Update on This Week’s Reading (with mini book reviews)

..think the opposite

..think the opposite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It turns out that two of the books I was planning to read this week are complete busts and I won’t be finishing them. They are:
A Royal Pain — Megan Mulry and
Foal Play — Kathryn O’Sullivan

Foal Play wasn’t too bad, but the writing was less than captivating, and I found the plot to be too complicated. Within the first thirty pages or so, we discover that the main character (the female town fire chief) is in a sort-of relationship with the (male) sheriff; a sleazy developer is deliberately lighting fires so he can make passes at her; her former schoolteacher is antagonizing everyone in town, to the point that someone blows up her (the teacher’s) home and she is presumed dead when the fire chief finds a woman’s body in the kitchen; and … I gave up there, it was all just too improbable.

A Royal Pain was pretty good (for a typical romantic pot-boiler), right up to the point that the author likened the female MC getting her hand patted by a man to a young horse filly being broken to the saddle. Um, yeah. That was the end of my reading that book.

Also this week, I read Keeping Watch by Laurie R. King (didn’t make it onto the reading list) which was fantastic although very intense, particularly the backstory set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. I’m trying to decide if I want to review it or not.

This Week’s Reading

The results of taking unwanted books to the used bookstore for credit and the library book sale:

Get Off the Unicorn — Anne McCaffrey
The Death of Sleep — Anne McCaffrey & Jody Lynn Nye
The Tomorrow Tamer — Margaret Laurence
The Senator’s Wife — Karen Robards
The Cat Who Brought Down the House — Lillian Jackson Braun
The Mermaid Chair — Sue Monk Kidd
Knockout — Catherine Coulter

Mini Book Review: Highland Fling

I just wanted to say that I was wrong, I had not already read Highland Fling by Katie Fforde. It was another romance about a Scottish woolen mill that needed saving that I had read (which of course I cannot remember its title). I thoroughly enjoyed Highland Fling, however, and it was even plausible that the heroine would go off for a walk up a mountain in the snow on Christmas Day, thereby necessitating her rescue by the book’s hero. Which is (the plausibility) a good trick to pull off in a romance novel.

Back to remembering a title: I cannot for the life of me remember book titles, authors’ names, song titles, or artists’ names. I remember things about the books or songs, but never useful things that you can actually look up (what I remember about the book I cannot remember: the hero had black hair, the mill was at the bottom of a steep hill, and I think the hero’s name started with D. It’s possible that it was a Robin Pilcher novel, but I think there is a Robin Pilcher novel that fits the bill and there is yet another novel that is the one I am thinking of. This is why I make lists of books and authors — I can never remember enough to remember which book I want to read.) This is one of the reasons I started this blog — if I liked it enough to review it, I might want to remember it someday. Will I be able to search the blog and find it? I’ve never had to find out.

Book Quote: An Uncertain Voyage

Cover of "Uncertain Voyage"

Cover of Uncertain Voyage

I enjoyed An Uncertain Voyage by Dorothy Gilman very much. On the surface, it is about a young woman’s encounter with a secret agent and what happens to her after he entrusts a precious package to her because he has been discovered and will never reach his destination. Beneath the surface, it is about her inner journey, learning to love and trust again after a mental breakdown. I want to share with you a quotation from the book. It is from near the end of the book and her journey, both literally and figuratively, and she is beginning to awaken from her lifelong sleep of distrust, despair, and fear.

Faith meant trusting, it meant the horror of trusting the unknown, of placing faith in what could be neither seen nor touched nor proven. It meant going on when one’s very soul cried out to turn back, it meant, above all, unending risk.

This Week’s Reading

A good day — books in the mail and a stop at the library book sale.

Highland Fling — Katie Fforde (I think I already read this one, but I don’t own it already, and I really like her books)
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday — Alexander McCall Smith (an Isabel Dalhousie novel — I am slowly collecting them, and I skipped this one in the series to boot)
Dragon’s Blood — Jane Yolen (more young adult than I usually read now, but I really liked her books when I was younger, and I was feeling nostalgic)
Uncertain Voyage — Dorothy Gilman (I love her Mrs. Pollifax novels, and this was not quite what I was expecting, but very very good {I already finished it})
The Dovekeepers — Alice Hoffman (a gift, but I have been wanting to read a novel of Masada, and I am eagerly anticipating it)
A Game of Thrones — George R. R. Martin (terribly popular right now, I understand, not something I usually do, but a gift so I shall approach with an open mind)
A Certain Smile — Judith Michael (I am reading it right now and enjoying it very much)

Book Review: The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls

Judging by the author blurb in the back of the book,The McCloud Home for Wayward Girlsis Wendy Delsol’s first book for adults, as opposed to young adults. It shows, particularly in the first couple chapters, as Ms. Delsol lays the groundwork for the book’s mystery and begins to build suspense around the tissue of lies the characters have created for themselves. But as the novel gains speed, Ms. Delsol gains confidence, and the writing becomes less clunky and much smoother.

