"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I read Green's The Fault In Our Stars just before the movie release and was so enchanted with his writing style I couldn't wait to read another of his novels. Though intriguing and certainly thought provoking, I wasn't nearly as engaged in Looking for Alaska as I was in The Fault In Our Stars. Looking for Alaska doesn't have the laugh-out-loud humor or create the deep emotional ties TFIOS does. My level of interest in Looking for Alaska was certainly enough to keep my attention for the duration but I never experienced any particular attachment to any of the characters. That said, I loved Green's brilliant approach of centering the novel around the moment that ultimately defines the characters in the book. The event takes on a B.C./A.D. aura and I got a deep sense of the intense effect wrought on the characters as the novel transitions from the countdown to the time after.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/99561.Looking_for_Alaska?from_search=true.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sheer Abandon by Penny Vincenzi

I am a huge fan of Penny Vincenzi's Spoils of Time trilogy so I was excited to begin another of her novels. I can't decide if I would have been better off to read this one before the trilogy or if I would have skipped Spoils of Time if I read this one first...

Sheer Abandon is mostly engaging and enjoyable but it was nowhere near as entrancing as the Spoils of Time for me so I was slightly let down. The story really picks up through the middle after a slow start but it seems to drag at the end. It took too long to culminate into a climax and a finish for my taste. I found my mind wandering more and more as the story continued to string me along.

I had a difficult time loving the characters. I wanted to choke one or more of them almost the entire way through the book. Nat was my absolute favorite even though he doesn't play a main role. Sweet and funny, he adds an endearing quality to every scene he appears in. I found Kate's adolescent outbursts and obscenities very funny and appreciated the respite her teen angst provided. Clio is a love but Jocasta and Martha are frustrating and often annoying in what I perceived as a lack of growth through the story.

Despite my diminished enthusiasm for Sheer Abandon, I'm still looking forward to reading more from Penny Vincenzi. She writes incredibly well and she has a notable talent for weaving multiple story lines into a cohesive, thought-provoking "whole." I have no doubt that there are many more Vincenzi novels out there that I will adore.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/668635.Sheer_Abandon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I've read a number of young adult novels of late and was hungering for something a little more challenging. When kept idle too long my brain craves something to work at so I made Hannah Kent's latest my next selection. Burial Rites was worked up as a top book club choice in a recent Book Pages publication and I've had it on deck for a couple of months. It seemed like the right time to add some edge back into my reading list...

This is an intriguing and horrifying account, made more so by the advance knowledge of its basis on a true story. I couldn't help but admire the strength of Agnes as time crawls toward her execution date and she continues to work hard, treat the people around her with patience, and even reach out in kindness when such an advance is allowed. Agnes' story hints at political maneuvering that leads her to be treated as an example rather than an Icelandic citizen honestly heard and found guilty of the heinous crimes inscribed. Agnes teaches me, yet again, that all is not as it initially appears and it is possible to live gracefully when anything but seems infinitely more fitting.

Though masterfully told and clearly well researched, Burial Rites left me with more questions than answers. I wish I knew more about all the characters in the novel, particularly what happened after the final page was turned. I can speculate on how Agnes' life was changed by the people surrounding her during the months of her exile but I'm curious to know how the lives of others were changed by Agnes. Hannah Kent has sparked my interest with her tale and I look forward to doing some additional reading on the events covered in Burial Rites. Well-written and engaging to the end, this book continues to resonate in the back of my mind hours after I've finished it.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1393224135l/18295842.jpg.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Brave by Nicholas Evans

This one is a 2.5 for me. I would have given it a 2 but I did really like some of the characters. 

I'm a fan of other novels Nicholas Evans has written so this one surprised me in its lack of momentum and its inability to fully engage me. I easily figured out where the story was headed early on so there wasn't any mystery or surprise to keep me wondering. The early discovery made the rest of the novel seem lengthy and slow-moving.

Despite that, Evans character development was spot-on, as usual.  I was fully involved in the part of the story that focused on Tommy during his time at boarding school. The other boys at the school and the teachers were so well done I thought I might recognize them if I were to bump into them on the street. So, while this wasn't my favorite novel from Nicholas Evans, I admire his tremendous talent and continue to count myself among his fans.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7947096-the-brave.