9 Following


Blue Asylum - Kathy Hepinstall It seems to me that Kathy Hepinstall weaves a complex Civil War Era story with strands from several characters' lives and does it fairly seamlessly, with an economy of words. It is a short book. Yet the narrative is rich and the landscapes, internal and external, are finely drawn. This book was a surprise and is one that won't leave me for a while. Without even the slightest whiff of preachiness, the book examines social justice, mental health, women's rights, PTSD...along with a few others and it works perfectly. Astonishing. Highly recommend.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler These are the most multi-dimensional, fleshed out characters I've read about in just about forever. By turns I hated the characters, then felt sorry for them, then felt proud of them...and, at the end, was crushed by the circumstances that informed their entire lives. They are all so....human. And vulnerable. And terrible. And good. I loved this book. It is an incredible work.

Maine (Vintage Contemporaries)

Maine - J. Courtney Sullivan I struggled with this book. The writing is quite fine, actually, but the story killed me. Of the several main characters, the most apparently pleasant one was dead. Of the several surviving characters, only two were reasonably decent human beings, although stuffed full of neuroses and dysfunction. The rest were just ugly disagreeable people. I began to dread picking up the book to find out what they said and did next. Lots of Boston Irish Catholic Guilt here, marinated with cold cruel alcoholism and complete (vicious) family dysfunction. I was never so glad to see the end of a book.

A year later...

I had to revisit this review. A year later and I still think about these characters and I remember them as if they were my own family. I still don't like any of them and am thankful the fates didn't hand me a mother like this one. But when a story and writing stick for this long and I spend as much time thinking about the characters as I have this bunch, it must mean the author did something very right. And so, I'm reconsidering my stars...raising them to four instead of three.

But I still really dislike these people. Really, really, dislike....

Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton: A Novel

Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton - Philip Kerr As several others have noted, this read more like a Holmes and Watson adventure, only with less character development or wit. I slogged through the first third, waiting for something to happen. Things briefly became lively and interesting, then nothing for another long while. There was potential here, but it wasn't developed. By the end of the book, I didn't care any more. The book just didn't work for me, although the historical tidbits scattered throughout the book were terrific. Evidence of of some nice research. Not much to hang your hat on there, though.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender This seems to be a book one either loves or dislikes. I disliked it. And may I say, it was strange. I like magical realism and fantasy and science fiction...this didn't really fit in any one of those categories. Controlled chaos, perhaps. And I'm not even sure about the controlled part. This was a book of lost opportunities. Bender introduced a number of story threads that she just left dangling. They went no where.

Now, I suppose that is a lot like real life. Not everything has a logical denouement. Some things just go nowhere and get dropped. For me, this book went nowhere and I couldn't really see the point of bringing up the threads in the first place if they weren't intended to go anywhere. And yet, I'm still not ready to give it less than 3 stars because something about it was compelling in a strange way that irritates me and probably will for a good while to come. One of those books you keep thinking about. Not necessarily fondly, but...anyway.
Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel - Louis de Bernières Much, much, much better than the movie. And I liked the movie. This is a gem.

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler Chandler made it look so effortless...so easy.

Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100

Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100 - Various Here is a little book celebrating the New York Public Library's 100th birthday. Filled with photographs (and essays) of notables with their selections of the one item out of the library's vast collections that they most wanted to view. Some surprising choices. I really loved this book. It reminded what valuable resources libraries are and how much we need to fight to preserve them.

The Skeleton Key: A Short Story Exclusive

The Skeleton Key (Sigma Force, #6.5) - James Rollins Oh yum. I love Seichan. This was a short adventure, but the ending was perfectly in keeping with Seichan's outlook on the world. Not quite yours or mine, probably, but it works for her and makes her so totally unexpected. You just never quite know where she's going to go next. I really liked this story and, now, am salivating for the release of The Devil Colony. Hurry up June 21st!
The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory Didn't love it. Didn't dislike it. Just...eh. I didn't like any of the characters particularly well. They all suffered from an extreme case of narcissism, which, I suppose, was integral to the whole royalty class system. But it often got in the way of a good story. I was taken with the idea that Elizabeth I was a new kind of monarch...kind of thought of as a modern monarch, not all that well received by the upper classes and nobility who wanted to preserve the status quo. A number of them rebelled and tried to replace her with her papist cousin. Elizabeth won. Heads were lost. The modern monarchy survived. An okay read.

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel

Jane Goes Batty - Michael Thomas Ford While I don't think this second book of the series is as good as the first, it is still a fine read. And, I don't think Ford leaves one single literary sacred cow unchivvied in this novel, either, which is great fun.

I think the plot is weaker, but the dialog still sparkles. Ford can consistently turn phrases that make every page a treat. The characters generally have depth, except for Charlotte Bronte. Which might be intentional...

I like it. Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I'll round up.
Riders Of The Purple Sage (Five Star First Edition Westerns) - Zane Grey I haven't read a Zane Grey novel in years, but I recalled from before that his descriptions of western landscapes were nearly epic. And so they are. Worthy reading for that alone.
The End of the Affair - Graham Greene I don't think I'll be normal again for days after finishing this. One of the finest pieces of writing I've ever read. Written with simplicity but with an overwhelming power that just tore my heart right out. I am a Graham Greene convert.

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way - Jon Krakauer I'm not sure I can rate this yet. It's hard to read about and then rate the argument about the downfall of a man. Any man, no matter how good or ill his intentions were or are. I fall on the side of believing this writer's arguments as opposed to Greg Mortenson's stories. I suppose there might be something in that middle ground that favors both men a little bit. I'm not sure. But I certainly can't applaud someone who lies to make a buck for his good cause no matter how good he believes his cause to be. There is ample evidence of Mortenson's misconduct and outrageous lying. And I can't quite believe how many people are willing to overlook that misconduct just because the desecration of an idol or hero hurts a lot. Sometimes life hurts. A lot. Especially when heroes turn out to have clay feet.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

Soulless - Gail Carriger, Gail Carriger Fun read. Something for everyone...vampires, werewolves, Victorian mores and romance, dirigibles, mad scientists, steampunk, stakes through the heart, heroine rescues hero. What's not to love? Done with tongue in cheek and funny. Will Alexia get a new parasol? Can't wait to find out in book 2.
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert, Lydia Davis This new translation by Lydia Davis makes a great novel even greater. What a tragic story. And it is as close to the perfectly written novel as a human being can achieve. Davis's translation is, apparently, much closer to Flaubert's intent than preceding translations that padded the text with explanations that were never in the original. This translation flows beautifully and the spare wording creates its own pathos without a shred of narrative intrusion. What a beautiful book.