Sunday, June 29, 2014

Heart Math

One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writers are like magicians, really; by commanding your attention and then subverting it, redirecting it, they make you see, for a time, a world where anything is possible. One Plus One should not work, it is totally implausible! And yet, I believed in it every single minute I was reading, and believe its spirit, if not its details, even now. New fan, here.

The ones of love in this book do not add up to two, they add up to very much more than that. Tanzie loves maths, and smelly dog Norman, and half-brother Nicky and mom Jess and dad Marty, even though Marty is a sleazeball, this being the second time he's abandoned Nicky and he's abandoned her, too--she's just too young to know it and Jess is protecting her.  Jess is one of those people who's fallen through the cracks, trying to take care of two kids and herself in a very bad neighborhood, working hard and falling a little bit more behind every day. I cheered for her every step of the way.  Ed, geeky rich guy about to be indicted for insider trading, is pulled into the orbit of their lives, and mayhem--and love--ensue.

Oh yes, Jojo can have the empty Binchy and Pilcher spaces on my TBR shelf. Right there next to Joanna Trollope and Lucy Dillon and Marcia Willett and Erica James and Roisin Meaney--and with Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde, Christina Jones, Sarah-Kate Lynch, and Milly Johnson, because she's funny like them, too, in addition to being tender and wise and fierce. Go--buy, read, laugh, weep--and have a fine old time suspending your disbelief!

(I received a temporary e-galley for review, thanks to Penguin and netgalley)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shaman Rises (Walker Papers, #9)Shaman Rises by C.E. Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. A fitting end to the series. Dear reader, I did cry. Joanne Walker, reluctant shaman, rises to the occasion once again. C. E. Murphy provides a convenient timeline/synopsis of all the previous books, but as always, I recommend starting from the beginning, if you've missed the series.

Over the course of eleven books (two collections), Joanne Walker has gone from being a brassy, bossy mechanic to a powerhouse shaman comfortable with gods. She's had her world turned upside down and inside out and back again, fought everything from embarrassment to zombies, loved and lost and found. She's had to blend the Celtic and Cherokee blood and magic within her. Now the Devourer, the Soul-Eater, will confront Joanne on her home turf of Seattle, in the body.

Just read the series, if you haven't. Look up Murphy's Negotiator trilogy, if you haven't read that. Wait for whatever Murphy writes next, because she writes with humor, heart, and soul--and with the magic she writes about.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Reading Substance

Reading Style: A Life in SentencesReading Style: A Life in Sentences by Jenny Davidson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recommended for intellectuals, academics, and poets. Jenny Davidson is an academic and has chosen that language for her book, so that does limit the readership. Especially for a book purporting to concentrate on the art of the sentence as a springboard to literary appreciation, I was hoping for a book with the range and excitement of Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, or Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn!, where the examination of a work lights a fire within the author that's then passed on to the reader. That blaze is not here, but persistence brings a slow, warm glow.

The author lets us know she reads popular literature (Stephen King, Julia Glass, Dick Francis) but the works she chooses to highlight, and thus her own sentences, are dense, chewy, convoluted. (Proust, James, Eliot, Austen, etc.)  Also, kindle formatting sucks, so it's hard to tell what awkwardness belongs to the author and what to the software engineer--transitions are sometimes without a colon or line break, mostly without quotes, never italics; the mechanics of reading matter. There is a lovely sensual element to Davidson's writing and reading of texts that implies and exploits a synesthestic approach to reading, empowers literature as experience.

Criticism becomes discernment in Davidson's deft hands, and she does transmit her pleasure in the reading, the works, and the language(s).  Very fun, but in no way light reading!  Made me want to revisit James, Austen, and Proust.
Thanks to Columbia UP and netgalley for the e-galley for review.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wake up and smell the incense...

The World We FoundThe World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thought-provoking read. Umrigar's beautiful sentences bring a bustling India to life. The novel starts out in America, however, where Indian ex-pat Armaiti is dying of a brain tumor.  Though she has an ex-husband who still loves her and a daughter who is there for her as well, she finds herself wishing to say goodbye to her almost-sisters, the three girls with whom she went to college thirty years ago. It's as if she must say goodbye to her own truest, deepest self.  This is the baby-boomer generation with an international twist. The book deals with feminism, racism, religion, politics, homophobia, class difference, marriage, and mortality—and yet not in a forced manner—all these are the background of our lives, after all.

We follow the four women and learn their stories, past and present, as their reunion approaches. The idealism and dreams of youth have changed for all four women, and the two men who went to college with them. Questions provoked by this book are: How do we build our lives amidst tragedies and betrayals, small and large? How do we decide what is good and right? What is it that brings us joy? Does love last? How does a man become a wife-abuser? What makes  women bend and break? The title references the adult world they found outside of college, and yet the story makes clear in luminous compassion—the world we get is the world we choose, as well.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Art of Arranging Flowers

The Art of Arranging FlowersThe Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are writers who tell a great story, and writers who put together wonderful sentences. There are my favorite writers, who do both. Lynne Branard is now on my favorite author list. With the literary talent of Alice Hoffman, the sweetness and humor of Sarah Addison Allen, and the wholesome storytelling of Debbie Maccomber, Branard still carves her own niche.

The Art of Arranging Flowers is a gentle, magical exploration of love and grief and the healing power of beauty. It's a sweet story of the smalltown flowershop owner whose appreciation of the special properties of flowers helps the love lives of all the town--who's been content to remain alone. And yet...twenty years after losing her sister, her heart starts waking up in unexpected ways, blooms in unsuspected places.

So, if you like a touch of lyricism, a smidge of mysticism, a peek into a quirky, quiet life, there's a lavish bouquet of love for you in The Art of Arranging Flowers.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to read the EARC of the book from the publisher and netgalley but it works out for them--now I have to buy the darn thing for my library. :)

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