Recent Reading

When I cut my work schedule back to three days a week, I hoped to have more time for reading, writing, and sleeping.  I’m doing fine on the sleeping (driving into Houston an hour later really helps), and not too badly on the writing (a couple of writing group challenges have been keeping me on track).

On the reading, not so much.  I’ve still been falling asleep with the TV on and/or a book in my hand most nights.  Lately I’ve been wondering, though, if that might have something to do with the new bedside lamp I bought a while back.  It’s a very nice study/desk lamp, with some sort of high tech bright light.  But it doesn’t throw a very wide area of light, and I’ve been finding myself curling onto odd positions to read with it.  Last evening I unplugged it and brought back my old standby, a standard table lamp with a 200-watt incandescent bulb.  And last night I read for forty minutes before I got sleepy (and by then it was 12:45 AM).

The problem, and the reason I was looking for a new lamp to begin with, is that it’s getting harder to find 200-watt incandescent bulbs, and the compact fluorescent 42-watt bulbs (roughly the equivalent of 150 old-style watts) aren’t on every shelf, either (and require in most cases a different style of lamp shade).  I like the smaller CLFs that fill the 40-, 60-, and 100-watt spots around the house, but I’m still looking for the perfect reading strength.

Dying On The VineLighting conditions aside, I have managed to read a couple of good mysteries recently.  Aaron Elkins’ series about Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective, has been a favorite of mine for many years, because of my own background in anthropology and archeology.  Oliver is a forensic anthropologist, a professor in Washington state, but most of the stories takes place in exotic locations where he happens to be lecturing, visiting friends, or doing research.  In Dying on the Vine, the seventeenth in the series, Oliver and his wife are visiting friends in Tuscany when he is called upon to unravel the mysterious deaths of a vineyard owner and his wife, missing and presumed dead for a year, whose remains have recently been found.  Add a family feud, food and wine, a tour of Florence, and old Sicilian customs to the mystery and you have a very entertaining read.

I’ve been a fan of Carl Hiaasen for years, too, for entirely different reasons.  Hiaasen writes wildly funny novels about south Florida, where I lived from the time I was ten until I graduated from Florida State.  My family and some friends Bad Monkeystayed longer, and although I don’t have any strong connections there now, I still love to read about the place.  I started to call Hiaasen’s writing “satirical,” but so much of Florida is so bizarre on its own that perhaps that word doesn’t apply.  I’m not sure Hiaasen’s novels really fall into the mystery genre, either, although there is generally some sort of mystery to be solved.  In the latest, Bad Monkey, the protagonist is Andrew Yancy, a former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy demoted to roach patrol (restaurant inspector) for assaulting his girlfriend’s husband with a vacuum cleaner in a most personal way and a most public venue.  Yancy figures if he can solve the mystery of the human arm brought up by a fishing boat (and stashed in Yancy’s freezer), he can work his way back up the departmental ladder.  Along the way he meets a wide variety of  remarkable characters, including a charming coroner, a not-so-charming real estate developer, a Bahamian voodoo queen, a couple of practitioners of Medicare fraud, and the bad monkey of the title.  Hop on Carl Hiaasen’s rollercoaster for a wildly enjoyable ride.

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