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lkernagh (Lori) continues to pull ROOTs in 2018

2018 ROOT (READ OUR OWN TOMES)

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1lkernagh
Edited: Yesterday, 8:36pm Top

Hi everyone! This will be my fifth year of ROOT reading. I thought 2016 was a bumper year with a whopping 55 ROOTs read, but I managed to up that record by one in 2017 with 56 ROOTs read. Relying on my 2018 Category alphabet challenge, I am going to go for broke and try for 60 ROOT in 2018. As with previous years, the only caveat is that books read (or the audiobooks listened to) need to be books I own as of December 31, 2017. I am looking forward to starting the challenge on January 1, 2018.




Happy ROOT reading, everyone!

-------------------------

ROOTs Read:
1. The King of Lavender Square by Susan Ryan -
2. The Road to Ever After by Moira Young -
3. Dark Desires by Eve Silver -
4. The Siege by Helen Dunmore -
5. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy -
6. The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove by J.S. Bailey -
7. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder -
8. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton -
9. X by Sue Grafton -
10. The Passage by Justin Cronin -
11. The Hours by Michael Cunningham -
12. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes -
13. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness -
14. The Forsyte Saga by Johns Galsworthy -
15. Faithful Place by Tana French -
16. Drifters' Alliance by Elle Casey -
17. Broken Harbour by Tana French -
18. Mr. Darwin's Shooter by Roger MacDonald -
19. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez -
20. The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay -
21. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini -
22. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore -
23. Late Nights on /Air by Elizabeth Hay -
24. 15 Minutes: A Time Travel Suspense Thriller by Jill Cooper -
25. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore -
26. City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte -
27. In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway -
28. The Complaints by Ian Rankin -
29. The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards -
30. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins -
31. The Time In Between by David Bergen -
32. Run by Ann Patchett -
33. England, England by Julian Barnes -
34. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson -
35. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels -
36. Kept by Elle Field -
37. My Ántonia by Willa Cather -
38. Diary of a Single Wedding Planner by Violet Howe -
39. Zulu by Caryl Ferey - -
40. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver -
41. Reamde by Neal Stephenson -
42. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami -
43. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett -
44. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford -
45. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout -
46. Winter of the World by Ken Follett -
47. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis -
48. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante -
49. The High Road by Terry Fallis -
50. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante -
51. Effigy by Alissa York -
52. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante -
53. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller -
54. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante -

2connie53
Dec 29, 2017, 2:52am Top

Welcome back, Lori and Happy ROOTing

3Jackie_K
Dec 29, 2017, 5:32am Top

Welcome back! Hope you have a great 2018.

4floremolla
Dec 29, 2017, 9:35am Top

Hi Lori, welcome back and good luck with your ROOTing in 2018!

5rabbitprincess
Dec 29, 2017, 11:34am Top

Yay, Lori's here! Have a great reading year :)

6tess_schoolmarm
Dec 29, 2017, 1:11pm Top

Good luck on your rooting!

7Familyhistorian
Dec 31, 2017, 2:54am Top

Upping the goal, Lori? Good luck with your 2018 ROOTing!

8cyderry
Dec 31, 2017, 10:45pm Top

glad you're back!

9connie53
Jan 1, 3:44am Top



Happy New Year, Lori.

10FAMeulstee
Jan 1, 3:13pm Top

And again happy reading in 2018, Lori!

11MissWatson
Jan 4, 9:56am Top

Hello Lori, good to see you're back! Good luck with your goal!

12lkernagh
Jan 5, 10:16pm Top

Thanks everyone! I love this group and the motivation it gives me to read books off my TBR piles.

13lkernagh
Edited: Jan 6, 1:07am Top

.
ROOT #1 - The King of Lavender Square by Susan Ryan
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT - January (Black)
Bingo DOG: "Rank in Title" - King
Category: "R" Author - Ryan
Source: LTER
Format: e-Book
Original publication date: October 2, 2017
Acquisition date: September 28, 2017
Page count: 400 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
Saskia watches the lives of others from her eyrie in Lavender Square with a lonely fascination. While the teacher, the recluse, the advertising whizz-kid and the African woman and her young son run, rush, dart and dash, she knows for sure that she will never have anything worth dashing to. But sometimes all it takes is a little magic to bring people together. And, in Lavender Square, where the lavender grows in mysterious abundance and colours the air with a musky sense of love, magic is never very far away. The neighbours, who once passed each other by in detached universes, find themselves thrown together when they are obliged to take care of young Patrick Kimba. His mother is seriously ill and no one knows when or if she is ever coming home. At first they resist the tiresome interruption, until quite by accident Patrick s dream of becoming a football star and finding his long-lost father becomes theirs, and their lives and heartaches become woven together in a new and unexpected pattern.
Review:
This is one of those feel good stories with heart. The story follows young Patrick, his mom Tessa and their various Lavender Square neighbors over a ten year period of time. The story has a lot of good detail for any football (soccer) fan to appreciate – those bits went over my head, I must admit - but the development of a random collection of people into a close-knit family made this a good read for me. The characters each develop at their own pace. A number of the characters have secrets they do not want to share, even with their new friends, adding to the story’s drama. Why is Joe a recluse? Why does Nuala never answer her home phone when it rings? Why won’t Tessa tell Patrick more details about his dad (a soldier in the Congolese army) or the mysterious correspondence she has been receiving? Why is Fiona such an angry person? All of these secrets are revealed over time – along with a number of other surprises. Patrick’s development over the years from a young boy of 8 into a young man of 18 is interesting to follow. His single-minded focus on his dream to become a professional footballer (and the frustrations of Tessa who wants her son to focus on his studies) are something that a number of parents can relate to as they read the story.

Overall, a wonderful feel good story that gave this reader a shining light against today’s hustle-bustle society where few people try to get to know their neighbours.

14lkernagh
Jan 8, 5:38pm Top

.
ROOT #2 - The Road to Ever After by Moira Young
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: AlphaKIT - M
Bingo DOG: "Set During A Holiday" - Christmas
Category: "M" Author - Moira
Source: LTER
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: October 25, 2016
Acquisition date: November 21, 2017
Page count: 224 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
Davy David is a thirteen-year-old orphan, who lives in the bushes in a town ruled by a strict minister, Reverend Fall. A talented artist, Davy loves to draw pictures of angels in the dirt, in the early hours of the morning before the townspeople are awake. He spends his days on his own, except for a small dog, who has attached himself to Davy, often going to the library to find inspiration for his pictures of angels. One day, after chasing after a ball for some of the town's boys, he finds himself in the yard of the old boarded-up museum, now rumoured to be the home of a witch. The witch is Miss Elizabeth Flint, an elderly woman who has a proposition for Davy: drive her to her childhood home, where, it turns out, she has made the decision to die.
Review:
There is a wonderful timeless quality to Young's storytelling. Brownvale is a down-on-it-luck kind of place, with first the orphanage closing down - explaining why a 13-year-old (our protagonist Davy) is living rough on his own - and now the local library is closing its doors. References to the holiday classic movie "Its a Wonderful Life" abound here, from Davy being adopted by a stray dog he names George Bailey, to the movie playing on local TVs and the repeated chiming of bells in the story, giving the story a holiday feel. The pairing of young Davy with the ornery and "soon-to-be-octogenarian" Miss Flint (a somewhat Miss Havisham type of character) works well and provides for some entertaining moments, especially when the two find themselves in situations that involve "bending the law". Even though the purpose of the journey is one that can bring forwards feelings of sadness and loss, the magical/supernatural elements - including a "Benjamin Button"-like regression - gives the story a wonderful transcendent feel. Themes such as friendship, forgiveness, regret and guilt flow can be found here with a lesson about what really matters in life and death.

Overall, a charming, magical tale with a Christmas holiday setting.

15lkernagh
Jan 14, 4:57pm Top


ROOT #3 - Dark Desires by Eve Silver
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT - Gothic
Bingo DOG: "New to You Author"
Category: "S" Author - Silver
Source: TBR
Format: ebook
Original publication date: 2005
Acquisition date: June 28, 2016
Page count: 352 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 2.85 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
Betrayed by those she trusted, penniless and alone, Darcie Finch is forced to accept a position that no one else dares, as assistant to dangerously attractive Dr. Damien Cole. Ignoring the whispered warnings and rumours that he's a man to fear, she takes her position at his eerie estate where she quickly discovers that nothing is at it seems, least of all her handsome and brooding employer. As Darcie struggles with her fierce attraction to Damien, she must also deal with the blood, the disappearances … and the murders. With her options dwindling and time running out, Darcie must rely on her instincts as she confronts the man she is falling in love with. Is he an innocent and misunderstood man … or a remorseless killer who prowls the East End streets?
Review:
Silver does a good job bringing forward all the typical Gothic elements - gloomy or decaying setting, a sinister, malevolent being on the loose, a damsel in distress, and a deep set mystery that imbues feelings of fear and high emotion. With the Whitechapel setting (and playing on the Jack the Ripper theme), Silver ratchets up the suspense as the growing evidence has Darcie questioning the mysterious comings and goings of her employer, a doctor with a laboratory that is off limits to his household staff and a fascination with anatomy.

I love a good Gothic read - especially on a cold, rainy night! - so you are probably wondering why the 3 star rating? Well, when I picked up a copy of this book, I was too busy paying attention to the fabulous Gothic cover and story premise to notice that this is a Gothic romance story... with the romance bit being of the steamy, heart palpitation type. I should mention I am not a big fan of romance novels. I don't mind romantic elements but this story seems to swing back and forth between a suspense Gothic read and a romance novel of the bodice-ripping type one would expect to see on offer from a romance publisher like Harlequin. That, and I tend to groan when a Gothic female lead is of the naive, "act first, think later" variety.

Overall, I can see why this one has such a spread of ratings. Love the Gothic suspense read, but ended up skim reading the steamy romance scenes.

16lkernagh
Jan 20, 9:43am Top


ROOT #4 - The Siege by Helen Dunmore
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, RTT, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: "Longtime TBR" - 2012
Category: "H" Author - Helen
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2001
Acquisition date: May 12, 2012
Page count: 304 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.15 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the book back cover:
Leningrad, September 1941. Hitler orders German forces to surround the city at the start of the most dangerous, desperate winter in its history. For two pairs of lovers - young Anna and Andrei, Anna's novelist father and actress Marina - the siege becomes a battle for survival. They will soon discover what it is like to be so hungry that you boil shoe leather to make soup, so cold you burn furniture and books. But this is not just a struggle to exist, it is also a fight to keep the spark of hope alive...
Review:
Having read previous books with the siege of Leningrad as the setting, I was curious to see if this was going to be another "scrabble for survival" story. The characters are well drawn. Even though this is a survival story, what Dunmore has done that I find unique is she makes this a story of the senses for the reader to experience - the bitter sharpness of cold, the syrupy sweetness of homemade jam, the iron hardness of a frozen, dead body, the deafening silence of empty streets, the muffling of a heavy snowfall, the iron tang of nutrient-rich soil. This is more than just a literary experience. Dunmore also conveys a strong feeling of isolation, even though the city is far from being underpopulated. Baser human survival instincts of a siege population are captured beautifully. While capturing the desperation as the siege continues, Dunmore still manages to convey a glimmer of hope, a will to go one for one more day. Dunmore does not sugar-coat the ravages of the siege, but she also does not fixate on the gruesome details as one might... those details are conveyed as just part of the background setting, where walking past a dead body becomes the norm, just like walking past a rock or a tree.

Overall, a well written story of human endurance through the hardships of a city under siege.

17floremolla
Jan 20, 10:52am Top

>16 lkernagh: excellent review! I read The Siege a few years ago and would agree with your ratings. I was sad to discover Helen Dunmore had died last year, in her sixties, and was thinking about reading some more of her work as she was an award-winning poet and short story writer too. Thanks for prompting my memory.

18Berly
Jan 21, 7:18pm Top

Wishing you best of luck with your ROOT challenge this year! Off to a great start. : )

19Jackie_K
Jan 22, 12:52pm Top

>16 lkernagh: I had in my head that Helen Dunmore was the author of The Frozen Thames, a book on my wishlist, but it's a different Helen who wrote that. The Siege sounds like quite a read.

20tess_schoolmarm
Jan 23, 4:46am Top

>16 lkernagh: On my wish list!

>19 Jackie_K: on my TBR ,pile!

21LauraBrook
Jan 24, 12:49pm Top

Happy ROOTing this year, Lori - I see you're already clipping right along! :)

22lkernagh
Jan 25, 10:29pm Top

>17 floremolla: - I did not know about Helen Dunmore's passing. That is very sad news. She was such a wonderful writer.

>18 Berly: - Thanks Kim! I am on a roll, as they say!

>19 Jackie_K: - A valid confusion, especially as they are both such wonderful writers. I absolutely loved The Frozen Thames when it read... I read it during a summer heat wave and found myself feeling oddly refreshed. ;-)

>20 tess_schoolmarm: - Yay!

>21 LauraBrook: - Thanks Laura! I am going for a banner year of ROOT reading.

23lkernagh
Edited: Jan 25, 10:32pm Top


ROOT #5 - Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy - audiobook narrated by Richard Poe
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT - Gothic; AlphaKIT - "M"
Bingo DOG: "1001 List"
Category: "M" Book Title - Meridian
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / audiobook
Original publication date: 1985
Acquisition date: July 11, 2014
Page count: 368 pages / 13 hours, 15 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.45 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
In 1849 on the Texas-Mexico borders, a teenage boy finds himself alone in a brutal, aggressive world, where basic survival is the primary purpose. Hard men traverse a harsh landscape where scalping, burning, torture and death are common-place, as the sun beats down mercilessly on the ground. Cultures intermingle and clash. Mexicans, Apaches, Texans and any number of travellers from the United States and beyond struggle to live just one more day.
Review:
Having previously read The Road and Suttree, I “thought” I had an idea of what I was going to be in for with Blood Meridian. Nope, not by a long shot. For starters, this is not your typical Western of villains versus heroes, where at the end of the day the heroes win and ride off into the sunset. The wild west of McCarthy’s creation is a world gone mad, filled with cascading mindless violence, and no heroes in sight. I am not sure to what extent McCarthy borrows from history, but I do know that there is a real historical figure called Glanton who lead mercenaries tracking down and scalping Apaches for the Mexican authorities, so there is a vein of truth to be found within the pages of this story. Where Suttree was more grounded in the decline of the community living along the Tennessee River, and The Road is a journey of desperation through a sparsely populated post-apocalyptic world, both stories still retain some glimpses for optimism/ redemption. Blood Meridian is McCarthy at his most pessimistic. It is a very surreal read, with an allegorical structure and characters like "the Kid" and "the Judge" - whom I could not help but envision as being the Devil himself, what with the way he creates by alchemy gunpowder and expounds a philosophy that is so bloodthirsty it is hard to accept any kindness coming from him except with a dark twist to fulfill a self-serving purpose. I believe that the desert landscape of this story is in fact Hell. Maybe not Dante’s vision of Hell, but just as vivid in its portrayal, maybe even more so in that some readers will have an easier time making the connections with a western setting.

