adds guilt to people's lives (we've got plenty of that as it is). And, yes, I did get quite a bit of writing done, as well (although I've discovered Maine lends itself more to ghost-story writing than farcical fiction writing).

Litlove, Ahhh, I was wondering who this Andrew was who seemed to be so familiar with me. Can't wait to read your take on A High Wind in Jamaica. Wilkie Collins review coming very soon...

Stefanie said...

Welcome back! What a great list of reading you did while on vacation. I've not read any of the books you mention but I would like to read a High Wind in Jamaica and The Moonstone sometime. Perhaps I should take a long vacation to Maine sometime, or at least Lake Superior.

Bob said...

Amazed you had that you found much time to read all those books while in Maine, but glad to see that one of them was Yates’ short stories, all gems! But nice to have you back, Emily; as you know I’ll be off myself for a few weeks, with no (or little) Internet access, so I’m relying on you to hold down the fort!

Emily Barton said...

Thanks, Stef. You will LOVE the Moonstone, and I highly recommend a long vacation in Maine.

Bob, well, I'm a readaholic, much preferring books to any other drug (even, it seems, the Internet). Yes, the Yates collection was wonderful. After that and Jude, though, I'm going to need a little break from hard reality (although we bought both Conroy and Russo while in Maine). I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip. (Will there be a piano you can play on the ship?)

Bob said...

Hardy is another one on my reread list. I read The Return of the Native in high school and was smitten by Eustacia Vye. They’ll probably have a piano on the ship and if it’s a little out of the way, maybe I’ll play a little. As we’re in a different port every day, will not be much time for playing though, or, for that matter, reading. For my eleven hour flight I’ll be taking Updike’s Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, which is the closest thing he wrote to an autobiography. Saving Conroy and Russo for Asheville!

Rebecca H. said...

That sounds like lots of good reading. I loved the Hardy, as you know, and I'll have to read the Hughes -- it sounds like so much fun!

ZoesMom said...

That is an impressive list!

Have you read The Easter Parade by Richard Yates? I read that earlier this year and really, really enjoyed it. I didn't know he had a short story collection -- I will have to get that now.

Emily Barton said...

Bob, I read Return of the Native last year and loved it (well, if "love" is the right word when talking about Hardy).

Dorr, looking forward to hearing your take on High Wind in Jamaica when you get around to it.

ZM, haven't read Easter Parade (you have a copy? Maybe I can borrow it from you next time we see each other), but after Revolutionary Road and now his short stories, all of Yates is in my TBR tome.