Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21: Tuesday of Vacation Week and Pouring Rain!

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After I binge-read Cuckoo's Calling, I knew I wanted to read the second Strike novel, but I couldn't give my life over to it, so. . . . . I got it as an audio. Good call--but it was nearly as irresistible as an audiobook as it had been as a paper version. The reader is amazing, the story engrossing, the plot fast-paced: all in all, it provided me with a fast-paced two weeks or so of imagination. Brava/bravo!

Notes: the one bit I couldn't figure out in the story was why Leonora and Owen ended up together in the first place. She was such a resolutely flat character that I never got a real sense of her personality. Maybe I'll have to reread the book at another time and see if I just missed some details there. However, Strike and Robin have personality to spare, so I still stick by my five star rating!

Uneasy MoneyUneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Chose this as a quick commute filler after I finished "Silkworm," so I suppose some letdown was inevitable, but still: Uneasy Money is *not* one of Wodehouse's best. There are a few guffaw-inducing lines, but overall, it's a mere nothing of a story that is not redeemed by enough of his usual wit. I'm glad it was a freebie from the good people at Librivox!

**Note: I did NOT listen to this edition of the audio; mine was read by Tim Someone of "Big Bible" through Librivox.**

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anne R lent me this one, and I found it interesting and quick. The tone is a little unclear: does Moriarty mean it to be a comedic send-up of over-involved parenting or an honest revelation about domestic abuse in the upper classes? I felt that it teetered a bit precariously on the line, but overall, it was a good pre-vacation entertainment. Reminded me a bit of "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?", set in a different country.

How to Be a WomanHow to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read and loved "How to Build a Girl," so I fell upon "How to Be a Woman" with delight. And. . . found it funny, interesting, and thought-provoking. Mostly. There are some really useful ideas in it: first, the idea of using politeness vs. "correctness" to combat sexism: "That seems a little. . . uncivil," offers a good way to challenge some of the offensive stuff I've heard, and it shifts the debate. Brava, Moran. In addition, using the "does it apply to men, too?" rule codifies a lot of my distress about various crap girls and women have to deal with in many guises: synchronized swimming, cheerleading, survivalist cults I see in the grocery store where the little boys are racing around looking regular but the little girls have 5' long braids and are wearing skirts OVER their jeans, and, Moran's example: burkas. Also shaving various body parts. AND her riff on over-eating/obesity as a "carer's addiction" was enlightening. BAM!

I'm 95% on board with her statement that part of what women are dealing with is the fact that we were losers for a lot of history. Also, some of her stuff on pornography seems reasonable, as well--but the first few chapters were full-on cringeworthy, and I felt a bit like she was cranked up to make a point, to piss people off, and to create a brand for herself. Soon enough that died away and I was shouting "SISTER!" and reading lines out to Andy, but the opening was not where I'd've chosen for her start. Ah well.

I have a LOT of pages dogeared, and I'd like to copy out several of them on my FB status. . . . and mostly I'd like to do a book group with this book. Maybe that's a goal for this summer. :)

Highly recommended as a sometimes-difficult but always-interesting read. I think I'm going to buy a few copies and share them out.

Lost & FoundLost & Found by Brooke Davis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Warm reviews from the librarian for this one, and a great cover, but I gave up after about an hour. Several objections:

1. too much unknown stuff. I am not a fan of books that carry around a huge mystery that is alluded to but never truly answered.
2. too many weird characters. Really: could three so-bizarre people (four, if you count the disappeared mother) meet up?
3. too much effort to present the child's view and ONLY the child's view. Kids do have social antennae, and they DO know more than Millie does--unless they are three. She's seven.

All in all, the book was just annoying me too much to bear, so I quit reading it, read the extremely long and detailed acknowledgements and author's info/confessional, and will return it to the library ASAP.

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Well, it's the Tuesday of vacation, and we've had a good run already. Nate is in Budapest, and Andy and I had a lovely day and overnight in Portland after we dropped him and a classmate at the Logan bus. Now we're home and in the middle of a howling storm, with wind, rain, thunder!!!!, and general weather craziness. Yikes!

Highlight: we had a chance to see Craig and the twins yesterday, spending a lovely 90 mins or so playing with those cheery little girls and their dad.

Time passing reminder:

We lost Miranda, stalwart and beloved cat of 15+ years, on Sunday. She just stopped. We buried her when we got home on Monday. It was the best possible end to a good, extremely long life. Sleep well, Mander Cat! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 11: At Long, Long Last. . . .

Laughter on the Stairs by Beverley Nichols
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second of the Merry Hall series, Laughter on the Stairs has a bit more narrative flow than the first volume, the eponymous "Merry Hall," (whew--look at those vocabulary chops! Eponymous. . . step back!) but it still possesses the scatterbrained, amiable "I'm just telling you a few fun stories" approach that makes these books perfect reading material for a busy, cold, stressful April. I could read it a bit, put it down, pick it up again to distract myself from school thoughts, chuckle a bit, and then neglect it for a few days--no harm done. Like the Angela Thirkell books, Beverley Nichols's books are peculiar to a certain type of taste--and at this point, they match mine.

I have heard BN's name, often from British writers, so I've been interested in him for a bit, and finding these three books at a book sale was a perfect stroke of luck, as my $3 investment has been well returned. In this outing, it's interesting to see Nichols's progress in redoing Merry Hall (I do wish there were photos in this re-released edition), and also to see his personality and opinions about his neighbors, his "frenemies," and, especially, the entrance of "Miss Mint," one neighbor whom he truly seems to respect and admire. Seeing how he casts her as opposed to the other women whom he satirizes quite acidly at times is fascinating, and made me like Miss Mint even more because she was clearly unique in the esteem she evoked!

One more book in this series left. . . and I may not rush it, but leave it for another "I need some downtime" stretch. We'll see.

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Well. Long long last: it's sunny, due to hit 50, and it actually *just rained* for two days, so the snow banks have receded in a big way. We still have no gardens and no lawn, but beyond the trees the grass is beginning to show up and the melt water is substantial. Last night Andy and I watched the Sox play, our minds still challenged by the blanket of white we could see outside the windows every time we got up from our chairs, but clearly things are warming up and moving toward spring.

Last weekend was a blur of Nate being home, prepping for his trip to Hungary and the Czech Republic, prepping for the Easter sunrise b'fast, prepping for our Easter celebrations, and doing some schoolwork to boot. This weekend is a little less fraught, with a tad more time in between, and certainly nicer weather. One week till April vacation. We can do this, right?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 1, Wednesday: Melting, Sunshine, and a good book!

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book, which handled multiple character lines with aplomb, though the Lorelei emails were a bit tiresome--necessary to the plot, but she annoyed me as a character, so I didn't like reading her gushing. Certainly there was an element of reality TV as Jewell unfolded the hoarding elements of the plot, and the unpacking made a satisfying theme. A trifle overwrought at the very end: I don't think people can change quite as whole-heartedly as Megan does (or at least not so quickly), but my optimistic self didn't quibble. An interesting and well-written "peopley book," as a former student used to say.

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