Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Exactly Your Usual Beach Reads

I seem to be reading a lot of grim Nordic mysteries lately. The latest author I read is Jo Nesbo, whose last book concerns the recurring theme of nazism. I think The Girl  books set off this popularity. I've read two by Camilla  Lackburg that were absolutely horrifying, and very, very good.

I went to the Chuckanut Writers Conference with agent Andrea Hurst, and another agent  there, Kate Folker, and I talked a lot about books we like. I was thrilled that she actually knew about Dorothy Dunnett and Rosemary Sutcliffe, two of my favorite historical novelists. She was reading a political thriller by Charles Cumming that sounded good. When I checked on him at the library, most  of his books had a pretty long waiting list, but I did get TYPHOON, which turned out to be one of those books that keep me reading till dawn. Of course, living near the Canadian border means dawn comes very very early.

Actually I have read a couple of  real beach reads. Janet Evanovich's  17th, with Ranger, Joe, and Joe's scary grandmother all wanting a piece of our heroine. I'm reading a new Daisy Dalrymple cozy, set, of course, in a country house in England.

My friend Mare loaned me a paperback called Hounded  by Kevin Hearne, who immediately endeared himself to me by dedicating the book to his mother. The main character is a 2000 year old druid, who is surrounded by gods, witches, werewolves and vampires, in Tempe, Arizona. Next in the series are Hexed and Hammered. I can't wait.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catching Up

I haven't gotten my new blog set up, so I thought I'd catch up on the many books I've read-well at least some of them.
Right now I'm reading Phil Rickman's new book, The Bones of Avalon. It isn't one of the Merrily Watkins books, but rather a stand alone(I assume) written in the first person, about Dr. John Dee, astrologer and scientist in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. It's about a search for the bones of King Arthur. I'm not far into it, but already there's a horrible murder in the ruins of  Glastonbury Cathedral.
I read Meg Wolitzer's The Uncoupling, a take off on Lysistrata. It's interesting but didn't really grab me.
A nonfiction book that kept me reading till too late is Philip Connors' Fire Season. He spent eight fire seasons in a remote lookout in New Mexico. The book is about being a lookout, but it's also about the evolution of forest management, some notable writers who have had the same experience such as Edward Abbey and Jack Kerouac and  Norman MacLean. A wonderful book-the best kind. He's an entertaining writer and I learned a lot.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I have lots of books to write about, but I have a new blog:summitloop that I'll be using.It's just starting, so don't expect much

Monday, April 11, 2011

Catching Up

Due to circumstances beyond my control and abject laziness, I'm totally out of date with my list of books. Rather than try to start where I left off, I'll list a few that I've read recently.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest  is the last of the Steig Larssen  books, and the best, I think. The anit-heroine Lisbeth Salander is one of the best characters in contemporary literature. That's going some, but I was engaged by the first book, and sorry to reach the end of the last one.

Next: two favorites of mine:Paris and food and present in The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. He was a desert chef at La Panisse in Berkeley who decided to move to Paris, to a two room flat,  with an inadequate kitchen, where he develops killer recipes. He also had to learn about Parisians-not an easy job. Included in his memoir are recipes for:Bacon and Bleu Cheese Cake, Mocha Creme Fraiche Cake, and (the one recipe I've tried so far) Dulce de Leche Brownies. He also has a great blog.

I found Kate Morton because I had one of those book a day calendars last year. This year I have another because of the great books I've found. And hers were the real jewels. Evidently a lot of people agree with me because I had to join a long hold  list at the library. So far I've read two, each different, but so beautifully written, so engrossing that I spent long hours in Kate Morton's worlds. I read The House at Riverton last year, and just finished The Distant Hours. Morton's books have unexpected turns to them that kept me guessing.The flyleaf of The Distant Hours  holds the first page of a book: The True History of the Mud Man. That book is the centerpiece that everything turns around: the author, his three daughters, their secrets, the young woman who writes about them, her mother, and her secrets. It's a must read.

I also read Jane Eyre  for about the 50th time. Even though I know it so well, I still find new beauty in Bronte's skill, delicate nuances in they way she outlines characters, then fills them in, a bit at a time. I get such a feeling for the land itself which seems another character. I always learn something new when I reread an old favorite.

