August 15, 2016

Recent Reads

116. Redemption Road
Summertime is the prefect time for fast paced thrillers, and this new one got rave reviews, so took it out for a spin. I've had this author on my TBR for a while, but this is the first book of his I've read. Color me disappointed. After about 200 pages, so about halfway through, I decided to stop wasting my time and DNF it.

I heard Helen Mirren say that the thing all humans have in common is our interest/fascination with sex and violence. TV, movies and best selling books seem to bear this out, but in my opinion there is a difference between violence that serves a purpose in story telling and gratuitous violence. This story seems to showcase the latter, but to give credit where credit is due, the violence is against both women and men. Equal opportunity violence.

The plot revolves around a young boy, a troubled female dectective, a cop recently released from prison, and a serial killer. It's set in a small town, so I'll suspend disbelief, and go along with the premise that they are all connected in the manner that unfolds. The problem is that the plot needs the violence to move it along, as there is no other anchor point into this story. The characters are not well fleshed out, their motivations are murky at best, and in a couple of instances simply mind boggling. The point of view changes from character to character, all in the third person, which does little to pull you into the story. The writing was not good enough to pull me along either, and I was bored. The reason I even got this far in the book is that it is a quick read, and I was at the halfway point in a couple of sittings. However, I could care less about these people and where they are headed, even though I think I have a pretty good idea of the grand reveal.

This was labeled as a literary thriller. I found it to be neither, but based on all the 5 star reviews, it might just be me. Rating: 1 star.

117. Shackleton's Journey
This children's illustrated book has won several awards so I was intrigued to see if it would be something my nieces and nephews would be interested in.

This is a large format book with very few pages, so is a quick read. The art is fun, and the way the author creates collections of stuff is interesting, but I did not learn anything new here, and some of the art and text is so tiny you'd need a magnifying glass to really see it. The text was rather bland, though maybe it would work for younger readers, in which case it would make a good introduction to Shackleton's adventure. I expected to find a book that would leave little readers inspired to explore, but that is not the feeling I was left with after reading this one. Rating: 2 stars.

118. Lady Susan
Book blurb: Jane Austen's earliest known serious work, Lady Susan is a short, epistolary novel that portrays a woman bent on the exercise of her own powerful mind and personality to the point of social self-destruction.

I read someplace that Ms. Austen wrote this when she was 19, and my already considerable esteem for her went up another notch. That someone so young could walk in the shoes of the much older Lady Susan is simply astounding. Austen writes wonderfully complex women characters, and this one is a fun and fast read. I quite enjoyed getting the story via various letters and from different letter writers. No one is seen as they imagine themselves to be, and the characteristic Austen wit is already fully formed in this one.

I listened to the audiobook with multiple narrators, and enjoyed the additional dimension that added to the story.

I wanted to read this one before watching the new movie, Love and Friendship. That Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan Vernon in the movie makes me so happy. Cannot wait to see how she inhabits that role. Rating: 4 stars.

119. Daring Adventures in Paint: Find Your Flow, Trust Your Path, and Discover Your Authentic Voice-Techniques for Painting, Sketching, and Mixed Media
This is a colorful book indeed, but the art is not really to my taste, and there is a bit too much whimsy and magic in this one. The most useful thing in this book is the two page spread at the end that outline the steps the author uses to create her art. The rest is simply filler in my opinion. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

120. Giovanni's Room
I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Dan Butler.

I have started and bailed on several recently released books lately, and whenever that happens, I reach for the classics.

I've had this novella on my TBR for ages, and cannot believe that I've waited so long to read a book by Baldwin. That this was first published in 1956 with this content is in itself a remarkable thing. What is even more remarkable is how relevant and fresh this story feels today.

This is a story about love, sexuality (gay, straight, and bi), betrayal, and guilt. The heart wants what the heart wants, but we must all live in society with others, and that places constraints on us all. There is much heartbreak in the world because of this, and the rawness and honesty of this book took my breath away. The writing is masterful, the characters fully fleshed out, the Paris setting evocative, the struggle of the human heart palpable. When I finished this one, I felt like I knew and cared about these people.

This is my first Baldwin, and I plan to read everything the man ever wrote. He is that good. Rating: 5 stars.

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