Reading Highlights – June 2013

I managed to read or listen to nine books in June.  Two were in audio form.  Somewhat to my surprise only two books were crime novels, though one is probably listed in the crime section.  This was The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith.  Though it does feature a crime of sorts, this as the title suggests is a gentle novel of human relationships.  The two genuine crime mysteries included Eternal, the third in the Jan Fabel series set in Hamburg.  Another very good and gory mystery.

12336280The other crime novel was The Fallen, the third in Jassy Mackenzie’s Jade de Jong series.  I have yet to read the first in this series, so this was only my second encounter with Jade de Jong.  This time she was on holiday in one of South Africa’s up market coastal resorts.  Or at least that was the idea.  Not much of a holiday as it turns out.  Her turbulent love life is mirrored or excelled by some nasty going-ons in and around the resort, which Jade cannot avoid helping to solve.  Fast paced and thrilling as the second in the series.

In addition to The Charming Quirks of Others, I read four more non crime fiction novels.  The first was the chosen book for our reading group and a most unusual tale it was too.  Trumpet is about the life of a fictional famous  trumpeter, who is not all what he seems to be.  The book opens with his death and gradually we uncover the deep secrets of his life as retold by some of the key participants.  Beautifully written, this is an at times unsettling and challenging novel about love, identity and understanding.

024538-FC222The Republic of Love by Canadian writer Carol Shields is a wonderful celebration of life and all it entails – love, loss, disappointments, regrets, joy and above all friendship.  Fay and Tom are the two main protagonists of the novel and the first half of the book recounts in alternate chapters their separate lives and misadventures.  They do meet up, but we are kept in suspense as to whether they will make it together.  A lovely novel.  Last month I read or more accurately listened to my first novel by American author, Anita Shreave – Testimony.  I enjoyed it so much that I took the opportunity to listen to another audio book version of another of her novels.  This was the Weight of Water which is a completely different novel from Testimony.  Very good as well, it tells in effect two stories a hundred or so years apart.  One is set in the present day and features a woman who is researching into the events surrounding the murder of two Norwegian women in an isolated spot off the coast of New England in the 19th century.  This of course is the other tale in the novel.  And as she delves more and more into the past her own present life begins to unravel with unforeseen consequences.  The final fiction book was a collection of poems by Federico Garcia Lorca.  Romancero Gitano or Gypsy Ballads is one of my favourite poetry collections.  I have read them many times before, so this was a re-reading.  They are wonderful poems with some unexpected visual and aural imagery.  Together they evoke the lost world of Andalucía and its gypsy heritage.  All the poems are exceptional, but my favourite is probably the first – Romance de La Luna Luna – Ballad of the Moon, with its bright images and its fatalism.

I completed my reading with two non-fiction books, both on the First World War.  Loos 1915  by Nick Lloyd  is a detailed account of the planning and execution of the battle of Loos, one of the earliest battles in the war and one of the first to feature soldiers from Kitchener’s New Army.    The other, Somme 1st July by Andrew Robertson is a shorter and simpler account of the first day of that infamous battle.  Full of photos, drawings and maps, it is a very good introduction to one of the most talked about battles from that war.  Both books attempt in their different ways to offer a more balanced account of the immense difficulties facing the British and French forces during the war.

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