July Reading: The Month Ahead

A new month is upon us again. Already. What’s on tap in my reading for July? Let’s start with the leftovers from June:

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
In fairness, it was late June when I “re-engaged” with this chunkster. I’m almost a third of the way through it as of last night, though. Like the first book in this series, I find some of the characters more compelling than others, which makes Martin’s penchant for skipping from one (of many, many) character to another with each new chapter’s beginning somewhat vexing. I’ll get through it, though. The jury’s still out on whether I will continue on to book three… (author Martin is pictured below)

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Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox by John Waugh
I’ve stalled again on this one, with only about 150 pages to go, I haven’t opened it in more than a week now. More discipline is required from this reader. (you can tell I never would’ve made the cut as a West Point Cadet!) Below: author John Waugh

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Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

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A “required” read, this one is of course for my monthly meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. I am so looking forward to reading this non-fiction work of Vonnegut’s musings. Only a couple more Vonnegut books to go for me and I’ll have read them all (I finished the last novel in May, and I think I just have this one and Armageddon in Retrospect left to go overall).

Probable reads:
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie – a shorter, hopefully lighter read. A story with an interesting premise that I learned of via a fellow book blogger.

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Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom – this one’s appeared before at least once on my “the month ahead” posts. I think it’s finally time I gave Shawnee leader Tecumseh (portrait below) some attention…

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – a local book discussion group is meeting on this one on July 10th. Though I’m familiar with the story through the movie and pop culture in general, never having read this classic is a serious gap in my cultural literacy that needs to be addressed. Not sure if I’ll be able to read it in time for that meeting though.

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Also I’ll be continuing to catch up on my 2012 short story reading project, which I’ve been enjoying doing the past few days already. 🙂

That’s about it for me. What about you? What’s on deck in your reading plans for July? I’d love to hear…

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Short Story on Wednesday – “The Red Signal”

Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Who is the English language author who has sold more books than any other? I ran across this question earlier this year while participating in a trivia fundraiser event for the Indiana Bar Foundation (no, I’m not a lawyer but, God help me, I have several friends that are 🙂 ). I and my team failed to come up with the answer they were looking for, which turns out to be… Agatha Christie.

I haven’t read much by her over the years – a couple short stories and the book, Ten Little Indians, which was one of my first introductions to The Mystery Novel. A couple of weeks ago I read her short story, “The Red Signal.”

So, do you believe in precognition or premonitions? I don’t. Not really, anyway. The funny thing is, that for those who have a ‘random’ or coincidental dream or premonition that actually does come true, it is understandably hard to convince them that their experience was not “supernatural” in any way.

“The Red Signal,” touches on this theme in a tidy succinct way. We join the action at a dinner party at the home of Jack and Claire Trent, where one of the guests is the famous alienist (I’ve always loved that word), Sir Alington. Another guest, Dermot West, is also the nephew of Sir Alington, and in love with Claire Trent, the wife of a good friend.

Conversation has turned to the supernatural, and whether or not premonitions are possible. Sir Alington, of course, provides the voice of reason at the party, and successfully provides a “rational explanation” for the examples cited by Dermot of his own premonitions, which to him are presaged by an internal warning which he calls “The Red Signal.” Asked if he has seen the signal recently, he says “no,” failing to tell his fellow diners that he was seeing the signal that night. The evening’s entertainment includes a house call by a psychic who conducts a seance, at the conclusion of which she has a vague warning (funny how often vagueness is part of their “advice”) about “not going home.” But, to whom does this apply? And is it related to Dermot’s “Red Signal?” That’s all the detail I’ll go into as I don’t want to have to write “spoiler alert.” 🙂

The beauty of this story’s construction, though, is that Christie somehow weaves the tale so that the “don’t go home” warning could actually be applied to almost any of them. It’s not a long story, and is more of a crime story than a pure mystery. I recommend it.

“Short Story on Wednesday” is a meme hosted by Breadcrumb Reads and is now in its 22nd edition…