Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Doc"


my take: This took a bit to get into and was well worth the wading at the outset. A combination of a who-done-it and Western chronicling the life of John Holliday (Doc) leading up to the shoot out at the OK Corral.

And this is much more than a Western. Philosophical, introspective characters populate Dodge. A thoughtful story which includes gambling, prostitution, moonshine, politics, religion, literature, education, war, race, wealth, health, calling, and a mother-son bond. Chock-a-block full of ideas.

Even with booze (red sangria and white wine spritzers) and a beautiful view, we stayed on topic for Book Chicks with most enthusiastically engaged (and a few who didn't finish - it's longish with small print).

my source: Book Chicks July 2016 pick

my verdict: Great read - highly recommend - even a summer standout

Monday, September 5, 2016

"The Little Paris Bookshop"

my take: This book is a bit of an enigma. I really wanted to love this. Bookstore, Paris. What more could you want?! A believable story?

Which I get: it's fiction. There are times when I'm willing to suspend reason and logic and just go where the author wants to take me. And there are times when I bump my nose against the mirrors in the smoke-filled illusion.

I didn't love the idea that someone could prescribe a novel to cure you - that the main character could diagnose what ails you and treat it with fiction. Also, I found the love triangle a bit hard to swallow.

What I did love is the description of the French country-side as the bookstore travels downriver from Paris. It made me want to travel to France. Again. Now.

my source: Daughter Anne received to review; hers won't be a glowing report, either.

my verdict: Semi-good feel good.

Friday, September 2, 2016

"At The Water's Edge"

my take: From the inexhuastible source of World War II comes a tale from the edge of Loch Ness. A bit of a love triangle, bit of magical realism, the Scottish countryside, and the famous monster fill the pages.

The story begins in the US during the war with the main characters sailing to Scotland in the midst of German Uboats. The rest of the story takes place in a small country inn where we get the stories of the inn-keepers and how the War has affected life there.

I read this quickly and eagerly. Just the thing for my beach-filled vacation days.

my source: Daughter Anne handed to me, and she rarely has a hard copy of anything.

my verdict: Page turner - great read


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Night at the Fiestas"

my take: I don't always love/like short stories. They're so ... brief? Just as I get emotionally attached to characters ... poof! They're gone. It's a bit of work to start over and over with new situations and characters. Hmmm. The lazy reader.

AND these short stories were just about right - a great blend of character development, plot, and twist. Most are set in the American Southwest and feature females in somewhat precarious situations.

I heard the author speak at a session at The Festival of Faith and Writing and came to realize several of the stories have autobiographical tidbits.

my source: Festival of Faith and Writing 2016 reading

my verdict: Great short stories - well worth a read.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Every Exquisite Thing"

my take: "Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic."*

Nanette and Alex meet through their encounter with an out-of-publication novel, The Bubblegum Reaper. Each is a loner in their own way. They try to discover what happens to the hero of the book after the final chapter - much like The Fault in Our Stars.

Exquisite celebrates the different, the wall-flower, the marginalized, the odd-bird, the lonely as seen through the eyes of a high schooler.

Helping teenagers see we're not all the same ... and yet we are all the same. Feeling apartness - other-ness is part of the human condition. As Nanette discovers her own apartness, she looks to the 'herd' of high schoolers as being the same - wanting to conform to what success and 'happiness' look like: popularity, sports achievements, drinking, sex, being considered 'normal'.

Ultimately, Nanette's choice can not be everybody's choice - going to find a different group of people. Some of us need to stay in the pool we're in ... and realize that though we may not fit in, we're still valuable. I heartily applaud Mr. Quick's philosophical allusion that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would add that there are layers of examination ... after all, what we learn so much after those brutal teenage years.

my source: popped up after I ordered The Memory of Light from Amazon

my verdict: Great YA read. I also loved his The Good Luck of Right Now

*Quoted in Every Exquisite Thing from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

If you are read the hardcover edition, check under the dust cover when you're done.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"My Name is Lucy Barton"

my take: I borrowed this from the virtual library to read on my Kindle ... not a super big fan of reading on devices. Okay. Not a fan. AND I've been buying waaaaay too many books lately. I mention this Kindle thing because it's hard to gauge how big a book is on the Kindle ... they all feel the same. After I'd read a few pages the level indicator thing said 2 hours and 38 minutes ... so I think this isn't a very long book.

A fast read in that sense, and not a breezy read. Haunting is the word I'd use to describe Lucy's account of her life and relationship with her mother. Lucy grew up the youngest of three children when they were next to homeless: living in the garage of a relative. 

There are many haunting images in the story and the one that sticks out is while Lucy is in the hospital for six weeks trying to recover from an undiagnosed illness, she's on a gurney in a hallway outside of a room that has yellow tape on the door - indicating a patient with AIDs. As Lucy looks into the room she can see a gaunt man looking at her and he does not look away. 

Ms. Strout has written a novel(la) that does not look away from pain and suffering. It's hard to look. It's easy to turn away. This message seems crucial in our divisive times as we all look to be heard, and seen, and to belong. 

I give it 4 out of 5 stars on the Kindle app ... I can see that if the reader were in a certain mood Lucy might seem sappy-ish. I was in the mood to be moved and it was a well-timed read for me.

my source: big Elizabeth Strout fan - especially after hearing her at FF&W some years back. Also love her Olive Kitteridge and Amy and Isabelle.

my verdict: good to great read

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Homegoing"

my take: Waaaaay back in my childhood, we watched the "Roots" mini-series on television...a riveting account of an African man enslaved and brought to America and how his family fared through the generations. Some of those images are seared into my memory.

Homegoing is a similar experience. The novel opens in Africa to follow one family's generations in two daughters. Each chapter is another generation - sometimes giving a glimpse of the previous generation - just enough to let the reader know whose line is being followed.

One line is soon shipped off to America and one line stays in Africa. And life. is. hard. everywhere.

This is a timely read. With the Black Lives Matter movement and racial tension in the news, this is part of the back story of how Whites have treated Blacks for generations. An excellent walk-in-my-shoes literary work.

my source: Bookriot's Best Reads of 2016, So Far

my verdict: Highly recommend.