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review 2017-06-23 16:00
On Canaan’s Side ★★★☆☆
On Canaan's Side - Sebastian Barry

I had a lot I wanted to say about this book, as I had just finished it, but then I got into a long, work-related conversation with a colleague, and now I find my brain mostly empty of thoughts where this book is concerned. That, perhaps, is a good indicator of how deeply affected I was by it. Mostly how I felt, by the end, was as though I was covered in a heavy smothering blanket of depression. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps that was the author’s goal in writing this book. When I read “literary” novels, this seems to be how I most often feel, with the second most common emotion being impatient annoyance. The latter is most common in the ones that I’m not even able to finish reading.

 

On Canaan’s Side seems to be about grief and loss and the pointlessness of actually making human connections in life, when at the end everybody you loved is gone or has betrayed you in some way. There is some beautiful language and gorgeous descriptions of setting and emotions. The author chose to express some of these in stream-of-consciousness style of run-on sentences that literally went on as long as 1 ½ pages of text. Fortunately, these were mostly confined to the first and last few chapters, with the middle third of the book written in a snappier style that moved the plot and story (such as it was) along in a more tolerable fashion.

 

When I was a teenager, we had a saying that encompassed all the angst of that age: “Life’s a bitch, and then you die”. That’s pretty much how I felt by the end of this book.

 

Hardcover version, purchased as a circulation discard from a Friends of the Library sale. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoloy challenge, for the square Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover.  There is a brief description of the main character’s overseas journey from Ireland to America, and two other characters journey overseas for the Vietnam and Gulf wars.

 

Previous Updates:

6/29/17 182/272 pg

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review 2017-06-23 02:48
If Walls Could Talk ★★★★☆
If Walls Could Talk - Juliet Blackwell

The only other cozy mystery series I’ve tried was not very satisfying, so I had low expectations coming into this one. But what a pleasant surprise! The author introduces each character with descriptions that drew a clear picture in my mind and also gave some hint of what was to come. I learned a little history and felt some of the MC’s enthusiasm for her work in restoring historic homes. The whodunnit was not especially difficult to figure out before it was revealed, but the journey to get there was plenty of fun.

 

Audio version, purchased via Audible. Although there’s not a lot of differentiation between her male characters’ voices, Xe Sands’ performance is very good in terms of pacing and emotion.

 

Previous Updates:

 

6/20/17 6%  http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1573004/if-walls-could-talk-6

 

6/20/17 15% http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1573053/if-walls-could-talk-15

 

6/21/17 43%  http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1573208/if-walls-could-talk-43

 

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review 2017-06-20 15:10
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry ★★☆☆☆
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

I sort of liked this book, until the 88% mark, at which the narrative took a turn that I found unredeemably distasteful. Until then, my thoughts about the book: This is a mildly interesting, if a little maudlin, romance about a grumpy lover of literary fiction (AJ) who is saved by love for the amazingly well-behaved and highly intelligent orphan (Maya) and the quirky bookseller (Amy). There’s an obvious bad guy caricature in the successful author (Daniel), who is a womanizing drunk, and his long-suffering and understandably bitter wife (Ismay) is AJ’s dead wife’s sister. The entire book (even the essay penned by one of the characters) is written in present tense, which serves no purpose other than to annoy me, but at least it’s in third person. None of the plot twists or big reveals were especially clever or surprising. Altogether, a three-star read, even with the long, drawn-out drama of the final chapters, which I suppose are meant to have the reader going through boxes of kleenexes. Or pressed linen handkerchiefs, given the fondness for vintage clothes.

 

I’m burying the part that dropped this into the 2 star range for me under spoiler tags: 

The backstory of what happened to Maya’s mother. Not that she was a fan of Daniel’s writing, or that they slept together and she got pregnant, or that he refused to acknowledge any responsibility for it, or that he never seemed concerned about her or his daughter. That’s just the tired old trope that goes along with his womanizing drunken author caricature. It was the dismissive way the narrative treated her. First the slut-shaming, that “she knew what she was doing” in sleeping with a married man, then excusing Ismay’s culpability in her death as it was understandably painful that she had to deal with the slut asking for money for her husband’s bastard child, when his own wife kept miscarrying and was cash-poor because all her money was invested in their fancy house. So Ismay steals a valuable book from AJ, then knowingly puts the young woman at risk of criminal charges by giving her unsellable stolen property to sell. Then she just shrugs and tells her to get lost when the girl finds out. So she (rightly) feels guilty that the desperate young woman committed suicide and her orphaned child was left in a bookstore, but then is absolved with the logic of, oh, well, it turned out for the best, since Maya had a pretty good life being raised by AJ instead of her own mother, and is credited for “saving” AJ’s life by giving him a reason to stop being a self-pitying drunk. “The End”, as far as the dead husband-thieving slut is concerned. Then we get another 50 minutes of glurge where AJ sells the book that contributed to Maya’s mother’s death, so he has the money to cover medical treatment, then rambles on about life and love and lessons for his daughter while he’s dying. Maya never finds out the true story of her mother, because it’s better to conceal her godmother’s selfish cruelty than for her to know something of the woman who birthed her and tried her best to care for her for the first two years of her life. Because it all turned out for the best, right?

(spoiler show)

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Scott Brick gives a fine performance. I picked this book up on the recommendation of a co-worker, who loved it.

 

Previous Updates:

 

6/19/17 52% http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1572298/the-storied-life-of-aj-fikry-52

 

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review 2017-06-17 17:36
Me Want Pet! ★★★☆☆
Me Want Pet! - Tammi Sauer,Bob Shea

Cute story about a caveboy who desperately wants a pet, but every one that he brings home just isn't suitable for one reason or another. 

 

I liked the colors and illustrations, and I can see how the story could spark discussion/learning opportunities about pet ownership. I can even see how kids would have fun with the "cave language" but I actually found it a little obnoxious. I know it would drive me crazy by the second or third reading.

 

I'll probably knock this one off my purchase list for my neice's kids' library, but will definitely look at the others that are written and illustrated by Tammmy Sauer and Bob Shea.

 

Hardcover picture book, borrowed from my public library. 

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review 2017-06-16 17:15
Mile 81 ★★★★☆
Mile 81 - Stephen King,Thomas Sadoski,Edward Herrmann

This is the short story/novella version of every 1950’s Creature Feature B movie, where the teenagers witness everything and frantically try to get help, only to have all the adults dismiss them as crazy kids pulling a prank. Except in this case, it’s little kids instead of teenagers. Good entertainment, SK style.

 

The “bonus story” The Dune is much shorter story, with fairly classic SK story elements, but there’s no horror or gore here, just an odd little story of mysterious events, with a fun little twist at the end.

 

Audiobook version, borrowed from my public library. Thomas Sadoski (Mile 81) and Edward Herrmann (The Dune) bring their stories alive, perfectly capturing the characters through whom the story is told.

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