The blank book is bound in red leather, and filled with textured paper that seems to "chime against the tip of a pen." The book - Claire's memory book...moreThe blank book is bound in red leather, and filled with textured paper that seems to "chime against the tip of a pen." The book - Claire's memory book - was bought by Claire's husband Greg on the advice of a counselor who thought it would be good therapy for her to write down the memories that her early Alzheimer's has begun to steal.
Four characters fill the book with narratives. Ruth, Claire's mother, writes about going on holiday with her daughter shortly after her own husband died of the same disease now devastating her daughter. Claire chronicles her deterioration, the unexpected joy of marrying Greg when her daughter Caitlin was a teenager, getting lost in the park and in time as the disease progresses. She worries that her three-year-old daughter, Esther, will forget her and will never know her love. Caitlin, pregnant and dropped-out of college, writes of her determination to exclude the father of her unborn baby from her life, unaware (at first) that she is about to repeat a decision that Claire had made - and now regrets. Greg writes of the unexpected joy he felt when he learned that he was to become a father.
Who are we if our memories are gone? Can you love if the people you loved are now strangers, or if you are no longer moored in time and space? The narrative moves forward and back through the pages of the memory book, and alternating chapters told from each character's point of view. Caitlin decides to follow her mother's advice and find her father, whom she had thought abandoned her. Will he welcome her? See himself in her? Love her? Claire takes pleasure in becoming friends with a man she meets in a cafe because he sees her purely as herself, not as a woman whose personhood is seeping away. These are affecting and sympathetic characters. The reader will care.
The literary device of a memory book is appealing, but there is so little deviation in tone amongst the writings and the alternating chapters that it begins to be a distraction. This is especially true of the chapters and pages by Claire. The woman whose mind is drifting into chaos, who can no longer read a picture book to Esther, and who plots gleeful, childish escapades with her three-year-old simply can not be writing long, nuanced commentaries about identity, emboli, and Jane Eyre. It simply is not believable.
Recommended, with reservations.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This is an honest review.
What a romp! Miss Phryne Fisher is the heroine of this mystery, twentieth in a series that has some parallels to the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Both sleu...moreWhat a romp! Miss Phryne Fisher is the heroine of this mystery, twentieth in a series that has some parallels to the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Both sleuths served in World War I as medical personnel, experience painful flashbacks from the carnage they saw, and call upon contacts from their war experience to help them solve crimes. But where Maisie is thoughtful, philosophical, modest, and faithful, Phryne is sophisticated witty, wealthy, and, well, easy.
Aristocratic Phryne surrounds herself with luxury, an adoring staff, brilliant adopted children, and lovers. One daughter is so clever that she "lives on tea and pencils." The other is preparing to be a chef under the tutelage of Mrs. Butler, who can whip up a feast in no time while her husband drinks tea so strong it could dye stockings. The household includes a sleek black cat, but Phryne, with her sleek black bob, green eyes, and white teeth that snap through a croissant, may be more feline than Ember.
The mystery: who killed the choirmaster as he was prepping a herd of randy and rowdy young volunteers to sing Mendelssohn's "Elijah"? Honestly, who cares? One character calls Mendelssohn's work "the musical equivalent of fairy dust." The dead conductor was loathed by all for his general boorishness and for being a "hands pig" - a groper. All agree that "he really got on someone's quince."
The young men and women couple and part, as do older men and men, while Phryne renews an affair with a beloved man whose usual preference is men(and who is in love with a violet-eyed intellectual). Unrequited love is soon requited. Phryne takes it all in with eyes so flinty that anyone else's would garner the equivalent of "the hardness of fudge" on a Mohr scale.
The mystery? It's solved. Minuets and randy madrigals are performed. All's well that ends well.
Why only 4 stars? Because there were so many choristers that I could not keep them sorted out, because I guessed the murderer before eighty pages had passed, and because I have a low tolerance for violet-eyed angels who bedazzle with talk of Chebyshev polynomials. The book is fun to read. Go for it! After all, if the author begins by acknowledging the services of a "Duty Wombat," you know you're going to a good party.