For me, this story really brings to mind Roberto Bolano’s 2666, in particular, the on-going senseless violence of the murders in Santa Teresa. Both authors have a skill for writing sharp, vivid descriptions while at the same time weaving a story with an opaque denseness that can convey a myriad of deeper meanings.

Overall, a worthy read but please keep in mind that this anti-western epic is brutally violent with disturbing imagery in its commentary of man’s inhumanity to man.

24floremolla
Jan 26, 9:19am Top

Great review again, Lori. I’ve got this on my TBR too - covers some similar territory/timescales/events to Days Without End but I guessed it would be much denser. I loved his Border Trilogy and The Road but found some scenes in the latter quite challenging, so thanks for the warning.

25lkernagh
Jan 28, 5:17pm Top

>24 floremolla: - I am kind of glad I held off on reading Blood Meridian. If I had tried to read it 5 years ago, I probably would have abandoned it as being to violent. LT has managed to help me expand my reading genres and not be quite as quickly phased by a book as I used to be. ;-)

26lkernagh
Jan 28, 5:18pm Top

.
ROOT #6 - The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove by J.S. Bailey et al
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "W" Book Title - Whispered
Source: LTER
Format: ebook
Original publication date: October 10, 2017
Acquisition date: November 8, 2017
Page count: 276 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
Graves Grove isn’t your ordinary town… Nestled within the folds of the Canadian Rockies, Graves Grove probably isn’t the picturesque place you’d like to stay for long. Peculiar things happen here. The citizens seem normal superficially—they function well enough. But each one is deeply disturbed, wrapped in secrets and neuroses which drive them to strange behaviors. And then there are all the missing children. And why is everyone afraid of that sycamore tree? The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove is an anthology of stories taking place throughout the history of this mysterious town, from its founding to its future. Read them…if you dare.
Review:
Anthologies don't always work for me. I either get bored with the collected works of one author or I find the collection to be a rather random selection of stories, poems, etc. The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove works well for me as it is more a collection of related stories written by various authors (23 short stories by 17 authors, in this case). What I did enjoy is that the collective focus of the stories is on Graves Grove as the setting and the unusual (translation: creepy paranormal) events that occur in this otherwise sleepy little town. A number of characters - such as Mamie Rue Le Doux - and themes - such as the way that the bronze statue of the town's founder seems to mysteriously change its clothing on a regular basis - repeat themselves. Even with a common setting and the repeating characters/themes, each story is different. What does remain consistent is that all of the stories have an element of horror running through them. The good news for me (being the scaredycat horror reader that I am), the stories were not creepy to the point of causing me to lose any sleep, but still creepy enough for me to mentally call out to the characters things like, "Oh, you don't want to go there" or "You don't want to to do that". Never thought I would come to love a character in a horror story collection but I have to say, Mamie Rue Le Doux is a fascinating character! Filled with everything from fairies, witches, demons and shapeshifters to aliens, ghosts, and vampires, these stories do not lack for imagination. If I ever come across a town with a large sycamore tree that doesn't seem to feel quite right, I believe the stories in this anthology will come bubbling to the surface of my mind as a warning.

Overall, I like the result achieved with this anthology and would like to read more anthologies where the editors create the setting and a short backstory and let the individual authors loose to create away.

27connie53
Jan 29, 2:46am Top

>26 lkernagh: I can relate to your feeling about anthologies. I'm right now reading a book of short stories by Kate Mosse and find some of the stories rather boring or plain bad. I like the longer ones, so I'm skipping some of the shorter ones. But I'm hanging in there.

28lkernagh
Jan 30, 9:26pm Top

>27 connie53: - Good for you, hanging in with an anthology that you are not completely taken with, Connie! I do like Kate Mosse's novels, but I have not read any of her shorter fiction.

29lkernagh
Jan 30, 9:27pm Top


ROOT #7 - The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: SFFKIT: There is always tomorrow - Meant to read it in 2017 (or earlier), but didn't
Bingo DOG: "Story Involves Travel" - Time Travel
Category: "A" Book Title - Affair
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2010
Acquisition date: May 5, 2013
Page count: 373 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.70 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
London, 1861. Sir Richard Francis Burton - explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead. Algernon Charles Swinburne - unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade, for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin! Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age, and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn't exist at all!
Review:
There is no doubt that Hodder has done his homework. A number of the characters and certain locations are pulled directly from history, but that is where the recognizable elements end. Hodder has done a fabulous job creating an alternate reality Victorian England world filled with enough steampunk elements to make this reader expect the sounds of whirring, clanking mechanics and steam to rise directly from the pages. The story started off in full sci-fi styled creepiness in the form of attacks made by the mysterious creature locals have dubbed “Spring Heeled Jack”, but the story quickly evolves into a more straightforward gaslight mystery adventure romp (except for the loup-garous, a.k.a. werewolves) courtesy of the explorer Burton – now a King’s agent – and his friend, the young poet Algernon Swinburne. The time travel piece, while intriguing at first, grew to be a rather tiresome slog for me as the book headed towards its conclusion (too much ricocheting around like a pinball in a pinball machine for my tastes). Without a doubt, it is “too clever for his own good” Swinburne (a devout follower of the Marquis de Sade) and the messenger parakeets (with their proclivity to colourful language) that made this such a fun read for this reader. I also liked how Hodder’s alternate reality Victorian world is one being divided into a caste system of the Technologists (supporters for bigger and better machines), the Eugenicists (developers of insanely modified animals/humans), the Libertines and the Rakes (both going where their hedonistic desires take them).

Hodder packs an awful lot into this one story, providing moments of drama, suspense and satire to the downright outrageous (in the “suspend believe” realm). As with other steampunk adventure romps I have read, this one is wonderful in providing the reader with a historical grounding before leaping off into the wildly fanciful unknown of the author’s imagination. Where does it fall down for me? Some of the content is a bit repetitive – and I am not talking about the parts involving the time travel (where some form of repetition would be expected). It also seems a bit uneven. The story also lacks in any strong character or plot development, which is fine if one is reading strictly for the entertainment value.

Overall, another decent read squarely in the steampunk genre and an enjoyable adventure romp of the “over-the-top” extravaganza style when an entertaining read is just what a reader is in the mood for.

30lkernagh
Edited: Jan 31, 10:22pm Top

Last ROOT for January:


ROOT #8 - The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - audiobook narrated by Caroline Lee
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT: Gothic; AlphaKIT: M
Bingo DOG: "Fits at least 2 KITS / CATS"
Category: "K" Author - Kate
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2009
Acquisition date: November 26, 2011
Page count: 473 pages / 19 hours, 15 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.35 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from various sources:
Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House where ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
Review:
While not heavily imbued with the suspenseful gothic atmosphere I like to find in a Gothic read like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca or even Morton’s more recent novel, The Distant Hours, this is still a good story about family secrets. Instead of the usual format of a heroine as an outsider trying to crack the family secret, Grace is the only surviving person with first-hand knowledge of the secret. Told predominantly from the point of view of Grace, the story is meted out in a slow, meditative style. The story of Grace’s own family mystery only receives minor nods as the plot largely revolves around the two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline. Without given any of the plot away, it is fair to say – and using the author’s own words from her closing notes - that Morton captures elements of the haunting of the present by the past, the entrapment of women socially, the unreliability of memory and confessional narratives. One could also consider the gothic element of a crumbling/decaying family estate to be captured here in the form of the crumbing decay of a prominent British family, so there are some good Gothic elements to found here.... just not the deepening atmospheric suspense build I was looking for. I did enjoy the historical period and I found Hannah to be a well-developed character. As for Emmeline, well, she comes across as nothing more than a passion driven petulant child playing dress-up (even though we do see her through into her late teens and by all accounts considered to be a young adult of the social period) and very much the opposite to her sister Hannah.

Overall, I preferred The Distant Hours more, but acknowledge that for a debut novel, The House at Riverton is a wonderful period piece set in WWI and post WWI time periods, with the period and social norms captured in fine detail. This one may appeal to readers who enjoyed Remains of the Day or the UK TV series, Upstairs, Downstairs.

31floremolla
Feb 1, 7:05am Top

>30 lkernagh: I've wishlisted this - as much to remind me that I haven't read any of Kate Morton's books and they seem to be popular. Even the titles of her books sound enticing!

32detailmuse
Feb 1, 1:38pm Top

>26 lkernagh: I love collections of linked stories, glad to see more being published!

33connie53
Feb 3, 2:28am Top

>31 floremolla: I love all of Kate Mortons books, Donna. In fact I gave one of her books 5 stars in 2016. So you might give one a try.

34lkernagh
Feb 12, 5:32pm Top


ROOT #9 - X by Sue Grafton - audiobook narrated by Judy Kaye
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT: Female Cop/Sleuth/Detective; AlphaKIT: X
Bingo DOG: "X in the Title"
Category: "X" Book Title - X
Source: TBR
Format: Audiobook
Original publication date: 2015
Acquisition date: December 12, 2016
Page count: 512 pages / 13 hours, 32 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.90 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the local public library catalogue listing:
"Kinsey finds herself between cases and in the process of helping out a friend, finds herself embroiled in a case involving a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. While she is quick to identity the sociopath, the test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim."
Review:
Grafton's skill for weaving a complicated case continues here. Always lovely to see the regular support characters - Kinsey's landlord Henry, his brother William and who can forget such a colour character like Rosie! Kinsey's former flames, Cheney Phillips, Jonah Robb and Robert Dietz all put in cameo appearances. Even better, we get to meet Cheney's mom in this one! Yes, I tend to get just as much pleasure out of keeping up to date with Kinsey's circle of friends as I do with the cases. In true Grafton form, the author leads the readers to yet another nail-biting suspense-filled plot near the end. Another thing I love about these stories is that there is usually a "case" that Kinsey is officially working on and a side issue that Kinsey finds herself involved with by pure happenstance. This time, trouble seems to be closer to home than one would expect.

Overall, another good installment in Grafton's alphabet series.

35lkernagh
Feb 15, 11:11pm Top


ROOT #10 - The Passage by Justin Cronin - audiobook narrated by Scott Brick
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT: Survival/Disaster; AlphaKIT: J
Bingo DOG: ">500 pages"
Category: "J" Author - Justin
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2010
Acquisition date: February 2, 2014
Page count: 784 pages / 36 hours, 57 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"What becomes of human society when a top-secret government experiment spins wildly out of control? At an army research station in Colorado, an experiment is being conducted by the U.S. Government: twelve men are exposed to a virus meant to weaponize the human form by super-charging the immune system. But when the experiment goes terribly wrong, terror is unleashed. Amy, a young girl abandoned by her mother and set to be the thirteenth test subject, is rescued by Brad Wolgast, the FBI agent who has been tasked with handing her over, and together they escape to the mountains of Oregon. As civilization crumbles around them, Brad and Amy struggle to keep each other alive, clinging to hope and unable to comprehend the nightmare that approaches with great speed and no mercy. . . "
Review:
I love books that tend to generate snappy one-sentence pitches from reviewers! One reviewer wrote: The Stand meets I Am Legend by way of 28 Days Later, while another one call this The Andromeda Strain meets The Stand. My one-sentence pitch for this book would be Resident Evil meets The Road.

I should mention that I tend to steer clear of vampire books - although, given that I am currently reading A Discovery of Witches, that avoidance pattern seems to be shifting - but this is more a book about a viral outbreak with an apocalyptic effect on the world than your "typical" vampire story. Viral outbreak suspense reads can easily grab my undivided attention. Cronin’s vampires are more monsters mutations - “Virals” - that happen to have vampire tendencies, at least that is how I saw them. A bit “potayto, potahto”, but you get what I mean. Dystopian epics usually lack the ability to suck me in (pun intended) as some of them can be so darn depressing, but I like how Cronin makes use of the crisis point of the outbreak and then shifts forward some one hundred years, to an isolated colony of humans in a post-apocalyptic world where every day is focused on survival. What makes this story work so well for me is the temperament and resolve of the characters (the human survivors, just in case you are wondering). They are not superheroes and yet they are up against unbeatable odds, with the constant fear that at some point, their key defense against the Virals (bright lights) will fail and plunge the entire colony into darkness. Even against such bleak reality, many of them are able to keep their focus and resolve to carry on, although some do reach that breaking point when they just cannot go on any longer. The unknown world beyond the colony, the unpredictability of the Virals, and the changing nature of some of the characters, is all Cronin needs to keep the suspense going and going and going. I noticed when I skimmed through my print copy that Cronin makes use of everything from diaries to email messages, maps, newspaper articles and even legal documents to tell his story. This gets a little choppy when listening to the audiobook but I was still able to follow along, just probably missed out on some of the more subtle points effected through these differing methods.

Overall, a gripping, suspense read with all the elements to make an easy transition from book to screen. One doesn’t need to be a dystopian or urban fantasy fan to appreciate this for the suspense ride it is although some might feel that it is another one of those reads written to target a mainstream reading audience.

36floremolla
Feb 16, 4:01am Top

>35 lkernagh: great review! I also steer clear of vampires but I'd maybe watch a movie of this one :)

37Carmenere
Feb 16, 8:24am Top

Hey Lori! Nice review!! I've often seen mention of Cronin but never looked into any of his books. I think I will now.
Have a lovely weekend!

38connie53
Feb 17, 3:00am Top

>35 lkernagh: I read that book a few years ago and I have part 2 and 3 on the shelves, but the size of the books keep me from reading them. Maybe for the BFB challenge I will read them this year.

39lkernagh
Edited: Mar 10, 8:36pm Top

Thanks everyone!

>36 floremolla: - Thanks! I am very curious to see the adaptation of The Passage. I "think" it has been made into a TV series.... I must investigate further.

>37 Carmenere: - Thanks, Lynda!

>38 connie53: - Big books tend to deter me from reading them too, Connie. Always great to use a challenge as impetus to take on those bigger books. ;-)

-------------------------
I am a bit behind with my review posting. I was away on vacation the last two weeks in February. Good news is I did manage to get in some decent reading time while away.

