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review 2018-02-21 17:53
Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan
Lost & Found - Jacqueline Sheehan

This book was dripping in sadness and grief. It didn’t make me weepy or a sobbing mess but I did read it with a constant pain in my chest almost the entire time. First it was for Rocky and then it was for Lloyd and later it was for the both of them! I wasn’t quite expecting to have this reaction but dog books can do that to me.

Things start out on a sad note when the author throws you headfirst into the life and grief of Rocky who has recently lost her husband to a heart attack far too early. It’s sad and her recollections of her beloved Bob are often quite funny which makes the grief hit you all that much harder. Unable to stick around in the house where she and Bob shared a life, she decides to leave her career and her life completely behind and hops a ferry in Portland, Maine and heads to Peaks Island to mourn. She reinvents herself on the island and impulsively becomes the new Animal Control Warden. 

I’ve been to Peaks and it is a little slice of yesterday and I enjoyed reading about life on the island and the descriptions almost make you feel like you are there. The rest of the book follows Rocky through her grieving process as she meets new people and becomes invested in the life of an injured stray dog with sad eyes she names Lloyd. You can guess what happens between Rocky and Lloyd, right? But all doesn’t go smoothly nor does it go sweetly. Lloyd has a history that Rocky is soon sorry she’s delved into. There’s a little mystery and a lot of quirky character building. It’s a little slow here and there and took me longer to finish than it should have but I’m not sorry I read it. If you’re a dog lover you might want to put this on your list.

“He is dog. His life is ocean, stick, ball, sand, grass, ride in the truck, sleep by the bed, look deep into the eyes of humans, lure them outdoors, greet them with a burst of joy when they come home, love them. Fill this brief life with more. “

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url 2018-02-21 06:28
MALINI CHAUDHRI's SIGNATURE BLOG

This is the signature blog of Malini Chaudhri covering favored book reviews on Goodreads, her personal narrratives on the inspiration behind her works and her authors interviews and her blog posts.

 

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review 2018-02-21 05:53
Review: Changing Planes, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Changing Planes - Eric Beddows,Ursula K. Le Guin

Changing Planes is a delightful book.  It delights me.

This anthropological tour through some of the stranger societies in the multiverse begins by explaining its basic premise: Airports are not only portals to other terrestrial cities, but also to other dimensions.  Interplanar travel requires no machine or vehicle, no magical incantations or special knowledge.  The remarkably simple method was developed by one Sita Dulip, who discovered it when her flight out of Chicago was delayed several times and finally canceled.  Trapped, exhausted, uncomfortable, and bored, she realized that:

By a mere kind of twist and a slipping bend, easier to do than to describe, she could go anywhere - be anywhere - because she was already between planes.



(Normally, I would have no truck with any book whose premise was based on such a ridiculous pun - but over the years I have made a few grudging exceptions to this policy.)

The rest of the book is divided into fifteen short stories - or really, ethnographies - about life on the different planes.  Some of them are moral allegories, some are social satires, some portray strange and unsettling alien philosophies.  None of the chapters have much plot to speak of, but they are all fascinating vignettes.  The formula is essentially: "Let me tell you a few things about the people of _____."

Despite this common approach, the stories are fairly diverse in style and theme.  Four of the standouts highlight some of the different tacks Le Guin takes:

Seasons of the Ansarac is an ethnographic description of the migratory people of Ansar.  On a plane where each season lasts for six of our years, the people spend spring and summer raising children in idyllic northern homesteads before heading south to the vibrant cities every fall and winter.  Le Guin's detailed description of Ansarac folkways is fascinating, but the story takes a darker turn when visitors from another plane (one similar to ours) arrive, convince the Ansarac that they are primitive, backward, and hormone-driven, and offer to help them adopt a modern lifestyle.

Great Joy satirizes the American obsession with meaningless holiday kitsch, describing a privately-owned plane where one island is always Christmas, one the 4th of July, one New Year's Eve, and so on.  This plane's sickly-sweet candy coating covers a horrifying system of slavery and exploitation - not that Christmas-loving midwestern Cousin Sulie and her fellow patrons give much of a shit about that.  "I just get right into the spirit just thinking about Christmas Island! Oh, it is just such a happy place!"

Wake Island is a cautionary dystopia about science gone awry.  Based on their theory that sleep is a vestigial trait that keeps most humans from accessing their latent genius, a group of scientists genetically design babies who need no sleep.  This is essentially the same premise as Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain, but Le Guin's aftermath is much more disturbing.

The Island of the Immortals is in many ways a horror story, cloaked in the guise of classic science fiction.  It reminds me quite a bit of the better works of H.G. Wells, where a lone traveler encounters a society he at first cannot understand - and then later wishes he never tried.  In this story, the narrator has heard of an island on the Yendian plane which is populated by immortals.  Curious to learn the secret of their longevity, she visits - only to find the locals quiet, standoffish, and oddly somber.  There are immortals among them, yes, but they are not what the narrator expects.  This is the story that has remained in my mind most vividly since I first read this book almost a decade ago.  It is, in my opinion, one of Le Guin's most powerful and thoughtful pieces.

