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Category Archives: book review

Fetch

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I want to know more about graphic novels and non-fiction, so I checked out Nichole George’s Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home. Reading this story of George’s life with her ill behaved, but loyal and interesting dog, Beija. When she was a teen, Georges got Beija from a shelter. Beija had been abused and came with a lot of sensitivities. She’d bite people who bent down to pet her. She didn’t like men, and on and on. Originally, George’s bought the dog for a boyfriend, but his mother said “no” to this gift so Beija becomes George’s dog, sometimes shared with her boyfriend while they’re together.

The story is a chronicle of George’s life as she moves in with her boyfriend, finishes high school, moves out on her own with him and continues to move in search of a home where she and her dog can find peace and understanding.

I found the book interesting and Beija and Georges interesting and likable. I did think the ending dragged a bit, but the story was entertaining and endearing.

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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in book review, graphic memoir, memoir

 

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Orange

thWhile the story started out intriguing, Ichigo Takano’s Orange soon presents a lot of shilly shally-ing. This manga, or Japanese comic book, is about Naho, a high school student, who receives letters from her future self. The future Naho lives 10 years ahead of the present and somehow wants to advise the present Naho on how to prevent the cute new boy at school from committing suicide. Naho’s got a crush on the new boy, Kakeru, but she’s quite timid about that. Another boy, of course, has a crush on her and can see the chemistry between Naho and Kakeru.

Kakeru moved because his mother committed suicide so now he must live with his grandmother in the countryside. There’s never any mention of his father, which seemed odd. Kakeru feels responsible for his mother’s death. If he had only gone straight home after school that one day . . . The other characters have no special characteristics.

The story starts out intriguing, but Naho’s ever-present hesitation and questioning of the letters from the future make her extremely indecisive. Since the story goes for 384 pages, I expected some resolution. There wasn’t any. It ends with “to be continued.” So who knows whether Naho and her pals’ efforts changed Kakeru’s future. It doesn’t seem worth reading another 300+ pages, many of which will probably be repetitive to find out.

The art is pretty standard Japanese manga style. More creativity in the art would have helped, but I don’t think the publishing companies care.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2017 in book review, fiction, postaweek

 

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The Little Book of Hygge

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Written by Miek Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well technically isn’t a Christmas book, but the concept of hygge, (pronounced hue-guh) roughly means coziness in Danish, has a chapter on Christmas and tells us that Christmas is the epitome of hygge. The book consists of several short chapters that explain all the facets of hygge including candles, comfy clothes, hot drinks, baked goods, handmade crafts, and natural settings, essentially all things comforting.

The book is fun to read and the concept is easy to put into practice. As I write now, we’ve got the fire going in the fireplace, a couple candles, poinsettias and a tree (waiting to be decorated) in the corners.  Mulled wine rather than red wine would complete the hygge, but I’m American, not Danish so give me time.

It’s easy to see how Christmas promotes hygge, especially if your family adheres to the hygge principle of not discussing intense topics.

I first got the audio book, with the author reading it, which is great, but I wanted to get the recipes and spelling of the names of people mentioned like Poul Henningson, so I checked out the book from the library. I enthusiastically recommend both.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2017 in book review, non-fiction, postaweek

 

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The Magnificent Ambersons

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Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons witty observations on the Gilded Age. The first passages grabbed me.

Major Amberson had “made a fortune” in 1873, when other people were losing fortunes, and the magnificence of the Ambersons began then. Magnificence, like the size of a fortune, is always comparative, as even Magnificent Lorenzo may now perceive, if he has happened to haunt New York in 1916; and the Ambersons were magnificent in their day and place. Their splendour lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city, but reached its topmost during the period when every prosperous family with children kept a Newfoundland dog.

In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and when there was a new purchase of sealskin, sick people were got to windows to see it go by. Trotters were out, in the winter afternoons, racing light sleighs on National Avenue and Tennessee Street; everybody recognized both the trotters and the drivers; and again knew them as well on summer evenings, when slim buggies whizzed by in renewals of the snow-time rivalry. For that matter, everybody knew everybody else’s family horse-and-carriage, could identify such a silhouette half a mile down the street, and thereby was sure who was going to market, or to a reception, or coming home from office or store to noon dinner or evening supper.

The story’s hero is George Amberson Minafer, the most egotistical fool I’ve ever read about. When George is a boy in the small Middle American town his grandfather developed from what seems to have been prairie, he fights with every boy who looks at him the wrong way. He’ll pound the pastor’s son to a pulp and curse at the pastor when he pulls the boys apart. George defines entitlement. From his childhood, he was well aware that as his family is the “First Family” of Midland, that everyone else was riffraff and should kowtow to him.

