I just finished The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for a new mystery book club I am trying out. It would not be a book that I would normally have read, it is shown in some publications but not all as YA. It was reviewed by the School Library Journal and the protagonist is a 15 year old orphan. On top of that, it is historical fiction from the WWI time period, which is not a genre I usually read.
I enjoyed the idea of the book, a precocious 15 year old meeting Sherlock Holmes and becoming his assistant. I liked the portrayal of Holmes himself and Watson, for the little attention he receives. Mary Russell is that stereotypical perfect female orphan character that we see often, and refer to as a Mary Sue. The mysteries themselves and the culminating resolution are interesting and tie together nicely. I think this is a decent read for 5th – 7th grade mystery fans, especially given the lack of mystery fiction for that age group.
Today was Pi day and a snow day thanks to winter storm Stella. In between baking our Pi day dinner, a Pork, Sun Dried Tomato and Asparagus Pie from Luis Troyano’s cookbook, I read these two that I had checked out from the library.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is the book that propelled Haruki Murakami to superstardom as an author so having read other books of his I really wanted to read this one. It is basically a coming of age/first romance book with themes of suicide and mental illness intertwined and personally I don’t see it as his best work. The musical themes are strongly played with throughout, with Naoko and Reiko both being musicians, hence the title. Other than that the female characters are really just used to facilitate action for Toru Watanabe, who is immature and self absorbed throughout the story arc.
As in all Murakami’s books, the writing is beautiful. I just find the story here is less than I would typically expect. I am still glad that I read it simply because it is an important piece in his catalog of work.
Jane and Prudence is a book by Barbara Pym an author that I really enjoy and this book is no exception. Jane and Prudence are two friends who are rather unlike in many ways and yet are still good friends. Jane is a vicar’s wife, although not the completely competent “Excellent Women” type, she’s a little too scattered for that. She has too many opinions and is perhaps too open with them. She might not be as domestic as she should be nor as motherly, however she is trying hard and now settled in a new village she is trying to play matchmaker for Prudence. Prudence has never married and has had many romantic dalliances, including an unrequited crush on her employer.
Lots of gossip, slices of village and town life, unrequited love, festivals, and of course tea and cake to go around all served up in gently humourous detail. A charming read from an author that I feel is under appreciated.
I saw this as a recommendation on Goodreads and picked it up from my local library. The concept is really good. Plucky is the grown woman whose mother was a covert operative. Growing up her mother taught Plucky and her brother Simon skills in the form of “games” they played as a family until they became second nature. Plucky wants nothing to do with the life she had growing up and is determined to have a “normal life” and thinks she has found it with her husband.
The issue is I had with the book is the meandering path the story takes. It ventures back and forth randomly from past to present almost in a stream of consciousness style. It repeats many of the same points. It really feels like there was really only about 100 pages worth of story that was repeated and filled in with excessive wordiness to make it to 280 pages.
I liked the idea for this novel, however the execution didn’t work for me.
Results May Vary is a women’s fiction book mainly about dealing with the fall out of infidelity when a wife discovers her husband has been cheating with a man not another woman. I enjoyed parts of the story although I will say it was an uneven treatment. The author seems to be trying to drive home the message that it is about not really knowing who your spouse is rather than the particulars of the infidelity itself. The violation of trust is the bigger deal than the physical acts and these are truths I can get behind. (Basically her husband, Adam is a Liar McLiarson who lies and then lies some more, trying to cover it all it with really pretty words because he is, after all, a writer.) Some of this works fine and then other times it steers off course.
Where the book seems to lose credibility for me, is in the actually legalities and finances of divorce. Caroline is a small museum curator living in a really expensive area and yet finances don’t seem to be a concern as she floats along through her separation period, files for divorce, thinks about the future, etc. This is a far cry for me from what most people I know go through in a divorce. Even in her whole ruminations about “what do I do now”, finances are never a concern. It is a point that makes her a hard to feel sympathy for character, she is so far removed from the concerns of us mere mortals. As far as women’s fiction infidelity read it was ok.
These are two impulse Kindle buys I just read. Since You’ve Been Gone is about a young woman whose fiancé is killed on her wedding day, on a road leading away from the church with a “baby” gift in his car. Olivia deals with her grief by investigating where Wyatt was going on their wedding day.
The entire investigation piece did not make much sense to me at all. I don’t want to discuss details and have spoilers, just let’s say that Olivia and others were much more of a hinderance in getting to the truth of the matter than a help. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have straightened this whole mess out much sooner.
My other issue with the book and this might be my own fault, I didn’t realize this was Christian fiction. I don’t generally read Christian fiction, but I have read a few that I have enjoyed. This was so heavy-handed with the preachiness that I really found it distracting from the story. Not a book that worked for me.
