Emma and I are going to spend most of June and all of July 2015 in Berlin.
Two years ago, our friend Joanna announced that she was going to spend a year in Paris
with her husband and daughters.
This got us thinking about spending a year in Europe ourselves.
After considering Bilbao and some other cities, we eventually decided upon Berlin.
We had both studied German in high school or college;
Berlin is a vibrant cultural city, full of history and art;
it's a tech hub and a startup magnet;
and it's conveniently located for travel within Europe.
We spent a week there last year in early August, …continue.
I woke up this morning to the news that
Ireland's referendum on Marriage Equality
looked set to pass with a strong majority.
Tears began running down my face as I read the reports
of constituency after constituency voted "Yes".
I'm crying again as I write this.
When I was growing up as a bisexual teenager in Dublin
in the late 1970s and early '80s—out to no-one but myself—it was hard to imagine a day like this.
Hardly anyone then had the fortitude to live openly as gay,
if they could pass for straight.
Queers and pansies and poofs were objects of derision and occasional violence.
It wasn't until after I emigrated
Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Keywords: urban fantasy
Reading period: 5–7 May, 2015
Fifteenth book in the Dresden Files
series of urban fantasies.
Harry Dresden is Chicago's only professional wizard
and the Winter Knight to Queen Mab.
Mab compels him to team up with one of his old enemies to rob an impregnable vault,
a vault that belongs to Hades, lord of the Underworld.
Harry distrusts Nicodemus—rightfully, as Nicodemus turns on him.
But Harry can stab backs too.
A solid entry in this long running series.
Harry is increasingly careworn but he still cracks wise,
entertaining the readers if not his antagonists.
Title: Dreams Underfoot
Author: Charles de Lint
Reading period: 19–26 April, 2015
A collection of related short stories,
all taking place in the city of Newford,
which might be a little closer to other worlds than most places.
De Lint writes haunting tales of love and music and wishes being granted at a cost.
Title: The Crocodile Bird
Author: Ruth Rendell
Reading period: 4 April–4 May, 2015
Liza lives with her reclusive mother, Eve,
in the gatehouse of Shrove, a remote English country house.
Liza has never been to school and has been kept apart from the world.
When Eve is about to arrested for murder,
she sends Liza away to a friend in London.
Instead Liza runs off with the boyfriend she had met recently.
She spends much of the book, like Scheherazade,
telling the story of her life to Sean,
as she gradually learns to live in the world.
The story may be quiet and slow paced,
but Rendell …continue.
Title: The Innocent
Author: Ian McEwen
Publisher: Anchor Books
Keywords: historical fiction
Reading period: 2–4 May, 2015
Operation Gold was one of the CIA's great exploits of the Cold War:
a tunnel running from West Berlin into the Russian sector
to tap into the Soviet communication lines.
It was believed to be a great success when the Russians broke into the tunnel in 1956.
Later it was discovered that George Blake, the MI6 traitor,
had betrayed the tunnel from the beginning.
Leonard Marnham is a British Post Office engineer
who is sent to Berlin to help the Americans.
A naive 25-year-old virgin who lives at home with his parents,
Title: The Reckoning
Author: Rennie Airth
Keywords: historical mystery
Reading period: 15–18 April, 2015
A murder in Sussex bears similarities to another recent murder in Scotland,
but what could the link between the two men be?
One of the victims left a half-written letter addressed to John Madden,
who is now retired from Scotland Yard.
Soon there are more victims and Madden and the police struggle to find the killer.
Airth evokes both the First and Second World Wars,
exploring the damage done to those who survived
and the injustices visited upon some who did not.
Title: The Sherlockian
Author: Graham Moore
Keywords: historical mystery
Reading period: 27 April–May 2, 2015
Two mysteries are intertwined in this novel.
In the present day, a long-lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle's from 1900
has apparently been rediscovered,
but the finder has been murdered,
while in 1900, Doyle and Bram Stoker investigate the murder of several young women.
The two mysteries are artfully intertwined and the plots move along nicely.
I was irritated by the author's ignorance of Victorian England—"It was a Victorian-era shilling, worth only five pennies in its day"
(twelve, dammit, until decimalisation in 1971)—and weak grasp of ACD's style.
Title: Macbeth: A Novel
Author: A.J. Hartley, David Hewson
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Keywords: historical fiction
Reading period: 5–6 April, 2015
Macbeth is an honorable Scottish lord who serves an ignoble king.
When Malcolm finally goes too far,
Macbeth and his wife convince themselves that Malcolm must die.
(Encounters with a trio of strange women also swayed their minds.)
Macbeth himself becomes king but guilt and paranoia
start eating away at him and his wife.
Hartley and Hewson retell Shakespeare's classic play as a novel,
providing psychological motivation for Macbeth's usurpation and downfall.
Their Lady Macbeth is more sympathetic and less nakedly ambitious
than she is usually portrayed.
Title: Sullivan's Sting
Author: Lawrence Sanders
Reading period: 8–9 April, 2015
The charmingly amoral David Rathbone leads a small group of Palm Beach conmen.
A task force of police and federal agents are trying to take them down,
and Rita Sullivan goes undercover and flirts her way into David's bed.
Sullivan and some of the other undercover cops start losing their perspective
and get a little too close to their targets.