Snark with a Side of Cheeky (silentrequiem) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Snark with a Side of Cheeky
silentrequiem
50bookchallenge

Books #14 - 19

14) Textual Healing by Eric Smith (General Fiction/Humor, 280 pages)
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from the author.

This is a really good book in search of a copy editor. I very much liked the book - it was quirky, fun, kept me engaged, not predictable at all, and Eric Smith had a great voice in his writing. So it was a bit disheartening to be periodically thrown out of the story by a missing comma, or a "through" instead of "threw." However, minor quibble. I acknowledge that I am overly anal when it comes to things of a grammar nature, so I deal with it and move on.

Textual Healing has a plot straight out of a screwball romantic comedy, only I don't think even Hollywood could have come up with some of the supporting characters here. It is the story of a once-famous author who is suffering from one-hit-wonderdom. And then his life falls apart. His long-time girlfriend leaves him, his best-selling book is collecting dust in the clearance section (way way WAY discounted), his used bookstore is sinking about as fast as the Titanic, and he gets tricked into joining a support group for lapsed writers. But then, enters a girl (there's always a girl, isn't there?), Hannah, who doesn't run away screaming from the weirdness in his life - such as the flower-shop-owning, haiku-spouting ninja; or the apartment-destroying sugar glider. (Intrigued yet?) I won't say more because it will spoil the plot.

Was this book perfect? No. I wasn't hipster enough to fully enjoy all the references to hipstery things, so I probably missed out on something there. The writing was also a little rough around the edges and could have used another couple rounds of editing and some tough love "Dude, lay off the pop culture references. You'll only date the story later."

I am glad I read it, though. And I've now killed any desire I might have ever had to own sugar gliders. Not that I had much - two rabbits and a cat are destructive enough as it is. 3.5/5


15) Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight Acts Pets by Dr. Nick Trout (Memoirs, 320 pages)
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

I have Nick Trout's first book on my TBR list, though I haven't read it yet. This is his third memoir, focusing on how the pets of his family influenced not only his career decision to become a veterinarian, but how his relationships with the animals, and his observations of others' (especially his father) informed his philosophy of animal-human interaction and relationships. This book made me really reflect on my own connection to my pets. A really well-written, engaging book that is both bittersweet as animals leave Trout's life, but also hopeful as it explores all that or pets add to our lives. 3.5/5


16) Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt (Historical Fiction, 256 pages)
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from the publisher.

This was a bit of an odd book, but in a good way. Whenever someone asked what the book was about, I had to think a bit trying to come up with something a bit more coherent than "the personification of Winston Churchill's depression." I never did, actually. But as I read the book in under two days, I probably didn't have enough time to truly formulate my thoughts. It took me a long while to fully comprehend that this wasn't a book about a dog, or the lodger from hell, or even Winston Churchill. This is a book about depression and how it comes onto people and how they either overcome it or live with it -- or not. I wish the cover blurb was a bit less circumspect about that aspect as it would have greatly improved my reading of the book. I may have to give this another go in a few months and see if it improves with a second reading; I suspect it might. 3.5/5


17) Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce (Fantasy/Short Stories, 369 pages)
This was a nice collection of short stories. I liked the stories at the beginning much more than those at the end, and could have honestly done without "Huntress" or "Testing", which had different feels than the rest of the stories and were, in my opinion, much weaker.
The contains eleven stories in total, of which 7 take place in the same world as her Tortall books - though oddly enough, none of them are located in Tortall proper. All of the Tortall stories were a delight, and I loved seeing and revisting some favorite characters again, if only briefly.
Fans of Pierce will love this collection. Those who have not yet discovered her would do well to pick it up. 4/5


18) Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter by Paula Reed (Historical Fiction, 321 pages)
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

The first and last time I read The Scarlet Letter was the summer before junior year of high school. It, along with a list of other books, was assigned summer reading for AP English. I didn't much care for it, and didn't think much about after I was done and the assignment turned in. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when I started Hester. I contemplated re-reading The Scarlet Letter first but dismissed the thought based on bad associations of forced summer reading journals. After reading Hester, I am reconsidering. Reed takes a well-known classic book and adds more depth to the characters, giving them more purpose, more plot, and more life. It was interesting having flashes of Hawthorne's book coming back to me as I read.

Towards the end of Hawthorne's novel, Hester takes her daughter and leaves for England. Time passes and she eventually returns alone to New England and settles back down into her old cottage. Reed's book tackles the gigantic question of what happened in between. She invents a backstory for Hester, a loving childhood friend who takes her and Pearl in, and expands upon the insight the red "A" gifted Hester so that she can see a person's guilt and sin. Her friend is married to a member of Oliver Cromwell's circle, and Hester soon finds herself compelled to use her sight on Cromwell's behalf and embroiled into the politics of the Roundheads and the Royalists.

I really liked the book. I didn't expect to and I did. There is loads of political intrigue, lots of introspective self-reflection on Hester's part, history, and even a spot of romance or two. And character growth by the truckload. Reed brought Hester alive in a way that Hawthorne never did for me. 4/5


19) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (Young Adult Fantasy, 400 pages)
I'm not very familiar with The Goose Girl story, though I did read it. Obviously, the story didn't stick with me because I didn't remember much other than the princess was forced to change places with her maid. Hale's retelling brought the entire tale to life in a very engaging way. I loved it, and will be reading the rest of the series because I want to find out what happens to all the characters! 4/5
Tags: animals, fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, humor, memoir, young adult
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