Friday, September 27, 2013

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

ArcadiaArcadia by Lauren Groff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book at The Babbling Book in Haines, Alaska (great store, if you're ever in the neighborhood) because I had already read and enjoyd Lauren Groff's other book, The Monsters of Templeton.  This book didn't disappoint.

This is the story of Bit, born in the 1970s in a hippie commune in western New York state.  The commune consists of several old buses and lean-tos on a beautiful piece of land, with a hulking mansion in sorry disrepair.  Soon the hippies get to work restoring the mansion so they can have heat and sturdy shelter.  The commune grows beyond its means, and eventually Bit must learn how to adapt to the outside world as he moves to New York City.

The writing is so good, you are in the commune.  You are there, feeling the damp chill on your bare arms, studying your friends' prominent ribs, growing vegetables and eating a vegan diet, running barefoot in the cold, greasy mud, bathing once per week. Wondering at some of the established practices our society endorses and supports. Hoping you never have to leave Arcadia and venture out into the unknown.

There will always be space on my shelf for a Lauren Groff book.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Divide by Nicholas Evans

The DivideThe Divide by Nicholas Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought (rescued) this book from a garage sale.  The pages are warped, the cover is worn.  I wonder how many have read it already.

Nicholas Evans writes what I like to read:  it's engaging, it's easy, it's energetic. The characters are all believable, even the ones I disagree with, and the story is told from many different angles.  The Divide refers to both the Great Divide and a dude ranch called The Divide.  It also refers to the division within the marriage and within the family of the main characters.  In the beginning of the story, a man and his son are extreme skiing in a remote location, their annual bonding trip in the brutal Colorado climate, when the father loses control on an icy patch and skids down the hill.  When the son digs him out, they discover the body of a young woman frozen in the ice.

From there, the story keeps you reading into the wee hours.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing

The Lost Art of MixingThe Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is told through an artful combination of characters and cooking, which seems to be Bauermeister's calling card.  She does it well.  The characters are well-developed, their lives and personalities related like ingredients and recipes, each character somehow saving another from failure, despair or loneliness.  The brink-of-divorce couple, the homeless/family-less girl, the outlandishly tall (and also family-less) boy, the restauranteur, the widower...all are worthy of inviting over for coffee and good conversation.

I listened to this story on Audible, and the narration was very well done, really bringing the characters to life.  If you're looking for diversion of the fluff variety, you've found it!  A great feel-good story.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Four Spirits

Four SpiritsFour Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems Sena Jeter Naslund can't write a bad book, so no matter the subject, it's a must-read.  This particular tome takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s and the story follows different characters, whose lives intersect at some point whether they know it or not, during and after the bombing.  Naslund's characterization is so realistic, one can almost (but not quite) feel a tiny bit of understanding for the truly evil people in the book.

I started reading this book without reading the back of it, and it worked out perfectly for me, as I wasn't really in the mood for another book about the horrific happenings in the South, but I was soon a victim of Naslund's prose.  A perfectly content victim.

Read it and weep, and at the end, feel hopeful for this crazy race to which we belong.

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