Friday, September 13, 2019

Homes, Hearts, Hearths: Infinite Home (Alcott) and The Dutch House (Patchett)

I think that I need to catch up a bit and that means tempering my rambling tendencies...

Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott
In a sense, Edith has collected strays. An intellectually challenged man whose sister is rarely far, a beautiful recluse truly afraid of all, an artist (former) who has been altered by stroke, a comic. But as Edith's mind fails and her son sniffs around,  they fear losing apartments and, more truly homes

This is a beautiful work. Character driven but still with plot. I'm not sure that through ending satisfied me...not so much in its failure to provide answers as in those it chooses.  But the sheer beauty in the (to an outside eye)  mundane lives is magic.

4 stars.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The house, central to the title and to the tale. Not long after moving to their father's dream...the big house, elaborate of the sort that makes it hard to sit in sitting rooms...their mother leaves. And it is merely time until Maeve and then Danny are dismissed by their new stepmother. We see them throughout their lives as scenes of adolescence and adulthood build on scenes of youth.

It's the type of tale were it would be easy to say too much. It traces how childhood, family, and place build adult lives. It looks at trapped pain and the (in)ability to learn certain skills. How one set of dreams can suffocate another. And who we cling to

It's often sad, despite triumphs, but Patchett never leads you astray...and w her prose, I wouldn't mind anyway.

Another 4 stars...above average (and my avg is skewed bc I'm picky. But I cant quite muster 5. I'll say 4.5 while I'm in control.  And thank the publisher for the advance copy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Marley (Clinch) and The Last Time I Saw You (Constantine)

While the first of this pair wasn't finished all that long ago (though I can't say the same for the second) I now have an extra bias in the former's favor since I have a new (half-)nephew who bears the same name as the book. While the movie rarely outshines the book, even without meeting him I can guarantee that I love the boy more than I could ever love a book. And that, my dear friends,  is saying something 
Business first - thank you to Goodreads,  the publisher, and the author for a free review copy. As always,  this review is honest and not influenced by the price...

Marley isn't dead. He's very much alive and shares the spotlight with Scrooge in this prequel/origin story. Marley is already a tad shady when he meets Scrooge who is newly arrived at the boys school. They remain connected into adulthood, building a business in which Scrooge manages the numbers...with the simple honesty of figures and arithmetic done right...and Marley brings in the money, often through nefarious means including ties to the slave trade.  They also overlap in love, with Marley interested in Scrooge's sister, Fan, and Scrooge in love w Fan's best friend

Having not read Clinch's previous work, for me the concept recalled Wicked (and a children's book about the Big Bad Wolf and his bad cold). It gives a different view of a famous character and explains how the character came to be the person we see as a villain (of sorts) in traditional telling. Here, this means Scrooge shares the spotlight even though Marley is the protagonist.

This is very well written and provides something for a wide range of readers. It is a character study, it has plot points (that is, things do happen...some dramatic, some quiet), and it has a sense of time and place. Impressively, Clinch handles all of this well. It has a definite literary feel...I'd recommend reading it in your favorite quiet chair rather than on the beach or a plane so you can focus and savor the details without interruption and choose when to break rather than be at the mercy of a seatmate or frolicking children. 

A solid 4 stars. Def for a literary crowd looking for a true novel rather than a mass market book (note: I appreciate the latter too, just need the right match to a moment).



Kate seems like one of the lucky ones. A privileged upbringing.  A handsome husband, a darling daughter, and top notch career. When her mother dies suddenly and mystery text-er begins sending threatening messages, it all begins to unravel. She questions everything. Her oldest friend,  putting aside years of estrangement to come to the funeral, takes on the new of lead investigator.  Blaire takes on the role of chief investigator,  uncovering secrets in the circles of high society that run from the distant to the terrifyingly close

Well, i suppose it's meant to be terrifying.  Honestly, this just didn't do much for me. I didn't see the entire ending coming but I saw parts. And the rest...I just wasn't invested and it dragged. 

Two stars because it wasn't awful....it just wasn't, in my humble opinion,  very good. You can find a better beach book or airplane ride fodder at the supermarket. 

I did, however,  appreciate the opportunity to read a free copy from the publisher in exchange for what is quite clearly an honest review!

Friday, June 28, 2019

The written version of the utter beauty in a storm at sea: Cygnet (Butler)

Cygnet by Seasons Butler

I finished this a while ago, but it lingers in my mind. The paperback version that I read as an ARC (with thanks to the publisher and the author for the copy in exchange for my honest review) came out this week so it semed an apt time to write this.

A very basic overview - We meet Kid on the verge of her eighteenth birthday. She had been discarded by her parents (who provided quite limited parenting) and left in the hands of her grandmother who lives and - before our story opens - dies on an isolated island that serves as a retirement community. Many of the residents oppose Kid's very presence (a blatant violation of the age minimums and standards for joining) even though most recognize she has nowhere to go. After all, using the self assigned moniker the Wrinkles, they came to the island (Swan) specifically to escape "the Bad Place" of modern life.

But is there escape to be had or is it a tad futile - esp for the sole cygnet (a baby swan for those who have not yet looked it up) with more years ahead than behind - as climate change chips away at the ground below their feet and takes feet of Kid's yard in moments?

And that's all setting...notable and unique,  but there's more. There's the boy with whom Kid dreams of escape (and while it doesn't bother me, readers who do mind should know there's sex). There's the adolescent rebellion pushing through in Kid's actions and her internal monologue (it is 1st person...always a special feat when done well), placing rough and tumble wit and rage amid the often lyrical prose. There's the story of a woman who hires Kid to digitally alter undesirable memories out of her photos....melancholy doesn't quite fit that story but it is stuck in my mind.  And there are also a few kind friends who keep a loose eye on Kid, including a particularly poignant relationship between Kid and a woman who has dementia - a relationship that deepens whom even as her partner fades further away and the woman's past becomes present with Kid assigned a role.

I felt this book. And that's high praise. Did I like all of Kid's actions? No...but few adolescents would merit that praise (and they'd either be dubbed unrealistic or be as boring as I was and thus not merit a novel!).

Oddly, in my mind this book was shorter than the 240pp listed here, but I thought it lighter in length, not depth. Maybe the poignancy just made it dense...like rich cake. It is by no means an easy read..."dystopian" is bandied about quite often. There is an acute sense of time and pressure building in Kid and Swan idle (maybe that added to the density). Still, I found spirit...particularly in a scene where Kid briefly becomes part of the cool kids club (come on, every place has them)...and hope.

In some ways, this novel is quiet and lovely. But stuff happens. Not all if it good.  And not all readers will approve of some elements (I found they all fit the text and never seemed gratuitous, but for those who avoid it there is harsh language and drug use in addition to the aforementioned sex). But this book is propelled by characters and setting - which blend deeply and irretrievably into each other - rather than action, even despite the constantly altering landscape.  The book stands much like the island, filled with beauty but with waves threatening the very ground below. Which may not matter for some who not see Swan's end, but pushes our cygnet to consider her place.

In some ways, this novel is quietness literary, and lovely. But stuff happens. Not all if it good and not all readers will approve of some elements (I found they all fit the text and never seemed gratuitous, but for those who avoid it there is harsh language and drug use in addition to the aforementioned sex). But this book is propelled by characters and setting - which blend deeply and irretrievably into each other - rather than action, even despite the constantly altering landscape.  The book stands much like the island, filled with beauty but with waves threatening the very ground below. Which may not matter for some who not see Swan's end, but pushes our cygnet to consider her place.

4 of 5 stars (one storyline in particular just didn't fit for me).