Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #4)Lemon Meringue Pie Murder 
by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“On the one hand, it was nice to have someone who was concerned about you. But on the other hand, you couldn’t ever feel truly independent. Marriage was a trade-off. You gave up some things and you gained others.” ― Joanne Fluke, Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
This is #4 in the Hannah Swensen series. Like the earlier installments it was a charming story about a woman who owns a cookie shop in a small Minnesota town and gets herself mixed up in a murder investigation while juggling 2 romantic interests and a mom who never misses an opportunity to point out that she ought to get married before she gets any older. She also spends a lot of time feeding her cat and drinks more coffee than anyone I have ever seen. These are fun, fluffy, novels with recipes mixed in. The orange cookies sounded delicious. 
I am counting this book toward the What's in a Name Challenge as a book with a fruit in the title. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Ocean of Minutes

An Ocean of MinutesAn Ocean of Minutes
by Thea Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't "really like" this book as I thought it was very sad. However, it is a very well written book and the characters were so well drawn that their sorrows seemed very real to me as I read it.
This is the first novel of a woman who grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto. It is about a woman who falls in love and is faced with a decision about her future because she is given the option to travel forward in time in exchange for saving her beloved. How her choice works out for them is the core of the story which moved back and forth between the time before her choice and the time after. There are also a lot of ideas about memory, and objects, and history, and the passage of time.
"I do not know that this is the last time I will ever leave this house. This is where I became myself. I should have gone from room to room touching everything, seizing as much as my memory could hold: the flip clock on the oven, the accordion door always stuck in its track, the dust motes and how they twinkle when I open the blinds. But I don't know." (p. 250) 
I am counting this book toward the Canadian Book Challenge.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to the Classics Check-in

Back to the Classics 2018 hosted at Books and Chocolate is one of my 2018 reading challenges. I committed to read at least 6 books for this one, each in a different one of the 12 defined categories.

I have read books for 5 categories so far:

These are the remaining categories with some ideas of what I might read for them:
  • A classic in translation.  
    Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak; 
    The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 
  • A children's classic.
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; 
    The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting; The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 
    Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie; 
    The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton; The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald; Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
  • A classic with a single-word title.
    Dracula by Bram Stoker; 
    She by H. Rider Haggard; Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • A classic that scares you.
    Swann's Way by Marcel Proust 
  • A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction.
    No ideas for this one -- if you have a recommendation please let me know.
  • Re-read a favorite classic.
    There are several possibilities for this, but I am not much of a re-reader so am not sure I will complete this category.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ender's Game

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender's Game 
by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Once again, the Earth is under attack. An alien species is poised for a final assault. The survival of humanity depends on a military genius who can defeat the aliens. But who?Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child.Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender's childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. He excels in simulated war games. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battle School is just a game.Isn't it?" --publisher's blurb

This novel, which began life as a short story in 1977, is a compelling view of what makes a person a leader. The story is action-packed, but the way that Ender, and his siblings, look at the world around them brings it to a higher level. Highly recommended. This book is on my Classics Club list.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop 
by Nina George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a charming book about love and loss and the importance of friends to help you deal with stuff. It was also a love letter to books and to France, especially Provence. The tone of it reminded me a little bit of Chocolat. The main character, M. Perdu, has a bookshop on a barge where he "prescribes" books to his customers to help them with their problems. He ends up on a journey through the canals of France as he tries to heal his own broken heart.

