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 October, 2013…
Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #1), by Rhys Bowen – Lady Georgianna Rannoch (Georgie to her friends) is in an impossible position. Thirty-fourth in line for the throne, she’s an impoverished royal who Queen Mary expects to either marry an odious foreign prince or accept a position as lady-in-waiting to an elderly relative. Georgie doesn’t like either of these scenarios, so she flees her family seat in the Scottish Highlands for London, where the Queen immediately enlists her to spy on David, the Prince of Wales, and his entirely unsuitable (married! American!) flame, Wallis Simpson. Georgie is trying to balance her new spying role with an incognito job as a maid when a horrible Frenchman – who is trying to steal Castle Rannoch away from her family – is found dead in her bathtub, and her brother Binky is the prime suspect. Now Georgie must race against the clock to find the killer and clear Binky’s name. This was a cute, silly, fun mystery set in the between-the-wars period in England.
MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3), by Margaret Atwood – The conclusion to the sweeping dystopic MaddAddam Trilogy was the best yet. This volume focused mainly on the shadowy backstory of Zeb (a.k.a. “Spirit Bear” in MaddAddam parlance) as told to Toby and, through Toby, to the Crakers. (The chapters in which Toby relates Zeb’s story to the Crakers are the best of the entire trilogy, in my opinion. I laughed out loud every time I read the words, “Yes, good kind Crake. Please stop singing.”) Meanwhile, the Crakers have taken refuge with the MaddAddamites, who are rushing to muster defenses against another Painballer attack and, they hope, find their leader Adam One in the process. I was hooked on this trilogy from early on, and MaddAddam was a wonderful conclusion. Outstanding.
Anne of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables #6), by L.M. Montgomery – This sixth volume of the Anne books is the first that focuses more on Anne’s children than on Anne herself. Each of the kids – Jem, Walter, Nan and Di, Shirley and Rilla – gets a chapter or two dedicated to his or her adventures. Anne, however, hovers in the background as the children’s beloved mother. A sweet addition to the series, but not my favorite.
Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell – Oh, my goodness, I just LOVED this. I’ve been hearing so much about Rainbow Rowell since her most recent novel, Eleanor and Park, was released to general acclaim, but I thought Attachments sounded more my speed, so I grabbed it. It’s the story of Lincoln, an “internet security officer” who finds himself, rather than fighting against online vice, writing reports every time one of the employees at the newspaper for which he works forwards an inappropriate joke. In his “red-flagged” folder, Lincoln often finds email exchanges between Jennifer, a copy editor, and Beth, an entertainment reporter, who know that someone is reading their email but still share every aspect of their lives with one another. Lincoln can’t bring himself to report Beth and Jennifer, because he finds himself liking them both and looking forward to reading their emails. But soon Lincoln realizes he might have deeper feelings for Beth. This book was SO sweet, and so much fun. I read it in a day and loved every word.
Rainbow Valley (Anne of Green Gables #7), by L.M. Montgomery – Anne’s children are in that magical stage of childhood, and their active imaginations dream up all kinds of adventures in their favorite haunt, Rainbow Valley (named by Walter). When a new minister’s family, the Merediths, moves into the manse on the other side of the Valley, the Blythe children take the Merediths into their hearts. A runaway named Mary Vance rounds out the little crew (and introduces the occasional bit of friction). I love all of these kids, but bright, spirited Faith Meredith is my favorite. (The scene in which she marches into the home of a notorious curmudgeon and orders him to return to church and contribute to her father’s salary is priceless.)
Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables #8), by L.M. Montgomery – The final volume of the Avonlea books is the first in which the external world really encroaches on our dear Prince Edward Island. When the book opens, international conflict is simmering, but everyone is shocked when full-blown war erupts. Soon Jem Blythe and Jerry Meredith have left for the front, and more of the youth of Glen St. Mary are to follow – including my beloved Faith (by now, Jem’s fiancée!) who goes off to drive an ambulance. Rilla, the youngest Blythe, is coming of age at home. She turns from a flighty, boy-crazy girl into a serious woman who has been touched by tragedy. This is one of the best books of the entire series – by turns heart-wrenching and uplifting. Love.
