Branching Out in My Reading



Woman reading book

This summer I branched out from reading the usual fantasy. Along with one fantasy (can’t do without it!), I read two detective novels and a western. Here’s what I thought of them.

Shatter Me

Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi is a very dark dystopian novel, almost hopeless at times. I wasn’t totally taken with it, but it’s worth a read.

The story told through the device of Juliette, the main character writing her thoughts in a notebook. She crossed out certain parts, showing her conflicting thoughts, or thoughts she doesn’t want to admit to or even hold in her mind.

In places, the prose in incredibly lovely and poetic, in others vivid and imaginative, as in lines like “The bruises are discolored blossoms of blue and yellow.” Other lines like “I’m caught in colliding currents of confusion” or “I’m catapulted across the room by my own fear” drew me into what Juliette was thinking and feeling.

But then the imagery verged on the ridiculous, as in “My heart is a stick of butter, melting recklessly on a hot summer day.” At one point, it struck me that at first Juliette is a captive in an insane asylum, hoarding her paper and ink. But somehow, she manages to give a moment-by-moment report of her feelings. It lost me a little there.

These minor complaints didn’t keep me from reading on, and from rooting for Juliette and hoping she escapes.

Armstrong

Billed as an alternative history (so I guess it really is fantasy, after all!), and a comic western novel, I decided to give it a try. The premise is that General Custer survived the Battle of Little Big Horn, took on a new identity, and became a force for justice in the wild west. He’s also on a quest to discover who betrayed him at Little Big Horn so he can clear his name.

The story is written as a letter to his wife, letting her know he’s alive and well and why he can’t return home.

At times, Armstrong is truly comic. At times, it reads more like a parody. And at times, Custer comes across as arrogant and clueless. It’s not a politically correct novel, either, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel. This is the kind of book to read when you’re looking for a fun read and a crazy romp to enjoy.

The Sunday Philosophy Club

Years ago, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency captivated me. While I knew the author, Alexander McCall Smith had written another series, starring Isabel Dalhousie as the detective, I’d never gotten around to reading it. Until now.

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Sunday Philosophy Club never seems to be able to meet. But questions of philosophy and ethics drive the decision Isabel makes as she investigates a murder and navigates tricky relationships. Isabel’s wry humor, often directed at herself and her profession, kept me smiling as I read.

While engaging and enjoyable, it didn’t quite have the charm of the earlier books. Still, it’s a lovely and thought-provoking read.

Y is for Yesterday

I’ve been a fan of Sue Grafton for nearly 20 years. It was with great sadness I read Y is for Yesterday, the last Kinsey Millhone novel she wrote before her death.

This is pure Kinsey Millhone, with her usual self-deprecating humor and persistence in solving the crime. A murder had been committed twenty years earlier. The murderer had just been released from prison, and someone was blackmailing him. Kinsey is hired to find out who.

In typically Sue Grafton fashion, she weaves multiple threads together to add to the complexity of the story. In Y is for Yesterday, she brings in an uncaught serial killer from a previous novel, which had me guessing. Would the two crimes get connected somehow?

Ragged edges of Kinsey’s life, namely a distant cousin and Kinsey’s own ex-lovers cause angst in her life and complications in her investigations. As do some homeless people who try to take advantage of Kinsey’s landlord.

I’m one of the many Sue Grafton fans sorry Z will never be written.

 



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