BOOK & BLOG
February 4. 2008
Books of the Week: DOWN THE GARDEN PATH by Beverley Nichols, DEAD CITY by Joe McKinney, PLUM LUCKY by Janet Evanovich, ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE by Lynsay Sands, and HOWLING AT THE MOON by Karen MacInerney
This has been an up-and-down reading week. I started two books that I regretfully decided to abandon after seventy or so pages. One book I found too predictable, the other mildly disgusting. The books I have finished are as diverse a batch as I have ever consumed in a short period.
The first is a reissue of DOWN THE GARDEN PATH by Beverley Nichols, first published in 1932. It’s an account of an Englishman’s impulsive buy of a country cottage and the renewed life he found in restoring its garden. Nichols wrote a whole series of books about his gardening adventures, so if you enjoy this first one, you have some happy hours in store. I am not much of a gardener, myself, but I would have loved to have seen the cottage and garden in their heyday.
Then I read Joe McKinney’s DEAD CITY, a zombie novel set in San Antonio. This has a more optimistic resolution than most, and it’s full of chills and thrills as police officer Eddie Hudson searches for his wife and infant son in a city overrun by the walking dead. Don’t ask me why I’ve started reading zombie novels. Even I am surprised at myself. Part of the fun is seeing what different writers can do with the same set of circumstances.
I also read two books by perennial favorites Janet Evanovich and Lynsay Sands. PLUM LUCKY was not the best Evanovich, but if you’re a fan of Stephanie Plum, you have to read all the books; it’s compulsory! Lynsay Sands’ ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE was great fun, though not my favorite in her Argeneau series.
My friendly acquaintance Karen MacInerney’s new book HOWLING AT THE MOON will be on the shelves on Feb. 26. I blurbed this book, which is a fun take on werewolves. Sophie Garou, an accountant, has it all; she’s young and healthy with a good job and a hunky boyfriend. Concealing the fact that she’s also a werewolf is her biggest problem. Karen has written conventional mysteries for years, and this is her first venture into the paranormal. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think you will, too.
Lent comes early this year. For those of you who don’t observe this religious season, Lent is the period of repentance and reflection that begins with Ash Wednesday (Feb. 6 this year) and ends with Holy Week, the seven days preceding Easter.
In my personal diary, Lent is significant for several reasons. Lots of Christians give something up for Lent, to keep them mindful of the observance. Some people give up chocolate, some people give up meat, some people have a private meditation time each day . . . there are as many ways to observe Lent as there are people who even think about it. I’ve never settled on the perfect way to mark the time off.
Even if you’re not a Christian, there are worse things to do than set aside a time of the year to reflect on your own character and its flaws and to try to make a plan to be a better person.
Our little church celebrates Lent by holding soup luncheons every Wednesday. We feed the public (for a modest donation) with homemade soup and bread. It’s quite an event for us, since we are so few and we have to work so hard. It also stretches our charity toward one another to its limit, as we work in small spaces with people we normally don’t see for more than an hour a week. This effort can, and does, bring out the best in us. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to bring out the worst. To our credit, this seldom happens, and when it does, it’s mostly in a small, private, explosion that’s over as quickly as it happens.
I mention this local custom because I’ve come to realize that my Lenten sacrifice is working with other people. There are reasons writers work by themselves, good reasons. Writing is a solitary occupation. You may seem to be alone in the room where you’re working, but you’re not. There is a whole bookful of people in the room with you, and that doesn’t leave much space for other humans. An immersion in my fictional world makes surfacing to the real world a little unpleasant and jerky. I am liable to be a little unpleasant and jerky, myself, when I have to surface before I’m ready.
There’ll come a day when our aging congregation decides to lay down the soup ladles for good. It’ll be a bittersweet day. A lot of people (from all the churches in our town) enjoy their time sitting at big tables together, eating good soup and good bread and visiting with one another. It’s a community event, and our clientele will be sorry when we have to close our doors, if and when that day comes. I lose two work days a week during Lent; one day cooking, the next day serving. I’d love to get those two days back. But I think the exercise of working with others is good for me, and I may lose more if we ever decide the effort is beyond us. Sometimes, being jolted out of your pattern is all to the good.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris