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It’s an eclectic mix, my June/ July reading. Part brand-new Kindle download, part library browse, part hey-it’s-been-on-the-bookshelf-for-years.

July 029

The Saturday Boy and The Sound of Broken Glass were my first test cases with the new Kindle Fire HD. I read them over vacation, wondering how using the Kindle might change the reading experience. Overall, I really liked using the Kindle. It’s light, portable, and holds a lot of things in one small package. I was able to read pretty much anywhere, including on a deck in full sunlight. It didn’t improve the distraction factor (kids running under my feet) but it didn’t make it worse, either. The only caveat is that I think I will still buy print copies of favorite books. Something about only having a digital copy still seems fragile to me. Too easy to just hit delete by accident.

As for the books themselves….even though I am biased because the author is a childhood classmate, I really liked The Saturday Boy by David Fleming. I keep wanting to type “compassionate” and “funny” when describing this book, although the stresses on David’s mishap-prone pre-teen narrator, Derek, would seem to negate the funny part. Derek’s dad is in Afghanistan and their only real contact is the exchange of letters that they both cherish, his best friend is actually an insecure bully, and his mom is burning the candle at both ends and not paying enough attention. And yet The Saturday Boy *is* funny at times, and that’s what makes what would otherwise be a sad book so compelling.

The Sound of Broken Glass, however, just sort of breezed in one ear and out the other. I’ve liked Deborah Crombie’s Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series over the years and still followed her characters’ relationships with some interest, but the murder mystery itself was really only background noise. Better luck next time.

The View from Saturday and Nate the Great just sort of jumped into my hands as I trailed my children around the library. Both are classics that I’ve been meaning to read and I was well rewarded for picking them up. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg is a lovely book, essentially four short stories, one for each main character, tied into a larger plot involving a regional academic competition. The story is less about the competition and more about how friendships form and add dimension to our lives.

I found Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat hilarious. Nate is so serious, so film-noir-private-eye, and yet so….second grade. He process clues – and leaves notes for his mom on the fridge. Awesome.

The odd man out in this list is Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. Appropriate, since Smith’s Arkady Renko is the odd man out in pretty much everything he does. This old copy of the book has been hanging around my parents’ house for decades. It’s one of those titles that’s so familiar you feel like you’ve read it, even if you never have. It took me a few weeks to get through thanks to interruptions and the unfamiliarity of Russian names, politics, and culture, but it was worth it. Smith is an excellent writer and it’s a tightly-constructed mystery. For me, the post-war Communist setting made it a mystery within a mystery – not only who dunit? but why do the characters behave the way they do? The sense of time and place in this book is powerful.