Archive | September, 2013

Revolutions and the Sea

24 Sep

Every so often I come across a book that is lovely and quiet. Does that makes sense? The sort of slowly unfolding character drama in which not TOO much actually happens, but reading it is like the perfect almost-fall weather – refreshing, sunny, invigorating. Books that I lump into this category (sort of few and far between) are Burning Marguerite by Elizabeth Inness Brown, Jamesland by Michelle Hunevan and Highest Tide by Jim Lynch.

Jamesland390h      burning marguerite     Tide-210

Susanna Daniel’s Sea Creature has made that list. I loved it – but in a quiet sort of way. It’s the story of a woman named Georgia who moves back to her hometown of Miami with her husband Graham and their 4 year old son, Frankie. They buy a houseboat and dock it in a canal, tethered to the dock in Georgia’s father’s backyard. Slowly things unfold. Graham is plagued by terrible insomnia – parasomnia, actually – that leads to horrible sleepwalking incidents. Not in a funny way, in a sad way. Frankie, once a normal gurgling toddler, has forsaken speech. He communicates using sign language and gestures. Settling in to their new watery digs, Georgia takes a job running errands for a recluse/hermit who lives in a house on stilts in the middle of a quiet canal. His name is Charlie. He’s older. He’s a bit grumpy. He’s also an incredible artist, sketching all things sea-related. As the story evolves, a lovely friendship develops between Charlie and the young Frankie. It was really beautiful. Of course more stuff happens, and things really pick up pace at the end. I have a feeling a lot of why I loved this novel had to do with my mood (relaxing and ready for fall/chillier air). But really. It was good.

Sea Creatures

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I also read two graphic novels about China’s Boxer Rebellion. Not my usual style, but they went so fast and I knew nothing about the Boxer Rebellion. Probably appropriate for Middle School/High School. There are lots of fight scenes. I don’t have much more to say about these. Except to say that the Boxers side of the story was infinitely better, for me, than the Saints side.

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Reader’s Retreat

16 Sep

This is going to be a jam-packed post! I just walked in the door from the best, most relaxing weekend in Cabo with my sweet cousin/maid of honor. And it was everything I wanted – lounging on the beach, flying through books, laughing. So perfect. And because I’m in that weird post-travel mood that makes sleep seem impossible, I thought I’d just whip up a post. There are so many – the descriptions will be short!

crane wifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness got me most of the way to Cabo. It was the first one I grabbed because I so loved his middle-reader novel The Monster Calls. And this one didn’t disappoint! It reminded me of Jonathan Safran Foer or Vaclav and Lena or maybe even Paul Auster. Basically that just means it felt creative and hip and intricate. Quick overview: George Duncan, American Expat in London, is divorced and lonely and running a print shop. One night, he is awoken by a “keening” coming from his backyard. Upon investigation, he finds it to be coming from an injured crane – a crane with an arrow through its wing. He heals it – it flies off. The next morning, a mysterious woman named Kumiko walks into his print shop, and the two create this sort of amazing duo. Loosely based on the japanese folk tale of the crane wife – I thought it was very good.

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how to be a good

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman is maybe the only book I’ve ever read where, upon finishing, I’ve thought “That would’ve been much better as a movie.” The blurbs make it out to be comparable to Room or Before I Go to Sleep (by SJ Watson) – and I can see that. It was the perfect thing to breeze through on the beach, a really fast frantic read. Quick synopsis: Marta, our narrator, is dealing with what at first seems to be an extreme case of Empty Nest Syndrome. Her only son Kylan has moved on/out of the house she shares with her husband Hector. Things are complicated as we learn that there are pills she should be taking, and isn’t. And more complicated when she starts to have intense visions of a girl who appears to be abused/in trouble. It’s one of those where you can’t really trust the narrator, but you can’t really trust anyone else.

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bellman&black

AH I was so excited to get my hands on this. The official release date is October 8th, so it’ll be a few weeks before this hits the shelves. And crashes and burns? Maybe not that extreme. There was a huge chunk in the first half that I really liked, but overall I was unimpressed with this long-awaited second novel from Diane Setterfield (following The Thirteenth Tale, which I loved). It reminded me of a not-so-magical In The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon. Quick synopsis: Will Bellman seems to have it all – beautiful, loving wife, perfect children, successful career running a mill. But perhaps because of a small, cruel act committed as a child, he is doomed to lose it all. The serious of catastrophes that plague his adult life begin with the appearance of a man in black – a man who begins to haunt Will’s waking thoughts. He makes a deal with the devil, so to speak, and his life is set off on a darkly course. I wanted so much more!

