October 2017 Reads

A view of the Missouri River from Indian Cave State Park where Lewis & Clark would have traveled going north in 1804 and back south in 1806. 

The Trespasser | Tana French has been on hold in my Overdrive queue literally for months, including suspending the hold when I knew I didn’t have time to read it. It seemed a good fit for October, though, and I was not to be disappointed. Someone anonymously calls in a murder, and they put one of the female detectives on the case. The problem is, the scene is literally devoid of evidence. (Does that not scream inside job?) Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner Steve press on anyway and finally do get to the bottom of it. I listened to the audiobook which was about three times as long as it would have taken me to read it, but Hilda Fay’s Irish accent was totally worth it. I see more Tana French novels in my future.

Young Jane Young | Gabrielle Zevin was short and sweet after French’s novel. Aviva Grossman has an affair with a Senator from Florida that goes public in a bad way, so she changes her identity and heads to Maine where years later she ends up running for office, and guess what? Her past comes back to haunt her. The structure of the book was interesting as it was told from five different perspectives using five different narrative voices, include the choose-your-own-ending style in second person. The author interview for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club discussion was wonderful! If I’m in a funk and need something light and fluffy to read, I may read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by the same author. But neither book is something I would wait months for on a library hold list.

The Fact of a Body | Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is a memoir that was touted as a book where the author switches from anti- to pro-death penalty. I was hoping this would be an interesting corollary to Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s actually more of a memoir of how the author was sexually abused as a child told parallel with the story of a case in the Deep South where a pedophile with a severely disadvantaged childhood kills a 6-year-old boy and is sentenced to death. Another lawyer appeals the verdict and gets the sentence reduced to life; the author later interns for that same lawyer and that is where she becomes obsessed with the case. Details of the story are fairly graphic. The documentary parts of the book were excellent, the memoir was neither here nor there.

The Haunted Bookshop | Christopher Morley is a sequel to The Road to Parnassus which I breezed through at the end of August. Once again, it sounded like a fun book for October, and it did not disappoint. The plot was a clever and energetic, involving a bookseller, a disappearing book, and strange characters lurking about. It’s only 96 pages so another quick, refreshing read.

Undaunted Courage | Stephen Ambrose is one of the Geography selections for Year 9 of Ambleside Online. I started it at the beginning of the month with my other AO reads, but when I hit a wall with my reading mid-month, I kept plodding away at this one – all 521 pages of it. It is a well-researched narrative of not only the Lewis and Clark Expedition commissioned by Thomas Jefferson but a biography of Meriwether Lewis as well. The Expedition was the first American contact with the Indians west of the Mississippi and laid the foundation for what was to come. Indian Affairs were one of the toughest issues of the Jefferson Presidency. Ambrose includes vivid descriptions of what the Indians were like and the challenges they were facing when white men came along. If you have an opinion on the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day debate, I highly recommend this book along with Crazy Horse by Mari Sandoz (August) and The Captured by Scott Zesch (January).

Something Wicked This Way Comes | Ray Bradbury is the second book in the Greentown Series, following Dandelion Wine (August). Late in October, long after carnival season is over, a different kind of carnival rolls into town. Two inquisitive boys discover that the carousel has magical powers – when someone rides it, each time it goes around they get one year older; if the ride goes backwards, the opposite happens. That and lots of other creepy things make for a good coming of age story and spooky October read. I listened to the audio version narrated by Christian Rummel.

Zen in the Art of Writing | Ray Bradbury is one of those writers-on-writing books I so love. I once tried to read Fahrenheit 451 but struggled to get through it, so I’ve never considered myself a big Bradbury fan. This book is excellent, both as an insight into the writing process as well as the story behind some of his most famous works. It’s a series of essays, and I savored them, reading one every day or two over a couple weeks.

Anne of Avonlea | L.M. Montgomery was our audiobook in the car for several weeks. This is not our first time through the series, but they never disappoint. We have the version narrated by Mary Sarah.

In addition to Undaunted Courage, I pre-read the following books for Ambleside Online Year 9.

Common Sense | Thomas Paine is especially interesting considering today’s political climate and President Trump’s relationship to the media. Paul Johnson comments in A History of the American People that America never would have won its independence had it not been for the feisty press and George Washington’s stubborn refusal to quit even though he never won any great victories as a general. The audio version narrated by Walter Dixon makes you feel like you were there in the midst of the debate.

Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia | Samuel Johnson is an adventure story Johnson wrote over the course of a week or so. Rasselas is a prince and thus has everything he could possibly want but nevertheless desires to go outside his kingdom in search of happiness. He meets people from all walks of life and sees many paths to happiness illustrated thereby. In the end, he returns to his own valley with a much wider perspective on happiness. The curiosity of both Rasselas and the Lewis & Clark Expedition about the world around them once again provides great fodder for the Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day debate.

She Stoops to Conquer | Oliver Goldsmith is a play with themes reminiscent of Jane Austen. Kate Hardcastle wishes Charles Marlow to woo her, but he is very uncomfortable around woman of her class while relatively at ease around women of lower class. So she “stoops” to conquer by posing as a maid in hopes to win his attentions. I listened to an audio version while reading the written version on my Kindle – the best way, in my opinion, to read plays without seeing them performed.