Mysteries, Children's Books, and Unfinished Business

Another month of reading has gone by, and Twitterature shares a spot with my church calendar once again. I hadn't realized how many months worth of fifteenths were noteworthy until I began my little pilgrimage from pixels back to paper. November's 15 marks the beginning of advent, so I've been pecking out my reviews in the midst of the yearly hunt for the advent wreath. The Christmas decorations were put away last year in a newborn haze, so remembering what got put where proved a bit more adventurous than usual.

My literary adventures, on the other hand, were a little more whimsical: I continued my mystery kick from October. I decided that I'm grown up enough to read children's books to myself if I fancy them - no need to keep pretending I only brought them home for the children. All that and two books started and stalled and put away for later. Here's this month's reading list:

Hardscrabble Road, by Jane Haddam
I've always said how I like that Haddam's Demarkian novels don't have to be read in order. Most of each novel is its own discreet mystery with just enough of the detective's personal life to add some light-hearted window-dressing. Hardscrabble Road proved me wrong; something happened in the book prior to throw our hero's love life in peril and I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. Fortunately, I had said novel on my shelf, so I just skimmed enough to get the gist of what had happened. I didn't want to reread the whole thing - I still remember whodunit. Unfortunately, the conflict appears to have been resolved in the next novel, Glass Houses, which I've also read recently enough to remember the mystery but not window dressing. Sigh. The mystery itself was still great fun - if Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame to rant about Parisian architecture, Haddam wrote Hardscrabble Road to poke fun at political pundits, and asks hard questions about polarized politics and homelessness in winter cities. Very much worth the read, even if I still don't know what's up with Gregor and Bennis.

Hearts of Sand, by Jane Haddam
This Demarkian novel had none of the troubles of Hardscrabble Road; just old money, a dead debutant, and a thirty year old grudge. For a murder mystery, it was light-hearted and fun.

Katie and the Mona Lisa, by James Mayhew
After waiting over a month for one of my children to ask me to read them this book, I sat down and read it to myself over breakfast. I had been expecting an educational children's story about art history - what I got was a delightfully imaginative romp in and out of famous works from the Italian Renaissance as Katie tries to help Mona Lisa get back her smile. The art was beautifully rendered and there were great little facts worked in the fantasy. I'll have to look up some more of Katie's adventures in the future.

Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney
I picked up this lovely picture book at the library for its dedication to St. Nicholas, patron of children, maidens, and sailors. Miss Rumphius is a bit of all three, as she follows her life's intentions to travel the world, live by the sea, and make the world more beautiful. I loved the water colour illustrations, the realism, and the simple truth that making the world more beautiful doesn't have to be a grande gesture for it to count. I may put this book on my own Christmas list, just to add some beauty to my house.

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme C. Simsion
I pulled this little novel off the library's hits to go shelf thinking it was The Rosie Project. I got several pages in before I thought to double check the book jacket. Turns out this would be the sequel of the book I thought I was grabbing. As it was, I was sorely tempted to keep reading anyways. Those opening pages had me cracking up big time. I look forward to returning to it once I've read the original.

Acedia & Me, by Kathleen Norris
This lovely tome is a work worth reading slow, and reading often. As it was, I only got partway through before I needed to return it to the library. Norris' grand extension on  The Quotidian Mysteries is part memoir and part meditation, exploring the importance of routine and repetition in a healthy life and the insidious whispered lie that nothing's worth the bother. Wonderfully relevant for anyone who struggles to make their own schedule and stick with it.

And that's it for this time around. Do check by Modern Mrs. Darcy to see what other writers have been reading. It's always great fun.


  1. I'm in the same boat with the Rosie Effect — I haven't read the first book yet, and the sequel is on my Kindle already.

    1. I blame the cover colour - if they're not the same shade of red, they've got to be pretty durn close.


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