Thursday, April 21, 2016

Taking a Vacation

As most of my readers have by now figured out, Tutu is on a long vacation from blogging.  Numerous health issues, family responsibilities, and just plain brain fatigue have put the damper on my ability or motivation to provide comments about my reading life.

Life in Maine is still delightful, and we are now embarking on an extended year of travel to many parts of the nation and the world.  I am keeping track of what I read in my library,   and the sidebar widgets should continue to display those works I'm currently enjoying.

The bottom line is that at my stage in life, reading is supposed to be fun, and writing reviews just wasn't fun anymore.

Best wishes, and happy reading to all of you who have faithfully followed and commented on my Two Cents for years.  I'll drop by periodically to post some thoughts on traveling.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shout Out : Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

I can't begin to say it better than all the other reviewers and blurbs....

...a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason.....
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse  Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

This one has it all:  shades of "Ghostbusters", queens, genies, fairy tales, graphic novels, bewitched characters who float above the earth, unable to touch earthly objects - making it impossible to fly on regular planes (try explaining that to the TSA!!), and also creating real problems in the lavatory (think about it!).   Deep thoughts, astonishing fun.  Convoluted thinking giving us an inventiveness at once breath-taking, thought-proking, and plain raucous fun.  An example:
On the day that Adam and Eve invented God.....they at once lost control of him.  That is the beginning of the secret history of the world.  Man and Woman invented God, who at once eluded their grasp and became more powerful than his creators,  and also more malevolent. Like the supercomputer in the film TERMINATOR: "Skynet", sky-god, same thing.  Adam and Eve were filled with fear because it was plain that for the rest of time, god would come after them to punish them for the crime of having created him. They came into being simultaneously in a garden...and they had no idea how they got there until a snake led them to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and when they ate its fruit they both simultaneously came up with the idea of a creator-god, a good-and-evil decider, a gardener-god who made the garden, otherwise where did the garden come from, and then planted them in it like rootless plants.

And lo, there, immediately, was god, and he was furious, "How did you come up with the idea of me," he demanded, "who asked you to do that?" and he threw them out of the garden into, of all places, Iraq. "No good deed goes unpunished," said Eve to Adam, and that ought to be the motto of the whole human race.

This is one I read and listened to in audio, and promptly went and bought my own copy.  Like the Thousand and One Nights,  the reader will want to reach for this one for bedtime stories over and over.  It's delightful, it's very deep, and it will continue to provide wonderful amusement, intense contemplation, and enjoyment for many readings.   Try it, you'll love it.

Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House (2015) 304 pages
Genre: Whimsical fiction; fantasy
Subject: Mythical retelling of humanity and creation
Setting: Everywhere
Source: Public library, Audible
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

 The Secret Chord

I've been reading this for several months now, taking it slowly, and in small pieces. I'm not finished yet.

Like much of Geraldine Brooks' work, it is meticulous in its luscious detail. Well developed characters are another hallmark of anything she writes, and several times  I found myself hunting for my Bible to see how this dovetails with my previous experience of the central figures - King David and the prophet Nathan.   Unfortunately, that got in the way, and I had to put it down for awhile.

This book deserves to be read on its own, without the previous prejudices many of us will bring to the narrative from previous and unconnected Biblical studies.  It is well written, deeply researched, and brings a humanity to historic people we have not had before. I'm about half-way through and look forward to finishing it when I have a nice quiet piece of reading time available.  I want to be able to take everything onboard and savor it.

Title: The Secret Chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher: Viking (2015), Edition: ARC, 320 pages 
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: King David
Setting: ancient Israel
Source: e-galley from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now?  The subject interests me, I'm a fan of the author's and it's being considered for the Maine Reader's Choice Award

Monday, February 1, 2016

Shout Out: Prudence: A Novel by David Treuer

The publisher tells us:
On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family’s rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier, headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Awaiting him at the Pines are those he’s about to leave behind: his hovering mother; the distant father to whom he’s been a disappointment; the Indian caretaker who’s been more of a father to him than his own; and Billy, the childhood friend who over the years has become something much more intimate. But before the homecoming can be celebrated, the search for a German soldier, escaped from the POW camp across the river, explodes in a shocking act of violence, with consequences that will reverberate years into the future for all of them and that will shape how each of them makes sense of their lives.

