Jet lag has me up much earlier than usual: I must make sure not to squander this advantage, if I am smart I can type up the notes for my two remaining Austen chapters and get the production of quota underway before life too much intervenes! Very happy to be home - I always forget how much I love my apartment, and of course the warm welcome from the two funny cats is huge....
First, though, an overdue light reading update, a sort of throat-clearing before getting back into the real work.
The trip home from England went smoothly, with the proviso that I arrived at the airport six hours in advance of my flight (B.'s flight to Miami was a couple hours earlier from a different terminal) and was horrified to learn that the airline would only take checked bags (I had 2 bags of approximately fifty pounds each, one small and densely full of books, the other a cumbersome large duffel full of clothes and miscellaneous running gear) three hours in advance of flying time. Fortunately Heathrow Terminal 5 is very nice and I was able to hole up in a reasonable restaurant for the duration.
Key to successful travel for me is having the right books to read, and in fact the day passed very enjoyably. I read part of and put aside a Swedish thriller I wasn't enjoying, then had an undemanding and enjoyable urban fantasy (at its best, this genre is undemanding and wonderfully immersive) that took me through the first stint of waiting, an incredibly good and funny noir novel for the next bit of waiting and first bit of the flight, and then, incredibly immersively, a long science fiction novel that I have been meaning to read and that absolutely captivated me.
I haven't logged light reading since mid-September, which means I am well overdue for it - forthwith! As always, loosely sorted by categories and with the best stuff mostly singled out at the top. This includes reading from the Australia trip and then the stint of Oxford light reading (probably a little lighter than usual, in volume as well as kind, as I was doing a fair bit of work reading as well).
Strong all-round recommendation at the top, then.
Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. My favorite kind of book - captivating! This was a consensus recommendation when I crowdsourced my light reading demands on Facebook before traveling to Oxford, and I enjoyed it very much indeed (reminiscent of but also quite different from Frances Hardinge's The Lie Tree, also I thought an extremely good book).
Garth Nix, Goldenhand - latest installment in the Old Kingdom series, which must be my favorite YA fantasy series running today (it was the first three books in this series, plus Pullman's His Dark Materials, that made me write The Explosionist when I got tired of not finding a new trilogy along the lines of Nix's or Pullman's on the shelves of the Bank Street Bookstore)
James Lasdun, The Fall Guy. He is a genius! He writes as good a sentence as anyone you have ever read, but he also has this chilling Talented Mr. Ripleyesque imagination about doubles and secret selves - this one's very good indeed.
The book that surprised and delighted me most perhaps of everything I'm logging here, and that made the first part of the trip from Heathrow to JFK pass as if in a flash, was Joe Ide's IQ. I loved this so much I can hardly say! It's a Sherlock Holmes homage (the story of a young detective coming into his full powers of deductive reasoning), but it's also learned from Walter Mosley's socially conscious noir (with a dash of George Pelecanos) and has a strong satirical element that is genuinely comic rather than just striving for it. The parody rap lyrics are some of the funniest things I've read all year - I had just found this one as a random recommendation on Amazon, hadn't particularly registered anything about it in the world - everyone should read this book!
And the book that captivated me for the remainder of the voyage was N. K. Jemisen's justly lauded The Fifth Season. I loved her earlier trilogy and have had this one on my Kindle for a while, but hadn't quite gotten into it - I think I read the first few chapters and found them a little alienating (I have observed that one weakness of digital publication for novels is that when you have a novel written in a few different voices and timelines you really lose something not having the physical book in your hands, with the extra help it can give in the way of headers and being able easily to leaf back a few pages to orient yourself), put it aside for a quieter moment. But it is glorious - really expansive imaginative storytelling at its absolute best (as ambitious as Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, for instance, a book I enjoyed very much, but much more unusual and startling in its willingness to invoke fantastical as well as science-fictional elements). Loved it and can't wait to read the next installment.
Kevin Wignall, The Traitor's Story (love his cool unemotional way with storytelling - some storytelling minds are just more attractive than others, the economy and precision of his imagination much appeal to me!)
Tana French, The Trespasser. I continue to feel she's one of the couple best crime novelists writing today - we are used now to the contours of her imagination, so it's a bit less startling than those first few books in the series were, but they are still pretty much at the top of my list of what I most want to read.
A new novel in Emma Newman's appealing Planetfall world, After Atlas (B. was reading this also a few days ago and comments on the miraculously readable convergence of SF and noir investigation). And then what might have been the best discovery of my last few months of light reading because it was so joyful and so well-timed (it saved me from a good amount of post-election angst - not that I was spared, just that I had places to escape into like my Austen book and these novels) - a wonderful series called the Split Worlds. Between Two Thorns, Any Other Name, All is Far, A Little Knowledge - I was slightly gnashing my teeth when I came to the end of book four and realized that it wasn't the end of the story, but now I am glad of it as it means there is another one to read. I had vaguely had the impression that Planetfall was Newman's first novel, which surprised me given what a very very good book I found it - so this makes sense, she had a journeyman series before that might be a little more ragged around the edges but that are absolutely delightful and pretty much my favorite sort of thing in the world to read in times of trouble!
A first installment in a series that is another version of what I most enjoy collapsing into (I was happily downloading books from Amazon end-of-year recommendations for transatlantic travel, only I started this one the night before and stayed up till I finished it, and was only outraged to realize that I could not immediately get the next chunk of story): Todd Lockwood, The Summer Dragon. I was then saying to B. in the car we took to the airport the next morning that books about girls raising dragons are pretty much my favorite thing in the world - he said, implacably, "I find them Pernicious"! (Which reminded me of the time we were riding in a boat across a lake in Costa Rica and saw a huge flock of sea birds, prompting B. to turn to me and observe that one good tern deserves another.)
