My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in 2017, 3 stars, Book Review | 3 comments

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth StroutMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover and ebook
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 191
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

My Thoughts:
This is a short little book with much more story than the number of pages would suggest. As Lucy tells her story it’s with spare language that clearly tells the basics but at the same time hints at much unsaid.

At first it’s she and her mother reminiscing about people they knew but within that is Lucy doing her own telling of her childhood and her departure to college and a new life so very different. This book is about family relationships, it’s about wondering what love means.

Lucy herself seemed flat. Even as I finished the book I didn’t feel as if I knew Lucy Barton.

Individual sentences and paragraphs were beautiful but they were wrapped up into a whole story that left me wanting. It was good but I wanted it to be better.

3 stars

Rating 3/5

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A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in 2017, 3 stars, Book Review, Jodi Taylor | 0 comments

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Ebook, Trade Paperback
Series: The Chronicles of St Mary’s #2
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: 2015
Pages. 307
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

In the sequel to Just One Damned Thing After Another, Max and company visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St. Mary’s—an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy history itself to do it.

My Thoughts:
I don’t get too worried about the ‘correct science’ of time travel stories and I was pleased to read this comment from the author at the beginning of the first book in this series:

I made all this up. Historians and physicists – please do not spit on me in the street.

It’s been almost four years since I read the first book in this series. I enjoyed the heck out of it and kept intending to pick up the second book but then suddenly it had been four years. Oops. I wish I hadn’t waited that long because there are a lot of references to things that happened in the first book that I didn’t remember that well. In fact I’m thinking of rereading it in the audio format. The important thing to know is do not read this book if you haven’t read the first (Just One Damned Thing After Another).

It’s a fun mix of science fiction, time travel, romance, workplace comedy, and a little adventure. The story is told by Madeline (Max) Maxwell with a good bit of sarcasm and humor in between the brushes with death.

The mission to the time when dodos were not extinct to bring some back to the future was hilarious. The observation of the murder of Thomas Becket was not funny at all. If you don’t mind books that can’t be pinned down to a genre or two, you should give this series a try.

It’s not great literature but it’s good light escapist fun.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor (Short Story)

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in 2017, 3 stars, Jodi Taylor, Short Stories | 0 comments

The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor
The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor

Genre: Science Fiction, Short Story
Format: Ebook
Series: The Chronicles of St Mary’s #0.5
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 61
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Ever wondered how it all began?
It’s two years since the final victory at the Battersea Barricades. The fighting might be finished, but for Dr Bairstow, just now setting up St Mary’s, the struggle is only beginning.
How will he assemble his team? From where will his funding come? How can he overcome the massed ranks of the Society for the Protection of Historical Buildings?
How do stolen furniture, a practical demonstration at the Stirrup Charge at Waterloo, students’ alcohol-ridden urine, a widowed urban guerrilla, a young man wearing exciting knitwear, and four naked security guards all combine to become the St Mary’s of the future?

My Thoughts:
The Chronicles of St. Mary’s is a fun series about time traveling historians who “investigate major historical events in contemporary time” The first book in the series (Just One Damned Thing After Another) was quite enjoyable. It had been a while since I’d read it and I wanted to continue with the series. I discovered that among the short stories related to this series was this one which is listed as a prequel.

Technically it’s a prequel but I would not recommend it as a starting point in the series. Much of it doesn’t make a lot of sense without the context of at least one (if not more) books in the series.

It was fun and I’m glad I read it but if you have any interest in this series I strongly recommend that you start with Just One Damned Thing After Another.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Bill Willingham, Book Review, Comics | 1 comment

Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham

Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges with art by Tony Akins and Russ Braun

Genre: Fantasy, Comics
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #9 in the Jack of Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 136
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 9 is a compilation of issues 46-50 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The allegedly legendary Jack of Fables has been through a lot of changes lately – big, bat-winged, fire-breathing changes – but one thing has remained reassuringly constant: a lot of people still want to nail his hide to the wall.
Now, after countless centuries of having his mouth write checks that no other part of his body could cash, Jack’s delinquent accounts are finally coming due. His swashbuckling son Jack Frost, the pistol-packing Page sisters, a wild man with an axe (er, sword) to grind and a busload of lost Fables looking for the promised land are all making a beeline for Jack’s hilltop hideout – and the epic brutality of their ensuing showdown promises to outshine even the tallest of Jack’s fabled trove of tales.

