Tag Archives: Reading

On a Lighter Note

Cover of "The Guernsey Literary and Potat...
Cover via Amazon

Ha. So I did my “political” rant of the year and got good alternate opinions. Thank you! Now for something a little lighter and more refreshing.

Here’s a great book for you to enjoy:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

You know, sometimes books come along that you can’t help but hold up and yell “You have got to read this, people!” and this book is one of those.

Set immediately following WWII the story is about a writer who is at a crossroads because she can’t decide what to write next. Nothing seems to be working. Then she receives a letter from a person in the Guernsey Islands telling her that he is a fan and would she recommend some reading material for him and his friends in the community.

Apparently the Germans invaded and occupied the Channel Islands during the war and declared that because they were English, they were one step away from occupying England. And during that time all forms of communications and any goods and food from England were cut off. No books, no phones, no letters, nothing was allowed.

So these people have been starved of everything for five years or more and the writer decides that there might be a story in this story. So she sets off for Guernsey.

She finds more than a story, but I’ll let you discover this for yourself. Read this book. It’s full of stories of what really happened during the war set into communications through letters.

In this day of quick emails, and instant messaging, it is refreshing to read real correspondence.

Thanks, and come again!






Two Disappointing Products of Book Churning.

English: The Crystal Palace in 1910, London
English: The Crystal Palace in 1910, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here it is Wednesday, time for another book review. I’m afraid it isn’t pretty.

Charles Todd has been one of my favorite writers for years. The Ian Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series are a pleasure to read. At least until Proof of Guilt entered this reader’s world.

An unidentified body turns up in London with a man’s watch that can be identified as having belonged to a wine merchant. The body is a victim of a hit and run but the accident happened elsewhere and the victim moved. And the body is not that of the wine merchant. No, he has disappeared though.

The story shambles all over the place with the lead investigator, Ian Rutledge driving back and forth all over England. There was one exciting part near the end of the book, which I thought would turn the story into a good one, but when the scene was over so was the excitement. I never did figure out the point of the mystery. And where was the missing man? Does this imply that we will see this shadowy figure again, as in a future villain? Or was there no point in his body never turning up?

I am sadly disappointed in all of this. Does it mean we have come to the end of Ian Rutledge as one of the most innovative characters in fiction today? I hope not. I hope this was a bubble in a wonderful series. Perhaps mother and son team Todd’s editor needs to give them a break from this stereotypical churning out of one book a year business.

Another sad entry into this category is my other favorite author’s new book.

Deborah Crombie’s  latest is called The Sound of Broken Glass. It isn’t quite as pointless as the above example but there were times while reading it that I thought it could have been about half as long as it was.

For one thing the characters don’t seem to be cohesive to the story until everything is tied up at the end.

A lawyer turns up dead in an odd and disturbing way. He has ties to the world of music. There are some guys in a band. There is one in particular who seems to be a suspect. There are flashbacks in italics to a young boy’s point of view of growing up in Crystal Palace.

I love the setting details and the factual bits about the Crystal Palace at the beginning of each chapter. I love to learn things when I read. Another thing I love about her series of books is the continuing interesting relationship between Duncan and Gemma and their growing family of kids and dogs. This always add such a warm point of human interest you can’t help but love, love, love her books.

But of all her Duncan and Gemma series of books this is the weakest. I really believe this is a result of a constant pressure to produce at least a book a year. That pressure is set up by her editors and agents, probably because of a perceived demand by the public. Sadly, it isn’t unusual. I saw it with the series with Kay Scarpetta written by Patricia Cornwell.

There is a demand by the public! But it will go away if the product isn’t up to the standard set by wonderful previous books.

My One Good Turn

Case Histories
Case Histories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kate Atkinson has written a great character in Jackson Brodie. I made the mistake of reading the four novels out of sequence. I wish there were somewhere in all the lists that I’ve seen where someone said “Read this one First” or something like that. Here, I will tell you which one to read first – Case Histories. In it you will learn about all the women that Jackson Brodie will get to know and you will recognize in novels to come. The author weaves the stories past and present into a work of art. There is at the core of the book the mystery of how three separate police cases over the course of thirty years can possibly be related. Rough-around-the-edges Jackson Brodie will put all the pieces together and it makes perfect sense.

They say no good deed goes unpunished and Kate Atkinson had a field day with what that means in One Good Turn. In it, Jackson Brodie is once more the receiver of bumps and bruises while only trying to HELP. Every character in the novel who tries to do something good gets in trouble in huge ways. With flying death-dealing dogs, a drowned girl who gets away, and a laptop computer as a weapon what else can I say?

Then on to When Will There Be Good News. This is the novel I read first. It didn’t hurt to do that except I would have enjoyed it much more if I’d read it third. In this novel a little girl named Joanna is walking in the country with her mother, sister and baby brother. A strange encounter turns her life inside out. Thirty years pass. Jackson Brodie is riding a train home until his ride ends dramatically. Little Reggie is a girl who is resourceful and full of life. All these people’s lives are on a collision course that seems so convoluted that you can’t imagine this is a work of fiction. These kinds of chance encounters happen in real-life. Sometimes we live to recover.

After reading When Will There Be Good News, I realized that I’d seen the movie. It isn’t called that but I can’t recall what the name of it is.

Lastly, Started Early, Took My Dog. In it the most unlikely thing is that Jackson gets a dog. It is so hilariously tragic in how he does it. After the last book and what happened to Jackson I couldn’t imagine that he would get beat up in this one but of course what would these books be like if he didn’t. However, he does get out of the altercation with less bruises this time. Of course his reputation doesn’t recover quite so quickly. There is a couple of tragedies in the character’s histories that make them do what they do – like stealing the girl. I especially loved the old woman who gets more and more muddled as the days pass. I kept thinking that she would be the spoiler. I kept hoping she would not be the spoiler. The way the book is written with one story weaving into another, and past and present and future all being melded into the strange quandary of what makes real life the way it is – brilliant.

So don’t get ahead of yourself like I did and read the books out-of-order. You’ll thank me for it.