Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reading Roundup: The End of Summer Reading, Part 2

Well I certainly didn't intend to go 10 days in between my "End of Summer Reading" compilation posts. This was supposed to be a quick catch-up before school started, and now we're two weeks in and it has CONSUMED MY LIFE. I've got several book tours on the lineup for the next couple of months, which I am very excited about, but other than that, expect many compilation posts...particularly on middle school books! I can't even believe how busy the days seem, but at least it's finally doing something I love. And surely it will calm down into a routine where I can socialize and stay up past 10pm soon...right?

Bloodroot by Amy Greene is an example of how great storytelling can make even the most depressing of lives enjoyable to read. The book follows a number of voices as they weave together the story of one Appalachian family living on Bloodroot Mountain. Mostly, it's the story of Myra Lamb, a wild and spirited young girl who captivates the attention of our several storytellers. We hear from the grandmother that raised her and passed down the special "touch" that enchants; her neighbor and childhood friend who loves her with all his heart (though, sadly, the feeling isn't mutual); the husband who wrongfully tried to tame her; and the children who must endure the hardships and consequences of her decisions.

Overall, I found this book haunting. Its structure, with its alternating perspectives and nonlinear sequence, could be confusing, but it isn't; without distinguished chapters, it could drag on, but it doesn't. Bloodroot is steeped in the mysticism and folklore of Appalachia, and though its a universal story of history, tragedy, and family, it's also one so inextricably tied to this particular setting, on the top of an isolated mountain barely touched by modernity. I think there is a lot that could be delved into here, but it's also simply an engrossing story about people and how their choices affect their lives. Particularly recommended for book groups.

And now a light, fun one: Dying in the Wool is the first in Frances Brody's "Kate Shackleton" mystery series. If it reminds you an awful lot of the "Maisie Dobbs" series, in both subject and book design, then I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Our narrator is Kate, a young woman with a recent knack for finding missing people—whether they be dead or just didn't want to be found. This is sort of a hobby she's taken up in the years since her husband went missing himself, presumed dead during WWI. Now an old friend has come to Kate with another missing-persons case; Joshua Braithwaite, a wealthy and successful businessman, the owner of the local wool mill in Bridgestead, has been missing for the past seven years, and Tabitha is convinced her father is alive...and she wants to find him before her own wedding. With a delightful male sidekick (a sort of buddy cop scenario), Kate begins her very first professional investigation, digging up long-forgotten secrets that someone in the town would rather remain buried.

This book is just fun. Kate is an unconventional character for her time, displaying a level of confidence on par with her male colleagues, despite the anxieties nagging below the surface. She's never fully accepted the presumed death of her own husband, but she's found her own way and values her independence...and this ambiguity certainly has the potential to develop further as the series progresses. A fun mystery with a strong protagonist and enjoyable setting.

No comments: