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review 2018-02-24 18:05
All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones
All Aunt Hagar's Children - Edward P. Jones

I think I am done with this one, at least for now. I've read the first 5 out of 14 stories (132 pages) and am finding it a drag, though I loved The Known World years ago and later on liked Lost in the City. The going felt slow, and the stories felt cluttered and sometimes confusing. Not all readers will share my short story preferences - I like them to be streamlined and to end with a bang - but that didn't really fit with these stories, which tend to meander along with two or three subplots that often don't reach any resolution or have much to do with the main plot. They're well-written and I'd hardly say they were objectively bad, but I'm not feeling it right now.

Some commentary on the individual stories, because I always want to see more of that in reviews of collections:

"In the Blink of God's Eye" - a young couple moves from Virginia to D.C. at the beginning of the 20th century, and begins to grow apart after she adopts a baby abandoned in their yard. I liked this one, though I felt it was a little padded out with the stories of secondary characters.

"Spanish in the Morning" - a young girl starts at Catholic school and skips ahead to first grade. The ending of this one baffled me.

She falls at her desk when standing up and thinking about how she's not happy about the treatment of a couple of other students, and then we rejoin her in bed at home with a wound in her hand and her family saying she doesn't have to return to that school. I couldn't tell whether she'd had a seizure or medical episode - which would make sense practically but not thematically and wouldn't explain the wound - or whether she spoke up and the teacher stabbed her in the hand, fitting in with a story an older relative told her earlier about a teacher who had a pitchfork like the Devil. Which would make sense thematically but is bizarre.

(spoiler show)

"Resurrecting Methuselah" - an American soldier in Korea is diagnosed with breast cancer, and his wife decides to leave him. In this one it was the motivations that confused me. We spend a lot of time with the wife, including a long sequence in Hawaii on the way to Korea in which she buys some candy she remembers from her childhood to find it completely different.

Then for some reason that was unclear to me, she immediately gives up on visiting her husband and flies home instead. My guess is that, having spent her adolescence as an invalid, she wasn't willing to have sickness in her house or around her daughter. But what does the candy have to do with it?

(spoiler show)

"Old Boys, Old Girls" - a young man is imprisoned for the second of two murders he's committed, does his time, and once on the outside, has to figure out how his family and an old lover fit into his life. I liked this one, which is interesting and doesn't have room for random subplots.

"All Aunt Hagar's Children" - a Korean war vet wants to head out to Alaska to pan for gold, but the older women of his family ask him to look into the murder of one of their sons instead, and he does. This was interesting but the end unconvincing.

He sees the murdered man's wife strike a powerful pose and concludes that she was the murderer, although there are plenty of other suspects.

(spoiler show)

And this one too grew weeds: it spends a lot of time on a stranger who died in front of the narrator getting off a streetcar, which does nothing in the story other than to haunt him, and I didn't believe for a minute that he somehow memorized her last words when they were full sentences in a language he didn't speak. Strings of unfamiliar words are unmemorable gibberish to me, and I'm good at foreign languages.

At any rate, I'm certainly not denying that there's merit here, but this wasn't the right time for this book, so it's heading back to the library.

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video 2018-02-13 22:59

This collection contains my novella, Loving the Goat. If you ever wondered what that might be like, you can give it a try for only 99¢!

Place your order now.

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review 2018-02-09 12:38
600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster
600 Hours of Edward - Craig Lancaster

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I liked this one. This book was a bit different from what I would normally pick up. I heard a few good things about it so I took a closer look once I noticed that it was available to borrow from Amazon through Prime Reading. I loved the idea of a main character who is living with Asperger's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I decided to give it a try and I am really glad that I did.

Edward was a great character. I liked him from the start and as the story progressed, I liked him more and more. Edward's life revolves around routines. With few exceptions, each day looks largely like the previous one. Things do shake up his life quite a bit by the end of the book and there is definitely some character growth for Edward during the course of the story. I thought that his character felt very authentic in the way that he dealt with other people and handled his emotions.

This book is repetitive because Edward's life is repetitive. There are certain events and phrases that happen over and over throughout the book. Each day of Edward's life would bring a new cycle of the book. I think that the decision to take the reader through each day with Edward helped to really show how much the events in the story changed his life. Edward's life at the end of the book looks very different than it does at the start and it was great to take the journey with him.

Luke Daniels does a fantastic job with the narration of this book. One of the reasons that I decided to listen to this book was because I have enjoyed his work in the past. I thought that he was able to bring Edward to life in way that really added to the story. He did a great job with all of the character voices and adding emotion to the reading. I listened to this book for hours at a time and finished it within a few days and thought that he was a perfect match for the story. 

I would recommend this book to others. I really enjoyed going along with Edward as he navigated the changes and his life and made new connections. I did notice that this book is listed as the first in a series but it tells a very complete story so I am not sure if I will read the other installments. I would not hesitate to read more from Craig Lancaster in the future.

Initial Thoughts
This isn't the kind of book that I pick up often. I noticed this one being offered in the Amazon Prime lending program. I love have enjoyed the narrator's work before so I decided to look closer at the book. When I saw that the main character of this story is living with Asperger's syndrome and OCD, I knew that I had to listen to this one. It was a really good story. It could be repetitive at times but that was just a reflection of Edward's life. 

Book Source: Borrowed from Amazon Prime Lending

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review 2018-02-04 07:08
King Edward VII
King Edward VII - E.F. Benson

My knowledge about the more recent British kings and queens is more limited than the older ones, and for Edward VII in particular, most of it seemed to come from a book entitled 1000 Years of Annoying the French. However, this was an interesting account which I enjoyed reading, especially the part about his relationship with queen Victoria and the more general history on late 19th century/early 20th century Europe.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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text 2018-01-31 19:57
Reading progress update: I've read 140 out of 945 pages.
Russka: The Novel of Russia - Edward Rutherfurd

My collection of physical books is so large (upwards of 3000) that it's rare for me to get anything new in anything other than Kindle format. These days, I reserve the purchase of paper books to those that are truly special. And a bit over 100 pages into this book, I knew it would be one of those. Thus, the change in progress update format from percentage to page numbers. Onwards!

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