I met someone at my favorite jewelry store recently who has similar reading tastes, and she said I had to read Beneath a Scarlet Sky. It was on my TBR (I already had the Kindle version), but I decided to move it up to an audio version after her urging. This is a novel based on the true story of a young man in Milan, Italy, during World War II. When Italy surrenders to the Nazis, young Pino Lella joins the Nazi army as a spy for the Italian resistance. He becomes the driver for a Nazi general and reports what he learns to underground resistance forces. He also falls in love with the lovely Anna, the maid of the Nazi general's mistress. This really is quite a story, but I just have such trouble believing it's real. It's too good to be true. The amount of serendipity and coincidence is too high for me to believe. So, I was a bit on guard throughout. It could be true, but in the age of "fake news," who knows? I do recommend this one, though, as one of the better WWII novels to have flooded the market recently. The writing is a bit simpler than I like, but the story really is something. The audio version is good, but if you have the ability to listen at 1.5 speed (which I don't), you might do so as the narration is much slower and more deliberate than the book warrants. My rating: 4 stars.
I am always on the lookout for a good, solid mystery series, and I think I've found another to add to my auto-buy list. Death of a Rainmaker is the first book in a new Dust Bowl Mystery series. Set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Depression of the 1930s, the book introduces us to the small town of Vermillion, where farms are being foreclosed, businesses are going belly up, tramps are setting up camp, and the air is thick with dust. The sheriff, Temple Jennings, has a murder case on his hands when the rainmaker hired by the town to bring relief and came to town not 24 hours earlier is found dead outside the matinee. The sheriff's wife gets involved in the case when a local CCCer (one of President Roosevelt's ABC initiatives to put people to work during the Depression) is accused of the crime. She knows he's innocent, but if he didn't do it, who did? Who had motive? And will the sheriff solve the case before the primary that will determine his reelection chances? This was a good, straightforward mystery. It's not fancy, but the characters are real, and the desperation of the town itself becomes a character. I really enjoyed it. My rating: 4 stars.
A favorite re-read from a few years ago.
My Kindle (re)read:
Nearly done with this one.
My nightly reads:
Slowly making progress on each of these. I've been focusing mainly on the politics and decorating books.
Even more snow fell this weekend, so we had a cozy weekend in. (Come to think of it, I pretty much could have written that for every weekend this winter.)
Last week I finished:
I'd known about current poet laureate Tracy K. Smith for awhile, but only recently have I begun to explore her poetry. After enjoying Wade in the Water last month, I moved her memoir, National Book Award Finalist Ordinary Light, up my TBR. It was a wonderful book. This one won't be for everyone, because the "plot" is very...ordinary. That's the point. Smith writes about moments of her life that are less stories than slim memories. But it's those memories that make up a life, that form a path that, when looked back upon, show us how we became who we are. Smith is the youngest of five children, her siblings quite a bit older than she. Her parents are educated Southern Baptist blacks, her father has a military career, her mother stayed home to raise the children. Faith informs their lives, and Smith spends a great deal of time examining the mother/daughter relationship and their Baptist beliefs. Her mother is a strong, moral, principled woman, whom Smith admires. (I adored her, too.) The family is close-knit and values church and education. As Smith grows older, she grapples with her blackness, with her faith, and with her desire to do what she pleases though she'd always been told certain things were sins. In short, it's a memoir of identity. I was disappointed that Smith didn't talk more about her path to becoming one of the premier poets of the modern era, but this book stops at the death of her mother (not a spoiler--the book opens with the death), when Smith is just out of college. Her literary career is yet to unfold. If you're interested in memoirs about identity, especially African-American female identity, this is a must read. It's gentle and slow, but it's well-written, honest, and respectful. I loved it, and I only wish it would have been around in my post-college years. My rating: 4 stars.
Always on the lookout for modern classics to read, I was excited to tackle Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. It was published in 1984 and takes place in 1906 in Cold Sassy, Georgia. It's narrated by the teenage Will Tweedy whose grandfather E. Rucker Blakeslee, a widower of only three weeks, announces in the opening pages that he plans to marry Miss Love Simpson, the milliner in his dry goods store--and he does so the next day. Naturally, this turn of events angers Will Tweedy's mother and his Aunt Loma, Rucker's daughters, who are worried about propriety as well as their inheritances. It also sets the townsfolks' tongues a-wagging. It is true that Grandpa wanted a free housekeeper, or does he really have feelings for Miss Love? Along with the main story, there are other happenings, like the automobile coming to Cold Sassy, Will's narrowly escaped railroad accident, and a suicide in the family. While it's an overall light book--which I appreciated, though it took awhile to--it does have some high-drama parts that seemed a little jarring with the overall tone and time period. But more and more I found myself falling for the book's charm, and I ended up enjoying it a great deal. The rather rushed ending sets up the book's sequel, Leaving Cold Sassy. I listened to this one on audio, and the audio was very good. There's a lot of Southern speak, and I still hear it in my head at all hours even days later. Try this one, I think you might like it. My rating: 4 stars.
I'm currently reading:
I've just begun this first book in the new Dust Bowl Mystery series.
My Kindle read:
I'm finally making good headway on this re-read. I've passed the halfway point.
My night reads:
I'm enjoying all of my evening reads. It's a lighter load than the last few months, and that feels good.
I think I've got a case of spring fever. No doubt March will be a better month than February, weather-wise--it certainly can't be worse--but I have no illusions that we will have springtime any time soon. So it will be another month of hunkering down and survival reading. I've chosen a lot of fiction this month, but also some wonderful memoirs and re-reads, plus some new poetry.
February was a horrible month for anything but reading. At least it was here in Wisconsin where the snowdrifts are as tall as a man. There was a lot of hunkering down and waiting for the snowplow to come through. I finished a record 18 books this month--the most books read and in the shortest month, too. My reactions this month were strong. Some I really liked, and some I really disliked. One word reviews are linked to full reviews below.