Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quick Lit: August 2015: The Last Hurrah?

I'm reading four books right now. And I've got classes starting on Monday. Woo! Unfortunately three of those books are library books, which means I can't really take my time on them. Time to do lots of reading before next week, then.

1.


     A new laird comes to a Scottish island and begins changing the traditional ways of the people. While some meekly accept what's happening, Mac McDonnell is determined to push back. In actuality, the book is less about Mac and more about his sister, Moira as she deals with forces outside her control and confronts inevitable change.
     I'm sort of torn about this book so far. On the one hand, Camp is amazing at creating vivid, sympathetic characters and describing her setting so well. You aren't just reading about a Scottish island; you are on the Scottish island. It feels very real, which is probably partly why the characters themselves feel so real as well. On the other hand, the flow of the story is a bit clunky. Tiny scenes come and go, and it feels like it could have been pared down without harming the story. For example, an entire summer of Moira being a migrant harvester is a single chapter. It was supposed to be a life-changing experience for her, but we only get the bare bones of what she does, and are told afterward how it changed her. The story dragged a bit because of this. The plot doesn't so much flow as hop along like this in short jumps. I feel like it could have been tightened up.
     I'm only halfway through, so we'll see how it all pans out before I decided whether or not to continue with the series.


2. 


     So far this has been a good overview of the Roman Empire. It's not perfect; the author is summarizing a huge chunk of history in one book, so details are left out. I do like how he discussed the different factors that led to the eventual formation of the empire, and the gradual changes that took place before Octavius became Augustus. However, I was expecting a more chronological view rather than jumping around to different subjects. Still, it's not a bad read if you're interested in how society and government gradually evolves.


3. 


     This is part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: a book you should have read in high school. I should have read it in high school because there were lots of questions about it in MACC and BETA club, and I probably could have answered them more accurately if I had actually read the book in the first place. I wish I did, too. I used to have a strong distaste for literary fiction, but I find I'm actually enjoying this. Sure, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, with the possible exception of Daisy, but I suspect Fitzgerald did that on purpose.



4. 


     I'm still steadily working on the Big Pendergast Re-Read. This one is notable in that it introduces several interesting characters. We formally meet Constance (and by formal, I mean she curtsies), the strange girl living in the old Leng mansion who may be much, much older than she looks; the delightfully cruel Count Fosco, who apparently survived Wilkie Collins' attempt to kill him and tries to force Pendergast to like opera; and an intriguing glimpse at the ever-popular Diogenes, Pendergast's crazier brother. We also get a very creepy storyline: a group of men with some mysterious connection are being burned from the inside out, with hints that perhaps the Devil himself is involved. Laura Hayward returns as a by-the-rules foil to Pendergast's trolling ways. Also Douglas Preston uses this book as a way to get rid of some lingering resentment at the Italian police for trying to implicate him and a friend in murders that happens years and years ago because they disagreed with them. (NO I AM BEING COMPLETELY SERIOUS)

So there you have it. Scotsmen, Romans, Italians, and Old Sports.

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