Saturday, May 2, 2020

History, Mystery, Myth and Everything Not Remembered

We learned last night that our current restrictions will last until 18 May, but that starting Tuesday, people will be able to venture up to 5 kilometres from their homes for exercise. If things continue to improve, we will be at the starting point of the 5-step road map to ease out of the restrictions, which was unveiled last night. We've been told that if the situation worsens, these dates will be pushed back. If things go better than expected, some things could be moved forward. The re-opening of public libraries would be in phase 2, which is tentatively planned for 8 June. I am looking forward to visiting the library once again. Thankfully, I have plenty to read even with the library closed. Here are a few more books that I read in April.
Endurance: Heroic Journeys in Ireland by Dermot Somers
I found this book in a charity shop shortly after we moved. When I got it home, I didn’t bother trying to fit it in on one of the shelves, but left it in a small pile of newly acquired books and figured I’d read it sooner rather than later. I wasn’t sure whether I would want to keep it, but knew that if I wanted to, I could find a place for it. If not, I wouldn’t have to. It turned out to be the latter. It was interesting enough for me to continue reading, but not so great that I want to keep it. I doubt I would ever want to refer to it again and if I was interested in any particular journey written about in the book, I could look it up elsewhere. The author writes about various journeys undertaken by people, mostly in groups of various sizes, although there are a couple of individuals making journeys as well. The people he writes about are both historical and mythological.
I’m not quite sure what it was that made me feel  a lack of engagement with this book. I think some of it had to do with the author’s writing style, which I didn’t seem to connect with. At times, it seemed like he was trying to be funny or sarcastic and it just fell flat for me. Also, the layout of the book was annoying at times. Somers would be describing a particular journey and mention some aspect of it. Then there would be a box on the page which went into a bit more detail about that particular topic. These boxes interrupted the narrative. They did sometimes provide interesting information, but I always find that sort of thing annoying. I’d rather see these things at the end of a chapter or incorporated into the narrative, not scattered through the rest of the text. As it was formatted this way, though, I either skipped them altogether or read to the end of a section or chapter and then went back to read the ones that interested me.

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee (audiobook read by Emily Woo Zeller)
When I started listening to this audiobook, I quickly knew that the reader’s overly dramatic style was going to annoy me. I wondered whether to go on, but decided to give it a little more time. The reader was indeed frequently annoying and took away from my experience of the book, but the book was worth it. Had the library been open, I probably would have looked for the physical book and returned the e-audiobook. I think I would have liked reading this one more than listening. But when I told Bill about the book, he looked it up and found that it’s not in the system, so it’s just as well that I listened to it. It’s a great book and worth the annoyance brought by the reader.

In the last hours of 2006, the author had a bad headache. Her husband suggested they go out for a drive. She agreed, thinking the cold air would do her good. Before long, she was literally seeing the world sideways, with the sky to her left. It was not for another two or three days that she went to the emergency room and learned she’d had a stroke. She was 33 years old. At first, she could not remember things that had happened more than 15 minutes previously. She had a notebook and her doctors told her to write everything down so that could serve as her short term memory. She did. This memoir begins with the stroke and takes the reader through her recovery, but also addresses the ways in which the author had to come to terms with other traumas in her life and how they had affected her life before the stroke. She came to see how she had shoved down her own needs and often behaved in ways that were not really hers, but were behaviours others wanted from her. She came to see the stroke as an opportunity to use her 'new brain' to think differently about herself and the world around herThe book was published 10 years after her stroke, so much had changed by the time she began writing and she had some distance from which to view the events she recounts in the book.

The Complete Steel by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
One recent evening, I was reading my daily Lit Hub/Crime Reads email when I saw a link to a piece on the author, Catherine Aird. I had not read any of her books, but her name was familiar to me from the e-book/e-audiobook section of the library website, where I had scrolled by her work numerous times. Curious, I read the essay and clicked right over to the website to see what they had. This description of her in the write-up made me think she might be an author for me:
'Her Chronicles of Calleshire, twenty-four books published between 1966 and 2019 (yes! At the age of 89!) is a series of wry, pungent novels combining the police procedural with the intricate puzzle mysteries of the Golden Age. As such, they are traditional in every sense of the word, but filled with adroit plotting, playful wit, and literate charm—and unafraid to address such modern topics as money laundering, drug dealers, identity theft, sexual harassment, and DNA technology.'

There is one e-book on the site, which I reserved. The rest are audiobooks. This one was available, so I checked it out, downloaded it, and began listening. What the description above did not say, in spite of the 'playful with' comment, which I don't think describes it, is that she is really funny—at least in this book. And it’s a sort of dry humour that I really like. I laughed quite a bit as I listened to this book. The reader, always an iffy thing, was perfect for that dry humour. One thing I’m curious about is whether it will be as funny reading one of her books as it was to listen. It could be that not all the books are as funny, but it seems like they would be, given that much of it consisted of thoughts by the main detective. Usually when I read series, I try to do it in order, but I won’t be doing that with these. The library is still closed, so I can’t find out whether they have any of her print books and if so, how many, so I can’t request them in order. I will just take the ones I can get in audiobook and listen to them in whatever order I can borrow them. I'm not even sure whether reading them in order would make a difference. Eventually I might try to get the books in print that are not available as audiobooks. Meanwhile, the e-book came in early, so I downloaded that and I’ll see how that is. 

This book is set in a stately home, where the earl and countess have had to start allowing the public in for paid tours so they can get some money. One Sunday, some of the visitors are part of a coach tour from a council estate, including a mother and her 13-year-old twins, Maureen and Michael. As they proceed through the rooms, Michael goes missing. When they eventually get to the dungeon, they find him, messing around with the weapons and suits of armour. Then he plays around with the face plate on one and the day takes a turn for the worse. How did that body get inside the suit of armour, who is it, who put it there, and why?

I am delighted to have discovered another new-to-me mystery writer that I enjoy. Before the shutdown, I was starting on Louise Penny's series featuring Inspector Gamache and had read the first two. The third is waiting for me at the library. One fine day, I will be able to settle in with that book and a cup of tea. In the meantime, I'll be happy about all the books I have available to me, even in lock down, and I'll keep on reading! 😃 Stay safe!


Vicki said...

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember sounds interesting, how awful would that be?

The Complete Steel sounds good too.

Shari Burke said...

They were both great. Tell Me Everything... was quite uplifting, in spite of the difficult things she went through. It must have been terrifying.

JFM/Jan said...

Shari, I think it is wonderful that you enjoy a variety of reading materials and subjects. I am the same way.
I can never have too many books.
The books that you reviewed here were interesting.

Stay Safe and Keep Reading 📚 ☕ 🌷

Shari Burke said...

I admit that when we were moving a few months ago, I did--very briefly--wonder if we have too many books. I quickly got rid of that thought and good thing I did! With the library closed, I am grateful that I have enough books to keep me going! :-)

Lowcarb team member said...

It will be so lovely when libraries can open again … but not yet.
Stay safe and well.

All the best Jan