18 February 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Great Reading Week

recommended audiobooksI've reached that point where cabin fever is starting to set in. The sleet or ice or cold or snow has kept me cooped up inside and made me miss way too many outdoor walks. It's driving me crazy!

We finally started the new season of True Detective. I like it but need to see a few more episodes before commenting. We finished the Netflix series You, which started out strong, but I was less enamored by the end. We also finally watched the movie Room, which I liked. It's been too long since I read the book to make detailed comparisons, but the young actor who played Jack did an excellent job.

Here's what I read last week.

review of The Raven Tower by Ann LeckieThe Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (Orbit, Feb. 26): I really liked this epic fantasy--told in a mix of first and second person--about gods and humans, sons and fathers, how power travels through the world. As other reviewers have noted, some of the plot lines are similar to Hamlet (a young man returns from war to find his father dead and his uncle on the throne), but much is unique. The god Strength and Patience of the Hill has witnessed eons of the world's history and the rise of humans. Through Strength's narration we learn about the ancient gods, how they gain (and lose) power, where that power lies, what they can (and cannot do), their relationships with each other, and their complex connections with people. At the same time, we are following the political and religious goings on in the kingdom of Iraden. I was intrigued by Leckie's take on the world of the gods, which is different from that of Roman and Greek mythology. In The Raven Tower universe, gods must think carefully before they speak, because their words have the power to change the world and to change their own fate. I was also caught up in the court politics and how the paths of the gods and the humans were intertwined. Don't miss this one. I listened to the unabridged auidobook (Hachette Audio; 12 hr, 2 min) read by Adjoa Andoh, who does a brilliant job conveying the emotional depth of Strength and Patience of the Hill and the god's reactions to all it witnesses throughout the millennia. (audiobook provided by the publisher)

Review of Good Riddance by Elinor LipmanGood Riddance by Elinor Lipman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb. 5): In a fit of Kondo-inspired tidying up, Daphne Maritch throws her late-mother's annotated high school yearbook into the recycling bin. In 1968 in a small New Hampshire town, Daphne's mom, June, was a teacher and the yearbook adviser; from that time on, she never missed a reunion of that class, updating her copy of the yearbook with the juicy tidbits of gossip and facts she learned each year. After Daphne's documentary-filmmaker-wantabe neighbor retrieves the yearbook, Maritch family secrets begin to leak out. This is a light, fun contemporary story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world and in New York. Her widowed father, snobby older sister, and various apartment building neighbors have parts to play as Daphne learns that her mother may not have been perfect and that her parents' loving marriage may have had some cracks. Pop culture, humor, and desperate acts keep the plot moving. Unfortunately one of the principal motivators for the entire novel is based on genetics, and the author got those genetics wrong. If I hadn't been listening to this book for a freelance assignment, I would have quit right there. The non-geneticists among you will enjoy this lighthearted novel. The unabridged audiobook (Dreamscape; 8 hr, 7 min) was very nicely read by Mia Barron, whose expressive performance brought out the humor and tapped into the characters' emotional journeys. (audiobook provided for a freelance assignment).

Review of The River by Peter HellerThe River by Peter Heller (Knopf, March 5): I love Peter Heller, and this novel was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I was not disappointed, and The River is now sitting pretty as the best book I've read in a long while. This is the story of Wynn and Jack, both outdoorsy and from rural backgrounds, who meet at college and become best friends. They spend as much time as possible canoeing rivers, fly-fishing, and camping. They have a natural and respectful interpersonal rhythm, and easily travel and work together. While on a canoe trip in Canada, they notice the signs of a not-so-distance forest fire and thus decide to make haste to their take-out point. On that foggy morning they pass two other sets of campers: a pair of drunken older men who mock the boys and a couple camped on an island who can be heard arguing. From that point on the trip takes a dark turn as the boys' safety seems to be jeopardized along more than one front. I love how Heller conveys what it's like to be on a wilderness river--the sights, sounds, work, conditions--and his obvious passion for and knowledge of fly fishing shines. Heller is a master at creating a creeping buildup of danger, holding it just out of sight so you never quite know where and when or if it will manifest. I was completely connected to Wynn and Jack and understood what moved them, what made them who they were. Do not miss this one. (copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Review of Enchantee by Gita TreleaseEnchantee by Gita Trelease (Flatiron, Feb. 5): I already wrote about this nicely done alternate history look at pre-revolutionary France and the intrigues of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's court. Camille has inherited the gift of magic from her mother and the printer's trade from her father, but her apprenticeships are cut off when both parents die from smallpox in the late 1780s. Her older brother fails to offer Camille and their younger sister protection, leaving the girls on their own in a Paris that isn't kind to the poor or to girls. Realizing she must use whatever power she has, Camille dons her mother's enchanted dress and infiltrates Versailles, hoping her magic will help her win at cards and rise from poverty. The only trouble is that the magic of the dress lasts only so long, life at court is much more complicated than Camille is prepared for, and she is not the only magician in the palace. In some ways Enchantee is a Cinderella retelling: through magic, a poor girl is transformed, goes to court, and turns heads; but she must leave before her disguise falls apart. I always like a fairy tale retelling and enjoyed those aspects of Enchantee. I also liked the historical facts and period details of Paris: the rumblings of revolution, the storming of the Bastille, the attitudes of the rich, the fashions of court, and the new technology of hot-air ballooning. There were few surprises in Enchantee, but the ending was both exciting and satisfying. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Macmillian Audio, 12 hr, 56 min) read by Justine Erye, who is one of my go-to narrators. She did an excellent job with the various accents and distinguishing among the characters. (print copy provided by the publisher; audio copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Mercy by Mandeliene Smith, from Rutting Season"Mercy" by Mandeliene Smith from Rutting Season (Scribner, Feb. 12). This week's short story comes from a debut collection. "Mercy" is set on a small family farm, where May is coping with sudden widowhood and the stresses of being a single mother solely in charge of keeping everything on track. The farm was her idea; her husband was a lawyer who gamely agreed to keeping animals, especially Pam's beloved horses. The emotional and dramatic aspects of the story were strong but realistic, and I could sense just how hard it was for Pam to move through her new reality while trying to present a strong and upbeat front for her young children. I will be reading more from this collection; the stories are billed as being about women and families on the brink of transformation. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

