Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Better Man

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #15)A Better Man
by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The province of Quebec is threatened with catastrophic flooding as this 15th novel in the Gamache series begins. The fight to save the province from the rising waters provides a throughline to the other events in the novel, surete politics for Gamache and Beauvoir, a crisis of artistic conscience for Clara, and a case involving a woman gone missing from her abusive husband. Like all these novels this one is a page turner and filled with wise observations on the world. 

“Consequences,” said Gamache. “We must always consider the consequences of our actions. Or inaction. It won’t necessarily change what we do, but we need to be aware of the effect."
What jumped out at me in this book was the questions to ask yourself before you speak: “Is it true? Is it kind? Does it need to be said?”

This book counts toward the 13th Canadian book challenge. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lisa's Review: A Newfoundlander in Canada

A Newfoundlander in Canada: Always Going Somewhere, Always Coming Home by Alan Doyle

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in 2014, I read & reviewed Alan Doyle's first book, Where I Belong, which chronicled Alan's life growing up in Newfoundland right up to the point where he joined Great Big Sea. At that time I stated my hope was that he would write another book continuing the journey with stories of life on the road with the band. So I was thrilled when I heard that Alan had written a second book & it was exactly that.

As with his first book, A Newfoundlander in Canada was completely entertaining. Having been a fan of Great Big Sea & Alan Doyle, seeing them/him many times, his style of writing is such that I could hear him saying every word as I read. His stories of Great Big Sea making their way from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, and eventually to British Columbia are entertaining and humbling. Never would I have imagined there would be a story that involves Great Big Sea and Barney (the purple dinosaur), but there is!

I'll state it again - I hope Alan Doyle keeps writing!

This is my 3rd book read for the 13th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Collection of Cozies #3

A Room With a Brew (Brewing Trouble, #3)A Room With a Brew by Joyce Tremel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 3rd installment of this series about a brewer in Pittsburg who keeps getting mixed up in murders. This one was pretty far-fetched and the G-rated romance with the hunky hockey-player chef is also hard to believe.

Death of a Fool (Roderick Alleyn, #19)Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ritual dancing at the winter solstice provides the backdrop for this tale of murder from one of the queens of crime.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax, #1)The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
by Dorothy Gilman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This might stretch the definition of mystery a bit, but it is definitely a cozy spy novel.

Kansas Troubles (Benni Harper, #3)Kansas Troubles by Earlene Fowler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Would have liked more quilting info in this one.

Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey, #6)Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reread of a classic. Lots of interesting info about spiritualism. I love the ending of this novel. The actual last lines are great (total spoiler though so I won't quote them).

A Shot in the Dark (Constable Twitten #1)A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tone of this novel reminded me of Josephine Tey's work. This one is comic though (think Keystone cops). Now and then the grammarian in Lynne Truss pops up in a charming way and the language was delightful:
"It's an aspect of old-school Variety that is often overlooked in respectful academic accounts of the genre's sad and lonely death-by-television in the 1950s--that what made the weak comedy routines sound so funny in the halls (and the tawdry 'glamour' even passable), was the audience's prior consumption of alcohol in quantities that would nowadays be considered catastrophically injurious to health." (p. 77)
This novel has been on my shelf for ages and so counts toward the Mount TBR challenge.

All of these books count toward the Cruisin Through the Cozies Challenge.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Papers of Samuel Marchbanks

The Papers of Samuel MarchbanksThe Papers of Samuel Marchbanks
by Robertson Davies
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a silly book but I found it entertaining. The premise is that it is the papers of a Canadian journalist, Samuel Marchbanks, which have been compiled, edited, and footnoted by his friend Robertson Davies. Marchbanks is a crank and has a lot of issues with the "modern world" (circa 1985) and the failings of Canadian government. He also has colorful friends and neighbors who come into the book mostly in the final section which contains his correspondence. I could have done with fewer diary entries about the furnace. If you haven't read Davies' non-fiction before I would recommend The Enthusiasms or A Merry Heart over this volume.
This book counts toward the 13th Canadian book challenge. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1)The Big Sleep
by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my Classics Club spin book and I finished it in mid-October. I enjoyed the book, though I was surprised by how risque it was and by the homosexual slurs in it. Philip Marlowe is an appealing character, despite his very rough edges.
I also watched the movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Reading the book I couldn't figure out who Bacall would play or how some of the storylines could have made it past the Hays Code. The screenplay is by William Faulkner and he left out all the awkward bits (homosexuals, nymphomaniacs, and smut peddlers). This made for a "cleaner" story, but it also makes the plot almost incomprehensible. The Bacall part is a combination of 2 characters from the book, both of them cleaned up considerably.
Overall I would recommend the book but not the movie.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Joseph Andrews

Joseph AndrewsJoseph Andrews
by Henry Fielding
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Tom Jones when I was an undergraduate and really liked it so when it came time to assemble my latest Classics Club list I knew wanted to read more of Fielding's work.
Joseph Andrews was originally published in 1742 and is the tale of a young man who gets himself into (and occasionally out of) a variety of ridiculous situations. This was a funny book but I didn't like it as much as I remember liking Tom Jones. This novel counts toward my Back to the Classics challenge as a comic classic and also toward the Mount TBR challenge. I think I have had this book on my shelves for at least 30 years and now it has finally been read.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


DivisaderoDivisadero by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how Ondaatje structured this book. It starts with out as the story of 4 people--a family--and expands and contracts to explore the lives of those people and the people who touch their lives. Ondaatje's sentences are beautiful even when his subject is ugly and the insight into what it is to be human is amazing. The counts toward the Canadian Book Challenge. If you haven't read Ondaatje you need to. He is a master.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Classics Club Spin #21

It is time for another Classics Club Spin. The rules are simple: you list 20 titles from your Classics Club List and when the spin number is drawn (on Monday, 9/23) you have to read that book from your list by the deadline (October 31, 2019 in this case).
Here is my list:
  1. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  2. The Deep Blue Goodbye, John D. MacDonald
  3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  4. Grey Mask, Patricia Wentworth
  5. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler 
  6. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
  7. Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis
  8. Double Indemnity, James M. Cain
  9. Seven Gothic Tales, Isak Dinesen
  10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
  11. New Grub Street, George Gissing
  12. Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley
  13. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  14. A House for Mr Biswas, V. S. Naipaul
  15. Where Angels Fear to Tread, E. M. Forster
  16. The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton
  17. The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer
  18. The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
  19. Lust for Life, Irving Stone
  20. I, Robot, Isaac Asimov

Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was not at all what I expected. It was much better than I expected actually. I listened to the audiobook version which was a good call for me because I think I would have had trouble with the Spanish names had I been reading but the narrator said them all beautifully and it was easy to keep the characters straight.
“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
The writing is often quite beautiful and the shifting perspectives among the three main characters gives Marquez an opportunity to explore a lot of ways of looking at love, and at sex, and at memory, and at what the point of it all might be. It was written in 1985 and is set in Columbia around the turn of the 20th century (it spans the lifetime of Florentino Ariza). An understanding of the history of Columbia (on my part) would have enhanced this story, but I'm glad I read it despite the references I didn't fully understand.

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