This book counts as my French title for the European Reading Challenge

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers KaramazovThe Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge. Though that sounds absurd, it is true. If I had been righteous myself, perhaps there would have been no criminal standing before me. If you can take upon yourself the crime of the criminal your heart is judging, take it at once, suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach. And even if the law itself makes you his judge, act in the same spirit so far as possible, for he will go away and condemn himself more bitterly than you have done. If, after your kiss, he goes away untouched, mocking at you, do not let that be a stumbling-block to you. It shows his time has not yet come, but it will come in due course. And if it come not, no matter; if not he, then another in his place will understand and suffer, and judge and condemn himself, and the truth will be fulfilled. Believe that, believe it without doubt; for in that lies all the hope and faith of the saints.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
I read this on a Kindle (definitely not my preferred format) and it took me from mid-October until the end of February to finish it. There is a plot, essentially a murder to be solved, but that didn't seem to be the point of the book. How the three brothers respond to what happens to them, and how they respond to each other gives Dostoevsky a platform for raising all kinds of questions about God, and how one should live, and what obligation a person has to his fellow men. That seemed to be what the book was really about. It seems like a book that would reward re-reading.
This book is on my Classics Club list.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Have you ever had that feeling—that you’d like to go to a whole different place and become a whole different self?” 
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

When this novel came out in the U.S. it was reviewed in the NY Times which described the story this way:
 "... a hallucinatory vortex revolving around several loosely connected searches carried out in suburban Tokyo by the protagonist-narrator, Toru Okada, a lost man-boy in his early 30's who has no job, no ambition and a failing marriage. When his cat disappears, he consults a whimsical pair of psychics, sisters named Malta and Creta Kano, who visit him in his dreams as often as in reality. Then his wife leaves him, suddenly and with no explanation, and he spends his days hanging out with an adolescent girl named May Kasahara, a high-school dropout obsessed with death, who works for a wig factory. At one point, seeking solitude, Toru descends to the bottom of a dry well in the neighborhood, and while he's down there, he has a bizarre experience, which might or might not be another dream: he passes through the subterranean stone wall into a dark hotel room, where a woman seduces him. This experience leaves a blue-black mark on his cheek that gives him miraculous healing powers. Eventually, he's rescued by Creta Kano, who reveals to him that she has been defiled in some hideous, unnatural way by Toru's brother-in-law, a politician whose rising career appears to be propelled by demonic powers."
Mixed into Toru's story are the stories of different soldiers relating their experiences. The juxtapositions and shifting realities make this a challenging read, but it is worth the effort because Murakami's observations about how people think, and act, and present themselves to themselves, are insightful and unique and are definitely not to be missed.
This book is on my Classics Club list.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the 50th book I read for my Classics Club list
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
This novel was written in 1850 and is set in the 17th century in the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. The author provides an introduction about (among various other things) how he came to write about this woman. The introduction seemed excessively long and rambling, but once the tale began it moved along at a good pace and didn't wander into unrelated asides. Hester Prynne is being publicly shamed for her sin--she has born a daughter with a man not her husband--at the start of the novel. How she, and the others involved, deal with this makes up the story. The writing is of it's time, but was not hard to read.
This book also counts toward the Back to the Classics challenge as a "classic with a color in the title."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's WomanThe French Lieutenant's Woman
by John Fowles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.” ― John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
I have been aware of this book, but only in a vague way, since I was a kid. It was a movie when I was in middle school and was part of the cultural zeitgeist. I knew it was about a love triangle and was set in a seaside British town, but that is about it. I was very pleased to discover on reading it that it is much more interesting than that.
This novel is told with a 19th century tone and the story is set in Lyme Regis, on the Southern coast of England, in the 1860s. What makes it wonderful though is that the author is very present in the telling of his tale and interjects with what are basically essays on the scientific, social, political and fashion issues of the period the story takes place in. (And occasionally on the period in which it is being written.) The combination of a Victorian romance and a commentary on what is happening and what is involved in writing it makes the whole thing quite fascinating. The only real objection I had to it was that the characters were often tremendous dopes (which Fowles is clearly aware of but contends he can't do anything about) and the prose in sections of the story itself was outrageously purple.
In a 2013 article BookMarks magazine describes John Fowles like this:
"Considered one of the 20th centuries literary giants, though more acclaimed in the United States than in his native England, Fowles brought popular appeal to the serious literary novel. Hard to place, but best positioned somewhere between modernism and post-modernism, Fowles wrote for an audience appreciative of playful, multilayered fiction ("historigraphic metafiction") as he manipulated his characters and explored the tensions between free will and society's restraints."
This title is on my Classics Club list.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...