40lkernagh
Mar 10, 1:18pm Top


ROOT #11 - The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: "LGBTQ central character"
Category: "H" Book Title - Hours
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 1998
Acquisition date: May 15, 2011
Page count: 240 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.70 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf's last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family. "
Review:
I read Mrs. Dalloway back in 2010 as my first exposure to Woolf's literary works, and dare I say that its sheer brilliance managed to overshadow any appreciation I may have had for To the Lighthouse, had that been my first Woolf read. It took a reading challenge for me to finally take down my copy of The Hours and give it a read. Did I have some trepidation that my love for Woolf's original story would make me unduly critical of Cunningham's story? You bet I did. Thankfully, I did not need to worry. If anything, The Hours has made me want to re-read Mrs. Dalloway and savor the original story all over again. Cunningham's connected stories were able to draw a strong level of connection and emotion from me. Is The Hours as good as Mrs. Dalloway? Not to this reader but I believe The Hours was meant to compliment, not compete, with Woolf's wonderful story, and compliment it does, in spades, even down to what one reviewer has noted as certain parts where "Cunningham follows Woolf's cadences too closely". Some readers may view that as a problem. I don't. If anything, Cunningham's efforts to imbue the stories with these direct ties to Mrs. Dalloway enrich the stories with extra meaning, as do some of the little jokes included that readers of the original will appreciate.

Overall, a wonderful cascading of three story-lines (and time periods) that makes for a sublimely delightful read. Not Mrs. Dalloway, but still a darn good read.

41lkernagh
Mar 10, 1:19pm Top


ROOT #12 - Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: AlphaKIT (Feb) - "J" - Julian
Bingo DOG: "Relative Name in Title" - George (cousin)
Category: "G" Book Title - George
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: July 7, 2005
Acquisition date: May 15, 2011
Page count: 448 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected."
Review:
I will give Barnes credit: He really does know how to immerse the reader in his characters. For that very reason, the first part - okay, the first half of the book - is really background for the reader as it takes a fair bit of the story before our two main characters - Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji - even meet. That is okay with me as I enjoy stories with a slower, more methodical detailed build to it and there is a lot of interesting details to be had in the unusual Edalji case. I was comfortably half way through the story before I learned that it is, in fact, based upon real life events. Obviously, I am not the "Sherlockologist" I thought I was. Suffice to say, that little bit of information made the story all that much more interesting to read! the following summary posted in my local library's online catalogue captures this story beautifully:
"Arthur & George is a masterful novel about low crime and high spirituality, guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. Most of all, it's a profound and witty meditation on the fateful differences between what we believe, what we know and what we can prove."
Overall, an engrossing read for anyone interested in the Victorian legal system, a Doyle bibliophile or someone like me who appreciates a well researched and well written historical fiction read.

42lkernagh
Mar 10, 1:19pm Top


ROOT #13 - A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - audiobook read by Jennifer Ikeda
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: SFFKIT - Urban Fantasy
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "D" Author - Deborah
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2011
Acquisition date: May 11, 2014
Page count: 592 pages / 24 hours listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.40 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the book back cover:
"Deep in the heart of Oxford's Bodleian library, Diana Bishop - a young scholar and the descendant of witches - unearths an enchanted alchemical manuscript. Wanting nothing to do with sorcery, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery has set a fantastical underworld stirring, and soon a horde of daemons, witches, and other creatures descends upon the library. Among them is the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire with a keen interest in the book. Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, this is a tale of passion and obsession that reveals closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world."
Review:
What to say, what to say. Definitely a good book for readers - like me - who enjoy light-paced romance stories with a dash of intrigue thrown in. Think the Eloise Kelly-Colin Selwick romance from Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series (with the added fantasy elements of vampires, witches and daemons) and you kind of have a feel for what is happening in this first book in Harkness' trilogy. Fun yes. Gripping suspense drama? Not really. The romance bits seem to overshadow most of the mystery/intrigue/suspense, and some of it is kind of "Really?!?" Still, a nice diversion if you need some fluff reading to escape into. I did find the daemons and some of the banter rather amusing.

43floremolla
Mar 10, 8:13pm Top

>40 lkernagh: The Hours is a great favourite of mine - I read Mrs Dalloway for book group, then saw the movie adaptation of The Hours. A decade and a half later, I finally read the book. The gap was too long to fully appreciate the references to Mrs Dalloway unfortunately! To be read again sometime....

>41 lkernagh: I enjoyed Arthur and George too and like you I was surprised and impressed to find it was based on a true story. I've since read several of Barnes' novels and though they're all very different, they all have that same attention to detail. You've reminded me I've got some in my TBR pile to look forward to!

44lkernagh
Mar 18, 1:36pm Top

>43 floremolla: - The Hours is a wonderful read! Barnes does appear to be a very versatile writer! I have yet to hate anything of his that I have read so far. Always a good sign!

-------------------------------
I seem to be reading a fair number of large books so far this year. Next review is another chunkster read that I am happy to have completed, with the help of a group read.

45lkernagh
Edited: Mar 18, 1:58pm Top


ROOT #14 - The Forsyte Saga by Johns Galsworthy - audiobook read David Case
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: AlphaKIT (Mar) - "F" - Forsyte
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "F" Book Title - Forsyte
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: first published under this title in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921
Acquisition date: May 7, 2017
Page count: 896 pages / 34 hours, 33 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"A masterful telling of the Forsyte family's troubled story, comprising of the books The Man of Property, In Chancery, To Let and the two connecting interludes, Indian Summer of a Forsyte and Awakening. Initially, the narrative centers on Soames Forsyte - a successful solicitor living in London with his beautiful wife Irene. A pillar of the late Victorian upper middle class, materially wealthy, his appears to be a golden existence endowed with all the necessary possessions for a 'Man of Property', but beneath this very proper exterior lies a core of unhappiness and brutal relationships. The marriage of Soames and Irene disintegrates in bitter recrimination, creating a feud within the family that will have far-reaching consequences."
Review:
On a very quick, superficial level, this saga can be described as depicting the morals, values and opinions of three generations of a large, upper-middle class family as it leaves the Victorian era behind and enters the Edwardian era. I did struggle at first to try and keep the various family members straight in my head – too many Jolyons in the family! While this is very much a family drama story, Galsworthy captures in minute detail English society of the time period, providing a fascinating examination of the changes to a more liberal minded society. Not surprisingly, some family members adapt more easily to this changing tide than others, making that conflict a strong part of the story. As for the characters, there is a resolute stiffness (dare I say, obstinacy) to Soames, which contrasts with the more genial nature of his cousin Young Jolyon. As for Irene, even as a victim, there is a detached coldness about her. This is probably more in keeping with the English literature style of the time than any mannerism Galsworthy wishes to attribute to her character. Fleur and Jon, the next generation to continue the family drama that surrounds them, are very much products of the more open Edwardian society, leading them to rankle against the family drama of their parents.

Some parts of the saga appealed to me more than others. I like how Galsworthy has chosen titles that communicate deeper meaning of the stories, and some of the shifts in narration (in particular, the two interludes) was refreshing. While I found some parts to be a bit long-winded, there is no mistaking that Galsworthy has achieved a tour de force with this saga. That being said, I don't know if I will explore the further books that continue the Forsyte family drama. At least, not right away.

46lkernagh
Mar 18, 7:21pm Top


ROOT #15 - Faithful Place by Tana French - audiobook read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT - Global Mysteries (Ireland); AlphaKIT (Mar) - "F" - Faithful and French
Bingo DOG: "Read a CAT"
Category: "P" Book Title - Place
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2010
Acquisition date: March 3, 2016
Page count: 416 pages / 16 hours, 3 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.85 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the local library book catalogue listing webpage:
"Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was a nineteen-year-old kid with a dream of escaping his family's cramped flat on Faithful Place and running away to London with his girl, Rosie Daly. But on the night they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd given him the brush-off--probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again. Neither did Rosie. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank, now a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, is going home whether he likes it or not"
Review:
French knows how to weave a spellbinding story! The "who dun it" bit was not a huge surprise but French focuses more on building the psychological profiles of her complicated characters than on hiding the mystery to the bitter end. Even so, she can really sling some fascinating 'whiplash' surprises to grab the reader's attention. Family dynamics can always be complicated, but trust French to ensnare those complications into an amazing web of secrets and deceit. At one point, I really started to wonder if I even knew which way was up... and kudos to French for twisting this reader around so much!

Definitely a brilliantly written crime story that had my full attention. Can recommend this as a great mystery/crime read for anyone looking for a different December/Christmas based story. Thankfully, French's Dublin Murder Squad series is really a loosely based series, because I still need to go back and read The Likeness... yes, I am reading this series a bit out of order.

47lkernagh
Mar 21, 9:46pm Top


ROOT #16 - Drifters' Alliance by Elle Casey
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: SFFKIT - Off World
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "D" Book Title - Drifters'
Source: TBR
Format: eBook
Original publication date: June 2015
Acquisition date: August 3, 2016
Page count: 192 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.35 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the author's booklisting webpage:
"One hand of cards and it's all over but the crying... Cass Kennedy finally gets what she's been dreaming of for the past ten years: a drifter ship to call her own. All the sim time and battle training is going to pay off in spades as she sets her course for the future. She'll be living on her own terms, not those of her father. But drifting through deep space with a crew of nutty strangers on the DS Anarchy carries a lot more surprises than she bargained for. Nobody told her that her ship is falling apart, that dead chickens are something you really want to hang on to, and that the OSG has big plans for the universe that don't necessarily jibe with her plans for herself. Jump onboard with Cass and her crew as she charts a course toward an alliance that will either make her or break her as Captain of the DS Anarchy."
Review:
My kind of space opera is one with misfit characters, a renegade crew, an "evil empire" to rankle against and some lively banter. Think the TV series Firefly, the movie Serenity and books like Ian Whates' Dark Angels series or John Scalzi's Redshirts. Basically, I want some fun, kick-ass attitude with my space adventure. Casey delivers the kick-ass bit in spades. Cass, our protagonist, is young - a mere mite at 18-years of age - but she knows how to chase her dream, even if it means periods of sweating bullets, showing her age and inexperience in certain situations. Yes, the story has a bit of the YA audience appeal to it - and some readers may feel that the story objectifies Cass, but I tend to not take offense at stuff like that. I did get a few good chuckles out of the stowaway who always refers to himself in the third person and the identical twin engineers provide some good comic relief.

Overall, a fun space opera and a relatively decent first book in what is currently a three book series.

48avanders
Mar 22, 12:16pm Top

Hi!! I've been away and ... so much has happened! I'm happy to see you're doing so well w/ your ROOTing :)

49connie53
Mar 27, 1:33pm Top

>46 lkernagh:. I loved that book too, Lori!

50lkernagh
Mar 27, 11:03pm Top

>48 avanders: - Thanks! I am on track with my ROOT reading so far this year... really happy about that!

>49 connie53: - It was a goodie!

51lkernagh
Mar 27, 11:05pm Top


ROOT #17 - Broken Harbour by Tana French - Audiobook narrated by Stephen Hogan
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT - Global Mysteries (Ireland); AlphaKIT (Mar) - "F" - French
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "F" Author - French
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: July 2, 2012
Acquisition date: May 5, 2013
Page count: 496 pages / 19 hours, 59 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.15 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy plays by the book and plays hard. That's why he's the Dublin Murder Squad's top detective, and that's what puts the biggest case of the year in his hands. On one of the half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children have been murdered. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher thinks it's going to be an easy solve, but too many small things can't be explained: the half-dozen baby monitors pointed at holes smashed in the Spains' walls, the files erased from the family's computer, the story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder slipping past the house's locks. And this neighborhood--once called Broken Harbor--holds memories for Scorcher and his troubled sister Dina: childhood memories that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control."
Review:
With this installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series, French continues to delve deep into the psyche of her characters, something she does so darn well! This time, we get to learn more about Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the homicide detective from French's earlier published book, Faithful Place. Scorcher's own fractured family life - past and present - comes into play, even as he drives himself to clear a high profile murder case with a rookie detective still wet behind the ears for a partner.

French has a skill for setting the scene. For me, it is not about the murder or solving the crime. It is all about the characters and the psychology... getting inside the characters' minds to learn what drives them to do the things they do and to make the decisions they make. French brings a level of hard reality to her stories and this time, the list of damaged individuals runs rather high, making this a glum, depressing read for me. I tend to struggle with books where everyone is hurting, at some level and there is no "happy solution" - no grand satisfaction on solving the murder - more a deadening realization that this is one of those "no win" train wrecks that just stab you in the gut. It takes skill to write such an story and still keep my attention.

If you like gritty police procedural with a dark, psychological edge to them, you will probably appreciate Broken Harbour.

52lkernagh
Edited: Mar 31, 8:11pm Top

Last ROOT for March:


ROOT #18 - Mr. Darwin's Shooter by Roger MacDonald
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT, RTT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: "Famous Person in Title" - Charles Darwin
Category: "S" Book Title - Shooter
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperback
Original publication date: 1998
Acquisition date: May 16, 2010
Page count: 384 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the book back cover:
"During the historic voyage of the Beagle, Charles Dawrin wrote to his sister, "My servant is an odd sort of person. I do not very much like him; but he is, perhaps from his very oddity, very well adapted to my purposes." In this richly detailed novel based on the life of Syms Covington, Darwin's hardworking shipboard assistant and later his house-servant, Roger MacDonald shines a light on a man forgotten by history, capturing the excitement of the voyage on the Beagle and brilliantly illuminating the scientific, religious, and social controversies that exploded around Darwin's watershed theories."
Review:
I am always fascinated about "the unsung heroes" for some of history's really big developments. MacDonald chooses the perfect person to focus on when he decides to write a fictional account of the life, thoughts, feelings and emotions of an individual who by today's standards would have been considered a co-contributor to Darwin's naturalist work and the creation of his "Origin of the Species" thesis. On one level, this is a full on adventure story of what it might have been like for a 19th century young lad with no work prospects at home to embark on a seafaring life, and what a seafaring life MacDonald portrays! On a different level, this story is about the unique friendship that grows between a much older Covington - being forced to give up his seafaring ways - and the young American raised, Australian based doctor MacCracken. If that is not enough, the story even dips into the realm of conflicting views as the older Covington, of the Congregationalist religious persuasion, grapples with the overarching concepts contained in Darwin's newly released Origins of the Species and how they are at odds with his religious beliefs.

Well the story presents a rich tapestry of the historical time period, and I love the idea of being able to visit such pristine places like the Galapagos in the 19th century through the story, I have to admit that it took me two months to read this one. I just never felt connected to the story, the characters or their situations. That being said, I do want to see if I can find the book referenced in the story of the Beagle's historic journey, and now have a renewed interest to read The Origins of the Species, so some good did come out of reading this one.

53floremolla
Apr 2, 8:37am Top

>52 lkernagh: pity about that, it sounded much more promising - but good that it's propelled you towards other books on a related theme. That's one of the joys of reading, isn't it? :)

54lkernagh
Apr 2, 6:20pm Top

>53 floremolla: - Yes, have a book lead me to other books to read is one of the wonderful things about reading!

