Sept 12, 2015

The hot weather made it a great week for reading and I lucked out.  Both the The Care and Management of Lies and Mudbound were excellent and are likely to become Book Club favorites. As always I don’t give you a synopsis of the book here, just my opinion of the book and my rating of 1 to 5 stars. Click on the link and you can read the full description on Amazon.

This Is Your Life Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison – This is the story many women who grew up in the 50’s and married in the 60’s tell one another – but not until after their spouse has died. Marrying was the expected thing and not all marriages were perfect and not all pregnancies were blessed events but women were taught to endure and “put a good face on it” and they did.  Harriet Chance is 78 – the book would have been more believable if she’d been older – at least in her 90’s but then the timeline would have been off.  So despite the age thing – I’d recommend this book. ****

The Dream Box by Glen Vecchione – I like science fiction and this was a nice read.  The sensual cyborgs Omoo and Amaa have interesting, believable personalities which is something I like. The world created by Vecchione is interesting, and well drawn.  He has a created a society of sinister technologies where the future is threatened by the rising of the “savages”. ****

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear – written by the author of the Maisie Dobbs series this was my favorite book in this bunch.  It is a beautiful love story set against the damaged world of World War One.  Winspear uses family and friendship, the women’s suffrage movement, the horrors of life in the trenches and a book on household management to create unforgettable characters.  I can truly say that as I turned the last page I was sad to not have another whole book to read – I want to know what happens next.  *****

About Grace by Anthony Doerr – This is the first novel by the author of the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See. It was sad to watch David Winkler destroy is life. The writing is beautiful but it drags a bit.  ***

Mudbound by Hilary Jordan – A prize-winning debut, about the many forms of prejudice, both subtle and brutal. The story is placed in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 and the writing is authentic and thought-provoking.  It’s a story we’ve read before but it’s told in a great new voice and I think you’ll like it. *****

Gray Mountain – John Gresham

John Gresham is one of my favorite writers.  I expect a good story that moves along quickly where the bad guy loses and the good guy wins. All of that is true of his latest book, Gray Mountain, but some how this story never catches your attention.  The characters are flat and uninteresting. Maybe I’m just tired of recession stories but for whatever reason this was not a great book.  However, that said, I did read it all and if you are a Gresham fan I certainly suggest you read it.

The story takes place in 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career as Wall Street lawyer is on the fast track, but the recession hits and she gets downsized. In a matter of days Samantha accepts a position as an unpaid employee of a small legal clinic in Brady, Virginia, population 2,200. For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

In Gresham’s standard way, Samantha takes on “big coal” as she fights for the miners suffering from Black Lung. Violence is always around the corner, things take a deadly turn, etc., etc..

I did like some of the secondary characters, particularly Samantha’s parents  and Maddie Wyatt.

If you need a book to pass the time on an airplane trip this holiday season, Gray Mountain may be just the ticket.  It’s certainly more interesting that those old TV shows they show on long flights.

The Snow Queen – Michael Cunningham

First let me say that this is a literary novel – the kind with lots of angst and deep thinking by the characters. So if you like that kind of book or feel the need to read something that is darkly enticing this may work for you.
Cunningham, of course, took the title from the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name and the plot line runs along the same storyline. I’m not sure if the Snow Queen herself is Barrett Meeks’ vision that begins this book, religion, or cocaine but the theme is definitely learning to see clearly as it is in the original Andersen fairy tale.
Did I like the characters? Not particularly. I don’t really have a lot of patience for people who wallow about in self-pity has they are declaring that they are looking for transcendence. All the reviews of this book talk about Cunningham’s “ subtle, lucid prose, and his profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul”. I didn’t find any of that to be true. I read this book all the way through only because I loved his writing in THE HOUR and I kept hoping it would get better. It didn’t but fortunately it’s a small book.
Everything about this book seemed contrived to me. Beginning with Barrett’s “vision” as he is walking through Central Park after failing once again at love to his cocaine using brother who’s trying to write the ultimate love song for his dying of cancer fiancé this just seemed like a book where every possible cliché was pulled out and forced into use in no particular order.
It did occur to me that maybe I wasn’t reading this in the “right way” but I read for pleasure and this book gave me none of that. So tell me, did you read it? Did you like it? What did you think?

THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith

I’m sad to say that while I love the Cormoran Strike and Robin characters and I was looking forward to this book it just didn’t do it for me. Too much nastiness not enough plot that didn’t center on gore. The pacing seemed off and in the end it really let me down – things just didn’t work for me. I’m not going to write a spoiler here, I want you to read this book and let me know what you think.
Personally, I believe that J K Rowling, writing as herself or as Robert Galbraith, is one of the most literate, current, writers. Her use of language is suburb and I look forward to the next book. Like I said I love Strike and Robin! And if you haven’t read CUCKOO’S CALLING – I recommend it!