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Search tags: general-fiction
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review 2018-06-19 07:58
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

A pleasant, well-written, if sometimes heavy-handed, story of love and romance after 60.  That sounds a bit milquetoast, but that's not what the book is; it may not have stirred my soul, but it was easy to pick up and hard to put down.  

 

Small village, small minds, race relations and a dying class system set the scene for a plot that is not unpredictable. But Simonson excels at writing rich characters that come alive on the page; the only time she failed for me was Roger.  Roger had no redeeming qualities and should have been disinherited posthaste.  Otherwise, the characters are what make the story.

 

A very solid 4 stars.

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review 2018-06-17 09:35
Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (The Penguin English Library) - Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this - I think I first heard about it from a mention by Themis-Athena, but had to await its publication here before reading it.  It's a slim tome, but packed; at 104 pages, what I originally thought would be a fast read instead took me a couple of days, despite my being absorbed in it.

 

Mostly, it's a celebration of gardens, the outdoors, and nature, as written by one new to all of it.  But buried in the narrative, structured loosely like a diary, are moments of scathing wit, social commentary, and on the part of her husband, not a little misogyny.  Elizabeth and her German Garden was originally published in 1898 and though its language is of the time, Elizabeth is refreshingly modern.  Her thoughts, attitude, and personality are in almost all ways indistinguishable from the average 21st century woman's voice.  I loved her and her scathing, dry wit.

 

My only complaint about the book is it was slightly too short.  After lamenting two years of summer droughts that kept her in suspense of her garden's potential, the book ends at the very start of April and spring; I desperately want to know if she finally got to see her garden in all its glory!  Did the yellow border work out?  Enquiring minds are left hanging!

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review 2018-06-11 00:14
Book: A Novel
Book: A Novel - Robert Grudin

This book is super weird.  I can't describe it, so I'm including the book's description:

 

The English department at the University of Washagon is in a uproar. Professor Adam Snell - humanist, scholar, gadfly and faculty pariah - has disappeared without a trace.

 

Stranger still, all copies of his obscure but brilliant novel, Sovrana Sostrata, also seem to be missing.

 

Has Snell been murdered? Has his book been murdered? And, more important, if Snell is not dead, does his department have the power to fire him at his upcoming post-tenure review?

 

So begins Book, a hilarious academic caper that lampoons clever critical theorists, spoofs the New York book-publishing scene, parodies at least seventeen separate literary forms and unleashes Frank Underwood, a deranged theorist with a high-powered target pistol - and a pathological hatred for Adam Snell.

 

And that's just for starters.

 

Book also contains [...], a genetically engineered garden weed, a power-crazed, sexually dazed chairwoman, a novel accused of rape and a revolt of footnotes that halts the text.

 

Honestly, the footnotes are the BEST part of this book.  For too short a time, they are the Aeslin mice of weird academic satire.  They alone are responsible for the extra 1/2 star.  1/2 star was deducted because of violence against animals - the scene was abrupt, short and shocking.  It was over before I realised it happened; otherwise, I'd have DNF'd on the spot.  Grudin didn't need to include it to make the story work, so I'm left with feeling like a brilliant, funny book is badly dinged by the gratuitous violence.  I'm also rating 1/2 star generously, because satire does not always come easy to me, so some of the things that felt off to me, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt; I might have just missed the point.

 

Otherwise, the book was just weird.  Weird and fun.  The third person narrator is Grudin himself, telling the story about Adam Snell, who also interacts directly with the reader.  The chapters of narrative are interspersed with chapters of what can only be described as randomness, but I found if I just went with it, it worked.  The randomness was often amusing, sometimes pertinent to the story, and provided a nice breather - much like putting a book down would do, but without losing your sense of place.  Between each chapter are small sections relating the history of books and bookselling, excerpted from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  

 

I really don't know how to describe it with any accuracy, but it's a great read, especially if you have spent any time working in higher education; the university politics and personalities are spot-on.  But if you don't like, or are not in the mood for, non-traditional story structure, you might want to give this book a pass.  The author plays with the story's structure, makes it part of the satire and humor, and if a loosey-goosey structure isn't your thing, Book: A Novel is going to irritate you.

 

And really, this might be the only book you'll find a footnote proclaiming: "Call me Ishmael. I was once Melville's footnote."

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review 2018-06-06 23:38
THE PILOT'S WIFE by ANITA SHREVE
The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve

Audiobook

I wish Melanie Griffith would have narrated other books because she does a fantastic job. Her voice is a little gritty and is just wonderful to listen to.

The story itself I really enjoyed but mentions of the SPOILER!! IRA - Irish Republican Army  really date it. I was thinking, oh year, I remember there were problems with them in the 1990s. I just enjoyed the whole book front to back. 5 stars.

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review 2018-05-21 22:33
THE IMMORTALISTS by CHLOE BENJAMIN
The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin

Audiobook

I kept putting off requesting this book because I stopped reading family sagas in the early 1980s. But I kept reading the blurb over and over and finally thought why not. This book was so good! It's about 4 brothers and sisters and their life from an encounter with a psychic until their death. I liked that it didn't jump around between them but had four parts for each person. The family itself was so sad. All of the stuff they did or should have done, I just wanted to grab the fictional person by the shoulders and tell them that they matter. I loved the ending. I would definitely recommend this book.

Maggie Hoffman did a great job with the narration - both the men and women, young and old.

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