Fun Reads (Because We All Need an Occasional Break from Saving Democracy)

In one of its iterations, this was a book blog, and while I’ve primarily dedicated it to current U.S. politics and resisting, I’m still reading books, and find them worth sharing. Here are two titles that came out earlier this month, both of which offer a something-more-than-the-usual mystery.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, Nova Jacobs, released 6 March, 2018, 352 pages, Simon & Schuster

What do you do when you’re a not-mathematically-inclined bookseller who has discovered after the death of your famous mathematician grandfather that he’s counting on you to rescue his last equation, one which could have dire consequences for the entire world? That’s the question The Last Equation of Isaac Severy answers. At least the protagonist’s adopted grandfather has the courtesy to hide his clues in one of her favorite novels.

Last Equation is a fast-paced read with a plot and characters that grow more complex by the page. It’s the kind of book you want to start in the morning, so you’re sure to have time to finish it before you go to bed. The intersection of the literary and the mathematical results in an interesting kind of culture clash, though Jacobs writes in a way that makes both cultures accessible to her readers, regardless of their backgrounds.

Star Rating (out of five): ****

Holmes Entangled, Gordon McAlpine, released 6 March, 2018, 191 pages, Seventh Street Press

I first encountered Gordon McAlpine through his novel, Woman with a Blue Pencil, an epistolary novel that has a plot which expands like a fractal and is set amidst the internment of California’s Japanese-Americans during World War II and features a first-time Japanese-American novelist and the editor he’s been assigned by his publisher. As that one-sentence description makes clear, Woman with a Blue Pencil had a plot that progressed in a switchback-like manner, with sudden, sharp turns as the reader moves from chapter to chapter.

While I found that Holmes Entangled was not quite the additive read that the earlier book was, I nonetheless enjoyed it and recommend it for readers who like mysteries with an unusual twist—especially those who enjoy a new twist on the Holmes literary canon. Holmes, retired and now living in the guise of a physics professor at Cambridge, is unnerved to meet Arthur Conan Doyle—who for some reason knows Holmes’ real identity and who wants help unraveling the mystery behind recent attempts on his life. From here, physics and spiritualism—along with Holmes, Doyle, and Dr. Watson’s widow—keep the plot moving in unexpected ways. There’s also the plot line involving the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

Star Rating (out of five): ****

Key to the star ratings:

Five Stars—it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, stop it and get to your nearest independent bookstore stat, so you can get a copy of this title.

Four Stars—this book will carry you through satisfying hours of reading and may keep you up past your bedtime.

Three Stars— you could do worse than reading this book, and you’ll probably enjoy yourself a fair bit of the time.

Two Stars—if it’s a choice between this book and the latest bit of inexplicably popular tripe, you’ll find yourself feeling somewhat less ill-used if you go with this one.

One Star—if you’re stranded on a desert island and it’s the only book you have, it will be worth reading once; after that, focus on alerting potential rescuers.

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