Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a charming novel about a life-long love affair with New York City. On new year's eve 1984 an elderly Lillian Boxfish decides to take a walk through Manhattan and between the various interactions with people along her route we learn, through flashbacks,  the story of her life. This is a feisty old lady and I really liked her.
"While I treasured the occasional rural retreat ... the suburbs had always seemed mealy and unresolved. I understood that their in-between-ness--neither town nor country!--was supposed to be their very appeal, but I didn't find it appealing. I always wanted either to be in, or get away from the city, not just be close to the city. Were I off in the pastoral hills shingling my own roof or riding a horse, well then, what fun. And were I catching the subway for a night at the opera, well then, hooray. But int he suburbs I could enhoy none of those pursuits with ease." (p. 185)
This novel completes my 2017 What's in a Name Challenge as it includes the letter X in the title.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lisa's Review: Grave Secrets

Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grave Secrets in the fifth book in the Temperance Brennan series. Tempe is leading a team on a dig in Guatemala to help identify 23 victims from a massacre in Chupan Ya that happened in 1982 so that their families can finally put them to rest. While in Guatemala, Tempe is called in to help investigate a more recent series of disappearances of young women.

I've been reading these books in random order and this is the earliest in the series I've read so far, so this is earlier in the Tempe and Detective Ryan relationship. Their relationship is definitely an appealing part of the series, so reading these in random order makes for the only confusion (for me)...keeping track of where they are in their relationship. However, I think I can can keep on top of that, and I appreciate I can get a lot of the books in the series as an online audio book without even leaving my house.

Of the Kathy Reichs books I've read so far, this one has been one of my favorites from a story/plot perspective.

This is my fifth book read for the 11th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Labours of Hercules

The Labours Of Hercules (Hercule Poirot, #26)The Labours Of Hercules
by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure I would like this as I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but these were interconnected enough that the book was a coherent whole.
The stories are of Poirot's (presumably) last 12 cases which he decides he will choose to fit the pattern of the classical labors of Hercules. These are mostly cases of missing items or people, and several have clever twists to them.
There is a funny bit in the Cerberus story where Poirot is in the London tube and he is not pleased, among other things he comments on women knitting in the tube.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World

Cinnamon Toast and the End of the WorldCinnamon Toast and the End of the World
by Janet E. Cameron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel about a teenager in a tiny Nova Scotia community coming to terms with his sexuality. The writing was very good and the characters were for the most part well developed. It was an interesting glimpse into a community entirely different from my own set in the period of my own teenage years. I am counting this toward the Canadian Book Challenge.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lisa's Review: Cross Bones

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

I seem to be on on Kathy Reichs kick, so I decided to keep going with it. Cross Bones is the eighth book in the Temperance Brennan series. In investigating the murder of an Orthodox Jewish man in Montreal, clues lead Tempe to Israel to examine ancient remains which may trace back to the Holy Family.

I listened to Cross Bones as an audio book. I have to say I found the first three hours a little tedious to listen to, which has not been my experience in listening to others in this series. But after that point, the remainder of the book was thoroughly engaging.

This is my fourth book read for the 11th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies

The Enthusiasms of Robertson DaviesThe Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies
by Robertson Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If your to-be-read pile is already out of control do not read this book as it will just exacerbate the problem. This volume collects reviews and essays Davies published in various (mostly Canadian) newspapers and magazines prior to 1990 when it was published. In a piece about Theodore Hook he says "Hook is now quite unknown; nobody reads him except people like myself, who like to rummage in the rubbish heaps of literature." This is a book for those people, among whom I must count myself. This title counts toward the Canadian Book Challenge.

