Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for June, 2012…
An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs #5), by Jacqueline Winspear – I really enjoyed the fifth installment of Maisie’s adventures. James Compton, the son of Maisie’s former employer, Lady Rowan Compton, is back in England and taking a more active role in the running of the family business. James is looking to acquire some property in a small village in Kent, but the village has been troubled by acts of vandalism during the hop-picking season for some years now. James asks Maisie to find out what is going on, and Maisie sets up residence in the village along with a tribe of gypsies and droves of hop-pickers, including the Beale family, as she investigates the village’s troubled legacy since the Great War.
The Spellman Files (The Spellmans #1), by Lisa Lutz – The Spellmans put the “fun” in “dysfunctional.” There’s Mom and Dad, who run the family’s private investigations business; irritatingly perfect lawyer son David; wayward 13-year-old Rae; drunk Uncle Ray; and Isabel, who decides she’s had enough. Isabel demands an out, but before Mom and Dad will let her quit the business, they demand she take on one last case. When a family member disappears, Isabel thinks there might be a connection. This was a fun, silly romp. Fully reviewed here.
My Name is Memory, by Ann Brashares – This novel about a man who remembers all of his past lives, and his soulmate who remembers none, had great potential. It was cheesy but held my attention for the one day it took to read. I’ll probably seek out the sequel, if/when it ever comes out, just to know what happened… but it wasn’t my favorite book ever.
Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6), by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie and Billy are walking down the street on Christmas Eve, 1931, when they witness a man commit suicide. Not long after, Scotland Yard contacts Maisie, telling her that a threatening letter has been received from a man who claims he will devastate London if certain demands aren’t met, and mentions Maisie by name. Maisie jumps into a search for the terrorist, while Billy’s wife Doreen is going off the rails, having never recovered from the death of their youngest child. This was probably my least favorite Maisie novel – I found it rather creepy and not particularly compelling. It’s still a Maisie book, though, so it was still good.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey – I love Tina Fey and had been meaning to get to Bossypants for at least a year. (My copy was given to me by R, with instructions to “pass on the Tina” when I was done, and I had to finish it quickly so she wouldn’t spot it on my shelf during a visit this month.) Written in a more traditional memoir style, Tina recounts her childhood, her adventures in comedy writing, and her time playing Sarah Palin on SNL (my favorite part of the book, as I loved those sketches in 2008). Fun and fascinating. Fully reviewed here.
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, by Sally Bedell Smith – I had started this fascinating biography a few months ago and had to put it down to pick up other (more urgent, non-returnable library) books. Finally got around to finishing it this month and I learned SO much about the Royal Family, British history and rituals, and racehorses. My only complaint was that the book was very anti-Diana and I firmly believe there were two sides to that story; Bedell Smith simply writes Diana off as an unbalanced “problem child” who caused trouble for the Royal Family from Day One. Otherwise, though, I found it to be a thoroughly researched and really interesting read.
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck – I’d been wanting to read this book since I visited Monterey as a 12-year-old. Steinbeck re-writes Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in modern English. For whatever reason, though, he wandered away from finishing it, and his Acts are a fairly rough draft. The stories of Gawain, Ewain and Marhalt and The Noble Tale of Sir Lancelot of the Lake were the most complete and polished, and were excellent. (Especially Gawain, Ewain and Marhalt, which was very, very funny.) Still a worthwhile read, although it could have been SO much better if Steinbeck had seen the project through to the end.
The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7), by Jacqueline Winspear – After the disappointments of Among the Mad, Maisie was back at the top of her form as she searched for the lost love of an American cartographer who was killed in the war. What seems like a simple case turns out to be much more than Maisie and Billy bargained for, and this is one of the best Maisie novels thus far. (I can’t decide which I like better: this or An Incomplete Revenge. Both great.)
Heaven to Betsy (Betsy-Tacy #5), by Maud Hart Lovelace – Library books caused me to stall out on the Betsy-Tacy books for awhile, but I was looking forward to getting back into them. In this installment, Betsy starts high school and becomes a bit of a twit. She gets caught up – as do most of us, at some point in our lives – in a whirlwind social life and becomes rather boy-crazy. I was a bit worried for a time that Tacy would get lost in the shuffle, but I didn’t give Betsy enough credit – no one could ever replace Tacy. Although I loved seeing Betsy have fun and reading about the exploits of “the Crowd,” I know she has quite a bit of growing up to do in the next few books.
A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8), by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie takes on another assignment for Special Services, going undercover to pose as a junior philosophy lecturer at a college in Cambridge and report on activities not in the interests of the crown. While Special Services is really looking for Bolshevik activities, Maisie finds the growing fasicination with Hitler’s Nazi party more troubling. But when the college founder is found dead, Maisie can’t help but look into that too. A good Maisie romp, and interesting to see a few turning points in the series come up, as Maisie has to stand on her own and begins to confront the growing shadows of what will become World War II.
I guess I could call June my “month of Maisie,” since I read four out of nine of the Maisie adventures this month. Which made for a fun month, to be sure! I’m glad the Maisie books aren’t complete fluff, because my June wasn’t the most intellectually taxing month (although The Acts of King Arthur and the Elizabeth II biography were each challenging reads in their own way, so I’m glad they were mixed in there). I’m not sure how much time I have to read in July, but I’m hoping to add some more substance.