Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (September 2004)

It actually is quite common for the fall season to open with triple digit temperatures in the part of the world where I live. Summer likes to hold on as long as she can before giving way to her cousin. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets winter and fall confused, considering how little change there is between the two seasons; and, therefore, winter thinks fall has an advantage. The heat now will only make the fall weather all the sweeter when it finally does arrive. I just hope it will be before Halloween.

In honor of the coming spooky holiday, I will be reading and reviewing Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal next month. Got to try and fit a ghost story in there somehow. In the meantime, I have been spending much of my time overseas in Darfur, Sri Lanka, and London as I study hard to become a doctor, travel cross-country by train and fall in love with a mobster. I also spent a little time closer to home this month in New Orleans, but that might as well have been a foreign country. It is not every day I get to walk around in the shoes of a wealthy mentally ill woman.

September is nearing an end and as has become my habit on the last Sunday of every month, I pulled out my old reading journal to take a look at what I had been reading five years ago this month. Mystery, particularly involving murder, was the order of the day (which does not seem that much different from the month before that same year does it?).

My husband's and my end of the summer road trip through the southwest was encouragement enough for me to pick up and read the third book in J.A. Jance's Sheriff Joanna Brady series set in Cochise County, Arizona. In Shoot/Don't Shoot, Joanna Brady attended law enforcement training in Phoenix and got wrapped up in an investigation of possible serial murders. I especially love the setting of this particular series, having a special place in my heart for the state of Arizona. Joanna is one of those strong female protagonists I like to read about so much.

My reading that year also took me to the Virgin Islands where I met up with Jonathan Nasaw's Pender, a retired FBI agent who was called in to help investigate several murders on the fictional island of St. Luke. Who is behind the murders is no mystery in Twenty-Seven Bones to the reader as the author reveals it early on; it is the game of cat and mouse which made me keep turning the pages. This is one of those books that I really cannot remember much of were it not for the notes in my reading journal, and, even then, I could not tell you anything beyond what I've written there.

I did not have the same problem with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Cabinet of Curiosities, a book I devoured in no time. It was my first introduction to FBI Special Agent Pendergast and it was practically love at first sight. In this book, the mutilated bodies of 36 people are found deep inside a tunnel—a horrific crime that occurred over a century ago—and Pendergast is called to investigate. Preston and Child are skillful writers and I was riveted to my chair the more I read of this novel—a bit of history and horror rolled into one. I even went so far as to do some research on cabinets of curiosities, something I had not been familiar with before. I love it when a book inspires the researcher in me.

September of 2004 also found me spending time with ex-cop turned art historian, Kate McKinnon, in Jonathan Santlofer's Color Blind. She is asked to help with a murder investigation. It is the second book in a series, but my first experience with Santlofer's work. Although I hadn't been overly impressed with the heroine, finding her to be a bit too perfect and a little mechanical, that did not detract much from my overall enjoyment of the story. I loved the pop culture references, and I made a special note of the ending in my journal, mentioning how well written it was, both in conception and length. It was a fitting ending given all the characters had gone through.

Abigail Padgett's Child of Silence was not my first book by the author, but it is one of my favorites by her. Child of Silence is the first book in a series featuring a Child Protective Services Social Worker in San Diego County. In this book, the protagonist, Bo Bradley, is assigned to investigate the case of an abandoned boy found tied up and unconscious on a local reservation. The further she gets into her investigation, her own life is suddenly on the line and she finds herself on the run from two hitmen. One of the aspects I like most about Padgett's series is the way she weaves Bo's mental illness (Bipolar Disorder) into the story in a very real way. Padgett also paints a very realistic portrait of what many child welfare workers face day in and day out.

I was still reading Patricia Cornwell back then. I was anxious to read Blow Fly, the 12th book in the Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner series, because Trace would be coming out soon after. I had been an early fan of the series and always looked forward to seeing where Cornwell would take me next. I had been disappointed with Isle of the Dogs, a book from another of her series, and hoped the return to more familiar ground would prove better. While on some level I liked Blow Fly, I also found it disappointing. The ending in particular left a lot to be desired, and it was clear the series was going in a direction that I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Up to that point, I had never given up on a series, and so I figured I would wait and see what Trace had to offer before deciding if Cornwell and I would part ways.

