14 January 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: The Good and the Bad

3 book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsHappy Monday. Looks like winter is finally here--I'm happy to report that we have a little snow and the temperatures have dropped. I actually like snow and don't mind the cold. . . . At least for a little while. By the end of February, however, you'll hear me whining about the weather.

I didn't have a lot of reading time this week, because we spent way too much time watching the news. On Saturday we took a break to watch a movie, which turned out to be bust.

Hold the Dark (2018) is set in Alaska and stars Alexander SkarsgÄrd (from True Blood fame) and Jeffrey Wright (from Westworld fame); it's billed as a mystery. It sounded like something we would love. Sigh. I'm not quite sure why we bothered to see it all the way through, because by 15 minutes we could tell this was definitely a B-movie. I've embedded the trailer at the end of this post, but trust me, just give this a pass.

Review of Lewis Man by Peter MayLewis Man by Peter May (Quercus, 2014): This is the second book in May's Lewis trilogy, set in the Outer Hebrides and featuring Fin Macleod who left his native Lewis Island to attend university. After dropping out, he joined the Edinburgh police force, eventually becoming a homicide detective. Note that I won't spoil this book, but may lightly spoil the first book, The Blackhouse, which I reviewed last month. In this installment, Fin has quit his job, signed his divorce papers, and returned to Lewis to restore his parents' croft. In the meantime, the body of a young man is discovered in the island's peat bog, and evidence points to a murder in the 1950s. The victim may have ties to people Fin knows from his youth, and the ex-cop can't help but follow through on the leads (though he keeps in contact with the local authorities). As with the first in the trilogy, this book is as much about Scotland and the Hebrides as is it about the murder. Fin's personal life also plays a major role. May's ability to create an atmosphere and to vividly convey his characters and the setting is always a pleasure. I think I'm going to spend this year catching up on May's backlist and maybe even doing some rereading--especially on audio. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 10 hr, 54 min) was read by Peter Forbes, who (yay!) reads the whole trilogy. I love his accent and particularly appreciate hearing the Gaelic. Forbes has a real feel for May's style, and this is one of those author-narrator pairings that is, in a word, perfect. (Print and audio copies provided by the publishers)

Review of The Waiter by Matias FaldbakkenThe Waiter by Matias Faldbakken (Gallery, 2018; translated by Alice Menzies): I guess I should have known that a book compared to Remains of the Day (a book I ditched early on) would not be a good match for me, but because this story takes place in an Oslo restaurant, I was hoping for good food references and the hustle and bustle of the waiter's life. Instead, this was a quiet story of a career waiter in a European-style cafe/restaurant and his interactions with the establishment's regulars. Every day, the same people show up at the same time and are seated at the same tables, in our waiter's section. There's an actor, an elderly widow, a rich man and his companions, and the waiter's childhood friend with his daughter. All chugs along like clockwork, until the rich man invites a beautiful young woman to join his usual guests. From there, things seem to fall apart. Our usually impeccable waiter messes up an order, injures his hand, and becomes too involved in the customers' lives. This novel has won tons of praise and buzz, but it didn't work for me. It's the second book this year (only 14 days long) in which the ending made me say: "Huh? That's it?" You'll probably love The Waiter, I'm sure I'm in the very small minority. The unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 5 hr, 31 min) was wonderfully read by Jacques Roy. Roy does a really good job projecting the waiter's inner life and his thoughts about the diners, the other restaurant employees, and the changes the woman brings to his routine. I sound like a broken record, but it's true: a great performance can't save a book that just doesn't click. (review audio copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Review of The Paper Menagerie by Ken Lui“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” from The Paper Menagerie by Ken Lui (Saga Press, 2016): For this week’s short story, I picked the opening piece from Lui’s collection of speculative fiction stories. This story fits into the science fiction sphere and is written as a description of the different ways books are written and used by beings across the universe. I loved the premise of the story and especially was intrigued by the creatures whose books were kind of like recordings, allowing the “reader” to hear the voice of the author, almost literally. Lui’s writing is incredibly quotable, and I marked several possible passages to share in this story, though it’s only about nine pages long. Here’s one:

They have always had a complicated relationship with writing, the Hesperoe. Their great philosophers distrusted writing. A book, they thought, was not a living mind yet pretended to be one. It gave sententious pronouncements, made moral judgments, described purported historical facts, or told exciting stories . . . yet could not be interrogated like a real person, could not answer its critic or justify its accounts.
True, yes? The Paper Menagerie is going to remain on my short story list; I’m sure I’ll end up reading Lui’s entire collection. (review copy from the publisher)

And here’s the promised trailer for Hold the Dark:


Tea 1/14/19, 6:14 AM  

You mentioned foods. I thought of you last week while reading The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. She mentioned Malvern Pudding which I have never seen or eaten. I'm in Canada in that book. Sorry the movie didn't work out for you. Like the short stories.

