Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oct. 30: And one more!

ChompChomp by Carl Hiaasen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No big surprises here: I scooped this up for our longish car ride this weekend, and we all enjoyed it. Typical Hiaasen: strong message of environmental respect; memorable, vivid characters; fast-moving plot. It's a young adult novel, so there are some spots that could use development, but the audiobook reader is terrific, and the book as a whole is a lot of fun. Recommended!

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Hurricane Sandy, aka "Frankenstorm," seems to have swept in without much effect, but my heart goes out to the areas that got smacked hard. Finished Chomp! in the car en route to school today, coldy but back to the regular routine. 

AND I voted. Whew. Done. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29: Frankenstorm, Frankenmonth. . .

Well, I'm back after a wild stretch of time, time dominated by the preparations for Andy's dad's service, which happened in MA on Saturday. We stayed with his aunt and uncle and had a wonderful time, but two weekends away (we went to see Lyle at Skidmore the weekend before) left me frayed and exhausted, so I took today off and did a lot of putzy school stuff, food shopping, lowkey house stuff, and fought off the cold that arrived with a vengeance. Hurricane Sandy, plus various other fronts, are converging tonight, so it's a crazy weather stretch as well. On the bright side: I have a lot of books to blog!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A NovelThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A Novel by Deborah Moggach
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I was suspicious when I noticed that the book's name had been changed to take advantage of the movie, but I loved the movie, so I went for the audiobook anyway. The reader was great, but the book is not--most of the characters are unlikeable, the plot. . . well, actually, when I think about it, the characters really are the start and finish of it--they're almost completely lacking appeal. I wonder what caught the movie makers' attention and made them decide to turn this flat and unprepossessing book into such a wonderful movie?
The characters' crudeness becomes the writer's as well, and. . . well. I'd suggest skipping this experience. Go see the movie and leave it at that!

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Touch Not the CatTouch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book, partly because it reminds me of my childhood reading with my sister! I had to get it through interlibrary loan for the Cornflower Book Group, and I read it very quickly and with great pleasure. Mary Stewart is one of the oldies and goodies: this novel does show some of the supernatural themes she develops in her later works, but her deft characterization, vivid description, and fast-moving plotting remain strong and enjoyable. I realized, also, that I had very little memory of the story, which made reading the whole novel an extra pleasure.

For fans of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, Mary Stewart stands right there in line--with her mysteries at least. Fondly recommended!

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Vintage Christie, and vintage cozy. Great readers. . .  highly recommended. What a pleasure! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Oct. 8: Reading With My Ears. . .

Used WorldUsed World by Haven Kimmel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this audiobook because I like Haven Kimmel so much, and I'd just reread The Solace of Leaving Early. Listening to it over the course of two weeks was a little tricky, since Kimmel's structure is convoluted: flashbacks, dream sequences--I'm sure in the book some were even in my much-despised italics!--and antecedent-free discussions about "him" or "her" plus the usual and much-in-vogue varied narrator approach. However, the story is Kimmel's usual blend of funny one-liners, straight-on grappling with the dark corners of human nature, and subtle inclusion of plotlines from other books, topped off with a strong helping of belief in human goodness and resiliency.

If I were Kimmel's editor, though, here would be my advice: 1. Don't use CJ Tritt as a narrator. Kimmel is a dry, understated writer, and Tritt's over-the-top delivery is grating. If I'd known she narrated, I'd've chosen the print edition. 2. Pare down some of those Hazel dream sequences. Yikes. How weird were they? The woo-woo astrology crap clouds the focus of the story, and the dreams don't help. 3. Give Amos, the one good man in the book, something to do. That might counteract the fact that all the other men are weak and annoying, or strong and downright terrifying.

I guess I'd also like to reread the book in print. It's a mixed bag as an audio experience, but it has kept Haven Kimmel's reptuation as an interesting and rewarding writer intact. I'm curious what she'll come up with next!

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Our weekend has been shaped by Andy's dad's passing. Parkinson's disease had really shaped his last few years, so the end was welcome. The brothers' steadfast care and attention for their dad have been amazing, clear, and unflinching, and their presence at his passing was equally loving and honest. Sad, but inevitable. Nate and I got to see him and say goodbye on Saturday, spending Sat. night with Andy and the rest of the family, and then came home to hold the fort and tidy up up here. A learning process throughout. 

Today is a stunning fall day, complete with wet, shiny, colorful leaves, blue sky, and a brisk breeze. Such reminders of the wonders all around us!