Books #7 through 10

I’ve been reading, I swear! But a little delinquent on the book reports. Blame summer; even without legitimate vacation, it certainly lends itself to lazy days by the pool.

Book 7: Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. Rating: *****

Wow, that’s a mouthful! And it’s a mouthful of a book, too. It’s told from the perspectives of two Nigerians, once lovers now apart, as they navigate American and British sentiment on immigration, race, and the like. Strongly drawn characters; I preferred Obinze over Ifemelu — he is a deeply sympathetic man, while she is a force of nature. The structure is a little unusual and episodic, almost like its a series of connected short stories that were linked by interludes into this longer, book-length tale. But it’s the kind of book that stays with you for weeks after, especially reading it now, after the year we lost Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland. Definitely a desert island read, as was her previous book, Purple Hibiscus.

Book 8: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie King. Rating: ***

Veeeeery different style. This one is the first in a series of mystery novels built on the premise that Sherlock Holmes grew old, retired to the English countryside (and kept bees??) and then was drawn out of retirement in the early 1920s by a proto-flapper by the name of Mary Russell. As an inveterate Sherlockian — the Great Detective features front and center in my personal statements ranging from college all the way to fellowship! — I’m always a little wary of adaptations and continuations of the canon. The BBC’s Sherlock won me over in spite of myself, but this one, somewhat less so. It’s really more of a Mary Russell mystery than a Sherlock Holmes mystery (and its quite a fine mystery at that), but it made the whole Sherlock thing seem like a bit of a gimmick to get attention. The sequel would probably be a good beach read if it landed in my lap but I wouldn’t go out of my way to hunt it down.

Book 9: The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys. Rating: ****

I read this for my book club, way back in February or so. (To be honest, a frozen river sounds just awesome on this 90+ degree September day.) The premise of the book is simple: the River Thames has frozen solid 40 times in recorded history; Ms Humphreys has put together a series of vignettes for each of those times. She does an excellent job with the variations in style over time. And there are broader themes of hubris and wonder. In the words of my 7th grade English teacher: this book was Man vs Nature. (Funny how we never read any Woman vs Nature. I’ll save that rant for another time.)

Book 10: The Martian, by Andy Weir. Rating: *

I hated this book. I finished it, but I hated it. I usually like adventure stories, and survival stories, and what could be more adventure-survival than being left for dead … ON MARS! But the narrator was terrible. He was supposed to be a 30 something materials engineer (who randomly was also a botanist? Because people get PhDs in two totally disparate fields (“it’s science!”) by the time they are 30.) But the way he talked, he sounded like a 12 year old school girl. The flux capacitor is working!!! Yaaaay! Seriously. No. I almost expected to see hearts flying over his “i”s, the way the reeally popular girls did on the covers of their Trapper Keepers, in gel pen.

OK, folks, that’s all for now. More to come soon


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