Ellie 1/14/19, 8:04 AM  

The Paper Menagerie is on my ever growing list of short story collections I'd like to read. I just seem to make more time for novels. I like the idea of reading a story a week though.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 1/14/19, 8:09 AM  

I can't imagine a winter with snow each day, or even most days. It certainly is beautiful, though.

I loved Remains of the Day, so maybe The Waiter will work for me. Now that I am retired, I spend much more time with audiobooks. I will look for it.

bermudaonion 1/14/19, 8:33 AM  

I've been trying to avoid the news but Carl is always glued to it and keeps me informed whether I want to be or not. I've got several of May's books and need to find the time to get to them.

Susie | Novel Visits 1/14/19, 8:41 AM  

Sorry that you didn't have the greatest week with books or movies. Nice that the short story worked. I admire your commitment to reading a short story a week. That actually sounds like a really good way to go rather than tackling an entire collection in one shot. Enjoy the snow....brrrrr!

JoAnn 1/14/19, 8:57 AM  

In some ways, a good short story is a lot harder to craft than a novel. I'm impressed you found several sharable passages in such a short one. Years ago I used to regularly participate in Short Story Monday, but my story reading has fallen off in the last 5 years. Maybe I should take a look at those collections on my shelf...

Laurel-Rain Snow 1/14/19, 8:59 AM  

I've heard good things about the Peter May books. Enjoy, and thanks for sharing; thanks for visiting my blog.

Daryl 1/14/19, 9:06 AM  

just what i need another series, okay a trilogy ... of course i am off to check it out

we watched way too much news this weekend too and then my husband watched football and then we finally got to finish watching Escape from Dannemora which was excellent by the way .. its on Showtime

Kathy Martin 1/14/19, 9:48 AM  

I've read one book by Peter May. While it was okay, it didn't make me eager to read more by him. I don't think The Waiter would be a good fit for me either. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Vicki 1/14/19, 10:23 AM  

I haven't watched the news for many years. I have friends/family who keep me informed of important news but it's so depressing to watch. So much terrible things happen...murders & people being attacked etc. I can't handle it on a daily basis.

Tina 1/14/19, 10:48 AM  

All of those books- I want them all! Yes, I have been burning up my iPad reading the news so I guess it's lucky we don't have TV feed, or I'd be watching and getting aggravated, What a dumpster fire.

The Koss headphones arrived today and I can't wait to try them.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 1/14/19, 11:25 AM  

I recently discovered Peter May, with Coffin Road, that was so good! I also want to read all his other books!
Here is what I'm reading: https://wordsandpeace.com/2019/01/14/bout-of-books-24-final-recap/

Yvonne 1/14/19, 3:16 PM  

No snow here, yet, but it's freezing. They say we will have some at the end of the week but they said that last week and we had none. So, we'll see what happens.

I hope you have a great week!

Sue Jackson 1/14/19, 4:59 PM  

Wow, just 2 weeks into the new year and already a movie dud and a book dud! Sorry!

The movie does look pretty good, so thanks for the warning! lol Though it looks like it starts out as mystery and then turns into horror (not my favorite genre).

I was interested in your short story review because the Paper Menagerie got SO much attention, but I never heard anything about the other stories in the book! So thanks for that.

Hope you have better luck this week!


pussreboots 1/14/19, 7:26 PM  

We are expecting a week of rain. My weekly update.

Greg 1/14/19, 7:57 PM  

I don't actually mind the cold and even a little snow either, but I agree- by the time the end of February rolls around I'll be plenty sick of it! :)

The Bookmaking Habits sounds super interesting, I love that premise! That's a new one for me but looks like I definitely need check it out!

Nise' 1/14/19, 9:33 PM  

Thanks for the heads up on the movie. I have been avoiding the news by watching Netflix or reading.

Iliana 1/15/19, 4:01 PM  

I loved The Remains of the Day so I think I will have to check out The Waiter! haha... I love that books appeal to us all for different reasons. Very curious about The Paper Menagerie too!

sherry fundin 1/16/19, 12:06 PM  

Enjoyed the post. Mr Wonderful loves his news, but I can only take so much of it.
sherry @ fundinmental

Kay 1/16/19, 3:45 PM  

I'm glad you enjoyed THE LEWIS MAN. That trilogy is one of my favorites and I've read it in print and also listened to all of it on audio. It's one that just begs to be reread. Love it! Have you read ENTRY ISLAND by May? A standalone, but it has ties to the Hebrides and is set in Canada. Recommended for sure.

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