Two huge books this time. But, I like big books (and I cannot lie) if the story is compelling and both of these are very compelling. And, a few fun reads (a murder mystery and a thriller). …
Two huge books this time. But, I like big books (and I cannot lie) if the story is compelling and both of these are very compelling. And, a few fun reads (a murder mystery and a thriller). Enjoy!
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” (2021) by Anthony Doerr. I finally got around to reading this tome (622 pages), which a friend gave me. It is a staggering work of great power. A love letter to the written word, it traverses the ages and places of this world and outer space. We meet a young girl on the Argos, a starship headed to a new planet in the future. And, Zeno in 2020, an aging Idaho man helping children put on a play based on a Greek translation he has been working on. It’s the story of Aethon, a simple goatherd who dreams of more. There is Anna, a young girl in 1400s Constantinople before its fall, who learns of the power of books, and Omeir, a boy and his two oxen, brought along with thousands of others to join the hordes attacking the city.
Each is tied to the others through the manuscript of Aethon’s story and how it manages to survive time and the elements. A scribe collecting books and texts for a rich man talks to Anna about the fragility of the written word. “One bad-tempered abbot, one clumsy friar, one invading barbarian, an overturned candle, a hungry worm – and all those centuries are undone.”
“A World of Curiosities” (2022) by Louise Penny. This is the 18th book in the Inspector Armand Gamache series and the wait was worth it. It astonishes me how she manages to make each book more exciting than the last. We learn more about Armand’s parents’ death, how Jean-Guy Beauvoir joined the Surete du Quebec and the first case the two men worked on together many years earlier— a horrific case of child abuse that will have consequences in the present.
Three Pines, a town not on any map, is the Gamaches’ home. It’s spring in the picturesque town (and the books’ fans and I wish we were there, staying at Gabri and Olivier’s B&B and eating at their bistro, seeing Ruth and her duck Rosa sitting by the village green, shopping at Myrna’s bookstore or buying baguettes at Sarah’s bakery). But, someone has been keeping tabs on them and has created a twisted puzzle in a painting that will call on all of Armand’s investigative skills and those of his loyal team. An old enemy will seek revenge putting everyone Armand loves at risk.
And, on top of that, the children involved in the abuse case years earlier are adults now and will come to Three Pines. Have they healed from their childhood ordeal? Gamache and Beauvoir can’t agree on that point, and both are wrong.
“Fairy Tale” (2022) by Stephen King. Another big book at 608 pages. Those of you who read my reviews know what a huge Stephen King fan I am. I don’t think another author creates characters so fleshed out that you want to know them and you want the story to go on after you finish the book. He’s done it again with “Fairy Tale,” a paean to the stories we all heard as kids (the dark originals, not the antiseptic Disney versions).
Charlie Read, 17, has had it tough recently. His Mom died in an accident and his Dad became an alcoholic before joining AA. Charlie prayed for his Dad to clean up his act and feels he owes a debt. So, when he hears a crotchety neighbor, Mr. Bowditch, calling from his backyard and finds him with a broken leg, Charlie helps mind his dog, Radar, and begins to fix up his house. Soon, Bowditch will ask Charlie for more help and, when he dies, to take on a difficult task. There is a portal on his property that leads to a magic world straight out of a fairy tale, where Charlie will find a land with two moons and a magical sundial under the blight of an ancient evil. Is he the prince who was promised? Can he help return the kingdom and its queen to their rightful place?
I loved the nods to Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and other fairy tales and writers. King’s imagination is a national treasure.
“The Younger Wife” (2022) by Sally Hepworth is a really fun thriller set in Australia with fully realized strong female characters I enjoyed getting to know. Sisters Tully and Rachel are pretty dysfunctional, but feel they come from a stable family. Their mother has dementia. Their father, a respected surgeon, has developed a relationship with Heather, the interior designer who had been working on their house before their mom had to be put in a nursing home.
Tully, a wife and mother, has an anxiety disorder and the only ting that soothes it is to shoplift. Rachel is beautiful and curvaceous, has a baking business and designs stunning wedding cakes, but hasn’t dated since she was 16 and stress eats. Heather is younger than both sisters and they are not happy their father is dating her. Then, when he announces he will divorce their mother so he can marry Heather, both women are even more upset. Heather has a secret past and is happy to be with Stephen and wants to get to know his daughters and be part of a family. But, odd things start happening. She drinks a bit too much in general and when she wakes up bruised and with vague memories, Stephen says she fell or is not remembering what happened clearly. The sisters’ mother says nasty things about Stephen and then Rachel finds a hot water bottle that belonged to her mother with almost $100,000 in it. Rachel begins to think maybe all was not right in their marriage. Was her mother setting money aside so she could run away? All the pieces will come together at the wedding. I liked all of these women and enjoyed seeing them come into their own (and see justice served).
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