My impressions:
 Set in Minnesota, "Prudence" is a story beginning and ending with  a young Native American orphan girl. This framework surrounds the stories of several men of various races, sexual orientations, and educational and vocational backgrounds.  The author manages to pack incredible character studies into a short 200 pages.  The writing style is a bit disorienting, but his use of both first and third person narrators seems to fit the story being told.  The setting is World War II, the story is about inter-racial relationships, betrayal, and poverty, but bottom line it's about love, despair, and growing up without guidance. It's not a happily ever after story, but neither is it so dark and dreary that the reader loses hope.  I found it a quick and engrossing read leaving more positive than negative reactions than I expected from the publisher's blurb and other reviewers.

Title: Prudence
Author: David Treuer
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2015)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Subject: Native Americans, inter-racial relations
Setting: Minnesota
Source: Public Library download
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Scratching my Head

 A Cure for Suicide
Long listed for the National Book Award, I thought this would be better than it was. It was intriguing enough that I had to keep reading. I kept waiting for that AHA moment when everything would click and I would understand what the Heck was going on. Very sci=fi, very very weird. One of the reviews I saw (after I finished the book) said it "would repay a second reading" and I suspect that is true.

The main character-- "The Claimant" -- has apparently suffered some type of brain washing (i.e., his memory has been dumped, scrubbed, or otherwise erased). We never really figure out whether he attempted suicide (perhaps the title might have lead us to that question?????), was in a terrible accident, had an illness, or WHAT.

He is in the "care" of The Examiner, who guides him through levels of consciousness in the "Process of Villages." I really can't say anything else because I'm not sure I understood enough of what was happening to be able to report on it.

I suspect that there is a segment of the reading public that will LOVE this book. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't get it.  I'd love to hear from readers who did.
Title: A Cure for Suicide
Author: Jesse Ball
Publisher: Pantheon (2015)  256 pages
Genre: Literary fiction, speculative fiction
Subject: I wish I knew.
Source: public library
Why did I read this book now?  I was reviewing for the Maine Reader's Choice Awards

Monday, January 4, 2016

Off the TBR shelf: Saving the Queen by William F. Buckley Jr.

Several years ago we inherited several books in this series, and have had them on the teetering TBR Pile ever since. I finally determined I'd at least read the 1st one and see if it was worth keeping the rest.  I finished it in time to count it for 2015.  A great way to end the year.
The Publisher notes:
  America's top financial secret agent Blackford Oakes performed his first heroic effort in SAVING THE QUEEN in which William F. Buckley Jr. coaxes readers back to the earliest days of the Cold War. The year is 1951. Harry Truman is president, and the beautiful, young Queen Caroline has just settled onto the throne of England. The CIA is baffled at the shocking things going on in London. Vital Western military secrets are falling into Soviet hands and, worst of all, the leak has been traced directly to the queen's chambers. A recent Yale graduate and ex-combat pilot, the debonair Oakes is selected to penetrate the royal circle, win the queen's confidence, and plug the leak. It all leads to an explosive showdown in the skies over London, one that could determine the future of the West.
 My impressions
 I'm hooked.   Blackford Oakes is a spoiled, wealthy, handsome, very bright Yale graduate with a chip on his shoulder. Recruited by the CIA at the height of the Cold war, his adventures saving the fictional British Queen Caroline from making a fool of herself is rather James Bondish, but high class nonetheless. Tightly plotted, it introduces a cast of characters I'm sure we're going to meet in the books ahead, and each of them is someone I look forward to seeing again.
Although they are dated, reading them as historical fiction is still enjoyable.

