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review 2017-04-09 11:16
Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure (Aunt Dimity, #21)
Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure - Nancy Atherton

This is one of those books I read because I've been reading the series from the start and a certain amount of loyalty is involved.   As with a lot of series, it started off strong, but has levelled off over the years to become gentle stories that resemble morality tales.

 

Lori stumbles across an old piece of jewellery in her attic one day, resulting in a search for the man who gave it to Dimity, back after WWII, while in the village, the good people discover the joys and pitfalls of metal detecting.

 

Recent books in the series were getting on my nerves because Lori was gullible and tended to jump to the most ridiculous conclusions imaginable, but this time around she was far more competent and rational; there was still a level of anxiety, but it was much more believable.

 

Atherton has an incredible way of bringing wartime London to life and I think it is this more than anything that keeps me coming back every year for the next book. 

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text 2016-06-17 06:22
Book Haul for June 17
Women Who Read Are Dangerous - Stefan Bollman,Karen Joy Fowler
How Reading Changed My Life - Anna Quindlen
Books of a Feather - Kate Carlisle
Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure - Nancy Atherton
Ham Bones - Carolyn Haines
Arkansas Traveler (A Benni Harper Mystery #8) - Earlene Fowler
Seven Sisters (A Benni Harper Mystery #7) - Earlene Fowler
Wishbones - Carolyn Haines
An Angel to Die For - Mignon F. Ballard
Angel at Troublesome Creek - Mignon F. Ballard

This haul looks bigger than it is, as the first 4 are the only new books I received this week.

 

The last 6 are 'upgrades' - hardcovers I bought to replace paperbacks, during the Memorial Day sale at BetterWorldBooks.  

 

I have to say I was mightily disappointed with BWB this go around.  I think I have a fairly open mind about what they consider a 'good' book, and I expect their books to be just a little less nice than used books elsewhere with equivalent ratings.  But when our order arrived... ugh!  The box was well packed and jostling wasn't possible during the very long transit, but it looks like when they packed the box, they shoved the books in without any care - several the of the book jackets are wrinkled or ripped - all suspiciously in the same way, in the same area of the book (the bottoms).

 

We also got two without any jackets at all, which irritates me, but I can't swear the listing didn't say 'no jacket' so I'm willing to believe I wasn't paying close enough attention.

 

Ah well, c'est la vie.

 

Total new books: 4

Total books read: 3

Total physical TBR: 215

 

Happy weekend everyone! 

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review 2014-01-26 06:38
The Story of Harold by Terry Andrews
The Story of Harold - Terry Andrews

The Story of Harold was written in 1974 by ‘Terry Andrews’ – a pseudonym for the children’s author George Selden, who is most famous for his 1960 classic The Cricket in Times Square. The novel is about a suicidal man named Terry – a writer of children’s books – and it was originally illustrated by Edward Gorey. The narrative follows Terry as he merrily moves towards the date of his proposed suicide while interacting with four key people in his life: his lover Anne Black, a fellow connoisseur of fine arts and a kind and gentle woman; his lover Jim Sheridan, a doctor and devoted family man, and the main source of Terry’s despair; his lover Dan Dailey, an equally suicidal social worker who longs to have Terry burn him alive; and Barney Willington, a melancholy and socially awkward 7-year old who is often placed in Terry’s care.

I found Terry’s voice to be a familiar one: so very la-di-da, so very Upscale Gay Manhattan, the voice of a fatuous, judgmental queen, full of droll asides and nasty put-downs; what made it unique for me was the writing style that captures this voice is itself intensely stylized and extremely mannered, all dashes and ellipses and ceaseless parentheticals, all stops & starts... a striking prose style that is as drolly theatrical as Terry himself. I was surprised to find that his voice did not match his external traits – it turns out that Terry comes across as a thoughtful, charming, even rather sedate person; similarly enjoyable is the wide distance between the snide and rather stereotypically faggy voice and the terse, dominating sexual sadist who appears in the extremely explicit bdsm scenes. I liked all of that because, well... whose inner voice really matches up with how they look anyway?

You didn’t know what to make of this book, at first, but you read it as if in a trance. You couldn’t believe the extremes of the novel, its bizarre schizophrenic style, as it went from a graphic bisexual sexcapade with a married suburban couple... to an oddly tender but defiantly unsentimental scene of Terry telling children’s stories to poor forlorn Barney... to the most horrifically predatory pickup scene you’ve ever read, where Terry ruthlessly exults in manipulating the despairing Dan Dailey into first baring his wretched soul and then giving up his pliant body to our hero’s gleefully sadistic urges. You wanted Terry to die.

The book is practically unknown! The book has practically no reviews! The book should be a cult classic!

I thought Terry was despicable. I thought Terry was heroic. I thought Terry was inhuman and more than human and subhuman and inhumane and humane and a human.

