Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reading Log - April and May

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Anne Barrows

Written as a series of letters, telegrams and journal entries, this was a delightful book to read. Through the writings of the various characters, the reader learns of the interesting, and sometimes humorous, experiences at having survived the WWII German occupation of the Isle of Guernsey, one of Great Britain’s Channel Islands.

The key character in the book is Juliet, an author looking for her next great idea, who, initially through her correspondence and later through her personal interaction with the people of Guernsey, finds rewarding new direction for her life.

Embassy, Richard Doetsch

Reading Embassy was an experiment for me, for it was my first vook. A vook is a new type of media, a combination of video and book. In this particular vook, there were short video clips that advanced the storyline embedded into the chapters. I read it from my iPhone, although my understanding is that vooks can be read from any computer screen, as well. This particular one I got for free, as a promotional offer.

Embassy is a suspenseful thriller, with a little bit of magic thrown in for fun. Much of the story takes place inside the Greek Embassy, in New York City, where a kidnapping and hostage situation has taken place. This setting complicates things since inside the Embassy the FBI has no jurisdiction.

The continuing twists and turns of events keep the reader wondering who is the "bad guy" and who is the "good guy." The story is not long, and though it was fun to try out a new media, I didn't find that the video clips added much, if any, to the enjoyment of reading. I couldn't help but feel it was only a gimmick. But then, I could be wrong, like the president of the Michigan Savings Bank, who, in 1903, warned Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co.: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew is a widower, a proper Englishman with classical tastes. "I was raised to believe in politeness above all," he says, and that's how he lives his life. At the moment that he is deeply grieving the loss of his brother, he meets, not for the first time, but with fresh vision, Mrs. Ali, the windowed shop-keeper of Pakistani descent. This is a love story, but one about two people who thought they were finished with love; one that bristles with issues of cultural conflict and generational discord. It is a gentle story that tells of a rebirth of sorts, for both Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali. It's a story that shows the reader that falling in love at an advanced age can be richer, fuller, sweeter, even, than at sweet sixteen. It's a story that says take a chance on love.

I enjoyed the book and am glad I read it. It is slow-paced and thoughtful, so not for a reader wanting action. I think it could make a great movie.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley

Flavia is eleven years old, bright beyond her years, in love with both science and mystery, and forever disgusted with her two shallow and haughty older sisters. When a murder takes place on the family property, Flavia can't help but jump in with both feet to solve it, especially after her father is falsely arrested for the crime.

It's uncommon for a protagonist in an adult novel to be a child, and I have to admit I was uncomfortable with this particular child. I couldn't decide whether the author wanted me to take Flavia seriously or whimsically. The novel certainly did have a lot of humor and made me chuckle several times, but Flavia is either a child acting as an adult, or an adult who has slipped into a child's body, in my opinion. Flavia left me a little conflicted, even though I saw some of myself in her, for I, too, had a chemistry lab set up in my bedroom when I was in school (true confessions!).

The mystery plot, itself, was an interesting one and rather complex - too complex, I maintain, for this eleven-year old girl to have solved it before any of the adults in the story. Flavia wasn't a credible character, and I wonder if the author meant her to be?

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