Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb. 28: Sunny Last Saturday in February!

34 degrees, no wind, and steady sunshine in a deep blue sky. We had another snow day last week, but we're all hopeful for March (Mainers may find that a deeply troubling statement, given how March often kicks us around). . . Soon to head out for a run on roads that might actually show melting!

The Alchemist's Daughter: A NovelThe Alchemist's Daughter: A Novel by Katharine McMahon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well: I *loved* McMahon's The Crimson Rooms, and I was delighted to find this one on audio so I could start right in. And: it's well-written, as CR is, and provides an incredibly detailed historical context, as CR does, but the main character is much less likable, and I'd say that the plot, lacking the mystery aspect of CR, drags a bit more. I do find that pacing is tricky in audiobooks, because we don't have the heft of the remaining pages to give us a sense of where we are, but I still think the final 1/3 could've moved a bit more briskly. My second and third reservations are connected, because I think that what makes the last 1/3 drag is Emily's self-absorption: even though she is realizing how self-absorbed she was/is, witnessing what is of necessity a self-absorbed process got a bit tedious.

The last segment of the plot sped up again, and then McMachon left us hanging a bit--but upon mature reflection, I realized that her decision not to include a post script with Emily writing from 25 years down the road and tying up all the loose ends fits perfectly with Emily's discovery in the book that life is complicated, that you might wish for a return on your investment, but what if that entails great human suffering? Etc. So: overall, I think Alchemist's Daughter is a worthy forerunner to Crimson Rooms, but I might not have sought out CR if I'd read AD first.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce, #7)As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Lenten decision to cut out Facebook during the week (as well as several snow days recently) has led to an upswing in my reading. Yay!

Flavia's seventh outing is good, but a tad convoluted, tho hers generally are. Once again, this one follows a familiar arc with Flavia chasing red herring after red herring, then tying up all the loose ends--to an extent. The switch in location (this one's set in Canada) requires a bit more background, which slows the narrative a bit, and my biggest frustration is that the entire school F. goes to is never clearly defined: is it a school for spies pretending to everyone, even its own students, to be a regular boarding school? Is it a school for spies whose students are so tricky that they all, nod-nod, wink-wink, just keep up the facade of being a regular boarding school? What's up with the Headmistress? With the vanished students? The haziness of the details felt careless.

Overall, it's not Bradley's best Flavia, but it's a pleasant read.

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