Although also a mystery, I stepped out of reality and into urban fantasy in September of 2004 as well. I quite enjoyed Laurell K. Hamilton's Cerulean Sins, the 11th book in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. The mysteries in the series at that point were fast becoming very minor story lines. In this case, Anita was asked to help find a serial rapist/killer who was believed to be a lycanthrope. Vampire politics played a heavy part in the novel, however, as Anita was pulled deeper and deeper into her lover and vampire friend Jean-Claude's world. In my notes about this particular book, I commented about how I appreciated Hamilton showing me a softer side of Anita and giving voice to some of the emotional turmoil the character was experiencing with all that she had been through up to that point. Anita was also beginning to recognize the sacrifices that others had made for her, something she had taken for granted for so long.

I clearly had murder on the brain five years ago this month, in particular serial murders. It was a month for visiting old friends and making new ones--and for seeing justice win the day. All this talk of mysteries and thrillers is putting me in the mood to read one next. I wonder which it will be . . .

Where has your reading taken you lately?

This Week In Reading Mews:

Reviews Posted:
A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman (Plus a giveaway--there's still time if you are interested!)
The Hunter (Richard Stark’s Parker, Book 1) adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

Currently Reading:
DeMarco Empire by J Lou McCartney
Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival by Halima Bashir

Posts of Interest This Week:
TGIF: Music, Wish Lists & Tears

I can't resist putting in a little plug for a new feature on my husband's blog, where he stretches his creative muscle. Take a look:
Microfiction: Cross-Country.

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. My reading almost never takes me in a mystery direction, at least not the ones that you describe, but right now I've found myself reading The Fire by Katherine Neville. That's about as close as I get - this book is full of mysteries!

  2. Back before I started blogging, murder mystery series was just about all I read. I always love it when you look back at what you were doing five years ago (I can't remember what I was doing five days ago!). I do know that five years ago we were being hammered by three consecutive hurricanes, and I had just quit work. As dense as I can be, I will never forget that. Of all the books you've listed, the only ones I read were the Patricia Cornwall books. I've give up on her. Somewhere in there she lost her mojo.

  3. I like to read your posts. They take me on a journey of sorts. You are one of the best bloggers I know. I think you know that!

    In a way, blogging has helped me in adding to my my reading genre. Now I get to know about so many books that I wouldn't have picked otherwise. Now I like noir stuff too. Who thought I would?

    TSS: The past week in retrospect and on to the next one...

  4. What a wonderful treasure you have! It never dawned on me to keep a journal about the books I have read, and I wish I could look back and gain a "literary" perspective of my life.

  5. The same thing happened to me with Patricia Cornwell.

    This is such a well-written post! Truly enjoyable reading!

  6. Before I started my reading group, mysteries were about it. And like Sandy and Linda Patricia Cornwell was my lady! Until she kind of lost it and then lost me. But with the reading group I am traveling all over the world and loving it! And I loved your post! it's wonderful that you kept a journal! I started but never kept up with it....

    Take care,

  7. I'm reading The Haunting of Bombay right now! :) It's definitely RIP-ish, despite the monsoon conditions in the book.

  8. Sounds like you have great plans for the coming month! Happy reading!

  9. I love reading your reviews from 5 years ago. It makes me think about what I was doing 5 years ago... I was having my wedding shower and finishing up all of the last minute wedding preparations. I found some new to me books in these old reviews. I am going to be on the lookout for them! Happy Reading!

  10. I like how you look back at your reading of five years ago. I wish my reading journal was were I could get to it. It's been packed away after our basement flooded. I look forward to getting my hands on it again.

    I added several of your books to my TBR list. I love mysteries.

  11. Meghan - I don't think I'll ever tire of reading mysteries. :-) I haven't read anything by Neville, but I've heard mostly good things about The Eight.

    Sandy - I definitely was going through a mystery phase that summer of 2004. I was more likely to go on binges like that back then than I am today. I've since given up on Cornwell too. After Trace, I decided it was time to move on.

    Gautami - Thank you for your kind words! You're making me blush. :-)

    I agree, blogging has definitely introduced me to books I might not have otherwise read. It's been a great experience.

    Molly - I am so glad I decided to start keeping track of my reading back then--I just wish I'd thought of it sooner.

    Linda - Thanks, Linda. :-) I don't read Cornwell's work anymore but I follow my friends' reviews of her work, hoping I'll see some return to the way it used to be and yet knowing that isn't likely to happen.

  12. Suzanne - It was that way with me and Cornwell too unfortunately. Hers was the first series I ever gave up on. I have no regrets though. It was time. I still recommend her earlier books.

    My reading journal is the only journal I've ever been able to keep faithfully. It's become such a natural part of my reading routine, I can't imagine not keeping it up. It was hard getting started though.

