Thursday, March 24, 2011

The fabulous Cara Black was in Seattle yesterday promoting her newest book, "Murder in Passy," which I can't wait to read! I met Cara at one of my favorite bookstores anywhere, Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
This bookshop will make a mystery lover out of anyone! I could spend hours there looking through all their fascinating titles that run the gamut from cozy mystery to political thriller.

Growing up, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan, but as I got older I moved away from the mystery genre, assuming adult mysteries were all the same: John Grisham-like novels, which, although I have enjoyed reading on occasion, aren't my favorite. (Too legal-focused, too bloody, too much plot over character--just my opinion!)

Then I discovered Cara Black's Aimee Leduc Investigation series. These books are set in Paris (where Cara spends months every year conducting research--what a hardship!), which is beautifully described; have a very cool protagonist; and weave well-researched, fascinating history into the contemporary plots that leave me feeling like I've learned something new every time I finish one of these books. Who can ask for more than that?!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yesterday I woke to sun streaming through my window blinds and birds singing. Is it spring already?! This year's vernal equinox, marking the first day of spring, occurs on Sunday, March 20. A full day of bright sun and clear skies reminded me that I don't need to move to California for sunshine. It's easy to forget, after months of gray skies, that Seattle ever sees the sun. Then today, more gray skies.

Oh well. I've often said that it's much easier to write when it's gray and rainy than when the sun is out! But that little glimpse of sunshine this week has me dreaming of summer in Seattle. There is nothing like it. The normally reserved (some might say "uptight," but that's a topic for another day!) Seattle residents walk around with goofy smiles on our faces saying things like "Isn't this weather wonderful?" and "This is why we live here!" to total strangers. Everyone is in a good mood. At least until the temperatures creep up past 75 degrees for those two or three days in August. Then you'd think we were experiencing the worst heat wave of all time.

But summer is still three months away, so I'll try to slow down and enjoy the rainy/sunny/singing bird/blooming flowers season that is spring in Seattle. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, a gorgeous celebration of spring's most beautiful blooms, begins in just two weeks on April 1.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Still reeling from the shock of Friday's 8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The images on the news are heartbreaking and terrifying. I spent most of the weekend trying to imagine what it would be like here in Seattle if we experienced a similar catastrophe as so many have predicted over the years. Apart from having some supplies in your home, assuming you'd either be in your home or be able to reach your home, I don't see how you can really prepare for this kind of thing. After coming to this conclusion, I decided to move to Nebraska as soon as possible! That resolution lasted for as long as it took me to realize that despite its inherent dangers, I love the coast and wouldn't want to live away from it. So, I've decided to move to a coastal area in California instead! My main reason for not moving there earlier was fear of earthquakes; however, this latest disaster leaves me thinking that since it is practically impossible to predict where and when disaster might strike, isn't it best to be where you will flourish and be happy? Maybe it's because it has been such a rainy month and I am missing the sunshine, but I think I hear California calling. To be continued. . .

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This past week I finally finished a book I started reading almost two years ago, "Notting Hell" by Rachel Johnson (2006). I picked it up at a B&N book sale because I was intrigued by the description of the novel as a "comedy of manners" set in London's Notting Hill. After finishing it in a few days of uninterrupted reading (while resting my twisted back!) I realized that I hadn't finished it earlier because it's not the sort of book that's easily read in short spurts. I've noticed this with other British novels that have much lengthier descriptive sections throughout the narrative than their American counterparts, which tend to be heavier on snappy dialogue and action. I think that's why I enjoy British women's fiction so much. I feel like I've had a satisfying meal after finishing a book by Judy Astley or Marian Keyes because the settings are so well-described. They also require a bit more of a reading commitment than snatching a few pages while on the bus, which gives one a good excuse to sit on the couch with a blanket and just read for a couple of hours.

There were a couple of elements of this book that detracted from my overall reading experience. One was the very specific cultural references laced throughout the book that I didn't fully understand, even with the very helpful "Notting Hill for Beginners" guide in the appendix. This was a good reminder for me to think carefully about the cultural references I put in my own work. The other major difficulty I had while reading was being able to distinguish between the two narrators, Clare and Mimi, particularly in the first half of the book. I normally enjoy books with multiple narrators (Keyes' "Brightest Star in the Sky" and "This Charming Man," for example), but found myself checking back to the start of each chapter to remember which one was talking. As I was reading, I felt like the author was more comfortable with Mimi and knew her better. As a result, I felt like I knew Mimi better than the other characters. Then I read in an interview with Rachel Johnson that she related most to Mimi! Overall, "Notting Hell" was a fun, gossipy look inside the lives of a group of obscenely wealthy neighbors in one of London's most prestigious addresses. It also made me thankful that I don't live there! In 2008, she published a sequel, "Shire Hell" (for the U.S. market: "In a Good Place," 2009) that catches up with Mimi and her family after they've left Notting Hill for the bucolic countryside. Will have to pick it up from Kenny's Bookshop. . .