Lift and Separate is the story of Marcy and Harvey the owners of Bountiful, a lingerie company. They have been married for 33 years and have 3 grown children. Harvey decides to leave Marcy for a younger woman. The book follows Marcy as she struggles through the separation. Themes explored in the book include infidelity, divorce, loss of a parent, caregiving, and second acts in life. Marcy is a great character, who evolves as the book progresses. Candy, Jon and Dana round out the cast as great supporting characters providing interesting subplots and humor. This is a quick read with humor and compassion.
Three women’s fiction reads, the type of books that are my delicious guilty pleasures. I delight in being outraged along with the heroines and then celebrating their rebirth into a new better post divorce/break up life.
My Perfect Life at Cornish Cottage features the husband, Lysander, having his mid-life crisis and deciding that trading in his slightly used wife Sophie for a much younger souped up model is the way to go. Sophie falls apart at first, but with aid from a surprising source she finds her feet and a new career. There are lots of mummy mafia at the school gates types here and quite a bit of humor. Overall, a heartwarming look at living through divorce with children and coming out the other side,not just intact but thriving.
The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart is a break up story, rather than divorce. Abi hasn’t made it down the altar yet, although she thought Joseph would be the one. Abi finds Joseph’s bucket list and begins a quest to woo him back by completing items on it and posting about them. What could prove they are more compatible than that? Along the way she meets new people and challenges herself in ways she had never imagined. Who will Abi be when Joseph takes notice of her adventures? Advertised as a “laugh out loud” romance, I didn’t really find it uproariously funny, but I did find it quite romantic and an interesting examination of how people are often quite willing to marry or stay with partners that they really don’t know at all.
My Husband’s Wife was the book that had me raging on behalf of Rosie, the most. Don’t get me wrong it is a romance and has the required HEA, however the path to get there is fraught with bad friends and worse choices. There is also a sideplot that deals with growing up motherless and the effects that can have on people. I don’t want to say too much to spoil anything for other readers but I would say that I found many of the indivdual situations and reactions in this book the most realistic from my own experiences. Out of the three books, I enjoyed this the most perhaps because it seemed less fanciful in some ways, more rooted in reality.
I just finished Colorless and I probably still have more questions than answers, however I really enjoyed the book. The title character or “colorless” one is Tsukuru Tazaki, he is the only one of a group of friends, who does not have a color in his name. An event occurs splintering the group and the impact of this effects Tsukuru for years afterwards, until he meets Sara, who gently insists that he seeks out the root of his emotional detachment.
There is a lot to explore here from the meaning behind the “colors” of the characters – white, black, red,blue and grey, to the metaphor of the trains and trains stations, to Tsukuru’s disturbing and erotic dreams. There are points in which the line between reality and fantasy are blurred leaving the reader questioning what has actually happened. I don’t want to give any spoilers so that is all I will say about that.
The main take away from the book seems to be to live in the present and not the past. Don’t be afraid to grow and change, you can’t be stagnant and stay in one place (at the station). You have to get on the train.
This was a library read. The charming story of a widower who discovers that his wife of 40 years was not who he thought she was. Arthur Pepper discovers a charm bracelet with some unusual charms when he is gathering up his deceased wife’s belonging’s for charity. The charms lead him on an adventure to discover exactly who Miriam was before she became Mrs. Arthur Pepper. Through the journey Arthur deals with his grief, builds new friendships, and mends his relationships with his children. The book addresses topics such as privacy, secrets within a marriage, forgiveness, and grief but not in a depressing or heavy-handed way. This is a lighthearted journey, even though not all the truths Arthur discovers about Miriam are pleasant. An enjoyable quick read, in the vein of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Man Who Stepped Out of the Window and Disappeared.
These were both library reads. Serving Crazy with Curry is a book about Devi, an Asian Indian young woman who attempts suicide and is saved by chance. The effects of Devi’s suicide attempt ripple through her family and each member deals with it in their own way depending upon their circumstances. Devi’s path to recovery begins in her mother’s kitchen as she starts to cook and prepare meals unlike the food her family has eaten before. There was a lot to enjoy about this book in the cooking sequences and Devi’s thoughts about recovering, however the big “secret” behind Devi’s suicide attempt became obvious rather early on and is not something I sympathize with. I also did not find her sister’s reaction to the reveal realistic at all.
Britt-Marie Was Here is a charming slice of life story with a fanciful feel. Britt-Marie is looking for a job after years as a homemaker and lands a job at a soon to be closed rec center in a run down town. The move here changes her in ways she can’t begin to imagine and she is not sure if she will enjoy those changes. The people of Borg, welcome Britt-Marie with open arms and soccer balls and things will never be the same again, for Britt-Marie or for Borg.
The character of Britt-Marie is really interesting. She begins as the typical grumpy old lady, very set in her ways. Her experiences in Borg change her and that leads naturally to the ending the book has. This is a well written book, with great characters, an interesting original storyline and a great ending.