Title: Saving the Queen
Author: William F. Buckley, Jr.
Publisher: Cumberland House Publishing (2005), Paperback, 275 pages
Genre: Thriller
Subject: CIA and Cold war
Setting: London
Series: Blackford Oakes Novels #1
Source: inherited from relative
Why did I read this book now?  It's been sitting on the shelf too long.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shout Out: This is Your Life, Harriet Chance

The Publisher says:
 With Bernard, her husband of fifty-five years, now in the grave, seventy-eight-year-old Harriet Chance impulsively sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise that her late husband had planned. But what she hoped would be a voyage leading to a new lease on life becomes a surprising and revelatory journey into Harriet’s past.  Here, amid the overwhelming buffets and the incessant lounge singers, between the imagined appearances of her late husband and the very real arrival of her estranged daughter midway through the cruise, Harriet is forced to take a long look back, confronting the truth about pivotal events that changed the course of her life. And in the process she discovers that she’s been living the better part of that life under entirely false assumptions.

My impressions:
While the story itself is more than enough to make me want to take a look, it is the format of the book that kept me turning pages.  Evison uses the flashback device very effectively, and has an omniscient narrator telling us (and Harriet) about various events in her life today and in the past.  Harriet's gradual discovery of what she knew and when she knew (or should have known) it is a poignant portrayal of aging, loneliness, denial, and forgiveness.  In learning to forgive others, she comes to forgive and accept herself.   A delightful, thought-provoking read.  

Title:This is Your Life, Harriet Chance 
Author: Jonathan Evison
Publisher: Algonquin Books (2015), 304 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: Aging, self-discovery
Setting: Alaskan cruise
Source: Net Galley, electronic review copy from the Publisher
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the Maine Readers' Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shout Out: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

 The Publisher tells us
Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.
 My Impressions:

This is one of the most innovative detective stories I've read in a long time. Portraying strong women as  protagonists in a decidedly non-feminist setting made for some interesting situations.  I kept seeing early silent film reels running through my mind with Al Capone style gangsters, tin lizzies, fainting flappers, and stereotypical "Little House on the Prairie" homemakers.  But......these women were far from stereotypes.  They were strong (and headstrong), competent, organized, innovative and at times able to be quite stubborn in their quest for justice.

Several reviewers commented that they were able to guess the outcome from the "spoiler" printed on the book's cover.  Since I read this as an e-galley, I didn't pay attention to the cover, and it was only at the end that I realized the story is based on a true but long forgotten adventure. That said, I won't add anything else to spoil the fun.  I will say though that I look forward to more adventures of the Kopp sisters.

Title: Girl Waits with Gun 
Author: Amy Stewart
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2015), Edition: 1st, 416 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: Women in law enforcement
Setting: New Jersey 
Source: Public Library electronic overload
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the Maine Readers' Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shout Out: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

The Publisher says:
 In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.
   Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. She paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is a gripping novel with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling.
My Impressions:

I always associate Judy Blume with YA books, and didn't realize this was geared to a much wider audience.  Based on true facts and events, the story is so attention grabbing, so well told, that the reader does not want to put this one down.  I was up very late two nights in a row finishing this one.  The characters are instantly accepted and believable, and the riveting story takes the reader on a true roller coaster of emotions.  It definitely is a book that would make a great Christmas gift for readers from 13 to 100.  For those of us who grew up in the post-war era of the 50's it's a true treat.

Title: In the Unlikely Event
Author: Judy Blume
Publisher: Knopf (2015), Edition: First Edition, 416 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: Emotional trauma

Setting: New Jersey
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the Maine Readers' Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Shout-Out: A Spool of Blue Thread

 The Publisher says:
It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon...' This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home. They've all come, even Denny, who can usually be relied on only to please himself. From that porch we spool back through three generations of the Whitshanks, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define who and what they are. And while all families like to believe they are special, round that kitchen table over all those years we also see played out our own hopes and fears, rivalries and tensions - the essential nature of family life.
My Impressions:

I've never been a fan of Anne Tyler, even though she writes about my home town Baltimore in almost every book.  This one however, is exquisite.  The characters she develops carefully let us into their psyches as they struggle to come to grips with aging - both their own and their parents.  It is a story so ordinary in its universality, but so special to each person involved.  Anne Tyler may have hit her peak with this one.  I never thought I'd appreciate her writing, but this one truly resonated with me, and I suspect will ring true with many readers today, no matter their age.

