Sunday, June 28, 2009

What would modern mystery writers do without the inimitable Sherlock Holmes? Conan Doyle's detective figures prominently in two of my favorite mystery series, The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer, in which Holmes has a much younger sister, and The Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, in which a retired Holmes attains a much, much younger female partner and (I hope I'm not spoiling this for anyone) eventual wife, Mary Russell. (The first book in the series is The Beekeeper's Apprentice.)

I'd love to see Enola meet up with Mary Russell. My calculations make Enola approximately 15 years older than Mary. What could that brash, independent and strikingly intelligent younger sister have accomplished in the 20 plus years since her escape from the Holmes family estate at age 14? She and Mary have a great deal in common and both of them could do with a female family member to commiserate with when the Holmes men - all of them - become unbearable.

All of them?? According to most experts, there are only TWO members of this branch of Holmes', Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft. In Laurie R. King's latest Mary Russell novel, The Language of the Bees, the reader is introduced to new members of the Holmes family, members that even the great detective himself was not aware of.

The Language of the Bees, (I'm not positive about that "the"), is the beginning of a longer story. Holmes and Russell become involved with a religious cult that might be responsible for a series of deaths at ancient sites. Those mysterious new family members are in danger and also suspected of evil doing. Mycroft's London digs are even raided by Scotland Yard!!! Disguises and the painstakingly slow research of a world before reliable telephones and Wikipedia are all part of this novel. So is a bone shaking aeroplane journey and fugitive status for the main players. And Holmes' bees behave badly. The ending has me waiting impatiently for the next book in Laurie R. King's acclaimed series.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How do people deal with those stretches of mental discomfort, those feelings of insignificance and lack of confidence, the questions of why and when and who cares?

I read. Sometimes, it helps. Sometimes, quite by accident, the books I pick up mirror my concerns. Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant chronicles several months in the lives of a 15th century convent in Ferrara, Italy. A new novice is there against her will and disrupts the life of the convent first by rebelling and then, even more disturbingly, by her total acquiescence. The language is rich and the questions of faith as a solution and a goal and of the political powers and weaknesses of convents in a frenetic religious atmosphere are posed again and again. The personalities of the novice and several of the older nuns are described with depth and empathy. (I read the uncorrected ARC. The book is due out next month.) The book took up my total attention but left my personal dilemma unanswered, even as it gave me deeper ways to look at it.

Polly Horvath writes about, and supposedly for, children. Her books are acclaimed and fun and frequently thought-provoking. My One Hundred Adventures is the story of one summer in the life of Jane Fielding, oldest child of poet Felicity Fielding, and at almost 12 (I think) ready for some adventures. The book deals with ideas such as Fate, and Prayer, and Adventures - Friendship, Fidelity and Relationships. The book is about Coming of Age. The adventures are not of the exciting suspenseful time, although an "accidental" hot-air balloon ride and several sea rescues make for some excitement. The adventures are more of the wondering-what's-happening kind - little things that make Jane worry and wonder. Jane spends a lot of her time protecting her mother from Jane's "mistakes" during the summer. And she has some uncomfortable revelations about grown-ups and their frailities.

The funny thing about this book is that it echoes some of the questions posed in Sacred Hearts. In both books, there are characters whose pursuit of the Divine make them blind to the world around them. In both books, a younger character is dependent on one of these seekers for spiritual guidance.

So, is this a form of serendipity? Is there some kind of Message in my choice of reading materials? Am I seeing parallels simply because of my melancholy mindset? More questions! Just when I think I need answers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One day. That's all. I held off for one day - or less. I finished Catching Fire around 10 pm on Sunday. Sigh. I really meant to pace myself but...

So now, I have to wait until sometime in 2010 when the third book comes out. Cathcing Fire ends with an amazing cliff hanger. The WHOLE book is another roller coaster. The suspense is not quite as sharp because the first book prepares the reader for the breakneck speed of the twists and turns.

And that's all I can say. Read The Hunger Games - again if you must. And in September be prepared for another wild ride. After The Hunger Games, it was hard to imagine that Katniss and Peetah could get into any more trouble. Heheheheheheheheh (evil laugh). Yeah. You'll see.