‘Water’ isn’t fine, but may still be worth a dive

water.jpgPaula Hawkins’ first book, “The Girl on the Train” benefited from the tailwind created by the huge success of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” Readers, it seemed, were anxiously searching for thrillers with major twists on the theme of women hating men.

Hawkins has a new novel out, a thriller with a major twist with the theme of men hating women. It’s not great (but neither was “Train,”)  and it’s way too long, but it’s summer and everything seems better when read by the side of a big body of water.

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‘Best loved poems’ his Aunt Fanny!

On Father’s Day, I was at my in-laws’ when someone suggested we all go to the park. Because most people were going to be swimming and I was not, and finding myself without my book (horrors!), I picked up a volume of Houseman poetry to read at the park.

20170620_111311-e1497971897401.jpgMy father-in-law, always generous with his books, said he had another volume of Houseman I could have, but he’d have to go find it. He couldn’t, but in the search, he came across another gem he pressed into my hands with the strict order that I was not to give it back to him.

I could see why: The dust jacket, even decades after it was printed, contained one of the most garish photos of roses I’d ever seen and, it was out-of-focus to boot. The title was “Best Loved Poems of All Time: Treasured Verses Everyone Enjoys.”

Well, not everyone, it would seem.

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You’ll enjoy your time with this ‘Gentleman in Moscow’

moscow.jpg“Have you read ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ yet?” the message from a Shelf Improver read. “I have not been so delighted in a long time.”

I had heard about the book, published last year to great acclaim, and was glad to hear this recommendation from someone whose taste I respect. So I was thrilled when it turned out to be the next book I had to read for book club. At 480 pages, it raised an eyebrow, but once I started, there was no stopping. It was, as promised, a delight from start to finish with plenty to talk about afterward.

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Author of ‘Welsh Girl’ offers a gentle surprise and a new view of World War II

welsh.jpgIn “The Fortunes,” Peter Ho Davies wrote so convincingly and with such insight about the plight of Chinese-American immigrants that, when I met him recently at a reading, I was surprised to hear his lovely British accent.

He said he’s been accused of putting on his accent, which didn’t surprise me. We tend to see an Asian face and expect, well, something else.

I was even more surprised to hear him say he is Welsh. But I shouldn’t have been. His first novel, “The Welsh Girl” was equally detailed and insightful, though it’s set during World War II, long before Davies was born. He said it was based on his father’s reminiscences of the war.

Both novels artfully address the theme of how people pigeonhole others based on looks or accents or ignorance, and how we define ourselves.

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Coming in from the heat with a classic spy novel

spy.jpgThough I’ve been reading like a dervish, assuming they read, it’s been so beautiful outside I haven’t trapped myself at my computer to post about them. We’re in the middle of a heat spell, so I thought I’d stay in the air conditioning and play catch-up.

In the month-plus since I’ve posted, I have good and bad, new and classic, thrillers and cozies. Now it’s time to get moving on the blogging.

This year’s Classics Challenge includes a category for which, I think, a challenge like this was made: A book by an author you’ve not read before. In my Sisyphean task to eliminate books from my shelves and the boxes in the basement, I chose to read John LeCarre, whose novel “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” has been collecting dust since I shoved it in a sack on Paper Bag Day at a local church’s used book sale lo these many years ago.

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A poem (says me) about diminished expectations

Gibran.jpgI recently finished another project at work in which my grand intentions and clever plans came face to face with reality. As expected, reality won.

The project is still strong, but wow, what it could have been!

Which brings me to this week’s poem, it’s by Lebanese writer and thinker Kahlil Gibran, best known for “The Prophet,” which is likely on your bookshelf, a gift  from  a well-meaning friend or relative, and just as likely unread.

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Back to the classics: ‘Gone With the Wind’ as a civics lesson

gone.jpgThe duly elected president of our country the other day asked, about the U.S. Civil War, “If you think about it, why? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

I think I speak for all Americans with brains and for thinking people everywhere when I ask: What the complete fuck?

Assuming he can read, he might find an answer (do himself no harm, either) by doing what I just did: I read “Gone With the Wind,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell about not just the Civil War, but its aftermath. I chose this book to satisfy the Classic by a Woman Writer category in this year’s Classics Challenge.

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