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return

The Return by Michael Gruber is the manliest book I’ve read in a while. If you are looking for a fast, smart, manly book for a husband/brother/father/etc this is a good one to look at. Quick synopsis: Richard Marder finds out that he is dying of cancer. So he buys a camper, cashes out vast amounts of stock profits (that no one knew he had), buys a massive estate in the drug capital of Mexico, and heads south of the border in a camper loaded with guns, ammo and cashola. Along for the ride is an old, sketchy friend from Nam naked Skelly. Chapter by chapter, the reasons behind Marder’s strange journey are exposed. There are lots of gun fights, drug deals, Nam flashbacks and back-stabbings. I’m only giving this 3 stars because it’s just not my kind of a read – but I know some guys who’ve read it and given it 5.

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thursday's in the parkOn the complete opposite end of the spectrum sits Hilary Boyd’s Thursdays in the ParkA huge bestseller in the UK, I was curious about this sweet looking novel. Again, it’s fast. And a perfectly lovely read. It very much reminded me of Jeanne Ray’s Julie and Romeo – a second-chance-at-love story. A woman who has been married for 40 years is struggling to understand her husband. And her son-in-law, and maybe her daughter too. Or maybe they are all just struggling to understand her. Every Thursday afternoon finds her at the park with her sweet granddaughter and one fateful Thursday she meets and befriends a man there with his grandson. And the two strike up a charming relationship across an array of Thursdays, bringing a lot of different issues to a head in her life. I read this one just before my trip – and don’t have it in front of me so am struggling to recall names!

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husband's secretHere is one I really enjoyed. I gave this to my cousin first (because it looks fluffy and she likes that sort of thing for vacation reading, as do I), and she hardly came up for air. Quick synopsis: Cecilia (Tupperware saleslady, most together woman on the block, perfect wife/mother) comes across a letter amidst her husband’s things in the attic that says on the outside of the sealed envelope “For my wife Cecelia, to be read upon my death.” Jean-Paul, her husband, away on business, laughs over the phone when she mentions it to him and tells Cecelia to just throw it away, that it’s an embarrassing love letter he wrote upon the birth of their first daughter. But when he flies home early and frantically searches for it – Cecelia decides to read it. And her life changes! So good! There are two other story lines, the stories of two other women, and all three intersect in such great ways.

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margotMargot is the imagined story of Anne Frank’s sister – had she escaped the concentration camps and made her way to Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. Everyone assumes she died in the camps, and she lives in secret as Margie Franklin, straight-laced secretary for a defense attorney (who always wears sweaters, even in the hot summers, to hide the number tattooed on her arm). I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. With only a vague recollection of Anne Frank’s Diary, I’m sure I was missing out on some things, but I still really enjoyed this late 1950s tale.

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Bobcat-by-Rebecca-Lee

And, last but not least, Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee. With only a short flight that needed filling, I opted for this collection of short stories. I’m not a huge short story reader, but have been reading more of late. It was the perfect thing for a bit of a layover and then a flight from Denver. If you like short stories, you should read it. If not – you can probably let this one slide (not like News from Spain, which everyone should read, short-story lover or hater).

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This is probably two much for one post – and if I ever have a reading weekend like this again, I’m going to split it up!

Reading into 2014

5 Sep

ghostofmarycelest

I’ve been in a noticeable reading slump. Thankfully, the end is in sight! To get me back on the reading track, I grabbed The Ghost of Mary Celeste, recommended/gifted to me by a brilliant bookseller. It doesn’t come out until January of 2014 (only 4 months away? crazy) so don’t get too excited, but definitely watch for this one, or get in line at the library! 

I guess I’d call this a nautical mystery. Hmm or maybe a Victorian mystery? Sherlockian? I’ll think about it. It starts off in such an amazingly haunting way – young bride Maria is accompanying her husband at sea, something not uncommon for a captain’s wife. The Brig is a sturdy vessel, but happens into a great storm and Maria is cast overboard. Her husband dives in after her and both are tragically lost at sea, leaving a young son behind on the mainland. From this point on, Maria’s family seems cursed. To give any more details would be to spoil the lovely way the novel unfolds, so I won’t. But it goes everywhere – into the new Spiritualist movement, into the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, and of course, out to sea. The Ghost of Mary Celeste can probably be compared to Geraldine Brooks (one of my favorites) but it’s not quite so seamless. 

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