Title: A Spool of  Blue Thread
Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher:Knopf (2015), Edition: 1St Edition, 368 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: Aging and family relationships
Setting: Baltimore
Source: Audio download from public library Overdrive
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the Maine Readers' Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Shout-Out: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The publisher says
Vianne and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Vianne and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

My impressions

I'm not sure what I was expecting but those expectations were far exceeded by the read.  Ms. Hannah has given us a well researched book with vivid characters, a page-turning plot, and a lasting impression of the existence of the essential good in human beings.  While there is evil a plenty, there is also love, hope, and forgiveness to salve the wounds of betrayal, despair, neglect and all the hardships of war.  This one is definitely going to be on my Top Ten list for 2015.

If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See  you will definitely want to read this one.  This is certainly Kristin Hannah's  best in a long line of good novels
Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (2015), Edition: First Edition, 448 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: The French Resistance during World War II 
Setting: Countryside of France
Source: Public Library
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers' Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Coral

  The Publisher says:
 A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . . 
That was America in 1881.
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.
  My impressions:
 I don't think I ever actually knew what happened at the O.K. Corral.  Other than my exposure to the Wyatt Earp series on TV when I was a child, I knew nothing about the Wild West.   Russell paints a clear and easy to read picture of this era and area of US history and geography.  Each character is so well developed that we feel we are really there along for the ride as rivalries and loyalties wax and wane among the major and minor players.

Not only does the author lead the reader up to the fatal shooting, she takes us past that occasion to follow the characters to the end of their lives.   A well-developed and thoroughly enjoyable read, even for those who are fans of westerns.  Although touted as a western, this belongs much more to the historical fiction genre and should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Author: Mary Doria Russell
Publisher: Ecco (2015)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Law and order
Setting: Arizona and environs
Source: Public Library
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for nomination for the 2016 Maine Readers Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

 Corridors of the Night
A William Monk Novel

 It's been quite a while since I read any of this series, and I'd forgotten how enjoyable they are.  William and Hester Monk have aged a bit, and others in the series are also growing older, but with age comes wisdom.

In this episode, Hester discovers that one of the doctors at the hospital where she is temporarily working has a brother who is a scientist working on a cure for "white blood disease".  He is actually developing the early protocols for blood transfusions, but is using young children (bought off the streets of poverty) to be blood donors.

When a wealthy patient's daughter demands that her father be given this on-going treatment, Hester and the three children involved are kidnapped and held at a hidden location so the treatments can continue.  Hester is convinced that if the patient dies, she and the children will be killed to cover up the mess.

Monk sets out to find her.  The rest will be up to the reader to discover.  It's a good read, with excellent insight into Victorian medical practices. 

I received the audio book version of this from the Early Reviewers program of LibraryThing.  Well worth reading, and kudos to the production company for a well-done audio.

Title: Corridors of the Night
Author: Anne Perry
Publisher: Recorded Books Inc. (2015)
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Subject: Victorian medical practices
Setting: London
Series: William Monk Novels
Source: Early Reviewers program,
Why did I read this book now?  I promised a review in exchange for a review copy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Just Checking In

Wow!   It's been awhile since I've had enough free time to post.   This has been a very different year for Tutu.  RL (Real Life) has been overtaking my priorities, and while I've been reading at a steady pace, I'm not reading as many books, and find, after everything else happening, that I don't have the mental energy to drum up a decent review.   I know I should be reviewing some very good books to get the word out, and hope to do a series of "shout outs" soon to let you know about a few I've come across.

To very patient publishers who have granted me access to e-galleys, my apologies.  I'm trying to give you input via the Net Galley or Edelweiss feedback forms.   If I'm not posting a review about a book you offered, it's probably because it didn't interest me enough to finish it.   AND THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF THOSE LATELY.    I'm not sure if it's me, or if it's just a shift in writing styles and subjects, but I'm finding less and less about which to enthuse.

In the meantime, I've been dealing with family on both coasts - 2 deaths, auto accidents, serious illnesses, lost jobs, and long distance eldercare issues.   I want to give a huge public thank you to my sisters and sisters-in-law all over the country for all the support they've been giving. To my children and their spouses and three gorgeous fun-loving grandchildren, special hugs and kisses for keeping the joy in my life.  Finally a special thank you and huge heart full of love to my husband for his gorgeous sense of humor, fantastic emotional support, and all the wonderful "honey-do's" he does for all of us.

