20 books of summer 2016

20 books of summer 2016

Two easy books today, but at least they’re numbers 5 and 6 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge. I read the Indriðason a little while ago, before the Dorothy Richardson I reviewed last, then I’ve been wading (happily) through the Kynaston volume and (unhappily) through the Rushdie before enjoying Cathy Kelly’s novel and now another very light read, . I don’t want to get into a political discussion AT ALL, but I have been a bit knocked, not by the result so much as the hatred and overt racism and xenophobia that’s been going on. It’s made me want to shut out the world, but also when I get low, I lose my ability to read anything more than fluff.

Anyway, I need to shake myself out of this, because I have two ‘proper’ books to read and review for Shiny New Books next month!

Arnaldur Indriðason – “The Draining Lake”

(22 August 2015)

A lake is mysteriously draining and drying up, and the scientist measuring it discovers a skeleton, which turns out to be weighed down by an odd, old radio transmitter. We travel back to post-war Eastern Europe and the role Iceland played in the Cold War, especially its communist and socialist students, some of whom are still around, even if their principles were somewhat knocked out of them during their sponsored studies in Leipzig (I’m going to assume this history lesson is true, as it would be really odd otherwise). It was fascinating to read about this aspect of Iceland’s history and made for a satisfying plot.

Meanwhile, Erlendur is losing the will to keep trying to save his daughter from her issues with drugs. She’s in trouble again for attacking Sigurdur Oli in an event which fell between the last book and this one (adding to the realism of the books – life goes on between the big cases), and Erlendur is also trying to handle his son and his burgeoning but troubled relationship. Sigurdur Oli is as acerbic as ever and Elinborg has written a cookbook which provides a counterpoint to the dark events explored in the book (not too dark for me, as usual, though!). Another great translation by Bernard Scudder which really captures the laconic flavour of Icelandic writing.

This was Book 5 of my #20BooksofSummer

Cathy Kelly – “The Honey Queen”

(22 August 2015)

A worthy successor to Maeve Binchy indeed – with a comment from Marian Keyes on the front, Kelly definitely mines the same age groups and social mixes as Maeve, and does so successfully. This tale of a run-down suburb of Dublin and three sets of people living there could almost have been written by her, and the plot device of the stranger from abroad who sorts everything out is one that Maeve used at least once.

Anyway, it’s a nice story of Frankie, her husband made redundant, struggling with empty nest syndrome and an awful house they can’t afford, Peggy with the dark secret she hoped to leave behind when she opened a knitting shop and finally settled down; and the Byrnes, with their own troubles and black sheep and drama looming over a family wedding. They all cross paths and intersect and there are some lovely voices and characters in the book. I felt a bit distanced from it, but it’s perfectly readable and well-done, although the bee stuff seemed a bit bolted-on in a way.

This was Book 6 of my #20BooksofSummer

Salman Rushdie – “Two Years … etc.” (DNF)

(bought May 2016)

I loved a couple of Rushdie’s earlier books but this one was both turgid / hard to read and cold and boastful. It just seemed to be fancy and flighty for the sake of it, with no real human warmth at the centre, and to be settling scores with what were probably thinly disguised versions of his enemies. I gave up at about p. 100, Mr Liz with five hours to go on the tape.

I swapped this for a Robertson Davies for the summer challenge – more info on that here.

As well as the David Kynaston, which I’ve stalled on slightly, I’m reading “The Inn at Eagle Point” by Sherryl Woods at the moment, which is very light, but a nice novel about a small seaside community. I’ve also read the front, map legend and a whole paragraph of my book on Icelandic volcanoes, so that’s Book 7 and Book 20 on the go!

I’m not sure what’s next, but tomorrow is TBR Report Day so I’ll probably have a poke around and see what I fancy then. How’s everyone else doing? Reading OK? Getting on with projects?