Recent Reading: A Little Bit of Everything

I’m in no danger of getting ahead of my To Be Read shelves, but I keep trying.  The biography of Queen Elizabeth still sits on my coffee table–it’s a good book, but I don’t have time to pick it up very often.  Today I’ve been reading on my Kindle, Ghost Writers in the Sky, a mystery set at a down-scale writers’ conference.   I ran across this novel by Anne R. Allen while blog surfing one night.

A few weeks ago the ad campaign for the movie John Carter reminded me of the many Edgar Rice Burroughs books I read long ago.  Sadly, the movie seems to have been a colossal turkey.  The generic-sounding title can’t have helped, but maybe the studio was afraid boys wouldn’t want to see a movie called A Princess of Mars, the original novel written in 1917.  Of course if the princess looked anything like the Frank Frazetta cover paintings I remember from the editions I once owned, I’m sure anyone with a Y chromosome would have bought a ticket.

I knew I had none of Burroughs’ novels in my library now.  If I had hung onto all the books I’ve owned over the last (mumble mumble) years, my house would look like the set for one of those shows about hoarders on cable TV.   Browsing through the Burroughs novels available on Kindle (which is most of them), I was reminded of The Land That Time Forgot and its two sequels, The People That Time Forgot and Out of the Abyss, three short novels that I enjoyed long ago.  Never mind Barsoom, I decided, I want to revisit Caspak.  So I downloaded the trilogy in one ebook, complete with the original pulp magazine covers, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The narrative is old-fashioned, the “biology” ridiculous, the sentiments often sexist and/or racist in a rather innocent early-twentieth-century sort of way, but the adventures are still fun to read.  And still available, after almost a century, which is more than one can say for most novels written in 1918.

I wonder if the same will be true of Catching Fire, the middle book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  I read this one in the wake of the publicity for the movie, found it not quite as compelling as the first, haven’t read the third book yet despite the cliffhanger ending.

For a change of pace, I picked up Deeanne Gist’s charming Love on the Line, a sweet romance set in Brenham, Texas in 1903, and featuring a very independent female telephone operator and an undercover Texas Ranger posing as a “troubleman” for the phone company.  Deeanne’s novels are delightful not only for their characters and plots but for the wonderful details of their thoroughly researched settings.  Love on the Line is a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of America Rita® contest.

Marcia Muller has been one of my favorite mystery writers since I read her first novel about investigator Sharon McCone, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, back in 1977.  I recently enjoyed her latest, City of Whispers, which continues McCone’s adventures and the stories of her friends and family.  Sharon has been through a lot through the series, but she has not aged those thirty-five years.  What a shame that only works in fiction.