Hope your holiday season is full of joy and blessings. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Well, it's about time I begin to tell you about some of the good reading I've been doing. One of my favorites is the new one from Isabel Allende. I will admit that I've never been a big fan of her works, although various book clubs I've been in seem to think she's an absolute imperative to read. but

The Japanese Lover
really sang to me.

The Publisher says:
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family—like thousands of other Japanese Americans—are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

My Take:

I was drawn to young Irina and the beautiful relationship she forms with Alma. Each woman has something to offer the other. Allende shows us respect, love, the need for privacy, and the importance of autonomy as Alma ages and Irina matures. It's a lovely gentle although at time disturbing story, with an ending I didn't see coming. I loved the setting, mourned with both as they came to grips with losing loved ones, and found my hopes enlarging as life progressed.  Her compassionate and objective description of the suffering of Japanese Americans as they were interned definitely added a complexity to the story.  A gorgeous story, strongly recommended.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

 With the publication of this 11th book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Louise Penny continues to delight her many fans.  Each book builds on the previous ones, but can stand alone.  This newest, to be published next week, introduces new characters - something we see in each volume - and a more developed and nuanced view of evil -both from an historic point of view and as it pertains to today's world situation.

For those who are looking for cafe au lait and brioche by the fire in the bistro, and quirky quips from Gabri and Ruth, they are there, but they are more solemn, more philosophical, and not as lighthearted as some readers may prefer.

No true Gamache fan would dare give away a plot, and it was for this reason that I even refrained from reading the little tidbits that Miss Louise doled out over the last couple months.  I wanted to read the entire book cover to cover so that I could feel the building tension, keep my mind spinning with all the marvelous possibilities Penny builds into her stories, and sit back with a grand sigh of satisfaction when the last page is read.  Once again , she does not disappoint.   The characters are the same (but they continue growing), the setting is the same (Three Pines after all is another character), and there is a murder.  But the plot, the motivations, the murder itself, and the side/subplots are just new and different enough to make the reader, and the true fan say "She's still at the top of her game."   It's magnificent.  Don't miss it.

Many thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available.  I ordered a copy of the audio version from Audible, and can't wait to download it on publication day.  The divine Miss P's books are always good for a re--read and a listen.

Title: The Nature of the Beast 
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books (2015), 384 pages
Genre: Mystery - police procedural
Subject: crime solving a current murder and a possible future Armageddon
Setting: fictional village of Three Pines
Series: Chief Inspector Gamage Novels #11
Source: electronic ATC from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now?  I couldn't wait any longer.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Moving Day!


Today is finally the day when my daughter's "stuff" will get delivered to her new house near Wimbledon. It's been interesting trying to decide (even with a notebook full of measurements, a good measuring tape, and frog tape to mark spots on the floor) where everything is going to go. It will be especially challenging to see how clever the removal persons can be about getting several pieces up to the 1st and 2nd floors. The stairs are narrow and steep. The hallways are narrow and angled. I fear it will be a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnng day.

Tutu's job is going to be supervising the Internet installation, ground floor box unpacking and figuring out how to use the all-in-one washer/dryer to do laundry we've been piling up for a week. Last night we ran a mixed load of light cottons, and it took over 4 hours to do the one load. Very different from our US style of getting three loads done in 4 hours.

Must also be sure the kettle is hot and the cups are ready for tea. Stay tuned.  More to follow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fun in Merry Olde England

I'm one of those people who has so much fun sightseeing that I often forget to take pictures. One day earlier this week, I headed off to Foyles, one of the city's largest bookstores just to roam around. Baggage restrictions kept me from buying anything except a couple tour books, but I did jot down a list of books I'd never seen in the US. I don't even think I'd seen them in US book review literature. They will make a wonderful wish list for the daughter to give Tutu for upcoming gift-giving opportunities, or for Tutu to plan into her next packing allowance.

