Saturday, June 16, 2018

Opening Lines

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland 


Loveday Cardew hasn’t had an easy time of it. When she was only 10 her life fell apart, but 15 years later, she has a job in a bookshop in York, which is ideal for her, because she likes books much more than she likes people. Although Loveday thinks she’s escaped from her past, now it seems like its coming back to haunt her. 

I’ve never read anything by Butland before, but apparently, she’s published several novels already. As a book reviewer, the opportunity to read any book with the word “bookshop” in the title is immediately enticing. The fact that the novel takes place in one of my favorite British cities, York, was also a huge draw for me. Add to this the aspects of a strong female protagonist and a touch of a mystery, and you’ve got me completely sold. I mean, who wouldn’t love a young woman who gets tattoos with the first lines of her most beloved novels (including one of my own all-time favorites, “The English Patient”). 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Leaping Late in Life

The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George 


When 60-year-old Marianne Messmann is visiting Paris on vacation with her husband, she decides to commit suicide by jumping off the Pont Neuf bridge. Her failed attempt leads her to let her husband go back to Germany on his own and search out the Breton town of Kerdruc. Why Kerdruc? Only because it looked so lovely on a painted tile she found while in the hospital, so why not. What she finds there is far more than she bargained for. 

I truly appreciate a coming-of-age story that involves someone my age, rather than a young person. These types of stories remind us that finding ourselves is not related to age or chronology, and that no matter how old or young we are, there is always something new we can learn about ourselves. This is the biggest reason I wanted to read this book, but also because I found George’s previous novel, The Little Paris Bookshop, to be so charming and fun. That’s was a good enough reason to pick this novel up, if you ask me, but I’m afraid that although I loved the premise, and enjoy George’s writing, I was a touch disappointed with this book, and liked it less than I did her previous novel. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Storms and Longings


Us Against You by Fredrik Backman


Goodreads summarizes Backman’s sequel to his 2017 novel Beartown, saying “After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact.”

All my readers already know that I am addicted to Fredrik Backman’s novels, and there is good reason for that. However, to prove to them that I don’t automatically adore every word that Backman puts on the page, I’m going to start this review by noting the reasons I almost gave this less than five stars. The biggest reason was foreshadowing. Admittedly, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, which to my chagrin, Backman employed many times throughout this book. I must admit that although it bothered me to begin with, each time he did this, I felt slightly less annoyed. This was probably because he only allowed himself a short sentence of foreshadowing each time.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Lost and the Findings

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd



From Goodreads: “Venus Black is a straitlaced, straight-A student obsessed with the phenomena of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, suddenly goes missing.” It also says, “In this gripping story, debut novelist Heather Lloyd brilliantly captures ordinary lives upended by extraordinary circumstances. Told through a constellation of captivating voices, My Name Is Venus Black explores the fluidity of right and wrong, the meaning of love and family, and the nature of forgiveness.”

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Stories with Spurs

Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx


In this collection of 11 stories, including “Brokeback Mountain,” Proulx looks at the many sides of the people and vistas of Wyoming, a state that according to most sources is the 10th biggest in land size, and the second least densely inhabited (behind Alaska). Landlocked by Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Idaho, Wyoming has 2/3 of its western part covered by the Rocky Mountains and is home to both the Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons National Park. With these stories, Proulx attempts to create the types of unique characters who would choose to make their lives within this vast natural beauty.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Consequences of Peace

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje


From Goodreads: “It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and both grow more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.”

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Music and Silence

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes


“In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.”

Barnes’ latest novel is a fictional documentation of the life of the Russian composer, Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich, who lived under both the Bolshevik and Communist regimes of the USSR, until his death in 1975. Shostakovich was at turns both adored and reviled by both his country’s people and leadership, and much of his music reflects this push-pull of acceptance and rejection. But what his life was like across all those years, and if he was a dissident or a loyal Communist party member, has mostly been left to conjecture and interpretation, and Barnes attempts to find his own answers to these contentions with this book.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Shards of Remaining Objects

Smash All the Windows by Jane Davis


Goodreads Synopsis: “For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances. Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unraveled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives. If only it were that simple.”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Portraits in Survival

On a Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell


The Titanic; it was supposed to be the most wondrous ship ever built. But for Esme, Charlotte and Anna, surviving that fateful crossing has stalked their whole lives, each in very different ways. Particularly because each of these three women were on different classes of tickets, and this isn’t a story mainly about the tragedy, but rather about what came afterwards for them. Blackwell’s newest work is therefore a different kind of Titanic novel.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

These Books May Fare Well

Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittany


This novel is the first in an upcoming series of “Mayfair 100” murder mysteries, which takes place amid the Great War (i.e., WW1), where two civilian women join with police officers to make up a special team, tasked with investigating crimes involving women. On Goodreads, the blurb says “London, 1915. Just 10 months into the First World War, the City is flooded with women taking over the work vacated by men in the Armed Services. Chief Inspector Peter Beech, a young man invalided out of the war in one of the first battles, is faced with investigating the murder of an aristocrat and the man’s wife, a key witness and suspect, will only speak to a woman about the unpleasant details of the case. After persuading the Chief Commissioner to allow him to set up a clandestine team to deal with such situations, Beech puts together a small motley crew of well-educated women and professional policemen. As Beech, Victoria, Caroline, Rigsby and Tollman investigate the murder, they delve into the seedier parts of WWI London, taking them from criminal gangs to brothels and underground drug rings supplying heroin to the upper classes.”