Connie Willis, Crosstalk. Enjoyable, very much in the vein of her earlier fiction like Bellwether, but slight. I am mildly outraged that the boring book that you are supposed to read if you are a telepath who needs to shield your mind from the intrusion of other people's chaotic thoughts is Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire! And
New Virgil Flowers book from John Sandford, Escape Clause, cause for minor celebration! (I read through the whole of that series and then the Lucas Davenport ones late this spring in a reading binge that was incredibly well timed to coincide with the time of the academic year when I still need a pipeline of light reading but don't have the energy or attention to discover new veins of ore.
New Daniel Faust installment from Craig Schaefer, The Castle Doctrine (these are good but not great - they are not as immediately appealing as Ben Aaronovich's Rivers of London series and not as masterfully told and plotted as Paul Cornell's Shadow London, but very enjoyable - definitely recommended).
Justine Larbalestier's My Sister Rosa is excellent, though I wasn't sure I endorsed the final twist - you can see it coming and I think it complicates what is otherwise a very emotionally true and compelling book
I found Harlen Coben's initial Myron Bolitar novels a bit silly/slight, but like Robert Crais he has gotten better over time. Enjoyed Home, then read the trio of YA Mickey Bolitar novels, which are wildly implausible in their imaginings but quite enjoyable to read (Chelter, Seconds Away, Found). Then read Fool Me Once. Then read Missing You. Then felt I had had enough Coben for a while!
Pre-election solace (genius timing!): Lee Child's new Jack Reacher novel! The last one wasn't great (the dark web stuff is too silly, and really the Reacher premise works best in a time before cellphones and pervasive computing) but this one is a return to form - I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Doug Johnstone, The Jump (very good - subtle, moving)
Walter Jon Williams, This is Not a Game (not bad, sort of sub-William-Gibson)
Seanan McGuire, Full of Briars (novelette in the October Daye world); Mira Grant, Feedback. Poppy Z. Brite, Last Wish and The Gulf.
Michelle Belanger, Mortan Sins (short story in the Conspiracy of Angels world)
Matthew FitzSimmons, Poisonfeather (Gibson Vaugn #2, sequel to The Short Drop). Not quite as smooth as the first one, but it's a worthwhile series, I will certainly continue to read.
Michael Connelly's new Harry Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye. I think the quality of the series has declined over the years. This one is a little stronger than some of the couple previous, but I always have a curious feeling as I am reading that it is almost as if he has written the book as an outline rather than a fully imagined and realized story.
A pair of quite reasonable British police procedurals by Sarah Ward, In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw (but don't you wish series naming protocols would undergo a major overhaul?)
David Anthony Durman, Acacia: The War with the Mein (book 1 of a series, I thought it was good and I enjoyed it but I do not know that I have the fortitude quite to read the rest of the saga - also, though I do not imagine influence just deep mythic patterning/stereotype, the children in the displaced ruling family have exactly the same roles and personalities as the Stark children in Game of Thrones!)
Peter Straub, Ghost Story (for some reason I'd never read this, but I think it feels dated now - the gender roles are offputting - and it's so reminiscent of some of the Stephen King of that era that I really wonder who thought of it first). Liked it enough to read Floating Dragon thereafter, but once I'd read those two I felt it really was sufficient, though they are long reasonably enjoyable books of the sort I always need more of.
Helen Callaghan, Dear Amy (couldn't quite get behind this one, I think thriller writers should be banned from writing stories that rely on dissociative selves with comparmentalized knowledge a-la Girl on a Train, whether due to alcohol abuse or mental illness)
Aoife Clifford, All these Perfect Strangers (Australian crime novel, not bad but not memorable); Kirstyn McDermott, Madigan Mine (good premise well told but not quite my preferred genre - I think I was trying to get local color via reading Australian genre fiction)
Ann Turner, Out of the Ice, an Antarctic thriller, was the best of the bunch - reminds me I meant to get her other novel but it was not I think available for Kindle.
Carol O'Connell's latest Mallory novel, Blind Sight. These are so eccentric as to sometimes have become almost unreadably silly, but I didn't think this volume was such a brazen offender as a couple of the others. The story rather recapitulates elements of her standalone novel The Judas Child, which remains my favorite of all her books.
I don't read urban fantasy obsessively, I am too critical of the writing in its bottom tiers, but Ilona Andrews, Magic Binds was worthwhile, and I was very pleased (this was the one I read yesterday morning at the airport with too much luggage) with Suzanne Johnson's Royal Street. Was happy to realize that it is the first of a five-book series, will get the others promptly (though by the time I realized I could do this, I was in a no-wireless zone and had a moment of feeling profoundly thwarted!).
Susan McBride, Walk into Silence - sub-literary, though the writing is quite good - I always feel a bit tricked when I think I'm reading "crime" genre and it turns out to be built on the romance chassis, there is a thinness of imagining around the storytelling
I must have been desperate - a Supernatural novel, Mythmaker! (Actually I do occasionally like reading this sort of tie-in story, though it is mostly only when I can't settle on anything else decent to read!)
Charlie Engle, Running Man: A Memoir. Very enjoyable in parts, but I thought the account of his arrest and imprisonment was somewhat lacking in self-awareness.
Comfort reread: Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, though that was more of a tourism reread - and I suddenly remember now that I never walked into the Botanic Garden, though I ran past it almost every day, to see if I could find Will and Lyra's bench!