By the end of the book, the reader realizes that the main character, Jill, and those closest to her have been living in a world of lies for decades. Nothing is as it seems, and the entire house of cards comes down when Ruby, Jill’s mother and family matriarch, begins acting very strangely. All’s well that ends well, but it is an emotionally wrenching journey to get there.

I do recommend this book — stick with it through the first couple chapters and you will be well-rewarded. Four out of five stars.

Book Review: The Life You’ve Imagined

The Life You’ve Imagined, by Kristina Riggle, is a very good book with a hopeful ending. Throughout most of the book, however, I kept wondering if the characters would make it to the next page mentally and physically intact, let alone to the next day in their story.

Brittle is the word that first comes to mind to describe this book. The characters all seem to be on the edge of disaster, but when disaster does strike, it is at unexpected moments.

The story revolves around three high school friends, twelve years after graduation. Two of them left town, but one never moved on. Now they are thrown together for a summer.

Anna is a successful lawyer, shaken by the recent death of her mentor at her law firm. She returns home to her mother’s convenience store to recuperate. Maeve, her mother, hasn’t moved on from her husband’s abandonment of his family twenty years ago. Cami has come home to her childhood home, still inhabited by her alcoholic father, after she is thrown out by her boyfriend for breaking his trust and has nowhere else to go. Amy is the one who never left, but she’s lost weight and is engaged to the younger son of the richest man in town, a developer.

The book tells the story of the summer when Amy gets married, and Anna, Cami, and Maeve have to confront who they were, who they are, and who they will become.

Overall, The Life You’ve Imagined is a very good book, telling the story of success, ambition, and the ultimate hollowness of both if you leave yourself behind. How do we create ourselves, and how are we in turn seen by others?

Five out of five stars.

Book Review: The Mistaken Wife

Having finished The Mistaken Wife, by Rose Melikan, I must say that it’s not as good as the first two books in her series about Mary Finch. In the first two books, The Blackstone Key and The Counterfeit Guest, I got a sense of Mary in accidental danger, of secrets hidden and discovered without intention, of danger blundered into. This is not to suggest that Mary was an idiot or prone to taking too many risks, but rather that Mary seemed an innocent young woman who had a talent for finding secrets and tumbling into danger. I enjoyed this sense of accident, and felt that anyone could have Mary’s adventures. Ms. Melikan also did a superb job of setting the scene in the first two books, and dropping little hints to help the modern reader feel at home in the eighteenth century.

But in this third book, I feel cheated. Ms. Melikan’s specialty is eighteenth century England, and English law of the same period. The Mistaken Wife is set almost entirely in France, and Ms. Melikan’s lesser familiarity with that country shows. The book is still researched in depth, but not to the same exhaustive degree as the first two books.

And even worse, the plot of this book feels contrived. Mary does not accidentally step into danger, but willfully accepts it, even if she is pushed into it slightly by her spymaster friend, Cuthbert Shy. It’s all explained well enough in the book, but I think that sending Mary to France at the height of the Napoleonic Wars smacks of an author’s desperation to find another hair-raising situation for her heroine.

The other books had a grace to them, a sense that the whole thing had an over-arching beauty to it with a form that the author, at least, understood. But this one lacks that grace, and feels more pushed together and plodded through.

Still an excellent book, but only 3 out of 5 stars.

I was waiting for this

Summer field in Belgium (Hamois). The blue flo...

A mown hayfield bordered by wildflowers Image via Wikipedia

Well, not this, exactly, but for inspiration. And it has found me. It came in my inbox this morning, courtesy of Google Alerts, but I can’t shake the feeling that it was meant for me. It’s a new book of poetry out, God, Seed: Poetry and Art About the Natural World and the authors blogged about on Tikkun Daily over the weekend.

It is a collaboration between two women, drawings and poems about the natural world and the damage humans are creating. I have been thinking about this very topic lately, in relation to the land my town is built on and in, but no more than a line or two are floating through my head of yet.

It feels like this book, this blog post, were created just for me, to answer the questions I have been asking and set me to asking new questions.

When you visit the blog entry, please read all the way through so you may also savor the poems and illustrations they have excerpted from the book.

This Week’s Reading

Frederica — Georgette Heyer: finished
Death in the Stocks — Georgette Heyer: finished
The Doctor and the Diva — Adrienne McDonnell
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay — Beverly Jensen: finished and reviewed
$20 per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline will Change our Lives for the Better — Christopher Steiner

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