I'm back from a wonderful, relaxing week in Hawaii, where I spent lots of time gazing out at the blue Pacific and almost no time thinking about my novel. Now my view is gray clouds and rain falling on my backyard. While I was away, northern California went from an extended summer directly into what passes for winter around here.
Tomorrow I'll get back to writing. Today was all about many loads of laundry, plus this recap of last month's reading.
→ THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman - I was really impressed by this novel, which has a fascinating premise and fantastic execution. At the beginning of the book, a committee selects the winning design for a September 11th memorial. (Before I started the book, I described it as taking place in the aftermath of a "9/11-like event," but that was based on my misunderstanding of an interview I listened to.) The submission process for the contest was anonymous, and the jurors are surprised when they discover that their chosen designer is an architect named Mohammad Khan, an American-born Muslim. When this unexpected result is leaked to the press, it sparks emotional reactions from many sides. The story's events quickly spiral out of control, but the writing remains tight and focused throughout.
→ THE TASTE OF SALT by Martha Southgate - I read most of this book on the flight home from Hawaii, and it kept me distracted from the letdown of returning to normal life. It's an engrossing story, but not a light read. The main character is Josie, a marine biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where she's the only black senior scientist. Josie has distanced herself from her hometown of Cleveland and the memories of growing up with an alcoholic father. Life hasn't gone as well for her brother, who is getting out of his second stint in rehab. Josie finds she can't stay as disconnected from her family as she'd like and that her own life isn't as simple as she wants to believe. The narration moves between Josie's voice and those of the other major characters to tell the story of this struggling family.
→ JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë - I read a little more this month, but I'm still less than halfway through. The pace of the story is definitely picking up, and I'm interested to see how it's going to unfold.
→ BLUE MARS by Kim Stanley Robinson - I started reading but haven't gotten too far in yet. So far, it's the same mix of personal and political intrigue and intricate scientific detail as the first two books of the series.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ SF Signal has created a flowchart for navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. (Thanks, Jason Black and io9!)