How can it possibly be Wednesday again?! This week has gone by in a blur, probably because I’ve had my nose stuck in a book during every conceivable second. Remember how I always say that I ebb and flow? Sometimes I can’t imagine reading anything and sometimes I can’t do anything but read? Well… proceed with the rest of this post with caution.
FINISHED THIS WEEK:
The Word is Murder is the first in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series. After discovering that Magpie Murders is becoming a Masterpiece miniseries, I was itching for another series by Horowitz and discovered this one. Shortly after I put a hold on it, recommendations came pouring in from all of you and I became very excited! In this series, Horowitz is part of the investigative team. Yes — the author has written himself into the story and uses real details about his life to build this character. I can’t decide if that’s lazy or clever. We get to hear all about his success as a writer and his wonderful life. And I can’t decide if that is narcissistic or clever. Clearly, I was in a funny conundrum the whole time I was listening to it.
The mystery was quite good. A woman arranges her own funeral and is murdered that very afternoon. Plenty of red herrings to distract the investigation. Hawthorne is an interesting guy – very mysterious, keeps to himself, a creature of habit. Horowitz spends a great amount of time trying to learn about him because, presumably, he’s writing a murder mystery series about Hawthorne. I will probably listen to the second in the series eventually to determine if I’m super annoyed by Horowitz’s little trick here or if I think it’s brilliant. The jury is still out; I spent a great deal of time trying to sort out my feelings about how the author used himself as a character instead of focusing on the audio as well as I should have. Maybe that was what the author was hoping for? But I must get PBS Passport because this book made me want to watch Foyle’s War. (Maybe this book was one big self promotion for Horowitz?)
The Trees is on the Booker Longlist and was a part of the Tournament of Books earlier this year. I went into it knowing nothing about the plot other than the storyline was propulsive and it was difficult to put down. And that was very true! Two black investigators from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are sent to Money, MS after the gruesome and mysterious murder of a man, Wheat Bryant. Wheat is found dead in his home with the body of a black man who had clearly been dead for a while. Shortly after, Junior Junior Milam (yes, that’s his name. His father’s name was Junior. His son is Triple J – Junior Junior Junior Milam) is found dead under the same circumstances. We quickly learn that Bryant and Milam are descendants of the men who murdered Emmett Till and someone is exacting their revenge. And then there are revenge killings for lynchings all across the country.
This book was hilarious – I laughed out loud so many times. But it was also dark and gory in places, so beware. There was enough humor for me to be able to withstand the darkness, but your mileage may vary. I thought the book was interesting and clever, but do have one small complaint. The racists in this book are complete caricatures — which is what makes the book so darn funny. If the racists would have been more nuanced, I think there would have been an opportunity for everyone to look at themselves and think about how they contribute to racist attitudes and thoughts. The people in this book are so ridiculous that it’s easy to say “this isn’t me,” laugh, and move on. I’m sure the author thought of that and chose his way for good reasons, but I couldn’t help think of a missed opportunity. But not everything has to teach white people about their own racism and this is a good example of that — good story, well told.
After finishing another Maisie Dobbs a couple of weeks ago, I was excited to get to the next. Among the Mad was another excellent installment, which dealt with differences in social classes, shell shocked soldiers, and what benefits they’re entitled to after having their lives ravaged by WWI. This one also spends a lot of time with Billy Beal and his wife, Doreen, who are still struggling mightily with the loss of their daughter from a few books earlier. I come to like Maisie Dobbs more with each novel and am excited to see her storyline continue — perhaps even into WWII? Time will tell for me! (PS: I have a hard time remembering her name and often call her Daisy Mobbs in my head. Yikes!)
Bronwyn and I finished another American Girl book this week. Josefina’s Surprise was her Christmas story and was lovely. Josefina and her family are quite nervous about Christmas because the previous year’s was so sad after their mother died. All the sisters are still struggling with the loss of their mother in different ways, and we learn how to take care of each other despite not totally understanding what is wrong. There are the coziest scenes of the sisters and Tía Dolores sitting around the fire and mending the embroidered altar cloth for their church – I loved it! This book also teaches the reader about Las Posadas, which is the traditional Mexican celebration for Christmas, which I knew nothing about.
I know I said I was going to take my time with The Shell Seekers, but it came to a point in which I couldn’t put it down. I carried it around the house, hugging it, and was ready for any opportunity to read even half a sentence. Bryce asked me over the weekend, are you in love with your book, Mom? Yes. Yes I am in love with this book. The major plot of this book is set in the 80s just outside of London. Penelope Keeling has had a small heart attack and her three children are “worried” about her. And two of them are so worried about her that they’re urging her to sell the few paintings she has from her dear father, including The Shell Seekers. And they want her to hand over the money before she dies so that they can all save on death taxes. Throughout this novel, we learn about Penelope’s childhood in Cornwall and why this painting is so important to her, her experiences during WWII, and her life as a young mother.
This novel is exquisitely told and full of the most beautiful scenes of domesticity. Scrubbed tables full of mouth-watering meals, gardens full of flowers and vegetables, and laundry out to dry in the sunshine. There are Guernsey and Shetland sweaters, cardigans full of patches, and even a few knitting scenes. Friends — this is the kind of book I LIVE for. It was so good and I’m so glad I bought my copy. I will certainly be revisiting this!
(Also: several of us are reading this right now and I’m working on a way for us to discuss it without spoiling anything for others. I hope to have a bonus post tomorrow with a little more information on that!)
We also finished Finn Family Moomintroll yesterday, which has been our readaloud for school for the last few weeks. This was a captivating tale full of our friends and includes the introduction of Thingumy and Bob, the cutest of the cute. In this book, Moomintroll and his friends find a hobgoblin’s hat on top of a mountain and take it home. Anyone who wears this hat should be careful — strange things happen. And anything that is stored in this hat will very likely turn into something quite extraordinary, which became a problem when the Moomins decided to use it as a trash can. The illustrations in this book are delightful, the characters are perfect, and the adventures are one of a kind. I’m so glad I decided to start this series with the kids this summer. We’re planning to read one more, which I think we’ll be able to finish before our summer session is over and we started the suggested reading for Torchlight, our homeschooling curriculum.
Okay, I think that’s enough for a Wednesday. Colton is already waking up this morning and it’s time for me to get things ready for him. But can we pause for a moment to to acknowledge that it’s 5:26AM and the sky is still dark? Fall is approaching and I can already smell the sharpened Ticonderoga pencils waiting for us. I cannot wait!