Three books for September, and two of them in the last two weeks - what can I say, I was on vacation, and got out of my routines (as much as I complain about routine, I accomplish nothing when mine is interrupted).
First up was Needled to Death, by Maggie Sefton. It's the second in her Knitting Mystery series, and I received it along with the first installment as part of a swap package. I took this one on vacation with me, because I knew that I could pick it up and put it down several times without losing track of things (based on the first one). Turns out it was a perfect vacation read - not overly involved, well-enough written to be interesting, and very evocative of people and places. The series heroine, Kelly Flynn, who has moved back to Colorado to settle her late aunt's estate, learned to knit in the first book, and made a lot of friends back in her old home town. In this installment, she makes the acquaintance of another woman at her knitting circle who breeds prize-winning alpacas, and who is going through a nasty divorce. When the alpaca breeder turns up dead, Kelly and her compatriots work to figure out who killed the woman.
I liked this book, for the aforementioned reasons, but also because I learned something about alpacas and alpaca breeding, for one. Sefton managed to pack a lot of information into the story, without it seeming terribly out of place. I also learned a geography lesson, in that you can travel from some parts of Colorado to Wyoming in a day trip ... which I still can't quite figure out, but having only been to Denver, and never to Wyoming, I suspect I have no real conception of the relationship - geographically speaking - of Colorado and Wyoming. (If anyone would like to sponsor an education trip for me, please contact me at the e-mail address above ...)
Not great literature, but enjoyable, and a wonderful traveling companion.
Next up was The Well Dressed Explorer, by Thea Astley. This was one of my choices for the Book Awards Reading Challenge, and was the winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award in Australia in 1962.
The well-dressed explorer is George Brewster, a man who has always been impressed with himself, and his way of dealing with others. We follow George from his rather dull childhood, through to his last conscious moments on earth. He considers himself quite a ladies' man, and is somewhat obsessed with his own appearance and "wit" as a result. He does get married, though not to his original love. His girlfriend marries someone else, and George marries one of the bridesmaids a few years later. He manages to move up through the ranks of newspaper journalism in Australia, and each job brings a new set of women to woo, and colleagues to impress.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was a good read, and pretty amusing in parts, particularly when Astley would take you into one of George's internal monologues about how magnificent he was, compared to other people. But basically, George is rather boring and uninteresting, I think because he has no sense of humor about himself. His wife Alice gives new meaning to the term "long-suffering." I suspect that this book was a better read in 1962 than it was today. Nowadays, there may not be more George Brewsters in the world, but you are faced with reading, or hearing about them more frequently, either because people are more open about such things as they used to be, or because society is more willing to put up with them.
I'm not sorry I read the book, but I do wish I had liked it more, since I was really looking forward to it.
September's last title was Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack: A Boyhood Year During World War II, by Charles Osgood. Osgood, a correspondent for CBS News, and the host of CBS Sunday Morning, wrote this memoir of 1942, the year he was a nine-year-old boy, living in Baltimore with his parents and his sister. This book was one of my choices in the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, and I enjoyed it for the most part. Osgood talks about the spirit that was prevalent in the country and his neighborhood in particular, at a time when everyone was doing what they could to plant victory gardens, and keep an eye out for enemy troops - whether on a neighborhood street in Baltimore, or near naval bases on the eastern coast of the United States.
This was an enjoyable read, as Osgood writes well, and with humor, about himself, his family, and the things that he worried about as a nine-year-old living in wartime America. It's a very short book, and written in a rather conversational tone, so it goes quickly. Only towards the end, when he is writing about his perspective on his childhood experiences as an adult, does it disappoint ever so slightly. He tends to lapse into the equivalent of, "When I was a child, " or, "Young people today don't ______ (fill in the blank)," and it just sort of ruins the tone of the book for me. Granted, I agree with some of his observations, but they just seemed out of place in what was otherwise an enjoyable read.
Because I apparently don't think I have enough going on, I signed up for the Anne of Green Gables Read and Knit Along, which started October 1. I watched the PBS dramatization a few years back, and dearly loved it, and figured since I had never actually read the books, it would be a fun way to do so. I will likely do more Read-ing Along than Knitting Along, since a) I am already in the midst of several projects, none of which (I'm fairly certain) have any relationship to the Anne stories, and b) I can read much more quickly than I can knit.
If you were reading this blog last year, you may remember that October 1 starts what is affectionately known in our family as The Birthday Marathon. So Happy Birthday to my nephew Chad (October 1), my niece Maira (today), my sister-in-law Sheila (also today)! If you are curious about any of them, you can read my little birthday tributes to them from last year. I can only write that lovingly about friends and family every few years, so that will have to last you for a while ...
Someone else also had a birthday on October 1: