Saturday, May 27, 2017

Passage --by Connie Willis

Fiction / SF/F  

800 pages / 4910 KB
5 Stars

Warning: Do not begin if you don't have the time to invest in reading this. Yes, it's long, but it's also a page burner. I found it very difficult to put down until finished. I was hooked by the end of reading page one.

I love the descriptions of the people, from the little girl to the old codger whose war stories are never the same twice. And the descriptions of the hospital corridors being randomly blocked off were delightful. I used to work there, but it wasn't a hospital, it was a plane manufacturer.

Joanna Lander is a psychologist studying Near Death Experiences NDEs. She wants the scientific reason for having them. Mr. Mandrake studies them to prove his theory of life after life, and he contaminates the people he interviews by asking leading questions, so she must get to them first. He's also a jerk. Dr. Richard Wright is also doing research on NDEs, and enlists Joanna's help. In order to understand what the subjects go through during an NDE, and to better understand what questions to ask, she becomes one of the test subjects.

This is not your typical story of the Titanic, of life and death, or of NDEs. The chapter epigraphs are marvelous.  By the time I got to the end, I was more than a little curious to see how Willis described the actual death. Though I wanted something just a tad more concrete than she gave us, I think the description was spot on. And, after all, it is a one-way trip.


A marvelous read, and for all its pages, a relatively quick read.

Uprooted --by Naomi Novik

Fiction / Fantasy  

465 pages / 2479 KB
3 Stars

I finished this book a few days ago, and have been trying to decide if it's a 3- or 4-star book. The writing was solid, and I enjoyed the re-telling of old fairy tales. But some of the characters seemed not quite solid, not quite there. I've not read her other books, so don't know if it's because Novik is used to books (plural) to develop her characters, or something else.

I loved the world she built, but not her main characters. Nieshka was a pretty independent girl—why didn't she ask a lot of the questions she didn't ask? Why was she there? Why did he pick her? What was she supposed to do? What purpose did the magic painting serve? (It was brought up enough times it should have been a key element.)

The biggest nit for me was the lack of price for the magic. It was hinted at a time or two, but never used.  There must be a price to magic, be it migraines, sleep, or a deep craving for vodka. The more magic used, the higher/longer the cost. And there were a few times I was momentarily thrown from the story. I think they were timeline inconsistencies.


Over all, this book is worth the read. Put it in the basket for your summer beach trip.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

At the Edge of the Orchard --by Tracy Chevalier

Fiction / Historical 

297 pages / 1773 KB
3 Stars

I truly admire the way Chevalier crafted this book, using not only history, but I liked the introduction of the letters. What I truly did not like were most of her characters. I admit I now know more about apple trees than I thought I needed to know.


I finished the book. The ending was somewhat satisfactory and logical, but I was left with almost the same brown taste in my mouth when I finished reading The Godfather by Mario Puzzo. While there were likeable people in this story, I felt too much time was spent on the ones who were not likeable. When I read fiction, I want to escape the woes of the world, not wallow in them. I understand there must be conflict, but I became mired in this swamp. And it is black, indeed.

Church of the Dog --by Kaya McLaren

Fiction  

244 pages / 483 KB
5 Stars

This is a first novel. It reads like a first novel. And I enjoyed the heck out of it! I do believe McLaren is an American Maeve Binchy. At least in this book. There are a couple of glitches, but nothing that threw me out of the story.

It's a marvelous story of the adage, 'bloom where you are planted.' Mara is the hippy-type outsider who comes into the small town and lives of Edith and Earl who are struggling with their own mortality, and their estrangement from their grandson, Daniel. Mara's acceptance of life as it is, and her ability to travel the dream paths—of herself and others—makes for a fun read. The requisite box of tissues is required, but in the middle of the book.


Read it before bed—no nightmares here. Read it at the beach, in the tub, or in your favorite beverage shop. I look forward to reading her other books. Make a space on your shelf next to your Maeve Binchy books for the new kid on the block. Er, shelf.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

the five people you meet in heaven --by Mitch Albom

Fiction  

196 pages
4 Stars

An interesting book, but probably one I'll not pick up to read again. Very well written!

Eddie is a 'blue collar' worker. He grows up with an abusive father, goes off to war, is wounded, comes home. He marries his sweetheart, and they stay in the same place he was raised in, and he takes his father's job at the amusement park until the end.

It isn't often one picks up a book that begins with the death of the protagonist, but this is a story about death and heaven, and the five people he will meet there. They are not always the ones expected.


I've read several books on death, dying, and what happens next, and I did find this one interesting. I especially like Albom's idea of heaven, and what one may find there. Put this book in the bag to take to the beach, or out to the hammock.  

Echoes --by Maeve Binchy

Fiction  

488 pages / 1389 KB
3 Stars

I was somewhat disappointed in this book. It didn't seem to be up to her usual standard of writing. The story seemed to go on and on, and then it went on some more. The only two characters I really found interesting were minor ones. In short, it read like her first novel. When I finished the book, I discovered it was the third of her books to be published. And very likely was the first novel she wrote.


If you read it in that light, that it may easily have been her first novel, it becomes somewhat more interesting, and one can see the progression to her later books. If you're a fan of Binchy, and I am, at least for the most part, buy this one, read it, but understand it is nowhere near the quality of her later books. Echoes reads like she's just learning how to walk on an uneven path, but once she gets her stride, her books become, well, marvelous.