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Friday, 5 July 2019

The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone audiobook cover art

One of my literary goals is to read certain classics, and two titles by Wilkie Collins featured in there.  After completing this book, Collins can now be ticked off my list.  

Like  The Woman in White, The Moonstone is, most definitely, a narrative drive novel, and though this book is good too I enjoyed The Woman in White more.
  
I thought Collins’ satire in the guise of the piously, hypocritical Miss Clack and her manic religious-tract giving was very humorous:
Here was a golden opportunity! I seized it on the spot. In other words, I instantly opened my bag, and took out the top publication. It proved to be an early edition—only the twenty-fifth—of the famous anonymous work (believed to be by precious Miss Bellows), entitled The Serpent at Home. The design of the book—with which the worldly reader may not be acquainted—is to show how the Evil One lies in wait for us in all the most apparently innocent actions of our daily lives. The chapters best adapted to female perusal are “Satan in the Hair Brush;” “Satan behind the Looking Glass;” “Satan under the Tea Table;” “Satan out of the Window”—and many others.
“Give your attention, dear aunt, to this precious book—and you will give me all I ask.” With those words, I handed it to her open, at a marked passage—one continuous burst of burning eloquence! Subject: Satan among the Sofa Cushions.
LOL. What an awful woman, such perfect reading to gift to dying aunt ;)

Betteredge, the butler, much to my delight, constantly refers to Robinson Crusoe ,
"I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When my spirits are bad—Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice—Robinson Crusoe. In past times when my wife plagued me; in present times when I have had a drop too much—Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service. On my lady’s last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain."

“The man who doesn’t believe in Robinson Crusoe, after that [a quote from Crusoe], is a man with a screw loose in his understanding, or a man lost in the mist of his own self-conceit! Argument is thrown away upon him; and pity is better reserved for some person with a livelier faith.”

During the writing of this book, Collin’s seems to be using Ezra Jennings as the voice to document his own pain driven addiction to opium – opium taking pops up everywhere –
Back again, this morning, to the old routine! Back again, tonight, to the dreadful alternative between the opium and the pain! 
I liked Ezra and thought his personal ‘ending’ was rather sad.

Adding here for others that get overcome with the urge to toss this book and read something faster paced or shorter:  About a third of the way through the book I was wondering if I wanted to keep investing in this "taking forever" serial styled story  - I’d figured out who the thief was, but not how the young couple got back together again – time to read a quick summary and see where the story was going.  I’m glad I did, as it gave me the impetus to keep listening to Peter Jeffrey's excellent narration of this work.  

Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Last Year of the War ~ Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

I really appreciated the honest look at ageing in this book -  the struggle with the onset of Alzheimer's, called Agnes the thief - also, that Meissner chose to end the book realistically
with Meissner creating a way to have the characters reconnect before one of them dies;  for me, that added to the story, not detracted from it.
Mariko's story became lost and blurred as the story progressed, maybe the author intended that to reflect the loss and disconnect Elise was feeling and going through (?).   I wasn't really that interested in Mariko by the end of the book.

The story has more romancy-schmancy than I like in a fiction book - why kissing, and a honeymoon night seems to require an explanatory and descriptive dialogue beats me - perhaps the best way to pigeonhole this would be "clean romance with a sensual undertone".  The romance was a bit too pat;  and, the marriages, especially the way the author line up the second marriage, just felt a bit off.  For me, those things detracted from the story. 

Extra:  Meissner doesn't shy from having an attempted rape in this story and has dealt with it as non-gratuitously as I think she could have, almost euphemistically.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic ~ Max Lucado


Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado

I started out with the audiobook narrated by Ben Holland which nosedived to a 2-*  after chapter one, so I skipped ahead to chapter four, then switched from audio to ebook at chapter six,  and ended up rating this book at 4+*
The first chapter had some really interesting, sobering, facts in it that I want to check out.  I then skipped through some of Max’s personal stories and over the ‘plan of salvation’ portion in part one of the audio and was then away again in chapter four (part 2 on audio).  Ben Holland and I absolutely had to part ways at chapter six or this book was going to hit the abandoned read stack.  His narration of this book is not a good fit for me, the content was easier to absorb and appreciate by reading it to myself.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Earthly Remains ~ Donna Leon


Earthly Remains audiobook cover art

Earthly Remains was my first foray into Guido Brunett’s life; and, as I have no other books in the series to compare it with I enjoyed the environmental  focus and a take away thought of “Bees are the canary in the mine”.  The mystery surrounds an oil company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste.  For those that like a case-completely-solved  who-dunnit with all the loose ends tied up, this is not one of those: still, I found it to be a satisfying end to an interesting story.

I really appreciate it that the Brunetti family is a loving and functional one and will be trying another of Leon's books at some stage.

Extra:  One slant the author tossed into the book was having Brunetti ‘knowing’ that prayer is useless;  “Dear Jesus, keep my children from harm.”  He knew it was the worst form of superstition, he knew there was no sense to it and no chance that it could help” <snip> he knew that prayer was useless.   And then Leon added a few good digs at the Catholic Church so I went hunting to get a sense of why she would do that: and found this interview with Anna Mundow, which I think answers my wondering pretty succinctly.      (Refer to Donna Leon’s answer to question three:  
Q: The series is a sly commentary on environmental issues, politics, the Catholic Church. Is that very deliberate? ) 

The number beside each book is my personal rating for the book, or audiobook, at the time of reading with the range being:

(1) = would not recommend,

(2) = some interesting aspects but not one of my recommended reads,

(3) = would recommend.

(4) = Really good, enjoyable, (or worthy) read, would definitely recommend

(5) = Excellent book, highly recommend