55lkernagh
Apr 2, 6:21pm Top


ROOT #19 - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - audiobook narrated by John Lee
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: "Number in the Title" - One Hundred
Category: "G" Author - Gabriel
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 1967
Acquisition date: February 22, 2009
Page count: 336 pages / 14 hours, 7 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from multiple sources:
"A Band of adventurers establish a town in the heart of the South American jungle. The occasion marks the beginning: of the world, of a great family, of a century of extraordinary events that tell the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family."
Review:
As far as family sagas go, this is one convoluted mess! I finally had to give up trying to keep the characters straight or making any sense of the dense sentence structure and just listened. In the end, I had to resort to reading the 2011 group read thread here on LT and an online reader's guide to make sense of the deeper meaning behind the title. One reviewer explains this theme best:
"The Buendías are a group of solitary individuals living together as strangers in the same house. As such, they personify the predicament of the human race. The story of the Buendías also reveals the limited nature of the individual's control of his own destiny... For many of the characters indeed, life becomes synonymous with suffering, and a recurring motif is withdrawn from the world in a symbolic retreat to the refuge of the womb. Peace of mind is ultimately achieved only when the characters opt out of active emotional involvement in life, and accept the fate they have been given."
I probably would have been able to get more out of this one if I had read the story instead of listening to the audiobook, but my copy has such tiny, cramped text (published in 1978 by Picador), that reading it in the traditional way was going to be quite the chore. Some reviewers have commented on how this one reminds them of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, a book I admit I have not read.

Overall, I continue to be impressed by Garbriel Garcia Marquez's storytelling and the themes he brings forward but I think this time, the sheer epic nature of this story and the seemingly endless cast of characters, just left me feeling limp, drained and still confused at the end.

56floremolla
Apr 3, 4:22am Top

>55 lkernagh: I listened to this audiobook too and didn't like John Lee's narration style - it gave me a flashback to school when boys had to read something out loud in class and did it in a disinterested way to make sure their friends didn't think they were being 'sissies'.

But the book itself? I agree with you 100% about the (confusingly similarly named) characters and the dense sentence structure. I took some time afterwards to read up about the novel - Wikipedia and critical reviews - and realised I'd missed a whole load of allusions and symbolism because I didn't know Colombia's history.

Then I read a bit about that too - each generation of the family lives through a period of history, usually tragic. For instance the story about workers on the banana plantation was the era when Colombia became a 'banana republic'. I would have given the book 3* like you, but when I saw what the author was trying to do (and to Colombians it would have been successful because it was obvious!) I raised it to 4* for ambition. Just wish I'd read up before I started it!

57detailmuse
Apr 4, 10:06am Top

>55 lkernagh:, >56 floremolla: Great review and fortuitous timing for me to see comments about One Hundred Years of Solitude -- I just finished Love in the Time of Cholera, which also had "such tiny, cramped text" :( but had a light, playful writing style. I cautiously look forward to this one some day.

58lkernagh
Apr 9, 8:45pm Top

>56 floremolla: and >57 detailmuse: - Sounds like we had similar experiences with One Hundred Years. I really did not know enough about Columbia's history to even understand what was going one. A worthy read, and I may attempt to read it again at some point, but I will definitely do my Columbian history research first AND I will find an e-book version so that I don't have to fuss with cramped text! ;-)

59lkernagh
Apr 9, 8:45pm Top


ROOT #20 - The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay - audiobook read by Stina Nielsen
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, RTT, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: “V” Book Title - Virgin
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / audiobook
Original publication date: 2011
Acquisition date: May 10, 2014
Page count: 368 pages / 10 hours, 15 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.90 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the book inside fly cover:
"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

So begins a story set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. Betrayals and abandonment lead young Moth to the Bowery, a world filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks, and prostitutes. Eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a type of establishment simply known as an "infant school" that caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions, the most desireable of which are young virgins like Moth. As Moth finds her way through this wild and murky thorough-fare, her new friends are falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure" - that deflowering a young girl can heal the incurable and tainted. Moth knows that the law will not protect her and polite society ignores her, but still she dreams of answering to no one but herself, regardless of the cost."
Review:
McKay continues to make use of a writing style – a story interspersed with letters, newspaper clippings and journal entries – that worked in The Birth House, McKay’s debut novel. She mixes things up a bit this time with a change in venue. Instead of an isolated community, McKay transports the reader to the mean streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side around the Bowery circa 1871. Basically, the 1870s was one very grim time period to live in with its hopeless state of female employment, so not surprising that the risky prostitution trade like Miss Everett’s “Infant School” - a brothel that certifies its girls are virgo intacto to gentlemen with deep pockets of cash - actually looks like a better situation to Moth than most other options available to her (like the workhouses or going to live in a charity boarding house).

The curious sidebars, illustrations, old apothecary ads, excerpts from newspapers and Dr. Sadie Frost’s observations (which are based upon the author’s own great-great-great grandmother’s experiences as one of the first female physicians) go a long way to make this a fascinating historical fiction read for this reader. I should point out that McKay’s stories are more about immersion into a time period, focusing attention on certain themes/issues than any type of plot-driven story. That being said, Moth flits between naïve innocence one would expect from a child of 12-years and “wisdom beyond her years” slum life has given her making her at times a rather conflicted character. Also, as good as McKay is at giving me a fascinating page-turning read, her endings tend to come across as a little too abrupt.

Overall, an interesting read set in post Civil War New York City with 19th century themes such as poverty, prostitution, gender roles, and sexuality.

60connie53
Apr 10, 1:17pm Top

Hi Lori, just trying to catch up on threads and skimming all the posts. I loved the book by Tana French too.

61lkernagh
Apr 16, 8:55pm Top

>60 connie53: - I still have a copy of The Likeness on my TBR piles that I hope to get to soon. French writes a very compelling read!

62lkernagh
Apr 16, 8:55pm Top


ROOT #21 - A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - audiobook narrated by Atossa Leoni
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: RandomCAT (April Loves Books!)
Bingo DOG: "Something in the Sky in the Title" - Suns
Category: “T” Book Title - Thousand
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2007
Acquisition date: April 30, 2016
Page count: 432 pages / 11 hours, 45 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.50 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing webpage:
"Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism."
Review:
What an amazing novel and so difficult to pin down my thoughts in a short review. Words such as "liked" "enjoyed" are not fitting words to describe this reading experience. "Spellbinding" and "eye-opening" would seem more appropriate. Set against the backdrop of 30 years of turbulent Afghanistan history (from the early 1970's to the early 2000's), Hosseini vividly portrays those years of unrest, war, oppression and terror through the voices of Mariam and Laila. Every single character experience death and loss of so me kind. One would think that this would make for a very depressing read, and yet, Hosseini manages to intermingle all that is terrible and ugly with a shimmer of love and a ray beam of light.

For me, this book is as important for its history lesson as it is in providing a vivid portrayal of Afghan life and terrible oppression of women in Afghan culture. The pain and suffering portrayed is palpable... I lost count of the number of times I found myself flinching along side the characters, and crying with them. Hosseini is truly a gifted storyteller, grabbing the reader's attention with clear, unfussy language. He dazzles the reader with his story, not the words used to convey the story. Through this straightforward presentation, Hossieni provides readers with a fascinating glimpse of daily life in Afghanistan of the time period. Another well written, thought provoking read for me.

63lkernagh
Apr 16, 8:56pm Top


ROOT #22 - Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT (Yellow)
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: “C” Book Title - Childhood
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2002
Acquisition date: July 11, 2014
Page count: 444 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the author's book listing webpage:
"The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiahs best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story.

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Saviors pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more — except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala — and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight."
Review:
I wasn't sure how I was going to take to this one. Moore tends to lean towards dark humour which can sometimes fall flat for me. What did work for me is the idea that Jesus embarked on 30-year journey of introspection and learning (the "Gap Years"). Makes sense to me, as does the idea that he would have been accompanied by his best friend on this destiny quest. When one doesn't have much to go on, seeking out the three wise men who came bearing gifts seems like a logical plan. Given that the focus of this story is to be humourous, it is not surprising that Joshua's BFF Biff is a street-smart, amoral and rather cynical individual (kind of the mirror opposite to Joshua), but like any good BFF, he is there for Joshua, through thick and thin. The quest was best part of the book for me. Loved the years spent in the Buddhist monastery, Balthasar's fortress and the sea caves! I got some good chuckles over some of the banter and sharp one-liners, but Biff's "frat boy" attitude started to wear a little thin with me. The second story line - set in modern day with Biff and the angel Raziel holed up in a hotel room in St. Louis (why St. Louis?!?) where Biff writes this "missing" gospel - is just... odd. Doesn't quite work for me, even though I can see how a "visitor" could become addicted to pizza and binge watch soap operas.

Overall, I love the concept for the story but I was glad to reach the end of this one. Not an easy book to recommend as the story will probably offend some readers. One definitely need to be a fan of dark humour to enjoy this one and should be prepared to read it with a rather open mind. My reading tastes tend to lean more towards Moore's other books, like The Stupidest Angel.

64Jackie_K
Edited: Apr 17, 4:40am Top

>62 lkernagh: I absolutely agree with you about A Thousand Splendid Suns, I think it's a remarkable book, even though much of it is very harrowing. I couldn't put it down when I read it.
>63 lkernagh: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff is on my wishlist, but one that I'll probably look for through the library. I've heard mixed things about it, which your review seems to pretty much sum up.

65connie53
Apr 21, 2:28am Top

>61 lkernagh: Go and read that one. I loved it. 4 stars for me

66lkernagh
Apr 23, 9:00pm Top

>64 Jackie_K: - I love when an author goes from strength to strength with their novels! I so need to lay my hands on a copy of And The Mountain Echoes, Hosseini's third book.

Lamb is definitely one of those books I would recommend borrowing from the library first and then only buy a copy if you really love it. I have one more Moore read - A Dirty Job - on my TBR pile that I am currently reading to clear it off the stacks. So far, A Dirty Job is proving to be more my cup of tea and more in keeping with the dark humour of The Stupidest Angel. ;-)

>65 connie53: - That is the only nudge I need to move The Likeness up my reading pile, Connie! I will see if I can fit it into my reading in the next couple of months.

67lkernagh
Apr 23, 9:02pm Top


ROOT #23 - Late Nights on /Air by Elizabeth Hay - audiobook narrated by Paul Hecht
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: “L” Book Title - Late
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2007
Acquisition date: May 12, 2012
Page count: 376 pages / 10 hours, 45 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 5.00 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the author's book listing webpage:
"Harry Boyd, a world-weary, washed-up television broadcaster, has returned to a small radio station in the remote reaches of the Canadian North. There, in the golden summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real Dido Paris is even more than he imagined. Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric and fascinating characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, are at the heart of the novel. Then one summer, four of them embark upon a long canoe trip into the Barrens, a mysterious landscape of lingering ice and almost continuous light. In that wild and dynamic arctic setting (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who starved to death in the Barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by a proposed gas pipeline that threatens to displace Native people from their land."
Review:
There is something inherently intimate about radio. I am not talking about “shock jock” or talk radio where the sole purpose of the program is to brooch a controversial topic and get callers lighting up the switchboard to voice their opinions. I am talking about the late night deejays… the Venus Flytraps of the world with their silky voices, their sympathetic ears. Hay draws on her early work history as a Northwest Territories-based radio broadcaster for the CBC to weave an eloquently powerful Canadian novel. Hay stated during an interview that the starting point of this book for her was that real voices have fictional faces, that we make up what we think should be associated with the voice we hear. Hay’s makes use of this ‘disconnect’ to present a 1970's circa northern world at a cross roads, with sub-themes of a television station coming to encroach on radio country and a proposed gas pipeline that may threaten the wildlife habitat and native communities of the region. Hay’s characters are a motley crew. A straggling collection of humanity that, for reasons conscious or unconscious, have individually migrated to this remote hinterland. For this group, the radio station representing an outpost: a rest stop from their former lives before before heading on to their future.

Essentially, this is a love story, or maybe a series of love triangles as the characters bob and weave through the motions of infatuation, seduction, smothering love and abandonment. In Hay’s deft, sympathetic hands, the reader experiences the poignancy of unrequited love and the unforgiving nature and striking beauty of the Yellowknife and the Barrens. Through her writing, one can feel Hay’s compassion for the human spirit – sadness, longing, tenderness – as well as a strong love and respect for the raw power and isolation of the far north.

A richly poignant and deeply satisfying read. A well-deserved winner of the 2007 Giller Prize, IMO, and one of my favorite reads so far this year.

68lkernagh
Apr 23, 9:03pm Top


ROOT #24 - 15 Minutes: A Time Travel Suspense Thriller by Jill Cooper
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: SFFKIT (Time Travel)
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: eBook
Original publication date: 2013
Acquisition date: May 18, 2016
Page count: 234 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.35 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"The Future can be a dangerous place, when you've changed the past... 15 minutes is all the Rewind Agency gives a person when they travel to the past, but for Lara Crane it’s enough for her to race through the city, find her mother, and stop her from being killed in a mugging that happened over ten years ago. But the story she’s been told all her life is a lie. When Lara takes a bullet meant for her mother, her future changes forever. A new house, new friends and a new boyfriend turns Lara’s turned upside down. She thinks if she can save her father from prison, reunite him with her mother, everything will be fine. 15 Minutes is an edgy high octane YA thriller where the people Lara trusts change in an instant. She is in a timeline she doesn't understand, and is about to make one fatal mistake as she faces an enemy so familiar, he’s family."
Review:
An interesting time travel suspense story, geared towards the YA market. Cooper leverages the time travel concept as a mechanism to keep the plot shifts coming fast and furious. As a character lead, Lara is more or less your typical teen, struggling to make sense of what any reader of time travel stories can tell you to expect: The ripple effect that can occur when one changes an event in the past. Not surprisingly, things go to hell in a hand-basket pretty darn fast. As much as I like complicated/convoluted plots, near the end, the time shifts (and the blurring of one time line and the memories of another time line) where happening so frequently that I found myself having to re-read some paragraphs just to get things straight in my mind as to what Lara was experiencing in the time line she was in versus the memories playing out in her mind.

Overall, a faced-paced, somewhat confusing read with a conspiracy angle I wasn’t expecting, and which proved to be the best part of the story for me.

69floremolla
Apr 24, 5:34am Top

>67 lkernagh: >68 lkernagh: more great reviews and a BB for me with Late Nights On Air!

70lkernagh
Apr 27, 10:48pm Top

>69 floremolla: - Awe, thanks! I hope you enjoy Late Nights On Air as much as I did, should you read it.

