Books I don’t remember well enough to speak intelligently about them

Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World, by Roger Atwood, was a very interesting book all about looters and what gets lost when ancient sites are torn up and their contents sold off to wealthy collectors around the world. It used Peru as a focus to discuss the global problems of looting and collecting, but my main takeaway from it is that the Met is a big jerk about repatriating local artifacts. And now when I go to the Met and don’t pay full price, which I’m entitled to do because the admission fee is suggested, presumably because the museum recognizes that some people LIKE ME are broke, and the ticket-takers give me the evil eye to try and shame me into paying full price, I won’t feel ashamed at all. And when I’m rich, I’m not going to send any guilt money to the Met! I keep a list of institutions that are going to get guilt money from me when I’m rich, because I stiffed them when I was poor (every free museum in London and every theater company with a pay-what-you-can night), but I just crossed the Met off it. So.

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, is a letter written by a high school girl to the boy she just broke up with, telling him all the reasons they broke up. Each story is preceded by a Maira Kalman illustration of a relationship artifact that Min is giving back to Ed along with this letter. It’s a really lovely book, both physically and as you read it. A trifle overwrought maybe but the narrator’s a high school girl, so that’s fair. Min loves films and talks extensively about them, all the scenes from movies that real life reminds her of, but all the films are made up. I liked that. The big thing I didn’t like was the end, which felt like it was selling the characters short to wrap up the story.

Days of Grace, by Catherine Hall, is a book about an old woman dying of cancer who befriends a single mother living next door to her. Interspersed with this story are the woman’s memories of her childhood, when she lived in the English countryside as a Blitz refugee and became very close to her adoptive family’s daughter, Grace. I read this over Christmas so as you may imagine I remember almost nothing about it now. I thought both stories were too slight. The emotions of the Blitz-time story felt rushed and unreal, and while the emotions of the present-day story feltĀ  much realer, there wasn’t enough story there.

Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch, was called Rivers of London in the UK, and sound good sense I think it. Midnight Riot felt like it should be the title of a completely different book. I don’t know why they changed it. Rivers of London is better. And a much better cover in the UK too. It’s about a police officer who becomes a sorcerer police officer while he tries to solve an extremely weird series of murders taking place around London. I enjoyed the characters and the mystery, and I felt well pleased with myself for figuring out — not the solution to the mystery, exactly, but I did figure out what the pattern of the murders was, ages before the characters did. I figured it out after Murder No. 2. Not because it was obvious! But because I am clever. (At least, I’d like to think so.) It was a fun read and I’d be up for trying the subsequent books in the series.

The Glass Demon, by Helen Grant, is about a girl called Lin whose father is an academic and they all move to Germany in search of these extremely legendary stained glass windows. There they are surrounded by suspicious circumstances and dangerous happenings, and Lin’s parents are jerks. And the glass windows may not exist but if they do someone might be willing TO KILL FOR THEM. The Glass Demon is notable for being the first book I ever read on a Nook. It was nice being able to lie on my back in bed and read without my arms getting tired from holding up the book, and The Glass Demon was one of those really fun, slightly Gothic, teenager-figures-out-a-mystery books.

Phew. I am relieved to have gotten all of those off my plate. They’ve been weighing on me.