14 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 2/18/19, 7:50 AM  

I love Peter Heller also but this one sounds maybe reminiscent of Deliverance, which still gives me nightmares! On the other hand, Heller's writing is so beautiful... I still might read it.

bermudaonion 2/18/19, 8:21 AM  

You did have a great week in books! I read another review of Good Riddance that said the same thing about the genetics link. I'd really like to read The River.

We've had lots of rain but no snow, thankfully. It's been a dreary, cloudy winter for us and I miss the sun.

Susie | Novel Visits 2/18/19, 9:38 AM  

I hate it when a book gets something technical wrong. I'm also really annoyed when timing doesn't make sense, especially for something historical.

The River sounds really good. I've never read Peter Heller before, so this might be the one to start on.

Hope the weather allows you some nice long walks soon!

Laurel-Rain Snow 2/18/19, 10:54 AM  

It has been a while since I read Eleanor Lipman, but Good Riddance sounds tempting. I do have her previous novel, On Turpentine Lane, still resting quietly on Paige, my Kindle. I may need to move it forward.

Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 2/18/19, 3:06 PM  

I've been meaning to try Ann Leckie. I'm not sure this is the one I want to start with though. We are having a break from snow and, while I don't walk outside, I have been able to get to Curves for some exercise. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Vasilly 2/18/19, 5:18 PM  

I’ve seen Good Riddance at the library, but had passed on it. After reading your review, I think I should give it a try. Thanks for bringing this stack to my attention.

Laurie C 2/18/19, 5:22 PM  

Elinor Lipman was an old favorite of mine, and I've just gotten back to reading her books again recently with On Turpentine Lane on audio. It was set in Massachusetts and one town name (Quincy) was always mispronounced (Quinn-See, instead of Quinn-Zee) which jarred me each time, as the genetics mistake must have done with you! I'm a non-geneticist, though, so I'll probably listen to and enjoy Good Riddance. Haven't been able to get through the library as an audio download yet!
I've stayed in today (Presidents' Day) and skipped morning yoga class because we've had some snow, but it wasn't much. We've only had one snow day so far this winter, so haven't had the chance to develop cabin fever!

Greg 2/18/19, 6:35 PM  

I've kind of lost interest in YOU on Netflix as well- it was so creepy in the beginning and I had to see what would happen next, but then I sorta lost interest in the middle. I should try and finish it though.

Enchantee sounds quite good!

Nise' 2/18/19, 8:39 PM  

Lots of great looking books. The River is going on my TBR list. I hear you about having cabin fever. We get a day of mild weather with sun and then it begins snowing again. Spring will be here soon!!

Yvonne 2/18/19, 9:13 PM  

I started watching You but haven't gone back to it. I will. I heard True Detective is good but I haven't watched it yet. I did like the movie Room. I hope you have a good week.

Les in Oregon 2/19/19, 5:40 PM  

The Dog Stars was one of my favorite books the year I read it, so I'm really excited to learn about The River. Now to decide whether to read or listen! Thanks, Candace!

Sue Jackson 2/19/19, 7:19 PM  

I enjoyed You - I watched it when it first aired on Lifetime this fall. Not at all what I expected - fun!

As for Room, I think it's best when a lot of time passes before you see the movie adaptation of a book you enjoyed - that way, you're not constantly comparing the book & movie.

I can't wait to read The River! I've been hearing such great things about it! I met Peter Heller at Booktopia two years ago for Celine.

Enjoy your books this week - hope you can get outside a bit!

Sue

Book By Book

Jackie Mc Guinness 2/20/19, 9:49 AM  

Have to check out Peter Heller.

Sherry Fundin 2/20/19, 3:58 PM  

Thanks for sharing.

sherry @ fundinmental

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