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review 2017-11-25 09:36
Sweet Tea and Sympathy
Sweet Tea and Sympathy - Molly Harper

Molly Harper's writing makes me laugh, but I remember when I read her first Half-Moon Hollow book Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, it took me a good part of the book to care about the MC, Jane; the book just started off slow and bumpy for me.

 

Sweet Tea and Sympathy was the same; I just wasn't feeling it for the first half of the book and I couldn't figure out why I was supposed to care about Margot or her very odd dynamic with Kyle.  But things started to click about halfway through.  The snappy dialog that Harper is so good at kicked in, especially when Margot was with her cousins, and her interaction with the book's 'villain', Sarah Lee, was satisfyingly catty without being too catty.  After that midway point all the disparate pieces of the story started to come together, and more importantly, Margot became a sympathetic protagonist.  I started to care about what happened to her and even though I really struggled to figure out the clunky progression of her romance with Kyle, I found myself sold on them by the end.

 

This is the first in a new series and, frankly, not Molly Harper at her finest, but it was a light, enjoyable read.  I have every reason to believe future books will only get better as Harper finds her groove in this tiny eclectic Southern town.

 

This book could work for either  

Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption  (Margot's reunion with her estranged father, a recovering alcoholic whom she's never met, is a big part of the story), or 

Thanksgiving Day: Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.  The town of Lake Sackett is dying after an accident at the dam creating the lake emptied out a significant amount of the lake's water, making the effects of an ongoing drought more devastating to the tourist trade that keeps most of the town afloat (pun intended).  Their last hope is a week long founder's day celebration that's headed for disaster until Margot steps in to help.

 

I'm going with Thanksgiving, since we celebrated Turkey day today.  It seems fitting.  :)

 

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review 2017-05-08 10:27
The Pelican Brief
The Pelican Brief - John Grisham

I haven't read this one in at least a decade, and I was happy at how well it stood up.  Dated, of course, although not quite as badly as I expected.  At one point Grantham ends a phone call and "puts the phone on the floor", which stopped me in my tracks for a moment, until I remembered: big landline phone.  Some of the money numbers are hilarious, but not unexpected.

 

What's truly frightening is how many parallels can be drawn between Grisham's President and the orange wonder-douche currently squatting in the oval office.  I know, I know, you can find parallels anywhere if you look hard enough, but honestly it doesn't take much effort to see that Grisham's clueless, blustering President, who cedes all authority to Fletcher Cole while spending most of his time in the Oval Office practicing his putting and wishing he was on the course, depressingly prescient. 

 

As for plotting, I still hold this one as one of the most intricately plotted books I've ever read.  I don't mean Darby's story, but the conspiracy that Darby uncovers - as many times as I've read this, it never gets old, never fails to enthral me.  The plotting goes a long way towards making up any inadequacies in the writing itself (if Darby told anyone, one more time, about how much she'd survived to date, I thought I might shoot her myself).

 

Still a good read!

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 371

$$:  $3.00

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review 2017-05-06 10:20
Jasper Jones
Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey

A few months ago, I accidentally joined a book club (long story).  

 

The first book chosen was Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  Immediately, at least a couple of objections sprung to my mind:

1. Australian fiction and I don't have a harmonious track record.

2. Generally, literary fiction is not my jam.

3. No way could I read this 3 months before the club meeting and have any hope of remembering it, especially since I totally planned on skimming it (see 1 & 2, above).

 

So, I procrastinated.  I procrastinated BIG. TIME. I didn't buy the book until Wednesday, and as I was in the midst of finishing up my Dewey bonus rolls, I refused to start this one until they were all done.  (I was also hoping I could use this for a monopoly space - kid on cover, woot!) 

 

Which means I started it last night at 10pm.  Bookclub met today at 2.  Now, this wasn't going to be a problem, because I was totally going to skim read it. Then I read the first page.  Boy did that first page suck me in.  So did the second, and the third, and the fourth and OMG IT'S 2AM!!!

 

I woke up at 8 and plowed through the entire thing by 1pm (taking a "break", and I use that term loosely, to ferry all three cats to the vet for annual appointments - something I cannot recommend).

 

It was good.  Seriously, it was really damn good.  The Australian fiction I've been subjected to so far have all had one thing in common: a thread of cruelty that wove subtlety or not so subtley through the narrative.  Jasper Jones is not an exception, which is why I'd hesitate to call it a YA read.  There are some very confronting scenes and descriptions of abuse, violence, and racial hate crimes.  It might be a good fit for some, but not all, teens. 

