26 July 2013

Reading a Nook

Reading a novel on a Nook (or another tablet-type appliance) is not like reading a book. I haven't figured out the dimensions of difference, but, I'm not as satisfied after finishing the newest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Leaving Everything Most Loved on my Nook as I usually am after putting down a book.

Okay, it might be that this mystery is not up to Jacqueline Winspear's par.

The plot, while complicated and multi-cultural is pretty thin. It might be that Winspear's protagonist spends a lot of time pondering her place in the universe. All that time spent in self-analysis is probably one of the reasons she didn't nab the perp sooner than she did.

The book was also the beginning of a transition for Maisie Dobbs, who, at the end of the book closes her investigative business, farms out her two employees, marries off her widower father, puts off her fiancee-wanna-be, and boards a ship for India. (No word about what happened to the cute little MG she tooled around in.)

It could also be that so much of the cultural details from 1920's England seems missing from this story. That stuff made Maisie and her world so much richer than many stories. Winspear moved from England to California sometime after starting the Maisie Dobbs series and maybe she's out of touch with details about London buses, telephones, street scenes, and houses.

It could also be that I started reading this book a week or so ago at home and finished on a Saturday afternoon at the cabin called Sidetrack on a lake called Blake. Maybe the story deserves more concentrated attention.

Two immigrant women from India, roommates in a sort of shelter, are murdered in London. The brother of one of the women arrives in London and hires Maisie to help find the murderer. There are suspicious missionary types, wild children in a park, gifted healers, mystified London cops, a confessed murderer who seems an unlikely culprit, and Maisie trying to decide what her place is in the universe.

It just didn't seem, when I finished it, to be a great reading experience. Was it because of the Nook or something else? I really did miss the paper and turning pages with more than a tap on the right edge of the screen.

I don't know. Right now I want to return to concentrating on the loon who is calling on the lake. What do those calls mean?

Have you read Leaving Everything Most Loved? Have you read a book on a tablet? What did you think? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

07 July 2013

A change of pace

Most of us writing here read mysteries more often than other genres. However, Dale Stahl wrote with thoughts about one alternative. He's encouraging me to add Elisabeth Strout to my to-read list.
Changed up my summer reading from Hakan Nesser and Inspector Van Veeteren, whom I enjoy, to Elisabeth Strout.

Her novel Olive Kitteridge is about a seventh grade math teacher, now retired. It's really a collection of short stories about the people, the families, and the interactions in a small Maine town. They are the kind of things a long-time high school teacher in a small town would be in touch with. Olive is the subject of some of the stories and crosses paths with the main characters of the other stories.

I really enjoyed this book, Strout's insights on the human condition are entertaining and valuable. While people deal with life's challenges and disappointments and find their way through the difficulties fears and emotional challenges of life are fascinating and instructive.
I highly recommend this book when you are ready for a change from murder and mayhem!
Have you read Olive Kitteridge? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you think.

06 July 2013

Thriller waiting to happen

I have to write about the Yrsa Sigurðardóttir book I read a couple weeks ago. Nancy got it for me at the library, I had to renew it, and now it's due again. I did have things to say about it when I finished it, but I've forgotten most of what I wanted to say about The Day is Dark.

It seems that the first thing I have to say about the book is that it was forgettable. That's not new, since I forget about most of the books I read. One of the reasons I began publishing the newsletter Reading, 25 or so years ago was to help me remember what I'd read.

As I look at the book cover, I see that it's labeled as "a thriller." I remember something now. It's not a thriller. There are certainly plenty of settings and opportunities for thrills in a tiny native fishing village in eastern Greenland. The reclusive residents could be seen as mysterious and threatening. The abandoned mining camp outside of the village offers plenty of empty buildings, complicated survival technology, and snowy wilderness. Add to that the reputation the area has of being haunted, the fleeting sightings of an unknown person outside the mining camp HQ, the missing people, and you have lots of ingredients for a thriller.

Fishing village in eastern Greenland
But, Yrsa doesn't manipulate those things in order to instill fear and anxiety in the reader. I can imagine her characters were fearful, but I don't think many readers will be. Her characters, including the Icelandic lawyer Þhóra Guðmundsdóttir (transliterated as Thora Gudmundsdottir), are too busy keeping the generators working, the heat on, and puzzling over the skeleton found scattered in various desk drawers in the main office and the body found in the kitchen freezer. Oh, and they're looking for clues to the disappearance of two of the mining crew. As described by Yrsa, the investigators flown in from Iceland don't have time to be scared. The only anxiety I had was about when the impending threat was going to cause great peril.

The mystery is an interesting one. The story is well-told, but it's not a thriller. Maybe there's an Icelandic word that translates to "thriller," but which has a different meaning in the original.

I also had very picky (and probably unfair) nits to pick about the description of the isolated and self-sufficient mining camp in the wilderness. I'm one of the very few people outside of Australia who reads the newsletter and looks at the webcam from an Aussie research station in Antarctica. [Mawson Station newsletter. Mawson Station webcam.] So I have a somewhat informed image of how an isolated, self-sufficient community operates, sociologically and mechanically. Yrsa's mining camp wasn't cut off from the outside world for most of the year, like the Aussies at Mawson, and the Greenland operation was commercial, but there were things she described that didn't quite ring true. Sarah Andrews spent time in Antarctica on an NSF Antarctic Artists and Writers fellowship to get things right for her mystery, In Cold Pursuit. Yrsa's story might have benefitted from an extended visit to an eastern Greenland mining camp.

All that is minor. The story is a good one. The telling of the story is well-done. It was a great diversion for a few days back in June. Check it out if it's in your library.

Have you read The Day is Dark? How did you react? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you thought.