The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off the Dog, by Jen Lancaster – This was my first Jen Lancaster book, and it was cute, but not as laugh-out-loud hilarious as I expected. I mostly read it because I love Martha, and I did get a good giggle at Jen’s bumbling attempts to live according to “the Tao of Martha.” And the Halloween chapter was pretty hilarious. (I also have to agree with Jen that there are “Martha people” and there are “Oprah people.” In fact, the only real argument that my BFF, R, and I ever had was a stupid disagreement over who’s better, Martha or Oprah. I said Martha, she said Oprah. Ultimately, we decided to agree to disagree, but it was tense for a week or so.) Anyway, this was cute, but not as fabulous as I thought it would be.
A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #2) – Georgie is back and the Queen has another assignment for her. She is to play hostess to Princess Hannelore of Bavaria, in hopes that Hanni will draw Prince David’s eye away from the odious Mrs. Simpson. But Hanni turns out to be more of a handful than Georgie expected, and Georgie finds herself working overtime to cure the Princess of her embarrassing habits of shoplifting and speaking in phrases culled from American gangster movies. Then when Georgie and Hanni stumble across a body in a bookstore, ish gets real. Another cute, fluffy mystery, and I loved Hanni. (“I have some moonshine, please?”)
The Tent, by Margaret Atwood – This slim volume was outstanding. Atwood’s collection of fictional essays, illustrated by her own hand, was creative and thought-provoking. (I especially loved the Chicken Little piece, a call to action on climate change.) I only wish I’d taken my time with this book. I blazed through it in a day, but I should have taken a month, and read one story each day, and really let it percolate – because I think I missed a lot. I’d like to read Good Bones, a similar Atwood book, and I’ll try that approach next time.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell – Cath Avery is a fish out of water in her new life at college. Between avoiding her surly roommate, Reagan, and Reagan’s boyfriend Levi, worrying about her party-girl twin, Wren, and keeping tabs on their lonely dad, Cath has next to no time for herself. But she escapes into the world of online fan-fiction, where she is a popular writer of “fic” based on a Harry Potter-esque series of books. But Cath will have to learn to navigate the real world eventually, as Wren and their dad spiral out of control and her friendship with Levi deepens. Still, will she ever be as comfortable with reality as she is with her fictional world? This was a sweet read, and although I didn’t love it as much as I loved Attachments, I was still fully invested and rooting for the characters.
The Devil and Miss Prym, by Paolo Coelho – I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time. One day, a stranger arrives in a mountain village and offers a bargain: if anyone in the village is murdered within a week, the entire village will receive a fortune in gold. Coelho provides plenty of food for thought as the villagers debate whether to take the stranger up on his offer and, if they do, who should die. This wasn’t my favorite Coelho (The Alchemist still beats all for me) but it was interesting.
Royal Flush (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #3), by Rhys Bowen – After an embarrassing attempt to earn a living as a dinner and theatre companion, Georgie is shipped unceremoniously back to Castle Rannoch in Scotland, where she must negotiate the demands of her horrid sister-in-law, Fig, and their even more horrid houseguest, Wallis Simpson. And Georgie has another mission, too: someone is trying to kill off the heirs to the throne. All three princes have had near-fatal accidents, and even Georgie’s brother Binky, the Duke of Rannoch (thirty-second in line) is laid up after getting his foot caught in a suspicious trap. Who could want to bump off the royal family? Georgie is going to find out. Cute, as usual, and I’m enjoying Georgie’s exploits more and more.
It may not seem like it from this list, but I actually hit a reading slump this month, for the first time in a LONG time. All of these books, with the exception of Royal Flush, were finished by October 18th or earlier. The second half of the month, I just couldn’t seem to focus my attention on a book for anything. I read plenty of magazines, and watched more TV than usual. But I think I’ve finally snapped out of it and I’m enjoying Donna Tartt’s massive new book, The Goldfinch – more on that next month. I expect I’ll have a better, more bookish November.