You thought the novel’s combination of cruelty and kindness, its stark and uncomfortable honesty and its harshly cynical and bitter humor, its sweetness and its mean-spiritedness, its abandon… to be both an invigorating tonic and a terrible-to-the-taste medicine. You didn’t want to admit how much you saw yourself in Terry, his bisexuality of course, but also his perversity (Perversity is just another word for nothing left to lose! Right, Terry? Ha!) and his pettiness (But a largeness of spirit as well! Sometimes! Ha!) and his sadism (But only with consenting adults! Ha, right! There are so many different ways to be sadistic and sometimes consent isn’t even a factor!) and his suicidal feelings (But don’t worry! There’s nothing to worry about! Ha!) and his respect for families, his love of children (Until they grow up into adults! Until those families begin to look like houses of cards! Then you hate them! Ha!)… you didn’t want a connection to Terry, you didn’t want see yourself in him, you didn’t want to admit that to yourself! You wanted to lie.

The Story of Harold is fiction for people who like challenging prose, who see the challenge as a game, who appreciate writing that is flexible, dynamic, experimental; looking it up on Amazon, the books Nightwood and The Exquisite Corpse come up as well: take note. The Story of Harold is a book for people who want to see what NYC was like at a certain time in the 70s, a snapshot of a particular world that is now gone or at least transformed, a document of life pre-AIDS, pre-80s, pre-internet, pre-polite and sensitive ways to talk about gender & race & class & beauty & ugliness & sexuality & sex. The Story of Harold is a story for people who like stories, stories that are simple and resonant, simple yet multi-leveled, stories within stories, stories with surprise endings, stories about stories, stories that act as a looking glass or a camera obscura or a microscope or a macroscope through which to view the world around us, stories as a way to look at ourselves of course.

I was constantly impressed with the juggling act that Andrews pulls off, so many balls in the air. I saw a ball that was about loving a woman, being devoted to her, but a one-sided sort of love where the man loves but the woman is actually in love; I saw a ball that was about how to get through to a lonely, misunderstood child and how to talk to that child in a way that is honest and real, that was about wanting to give protection but knowing the need for that child to be a part of the world – prepared for the world, that was not just about loving children but actually understanding them; I saw a ball about how the seduced is often the seducer, the bottom that tops from beneath, the masochist whose strength outstrips the sadist, the objectified who becomes the objectifier; I saw a ball that was about the difference between sex and love, between friendship and “love” and how they can be equal things but sometimes a person so craves that love, being in love, that they don’t recognize that sometimes sex is just sex and that friendship can be as important as love. I was amazed at how Andrews kept juggling those balls, all of them whirling around but never knocking each other out of the air, never connecting... until they do connect.

You loved this book and yet you often avoided it; you look into mirrors all the time but many times you didn’t want to look at this one. You thought you saw where the novel was going, and you were right and you were wrong, but you didn’t expect the tension to build and build (that inexorable move towards suicide always there), to grow more deeply emotional, all moving towards… a dinner party – a dinner party for four! – where the strands come together, where the prosaic becomes the ineffable, where a loving father plays a game with a forlorn child that means everything, and where a bisexual gent realizes that life is all small moments, that’s what’s important, all those mundane moments that accumulate and create a life, a good life – life is good, it really can be! – you didn’t expect the novel to take a breath and suddenly affirm life – The Story of Harold is a life-affirming book! It truly is! – you didn’t realize that you were holding your breath, you had no idea how much you needed Terry to live – to live and be happy! – you didn’t expect how deep and life-affirming the book turned out to be, a beautiful terrible excruciating wonderful monster, a book that looked inside you and knocked you around and loved you and, in the end, said that life was good. You wanted to cry.

And so you did!




thanks for the loaner, Mike Puma.

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review 2013-11-08 05:56
The Pyx by John Buell
The Pyx - John Buell

The Pyx is the story of Elizabeth Lucy, a high-end call girl who dies on the first page. The novel has many flavors: pulp noir, mystery and crime story, character study, tragedy, with some Satanism tossed in to make things even more spicy. The tale is told in alternating perspectives: 'The Present' features soul-deadened detective Henderson searching for clues and 'The Past' features soul-deadened Elizabeth, slowly moving towards her terminal destination but trying to do one last good thing. Her ending is one that she fears but somehow craves as well.

 

The language has the brutal beauty of the best of pulp crime fiction. Hard-boiled and poetic in equal amounts, full of terse dialogue, barely understood longings, bleakly sardonic commentary on the smallness of lives, bottomless despair and monstrous cruelty conveyed in brief and ambiguous turns of phrase, paragraphs that describe the living breathing bustling world that suddenly end with an off-hand sentence describing bloodstains on a sidewalk. It is a beautiful novel and Elizabeth Lucy is one of the more memorable examples of the hardened prostitute with a heart of gold that I've read. The book is the same: deeply cynical and angrily pessimistic but allowing many characters - Elizabeth, Henderson, a sensitively rendered gay friend, a mourning father, an alcoholic priest, and several others - to show their souls in ways that are genuinely moving. The Pyx is a surprisingly soulful book, and I loved it for that.

