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A few new books: sci fi, and a Houston Heights mystery

Well! I know I’ve been a bit distant (and boring, since I’ve been reading the same book for what feels like weeks!) but I have some new tidbits to share.

Still very busy with my exciting Database Searching class and the rest of life, but I have cheated on Mr. Playboy and read a few other quick bits.

The other night I sat down and read my friend Amy Sisson’s Suicide Club, published in Sybil’s Garage No. 7, a collection of sci fi short stories. Now, you will recall that I do not consider myself a reader of sci fi. I actually really enjoyed Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, which I read for a reader’s advisory class last fall; it just didn’t strike me as what I think of as sci fi. It was a story about people, relationships, morals, and worlds; it didn’t geek me out with computer bits or robots or things like that. (I’m not up for that.) Well, this is the second of Amy’s short stories I’ve read, and both have been very accessible – no geeking out, again. Maybe I need to rethink sci fi. I’m still not up for the geeky stuff, but apparently there’s more to the genre than that. Although she did point out a collection of Star Trek stories, including one of hers, that she told me I would *not* like (and I still haven’t braved it.) Amy? Any recommendations for further reading? I enjoyed Suicide Club; it gave an interesting and yes, decidedly creepy take on our future, spinning off of Fight Club. (Kind of fun along with being creepy.) I enjoyed the other worldview. Thank you Amy! :)

Next I began reading a short mystery I was given a few months back. It came as one of two Houston Heights historical mysteries, and they’re by a local Heights author, Anne Sloan. (For those who aren’t local, the Heights is a neighborhood in Houston, and at the time the books are set, was a suburb. It’s an artsy, historic, trendy neighborhood marked by old families in houses for generations, but also young people, dog walkers, runners, cyclists, bars, beautiful old houses, and well-maintained historical structures in general.) I’m reading the first one, called Murder on the Boulevard; next is The Apothecary’s Demise. This book is set in the 1910′s, in a time when Houston (3 miles away from the suburb of Houston Heights) is just developing; Jesse Jones is in the process of building the 18-story Rice Hotel. Times are a-changing. Our protagonist, Flora Logan, is an adamant women’s suffragist and general feminist. She falls out permanently with her father, for example, over her opinion that she should be allowed to study and pursue a career rather than aspire to marriage as her loftiest goal. Her interest in study and career is botany, and we get some good local, historical details there, too.

Flora leaves Houston for New York City after her parental conflict, and finds a more equal environment, a college degree, and a job in the Botanical Gardens there; she is called home when her father dies suddenly, and begins investigating what looks like his murder. (Given the title, perhaps we can take that for granted.) I’m maybe 3/4 through this book, and despite early misgivings, I’m enjoying myself. It should probably be said that this book is not a feat of literary accomplishment or crime novel styling, although it does adequately well at the latter. Its greater achievement is in historical detail, which here and there is a little bit too obviously wrought, but really I think we all have a weakness for our home town/city/neighborhood in fiction… I have lived in the Heights and currently live very close (in another beautiful historic neighborhood), and anyone from inner-loop Houston could appreciate the familiarity of the landmarks described and their history. It’s very enjoyable, it’s just not… poetic. It makes me want to go look at each building again with new eyes; it makes me proud to be part of this heritage.

And the mystery is developing nicely. We may have started a bit slowly with Flora’s doomed trip to the Big Thicket near Beaumont (another familiar area!) but the intrigue is fun; her characters are either likeable, or not (meaning Sloan successfully convinces us of who the villains are!), and I’m engaged in what seems to be a burgeoning romance. (Flora is an extra challenge because her feminism makes her resistant and suspicious. This is a “type” I daresay we’re all familiar with, at least in fiction, past and present.)

So with a few stumbles, I’m really liking this Houston Heights mystery. And I get to put a pin on my map for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge, too! :)

I’m looking forward to maybe finally finishing Mr. Playboy this weekend – I’m not bored with the book, in fact I’m still fascinated and still convinced that I was *right* that Hefner is a fascinating and contradictory guy! – but I’m a bit bored with being in one book for this long. I’m ready to move on, and I have some tasty books waiting for me in stacks on my desks (yes plural, work and home), yum. So perhaps on Monday I’ll have some new books to report on again! Til then, thanks for stopping by.

4 Responses

  1. [...] else was smiling at it, too. I was thinking about the Heights mystery I finished recently, Murder on the Boulevard, which I ended up really enjoying. While not the height (ha) of literary achievement, it was a [...]

  2. [...] Apothecary’s Demise followsMurder on the Boulevard that I read a few months back. Anne Sloan is a local Houston historian and author of these two [...]

  3. [...] this up as a light and enjoyable sort of read. You might recall the first of these two books, Murder on the Boulevard, which I read a few months ago. I ended up with a slightly mixed review: the mystery was not [...]

  4. [...] enthusiast, and science fiction author to boot. (I wrote briefly about one of her short stories here.) After my recent raving about Hemingway’s Boat (my review to come at Shelf Awareness), she [...]

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