Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Short "Ghost" Stories

The Grownup (2014) by Gillian Flynn

Very short story (originally written for a story collection) of suspense and twists, which leads you to question everything, and even keeps you guessing as to what genre the book fits into - horror? supernatural? mystery? suspense? All of the above? The ending is slightly unsatisfactory, but I found it more palatable in this short story format -- at least I only committed around an hour to reading it rather than a couple weeks, and the questionable nature of the ending was clearly the whole point of the story. Very clever, with some interesting characters.     

Springtime: A Ghost Story (2014) by Michelle de Kretser

Another short, somewhat confusing story. Unlike The Grownup, there was so little character development that even in the hour it took me to read, I still couldn't remember who some people were because they were presented in such a perfunctory and confusing way. Called itself a ghost story but had barely any ghost stuff in it, just a vague unease on the part of the main character that was not in any way translated to the reader. Reaction at the end: "huh?"

Overall, I think these were both interesting stories that made me think, and even though I didn't love either of them, the incredibly short reading time required by both stories I think made them worth it.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Drums of Autumn (Outlander series #4)

The Drums of Autumn (1996) by Diana Gabaldon is yet another wonderful addition to this gripping series of time travel, romance, and family - and some violence and revenge.

After the wonderful "Pirates of the Caribbean" plot that encompassed book #3 (see my review of that book here, and a staff roundtable review of books #1-2 here), Jaime and Claire are firmly settled in the New World, and so this book was filled with exciting stories of colonizing the American South in the mid-1700s.

I absolutely loved the framework of exploring and pioneering, especially setting up a homestead from scratch with almost nothing but bare hands and force of will. I really loved the slow, day-to-day scenes in the book, the small bits about putting up food and building structures. This is a period of time that has always fascinated me since my childhood obsession with the Little House books, and I was glad to have reminders of that in this (much more adult) series. One of the things I like best about historical fiction is the insight it gives readers into how people lived in a particular place and time, not just the big events that everyone learns about in school.

And, without giving too much away, there was quite a lot that happened in the book that surprised me, especially the storyline with Bree and Roger, and the plot with Ian. His story especially was part of the reason I could not put the book down in the second half - I just had to know what was going to happen with him!

One of my only complaints is how much Fergus has been pushed to the sidelines now that he's set up with his own family. I really like him -- indeed, he was perhaps my favorite character in books #2-3 -- and hope he becomes a more central character in the future (though not, I suppose, if that must come at the expense of his family!)
“Forgiveness is not a single act, but a matter of constant practice”
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England (2007) by Brock Clarke is an interesting book, one I was a little conflicted about for most of the time I was reading.

Following a completely avoidable accident that landed him in jail as a teenager, Sam Pulsifer's short break of normalcy following being released from prison as an adult is disrupted when his past comes back to haunt him (somewhat literally). Surrounded by other people also making poor decisions, this story was somewhat frustrating but also endearing at the same time; even though it was painful to read as Sam makes mistake after mistake, you can't help but feel for the guy.

At the end, I was mostly glad to have read the book. But one note of caution: do not bother to read this at all if you have a particular problem with main narrators who are (self-professed) bumbling idiots who make nothing but the obviously wrong decisions in every situation. There's a lot of that. But there is also decent character development, an interesting literary connection, and somewhat amusingly dysfunctional family relationships.
“If only my mother had a book to hold, she wouldn't have looked so lonely. And maybe this was another reason why people read: not so they would feel less lonely, but so that other people would think they looked less lonely with a book in their hands and therefore not pity them and leave them alone.”
Keep reading! Beth