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Search tags: 5-rated-3-stars
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review 2018-03-30 14:22
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper ★★★☆☆
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick

Once in a while, I fall for the “because you read ______” recommendations that shout at me from every book buying and review site. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to think of a time when I wasn’t disappointed. I need to remember this, next time temptation strikes.

 

This book was supposed to please readers who enjoyed A Man Called Ove and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and I suppose it is similar in that its main character is an old man who goes on a journey of self discovery. But that’s about it. I found the story charming at first, but it quickly devolved into cutesiness, and neither the writing nor the lessons learned nor the character evolution lifted it above the threshold for suspension of disbelief required for its unlikely events or improbable characters as did the two books that the recommendation was based on. The forward momentum stopped several chapters before the end, and I had to force myself to finish. It was an okay story, I suppose, for people who like glurge.

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performance by James Langton was excellent, and elevated the book from two stars to three.

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review 2018-02-11 14:01
The Queen Bee ★★★★☆
The Queen Bee - Edna L. Lee

The endlessly quotable writing saves this book from being a fairly standard Southern Gothic Romance. The plot and characters are full of tropes. But, oh, so much fun in the way it’s written and the way the characters are drawn! It’s told from the POV of the Ingénue, who at the time of telling the story is older, wiser, wearier, and who looks back at her naïve former self with a lot of sympathy and a little impatience. For me, though, she is still far more sympathetic than I am, as Reader, and indeed much more sympathetic toward the male characters than I have patience with – I think they all deserve a good kick in the pants. And, although this is the point of the book, I simply can’t view the Queen Bee as all-powerful, though she is deliciously wicked. In order to fall in with the narrator’s POV, the reader must be willing to adopt that tired old attitude that men are helpless victims of their libido when women weaponize sex.

 

Still, though, this is a really fun read:

It was then that my aimless, drifting eyes came to Eva. Listening, she stood near a lamp, its glow enfolding and caressing the soft hair, the sweet lifting breasts, the singing line of body. Her hand rested on the back of a nearby chair. And seeing the body not yielding now but tensely held and wary, the tilted head, the raised chin, the lambent eyes which seemed to look at something far off, I was suddenly afraid. In her tense stillness there was the deadly, wary waiting of the reptile, its poisonous fang sheathed but ready to strike, swiftly and with cunning accuracy.  

 

Vintage 1949 hardcover, inherited from my grandmother. And here’s a fun bit of trivia for Texas history buffs: it still has the original price sticker, from E.M. Scarbrough & Sons (colloquially referred to as “Scarboroughs” in the way that native Austinites pronounce their places as they damn well please), stamped “Literary Guild $2.00”. I remember shopping at the Scarbroughs in downtown Austin when I was a kid. All that’s left, alas, is the historic building.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the 1955 movie. Didn’t even know there *was* a movie adaptation until I looked for a synopsis to get a sense of what the book was about, since my copy is missing the dust jacket. But, oh, I’m definitely going to spend the money to rent it. I can’t wait to see Joan Crawford bring that predatory female to life as only she can.

 

Previous Updates:

2/7/18 page 3

 

2/7/18 Movie trailer

2/8/18 page 9

 

2/9/18 page 35

 

2/10/18 page 140

 

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text 2018-02-09 15:06
The Return of the King - 13%
The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien,Rob Inglis

But the next day, there came no dawn, and the Grey Company passed on into the darkness of the storm of Mordor and were lost to mortal sight. But the Dead followed them. 

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review 2018-02-07 13:04
The Contadino ★★☆☆☆
The Contadino - Frank J. Agnello

With better editing, this might have been an enjoyable read. There is a good sense of place and history, and the characters are interesting. But it was difficult to get past the frequently shifting tenses, the missing commas, and even a couple of incomplete sentences. These flaws pulled me out of the story multiple times in every chapter.

 

Paperback copy, a gift from my father several years ago, because the setting and historical events reflect our own family’s history of Sicilian immigrants to the USA around the turn of the 20th century.

 

Previous Updates:

2/4/18 - pg 3/472

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review 2018-02-04 15:44
Buff: A Collie and Other Dog Stories ★★★☆☆
Buff, a Collie and Other Dog Stories - Albert Payson Terhune

When I was a kid, my parents sent me to visit with my grandparents for a week every summer, presumably so we could get to know each other better as we lived a few hundred miles apart. It didn’t really work, as my grandparents were busy people with their own personal lives and I mostly only saw them at meals. The rest of the time, I wandered around the house and tried to amuse myself. Keep in mind, this was long before video games, digital music, or even cable TV. So I raided their bookshelves, which was also pretty boring because they really weren’t readers. Even at 10 years old, I knew Readers Digest was the pits. However, I did find a stash of my dad’s old books, which included several of Terhune’s doggie adventure stories, and I read those to tatters.

 

In honor of my dad, who passed away last month, I’m reading books that are all connected to him in some way. Buff: A Collie is one of those that were tucked away on my grandparents’ bookshelves, and I have both a vintage hardback copy and an ebook copy from the Gutenberg Project to read.

 

REVIEW:

The collection of stories, originally published in 1921, is a little spotty overall. The strength of all Terhune’s books is how he writes his dogs. They are not overly anthropomorphized, but are given emotions and ability to reason that are (for dog-lovers) not a stretch of the imagination, as are their relationships with their people.  Terhune has been criticized for his elitist attitudes, and this is evident in some of his stories – there is an annoying use of vernacular, and “hill people” often feature as the villains in these stories. His female characters exist mostly to serve as lovely, gentle inspirations, but at least one does get to wield a shotgun with skill as she attempts to protect her own.

 

The title story is terrific and heart-wrenching, with a little bit of everything: heroism, loyalty, criminal acts, life-threatening situations, bloodthirsty revenge, love, romance, and pathos. Another, “Chums”, had me in floods of tears. It's the story of a boy who runs away and is homeless for a while, but befriends two stray mutts who become his whole world, and what happens when they are picked up by the dogcatcher one day while he's out working for dinner money. The others were okay to pretty bad, and the author loves to wallow in detailed descriptions of dog fights, which spoiled several stories for me.

 

Previous Updates:

2/3/18 - 2%

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