It’s WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What did you recently finish reading?
A Sprig of Blossomed Thorn, by Patrice Greenwood. This cozy mystery, set in a Victorian tea house in New Mexico, is the second in a series that promises to get stronger with each story. and funnier.
Elderly Mrs. Garcia falls dead in the tea room . . . the second person to die there. Proprietor Ellen, whose business is already recovering from a murder the day the tea shop opened (and who is coping with a possible ghost, and a prickly but intriguing relationship with a local cop) is horrified when it turns out the poor woman did not die of natural causes.
Is it an ethnically-motivated murder? Mrs. Garcia was a prominent member of the local rose club, but its only Hispanic member. Ellen tries to investigate in her own way, as is Tony Aragon, the cop she’s dating. As if she doesn’t have enough problems–besides the ghost–Ellen’s place is being ‘haunted’ by teenagers in the middle of the night, and then there’s something going on with Kris, Ellen’s Goth accountant . . .
The story starts fast, and stays brisk, with several scenes with the kinetic snap I love as they veer between serious and comic. Toward the end things get appropriately serious as Ellen and Tony separately, and then together, begin to close in on the murder . . . while exploring unexamined bigotry that makes Ellen, who is somewhat fussy, uncomfortable. Sharp character observation, nifty stuff about roses, evocative local atmosphere, a touch of the weird and of romance made this an unputdownable read. I am really looking forward to the next.
An Army at Dawn: the War in North Africa, 1942-3, by Rick Atkinson. Terrific narrative drive and remarkable facility with imagery coupled with formidable research make this stand above most of the bazillion World War II military histories. Atkinson relies on the letters and diaries of ordinary soldiers as well as official war diaries and the personal writings of various officers and leaders. (Just for the heck of it, I checked his quotes from Rommel, as I have the Rommel papers book, and yep, precise, word for word.)
He also acknowledges several decades of military analysis of the specific battles that make up the war in North Africa, when making his own. I can’t speak to the accuracy of his judgments (bearing in mind that many times, what one thinks of something as chaotic as a battle depends on where one was, or whose report one hears); he paints a grim picture of the costs of war, which suits the contemporary view of such things, while examining the psychology of war, and of the various leaders.
Most of all, though, I admired the facility of his voice. Reminding me of the great novelists, the narrative soars high to observe the scene from the god’s-eye view (with Olympian detachment), then dives down into the trenches to recount specific incidents, and the soldiers’ reactions. He pays particular attention to sensory awareness, sometimes veering into poetic license, such as the end of a particularly tough battle, when the G.I.s marched into a town. According to him they could not see the spring beauty; they were constantly scanning for attack, so a ridge full of wildflowers is a defilade, etc. We can’t know that everybody felt that way, but it is a masterful summation of the alteration of thinking that a soldier who has survived such hell goes through.
Out-Sniffed, by Susan J. Kroupa. This second cozy mystery written by a dog is even better than the first. Kroupa gets three plot lines going, two being mysteries and the other is vital character development between Molly, the smart girl at science school, and her estranged mom.
Meanwhile, Kenny, brother to Molly’s bestie Tanya, is falsely arrested for pot, and Molly and Tanya set out to exonerate him by a very unusual method that gets them into trouble, and Doodle, the labradoodle narrator, has to take certification tests to be an official bed bug sniffer. Piece of cake for a smart dog, right? Wrong.
A lot of fun, especially as Kroupa clearly knows and loves dogs.
• What are you currently reading?
The Seven-Petaled Shield, by Deborah J. Ross. The blurb says: Eons ago, a great king used a magical device—the Seven-Petaled Shield—to defeat the forces of primal chaos, but now few remember that secret knowledge. When an ambitious emperor conquers the city that safeguards the Shield, the newly-widowed young Queen, guardian of the heart-stone of the Shield, flees for her life, along with her adolescent son.
What that means is, an epic fantasy centered around a mom who is going to have to kick ass and take names. It starts off with a bang and keeps on going.
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, by Rick Atkinson.
It’s just as good as the first one.
Faerie After, by Janni Lee Sinmer. YA dystopia, with a beautifully inventive magical system. There is nothing like it out there. This is the third of a trilogy.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
The third Atkinson, and I have a huuuuge stack of other stuff!
Anyone have anything to say about these, or talk about your own reading?