 

It has a very an off-putting final chapter that reveals the mystery of the pyx and the motivations of the primary villain. It appears to be written by another person entirely - "Daniel Mannix" - but I don't know if that is true or not. The style is certainly different than anything that came before, so I'm inclined to believe it. The ending reminded me a lot of the ending of the film Psycho: that smarmy psychologist, attempting to render all of the strangeness and ambiguity that have come before his scene into something that is logical, even prosaic, an uncomfortable but still easily digestible set of formulaic motivations. And as with Psycho, the memory of all the strange ambiguity that came before renders The Pyx's final chapter as nothing more than a footnote. Or perhaps even just a wink to the reader, much as Hitchcock was winking to Psycho's audience. Sure, things can be explained, things that are horrible or beautiful or full of pathos or just unnervingly and threateningly weird. But can you ever truly explain away such things? And why would you want to? They defy explanation.

 

 

 

 

Worther or Mrs. Latimer would want the body, but alive, alive to peddle it, to feed it heroin, to dress it up, to make it entertain lechers who had nothing but money and erotic energy, to make it stop belonging to a human being, to make it wind up here with a long jump, or a long push.


She felt, not cut off, but far away from what was happening, the people existed just like a radio you've forgotten was on, and her walking was motion that she wanted to stop soon.


She said very quietly, "Coffee, please," and sat down at a table. A while ago, perhaps years, she would have noticed his action and smiled, enjoying the effect she had. She might even be pleased a little. But now, she couldn't be pleased or flattered by her beauty; it wasn't part of her consciousness; it was just a fact, a thing that was part of her life, something others thought she was lucky enough to have, something others wanted. She had no mental picture of herself as an outwardly visible person; she had only an inner vision of...

"Here's your coffee, miss."

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review 2013-08-25 00:00
Buried Treasure
Buried Treasure - Jack B. Downs Buried Treasure - Jack B. Downs In 1954 two-year old David disappears on a quiet Maryland street when his father, Sam, is briefly distracted. The kidnapping of young David shatters his small family – Sam, Maureen, and young son James. When baby Dylan joins the family soon after the kidnapping the family is already disconnected and cold. Ultimately abandoned by their parents the two young brothers must find a new way to survive. Their future won’t be easy; they will face heartbreak, bullying, racism, suicide and the constant anguish of a broken family. Buried Treasure is an emotionally trying mystery and will draw the reader deep inside the heartache of the Paxton family. One of the most intense and realistic mysteries I have read, this book belongs on the to-read list of every mystery fan.

The pace of Buried Treasure starts out a little bit slow. The first three chapters are mostly used to set-up the plot, the characters and the complications to come. At times it can read a little tedious but please persist because once chapter four begins the story is intense. Once the story picks up it grabs hold of the readers’ heart and it never lets go. There are times when the tragedy feels so real and so powerful that the reader can feel a strong personal connection to the grief. There are other times when Downs lightens the mood by delicately infusing slight humor and sensitivity. This is a novel about the bonds of family and trying to find a way to endure through even the most challenging of circumstances.

James and Dylan Paxton, the brothers, as well as the supporting characters were believable and authentic. James’ torment over the kidnapping of his baby brother, his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s abandonment felt very genuine. Dylan, after being born into a shattered family, had only known hurt and pain. He always sought love and safety despite being tormented by social stigma and being cast as a social outcast. On a constant search for healing and identity, James struck out against the world and Dylan clung close to his older brother. The anguish that defines the characters of Buried Treasure consumes not only the characters, but the reader as well. It is impossible to read this novel and not connect, on a deeply emotional level, with this mysterious tragedy. It feels as though the only salvation for these brothers is to answer the questions, “What happened to David? Who kidnapped him? Why did it have to happen?” At the core of it all is a deep family secret and one man’s suicide may be the answer to saving them all.

When James and Dylan finally come face-to-face with a terrible family secret, will they finally be able to heal, put the past behind them, and move on? Or will the enduring scars a family tragedy continue to collect victims? Buried Treasure provides the reader with lasting lessons of love and family, the bonds of brotherhood and faith as well as grief and healing. Downs writes with such emotion and sensitivity that it would be challenging to not bond deeply with his characters and novel. The ending of the novel is a riveting, and fitting, surprise. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Buried Treasure. It may leave you emotionally exhausted but definitely not disappointed.

Review by Ashley LaMar
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