What did you read last month? Here's my list.
One Summer : America, 1927, by Bill Bryson. Oh how I enjoyed this book! I appealed to so much that is part of my personality - history-lover, trivia-lover, person who is nosy, facts geek, baseball fan ... well, I could go on. But I did like this book so much. It also served as my "seasonal" book, and was a great way to start the summer.
I had never really considered the confluence of events that occurred in 1927, particularly in the summertime period covered by Bryson. Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Prohibition, and so much more was part of this time period, and Bryson manages to bring it together in an enjoyably readable fashion. He also does one of those things where he points out what person/event was going on when he is discussing another.
I liked Bryson's writing here, as there was a lot that could have been incredibly dry and dull. Instead, he was able to present it in a way that engaged the reader, and occasionally provided some funny quotes and commentaries along the way.
Well worth the time it took me to get through it.
An Unwilling Accomplice, by Charles Todd. Nursing sister Bess Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier to a medals ceremony with the King of England during her leave from the fighting at the front in France during World War I. She sees it as part of her duty, and makes every effort to help the soldier in her care, Sergeant Wilkins. But after the ceremony, he says friends of his will be joining him at the hotel, and begs her to allow him to host them without her interference. She makes the exception, and the next morning he has vanished.
Right at the beginning of her search for him, she learns that he is suspected of murder in a small English village. Both to resolve the issue (Scotland Yard has become involved), and to restore her good name (she is suspected being an accomplice, and suspended from the nursing service), she takes it upon herself to track down Sergeant Wilkins and determine just what has happened.
Her decision takes her to some small villages outside of London where she only gets so far before things get really complicated. Along with Simon Brandon, her father's former aide and a family friend, Bess tries to figure out who is who, and just what has happened.
With a lot of mistaken identity and family secrets, this book moves along in a small geographic area where the mysteries keep lining up. With due diligence, Bess and Simon finally find out who's who and what happened.
The Weed That String the Hangman's Bag, by Alan Bradley. Flavia de Luce, child chemist and detective, is at it again in this second installment of the series. This time, she befriends a well-known puppeteer with a BBC show and his assistant when their van breaks down in the village. The vicar convinces the duo to do a show for the residents while their van is being repaired.
The show draws a big crowd, but during the second performance, the puppeteer is murdered. This means that Flavia is again challenged to use her wits and her science to solve the case. Between the pregnant assistant, a German POW, and a little boy in the village who hanged himself years ago, there's a lot to keep track of, while also dealing with Flavia's unbearable older sisters and a visit from her Aunt Felicity.
But, being the determined type that she is, Flavia perseveres, and eventually the murderer is identified and other secrets are revealed.
This was as enjoyable as the first in the series, since I find Flavia to be an entertaining character.
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, by Sebastian Faulks. This book will never be, nor does it claim to be, as good as P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster books. But with the blessing of Wodehouse's grandson, Sebastian Faulks has written this book as an homage, and says in the introduction that he hopes it will make people read Wodehouse again, or even lead them to it for the first time.
As the story opens, Bertie Wooster is acting as Wilberforce, the butler/manservant to Lord Ettringham, who is actually Jeeves, while they are at a country house. As usual, one of Bertie's friends has asked him to come down and help resolve a situation involving a complicated engagement. And of course there are myriad reasons why he cannot visit as himself.
One of the engaged couples includes a woman named Georgiana who Bertie met on a trip abroad, and was quite taken with, and who Jeeves feels is smitten with Bertie. As usual, the plans to help cause numerous misunderstandings, and create a need for further invovlements in the original scheme.
Bertie's usual crazily-named friends are here, or at least mentioned, and Jeeves' usual wisdom and quotes appropriate to the situation (usually completely lost on Bertie) are uttered.
I absolutely love Jeeves and Wooster. The stories and the characters are all so ridiculous and enjoyable, and somehow it all works out in the end. I am not generally one for books using characters and similar situations written by others after the original authors are dead, or who write prequels or sequels.
Having said that, I think Faulks did an excellent job here. He has managed to keep the flavor of the time period, and stay true to the characters and the ridiculous shenanigans. It's not really P.G. Wodehouse, and it's not claiming to be. But I think it's a respectable effort, and I would like to think that Wodehouse, Bertie, and Jeeves (and possibly even Aunt Agatha) would be pleased.
Four good books - an enjoyable way to kick off summer reading!