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text 2018-09-15 21:10
Reading progress update: I've read 233 out of 233 pages.
Seven Dead (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards,Eleanor Farjeon

wow. I’m in love with this book. I had finished my shark novel, which was very entertaining, and then proceeded to this neglected - previously neglected, thank goodness! - book by previously neglected J. Jefferson Farjeon. I just kept reading, from late morning into early afternoon, and then suddenly I was done. Seven Dead, and a few hours later I know why.

 

the book is fun in the early stages, but it was hard to tell if Farjeon could deliver something spectacular until getting deep into it. as the pieces fell into place, and the whole dreadful series of events extending from a first-time house-breaker finding seven dead bodies in the drawing room of a gloomy mansion - events extending, of course, both forwards and backwards from corpse discovery - unfolded with each exciting page, I realized I had just experienced maybe my absolute favorite British Library Crime Classic so far. can’t guarantee this will feel like a bloomin’ masterpiece to everyone who gives it a whirl, but I have no choice but to say “don’t ignore this one, don’t forget about this one”. let me finish by saying that, by the end, the book had a heavy emotional impact on my heart, as I thought about what had really happened to those seven doomed people, and why. almost shed a tear - not lying - and certainly had a lump in my throat.

 

a morning and an afternoon later, and I have a new/old whodunit to cherish, amongst my favourites.

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text 2018-08-30 01:08
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery - Russell Freedman

I only picked up this book because it's on a list I'm trying to complete. I am not a fan of the Roosevelts, and I'm not a fan of this book. I'm sorry, but it's disingenuous at the least to write a book about Eleanor Roosevelt that covers her life during WWII but makes zero mention of Japanese internment. I read ~75 pages to get a feel for the tone, skimmed ahead to see how WWII was dealt with and then nope-ed out of the rest of the book. 

 

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review 2018-08-22 17:49
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn't spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

 

*** ABOUT THE BOOK ***

 

Title:  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeyman

Genre: Contemporary

 

Goodreads Amazon

 
 
*** BOOK BLURB ***
 
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart.
 
 
*** REVIEW ***
 
Oh my... This is the kind of book that makes my heart soar. Eleanor Olephant is more than fine, she's amazing!
 
It is such a rich, awkward but interesting and twisty book. It just phenomenal. One of the best examples of character building I've read in years. Quirky characters with a soul.
 
From the very beginning it intrigued me. It felt like I was observing a behavior of some newly found specimen previously unknown to me. And all that observation paid off. I was totally invested in Eleanor's life just after a few chapters.

It might be strange, but even during the hard times I felt no pity for her, only sympathy, because of her admirable courage. Eleanor isn't conventional character, she's a true oddball. But that is her charm.
 
This book took me on a real emotional roller coaster: I laughed out loud, I had to stop more than once to think about my own life and actions, I even shed a tear.
 
Unquestionably the best book I read this year.
 
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review 2018-08-16 05:39
Fine's a good word for this novel about a lonely woman.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I steeled myself as best I could, and, with teeth gritted, using only one finger I typed:

 

C U there E.

 

I sat back, feeling a bit queasy. Illiterate communication was quicker, that was true, but not by much. I'd saved myself the trouble of typing four whole characters. Still, it was part of my new credo, trying new things. I'd tried it, and I very definitely did not like it. LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn't made for illiteracy; it simply didn't come naturally. Although it's good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it's also extremely important to stay true to who you really are. I read that in a magazine at the hairdressers.

 

I went into this expecting the next Where'd You Go, Bernadette -- it's "quirky," "wacky" "hilarious" "warm and funny" "warm and uplifting", Honeyman is the next Fredrik Backman, etc. I did not find it. I'm not sure I laughed at anything -- I might have smiled at something sweet, but nothing more amusing than the above quotation. Do I think I'd have liked it more if it had been funny? Probably not. I probably wouldn't have read it, however, if I hadn't thought it was. This is not a bad thing, not every book has to be funny. I'm just saying I went in expecting a chuckle, a wry smile, something amusing and didn't get that.

 

Instead I got a sad, but ultimately nice story about a poor, lonely, shy and socially awkward woman dealing with her personal (and repressed) demons the best she could -- which really wasn't all that well. I didn't find her amusing, I pitied her. I felt bad for her. I got annoyed when people made fun of her. And I wanted her to figure her life out so she could be an amusing character.

 

Eleanor is 30, has been doing the same job as a finance clerk for a graphic design firm since she got out of university -- she goes to work, talks to her "mummy" Wednesday evenings, gets a frozen pizza, some wine on Fridays and knocks off two bottles of vodka each weekend (spread throughout Saturday and Sunday so that she's "neither drunk nor sober"), then repeats the cycle. it's not much but it's her life and she's fine with that.

 

Her life goes in that way with very little variance for about a decade, until she's befriended by an IT worker, Raymond, in her company. Through him, and other accidents, she meets people. She also does things like get a smartphone, go online for things non-work related, and sorta cyber-stalks a musician. Shortly before meeting Raymond, she'd attended a concert of some local bands (won tickets in a drawing at work) and became infatuated-at-first-sight with a singer -- in the way that a thirteen year-old girl does when encountering NKOTB/'NSync/One Direction/insert your time-appropriate band. Eleanor's childhood was such that she delayed this stage until now. On the one hand, I thought this was a great instigation for Eleanor's life to change, but man, I kept cringing every time the story came back to it.

