TUESDAY TEASER

The blogger at Purple Blogger hosts the meme Tuesday Teaser.  The idea is to take the book you are now reading and at random, copy a couple of sentences that might tempt another person to read the same book. I am still reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and here is where I left off:

(1939) “Percy didn’t go home. Neither did she go on to the village hall to assist with the arrangement of corned beef tins. Saffy (her sister) would later accuse  her of forgetting to collect an evacuee on purpose, of never having wanted one in the first place; but although there was an element of truth in the latter accusation, Percy’s failure had nothing to do with Saffy and everything to do with Mrs. Pott’s gossip. Besides, as she always reminded her twin, everything had worked out in the end…”

Three old maids live in their author-father’s ancestral home, a literal castle, during WWII when London children were evacuated to the country towns to be saved from the bombings in London. Meredith, the evacuee who eventually ended up with the three women and their senile father, is involved in mysteries and family secrets that are not unravelled and revealed  until 1992 by Meredith’s daughter, Edie.  This generational tale of eerie settings, Mud Monsters rising from the old moat, young romance, friendships and betrayal is written in the most artful style imaginable.  Little clues, dropped here and there like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow make unraveling the quirks of the characters and the family secrets a pleasure.

Please look at what you’re currently reading and leave a teaser from it in the Comments box. Please remember to give title and author, and no spoilers, please.

Advertisements

Boy, Snow, Bird: A Review of a strange book

Helen Oyeyemi’s 2014 novel has been described as a “cautionary tale” that includes “post-race ideology, racial limbo, and the politics of passing.” (New York Times) The whole story takes on a magical, fairytale quality, but ends with a shocking revelation. It is divided into three parts: the story of Boy, the story of Snow, the story of Bird.

At the beginning we meet Boy, named so because her rat catcher father refused to care enough to think of a better name. Her mother is absent from her life. She is described as having a long, white-blonde braid and is extremely intelligent. Her life in East-side Manhattan sometime in the 1930’s is horrific and violent. Early on, she runs away and ends up at a young women’s boarding house. During her stay, she double dates with another young woman there and meets Arturo. Her first meetings and dates with him begins a love/hate relationship although she falls desperately under the spell of his lovely 6 year old daughter, Snow. When she meets Arturo’s mother, Olivia Whitman, yet another kind of relationship develops.

After Arturo and Boy’s daughter, a Negro, is born, Snow, Arturo’s daughter is exiled to live with an aunt to prevent competition and conflict between the two girls. (Part Two) As the story unfolds, one layer at a time, Bird, their daughter, seems to have a second sight about “things” and has an insatiable curiosity which strives to unlock family mysteries. Over time, the two girls exchange letters. (Part Three) At the end, all family secrets are revealed sending the characters’ emotions and lives topsy turvy.

The book has a strangeness about it, from its original setting to its unsettling conclusion, and many assumptions and conclusions the reader has made along the way are turned upside down.

This is a satisfying read, not necessarily a book you will like or even one you can understand upon a first reading, but it has literary value, and I definitely will read other books by this author.

“Check Off ‘B’: The Beekeeper’s Daughter: A Review

In my Alphabet Challenge, which thankfully has no time limits or goals on it, I have read the book for the letter ‘B’.  Santa Montefiore’s The Beekeeper’s Daughter was a book due at the public library which I finished up (just in time) and counted as part of the challenge. An experienced writer, Montefiore presents a story of two romances (mother’s and daughter’s ) that span the settings of England during WWII and 1973 New England.

Grace Hamblin is the beekeeper’s daughter, living in England and who experiences a love that can never be fulfilled. Trixie, her daughter falls in love with Jasper, a singer in a band “on the brink of stardom.” He is part of the British Music Invasion of the seventies. Trixie’s story and Grace’s story (the latter told in flashbacks) have more in common than either could suspect. Both are searching for “lost love.”  “To find  what they are longing for, they must confront the past, unravel the lies told long ago, and open their hearts to each other.”

This novel is a very good read, engaging with many twist and turns, and good old-fashioned “escapism.”

TWO RECENT READS–Morningstar:Growing up With Books and Playing with Fire: REVIEWS

The following two books were ones I read purely for escape while waiting for my delayed-by-ice semester to start:

First, Morningstar:Growing Up with Books a 2017 publication by Ann Hood, was a slim volume which needs to be read with one’s TBR list close by. The book might be described as a memoir organized by what the author was reading at various stages of her life. I had read her earlier novel, The Book That Matters Most, and thoroughly enjoyed it, sharing it with friends at my book club, so when I saw it displayed at the library, I checked it out. Hood grew up in a household that “didn’t foster a love of literature but discovered literature anyway. Sometimes lonely as a child she experienced “the companionship of books.” She read eclectically, pouring equally over classics, bestsellers, and books that were “not so nice,” her mother’s description. Because it was so short, it was a quick read and a unique one. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves books and is interested in other people who love them too.