My Thoughts:
This spinoff series from the main Fables storyline has been very hit and miss for me. I’m not sorry I read them but I’m glad to have reached the end.

In this volume as with most of the series I found myself laughing out loud at times and feeling annoyed at others. Throughout the series my favorite parts have been those that featured other characters than Jack. Jack is kind of a jerk and annoying.

The finale to the series wraps up a lot of things. Characters from earlier volumes were nice to see again. The forecasted “Shakespearean Ending” was probably the only way to end this and while I’ll miss some of the characters it pretty much had to happen that way.

The artwork by Tony Akins and Russ Braun is some of the best of the series. There’s lots of action and a wide variety of settings and characters. Plenty of color and interesting elements in the backgrounds are always nice to see.

This series isn’t crucial to the Fables world but it’s a sometimes interesting and always surprising detour.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 423
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of an epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does Frances see her road to happiness.

But before she can follow that path, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, between her desire for the man who captured her heart and her duty to the man who saved her from near ruin, a decision that will have devastating consequences.

My Thoughts:
This one was slow to get going and I’m not sure it ever really captured me. It was OK and maybe even a little better than OK.

The main character was one of those I wanted to slap. Naïve I can understand, continually making stupid decisions annoys me. Although the two men she was involved with weren’t exactly prizes either. One was a jerk and the other seemed to think that she should be able to read his mind.

Nevertheless, Frances did grow up a bit through the course of the book and that was good.

I did enjoy the setting and the history of South Africa. The author based parts of the story on real events. Her research and writing kept me interested even though I disliked the main characters.

It had its moments but I just wish there had been more of them.

8a6e1-rating_25stars Rating 2.5/5

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Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 224
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.

In “Housewifely Arts,” a single mother and her son drive hours to track down an African gray parrot that can mimic her deceased mother’s voice. A population-control activist faces the conflict between her loyalty to the environment and her maternal desire in “Yesterday’s Whales.” And in the title story, a lonely naturalist allows an attractive stranger to lead her and her aging father on a hunt for an elusive woodpecker.

As intelligent as they are moving, the stories in Birds of a Lesser Paradise are alive with emotion, wit, and insight into the impressive power that nature has over all of us. This extraordinary collection introduces a young writer of remarkable talent.

My Thoughts:
This collection of twelve short stories was highly recommended by enough people that I trust on my LibraryThing group that I took a chance and bought a copy instead of getting it form the library. Then I promptly put it on my bookshelf and let it linger there for far too long.

Thanks to my commitment to reading my own books I finally pulled it off the shelf and read it. My friends were right. The writing is wonderful.

As with any short story collection, some of the stories are better than others. A few were rather forgettable but others really made an impact. The author’s husband is a veterinarian and in that profession is represented in several of the stories. Sometimes it’s the main character and sometimes not. All of the stories deal with women at a crossroads in their lives and touch on relationships with other people as well as animals and the natural world.

There are a few scenes that depict suffering animals and while they are well written and the animals are treated lovingly it’s a difficult subject and understandably a deal breaker for many readers.

The woman who took a road trip to find the bird who could mimic her mother’s voice is one that I could understand. There are days I’d give anything to hear my mother’s voice again. I also thought the one about a veterinarian who had her face scarred by a wolf hybrid that came out of the anesthesia unexpectedly was one of the better ones.

Many of the stories left me sad, so if it’s an uplifting collection of stories you’re looking for, this one isn’t it. Nevertheless the writing is simply lovely and something I could appreciate even though the overall tone of the stories wasn’t really my thing.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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