Reviews From the Stacks

I’m glad I signed up for this challenge, it was good to take books off my shelves to read, instead of getting new ones from the library or store. These reviews are listed in reading order. :)

Iron Lake, by William Kent Krueger. I was captivated immediately as this book’s prologue introduces a young Cork learning about the windigo legend. A few pages later, I was completely prepared to dislike him as the book proper opens with him sleeping with a woman other than his wife. As the story progresses, I grew to respect, and even like Cork; his past history and current problems are slowly revealed through interactions with townspeople or his family, or from memories. Krueger’s writing is vividly accessible without being gory or testosterone-laden. There were also a couple of scenes where Cork and his wife, have separate but parallel experiences, which I found interesting.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. I can’t get over how different this book is from The Mermaid Chair. It’s passionate, emotional, and spiritual, without being overdone. This coming-of-age book is set in the South, during the summer of ‘64 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Lily struggles with the tragic death of her mother and living with her detached and cruel father. She finds a picture of a Black Madonna left by her mother with a town name written on the back. Lily runs away with her caregiver to this town. There, she finds the source for the Black Madonna picture: August is a beekeeper who lives in a house with her two sisters. Lily stays with these women, and learns about bees, faith, people, and herself. I took my time reading this book—sometimes I would linger over a passage because it was meaningful or the language was delightfully Southern.

The Well of Lost Plots, by Jasper Fforde. I enjoyed this installment of the Thursday Next series. Thursday has moved temporarily into an unpublished novel in the BookWorld and is training to become a Jurisfiction agent. We learn many things about the BookWorld: junkfooterphones, grammasites, Generics (clones that are developed and trained as book characters), the Well of Lost Plots’ black market, vyruses, Big Martin, and how books are produced (UltraWord™ is the new and forthcoming system). Thursday is having trouble retaining the memory of her eradicated husband. Another cause for concern is the mysterious disappearances or deaths of several Jurisfiction agents. Miss Havisham, Thursday’s mentor, brings her along to a rage-counseling session in Wuthering Heights; this is one crazy, funny scene of several in the book. And in the conclusion, Granny Next is knitting a sock, which Thursday says is about 12 feet long because she hasn’t ‘the courage to turn the heel.’ 

Reluctant Voyagers, by Elisabeth Vonaburg, tr by Jane Brierley. The story begins in Montréal circa 1988, but it is immediately clear that it is not the same as our world. Apparently minorities do not have equal rights and the government has Big Brother characteristics. Francophones who do not claim English as their primary language cannot legally settle amongst the ‘regular’ population but must live in Enclaves. Canada has been split into East Canada and West Canada because the Amerindian Union invaded and took possession of the central plain. North of the Canadas is the frontier, a mysterious land where mechanical and electrical things are powerless. Visions are apparently normal, and this brings us to the protagonist, Catherine Rhymer, who struggles with memory loss, vivid dreams, and abnormal visions. She eventually makes her way to the north in her quest to understand why these things are happening. Parts of it were very much in the Stream of Consciousness style, which works because Catherine’s reality is disjointed, and new things are often learned through dreams or visions. This technique was appropriate, even if I struggled a bit to follow along with Catherine as she put the pieces together. 

Till we have Faces, a Myth Retold, by C S Lewis. Lewis’ writing is an enjoyment in itself: clean, simple, and expressive. The narrator, Orual is a Princess of the Babylonian kingdom Glome. She raises, and practically worships, her half-sister Istra. In fact, she and her tutor Fox secretly refer to Istra as Psyche. With the introduction of the Istra/Psyche character, this book becomes a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. I found the early section, about Glome and its’ people and culture, interesting. The remainder of the book is focused on Orual’s grief, unhappiness, and perplexity about Psyche’s fate; this part was less appealing to me, as I viewed the later Orual as clingy, selfish, and overwrought, even as she eventually became ruler.

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5 Responses to “Reviews From the Stacks”

  1. Chris Says:
    January 30th, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Hmm, I haven’t read any CS Lewis beyond the Chronicles of Narnia – are they accessible and interesting to the non-Christian??

  2. Guinifer Says:
    January 31st, 2007 at 9:12 am

    All right, so I read the Secret Life of Bees and I was so uplifted and in love with this author…then I read the Mermaid Chair and I was so SAD! I was so disappointed! I also liked the Well of Lost Plots the best out of the Thursday Next series. I’ll have to check out some of your other selections – we may have similar tastes!

  3. hege Says:
    January 31st, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Out of these, I had only read the Secret Life of Bees, which I really liked. I have The Mermaid Chair sitting on my shelf, so maybe I’ll read that next. Thanks for the introduction to the other books, I will have to keep an eye out for them :)

  4. Nicole Says:
    January 31st, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Of these, I’ve only read the Secret Life of Bees. I liked it but probably not enough to read again I think.

  5. mrspao Says:
    February 8th, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I’m intrigued by all of those – I think I’m going to put them on my TBR list :)

In progress…

Sock Count (Pairs)

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  • 2003 ~ 1
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