What I'm Reading (No. 23): the first in a series, times two
Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger
My mother-in-law got me into Krueger when she gave me Ordinary Grace (321 pgs, 2013) last year for Christmas. I devoured it in just a couple days, and really enjoyed how fresh and high-quality it felt, especially for being a murder mystery.
Krueger actually started writing books about 15 years prior to that with the Cork O'Connor series, of which Iron Lake (464 pgs, 1998) is the first. Given his name, Cork is obviously part Irish, but he's also part Native American, and once resided as Sheriff of a small northern Minnesota town called Aurora. (Turns out the town really exists, but there aren't too many similarities.) While he's no longer under the employ of the government, over the course of the series Cork finds his way into a bunch of mysterious happenings not just around the town, but northern MN.
I read Iron Lake on Tuesday in pretty much one sitting (I was flying for work; it's amazing how much reading you can get done while traveling by yourself). I just couldn't stop turning the pages. And like Ordinary Grace (which isn't part of the series, by the way), it was far higher quality than I've come to expect from the genre. Rather than just each page driving the plot forward with cliched and easy-to-spot turns of events, Krueger really transports you to life in northern Minnesota — the lakes and woods, the blending of cultures, the harsh weather. As a native Minnesotan, I loved that part of it. He's also really good at character development; there's one in particular in Iron Lake whose death really bummed me out. Again, not a terribly common feeling I get with any old run-of-the-mill mystery novel.
I in fact loved it so much that I immediately bought the second book in the series and am reading it now, and the 17th is publishing this fall. FYI, Iron Lake is on sale for $2.99 on Kindle right now (I believe through the end of the month, but I'm not at all positive about that).
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan has recently become my son's favorite movie, so I've been watching it 1-2 times a week for at least the last month or so. It was also a favorite of mine when it came out 20 years ago, and the words to all the songs came back way quicker than I expected. (BTW, the voice of Tarzan is Fitz from Scandal, and it's kinda weird once you know that. Jane becomes a white version of Olivia.)
I knew it started as a book, so all the watching got me really curious about reading it. And since it's a freebie, I didn't have to think twice about downloading it to my Kindle and diving right in.
Oh boy is it different. I mean, duh, of course it's different. But still. The original 1912 novel is super violent, and naturally, being set in Africa, a bit racist. While the first half of the novel roughly follows the plot of the movie (really it's the other way around, but you get the idea), but after that it diverges wildly. Tarzan of the book violently engages with natives, and the ending is drastically different.
All in all though, it was a quick read, and rather fun (even if most of it is remarkably unrealistic while trying to convince us it's not). There are like 20 Tarzan novels, which is actually surprising given the ending. I'm sort of curious where Burroughs takes it. It was pretty easy reading considering it was written over 100 years ago, and there's a decent chance I'll read more in the series over time. It's nice to know there's some freebie books out there that I'm confident I'll enjoy. Reading this one also made me want to read his famed Barsoom series.
My article on cheap beer that I mentioned in the last newsletter was published this week. Check it out if you're interested.
Our book club has picked Under the Banner of Heaven as its next selection. I actually first read it back in college when I went on a Krakauer binge and read everything he ever wrote. They're all amazing, and I'm looking forward to re-reading this one.
My finishing Anna Karenina this month is in serious jeopardy, largely because I got a book review assignment for a 700+ page biography coming out this fall. I only have a couple weeks to read and review it, so Karenina has taken a backseat, which is hopefully short-lived. I'm about halfway through.
That's all for now. Let me know what you've been reading!