    Eva - That's good to hear! I'm looking forward to reading it. :-)

    Kelly - It'll be especially fun doing the buddy read with you! I think you asked me about time lines in one of your comments--I think reading by the end of October would work best for me, if that's okay with you.

    Kristie - Thanks, Kristie! Those last minute wedding preparations could be so stressful and yet fun, couldn't they? Sounds like this was a happy time for you five years ago. :-) Happy early anniversary!

    Booklogged - You're making me think of all that might be boxed up in my garage right now . . . I hope you'll be able to get your journal out eventually. It'd be interesting to see what your reading was like all those years ago.

  13. I enjoyed your husband's short short - very menacing.

    I'm going to have to find a good spooky story for October reading. Last year I read Stewart O'Nan's The Night Country right before Halloween, and it was perfect!

  14. I am so ready for fall...the mornings and evenings are cool now, but it's still hot during the day! I'm trying to get in the fall/Halloween mood by reading Dracula.

  15. Carrie - I'm glad. :-) I'm happy to see him getting back into writing again. It's so much a part of who he is.

    The Night Country sounds like a good choice for Halloween. I wonder what you'll end up reading this year?

    Softdrink - I wish it was a bit cooler sooner. Before it gets dark so I can walk my dog. Soon, hopefully. :-)

    I really liked Dracula. I hope you will too!

  16. It's totally weird for me right now because the quality of light is different somehow. It's fallish yet it FEELS like summer. This year is a supposed to be an El Nino year too with lots of rain but it sure is hard to imagine.

    I am wanting to dive into some comfort reads and I just am not in the mood yet. I keep waiting for the weather to turn.

  17. Well you were sure reading books about icky things five years ago!

  18. And, Wendy, you've just put me in the mood to read my mystery and thriller books too!

  19. Ti - I know what you mean. It's definitely getting darker earlier. I do hope we get more rain this year. We could certainly use it!

    Lisa - LOL That's one way to look at it. I love a good mystery.

    Alice - They're so tempting, aren't they?

  20. It's still hot here as well despite the calendar claiming it as fall. I just wish the extended summer came with extended pool hours!

    I know what I was reading five years ago (heck, I know what I was reading ten years ago) but I didn't tease things out by month, lumping the whole year together. Cool that you did keep it all seperate.

  21. I was reading my first Kay Scarpetta novel, but the book disappeared before I was halfway through. I'm waiting for the borrower to return it.
    And my reading has taken me to quite a few places, but the place I loved the most was 1950s Barcelona, in Shadow of the Wind.

  22. Kristen - Extended pool hours would be nice! :-)

    Since I first started journaling, I keep track of when I start and finish a book along with my little review of each book. Even before I began blogging, I liked to compare how much I was reading each month so I could see if any patterns emerged. It's the geek in me. :-)

    Hazra - Hopefully you'll get the chance to finish it soon. :-) I haven't read Shadow of the Wind yet. Someday I'd like to though.

  23. Seriously, I wish we had four seasons here so not only I could experience the change of weather but also I could read a book that matches the season! Well, I could only dream, couldn't I? :P

    I hope you've a wonderful week ahead, Wendy!

  24. When I've read back on my book journals what always cracks me up is when I make a mention of "looking forward" to the next book or "can't wait" and then I realize years have passed and I still haven't gotten back to the series! Too many books I guess :)

  25. your mysteries sound so addictive and fun! :-) have a great week :-)

  26. Fun! I haven't read any of the books you did 5 years ago but I've been feeling in the mood for a mystery lately too, and something spooky. I haven't really read anything for R.I.P. yet, I think that'll be my focus for October.

  27. Melody - At least you can live them through reading. And hopefully someday you will be able to experience the changing seasons more dramatically in your travels. We can dream, right? And dreams sometimes do come true. :-)

    Iliana - Me too! I've noticed that often in my journals. I do mean to go back to the series'. I just haven't made it yet in all cases. :-)

    Marie - Addictive is a good word for mysteries. :-)

    Nat - I bed you read something wonderful for RIP. :-)

  28. It usually stays pretty warm until almost Christmas here but it's been quite cold the past week.

    I loved Pendergast in The Relic! I haven't read any of the other stories yet but he was one of the best things about the book. Enjoy your other books!

  29. Jen - I really enjoyed The Relic too (the movie was awful though). I followed that one up with The Reliquary which I also enjoyed. I hope to read more of their books eventually.


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