Tess Gerritsen’s 2015 novel is one I found at Half Price Books.  As a fan of the TNT series, Rissoli and Isles, selecting Playing with Fire, was a no-brainer.  The cover alone was enough to capture my interest. Gerritsen employs great skills of characterization, and her plots and sub-plots combine psychological thriller appeal as well as mystery, action, and plenty of twists and turns. Beginning in the US and continuing in Venice, Julia, the protagonist, is soon caught up in espionage and violence, something she never dreamed a concert violinist would experience.  The intertwining stories of the modern-day professional violinist and the Jewish holocaust-era composer provide good reading and good mystery.

Tuesday Teaser

The goal of the meme hosted by The Purple Booker Is to tease other readers into adding one’s current read to their TBR list.  One does so by copying two or so sentences from where they left off (avoiding spoilers). Be sure to include the title and author of the book you are featuring.

Here are a few lines from Barkskins by Annie Prolux:
“In high school teachers talked of careers. Jeanne learned that botanists lived in a world of stem and leaf. There would not be an oil or gas job…for Felix… he intended to go into forestry…The cousins set the goal of getting into university.  They had to complete two years at the community college before they could apply.  The odds were against them.”

This is a formidable book at 717 pages but one that can sweep the reader away from time to time. I am nearly done and am so glad I tackled this novel.

Two Reviews: Books finished over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s

When I was flipping through my Book Log (stenographer’s notebook #5), I found several books I’d mentioned but not reviewed here on PWR:

A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman, our Third Tuesday Book Club selection, was a huge hit with all the members and a book I enjoyed.  I had seen the movie first (with Finnish subtitles) and LOVED it, so I was a bit skeptical about reading the book.  Evidently the reason I liked the film so much was because it followed the book so closely.

It is the story of a curmudgeon, recently forced to retire, who kept to rigid routines and often demonstrated a short fuse.  The opening of the book is different from the opening of the movie, so to ensure I don’t give anything away, I will deal with the plot sparingly. The book is described as a “word of  mouth bestseller,” and that is what it is.  I must have been the last in my group of friends to actually read the book. The lesson to be learned from this novel is that “Life is sweeter when it’s shared with other people.” Kirkus review called it “hysterically funny–” well not in my opinion, “hysterically…” but it is as Publisher’s Weekly labels it, “…a reflection on loss and love.” We had excellent study questions, and I would definitely recommend this as a good book club selection if your group has not already found it.

A book that definitely left me wanting to read part II was Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book one). Talk about a cliffhanger ending! It is set in Mississippi in 1922, the era of the Harlem Renaissance.

Nora White is a daughter from a Negro family, has graduated from high school, and everyone expects her to go to college.  Instead, she runs away to explore Harlem. She has heard of the Cotton Club and the literary renaissance going on there. Her parents, Gideon and Mary, who have issues of their own in their backgroundes, can’t believe any Negro child would ever run away from home and fear their daughter has been snatched. Nora’s adventures in the North and her parents’ efforts to find her in the South, lead to adventure, revelation of family secrets and a “give-me-more” ending.  I can’t wait for Book Two to come out.  I heard about this book from a blogger who featured the author, Yecheilyah Ysrayl, on her blog and purchased it through Amazon. I plan to contact her this weekend to see when I can purchase Book Two.

 

WATCHING GLASS SHATTER by James J. Cudney: A Review

Watching a family with the surname of Glass shatter sounds like a pretty bad reading experience, but the author’s depiction shows how although shattering herself due to secrets revealed after her husband’s death, Olivia Glass holds together her family of five sons.

Synopsis: Father of the Glass family, Benjamin Glass dies unexpectedly, and Olivia, his widow and five grown sons each react to his death in their own way. Because of a secret confession “from the grave”( in two letters left to be opened after his death), Olivia decides to visit each son as she tries to make sense of the secret Ben has kept from her.  Because it involves one of the sons, although she does not know which one, she tries to discover the secret on her own. She discovers, instead, that like their father, each son has kept his own secret from her and the rest of the family.  Unraveling and revealing every family secret kept me turning the pages, guessing (often wrongly) at the secrets and surprised many times by the twists and turns.

Cudney’s characterization is excellent.  I , for one, was interested in each individual as the character’s thoughts, secrets, and actions unreeled. The major characters, Olivia and her “boys” are people I came to care about. A secondary character I grew fond of was Diana, Olivia’s sister who not only was the family “listener,” but also had figured out more than one son’s secret and didn’t blab. Significant others who were secondary characters were also believable, very likable, and integral to the story.

The writing is outstanding. Irony abounds, and the word choices and phrasing are captivating from the first page:– “…his discrete office hibernating in the corner of Brandywine’s downtown historic district…”– to the last:– “…Sewn into the last few pages of the album were parchment scrolls that displayed in beautiful calligraphy the Glass Family tree–”

I give this book a five out of five and would definitely recommend it as a “darned good read.”