The items I have now added to my TBR include:
  • The Performing Flea (letters of P. G. Wodehouse): " I recommend this book strongly to all writers, and to those who think that they would like to be writers. With Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary, it gives the most penetrating insight into a writer's life that I have seen in current literature; indeed, these two books, taken together, would make excellent material for a course in writing." (p. 37)
  • Joyce Cary's novels: "If you truly like novels, and if you like to get your teeth into something really meaty, I recommend these books to you strongly. But do not let me mislead you; if you want something on the Dostoevsky model, with agony and guilt piled high, these are not the books for you. Cary is, in the highest and finest sense a comic writer. He rejoices in the wild luxuriance of the human spirit; he is stimulated by situations which cause other novelists to pull their solemnest faces. ...This is just the kind of thing I like, because it agrees with my own view of life." (p. 159)
  • Clean and Decent, the Fascinating History of the Bathroom and the W.C. by Lawrence Wright. Possibly also The Smallest Room by John Pudney and Cleanliness and Godliness by Reginald Reynolds. (All from the 11 June 1960 piece in the Toronto Daily Star entitled "Clean and Decent". The Reynolds book is Davies' personal favorite of the group.)
  • "The best book on writing that I know is Style, by F. L. Lucas, who is himself an admirable writer, and a merciless task-master." (p. 278)
This is not just a book of book reviews, however. There are also essays where Davies explores biographical and philosophical issues. Here are two of the bits from these pieces that struck my fancy:
  • In a piece about marriage, "The Pleasures of Love": "I do not insist on a union of chatter-boxes, but as you can see I do not believe that still waters run deep; too often I have found that still waters are foul and have mud bottoms. People who love each other should talk to each other; they should confide their real thoughts, their honest emotions, their deepest wishes. How else are they to keep their union in repair?" (p. 311)
  • In "Confessions of an Editor" Davies talks about a time when he edited a small Ontario daily newspaper:
    "A few years ago a friend from a large city dropped in to see me on a busy morning, and composed himself in my visitor's chair for a long, leisurely chat. 'My dream is to buy a little paper exactly like this when I retire,' he said, 'and just run it for fun. Say exactly what I think, and not have to give a damn. I envy you--do you know that?'
    That was several years ago, when I was younger, and of a more passionate nature, and I am sorry now that I killed him. Stabbed him with a file. His paper must have been overstaffed because so far as I know nobody even missed him." (p. 329) This might also be considered a warning for people who carry on about how it must be lovely to be a librarian and get to read all day. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Night at the Vulcan

Night at the Vulcan (Roderick Alleyn, #16)Night at the Vulcan by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Entirely set in a theater during the run up to a new play this one had me convinced I knew who-done-it and then totally surprised me.
"When she considered them all as they sat about their own working-stage, bruised by anxiety and fatigue, Jacko's ugly word sounded not so much frightening as preposterous. It was unthinkable that it could kindle even a bat-light of fear in any of their hearts." (chapter VIII)
This quote made me wonder what a bat light is. I looked around but couldn't locate an answer. It might be like a ghost-light, or there are high-power flash-lights called bat lights, but that makes no sense in the context. Any ideas?


Sunday, September 24, 2017

By the Pricking of my Thumbs

By the Pricking of My ThumbsBy the Pricking of My Thumbs
by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a bit of a Nick &Nora Charles feel to the main characters in this book, though they drink much less and Tuppence is more independent than Nora. A very casual comment from a lady in a nursing home leads the pair--separately for much of the book--into a complex plot of robbery and murder. Well crafted with lots of red herrings to keep the reader off track.
I am rereading Something Wicked This Way Comes for a read-along and when I saw this title on the library shelf it seemed like I needed to read it too.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wonderful book has the same narrative tone that I loved in The Magician's Nephew, but is a bit more serious. Lion was the first book written in the Chronicles of Narnia but comes second in the storyline. I am reading the series, in a beautiful boxed set, with illustrations by Pauline Baynes. 

In this book we meet Aslan who is a huge and frightening powerful lion who is also kind and wise, "good and terrible at the same time" (p, 126). That seems to me the key to the whole story--characters who are both good and terrible--and it is what makes it timeless. 

My favorite supporting character in this tale was Mrs. Beaver. I love how she arranges things and lets the others know when they should have listened to her. She is very cozy and domestic--she was at her machine sewing while Mr. Beaver was out and about--but is ready with practical plans when adventure calls. 

This book counts as a classic about an animal for the Back to the Classics challenge.
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