I received this book from Net Galley. This is an honest review.(less)
Dense and satisfying, this tale of secrets and mirror-images follows a black family that has tried to hide an uncomfortable truth for decades: those m...moreDense and satisfying, this tale of secrets and mirror-images follows a black family that has tried to hide an uncomfortable truth for decades: those members light enough to "pass" as white do so by sending their dark children away. The pattern changes when Boy, a woman who has escaped from her brutal rat-catcher father, marries the widowed father of Snow, the lightest - or, in the terms of the fairy tale, "fairest," of them all. When Boy's child, Bird, is born, and is dark, Boy sends Snow away, becoming the wicked stepmother who keeps sisters apart and who abets the family's secret. The reader will marvel at how fairy tales intertwine in the story, catching glimpses of Snow White, Rose Red and Rose White, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Juniper Tree, not to mention mirrors that are unreliable, at best. Will uncovering the uncomfortable truths change the sisters' fates? Highly, highly recommended.
I received this book as an ARC for my honest review.(less)
Athena Passalis, Tarot reader and con artist, has been murdered, found brutally strangled in her Arizona establishment by her teenaged assistant. Alth...moreAthena Passalis, Tarot reader and con artist, has been murdered, found brutally strangled in her Arizona establishment by her teenaged assistant. Although Athena's daughter Alanis has been estranged from her mother for many years, Athena has willed everything to her, including the White Magic Five & Dime.
At first, Alanis assumes that her mother's shady dealings have caught up with her, that Tarot-reading was merely the last of her mother's many schemes to pry money from gullible souls in this Sedona-Lite town. Not all is as it seems, though, and Alanis decides to take on her mother's last career choice to help a delectable police detective find the killer.
Armed with a deck of Tarot cards and a puckish Tarot guidebook (Infinite Roads to Knowing by Miss Chance), Alanis employs imagination, intuition, and the ability to spot "tells" that she learned in her peripatetic childhood, when she, her mother, and Athena's partner comprised a travelling scam circus. Suspects are plentiful. Was it the husband of a woman whom Athena had urged to buy a herd of llamas? The family of an aged woman who had been convinced to let Athena take away her "cursed" jewelry for her own protection? A bumbling bail-bondsman who was ridiculously easy to identify after a threatening phone call?
Miss Chance's book gives Alanis the basics of Tarot meanings along with asides that appeal to her own cynicism. (As in, yes, the symbolism on the cards could seem overblown enough for a Lady Gaga video.) The Hermit, muses Miss Chance, may seem like an isolated crazy in Idaho who writes anti-government screeds in a cabin, but the card-reader still should listen and learn. Likewise the muumuu-wearing Justice, or the Wheel, which might bring treasure, or might bring a winged cow. Listen and learn...
Alanis begins to feel an unaccustomed pleasure in the life of a small town. What am I really doing here? she asks the cards. The 8 of Pentacles hints at the value of learning a useful trade that could benefit a community. Perhaps, she thinks, she could stay and use the Tarot for good instead of for scams.
Yes, Alanis solves her mother's murder. (That fact really isn't a spoiler in a cozy mystery.) The reader is in for an enjoyable beginning to a new mystery series. Recommended. Why only 4 stars? Because this reader guessed two plot points a bit too soon. I chalk it up to the authors' need to establish the who and where, and I forgive. I'll certainly read a sequel.
I received a reader's copy of this book from NetGally. This is a fair and unbiased review.
This book is a mishmash of pre- and re- digested advice about getting enough sleep, becoming mindful, meditating, and changing one's value system to h...moreThis book is a mishmash of pre- and re- digested advice about getting enough sleep, becoming mindful, meditating, and changing one's value system to honor "the third metric": a redefinition of success to include values beyond money and power.
Ms. Huffington spends many pages telling the reader to unplug from digital devices, and then spends as many pages listing and annotating apps to meditate by, unplug by, control one's multi-tasking by, or even do nothing by. **
She praises and damns social media, makes generalizations about what physicists believe about time, and makes enormous generalizations about being guided by one's intuition or inner sense of rightness. (Note: terrorists believe in their sense of rightness, too.) Other generalizations are more annoying. Sorry, I don't buy the idea that sleep is a feminist issue, and I disagree strongly that people do not bond over moments of shared mortality. Our national experience and personal experience belie that assumption.
Much of the book is not this annoying, but so much of it is that the reader almost misses some genuine insights - such as the observation that the algorithms that govern the user's "personalized" experience at sites such as amazon.com provide a very shallow interpretation of who the user is.
Note to Arianna's editor: Metaphors work better if they're not, dare I say, counter-intuitive, or downright wrong. The iceberg did not hit the Titanic. The Titanic hit the iceberg. Just saying.
I received this book as an ARC. This is my honest review.
**Literally. As in, watch this app for 2 minutes if you want to do nothing.(less)