71lkernagh
Edited: Apr 27, 11:19pm Top


ROOT #25 - A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore - audiobook narrated by Fisher Stevens
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT - Supernatural
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: “J” Book Title - Job
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2006
Acquisition date: March 29, 2014
Page count: 405 pages / 11 hours, 49 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.45 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy with a normal life, married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. They're even about to have their first child. Yes, Charlie's doing okay—until people start dropping dead around him, and everywhere he goes a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Charlie Asher, it seems, has been recruited for a new position: as Death. It's a dirty job. But, hey! Somebody's gotta do it."
Review:
Death as a ghoulish comic theme is not something new. Being a huge fan of Jose Sarmango’s Death with Interruptions and Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal series, I have had some good reading experiences where death and comedy have worked rather well together. Even though I was somewhat off-put by Moore’s take on the Gospel in Lamb, I was still curious to see how Moore would pull off tackling death. He did a better job than I expected, but more for the wonderful cast of zany characters that populate the story than for the actual story itself. Charlie is okay as characters go, although the “beta male” tag seems to get used an awful lot. The sewer residing "Morrigan" (a trio of Charlie-baiting harpies) are also a bit over the top, but I absolutely loved Sophie (Charlie’s little girl), the hellhounds and Charlie’s two immigrant neighbors, Mrs. Korjev and Mrs. Ling, who are fabulous comic relief as they take turns caring for young Sophie while Charlie engages in his “death duties” of gathering up souls of the recently departed before the Forces of Darkness get to them. The other main cast members - Jane (Charlie’s sister), Minty Fresh (one of the death merchants) and Detective Rivera (the cop who just always seems to show up at the most interesting times) – help propel the story along. If Moore had focused on the humor and stop angling for the occasional shock value, I probably would have given the story a higher rating. The raunchy parts of the story were a bit on the offensive side for me.

Overall, This is probably a good example of Moore being Moore and would most likely appeal to readers who are already fans of Moore’s irreverence-style storytelling.

72lkernagh
Apr 30, 6:33pm Top


ROOT #26 - City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScaredyKIT - Supernatural; SFFKIT - Time Travel
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: November 2012
Acquisition date: June 17, 2014
Page count: 464 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 2.70 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood. Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to catch the attention of the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide."
Review:
Written under a pseudonym by Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, I think "rom-com paranormal suspense" is probably an accurate description for this one. I loved the Prague setting and the musical theme focused around Beethoven. Instead of the usual time travel where the character travels through time (kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole), the authors decide instead to enable our lead character to experience different segments of history while staying localized - more like a drug-induced hallucination. There is an awful lot going on in this story and as impressed as I am that the two authors were able blend their writing styles to maintain the same voice throughout the novel, I got the feeling that they had to scramble a bit near the end to try and tie off all the various plot points. The addition of a smart-talking dwarf who seems to be a lot older than one would presume adds an interesting cache to this urban fantasy story, but inclusion of an arch villain in the form of a former CIA agent, now US Senator adds a weird political power/cold war espionage angle that makes this just seems rather at odds with the story. That, and I am trying to understand what message the female authors mean to convey by making the strong female lead engage in unnecessary casual sex.

Overall, a good premise for an adventure suspense story that is probably best suited to readers looking for a bit of light fluff urban fantasy reading and doesn't mind the occasional gratuitous sex scenes thrown in.

73lkernagh
May 8, 11:30pm Top


ROOT #27 - In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT - Blue and AlphaKIT - Q and K
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "L" Author - Lucy
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2010
Acquisition date: May 23, 2014
Page count: 328 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 2.70 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from various sources:
"Stella Bradberry and Bella Chambers work for Atlantic Energy, a high-achieving, high-end global oil company in London. Bella is a pretty, young single mum, but an assistant to men with half her smarts. Stella is twenty years older and about to get a seat on the company's board: She is the original no-glass-ceiling, high-achieving multitasking mother of two. But then these two sharp, intelligent women do something rash: they embark on affairs with male colleagues they wouldn't look twice at outside work. Suddenly, both are telling lies to friends, loved ones and workmates. In the grip of passions they cannot, nor wish to, control, they carelessly break all the rules, sabotaging friendships and careers. They've risked their livelihood for love. But ending an affair is always harder than beginning one. . ."
Review:
What to say… what to say. How unique or creative can a story about office liaisons get? When lead characters have names like Bella and Stella, I tend to expect some form of chick lit read so I was kind of hoping for a light-hearted “comedy of errors” kind of story. While there are some comic moments, Kellaway uses this story more as a vehicle to poke at things like corporate hypocrisy, gender roles and positions of authority. While the author could have chosen any industry as the backdrop for the passion shenanigans, she chose “big oil”, probably because advertising and fashion have already been done to death. The big oil setting also lets Kellaway incorporate all the traditional devices – power suits, power meetings, multi-layer corporate hierarchy, high flying business travel – and even plays with the known market volatility for some distraction from the rather tedious “why am I still in this relationship” bemoaning that goes on, and on, and on. It is the continual whining and, as one reviewer has pointed out, the representation that, unlike men, women seem unable to focus on their work while involved in an illicit affair. That made this a rather irksome read for me.

Overall, an okay read if you like stories set in an office environment, and probably best read as a parable.

74lkernagh
May 14, 5:52pm Top


ROOT #28 - The Complaints by Ian Rankin - audiobook narrated by Peter Forbes
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "I" Author - Ian
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2009
Acquisition date: May 11, 2014
Page count: 480 pages / 12 hours, 18 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Nobody likes The Complaints - they're the cops who investigate other cops. Complaints and Conduct Department, to give them their full title, but known colloquially as 'the Dark Side', or simply 'The Complaints'. Malcolm Fox works for The Complaints. He's just had a result, and should be feeling good about himself. But he's middle-aged, sour and unwell. He also has a father in a care home and a sister who persists in an abusive relationship. In the midst of an aggressive Edinburgh winter, the reluctant Fox is given a new task. There's a cop called Jamie Breck, and he's dirty. Problem is, no one can prove it. But as Fox takes on the job, he learns that there's more to Breck than anyone thinks. This knowledge will prove dangerous, especially when murder intervenes."
Review:
I have to bow my head in shame as I admit that other than The Complaints, I had only read one other Ian Rankin book, Knots and Crosses, first book in his widely popular Inspector Rebus series. For that reason, I am not the best person to compare/contrast the Rebus and Fox characters. Based on a sampling of reviews I have skimmed, some reviewers categorize Malcolm Fox as an “anti-Rebus” character, in that Rebus and Fox “have little in common except integrity and a dogged determination to get the job done”. This distinction may be important to some readers. For me, The Complaints, with its complicated characters and plot web, brings to mind my recent reading forays into Tana French’s loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad series, a series I enjoy very much. The recession-suffering Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders area is captured with wonderful realism. Rankin characters – especially Fox and Jaime Breck – are credible and well developed. I really like how the interpersonal dynamics between these two characters come into play. As for the plot, I found it to be well-written, tightly woven and fast-paced, making full use of the complexities of the case Fox and Breck find themselves ensnared in.

Overall, a great character-driven crime fiction and a solid “first book in series” read that would probably appeal to Tana French fans.

75lkernagh
Edited: May 14, 6:00pm Top


ROOT #29 - The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards - audiobook narrated by Ann Marie Lee
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT - Blue and AlphaKIT - Q and K
Bingo DOG: "Beautiful Cover"
Category: "E" Author - Edwards
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2011
Acquisition date: September 29, 2012
Page count: 416 pages / 16 hours, 40 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.15 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Lucy Jarrett is at a crossroads in her life, still haunted by her father's unresolved death a decade earlier. News that her mother has been in an accident brings her back to her hometown in upstate New York, The Lake of Dreams. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family's sprawling lakeside house, she cracks the lock of a window seat to discover a collection of objects. At first they appear to be idle curiosities, but soon Lucy realizes that she has stumbled across a dark secret. It will lead her deep into her familty's past, unearthing the history of a powerful and progressive woman whose strengths and convictions resonate deeply with Lucy. The shocking truths she uncovers will change her and her family forever."
Review:
I can see why some readers love Kim Edward's writing. She imbues this story with a luminous, lyrical quality. Her descriptions are so striking. The descriptions of the stain glass windows, the lake at night, is just, wow. I love the idea of a story with a family mystery that involves genealogy research. There is just something so exciting about uncovering information about a long deceased family member, especially one you didn't even know existed! That being said, I never connected with Lucy as a character. In fact, I found her downright annoying at times, acting more like a self-absorbed rebellious teenager - doing some really stupid things! - than a 29-year old woman who has worked as a hydrologist in exotic locations around the world, so the story gets low marks from me for that.

Overall, great premise and would have been a rather good read if the character had been written a little differently.

76Jackie_K
May 15, 6:06am Top

>75 lkernagh: Absolutely agree with you re Kim Edwards. I tried (2 or 3 times) to read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, and whilst the writing was really beautiful, I really struggled to connect with the story or the characters, and I ended up giving up.

77lkernagh
May 22, 11:03pm Top

>76 Jackie_K: - Oh dear.... I still have a copy of The Memory Keeper's Daughter sitting on my TBR piles. Maybe I will listen to the audiobook as I am out and about walking, just to clear it as a ROOT read. ;-) Thanks for the heads up!

78lkernagh
May 22, 11:05pm Top


ROOT #30 - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - audiobook narrated by India Fisher, Clare Corbett and Louise Brealey
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT - Mysteries involving Transit
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "P" Author - Paula
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2015
Acquisition date: October 5, 2016
Page count: 320 pages / 11 hours, 1 minute listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.85 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and evening, rattling over the same junctions, flashing past the same townhouses.The train stops at the same signal every day, and she sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess, as she calls them, seem so happy. Then one day Rachel sees someone new in their garden. Soon after, Rachel sees the woman she calls Jess on the news. Jess has disappeared. Through the ensuing police investigation, Rachel is drawn deeper into the lives of the couple she learns are really Megan and Scott Hipwell. As she befriends Scott, Rachel pieces together what really happened the day Megan disappeared. But when Megan's body is found, Rachel finds herself the chief suspect in the case. Plunged into a world of betrayals, secrets and deceptions, Rachel must confront the facts about her own past and her own failed marriage. "
Review:
I absolutely loved this one! It was like being invited to witness first-hand how the facades people display publicly can mask – but never completely hide – the reality just below the surface, fighting to get out. I love how the story is a shared narration from the point of view of the three women – Rachel, Megan and Anna – and flows back and forth through time, giving the reader only snippets of information as the story pieces together. If you prefer linear storylines, this might not appeal to you. It also might not appeal to you if you struggle when the “good guy” is a flawed human being, in need of a few more redeeming qualities. Hawkins has provided the perfect unreliable narrator in Rachel, a lonely, divorced alcoholic prone to drunken outbursts and memory blackouts. Of course, the fact that she tends to lie – to her ex-husband, her roommate, even the cops – does not help her situation and there are more than a few “WTF” moments when Rachel tries to befriend the missing woman’s husband, inserting herself in the middle of a situation for the most unusual of reasons.

I found myself shifting my opinion of the various characters as the story played out. While some are more “likeable” than others, the fact that every character has a dark side – or a secret they are hiding – adds to the complexity of the story. Some readers may find Rachel’s first person voice highly annoying – seriously, where does she come off thinking these things? – but for me, this is exactly what gives Rachel her credibility as a character. Anna, and even Meghan, have their own “flinch-worthy” reveals, but I didn’t go into this story expecting to connect with the characters. I am more of a fascinated observer of the human condition and Hawkins provides a lot for this reader to observe and ponder. Hawkins also does a fabulous job with ratcheting up the tension and drama with each new subtle revelation. Sadly, the ending struck me as a tad odd – kind of out of step with the story – and the only reason I am not giving this one a full 5 out of 5 for this solid debut novel.

Overall, a wonderful psychologically-driven suspense read.

79lkernagh
Edited: May 26, 12:38am Top


ROOT #31 - The Time In Between by David Bergen
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT, RTT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "I" Book Title - In
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperbook
Original publication date: 2005
Acquisition date: May 15, 2011
Page count: 288 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 2.90 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"In search of love, absolution, or forgiveness, Charles Boatman leaves the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and returns mysteriously to Vietnam, the country where he fought twenty-nine years earlier as a young, reluctant soldier. But his new encounters seem irreconcilable with his memories. When he disappears, his daughter Ada, and her brother, Jon, travel to Vietnam, to the streets of Danang and beyond, to search for him. Their quest takes them into the heart of a country that is at once incomprehensible, impassive, and beautiful. Chasing her father’s shadow for weeks, following slim leads, Ada feels increasingly hopeless. Yet while Jon slips into the urban nightlife to avoid what he most fears, Ada finds herself growing closer to her missing father — and strong enough to forgive him and bear the heartbreaking truth of his long-kept secret.
"
Review:
You would think I would have learned, back in 2010 when I read The Matter with Morris, that Bergen and I might not see eye to eye on what makes for an engaging read, but to judge an author after reading just one book – and considering his works keep making the Giller award lists, with this one winning the Giller Prize in 2005 – seemed a bit unfair of me, so I decided to give him another chance to captivate me.

At a basic level, this is a story about Vietnam. From that perspective, the descriptions of Vietnam are beautiful. The writing is lyrical, almost poetic. There is watery haziness or dreamlike quality to the story, muting the sensory impact for the reader. Through Charles and his tortured soul, Bergen ambitiously tackles a hard subject: the psychological impact the Vietnam war has had on veterans and their families. While I found it easy to connect with Charles and understand his search for atonement - something that Vietnam in this story was unable to give him - the other characters came across as mere caricatures of personalities. I felt no emotion for Ada, Jon or the Douds. I found it odd how Ada comes to meet the people her father had encountered in Vietnam before going missing... that is all just way too convenient for any plausibility. While the purpose of Ada and Jon’s trip to Vietnam is to search for their missing father, they seem to drift aimlessly through the days and weeks, more tourists absorbing the local atmosphere than active searchers for their missing father. Ada in particular is an odd character, who seems to be, unknowingly to her, engaging in her own personal search for a broader connection and meaning. As one reviewer has stated, “ Both (Charles and Ada) are wandering, helpless and aimless, through a quagmire of painful feelings, anxiously groping toward a resolution that so often seems impossible.”

As mentioned above, the writing is exquisite and I do tend to like introspective novels. Even though Bergen has done an excellent job to try and explain the legacy of Vietnam, his characters and the random situations that absorb their time in Vietnam leads me to believe that he and I just do not seem to be on the same page when it comes to what works to engage a reader like me.

80lkernagh
May 26, 12:37am Top


ROOT #32 - Run by Ann Patchett - audiobook narrated by Peter James
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT (Blue)
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "A" Author - Ann
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperbook / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2007
Acquisition date: April 30, 2016
Page count: 320 pages / 9 hours, 22 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.60 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe."
Review:
I am one of those readers who really appreciate Patchett's Bel Canto, except for the ending, so I was curious to see how I would react to this one. While not as absorbing a read for me, I can see how Patchett - by her own self confession - crafts different stories with a similar basis point: an event or situation occurs that brings a set of strangers together, and their lives change as a result. Patchett's characters are real, as are the situations in her stories and their interactions, although Kenya did come across to me as being wise beyond her mere 11-years, probably due to Patchett's admittance that she doesn't like to write child characters into her stories. The story flows so well that it is a bit of a mind-blow to realize that outside of the closing and some memory ramblings, the brunt of the story takes place over a very short, 24 hour period. This story is filled with everything: politics, religion, race, adoption, social class to family and community relationships. It almost felt as though Patchett was trying to cram too much in, so some of the author's message that the story is about matriarchal lines of a family gets a bit lost in the drama.

