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review 2017-05-15 18:03
Knots not worth untangling
The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry

Copy obtained through local public library.  I don't know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.

 

I began reading the book a couple of weeks ago, but only got a few pages into it before being interrupted.  I set it aside, then went back and started over when I was sure I would have more time.  By page 103 of 385, I knew the struggle wasn't going to be worth it.  I always think it's my fault that a book isn't working, so I checked out some of the other reviews -- I almost never read reviews before I read the book -- and found I wasn't alone.

 

No spoilers here, because I didn't finish the book and I'm not likely to.

 

Towner Whitney, whose real name is Sophya, comes back to Salem, Massachusetts, after 15 years in California.  Her grandmother/great-aunt Eva has disappeared.  I think Towner was raised by Eva, but I'm not sure.  Towner admits she lies a lot, and also that she doesn't remember things well because she had a nervous breakdown after her sister Lyndley died.

 

I think Towner's mother is May, who lives on a little island and rescues abused women and their children, but the family relationships aren't really clear.  Auntie Emma is Eva's daughter, I think, but again I'm not sure.  Beezer is Towner's brother.

 

Quirky characters are great if you can keep them straight and each becomes a real person.  None of these people did, not even Towner.  Her quirks were too inconsistent, too unexplained.  She can read people's minds and she hears voices -- especially Eva's and Lyndley's -- and she can read lace (it's kind of like reading tea leaves or some such) but there doesn't seem to be any purpose to it.

 

Towner dwells on her mental illness but doesn't really seem to care very much about it.  She doesn't have any direction or motivation or even any emotion.  And yet I got the impression that she wanted people around her to care about her.  I'm not sure that that's the impression author Brunonia Barry intended to convey, but it's the one I got.

 

As a result, I just didn't like Towner, and it's difficult for me to continue to read a book when I don't give a shit about the main character.

 

The book is well written in the technical sense, and I'm assuming the details of Salem and its environs are accurate, but everything fell flat for me.  It's like a book that a bunch of ladies read for their Tuesday afternoon book club, and they all think it's wonderful and deep and literary and quirky, but they really don't understand it and aren't sure they even like it.  They read it to impress their friends.  The sexy parts embarrass them -- though to be honest, I hadn't encountered any really sexy parts in the first 103 pages -- or horrify them, but for the most part they really don't understand the sexy parts.  They read books like this because it makes them feel somehow superior, even though as soon as they reach the end and move on to the next book, this one is forgotten.

 

I'll probably forget it, too.

 

Also posted at

https://fearlesslyintelligent.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-lace-reader-by-brunonia-barry.html

and I may expand it there.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-12 22:18
Good Idea, Atrocious Execution
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe

 

The book has over 500 reviews on Amazon, with a 4.1 star average rating. The five-star ratings account for 41% of those, which is reasonably impressive.  My review isn't going to impact that very much, and that's not my intent.

 

This review will also be filled with spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

 

First major spoiler:  The dog is okay.  Nothing bad happens to him.  There's another spoiler about him later.

 

I finished the book, which is more than I do with many of the books I start.  Many of them don't hold me for two pages.  So there's that.

 

I liked the premise: Academic Connie Goodwin inherits her grandmother's old house in what was Salem Village, Massachusetts and goes on a search for a 300-year-old book with some connection to the Salem Witch Trials. 

 

The writing was competent, if a little heavy on the description.

 

That said, it wasn't long before I began to have problems even as I continued reading.

 

Connie is a young woman, in her early to mid 20s, and she has been in school virtually all her life.  The last few years in grad school have been by choice: she wants to continue to study and earn her PhD.  She doesn't come across, however, as a dedicated scholar.  Once she completes her oral exam and is cleared to begin her dissertation, she seems to forget all her academic training and lose all her scholarly motivation.  Is it because it's summer break?  It shouldn't be, because working on that dissertation should be her single primary focus now if she's truly dedicated to her scholarship.

 

However. . . .

 

She receives word from her mother Grace, a free spirit hippie type living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that the house that had belonged to Connie's grandmother, Sophia, needs to be prepared for sale after sitting vacant for 20 years since Sophia's death.  Since the house is in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and Connie is at Harvard in Cambridge, she is delegated to the task for the summer.  She heads there with her roommate Liz and her dog Arlo.

 

There's no real explanation for why the place wasn't sold when Sophia died or why it's being sold now.

 

It was at their arrival at the house that I lost my willing suspension of disbelief (WSOD).

 

 

The rest of the very lengthy review is at

 

 

https://fearlesslyintelligent.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-physick-book-of-deliverance-dane-by.html

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text 2016-10-18 17:33
Met one of my very favorite authors yesterday - Kimberly McCreight

Kimberly McCreight was doing a book signing at my local Barnes & Noble yesterday and I was so excited. She is the author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her. I absolutely loved both books. No one ever comes to my city so it was really cool. She talked about her process and her new book and she is really funny.

 

 

I purchased her new book Outliers and can't wait to start it. It takes place in Maine (which will work for my New England bingo square).  I highly recommend her books!!

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review 2016-09-22 00:58
'Salem's Lot - Stephen King

“The town kept its secrets, and the Marsten House brooded over it like a ruined king.”

 

The Marsten house called to me, invited me in and would not let me leave. In a record for me and the King, I read this in a couple of days. I loved every single page. A quirky little prodding of my subconscious (and probably a little nudge from my husband) had me picking up this book up after "The Haunting of Hill House" - a delicious decision given Jackson's inspiration to King. 

 

One of my biggest difficulties with the other Stephen King books I've read is that he details a scene or action so finely that ten minutes of narrative turns into a hundred pages. I think there were the beginning hallmarks of this style in 'Salem's Lot (just open the door, Ben! I don't want to know about the one other time you were this scared right now.), those moments were sparse. He kept to the action, the story clipped along at a nice pace.

 

I don't really want to detail anything about the book here because if anything is worth a blind read, it's this book. I don't even know if that is possible in this day with it's popularity and age. But I will say that this, this is the third (fourth?) King book I've read in which the heroes stand hand in hand against evil in the end. He has consistently shown me that he believes in a battle with the monsters, love may not get you through each fight unscathed, but that it will win the war. I don't think there is much more that I want in a book than that.

 

(Just in case that sounds too sweet and endearing... remember, this is a book of horror that absolutely plays on every fear you've ever had:

 

Being alone...

 

“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…”

 

The unknown...

 

“The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.”
 
The friggin' middle of the night...
 
“At three in the morning the blood runs slow and thick, and slumber is heavy. The soul either sleeps in blessed ignorance of such an hour or gazes about itself in utter despair. There is no middle ground.”
 
The list goes on. Proceed with caution, he's a master of his craft.)

 

 

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text 2016-09-10 17:06
Halloween Bingo Card Update! #6

Set in New England - The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green

 

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