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review 2018-11-18 07:51
The Road to Cardinal Valley (Cardinal Valley duology, #2)
The Road to Cardinal Valley - Earlene Fowler

Where to start with why I didn't like this book.  Let's start with the fact that I was invested in the characters from the beginning.  I cared about what happened to them and after the last book I felt confident that things would work out as the author led this reader to believe.

 

Then she yanked the rug out from under me.  I don't like authors to set up relationships only to start jerking them around.  Call me dull, but I like a certain ... not predictability, but continuity.  So nothing was going to end up the way she led me to believe at the end of the first book.  Certain heartbreak - most undeserved - was on the cards for a major character, when suddenly the author introduces, if not an outright deus ex machina, then one hell of a coincidence, and happiness ever after is magically guaranteed for everyone.  Even I had a hard time swallowing this one.

 

The Road to Cardinal Valley focuses on Ruby's dysfunctional mess of a younger brother, an alcoholic with hepatitis who has no desire to sober up.  What follows is just enough codependency to thoroughly irritate me.  I could care less about Ruby's brother by about mid-way, but in another stretch-too-far, it all works out in the end with an act of redemption that coincidentally solves everyone's problems.  

 

Earlene Fowler writes a top-notch mystery that I'd happily recommend to anyone who likes traditional mysteries with strong, heartfelt characters.  But she was definitely trying something new here and, for me at least, it just didn't work.

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review 2018-11-18 07:36
The Saddlemaker's Wife (Cardinal Valley duology, #1)
The Saddlemaker's Wife - Earlene Fowler

I love Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper mystery series, but shied away from this book for years because it sounded sappy.  It wasn't sappy, but I still didn't like it much.  Even though I knew from reading the acknowledgments in her Benni Harper books that she is a vocal Christian (not in a bad way - just an active credit to her faith front and center in  each book - I did not know this one and its follow up would have a concentration of faith and Christianity as part of its storyline.  

 

It wasn't too heavy handed, and the author made sure the characters were non-judgemental and weren't too picky what the 'higher power' was called, but it still wasn't my jam.  It's not that I'm an atheist; I'm not.   But I am cynical; the more you talk about it, the more apt I am to to think you're trying too hard.

 

So, I wasn't inclined to enjoy the story, although I did, like all the author's other books, become invested in the characters and this is what kept me reading.  A lot of characters were American Indian, which added a more realistic roundness to the community of Cardinal Valley.  And the story's 'mystery' was pretty damn shocking.  Mostly because I wasn't expecting this to be a story that went in that direction, but also because Fowler's other work avoided the decidedly less functional dynamics that happen when people have too much power and influence.  Everything about this story was tragic.

 

In retrospect, I probably liked this book more than my rating suggests.  I read the second one before I wrote this and I'm pretty sure it coloured my feelings about this book.  The story here was compelling and the book ended on a hopeful note.  Unfortunately, it ends with unresolved issues, making the second book necessary if closure for the reader is a priority and well... I didn't like the second book.

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review 2018-11-05 06:45
FATE PLAYS ITS HAND IN OUR LIVES
The Biology of Luck - Jacob M. Appel

This is one of the oddest novels that I've ever read. At 207 pages, it isn't taxing on the reader's time and, on the whole, is well-written. 

'THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK' is set in New York City around the end of the 20th century and into the first few years of the 21st century. It's either a story within a story or rather, a story superimposed upon another, which is perhaps closer to the truth because they are both centered on 2 of the novel's central characters.

 

Larry Bloom is a guy in his 30s who works as a NYC tour guide. He's nondescript and would be seen by most people as unattractive and unremarkable because he is, and he knows that. But there is a woman he has known as a friend for 2 years with whom he has fallen in love. For her, he has written a novel -- part of which is played out across several chapters carrying within their titles the words 'The Biology of Luck - Chapter -- by Larry Bloom' --- which revolves upon her and one which Bloom sent to a major publishing company, who had sent him a letter by way of reply - a letter he has yet to open; Bloom hopes it will be 'the Ace up his sleeve' in his bid to win her heart. The woman of Bloom's dreams is Starshine Hart, a 29 year old woman noted for her beauty and for moving to the beat of a different drummer. 

Bloom's hopes for lasting happiness or everlasting despair hinges on a date he has with Starshine at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. 

For any reader of this review with the slightest curiosity as to what 'THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK' is about, the following remarks from the book, I think, best sum up what it's about: "A day that began on the sleepy streets of Harlem will end in a dash to the finish. The soles of Larry's feet throb after hours of walking; his throat burns from wasted words; his clothes bear the scars of smoked eel and pickled herring. In less than twelve hours, he has saved the life of a pompous buffoon, failed to rescue a beautiful maiden, and abandoned a corpse to the mercies of the news media. An overbearing journalist has kidnapped his bouquet. ... It has been the most traumatic day Larry has ever experienced, a whirlwind of dreams extinguished and hopes renewed, but what makes this snippet of June so inconceivable is that the two greatest challenges are still to come. He may yet be an author. ... All depends on whether Starshine, glorious Starshine, will wait for him."

On the whole, 'THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK' is a decent novel. But not one to get overly excited about.

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text 2018-10-29 20:09
Reading progress update: I've read 103 out of 350 pages.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Díaz

Working on checking books off the Great American Read list. Been wanting to read this one for a long time and finally getting to it.

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text 2018-10-22 12:04
Reading progress update: I've read 84 out of 176 pages.
Summer Morning, Summer Night - Ray Bradbury

Did I just read a story about a serial killer? Or what? Colour me baffled...

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