While Bel Canto still remains my favorite Patchett read so far, this was a pretty darn good read, even though the American politics aspects were just so-so for me.

81lkernagh
Jun 1, 9:48pm Top


ROOT #33 - England, England by Julian Barnes
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT (Blue)
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: "E" Book Title - England
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperbook
Original publication date: 1998
Acquisition date: April 30, 2016
Page count: 272 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.80 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"Flamboyant tycoon Sir Jack Pitman has an idea. Since most tourists are too lazy and unlettered to travel from landmark to landmark, why not simplify things and shrink all of England to the size of a theme park? Unfortunately, Pitman turns out to be right. Located on the Isle of Wight, his reconstituted "England, England" is everything you imagined the original to be, but cleaner, friendlier, and more efficient. That is, until the King (the real King, on contract to Sir Jack, living with the rest of the Royal Family in a scaled-down version of Buckingham Palace) is suspected of sexual harassment, a smuggling ring begins to wreak havoc with the island economy, and Robin Hood and his Merrie Men decide to unionize."
Review:
For some strange reason, I envisioned a theme park like The Bourton-on-the-Water Model Village I have fond memories of visiting back when I was a little girl. Should have realized that the theme park envisioned in Barnes’ story is more Disneyesque with building replicas and hordes of park staff kitted out in costume, role-playing for the paying public. This story is a satirical swing at all things English, with Barnes exhibiting a mischievousness I never expected from him. This one has all of Barnes’ sharp observation, filled with greedy developers, pompous intellectuals and conniving business tycoons. If that is enough to capture your attention, Barnes embarks, through the satire, on a cutting attack on everything from England’s heritage industry, its politics and its role on the world stage to… you guessed it, he even takes a few swings at the monarchy. Wrapped up as a satirical search for authenticity in a world too willing to accept replicas over the real thing, it was easy for this reader to enjoy the story for the fictional romp it is, and fob off any underlying messaging for other readers to angst over. At least, I was able to do exactly that until Barnes decides in the last section when Barnes took away my cartoonish satirical read and landed me – via the ruminations of a considerably older Martha - squarely into frump and ponderous territory. Darn it all, Barnes was determined to make his readers sit up and pay attention to his underlying messaging after all, which is that searching for authenticity in an increasingly unauthentic world is worth pursuing. Point taken, Julian. Now how about giving us more of the madcap satire I enjoyed so much?

82lkernagh
Jun 8, 10:20pm Top


ROOT #34 - The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - audiobook narrated by Scott Brick
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT - True Crime
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2003
Acquisition date: May 11, 2014
Page count: 464 pages / 15 hours, 3 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.com book listing web page:
"Intertwining the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Larson combines meticulous research, and a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, with nail-biting storytelling.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake."
Review:
A good book, but so hard to pin down my thoughts. I love books that vividly describe architectural achievements. Without a doubt, Burnham and the creators of the White City had a monumental task on their hands to build the 1893 Columbian World Fair in such a short timeframe on land of a swampy sand composition while facing everything from political delays, labour unrest to the extreme weather conditions of a fierce Chicago winter. If the book had just focused on the Fair and Burnham, I would have still enjoyed it as an interesting read. What makes the book different – and a bit of an odd mix – is what I consider to be the secondary focus of the book: Larson’s examination of the homicidal psychotic serial killer, Dr. Henry H. Holmes. The following sentence from the book description, “Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century”. strikes me as odd in that, in my mind anyways, I cannot mentally place Burnham and Holmes side-by-side like that and see any similarities. Yes, Holmes is described as a charmer who easily drew in young ladies (even charming his growing line of creditors!) but my skin just crawls at the descriptions of the “unique” features Holmes methodically had built into his hotel, dubbed after his murderous tendencies became known as his "Castle of Horrors". While Larson admits that there is no evidence that any of Holmes’s murderous activities were ever witnessed, the combination of the World Fair and the draw of a city the size of Chicago for young, unattached women seeking work, would have made it easy for his victims to “disappear” without attracting widespread attention. Larson mentions that Holmes did write three separate confessions but given Holmes’s knack for stretching the truth – Holmes's real name was Herman Webster Mudgett – and in view of the fact that he was paid to write the last "confession", it is unlikely that we will ever know just how many people he killed. The very thought that he could have killed a lot more people than the hundreds of people does not seem outside the realm of possibility, as frightening as that is. I found it shocking how he took out life insurance policies on some of his victims before killing them.

Overall, well researched but still a rather odd mixing of subject matter that never really melded together very well. Each topic could have been told as a standalone book, and it might have worked better that way, especially since Burnham and Holmes never meet. The World Fair, while very much front and center in the Burnham sections, is a mere peripheral event in the Holmes sections.

83lkernagh
Edited: Jun 14, 10:37pm Top


ROOT #35 - Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: "Unread 2017 Purchase"
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade Paperback
Original publication date: 2014
Acquisition date: May 7, 2017
Page count: 368 pages / 8 hours, 7 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.85 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing web page:
"SUs Conductors takes us from the glamour of Jazz Age New York to the gulags and science prisons of the Soviet Union. On a ship steaming its way from Manhattan back to Leningrad, Lev Termen writes a letter to his “one true love”, Clara Rockmore, telling her the story of his life. Imprisoned in his cabin, he recalls his early years as a scientist, inventing the theremin and other electric marvels, and the Kremlin’s dream that these inventions could be used to infiltrate capitalism itself. Instead, New York infiltrated Termen – he fell in love with the city’s dance clubs and speakeasies, with the students learning his strange instrument, and with Clara, a beautiful young violinist. Amid ghostly sonatas, kung-fu tussles, brushes with Chaplin and Rockefeller, a mission to Alcatraz, the novel builds to a crescendo: Termen’s spy games fall apart and he is forced to return home, where he’s soon consigned to a Siberian gulag. Only his wits can save him, but they will also plunge him even deeper toward the dark heart of Stalin’s Russia."
Review:
I do not have much musical talent but the concept of an electronic musical instrument (the theremin) that can be played/controlled without ever coming into physical contact with the instrument, fascinates me and appeals to my science geeky side. The fact that the instrument was developed by Russian scientist/inventor, Lev Sergeyvich Termen, back in the early 1920’s (it was patented in 1928), just added to my intrigue to read Michaels debut novel. Us Conductors is very much a historical fiction novel. While Michaels takes some basic events from Termen’s life, this story – in particular, the kung fu training, the espionage and his one-side romance for a young violinist, Clara, he meets in New York – are best to be viewed as fictions of Michaels imagination. Even so, Michaels vividly brings to life the Jazz age of New York City, filled with dance halls, speakeasies and a swirling of famous celebrities. The story is not all glitz, glamor and hob-nobbling with the famous. Michaels Termen is an ambivalent spy for his homeland while in America and it is only when he returns to a very changed Russia that he starts to realize how precarious his situation really is.

As with any historical fiction, the author has taken liberties to write, what for me, is a wonderful blended story – part music, part romance, part espionage, part science – narrated by a character who tries to comes to terms with the strange shifts his life has taken: from celebrated scientist/inventor under Lenin to being labelled an enemy of Communism under Stalin, all while trying to be seen by his Russian leaders as being a good Russian patriot.

84connie53
Jun 21, 4:34am Top

>78 lkernagh: I loved that book too, Lori, and I like your review! You are saying what I was thinking about that book. Have you read her second book In het water ?

85Caramellunacy
Jun 21, 6:01am Top

>47 lkernagh: Just catching up with you and also managed to catch a book bullet... at least it's on sale right now!

86lkernagh
Jun 24, 7:26pm Top

>84 connie53:- Hi Connie, no I have not read any of Paula Hawkins other books yet, but she is definitely on my radar screen. ;-)

>85 Caramellunacy: - I love it when a BB is on sale! Enjoy!

87lkernagh
Jun 24, 7:27pm Top


ROOT #36 - Kept by Elle Field
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: June ColourCAT (Purple)
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "K" Book Title - Kept
Source: TBR
Format: eBook
Original publication date: April 23, 2013
Acquisition date: February 16, 2017
Page count: 298 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.00 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing web page:
"Life hasn't quite worked out how Arielle Lockley imagined it would. Becoming the next Coco Chanel was always her childhood dream, but she's spent the past four years living a dizzying whirl of glitzy parties, luxurious holidays and daily shopping sprees - all paid for by boyfriend Piers - and not doing anything to make her Coco dreams happen.

When the recession hits, it's not just the economy that takes a tumble, and Arielle finds herself living back with her parents, on bad terms with Piers, and having a CV that's as welcome as a pair of knock-off Jimmy Choos. And maybe it's the location, but she's also finding unwelcome thoughts of her childhood sweetheart are popping into her head...

What's a girl to do? Can Arielle figure out what it is she now wants to do with her life and move on, or will she be doomed to spend the rest of her life dwelling over her worst mistakes, stuck listening to her parents' embarrassing dinner table talk each night?"
Review:
In need of a mindless fluff read, I started this one. With all the fashion references, this one is definitely geared towards the fascinata reader. If you are not all that into fashion, you can probably just gloss over all the brand names peppered throughout the story. Billed as being perfect read for fans of Sophie Kinsella (among others listed that I admit to having never read any of their books), I thought it fair to assess this one with Kinsella's works in mind as Kinsella tends to be one of my go-to comfort read authors. Field has written an interesting chicklit / coming-of-age story. Yes, the character is 25-years-old when she starts to face facts about her current life, which is better than some who just never grow up. While an okay read - I admit to being a bit of a fashionata, so books with fashion themes do not bore me - it does not have Kinsella's tight, witty plot and dialogue. Field's characters are definitely of the fiction variety - having never encountered anyone like Piers or Noah, I am pegging them clearly in the fiction department. As for Arielle... well... I can only suggest this book if you are prepared to put up with a whiny, selfish and self-centered narrator for most of story. That being said, Field does create a fascinating character in Felicity, who sadly only shows up in the later part of the story. I do tend to love fluff reads with a UK setting (hence my love for Kinsella stories), so was able to tolerate Arielle's annoying personality against the backdrop I love some much.

Overall, definitely fluff reading for readers who like to read about man troubles, enjoy perusing fashion magazines like Arielle does and do not mind a selfish and self-serving narrator.

88lkernagh
Jul 1, 4:41pm Top


ROOT #37 - My Ántonia by Willa Cather - audiobook narrated by George Guidall
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT, RTT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "W" Author - Willa
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 1918
Acquisition date: May 10, 2014
Page count: 418 pages / 8 hours, 37 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 5.00 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing web page:
"My Ántonia evokes the Nebraska prairie life of Willa Cather's childhood, and commemorates the spirit and courage of immigrant pioneers in America. One of Cather's earliest novels, written in 1918, it is the story of Ántonia Shimerda, who arrives on the Nebraska frontier as part of a family of Bohemian emigrants. Her story is told through the eyes of Jim Burden, a neighbor who will befriend Ántonia, teach her English, and follow the remarkable story of her life.
Working in the fields of waving grass and tall corn that dot the Great Plains, Ántonia forges the durable spirit that will carry her through the challenges she faces when she moves to the city. But only when she returns to the prairie does she recover her strength and regain a sense of purpose in life. In the quiet, probing depth of Willa Cather's art, Ántonia's story becomes a mobbing elegy to those whose persistence and strength helped build the American frontier."
Review:
Having never read any of Willa Cather’s books in my teenage years – Cather was not required reading in the Canadian school system during my days – it is only recently that I have come to experience, and appreciate, her wonderful stories and the sparse, clear quality of her writing. I have a love for stories that depict the harsh realities of 19th century (and early 20th century) prairie life. While told from the point of view of Jim, the story is very much a pastoral expression about forging friendships and strong women. While some novels of this nature tend to merely communicate a place and time – like a picture - Cather’s story is a sentimental story, a wistful longing to revisit fond memories. How can one have fond memories of a harsh prairie winter, of the wretched scrabble for survival for newly immigrated families and confining feeling of certain social strictures? For Cather, even those harsh realities cannot hold back the beauty that can reside in an individual filled with kindness, optimism, strength, determination, and the full potential of life. Some may feel that Cather has not adequately focused on those harsh realities, but to expect that would be to miss what I believe to be the point of Cather’s story: to give readers a story of courage and endurance set against the expansive prairie sky.

89lkernagh
Jul 1, 4:42pm Top


ROOT #38 - Diary of a Single Wedding Planner by Violet Howe
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT - Purple
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "V" Author - Violet
Source: TBR
Format: eBook
Original publication date: 2015
Acquisition date: October 26, 2017
Page count: 260 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.com book listing web page:
"Wedding planner Tyler Warren left heartbreak behind when she ran away from her small Southern hometown and started a new life in a big city. Years later, she wants to believe in the fairy-tale endings her job promotes, but the clients she meets day after day seem to be more “Crazily Ever After” than “Happily Ever After.” Meanwhile, her own attempts at romance play out as bizarre comedies rather than love stories, and she’s starting to think Prince Charming either fell off his horse or got eaten by a dragon. When unresolved issues from Tyler’s past complicate things even further, she discovers she may yet have some things to figure out before she can find her own happy ending. "
Review:
Book one in what is currently a four book series, this story was a lot of fun to read. Told in epistolary style, Ty's journal is filled with wedding planning horror stories, as well as one truly disastrous date. While Ty is hoping that one day her Prince Charming will come to sweep her off her feet, she is a sweet character and at 25 years old, she is entitled to have dreams, even if she is having difficulties trying to figure out what she wants out of life. This is one of those feel good stories about friendships, putting the past behind you and figuring out life. What I really like about this one is that it is light on the romance. It is easy to laugh with Ty, cringe with her and even cry with her when everything seems to be going wrong.

A delightfully fun read.