 

Minor, very minor, spoilers: Her social life is the best it's ever been, things are picking up at work, but there's this delayed adolescence thing lurking -- all the while she's having problems with mummy. Things go horribly, horribly, horribly awry -- but then there's a chance for her to put her life together again, and maybe discover what went wrong in her very bad childhood, so that she can have a better adulthood.

 

The characters are well-drawn, well-executed, and pretty realistic. The situations -- all of them -- ring true. Honeyman can write really well. I thought the story moved well, and the reveals, the twists, the heart-warming moments (and the tragic ones) were all spot-on. I just didn't enjoy the book that much, it wasn't bad, it wasn't great. It, like the title character, was completely fine.

 

Your mileage may vary -- and judging by reviews (professional and otherwise), sales, and attention this book is getting, there's a great chance you'll think I'm out to lunch on this. I may be.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/15/eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine-by-gail-honeyman-fines-a-good-word-for-this-novel-about-a-lonely-woman
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review 2018-08-01 02:33
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

This is my RL's book club selection for August, and seeing as how I skipped the last two (one of which I genuinely forgot about), I felt obliged to give this a chance.  Luckily a friend and fellow BC member loaned me her copy.

 

I actually DNFd it at the end of chapter 2.  Put it down and actually said out loud, 'no, I'm not reading this crap'.  Scenarios of possible book club meeting outcomes played through my head and my inner voice said 'you really haven't read enough to justify your ire'.  So, I made myself pick it up again.

 

Is this a compelling story?  Yes, it absolutely is.  I tore through the book in one sitting yesterday.  There's a lot of talent in the writing and the telling.  

 

There were just two problems for me:  1. I just didn't like a lot of it.  This is subjective, of course; the story just isn't my thing.   2. The story was fundamentally flawed because there were a number of basic inconsistencies to Eleanor's character.  These inconsistencies aren't subjective and can't be explained away by story events, even though the story events are horrific enough to allow for plenty of inconsistent behaviour.

 

Eleanor is, from the beginning, framed as a super-rational, automaton-like woman with a very expansive vocabulary, a formality of speech that approaches legalese, a scrupulously balanced diet, and a perfectly timed, strictly adhered to routine.  She hoards prescription pain meds, and goes through 2 full bottles of vodka every weekend.  Fine so far in terms of consistency.  

 

But then she meets Raymond, who smokes, and she wastes no time telling him in detail why smoking is vile and unhealthy; when he comments on her knowledge, she tells him its because she considered taking up smoking but as she always researches everything before trying anything, she discarded the idea.  Now, if she researches everything, and discarded smoking because it's detrimental to health, then a personality such as Elenor's would also research alcohol and likewise refrain from systematically drinking 2 large bottles every weekend.

 

I understand cracks in the facade, but really, Eleanor is so rigid at the start you question whether she's on the autistic spectrum; it implies a level of personal discipline that doesn't allow for vodka flavoured cracks.

 

Eleanor's past is a dark and pretty horrific one (Trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse), but she wasn't raised in isolation.  In fact she's in the foster system from the age of 10, so it's stretching the bounds of incredulity when she visits a McDonalds for the first time and describes a filet o' fish sandwich as though she were an alien visitor to this planet, saying it was her very first visit to a fast food establishment and how she finds fast food repellent and unhealthy.  Hard to believe when you've spent 7 years in a Foster care system that you've never experienced fast food, but, ok.  Where the real inconsistency lies is when she goes home and has spaghetti hoops for dinner, which I'm assuming are the British version of spaghetti-o's, a particularly vile nutritional wasteland in a can.  

 

At one point later on, she comments on someone wearing jeans and jean jacket, saying she never knew you could turn denim in to a suit.  A small thing I'd not have noticed, except I was already inclined to rack up inconsistencies.  She grew up in London and she's now living in a large Scottish city and she finds someone wearing jeans and a jean jacket odd?  I'd have said on any random night in any metropolitan city, a denim ensemble would be amongst the least of the outstanding sartorial choices.  There's no way you walk through a major city for 7 years and find jeans and denim jacket weird.

 

At the end - and this is purely an outright editing error - there are two news articles dated about 6 weeks apart.  The first one says something along the lines of "the victim, aged 10, cannot be named because of privacy laws" (she said it better, but I don't have the book at hand).  The very next article proceeds to name her - first and last name - multiple times.  Guess that underage privacy law was repealed in those 6 weeks.

 

There's a massive plot twist (this is a HUGE spoiler - you've been warned):

Sixth-sense style, which I caught early on and had confirmed halfway through when someone asked Eleanor where her mother was and she said "I don't know".

(spoiler show)

 

So it's a compelling story, but a very inconsistent one.  A book that relies as heavily as this one does on emotional extremes deserved to have had a much more pedantic editor, as befits a pedantic character.  Eleanor had a horrific childhood and is broken in more than a few places, but she lived in the world; participated in it, yet we're presented with a character who might as well be a newly arrived visitor to planet Earth.  Even though I liked Eleanor, and found her funny, and agreed with her views on text-speak, I just couldn't buy into her reality.  Like Eleanor, I value consistency, and this story just wasn't.

 

Your mileage may vary.

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