After book drooling and other window shopping, I headed off to find a good spot to grab a bite to eat.  One of the best sights I saw walking around the South Bank and the Thames River walkway happened when I looked up as I was waiting to cross an intersection near Waterloo station. I caught this rather iconic photo of two of the best sights London offers: Big Ben and the London Eye. The weather was perfect, and I even avoided having someone walk directly in front of me as I clicked.  It was a perfect day.  Just enough walking, good sightseeing, good transport (can't beat public transportation in London) and good food. 

I'm looking forward to the weekend, when Lisa and I will be ready to take off for the theatre (we have tickets to see BOOK OF MORMON), dinner and then some more sightseeing on Sunday.   Next week we'll be spending all our time trying to get the house in order before I fly back to US to begin planning my next trip over.  Stay tuned for more.

And I am still reading....just finished the newest Louise Penny novel The Nature of the Beast.  Pub date: August 25th.  My review will post in a couple days.  It's a stunner, so don't miss it.  Now I'm about to dive into a pre pub copy of Elizabeth George's newest Inspector Lindley mystery set here in England.  I love reading these and now being able to say "I've been there!"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Our souls at Night by Kent Haruf

The world lost an exceptional writer when Kent Haruf died in November 2014.  I think Our Souls at Night, his farewell offering, is by far the most eloquent and bittersweet of all his works. The publisher gives us a detailed description almost as long as the book itself.  I won't quote it, or spoil the story but it begins
In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have long been aware of each other, if not exactly friends; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis's wife. His daughter, Holly, lives hours away in Colorado Springs; her son, Gene, even farther away in Grand Junction. What Addie has come to ask—since she and Louis have been living alone for so long in houses now empty of family, and the nights are so terribly lonely—is whether he might be willing to spend them with her, in her bed, so they can have someone to talk with.
As the story progresses, Haruf's typical laconic prose pulls us into the arms of Addie and Louis as they negotiate their way through long buried feelings and share their past lives and adventures.  The arrival of Addie's grandson, who is almost "dumped" by her son in the midst of his marital problems, brings an added layer of richness to the elders as they reminisce about raising their own children in earlier days.

In such a small town, it is inevitable that Louis' nightly comings and goings are noted and commented on.  However, most residents adopt a "live and let live" attitude toward the unusual couple.  It is only when Addie and Louis' grown children become horrified at their parents' immoral, shocking, and embarrassing behavior, and try to destroy the relationship,  that the true melancholy of the loneliness of old age becomes apparent.

This is a short book, only 192 pages, but it is beautifully nuanced, and poignantly emotional.  The reader wants it to go on for another 100 pages, but Haruf, in his evocative style, is able to bring the story to a well-paced conclusion, even though our hearts break to read it.

Like all the books he wrote that are set in Holt Colorado, this one is destined to be a classic.  Whether you've read any of his earlier books (they can all stand alone) or this is your first, it will not disappoint.

Title: Our Souls at Night
Author: Kent Haruf
Publisher: Knopf (2015), Edition: First, 192 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Subject: aging, loneliness,
Setting: Colorado
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now?  I love the author's works.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Travel time - off to London

It's been a while since I did a real travel post. Most of our traveling this past year has been to visit various family members who live spread across the country. I'm just finishing a visit with my son's family (and those delightful grand-kids) in the Blue Ridge and this morning I am off to London for two weeks.  I've loaded up my tablet with books to review, and the Walkman has several audios available for quiet times.

Mr. Tutu is staying home to work on his next's been slow going, but maybe he'll be able to make better progress without so many distractions. For Tutu, this is not going to be an actual tourist trip. My daughter is moving to London in connection with her job, and has invited me to help her get settled in her new digs. We decided that organizing and executing 19 moves in 26 years as a Navy wife qualified me to be a helper, and the prospect of some great mother-daughter time together was quite appealing.  Besides,  we can't spend ALL our time unpacking.  There are such things as shopping, shows, food, and sightseeing to cram into the schedule.

I'll be checking in while I'm there, and have scheduled a couple reviews to post for books I've recently finished, so hopefully you'll find something inspiring to read while I'm gone.  Enjoy your August.