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review 2018-07-17 01:55
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick (Vintage Classics) - Herman Melville

I've been trying to read Moby-Dick for years, abandoning it many times since high school. When asked to set up a book club for those wanting to tackle the big classics, I couldn't do anything but pick the most large, 'uge, magnificent book ever written.

And, having finally finished it, it's OK. I see why people invest so much energy into this work and enjoy parsing it out, but in the end I would have preferred a little more sailing adventure and less arcane mythological references and asides. Melville had a plan and he followed through with his deconstruction of the novel by constructing an even larger novel around its architectural corpse.

There were passages of brilliant intensity and longing, rewarding humor, wide progressive streaks on race, relgion and sexuality, and romantic squeezes in the spermacetti, but the dull implacability of much of the novel was too intense for me. We were quite torn up about the book at the meeting, but we all agreed that the foreskin helmet was awesome.

'Moby-Dick' is something you have to read for yourself, if you want to. Like with everything, I suppose, your mileage may vary and you might not want to invest the energy needed to break into a novel like this, and that's OK. I gave it a solid 65% of my attention and appreciated it, but its not for everyone.

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review 2018-07-05 08:43
The Trouble with Thirteen
The Trouble With Thirteen - Betty Miles

Well, that was an embarrassingly devastating re-read.  It's been ... a number of decades (which I refuse to think about), since this book was relevant to me, but I couldn't resist when I found a copy.  I remembered nothing about it save it was one of those books I read as a pre-teen.

 

This isn't so much a story, as it is a snapshot of a moment in time that's nothing but constant change for any tween, but poor Annie and Rachel get hit with a trifecta of monumental changes all in a few short months.  Best friends and neighbours since nursery school, Rachel's parents are divorcing and moving her to NYC.  This is a snapshot, as told from the POV of a 12 year old, of the way life's changes are often completely outside your control, happening whether you like it or not.

 

Honestly, this book made me a weepy, sniffly mess.  I can't believe how relevant it is at its core after almost 40 years.  There's a conversation on a landline, something most kids won't recognise today, but the rest of this very short story entirely focuses on the things that are timeless: friendship, jealousy, guilt, sorrow, it's all here.  There're no quick answers or fixes offered, just a very empathetic narrative that doesn't talk down or preach (although I suspect the writing style would be considered too simplistic in comparison to today's titles).  I'd have no hesitation giving this to my nieces if and when it's relevant - along with a packet of tissues, just in case.

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review 2018-07-02 02:48
White Colander Crime
White Colander Crime (A Vintage Kitchen Mystery) - Victoria Hamilton

I read and listened to this book and I was not happy with some of the sections of the audio where the narrator was trying to sound shocked or surprised. It sounded harsh and startling and I was flinching at the sound. 

 

On the whole, the story, set at Christmas time in Queensville, MI, was pretty interesting. It was a later book in the series and could be read out of order (since that is what I did). The town is opening an old house for tourists to see how things were in historic times and having Dickinsonian Festival. A young woman who was hunting for a missing woman thinks she is a better detective than Jamie and tells her so. She also wrote in a diary and pushes the man she wants to cause trouble by saying things that upset him, causing him to lash out physically. Jamie is pushed into doing her own investigation for the paper she works for because the editor of the paper knows that her son did not murder the young woman and she wants Jamie to prove it. Also, Jamie is dating a man with a child and she is feeling that relationship along. This was more romance than I really get into. 

 

I have another by this author that I will read and listen to and just giving it another chance. 

 

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review 2018-06-22 15:34
The Lost Vintage
The Lost Vintage - Ann Mah

"And suddenly I knew- as sure as the laws of chemistry- that remaining passive is no longer prudence.  It has become cowardice."


Kate is attempting to pass the demanding Master of Wine examination in order to move up in her career in California.  When the restaurant she works for closes suddenly, she takes her mentor's advice to return to the land of her roots- and her family's vineyard in Burgundy to brush up on her French wines. While staying with her brother and sister-in-law, Kate once again comes in contact with neighbor and once fiancee, Jean-Luc.  To clear her mind, Kate agrees to help clean out the family cave or basement.  While sifting through a hefty amount of junk Kate finds many items from an unknown family member, Helene Marie Charpin. Kate is rebuffed by her Uncle when she asks about Helene.  However, a trip to the library gives a clue about the family secret, Helene was prosecuted as a collaborator during WWII.  This sends Kate and sister-in-law Heather on a hunt to uncover the truth.  While digging, they also uncover a secret cave, untouched since the war and filled with priceless vintage wines.


A family secret, a historical mystery and a romance round out The Lost Vintage. This story has many notes that were brought together like a fine wine.  I was drawn in by the beauty of France, the descriptions of the vineyards, grapes, wines and traditions.  Then I was intrigued by Kate's broken romance with Jean-Luc.  Then the historical mystery found me and I was captivated by Helene and her long lost journal.  Lastly, the suspense of tracking down the missing wine pulled me in even further.  The point of view switched between Kate and Helene's journal, I am a sucker for dual-time stories, so this suited me perfectly.  The plot did pick up for me when Helene's mystery was introduced.  I enjoyed learning more about the French resistance as well as the 'horizontal collaborators' and their fate.  Helene's story made me think about our choices for survival, making this a relevant story for many people during the present. I was pleased to find out that Helene's story was inspired by Resistor, Agnes Humbert, who I will be looking farther into.  Overall, an intricate story that mixes past with present, romance and mystery for a delectable read.


This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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review 2018-06-20 16:41
The Nice and the Good
The Nice and the Good (Vintage Classics) - Iris Murdoch,Catherine Bates

This might officially be my last Iris Murdoch novel. 

 

As with Fitzgerald's short stories, there was a time when I loved Murdoch's novels but the last couple of times I've read her books, I didn't enjoy them much at all ... Granted, the messed up relationship games in A Severed Head did nothing to endear the book to me, but even this one here (The Nice and the Good) is struggling to spark any enthusiasm in me. And I'd be happy to skip much of the relationship-babble and stick to finding out why the Whitehall official shot himself (or did he?).

The trouble is, by focusing on the mystery part, I'm going to miss Murdoch's point, which, inevitably, is not going to be about solving the puzzle. 

 

Saying that, will this story about a set of well-off members of a rather homogeneous section of society that is really similar to the sets of characters in Murdoch's other books really reveal any new aspects of Murdoch's writing? Unlikely.  

 

I've dithered for the last 30 pages whether to finish this one or move on to something I am likely to enjoy more, and I don't believe this book will ultimately hold the same magic for me as the novels that introduced Murdoch to me initially.

 

DNF @ 135 out of 350 pages.

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