Friday, June 5, 2015

Loss, Love, Art

The Sunlit NightThe Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the writing and the setting and the quirkiness of this novel, but had trouble with the structure and plot. I've added Dinerstein to my writers-to-watch list and look forward to reading future work.

Here's the publisher blurb:
"In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, Frances and Yasha are surprised to find refuge in each other. Their lives have been upended--Frances has fled heartbreak and claustrophobic Manhattan for an isolated artist colony; Yasha arrives from Brooklyn to fulfill his beloved father's last wish: to be buried "at the top of the world." They have come to learn how to be alone.

But in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, they form a bond that fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, offering solace amidst great uncertainty. With nimble and sure-footed prose, Dinerstein reveals that no matter how far we travel to claim our own territory, it is ultimately love that gives us our place in the world."

The story is told in alternating viewpoints, both of which I enjoyed, but it was a real shock to be so immersed in one character (Frances, first person) and then break away to another (third person, Yasha) point of view. It could have been two different books, their stories are so unlike.

I totally believe these young people would connect in the way they do, but to pitch this as a romantic love story is wrong, in my opinion. What else is going to happen when two young people are thrown together in such a place, in such circumstances? It was less enjoyable to slog through the last part of the book, not because of the writing, but because of the plot. I do agree love and connection are the theme, but not just between Frances and Yasha--among family and community as well. The story told here is about learning to live with loss; the only cure for the loss of love is to find a way to love again.

It's worth reading for the beauty of the setting and prose, whether the romance part rings true or false for you, though. Recommended.

I received an EARC of this book for review from the publisher and Netgalley.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One might assume from the title that this nonfiction book by the author of the award-winning novel “Bel Canto,” is a memoir of her marriage. She is happily married, but the book is a collection of essays. She writes about all the loves of her life, the ones lost as well as the ones that have stayed, or that she’s kept.

The first two essays, about writing and process, were of interest to a group of avid readers. The rest of the essays, published in magazines from Seventeen to Gourmet to Outside (with a graduation address thrown in), are of general interest. Dogs and family, taking the entrance exam for the Los Angeles Police Academy, lovers and friendships, the dead and the living—most people of a certain age who lived through the 1970s will relate.  Locals will relate to her thrill at the video broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera, live and close-up in a Nashville movie theater. In one of the essays she talks about writers telling only one story, no matter how many books they write.  The human story itself can be seen as one story: life, love, and loss, the theme. Patchett is honest with her truths of the heart and knows her way around building both sentence and story—a reader’s delight.

In retrospect, considering the work it takes to hold on to love and to let love go, the title makes emotional sense. It looks like “Bel Canto” will always be my favorite of her books; sometimes the first book you read by someone retains the gloss of first love. But I am very happy to have read this one.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More adventures in the Black Forest

From a High Tower (Elemental Masters, #11)From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This Elemental Masters novel reworks the Rapunzel story. Giselle was traded by her father to a witch for food for the family. Giselle’s magical stepmother dies, and Giselle is on her own, trying to find a way to maintain her home and independence. It’s Lackey, so it’s good and all fans will want to read it, but I wouldn’t enter the series here—especially since the heroine of the previous book (Blood Red) shows up midway through. It’s entertaining, placing a Wild West show in Germany. It has a leisurely pace, though. Despite a challenge early on, it seems three-fourths of the book is setup.  In fact, it has the feel the middle book in a trilogy sometimes has, that the next book will be the reward.  Hopefully it will be, for Rosamund the monster hunter (Earth Master) and Giselle the Air Master are well on their way to establishing a kind of partnership. Maybe there is a Sisterhood of Elemental Masters coming up! That would be exciting, and allow a new refreshment to the longrunning series.
You can always count on Lackey to produce a three or four star book, and this is a solid three for me.

I received an EARC for review from the publisher and Netgalley. 

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Monday, June 1, 2015

The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key, #1)The Shadow Revolution by Clay Griffith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Revolution can be likened to "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Parasol Protectorate," leaning more toward horror than comedy. It's interesting and well-written and will appeal to fans of the genre and the authors. The atmosphere of creepy cruelty is so well done, the male aristocratic attitude so perfectly embodied, it definitely brings to mind the infamous Hellfire Club and the reality of the times. The storytelling is great and I recommend it for those fans whose taste runs more to the dark side; it's obvious the other two books will be as good.

I received an EARC for review from Netgalley and the publisher. 

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