I debated about even writing a review of A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn. That was the literary snob in me talking. Then I reconsidered; book blogs are a place to celebrating books and writing of all sorts, not just the lofty, and I really enjoyed A Spear of Summer Grass in spite of myself.
As you know, I don’t normally read what would be classified as Romance and I’ve never read anything published by Harlequin before, but I have a new respect for the genre because of this book. The reason I was attracted to the book was because of the setting: Happy Valley Kenya in the early 1920′s. If you know anything about this period then you’ll know it was filled with real life scandal, and that is true of this novel as well.
For me, the real strength of A Spear of Summer Grass is the research and attention to detail that Raybourn put into it. I loved reading about the clothes, the politics of impending Independence, and the racial and tribal tensions that existed in Kenya at that time.
Not surprisingly, I found the “romance” sections a little heavy handed, but that may reveal more about me than anything else. The male hero reminded me of Indiana Jones a little bit and I found some of the characterizations laugh out loud funny. But in the end I really enjoyed reading A Spear of Summer Grass. I was looking for something a little lighter and this scratched that itch.
Who would like this book? If you like sweeping landscapes, sexual tension and a little romance then this is the book for you. The setting was divine. If you step a little closer with a more critical eye, you will find some Orientalist assumptions that make your skin crawl, but that is in keeping with the period in which the novel is set. Turn a blind eye to such things and dive in. A Spear of Summer Grass is a romance set in an exotic locale and that is exactly what you get from it.
What do lobsters have to do with selling books? Apparently quite a lot if you go by recent book covers. I’m not a fan of lobsters so maybe that’s why this trend isn’t working for me. What do you think? It’s also interesting to note that all these crustaceous covers are available in the UK. Continue reading
The VIDA Count, a survey of women’s representation in major literary journals, came out last week, but it has taken me a little while to form some thoughts on it. Continue reading
Just between you and me, I think that Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler is going to be a big book this spring. Everyone I know is reading it and loving it. Butler has the kind of credentials that make a great writer (read: Iowa Writer’s Workshop). And that may be why it is so hard for me to come out and say that I didn’t really like it.
Shotgun Lovesongs is about a group of aging male friends. All have found varying degrees of success in their lives and careers. Hank is a happily married struggling farmer. Lee is a rock star who prefers life in his rural community. Ronny has found love in the most unlikely of places and Kip is struggling. Put this all together and you have the kind of book i normally really like. Continue reading
February appears to have been a bit of a slow month for me. Funny, because it didn’t feel that way at all! I guess I will blame the fact that February is a notoriously short month and that we went away to London for a week.
Here is what was read in February. Highlighted titles connect to my reviews. Continue reading
The Changeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma was one of the most unique novels I read in 2013, but for some reason it didn’t seem to attract the kind of attention I thought it deserved. Jennifer at The Relentless Reader mentioned the same thing yesterday. Continue reading
I will be completely honest with you and say that I chose The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model and The Murder that Shook the Nation because I had it mixed up in my head with The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. Both are New York based mysteries set in the 1930s and both use alliteration with the letter ‘M’ in their titles. Beyond that, there is little similarity.
The Mad Sculptor is about a murder that rocked New York City in 1937. Robert Irwin, a brilliant young sculptor, went to the apartment of his unrequited love interest and killed her mother and a boarder before finally killing Veronica. Following the murders, Irwin was the target of a manhunt that lasted several months. Continue reading