 

This common thread is what turns me off trying new Aussie fiction, but here it's offset by the humour and genuine innocence of Charlie, and his banter with his best friend, Jeffry Lu, who often steals the scenes from Charlie by dint of his sheer equanimity.  Some of the banter gets tedious, but only because it's exactly the tedious banter of just about any two 13-year-old boys.

 

There's a mystery plot beneath all the other issues facing Charlie and it was tragic; its final solution even more so.  There's not a lot of winning for the good guys here, but the story does end on a note of hope, if not complete happiness.  

 

Most of all, the writing was just incredibly engaging, with a minimum of Aussie slang and/or vernacular.  If you can find this one, read the first couple of pages - you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 397

$ earned: 3.00

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review 2017-04-18 05:55
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons - Dan Crowe

Several modern day writers answer the question, if you could go back in time and talk to any famous writer, who would it be? by imagining how such interviews would go.

 

Some are straight-forward, some are really very clever, like the Samuel Johnson/Boswell interview imagined by David Mitchell, or Rebecca Miller's take on how an interview would go with the Marquis de Sade.  Some of them aren't even authors; Douglas Coupland interviews Andy Warhol, who he imagines finds heaven very dull.

 

I bought this because I saw Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the list and he's just about the only author I'd travel back in time to talk to, if I could.  Ian Rankin did the honours, but I was rather disappointed with his efforts, to be frank.  Very little came out of the exercise except perhaps a wicked hangover for Rankin if he was lucky, a court-ordered psych eval if he wasn't (fictitiously speaking, of course).

 

The weirdest by far was Joyce Carol Oates' disturbing and intensive extended grilling of Robert Frost.  I think it's fair to say, fictional imaginings or not, she does not like Robert Frost!  At the end of it, she is careful to remind readers it's a work of fiction, "though based opon (limited, selected) historical research", and then points the reader in the direction of Meyer's biography of Frost.  I'm betting there's a story to tell there somewhere.

 

It's an amusing collection of what-ifs, some of which, like with all such things, are better than others.  

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review 2017-04-14 12:22
The Delight of Being Ordinary
The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama - Roland Merullo

The subtitle of this novel says everything about why it appealed to me from the start:

 

A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama

 

Then there was the author's note:

 

I am inclined to put my trust in spiritual figures who show a sense of humor, rather than those who take everything—including themselves—with a miserable seriousness. Life can be harsh, yes. The struggle to live a meaningful life, however we define that, can be rich with problems and challenges. But humor exists to soften the sharp edges of things. And so Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, both of whom laugh a lot, seem to me like wise teachers, extraordinary men in the difficult position of guiding billions of followers, of steering vessels with a heavy cargo of good and bad history, in the same general direction, across the rough seas of modem life. 

 

That right there is guaranteed to get my attention.  At school, part of the curriculum was world religions, because, as the nuns said, you can't respect what you don't understand.  

 

So, a story about the Pope and the Dalai Lama dodging their security teams and going on a 4 day road trip?  Yes please!  When it arrived I couldn't wait to get stuck into it, and what better day to read it than Good Friday?

 

It was so much more than I expected; true, I didn't quite know what to expect - I bought it on blind faith and the subtitle, but there was the humorous road trip I'd expected, plus theology, and mystical adventure and ultimately, the story of a marriage in crises and a startling narrative on the emotional baggage a relationship accumulates over time.

 

I didn't go the whole-hog 5 stars because even though I loved it, it did drag in a few places.  I think this is my fault; I couldn't put the book down and there's a lot of (really interesting) theology here; real, everyday, relatable theology, and I think the pacing would have worked better had I read this over several sessions, savouring instead of devouring it.  Also, the MC and narrator, Paolo, and his wife Rosa are a little too real.  The reader is truly inside Paolo's head and that insight to his thoughts is not always comfortable; he's a good man, but he's deeply flawed.

 

As much as I love this book, I can't honestly say it's for everyone.  Those who have confidently turned away from faith in anything greater than man need not bother, although the book does offer an accurate view of what faith should be about.  Those who do categories themselves as spiritual or religious or faithful might find this interesting, but it's going to depend on the rigidity of those beliefs. There are as many flavours of Christianity as there are stars in the sky (almost/not really) and RC offends quite a few of them.  And even RCs might have a tough time swallowing the ending; I admit I balked myself, at first.  What Merullo offers as a plot twist is confronting and I can't say reacted any better than Paolo did (at first).

 

Still, I loved this book; there are so many parts that resonated, from the faith through to the marriage.  I adored Pope Francis before this book, and still do, but now, I might have a bit of a crush on the Dalai Lama.  :)

 

 

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