The Passing Bells, Phillip Rock
Book Club Girl is hosting another readalong – this time of a Downton-esque family saga set in England during World War I. I loved the story of the Grevilles, their staff and friends, and their American journalist cousin Martin (who looks just like Matthew Crawley in my head). The war, as you can guess, brings about dramatic changes for everyone. Some of the battle scenes got a bit gruesome (and I longed for a map to plot the action), but this was a well-written story, with characters I liked.
The Recycled Citizen, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah Kelling and her husband Max get pulled into another family crisis: investigating the death of an elderly man connected to a charity project run by Sarah’s cousin, while helping plan an auction to benefit that same project. A little slow, but enjoyable, and I liked tracing the action around downtown Boston, where I work. Light and fun.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
I picked this up for Jessica’s Classics Catch-Up Challenge (I’d never read it). I found the framing story and narrator(s) interesting, perhaps because I knew less about them than about Catherine and Heathcliff. I alternately pitied, disliked and grew frustrated with most of the characters (though I do like Nelly Dean, for her honesty). Creepy, atmospheric, maddening, horrifying. (I prefer Jasper Fforde’s scenes of these characters in anger management sessions, in The Well of Lost Plots.)
Pirate King, Laurie R. King
Mary Russell goes undercover as a producer’s assistant, on the set of a silent film about a film crew making a movie of The Pirates of Penzance. (Confused yet?) Russell’s job keeping the actors in line is complicated, but she’s also there to investigate a mystery (joined halfway through by Holmes). Is the film company a cover for less savory activities? And are the Lisboan actors hired to play pirates engaging in a bit of real piracy on the side? Lighter than most Holmes/Russell mysteries, but cleverly plotted and well told. Great fun for fans of musicals and adventure on the high seas.
The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan
I love Riordan’s books about Greek and Roman demigods struggling to defeat evil (and navigate the perils of the teenage years). This third book in the Heroes of Olympus series, narrated by four demigods, was a page-turner. I love Annabeth, wise and witty daughter of Athena, and Leo, hyperactive but a whiz with machines. Lots of references to Greek and Roman mythology (Riordan delights in playing up the differences), lots of confrontations with angry deities, lots of romantic trouble. Lots of fun. (Book 4 comes out in the fall.)
Circles of Time, Phillip Rock
This sequel to The Passing Bells (above) begins in 1921, in a Europe devastated by war. The Grevilles and their staff, family and friends are still reeling from the chaos of 1914-18, so this book is rather grim. But there are glimmers of hope, particularly for Charles, recovering from shell shock, and his widowed sister Alexandra. Martin, the American journalist, travels extensively and gets to see many facets of postwar Europe, including some troubling developments in Germany. He is wise and thoughtful and probably my favorite character. Looking forward to the final installment, A Future Arrived.
The Black Russian, Vladimir Alexandrov
Born in Mississippi to former slaves, Frederick Bruce Thomas ended up traveling the world – and becoming a successful hotel worker, waiter, valet and restaurant entrepreneur. This biography traces his travels, from Chicago to New York to London to Moscow, and eventually to Constantinople. He was an unusual figure for his time, as the author’s numerous sources attest, though I wish we’d had more of Frederick in his own words. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 5).
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What are you reading?