After a week of non-stop family activities, we spent Memorial Day weekend in and around our apartment. We grilled, and saw some friends, but the farthest we wandered was the neighborhood Target. Call it vacation hangover, if you will.
I did manage to read five of the books on my epic “books to be read” stack. I’m a book hoarder by nature, and recently I’ve brought home enough books to fill my nightstand, so over the weekend I lay down and read. I’ve always been a super fast reader, and it serves me especially well on lazy weekends like the one we’re just coming out of.
1. “Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue
I’ve decided that Emma Donoghue is one of those authors that I will follow. When she writes a new book, I will buy it and I will read it and I will likely never be disappointed. Her “Room” remains one of the most vivid and mind-blowing books I’ve ever read – I recommend it to anyone – and so I picked up “Frog Music” on Independent Bookstore Day. I devoured this book. From the first page, it’s a crackling historical crime novel set in a hot summer in San Francisco during a smallpox outbreak, and it’s full of characters you love and love to hate. There’s cross-dressing, murder, sex, disease, a baby farm, and it’s a whirlwind of a book, but at the end it’s really the story of a woman falling in love with her child.
2. “The Movement of Stars” by Amy Brill
Two things that delight me: Nantucket and Astronomy. Brill’s gorgeous book is the story of a girl astronomer searching for a comet and trying to navigate being a woman and falling in love with someone unexpected while living in a strict and patriarchal society. I loved every word of it, and have put it on my shelves next to Sena Jeter-Naslund’s “Ahab’s Wife” to keep forever.
3. “The Fugitive Wife” by Peter C. Brown
While I’m always interested in a good “scrappy woman goes to new territory and starts new life” book, this one didn’t blow my mind. I appreciated the story of Essie, a woman who leaves her no-good husband back in Minnesota to sail off to Nome, Alaska with gold miners, and the book is written so well that it feels like you’re really on the ship and in Alaska, I never connected with Essie or the characters around her, and so the ending felt… meh. Still, I’m glad I read it.
4. “Playing the Rake’s Game” by Bronwyn Scott
[Yep, it’s a Harlequin. Judge away, book snobs.;)]
Now, I read a lot of historical romance. I also happen to write western historical romance. I love the romance genre, but it sometimes feels like there are only five time periods – Vikings/Highlanders, Medieval, Regency, Westerns, and occasionally Pirates – that historical romance hangs out in. This book – the first of two from Harlequin – takes the smoldering looks and heaving bosoms and transports them to a sugar plantation in the Caribbean, and it’s refreshing. Bronwyn Scott is a pro at writing romance, and this book is a pretty perfect little romance novel. I’ll totally seek out the other/second book in the mini-series.
5. “The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Theodore Roszak
Being a huge Mary Shelley/”Frankenstein” fan – like, the type who debated getting a grad school degree in literature so I could be a lit professor and teach the book to the next generation of great minds – I saw this book at Open Books and snatched it like I’d found the Holy Grail. The idea of the story of “Frankenstein” being told from Elizabeth’s perspective thrilled me, and upon reading that it’s an “erotically charged” and “feminist” take, I was there. While I liked the book, and I’m going to suggest it to my Franken-friends, I’m conflicted. First, there are a few departures from the original novel that bothered me – namely, the whole William/Justine thing is never mentioned at all, and if you’ve read the original novel that’s a huge deal and something Elizabeth’s journal would probably mention at least once. Second, I’m not sure I can get behind the book’s portrayal of Victor Frankenstein. He’s kind of a toolbag, and there’s a certain event that happens in Roszak’s book that I don’t entirely buy. That said, if you’re not addicted to the original work, you might enjoy it more. (Witchcraft! Kama Sutra! Monsters! A woman living in the woods!)
Whew! That was a lot of reading for a long weekend. Not that I’m stopping. I’m moving on to “Outlander” next, and then I’m a couple “A Song of Ice and Fire” books behind. So many books – so little time!