February 03, 2021
Sometimes you get sick of only having chocolate, ice cream and cheese curls. Sometimes, you need a real meal, with vegetables, protein, and crusty bread.
I had been reading only "cozy mysteries" for about a year. Cozy mysteries are wonderful, they are easy to read, they don't require much, if any, thought. They often come in a series, which the authors are very quick to write and which kept me reading. They remind me of the Nancy Drew series I read as a kid, but for older readers, mostly female, and in my case mostly knitters. Also, I chose cozy mysteries that involve magic, so one of the main characters is magical in some way. Not all cozy mysteries do that. Many cozy mysteries involve some kind of hook though, such as cooking, golf, a time period, or some occupation or hobby.
I read three series by Nancy Warren.
The first series which she got me addicted to is her Vampire Knitting Club series. I saw the title, The Vampire Knitting Club, and thought well, I have to see what that is. Eleven books later, I am still avidly waiting for book number twelve to come out on February 24.
Apparently the main character's lack of knitting skill wasn't enough to keep her non-knitting readers sufficiently entertained, so she added a new series about a Vampire Book Club, with different characters in a different country (though there is a bit of cross over to the vampire knitting club in the first book), and that series is waiting for book number four's publication.
Finally, Ms. Warren started another series, The Great Witches Baking Show, about a witch who is a participant in a British baking series, and yes, there is a murder in every episode that they film. And it doesn't even take place in Badger's Drift (that's a little joke for watchers of Midsomer Murders). I am waiting for book 6 to arrive.
Another series that I started reading recently is by C. J. Archer, called the Glass & Steele series.
The first book in the series, The Watchmaker's Daughter, takes place in London during the Victorian age. The main character, India Steele, has a run-in with Matthew Glass from America, who is looking for a particular watchmaker in London. This starts a long, intricate story of a magical watch, magicians of many types, danger, intrigue, mystery and romance that I found myself consumed by. Although there are eleven books in the series, I have only read 6. I read them in six days.
That's when I knew it was time to take a breath and step back. Don't get me wrong, the books are wonderfully written and are very entertaining! I just found myself too happily reading "fluff" books for too long, and I wanted to see my reading muscles were atrophying.
I chose, appropriately, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf. This was a wonderful book that made me use my reading muscles, and opened my eyes. According to Ms Wolf, the way we read today, on a screen rather reading in print, uses our brains differently. If you read exclusively on a screen of some kind, your eyes move differently, you don't read deeply, your cognition is less, you don't use empathy as much. If you read this way from the beginning, your brain even grows differently. Human beings were never born knowing how to read or even having a predilection for it; it is a skill that is made, and now we are measurably making our brains differently to suit the digital world. This is scary (for me) but Ms. Wolf shows that as long as we recognize the dangers, the changes we make can be hopeful, and readers can go on to become even better, more productive readers.
The second book I read was Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb. I love books about astronomy! This book is about the interstellar object called 'Oumuamua that swept through our solar system in the fall of 2017, displaying some things that were never really entirely explained ... or were they?
Avi Loeb is not a crackpot UFO guy. He is a renowned astrophysicist who has about 800 papers written, five books, he was the head of astronomy at Harvard, he was on the President's Council of Science, he directs the Black Hole Initiative and the Institute for Theory and Computation, to name just a few of the many achievements he has had. According to Dr. Loeb, we should remain open to extraterrestrial life which can possibly be behind what he believes 'Oumuamua to be: a lightsail, like the lightsail probes that we ourselves have used to explore space. We should not close our minds as Galileo's opponents did at his trial, who refused to even look through the telescope he had made.
This book is eminently readable too, because Dr. Loeb has a long love of philosophy. You can tell a genius, because he uses simple words to tell you complex things. He uses examples from his own life to make analogies. Even if you don't believe his theories about 'Oumuamua or extraterrestrial life, you should read his book for the stories and philosophy. The book is only 223 pages, and it's very entertaining, very thought-provoking, and I enjoyed reading it immensely.