~

Ursula K. Le Guin died last month; I reread this book in part as a memorial (and in part because I just love it so much).  Given her recent passing, this excerpt in particular struck me:

When I was twelve or thirteen, I used to plan what I'd wish for if they gave me three wishes. I thought I'd wish, 'I wish that having lived well to the age of eighty-five and having written some very good books, I may die quietly, knowing that all the people I love are happy and in good health.'



She was 88 when she died, and she wrote a great number of incredible books.  I hope that the rest of her wish came true as well.

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review 2018-02-21 05:26
Interesting premise, odd execution.
Grand Canyon - Vita Sackville-West

So this is a book that Vita Sackville-West (member of the Bloomsberry Group, sometimes lover of Virginia Woolf) wrote half way through the second world war. I had thought going in it had a similar premise to Farthing by Jo Walton, but no, in this book the Nazis conquered the UK and Ireland, and the US having won the Pacific War made peace with the Third Reich. The story follows a group of characters in a hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon, about a year after these events. The two main characters are both English expats living in the hotel, and there are US air force officers, a bunch of college kids, and a handful of other European refugees, plus the hotel staff. Some of them will be turn out to be Nazi Fifth Column, some will be up to no good in other ways, and war draws closer by the day.

 

Sounds exciting, right? Yeah, no. It wasn't. This is a short book, and it took my ten days to read it (granted I was busy for much of it, but still!).  The two main point of view characters spend massive amounts of page time hanging out and chatting, mostly about their opinions of the other characters, especially one of the college girls. Who does not and never will have anything whatsoever to do with the plot. At all. They also talk about their experiences during the war and current events, but seriously massive page time on stuff that isn't interesting and won't matter to the story.

 

The style is very dialogue heavy. Everyone gets long monologues either aloud or internal about their feelings about each situation, and absolutely none of it is anything a human being would ever say, though maybe it works for thoughts some of the time. There is also a good deal of racism directed at the black musician characters, including the N-word a couple times, and an ambivalent relationship with the Hopi characters.

 

However, for all that? I still found it absolutely fascinating. There are some SF elements in the uses of technology (there are supersonic heavy bombers in 1942, and undisclosed WMD that was used to defeat England, and underutilised technology that can draw electricity from the air ala Tesla), and then the last third has a strong fantasy element that I won't spoil but which was used to great effect. I also really liked a lot of the responses to trauma that the female PoV character was working through, and a lot of her interactions. A lot of the writing especially the descriptions of place and emotion were gorgeous.

 

I think if you're interested in the evolution of alternate histories, especially of WWII, or of Sackville-West. If you're going to be more interested in everything that's happening off page, you might find it incredibly frustrating.

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text 2018-02-21 00:24
Planning to read -- How do you feel?
A Natural History of the Romance Novel - Pamela Regis

When I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis about romance novels in 2000, this book was still three years in the future. Though I had an academic publisher interested in a book-length version of Half Heaven, Half Heartache, I never followed up on it and ultimately saw the Regis book as what mine would/might have been.  So my "book" sat on the shelf.

 

A few years ago, however, an odd set of circumstances brought my attention back to A Natural History, and so I bought a copy.  The opening pages took me aback.

 

Rather than "a natural history," the Regis book opened like just another post-modern analysis of a varied genre that the author didn't really know, understand, or care about.The University of Pennsylvania imprint, of course, hinted that the tone would be academic rather than popular, in rather stark contrast to UPenn's 1994 anthology of essays by actual romance novelists, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.

 

Romance novels don't write themselves; they are written by people -- usually women -- who have read other romance novels and other romantic novels and other novels written by other people.  The Happy Ever After (HEA) ending continues to be disparaged even as it's deemed absolutely essential to the genre, and even while readers and writers proclaim novels without HEA are still romances.

 

It's not enough to subject a few selected novels to a Procrustean post-modern literary analysis and declare that to be the natural history of an entire genre.

 

I'm not sure how many romance novels I've read.  More than a few hundred certainly.  I've written (through to the HEA) a dozen or so; the unfinished starts are uncountable.  There are great romance novels and there are horrible ones.  Some are well-written, some are not.  They are short, they are long.  They are contemporary, they are historical, they are futuristic.  They are sweet, they are sexy, they are erotic.

 

Romance novels, however, still don't get respect.  Pamela Regis's book was supposed to give the genre the respect it deserved.  As far as I can see, it fails rather miserably.

 

I didn't want that to be the case.  I wanted A Natural History of the Romance Novel to succeed.  I wanted to see my favorite books and authors given pride of place in a serious, detailed analysis of the good points and bad points.  That's not what this book is.

 

So, it all comes back to my little thesis.  I guess I have some major reading to do.

 

 

 

 

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