90Caramellunacy
Jul 2, 6:08am Top

>89 lkernagh: That one sounds incredibly fun, and I very much love epistolary novels. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for it :)

91lkernagh
Jul 2, 8:25pm Top

>90 Caramellunacy: - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! One needs a fun read, from time to time. ;-)

92lkernagh
Jul 2, 8:28pm Top


ROOT #39 - Zulu by Caryl Ferey - translated from the French by Howard Curtis
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: MysteryCAT - Police Procedurals
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "Z" Book Title - Zulu
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2008
Acquisition date: April 30, 2016
Page count: 416 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the europaeditions.com book listing web page:
"As a child, Ali Neuman ran away from home to escape the Inkatha, a militant political party at war with the then-underground African National Congress. He and his mother are the only members of his family that survived the carnage of those years and the psychological scars remain. Today, Neuman is chief of the homicide branch of the Cape Town police, a job in which he must do battle with South Africa’s two scourges: widespread violence and AIDS. When the mutilated corpse of a young white woman is found in the city’s botanical gardens, Neuman’s job gets even more difficult. He is chasing one false lead after another when a second corpse, again that of a white woman, is found. This time, the body bears signs of a Zulu ritual. A new evil has insinuated itself into this recently integrated city. And a new drug: traces of an unknown narcotic have been found in the blood of both victims. The investigation will take Neuman back to his homeland, where he will discover that the once bloody killing fields have become the ideal no-man’s land for unscrupulous multinationals, and that the apparatchiks of apartheid still lurk in the shadows and the back rooms of a society struggling toward reconciliation."
Review:
Oh geez.... oh crap.... this was quite the intense noir thriller ride! Having previously read Ferey's Utu, a noir crime novel set in New Zealand, I thought I had an idea of what I was in for with this one. I should mention that I don't do well with hard core violence or pretty much anything produced by Quentin Tarantino but I have to say, Ferey even blew away my expectations with this one, producing a fascinating, A page-turning story that gripped my attention to the very end. Yes, some of the violence was a little hard - okay, really darn difficult - for me to take. That beach scene was OMG bad. I found myself putting the book down more than a couple of times and walking away for 20 minutes, just to let me digest what I had just read and prep myself for potential further uneasiness. Wow. Just Wow. Some of the graphic violence depicted is really intense - which some readers may wish to avoid - but if you do, you will be missing out on a spectacular crime noir read.

Ferey digs deep and really brings home social criticism of the post-apartheid landscape, a place still very much heaving with violence, drug lords and overall corruption. Seriously, after reading this, I would be horrified to visit Cape Town. Ferey has done such an amazing job showing the underbelly of the playground for the rich and the shocking destitution of the shanty townships. Ferey wrote this story in real time - against the looming backdrop of the 2010 World Cup that would take place in 2 years time, post publication. The South African apartheid was both political and racial. This story focuses on the multicultural nature of South Africa and the myriad of opportunists that flooded the region, morals be damned. I can totally see why this one was the 2008 winner of the French Grand Prix for Best Crime Novel. A worthy win, IMO.

93lkernagh
Jul 15, 12:17pm Top


ROOT #40 - We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: AlphaKIT - "S" - Shriver
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "N" Book Title - Need
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2003
Acquisition date: January 5, 2013
Page count: 432 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.85 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the book back cover:
"Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of a boy who ends up murdering seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage, in a series of startlingly direct correspondences to her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails."
Review:
Shriver has taken the age-old nature/nurture theme – a theme that continues to fascinate me even as a non-fiction topic – and scrutinizes it through the lens of a mother trying to analysis both herself and her son. Two years after that horrifying day – Eva refers to it as “that Thursday”, with italics – the story is told in a series of letters Eva writes to her husband Franklin. The letters are filled with both loving and disturbing memories from the past. Eva’s voice is one of a woman with a firm (albeit, sometimes wavering) resolve. She is cuttingly candid with her opinions and appears to be oblivious to how arched or acid her social commentary is. The fact that her own son - yes, the deviant she is trying to understand – raised this very point with her on more than one occasion seems to only slightly register with Eva. Some readers may find Eva a difficult character to connect with given that she comes across as dispassionately analytical and dare I say, a bit of an cultural or societal snob, but she definitely cannot be faulted for her blunt honesty… even if others around her would beg to differ that point. For me, it is the singular focus of her judgmental attitude (always ready to believe the worst of her son) that is so wracking. This does not deter Shriver from pushing forward with her story, and a worthy read it is. Yes, some of the subject matter is really disturbing to take in and as mentioned already, some readers may find Eva a bit difficult to connect with, but Shriver does not shy away from this daunting task and instead, uses it to delve, and delve deep, into some really hard hitting topics. The only problem I have with this story is how closed off and one-dimensional Kevin comes across. Yes, the whole story is told from the point of view of Eva, so our understanding of Kevin is limited to what Eva knew, which, by her own admission, is not very much, but I still wish we could have seen the story from Kevin or even Franklin's POV.

This is one of those books that is easier to recommend for the importance of the message as it made me think about the issues. While it doesn’t answer that nature versus nurture question – and one wouldn’t expect it to – the perspective provided makes this a worthy read, IMO. As one reviewer has noted, this book can be highly recommended for readers who enjoy psychological suspense stories.

94lkernagh
Edited: Jul 29, 3:58pm Top


ROOT #41 - Reamde by Neal Stephenson - audiobook narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ScardeyKIT (Science/Techno Thrillers) and SFFKIT (Cyberpunk or Techno SFF)
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "R" Book Title - Reamde
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2011
Acquisition date: June 7, 2014
Page count: 1,056 pages / 39 hours of listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the book back cover:
"The black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, former draft dodger and successful marijuana smuggler, Richard Forthrast amassed a small fortune over the years - and then increased it a thousandfold when he created T'Rain. A massive, multibillion-dollar, multiplayer online role-playing game, T'Rain now has millions of obsessed fans from the U.S. to China. But a small group of ingenious Asian hackers has just unleashed REAMDE - a virus that encrypts all of a player's electronic files and holds them for ransom - which has unwittingly triggered a war that's creating chaos not only in the virtual universe but in the real one as well. Its repercussions will be felt all around the globe - setting in motion a devastating series of events involving Russian mobsters, computer geeks, secret agents and Islamic terrorists - with Forthrast standing at ground zero and his loved ones caught in the crossfire."
Review:
As my first foray into Neal Stephenson’s books, I guess it makes sense that I would pick what some reviewers have billed as being one of his more “accessible” works. Having enjoyed many a summer in my youth devouring spy thrillers by the likes of Robert Ludlum and enjoying stories with a techno angle, Reamde is what I would bill as the perfect “beach read” for me: enough suspense and action to keep me page-turning while still providing me with an interesting plot and story-line that, while at times detailed, does not get overly boring during the slower bits. Some might argue that Stephenson tends to delve a little too deeply into explaining certain things but I prefer the explanations over the author making assumptions that his reader can connect the dots, and yes, the geek in me did enjoy the level of detail provided to describe T’Rain, even if it seems a bit unrealistic. I am reading this type of book for escapism, not for realism. Yes, the fact that a good chunk of the story is set in the Pacific Northwest is also a huge draw for me, so that was a bonus. The cast of characters is quite the mixed bag – Russian mobsters, computer geeks, secret agents, Islamic terrorists and “living-off-the-grid” survivalists – that one would think would be a mess but under Stephenson’s skilled pen, this works and adds to the entertainment value of the story. Love the sarcasm laced through this one! I also loved that the three female characters are strong, independent thinkers and just as driven and dynamic as the male characters are. No “shrinking violet” personalities here. Happenstance can make for weird events and Stephenson leans hard on chance as a tool to enable a lot of what happens to… well… happen. Given that the story is told in the first person narrative from the point of view of multiple characters, this makes for re-hashing old ground to capture an event from each character’s unique perspective, so not a straightforward linear read, but essential IMO to communicate all that transpires.

Overall, a satisfying adventure/thriller ride and perfect for summer escapism reading. I am looking forward to reading more of Stephenson’s works.

95Olulekan
Jul 20, 7:21pm Top

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96LauraBrook
Jul 21, 11:41am Top

Hi Lori! Wow, I'm impressed not only by the number of ROOTs you've managed so far, but also by all of the chunksters that you've been reading. Kudos! I've only added two BBs to my list (Zulu bc I think I could use a little challenge of a read, and Late Nights on Air because it just sounds so good), sadly mostly bc I seem to have your others on my library check-out list.

97lkernagh
Jul 30, 10:11pm Top

>96 LauraBrook: - Hi Laura, I have been having a rather good year for ROOT reading. Glad to see I caught you with a couple of BB's in the process. ;-0

98lkernagh
Jul 30, 10:12pm Top


ROOT #42 - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami - translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "1997" (of translation)
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 1997
Acquisition date: December 1, 2011
Page count: 624 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria."
Review:
This is my first foray into Murakami’s works. Having finished this one, I now understand why Murakami’s stories may appeal to fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (some works I have read) and Salman Rushdie (which I have not read). It would probably help if you have a nodding understanding of Kafka as this story has a Kafkaesque chord to it. Told in a dreamlike manner, this story is a walk on the surreal side. I would suggest anyone new to Murakami – like I was – and attempting this one to approach it with an open mind and to make no assumptions as to what will happen next as you are reading. There are an awful lot of “odd” characters (like the sister psychics, Malta and Creta Kano) and events to take in. One reviewer has summarized this story as “imaginative”. Yes, it is definitely that! Some aspects of the story appealed to me more than others. I liked the quasi-detective story aspect with first a search for a missing cat and then the disappearance of Okada’s wife, Kumiko. The conversations Okada has with his teenage neighbour, high school dropout May Kasahara, seems to be the most normal aspects of this story, which isn’t saying much as even some of that dialogue verges on the “strange”. If you are not keen to read about graphic violence, you will probably want to skip certain sections of the letters Okada receives from the Japanese war veteran. Reading this one, I felt very much like an outside observer looking in, which is augmented by Okada’s passive character and the growing isolation that takes over the story.

Overall, a interesting, unusual, imaginative and contemplative novel that managed to twig my interest enough to look forward to reading more of Murakami’s novels.

99lkernagh
Aug 1, 9:51pm Top


ROOT #43 - Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - audiobook narrated by John Lee
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "2010"
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2010
Acquisition date: March 9, 2013
Page count: 1,000 pages / 30 hours, 30 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.40 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"A thirteen-year-old Welsh boy enters a man’s world in the mining pits.…An American law student rejected in love finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House.… A housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German spy.…And two orphaned Russian brothers embark on radically different paths when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution.

From the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families—and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again.…"
Review:
Being a sucker for big tomes and family saga stories as summer reading material, I am using this summer to finally dip into my copies of Follett’s Century trilogy. Having previously tackled Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy – loved the first book, thought the second book was just okay and never got around to reading the third book – I was curious to see how Follett would fictionalize more recent history, the 20th century. Of course, Follett doesn’t hold back when he decides to “go big” with a story. With a story focused on not one but five families, from five different parts of the world (Wales, England, Russia, America and Germany) and from different social backgrounds, I was left with the impression that Follett was trying to compete with the character count of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, a novel I finally managed to finish two years ago. There are an awful lot of characters in this book to keep straight! The good news is that Follett’s writing is very accessible. One reviewer has commented on it being “workmanlike”, more mainstream practicable than exalted or refined, which works just fine for me. The story spans a time period from June 22, 1911 to January 1924 with the focus on the Great War – World War I. Follett does do a good job including a fair bit of factual information while still keeping this reader’s attention with his interweaving storyline of romance, politics, military strategy and family dynamics. As with his Kingsbridge books, Follett strikes a balance of strong male and female characters, delving into the English suffragette movement of the early 1900’s, which made for interesting reading for me. While I wasn’t swept away by the story, or itching to get back to it whenever I had to put it down, I did end off Fall of Giants with enough interest in the characters and the events to immediately pick up the next book, Winter of the World, which thankfully picks up a mere 10 years after Fall of Giants closes off.

Overall, if you like family war-time sagas, like Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War, this may appeal to you. For me, it hits the right notes for a good summer time beach read: Intriguing historical fiction that is not overly taxing for the mind.

100connie53
Aug 11, 2:32am Top

Hi Lori, I was away from LT for some time and now find you have past the halfway point! Good to see that.

101lkernagh
Aug 24, 11:28pm Top

>100 connie53: - Hi Connie... I am steadily plugging away at my ROOTs. Thanks so much for stopping by!

102lkernagh
Aug 24, 11:28pm Top


ROOT #44 - Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG: N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "2014"
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2014
Acquisition date: November 29, 2014
Page count: 352 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.

Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home."
Review:
For me, there was a lot to like about this story. For starters, Ford has done an excellent job portraying Seattle of the 1920s and 1930s. The story is filled with descriptions of landmarks any visitor or resident of the city will easily recognize, so I found it easy to travel Seattle’s streets with William and Charlotte and take in the sights, sounds and smells. It was also fascinating to learn a bit about Seattle’s fledgling movie industry. Against this backdrop Ford slowly reveals the story of how William came to live at the orphanage, and a heartwrenching story it is! Ford self describes his writing style as being “beautiful melancholy” – an apt description for the muted, simplified prose of this story. As much as I loved the historical setting and the writing style, the characters came across as rather two-dimensional. The characters – in particular, Liu Song – never developed into deeply complex characters.

Overall, a good narrative story of the universal search for love and family that may appeal to readers interested in a Depression-era setting told from a Chinese-American point of view.

103lkernagh
Aug 24, 11:29pm Top


ROOT #45 - The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "2013"
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: March 26, 2013
Acquisition date: November 29, 2014
Page count: 352 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.95 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever."
Review:
I should probably start off this review by stating that I absolutely loved Olive Kitteridge, one of Strout’s earlier books that has received some mixed reviews. Strout’s stories won’t appeal to all readers. She has a habit of getting under the skin of her readers with her unwavering portrayal of, shall we say, characters that are not easily likable for the reader. I love her characters because they are “real”. They make mistakes. They say things that they may – or may not – regret later. For Strout’s characters, life does not come with a user manual. They learn (and hopefully adapt) when the unknown crops up. The results are not always pretty. In The Burgess Boys, Strout continues this character formula and tackles a number of topics, ranging from family dynamics to the economic decline of small town America to the politics of immigration and social intolerance. One reviewer nailed the gist of the story with this statement:
” It never hurts to be reminded that how we see ourselves and others is usually distorted by untruths, half-truths, and incomplete information. But being human, we try to define our world and the people in it based on the scanty information that we have.”
Through Strout’s unidentified narrator, we get to see Jim and Bob’s relationship ebb and flow and redefine itself as events develop. We also get to see glimpses into their sister Susan’s more limited world of Shirley Falls as well as gain some, albeit limited, perspective on the Somali resettlement from the point of view of some of the refugees. Written in clear, straightforward language, Strout makes no apologies for this story or her characters, including Jim’s arrogance and overinflated ego. As I mentioned earlier, Strout’s stories will not appeal to all readers. For me, the racial ignorance/intolerance angle makes it an interesting and timely read.

104lkernagh
Edited: Aug 28, 8:28pm Top


ROOT #46 - Winter of the World by Ken Follett - audiobook narrated by John Lee
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "2012"
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2012
Acquisition date: May 7, 2017
Page count: 972 pages / 31 hours, 30 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.70 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until daring to commit a deed of great courage and heartbreak . . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific . . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism . . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set until war transforms her life, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war but also the war to come."
Review:
In book 2 of the Century trilogy, Follett continues with his sweeping saga, this time focused on the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II, ending in 1949 with the start of the Cold War era. The characters are familiar or direct decedents from the five families in book 1, Fall of Giants. Not surprisingly, Follett manages to insert his characters into such events as Pearl Harbour, the battle at Midway, the French resistance and even the Manhattan Project. As with Fall of Giants, Follett goes big taking in Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain, the United States and the Pacific theatre. Thankfully, Follett keeps to a straightforward, chronological story line, making it easy to follow along. While the only unpredictable aspect of the story is how his characters react to these historical events, Follett continues to touch on broader social themes such as women’s rights, the stratification of social classes and communism versus capitalism – themes already captured in the first book in the trilogy and continued in the second installment – while expanding in this book to include themes on homosexuality and mixed race relationships.

