Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I spent the last three days engrossed in the story of Alice and her sudden memory loss.  It begins when she falls off her bike in spin class;  when she comes to, she believes it's 1998 (it's actually 2008) and she's shocked at her flattened stomach and toned physique, has no recollection of her three children, and thinks she's still in the early, easy years of her marriage.  She's on the brink of divorce, and she can't remember why.

As Alice struggles to remember, she pieces little glimpses of her past back together and reconciles with her sister.  She's appalled at what she learns about her 39-year-old self, and tries to re-establish her 29-year-old self as she remembers it.

This book really made me think about what I would have missed out on in the last ten years.  A very enjoyable read, with a satisfying ending!  Liane Moriarty hasn't disappointed me yet.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With a vast cast of characters, The Casual Vacancy plunges the reader into the small town politics of Pagford, its slum area The Fields, and its bigger, brighter neighboring town of Yarvil.  The characters are all well-developed, and even the most vile are, on some level, understandable.

The story starts with a bang, when Barry Fairbrother drops dead on his way to dinner at the club, then it builds slowly and inexorably toward a powerful conclusion. Barry has left a casual vacancy -- a spot on the town council -- and people are immediately scrambling to fill the void and either continue what he'd started, or cancel what he'd started when he'd begun campaigning to save a rehabilitation facility.  The story lines of the various characters slowly meet and braid together in this riveting, suspenseful tale.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig

The Bartender's TaleThe Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ivan Doig tells a grand story, and this one made me yearn for Western small town life (normally unappealing to me).  The Bartender's Tale is about a legendary bartender named Tom Harry and his son Rusty.  Rusty's mom abandoned the two of them when Rusty was an infant, and Tom's sister raised Rusty for the first six years.  Then one day, unannounced, Tom retrieved Rusty and took him north to Montana where they live a fabulous bachelor life and run the Medicine Lodge.

The days pass between Tom's mysterious trips, Rusty's saloon eavesdropping and small town gossip.  The summer Rusty is twelve things change drastically, and Rusty grows up even faster.

This story is about family, commitment, responsibility and living with past decisions.  When Tom's history comes back to haunt him, he handles things with his signature stoicism.  "The first rule is," Tom says, "playing with the hand you're dealt."

Give yourself a break: read this grand story, told in grand Ivan Doig fashion.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

The Hand That First Held MineThe Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hand That First Held Mine is a tale about motherhood, of course, and love of all types, and strange twists of fate and malice.  The story follows two sets of characters:  Ted and Elina, who just had a baby boy.  They live in London and Elina, who nearly died in childbirth, has no recollection of the birth of her baby and is having difficulty adjusting to life as a new mother.  The story also follows Lexie Sinclair, a young girl in London a few decades previous, and her exciting journalist career.  Lexie's story was my favorite, as there was more action.  Ted's and Elina's story was portentous, which kept me going, and it paid off in spades.

I won't give the ending away here, except to say:  it's worth the read.

All of that, and I learned at least two new words:  maenad and chiaroscuro (both uttered by Lexie's journalist boyfriend).

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Check it out on Amazon here: The Hand That First Held Mine