At the Whidbey Island Writers Conference I heard a conversation about the change in the way readers read-not about ebooks, just about the way  they read. More action is expected  in the first few pages, fewer readers are patient enough to slowly weave their way  into a novel. Would the Brontes or  Jane Austin, or Anthony Trollope get published today?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Catching Up

It's been a while since I added books. This doesn't mean I haven't been reading, of course. I've been working on the Whidbey Island Writers Conference, coming April 1-3. Garth Stein will be keynote speaker. His book, The Art of Racing in the Rain is wonderful. I'm hosting a chat house, and an author will be staying with me.
Soo, to some of the books I've read.
The one witih the most impact was Gargoyle.  Here's the background. A porn star/director is burned so badly he has to spend months in the hospital, where he meets a woman stone carver who says he was burned last time she knew him, when she was a nun. I highly recommend it, though in places it's a hard read.
I went from the bizarre to the sublime: a food book!
Well, more than food. Its title says it all: The School of Essential Ingredients. It's a debut novel. (Forgive me, but as I write, I forgot the authors' names of these two.) I have never, not even in Water for Chocolate, read such wonderful descriptions. It's also very romantic.
I always like to read Nancy Pearl's Book Lust  books, so I was happy to find the new one, Book Lust to Go, for people like me who love to read about places I'll never go to. Each chapter is about a different place, and she lists books and authors to read. The chapter titles are fun: Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires; Cavorting Through the Caribbean; Frolicking in Finland; Texas Two-Step. In Veni, Vedi, Venice, she mentions my alltime favorite author, Dorothy Dunnett, and her book in the Niccolo series, Scales of Gold. In Turkish Delights, she recommends Barry Unsworth's Rage of the Vulture. I also recommend all his other books, which range from historical novels, to a nonfiction book about living on Crete.
Gee, maybe I should do a book on writers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alison Weir and Eleanor of Aquitaine

I've read Alison Weir's biographies for years, wallowing in British History. Then she began writing novels, which, because of her intensive research for her nonfiction, put me thoroughly into the period.
With Captive Queen  she has given us Eleanor of Aquitaine in all her full bodied splendor, from the first moment, when as the wife of King Louis of France, she searches the crowd for her lover Geoffrey Plantagenet, and instead she first sees Geoffrey's son Henry.
The rest, as they say, is history. But what history. I finished the book at 1 this morning, and I'm still so caught up in Eleanor's story, romantic, sexy, violent, that the scenes still echo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Praise of My Deerhounds

On a rainy morning I wake up, start the water for tea, and go get the paper. For once, Fingal stays in bed. His bladder must be getting bigger. The rest of him certainly is, and rapidly. His coat is getting thicker, and  the markings on his face-high curved eyebrows- give him a continually surprised expression. Taz was the only other deerhound pup I've had, and she was seven months old when I got her, fingaal at this age is a new experience, and a delightful one. I don't know what he'll be like as a teenager, but he's great right now.

He came in to the computer room for his morning massage: five minutes or so of being rubbed as he squirms with pleasure and licks my leg, then back to bed. One of the many things I've learned to love about deerhounds in the past 20 plus years, is their ability to enjoy time just lying around. This means I can write to my hearrt's content. They've all had their quirks.
We always said Duncan was an old soul. He had a real sense of humor, but sometimes when he stared at me, it was as if he was trying to tell me something I should know. He still holds a special place for me.
Ceo Liath came next. She was a ditz, and we called her Bubbles. We told people in her past life she was a cheerleader.
Then came Abby, the queen. She was sure she was second in the pecking order, between my husband and me, and did not take kindly to sharing him.
When Banquo came, I named him after the ghost in Macbeth, because of the way he would quietly drift around and surprise me by appearing in front of me without a sound. He drove Abby nuts staring at her.
Rella came next, the sweet soul who loved everybody.
Then Oona, another old soul, who died too young, but has a place in my heart for the gifts she gave me.
She also trained Taz, who was named Topaz, but earned her other name: three pairs of shoes, six library books,  one large sofa cushion, etc. Now she's still uh, high energy, always pushing her limits.
But now she's taking part in training Fingal, who at his young age, is so mellow, he doesn't need too much far.