While not stellar writing – Follett sticks to straightforward language while focusing on historical setting over character development – the story has the right balance of romance, intrigue and action to continue to hold my attention. One reviewer has aptly described this one as, “An entertaining historical soap opera.” I agree with that assessment and looking forward to finding out what happens in the final book in the trilogy.

105lkernagh
Edited: Aug 30, 8:45pm Top


ROOT #47 - The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - "2008"
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2008
Acquisition date: November 16, 2015
Page count: 352 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.15 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Here’s the set up: Daniel Addison, a burnt-out political aide to the Leader of the Opposition quits just before an election--but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock--an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers--to let his name stand in the election as a Liberal candidate in a traditional Tory stronghold riding. No need to campaign, certain to lose, and so on. When a great scandal erupts in the final days to the election, McLintock’s easy lose no longer looks like a sure thing, with Daniel horrified at the thought of a return to Parliament Hill with an honest M.P. who doesn’t care about being elected."
Review:
For me, this farcical political romp can best be summed up as a truly Canadian spin on my favorite British political satire, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. A word of caution for readers: This is an extremely Canadian story and while Fallis does take some pains to explain certain aspects of the Canadian political system and party politics, the story is filled with nuances, clichés and metaphors that may miss their mark with some non-Canadian readers. Should also mention that Fallis was a former Liberal Party advisor so it is not surprising that he takes a number of humorous swipes at the other parties – and in particular, the Conservative party as being the party in power in the setting of this story – that might not sit too well with a reader, depending on their personal political point of view. For me, I am more of an issues voter than a party voter, so I am happy to chuckle along with all political humour. Some of Fallis’s humour tends more to caricature than satire – another reason why I recommend that this book will probably make for a more rewarding read for readers with more than just a passing knowledge of Canadian politics and issues.

Overall, a fun, quick read and would make for perfect reading in the lead up to a federal election. I have already dipped into the second book, The High Road so that I can continue along with Angus and Daniels’ continuing political misadventures.

----------------------

As a side note: I love how this story has a “rags to riches” backstory similar to Andy Wier’s book The Martian. When Fallis was unable to interest any publisher in this story, he recorded chapter podcasts. When his podcast series gained enough of an audience, he self-published, and then went on to win the 2008 Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. Since then the book has also been made into a CBC-TV miniseries. I love learning about this kind of backstory when I read a book!

106lkernagh
Aug 31, 8:55pm Top


ROOT #48 - My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2012
Acquisition date: September 25, 2015
Page count: 331 pages / 12 hours, 37 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.45 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila."
Review:
Written in autobiographical style – who knows, maybe it is autobiographical given the little information known about the very private author – this first book in a four-part series focuses on Elena and Lila’s early friendship while growing up in a working class community of postfascist Naples of the 1950s to 1960s. While I cannot speak to the accuracy of Ferrante’s portrayal of an impoverished Southern Italian neighbourhood of the time period it does make for a mesmerizing backdrop. I really liked the complexity of Elena and Lila’s friendship. At times they are completely in sync, like twins or two peas in a pod and at other times there is this fierce competition as they each strive to create their own identity while still seeking approval. As you can imagine, this friendship has its perilous moments as emotions of admiration swirl with competing emotions of envy and resentment as one would expect in adolescence. Now I have to admit, I did not find the story enjoyable at first. In fact, I almost DNF’d the book as a waste of my time, but I am glad that I pushed along with it. The portrayal of gender issues – we are talking about a very different era from today! – and the emotional landscape of Elena and Lila, carried the story - and my appreciation for it – along. Given the autobiographical style, the author has projected a lot of the adult Elena’s perspective of her memories, layering the story – while poignantly communicated – with an overall feeling of melancholy that can be a bit of a downer for a reader.

Overall, this is a story that grew on me as I read it. It is a difficult story to recommend, as is any book that is billed as being a modern masterpiece, IMO. Best I can do is recommend it with a warning that the story is an emotional roller-coaster filled with a fair amount of suffering and self-pity. A rewarding read if you are up for this style of story.

107lkernagh
Aug 31, 8:56pm Top


ROOT #49 - The High Road by Terry Fallis
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: September 7, 2010
Acquisition date: November 7, 2015
Page count: 327 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Just when Daniel Addison thinks he can escape his job as a political aide, Angus McLintock, the no-hope candidate he helped into Parliament, throws icy cold water over his plans. With the government in power brought down with a deciding vote, the crusty Scot wants Daniel to manage his next campaign. Soon Daniel is helping Angus fight an uphill battle against "Flamethrower" Fox, a Conservative notorious for his dirty tactics. Together they decide to take "The High Road" and--against all odds--turn the race into a nail-biter with hilarious ups and downs, cookie-throwing seniors, and even a Watergate-style break-in. But that's only the beginning. Add a political storm in the capital and a side-splitting visit from the U.S. President and his alcoholic wife and one can only wonder what will happen next."
Review:
Picking up where The Best laid Plans left off, I really enjoyed spending more time with Daniel, Angus and Muriel. Such fun characters! What I love about satire is that even the evil characters are good for a few laughs. Yes, the story does stretch into the unbelievable at times and yet, I can see how some of the events (like the one involving the FLOTUS, the U.S. secret service and Angus’s hovercraft) could play out in real life. What makes this book work for me is that I have a rather cynical view of politics, so the uphill battles Angus and Daniel face ring true for me, even if this is speculative fiction.

Overall, another fun political satire romp.

108lkernagh
Sep 7, 9:06pm Top


ROOT #50 - The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante - audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2013
Acquisition date: November 11, 2014
Page count: 480 pages / 19 hours, 8 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.35 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the cruel price that this passage exacts."
Short Review:
A book filled with teenage/ early 20-something angst, unrequited love and life struggles.

Full Review:
I have to start off this review by questioning the publisher's description that Lila and Elena are now in their twenties. The majority of the book takes place within 3 years of the wedding when the girls were only 16. By my simple math skills, that places the girls in their late teens, sliding into their early twenties for just the last 100 pages or so. A grip I wanted to get off my chest. Now for the more fulsome review.

Picking up where the first book in the series left off, this story was rather surprising in the very adult situations these two young women (and their friends) experience. While Ferrante uses the situations in this story to examine the cultural and economic divide between northern and southern Italy, the focus of the story remains squarely with our two protagonists. The choices made by the two girls – both seeking ways to escape the suffering they see in the adult women of their families and neighbourhood – are not ones I would have made at their age (and especially not how Elana chooses to lose her virginity) but Ferrante is writing about a place and time that pre-dates me. She also writes with a purpose that does not include apologizing to her readers (especially things like the banality towards domestic violence – another symptom of place and time Ferrante is trying to communicate through her story).

Overall, this story – and the series so far – would probably best appeal to readers who like to entrench themselves into the more minute details of the lives of the characters. For me, Ferrante’s clearly rendered story makes for easy listening while exercising. Best part of this story was the last 100 pages when the story clearly displays the sharp divide/ reversal of roles that has arisen in Elena and Lila’s friendship. That alone was enough for me to up my overall rating slightly and has led me to dip into the next book in the series.

109lkernagh
Sep 8, 1:09pm Top


ROOT #51 - Effigy by Alissa York
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT, RTT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: "Y" Author - York
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2007
Acquisition date: December 7, 2014
Page count: 448 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.20 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Dorrie, a shock-pale child with a mass of untameable black hair, cannot recall anything of her life before she recovered from an illness at seven. A solitary child, she spends her spare time learning the art of taxidermy, completely fascinated by the act of bringing new and eternal life to the bodies of the dead. At fourteen, her parents marry her off to Erastus Hammer, a polygamous horse breeder and renowned hunter, who does not want to bed her. The role he has in mind for his fourth and youngest wife is creator of trophies of his most impressive kills, an urgent desire in him as he is slowly going blind. Happy to be given this work, Dorrie secludes herself in her workshop, away from Mother Hammer’s watchful eyes and the rivalry between the elder wives.

But as the novel opens, Hammer has brought Dorrie his latest kills, a family of wolves, and for the first time in her short life she struggles with her craft, dreaming each night of crows and strange scenes of violence. The new hand, Bendy Drown, is the only one to see her dilemma and to offer her help, a dangerous game in a Mormon household. Outside, a lone wolf prowls the grounds looking for his lost pack, and his nighttime searching will unearth the tensions and secrets of this complicated and conflicted family."
Review:
Set on a Mormon ranch in 19th century Utah, this multi-faceted, vignette-styled story is a dense, complicated and rewarding read, at least for this reader. Inspired by the real events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, York's story is a complicated weave of the hard scrabble of western settlement, the harm inflicted through religious righteousness, and the impact of settlement on the lives of the original people of the land. Dense topics are wound through this story that, at is center, is a story of a polygamous family. As York passes the narrator baton from character to character - including Dorrie's mom in the form of letters written to her daughter and a raven/crow that haunts Dorrie's dreams - we come to learn the horrifying details of the 1857 massacre and uncover various secrets each character conceals.

Personally, I loved this story for its evocative, lyrical style and the depth to which York bears open her characters. Yes, with the story continually shifting between 10 narrators, it never settles for too long on one character or point of view. Thankfully, York gives her characters very unique personalities and passions, making them memorable. The story also conveys a fair bit of detail about taxidermy, raising silkworms and horse breeding. If that is not enough, the details about the Hammer ranch hand John James "Bendy" Drown's experiences as an abandoned child in gold-rush era San Francisco to contortionist with a traveling circus and then rider with the Pony Express, while fascinating - left this reader wondering if York was trying to cram too much into one story. Sadly, the ending came off rather rushed and left me unsatisfied after such a brilliant lead up. I can see why this book was a finalist (but not winner) for the 2007 Giller Prize.

Overall, a well researched and beautifully written story that, while complicated and at time dense with information, give a very evocative experience of 19th century Utah ranch life.

110lkernagh
Sep 14, 8:29pm Top


ROOT #52 - Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante - audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2013
Acquisition date: September 25, 2015
Page count: 400 pages / 16 hours, 42 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.10 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from the amazon.ca book listing webpage:
"Elena and Lila now women, face the world and find themselves on very different paths, one leaving behind a marriage and working as a common laborer, the other moves away from the neighborhood to earn a college degree and enters the world of publishing filled with learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women push against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond."
Review:
Turbulent – and sporadic – are good terms to describe the ongoing friendship between Elena and Lila, and the overall impressions of this installment. The story follows their lives very separate lives during the upheaval, both social and political, of 1960s / 1970s Italy, fueled by struggles between Fascist and Communist factions, along with other societal changes. Against this backdrop the story is really a whole lot of minutiae I wasn’t particularly interested in and I found myself feeling let down with the story. An overall feeling of melancholy continues to permeate the series, due, I believe in a large part to the excessive amount of navel-gazing on the part of Elena. I find it disturbing that while Lila and Elena are now adults - with adult responsibilities - they both seem to have tendencies to revert to the (petulant for Elana and antagonistic for Lila) self-absorption of their adolescence. Yes, Elena does discover feminism and Lila become a what some might classify as a working-class hero by exposing the deplorable work conditions of a sausage factory, I am actually growing weary of both characters. Neither one appeals to me. So, why do I keep reading? In part, because I like the frank honesty with which Ferrante writes. She tells the story without having to delve into melodrama. Lila and Elena’s friendship is not rock solid, but there is something elusive that keep them connected. It is not the BFF one encounters in other books. If anything, the friendship is tenuous at best, waxing and waning between tensions of hostility and tenderness. It is the examination of this friendship as the two travel through life that continues to hold my interest. Maybe it is the familiarity I have developed for the characters... kind of like the neighbours that you really don't want to associate with but still cannot help observe their comings and goings.

111lkernagh
Sep 18, 9:37pm Top


ROOT #53 - The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: ColourCAT - Metallic
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: N/A
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback
Original publication date: 2012
Acquisition date: May 3, 2015
Page count: 369 pages
Decimal/ Star rating: 4.15 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: from the book back cover:
"Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful - irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath. They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice."
Review:
This modern retelling of The Iliad is exactly what a non-Greek classics reader (like me) can appreciate. While I have never read – or cannot recall reading – The Iliad, I have retained enough knowledge of the gods and the story from a junior level mythology course I took back in Uni many, many moons ago, a course I barely scraped through as the subject matter failed to appeal to me. Thankfully, Miller has a gift for presenting Greek mythology in a way that I found captivating to read. Telling the story from Petraclus’ POV, and focusing more on his relationship with Achilles (and keeping the petty antics of the gods more in the background) helped to focus my attention. Yes, the story still has its share of war (hard to write out the 10 year siege of Troy!), death, violent bloodshed, lust and betrayal – can’t really tell a Greek mythology story without those elements being present – it is the focus as a love story that tempers all the “stuff” that I find so annoying about the myths.

While the story has not enticed me to want to read more Greek (or Roman) mythology, I look forward to reading more stories penned by Miller.

112lkernagh
Yesterday, 8:35pm Top


ROOT #54 - The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante - audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber
Challenge(s): 2018 Category, ROOT
CAT/KIT: N/A
Bingo DOG:N/A
Category: Original Publication Year - 2015
Source: TBR
Format: Trade paperback / Audiobook
Original publication date: 2015
Acquisition date: May 7,2017
Page count: 480 pages / 18 hours, 30 minutes listening time
Decimal/ Star rating: 3.65 out of 5 /
Book description/summary: adapted from various sources:
"Brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila both once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. She has returned to Naples, drawn back as if responding to the city's obscure magnetism. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from the city of her birth. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable. Against the backdrop of a Naples, Lila and Elena clash, drift apart, reconcile, and clash again, and in the process revealing new facets of their friendship."
Review:
Definitely the best book in the quadrilogy. Just unfortunate that one has to read the first three books to fully appreciate this one. Ferrante does an excellent job portraying the “seesaw” motion of Elana and Lila’s friendship. She also does a really good job portraying the rebellion of youth and the generational divide that fuels some of that rebellion. For me, it was actually the epilogue that brought the whole series into focus for me. If one views the story as a means for Elena to record her memories of the tenuous, 5 decade long friendship with Lila, then this is a sweeping saga that has fulfilled that purpose. In the end, it is the imbalance of the friendship, with the continuing desire of both women for preeminence and control in the relationship that really brings a deeper insight into the two women.

Overall, a worthy conclusion for the series. Yes, I did enjoy this one, but not enough to lavish glowing praise on it or have any desire to re-read the series.

Group: 2018 ROOT (READ OUR OWN TOMES)

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