Saturday, February 14, 2015

Another snowy week .... another week of reading ....

This week as the snow piled higher, and the wind continued to blow,  we hunkered down to some wonderful reads, some old movies on TV, some homemade soups and breads, and  hours of lazy, "sunglare on the snow" relaxing and re-charging mental batteries.  Since we have a dependable "plow guy" and we park inside a garage, we have been able to get out when we need to - to weekly MahJongg sessions, doctors appointments, church, going to the Post Office to pick up badly needed new boots we ordered  and refreshing the milk and egg supply.  Then we just read, and knit, and enjoyed being retired.

As I looked through my book piles and lists, I discovered a few more I finished last month and didn't get posted, and then I managed to finish my reading of the 25 on the Maine Readers Choice Longlist.
It's going to be very difficult for me to choose my favorite top 10 - there were only actually about five I really would not want to advance, so we'll see how the rest of the panel feels.  I'll keep you posted.
Here's this week's offerings, including two I really didn't care for.

The Headmaster's Wife
by Thomas Christopher Greene

Fantastic read. A hard one to review without giving away the story. A New England boarding school setting always promises to provide room for intrigue.  You know you'll in for a good story when the publisher says
 Found wandering naked and mentally traumatized in Central Park, the headmaster of an elite boarding school imparts a story that is shaped by complicated memories, the evolution of a loving relationship, and a tragedy he cannot comprehend.
 Each character has a fatal flaw, and the story is told in a rather uneven pace - we start in the middle, and are constantly surprised whether looking back, being present, or looking forward. It's an incredible piece of story telling, not too much for plot or setting, but for the relationships of the characters. Definitely a keeper and and one I know I'll want to read again.

* * * * 

The Laughing Monsters
by Denis Johnson

I actually started this last year and put it was awful. I had to finish it although I found this book to be ugly, and physchologically draining. I only read it because somehow it made the long list of books nominated for the 2015 Maine Readers Choice Award. The subject matter was distasteful--the publisher says "soldiers of fortune". I'd say evil rogue egotists amoral characters, and the whole reading experience was one I hope I don't have to repeat too soon (better yet ever again.) Denis Johnson is supposed to be a good author, but he's not going on to my list of favorites if this cock-of-road, devil may care, how many people can we kill/deceive/cheat/screw is his normal genre. It got 1 1/2 stars because at least he can write in sentences.

* * * *

The Ploughmen
by Kim Zupan

Rarely do I abandon a book I receive from the Early Reviewer program on LibraryThing, but I gave this three tries in 4 months and finally threw in the towel. I wanted to read this - the story line sounded intriguing, and the setting is one I normally enjoy:

"A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana. Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West."

The prose was so overblown, stilted and contrived that I COULD NOT READ IT. I had two other trusted reader friends try it and they both handed it back after a few days and said what amounted to YUCK. Mr/Ms Zupan needed an editor who wasn't afraid to point out that all sentences don't need to be compound, that adjectives don't all have to be multisyllabic, and that not all readers are going to want to stop a dozen times per page to look up a new word. A shame, because I have a feeling the story is a good one.


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