As a boy terrorized the town with his carelessness and the good citizens could do nothing but raise their fists in anger and shout that one day that so and so would get his comeuppance.

What made George such a public nuisance? His mother. Isabela Amberson Minafer doted on George as no woman ever doted on her child. This was her Achilles’ heel, which like in any Greek tragedy is guaranteed to lead to a character’s downfall. Isabela prized dignity. As a young woman, the most wealthy woman in town, she was humiliated when Eugene Morgan came to serenade her and since he’d been drinking fell flat on his face, a spectacle that Isabela assumed the whole world witnessed. That was enough for her to banish Eugene from her heart and to marry a safe, drab accountant, Wilbur Minafer. As the gossip in town predicted, Isabela would lavish her affection on her child, George as Wilbur wasn’t the sort of man to stir up much passion in a wife.

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Posted by on November 26, 2017 in 19th Century, American Lit, book review, fiction

 

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Digging a Hole to Heaven

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S. D. Nelson’s children’s book Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys will teach readers about the hardships of the children who had to work deep in the mines during the 19th century. The illustrations are well done and show a sharp contrast between the dark mines and the sunny lives lived above ground. Throughout the story of 12 year old Conall, his brother and miners, Nelson has inserted sidebars with facts about child labor, and mining in particular.

I enjoyed the book, but wish the characters had more depth and personality. Each one was standard cookie cutter. Yet I still recommend the book as an introduction to this aspect of history, that’s usually forgotten.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in 19th Century, book review, Children's Lit, historical fiction, history

 

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A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

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Engrossing and authentic, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is set in 17th century England. It’s historical fiction mixed with mystery.

Lucy Campion begins as a chambermaid for the Hargrave family. The head of the family is a magistrate who takes his duties seriously and treats one and all justly (so he’s a far cry from Poldark’s George Warleggan).

When the lady’s maid, Lucy’s friend the teasing, lively Bessie disappears she’s soon found murdered. She had run off with the family silver in the middle of the night. Rumor had it that she went to meet a lover. She was sweet on Lucy’s brother Will and he’s accused of her murder, but it seems he’s been the victim of rumors and gossip in an era before the press had to fact check. In fact, most people got their news from sensationalized broadsheets sold for a penny. Lies could easily gain credence and be given ad testimony.

Will was Bessie’s beau, but she also was spending time with a libertine portrait artist who makes Lucy’s skin crawl. Lucy isn’t the typical rebel but she will defy social conventions to visit her brother at Newgate prison or to gather some evidence on the murder that took place at the same spot.

At an event at my public library, author and historian Susanna Calkins spoke of being intrigued by murder ballads that people in this era would sing, or buy and paste on their homes as decorations. These ballads inspired this fascinating story, that weaves historical detail throughout in a natural way.

In addition to murder the story features a touch of romance, which added a nice contrast to gruesome murder.

I learned a lot about life and history circa 1665. I didn’t know there was a plague that year, or that at a trial the accused, not the lawyer did all the interrogation. They took “face your accuser” very seriously. I didn’t know that warm potatoes were put in someone’s bed to keep it warm. There’s a whole lot more, but I suppose you should read the book to learn for yourself.

This story would be great on Masterpiece Theater. It’s a lively read and I found the characters well developed and engaging. I want to read more of Calkins’ work.My one quibble is the ending. Towards the end, when we discover who murdered all these servant girls, the murderer gives a long-winded monologue (well a couple questions were sprinkled in). I just didn’t buy that he’d elaborate in such detail.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in book review, fiction, historical fiction, history

 

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Horizontal Man

In 1947 Helen Eustis won the Edgar Award for best mystery for Horizontal Man. Set at a small New England women’s college where a young Irish English professor, Kevin Boyle is murdered; someone took a fireplace poker and bashed him over the head with it. Soon Molly Morrison, an introverted freshman with a huge crush on Prof. Boyle has a breakdown and while in the school infirmary confesses to the murder.

No one buys that and she’s eventually cleared, but the question remains: Who killed Boyle? As the novel progresses Eustis provides an up close look into the psychology of the students and professors. Surprisingly, police and detectives play a small role in the novel, a technique I can’t remember seeing in other mysteries.

I liked her precise style, which transported me to the late 1940s.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2016 in American Lit, book review, fiction

 

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