The Great Passage

Shion Miura, tr. by Juliet Winters Carpenter

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How can a book about a small department of a large publishing house, tasked with publishing a 2,400-page edition of the Japanese language be so engrossing? Translated from the Japanese, no less!

It must be the joint skills of the author and the translator, but this book is pure delight. The employees struggle for years to compile and edit their magnum opus, laboring under time constraints and the constant threat of having their funding pulled. Still, they labor on, driven by their dedication to the great work and to each other. We learn of their personal lives, their hopes and fears, their joys and disappointments. Gradually, we are pulled into their passion, until this dictionary becomes almost as important to us as it is to them.

 

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The Grey Horse

R.A. MacAvoy

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Ok, let’s get this out of the way. The names are impossible. I like to hear the names in my head as  I read, and I almost quit this book early. The author provides a pronunciation guide at the beginning, but it doesn’t help. I soldiered on anyway. It’s not bad enough to struggle through the Irish names, but it seems that each character also has an English name. The main character, the grey horse of the title is named Ruairi MacEibhir, or Rory MacEever, and his friend is named Anrai O Reachtaire or Henry Raftery. The third main character is Tadhg O Murchu, or Tim Murphy, the priest.

I’m glad I persevered, because this is one of the most delightful, inventive novels I have read this year. Set in times past, the Irish people suffer under the oppression of English overlords. Into the little town of Carraroe, steps a magnificent white stallion. You may be confused unless you know that unless a horse is an albino, white horses are called grey. It is the shape-shifting Ruairi come to seek a wife.

The story that follows is full pure magic. Fortunately, MacAvoy has written several books, and I intend to read them all.

All Things Wise and Wonderful

James Herriot

All Things Wise and Wonderful  (All Creatures Great and Small, #3)

This entertaining story carries on where the other books left off. It is mostly his account of his experiences in the RAF during WWII. Many things that happen to him during basic training and learning to be a pilot remind him of his experiences as a county vet, so we get a double set of memories.

Each chapter tells a bit of his experience during training and a look back at some memorable animal or character, all entertaining. If you liked Herriot’s other books, this will appeal to you as well.

Reckless

Amanda Quick

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I like Amanda Quick a lot, mostly for her independent, strong heroines, but this book just didn’t do it for me. I found her heroine, with her attitude toward the hero silly, and the hero, with his background of piracy combined with a penchant for writing romance novels, unbelievable. The whole book was forgettable.

The plot involved finding a book the heroine believed to be lost turning up again. She and the hero are on a quest to find it. In the search, they fall in love, learn each other’s secrets, and get married.

A light read, for a summer day, but Quick has written better.

Little Bee

Chris Cleave

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This was a well-written thoughtful story of a young girl fleeing violence. Terrified for her life, she manages to reach the only people she knows in Great Britain. Accidentally released from a detainment center, she becomes part of the family, which includes a very annoying child. I could do without the plot moppet. YMMV.

Her insights and opinions of life  in Great Britain form the most enjoyable aspect of the book. The author has chosen an ambiguous ending, which seems fitting for someone who doesn’t fit in where she came from nor where she is. A good book club choice, I think.

 

Dead Ends: the Pursuit, Conviction and Execution of Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos, the Damsel of Death

Joseph Michael Reynolds

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Unlike the  movie and TV versions, true police work is deadly dull. It’s hours and hours of piecing together leads and bits of evidence. The case of Aileen Wuornos was no different. Also unlike master criminals in TV and movies, Wuornos was stupid. She scattered evidence her and there and confessed on tape. The interest is in what made her do the murders and what was she really like. Unfortunately, the answers to both those questions are banal. She murdered for money and she was dull beyond belief.

It’s best not to drill too deeply into the personality of this serial killer. Deep down she is profoundly shallow.

 

Stars, Hide Your Fires

Mary Pagones

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Simon has to grow up quickly when his friend and mentor is killed in an eventing accident. As he struggles to cope with his feelings for his friend, he also struggles with some health issues and personal challenges. This third (and I hope not final) book takes us even deeper into the mind of a top-notch rider. Pagones has hit her stride with this account of a less than likable character. I suppose no one reaches the top of a competitive world by being a nice guy, and yet I find myself rooting for Simon. He needs a good horse and a good man to make his life complete.

Ravished

Amanda Quick

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This Beauty and the Beast romance features Harriet, a 25-year-old unmarried woman who is more interested in her prehistoric bones than in husband hunting. She believes her bones are safe in a secret cave, until they are threatened by a gang of thieves who use the cave as a hiding place to stash their loot. Afraid of being found out, Harriet enlists the aid of Gideon, the Beast of Blackthorne Hall, a man with scars both on his face and in his soul.

This delightful read is pure Amanda Quick, with memorable characters and believable plot twists and turns. Pure delight.

 

 

Comfort Me with Apples

Ruth Reichl

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Song of Songs is the source for the title. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” This sequel to Tender at the Bone takes up where the book stops and describes Reichl gradual rise from writer for a small publication to Gourmet magazine. Along the way, she has lovers, discards one husband to take another, has and loses a beloved child. Told with honesty and interspersed with recipes, it is almost impossible to put down.

We Are Water

Wally Lamb

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This a complex work by a talented writer. The surface story, a lesbian marriage between artist Annie Oh and her agent Viveca, wealthy and sophisticated, is the first layer of the book. By the time it is over, we have learned Annie’s secrets, as well as those of her husband, psychologist Orion Oh, their three children, the twins Andrew and Ariane, and the youngest Marissa.

Intricate as a weaving, the story comes alive, layer by layer, until the bare threads that make up each life are laid open for us. The many secrets the characters keep from one another eventually come to the surface, slowly and inevitably revealed.

This is a wonderful book.