Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28: Books and (Maybe) a Few Pictures!

Thereby Hangs a Tail (A Chet and Bernie Mystery, #2)Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quinn's idea could go terribly wrong, and it IS hoky: the dog narrates this whodunnit series. However, Quinn's narration as Chet is clever and, for those dog-lovers out there, spot-on: smells sidetrack Chet; he frequently succumbs to naps and misses parts of a story; he has several embarrassing stories involving other dogs, javelinas, and/or irresistible food, etc. I listened to this during a long, slow drive to CT and back and found it really fun: not great literature, but certainly entertaining. The reader got Chet's voice and delivery nicely, and the plot is interesting enough to keep things moving. Recommended for people who know dogs but don't want an overly cutesy involvement with them.

Never Too Late (Barsetshire #25)Never Too Late by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleaning out the shelves, I spotted my vintage copy of this Thirkell and succumbed to its lures (and then also read A Double Affair, the next one in the series). . . . Thirkell is SUCH an acquired taste, but she is truly wonderful when she's at her best. I wish there were movies: the life with butlers and maids is presented as so normal, the mention of leasing out the wing of the big house for a school is so common, and the concern about how to keep the family property intact so frequent that it's hard to realize that these are REALLY RICH PEOPLE! The people in the village who are so gently but snobbishly described as different or as trying hard but not quite making it--they are US! I'd love to see the "actual" landscape that she was describing. It is surely alien to this American, but I do love to visit it.

Plot-wise, not her freshest, as there is a lot of repetition about Edith and her difficulties and George and his. Still, worth a visit.

A Double AffairA Double Affair by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in my Never Too Late review, I read this after NTL, and I think I'd over-dosed on the less-energetic Thirkell genre by then: this one felt overwritten and repetitive as a whole, although it does have some nice parts and is, after all, escapist Anglophilic Thirkell, regardless! It "forwards the story" but it's not her best.

GoldGold by Chris Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wary after the intense experience of reading LIttle Bee, I flirted around the edges of Gold, but ultimately I committed to reading it, and I'm glad I did. Cleave is a skilled and intriguing author, and this novel about the competing demands of family and top level athletic competition is powerful and good. The sport (short track bike racing?) is esoteric, but once I got into the book, it became a backdrop for the deeper questions and issues. Cleaves's characters are unique and sympathetic (I especially liked Tom, the coach, and Jack and Kate's relationship) and the story as a whole is suspenseful and interesting. Recommended.

A few of his riffs on modern culture (usually delivered from Tom's perspective) are really brilliant: he has one about young men who have to post everything on line and who make fun of everything, including themselves, while taking themselves incredibly seriously. Snap.

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