Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Wedding on the Banks by Cathie Pelletier

A Wedding on the Banks by Cathie Pelletier

Amy Joy Lawler is getting married and Mattagash, Maine is abuzz.  Her fiance, Jean Claude Cloutier, speaks French, lives in Frogtown and is Catholic.  Horrors!  Gossip races through the backwoods town, while Amy Joy's mother, Sicily, is dreaming up yet another imaginary illness so she can take to her bed. Once the invitations are mailed, the big city relatives arrive bringing more than what's packed in their suitcases, while the no good local Gifford brothers plot to crash the reception and steal the wedding gifts. The wedding day is set for May 1st. Can a spring snowfall bring the festivities to a screeching halt and are Sicily's wishes finally granted?

I'm a big fan of Cathie Pelletier and the antics in Mattagash.  The Funeral Makers, the first book in this series, is one of my favorites. It introduced me to the residents of Mattagash earlier in their lives. Their antics made me laugh out loud.  Even though they've grown up, their penchant for the absurd hasn't changed.

A Wedding on the Banks has lots of funny and laughable moments but the story just didn't come together for me.  The backstory overwhelmed the present.  Many times I felt like I was reading The Funeral Makers all over again. I understand that as a writer of a series, each book still needs to stand on its own.  In this case, the new story sprinkled itself over the backstory.  A good writer knows it should be the other way around.

Ms. Pelletier's works are funny, lighthearted and border on the ridiculous.  A Wedding on the Banks is sure to take your mind off whatever is ailing you.  The laughs are many.  But some of her other works are more entertaining and worth taking the time to read.  Just remember, this is Maine without the lobster, the way life should be.  Or not.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

Vanessa Michael Munroe is a hired gun of sorts, who's handsomely paid to gather information for corporations doing business in developing countries.  She's an expert in analyzing the political and cultural practices in far corners of the world where few dare to tread.  How she came to this line of work is buried in a past that's filled with both physical and emotional scars. Sometimes she uses all of Vanessa's charms to lure her subjects, other times the makeup and heels come off and Michael takes over.

This novel is set in Africa and the author did a fabulous job of research to set the scene for the reader. The jungle, the non stop rain mixed with heat, the government corruption all got under my skin. Other things got to me also.  The writing was only okay. I found a lot of repetition and cliches.  For me, it ruined some of the enjoyment of the story.  Plus I found it difficult to read the words "Equatorial Guinea" over and over again in my head.

The Informationist is a book club selection.  What I love about book club is that I have to read books I've never heard of and wouldn't normally be attracted to.  It's rare that I would pick up any kind of suspense or thriller.  But I like being pushed outside my comfort zone. The Informationist is full of twists, turns and heart stopping surprises.  I wasn't completely satisfied with the ending, but then again, I don't read many mysteries or thrillers.  I'm also not a serial reader so it's unlikely I will read more of Vanessa / Michael's adventures.  But if suspense is what you like, I think you will find The Informationist a compelling and fulfilling story.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

I'm a big fan of classic contemporary literature.  I love Steinbeck, Hemingway, and a family favorite, Thomas Wolfe.  And since I'm not typically a fan of British authors, I surprised myself by picking up this title. I remember loving the movie when I saw it many years ago, but couldn't remember much about the story other than its set in a Welsh coal mining village.  That's what happens with age.

How Green Was My Valley is the story of the Morgan family as told through the eyes of their youngest son, Huw.  Due to an accident with his mother in a blizzard, he is confined to his bed for several years.  He observes the rigors of mining life and also its pleasures while he recuperates.  The family has high hopes that Huw will not go into the pits like his father and his brothers.  Huw is given an education but coal mining is in his blood.

What a beautifully written story!  The coal miner's life is hard, yet the family that waits at home is happy, food is shared and Sunday chapel is a requirement.  But what the mine can give, it can also take away.  The slag waste from the mine creeps across the valley, sending Huw's brother's and sisters away to find greener pastures.  The black coal dust stamps out the light of the life Huw was born into.

How Green Was My Valley was a wonderful book to start the new year.  It's full of characters to love and to hate, scenery that comes alive in the mind's eye, and prose that will carry you away to a nostalgic place in time.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...