October 28th, 2009

57. Dancing Girls and Other Stories - Margaret Atwood

57. Dancing Girls and Other Stories - Margaret Atwood - 256 pages (8/10)

I've read a fair amount of Atwood by now, but this is my first experience with her short stories. This is one of her lesser-known collections of short stories written early in her career. As a hopeful author myself, it was a good insight to see how she has changed and grown as an author.

This early in her career, she's still an incredible writer. Her descriptions are short and sweet. One that for some reason really stuck with me was the girl in "The Man from Mars." She was playing tennis at the beginning of the story and her skin was hot and "felt poached." Such an excellent way to put it! All of the women here are a little strange, a little off, and possibly a little crazy. They are put in odd situations and it's interesting to see how they react.

My one criticism to this collection is a trend with Atwood I see overall. She's really fond of open endings, but some of the stories have too open an ending and are thus a but unsatisfactory. I'd like ones that had a clearer resolution. Overall, though, for Atwood fans, this is another Atwood to chew on.
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Books #93-98

93) Ariel by Steven R. Boyett (Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy, 335 pages)
This was an incredibly engrossing read. A lovely coming-of-age novel in a post-apocalyptic world where the laws of physics have completely changed. I was incredibly impressed with the world building, the tight plotting, and the characterization. I was even more impressed after learning that the first draft of the book was completed when the author was only 19. I didn't like the ending very much, but over all, the ending fit very well with the overarching story and had been foreshadowed heavily throughout. I knew it was coming but hated it for its inevitability. Lovely lovely book. 4.5/5

94) The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines (Fantasy, 352 pages)
I liked this even better than the first book in the series. The character development was deeper while still having an action-packed plot. I loved Hines' reinterpretation of The Little Mermaid story that made it in some ways even more tragic than Hans Christian Anderson's original. I'm anxiously looking forward to the next book. A number of things happened in Mermaid that will forever change the lives of the three princesses, and I want to see how they play out. 4/5

95) Feels Like the First Time by Tawny Weber (Romance, 224 pages)
Free ebook download that I started because I needed something quick, brainless, and I was in the mood for a romance. This was surprisingly entertaining and much more well-written than I would have expected for a Harlequin. 3.5/5

96) The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (Historical Fiction, 320 pages)
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect with this book. It was an impulse buy; I had never heard of the book before, but the plot sounded somewhat interesting. Once I started reading, though, I could not put it down. The narrator wasn't the most compelling character, but I loved the language the author used, the almost dreamlike storytelling narrative, and the overall plot in which the Niagra River was the unspoken main character of the book. 4/5

97) When You Wish by Kristin Harmel (YA Chick-Lit, 288 pages)
Harmel tackles the YA genre with this story of a teenage rock star who goes off to find her long-lost father and a normal life. While a fun and light read, the book suffers from some of the pitfalls of both the YA and chick-lit genres. The character development is shallow and the plotting seems rushed. I would have loved to had read this same story in a longer form. But still, a quick fun read. 3.5/5

98) According to Jane by Marilyn Brant (Chick-Lit, 352 pages)
This is a bit of an odd-ball premise - at age 15, Ellie gets the spirit of Jane Austen talking to her in her head and giving her life and relationship advice. The story follows Ellie through high school, college, grad school, and beyond, and details her string of (completely unsuitable) boyfriends -- each of whom Jane has much to say about. Quirky, funny, and with some really fun characters, and an ending that made me smile. Brant got Jane Austen's "voice" down. 4/5

51 - 54

Title:  Post Mortem
Author:  Patricia Cornwell
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  3.5/5

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My Thoughts:  I enjoyed this book much more than Body of Evidence.  Although I still didn't love it.  Not sure why exactly.  I don't really love Kay Scarpetta. 

Title:  The Bone Collector
Author:  Jeffery Deavers
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  5/5

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My Thoughts:  I loved this book.  I love this series!!  I'm trying to read each book in the series in order.  It's sooo good!

Title:  The King's Daughter
Author:  Barbara Kyle
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4/5

Collapse )My Thoughts:  This book is the second in the series.  I enjoyed it but liked the first one better.

Title:  Scarpetta
Author:  Patricia Cornwell
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4.5/5

Collapse )My Thoughts:  This is my favourite Cornwell book.  I loved it.  I enjoyed how we learn so much about so many of the characters.  I have to admit that before I read this I was sitting on the fence about whether or not to read any more of her books, but a co-worker lent me this and it made me decide to read some of her other ones.

Book 112: The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams

UK Title Cover
Book 112: The Behaviour of Moths (US Title: The Sister)
Author: Poppy Adams, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Gothic. Sibling Rivalry.
Other Details: Large Print Edition, 340 pages

The Behaviour of Moths is narrated by 70-year-old Ginny Stone, who lives alone at Bulburrow Court, her family's suitably crumbling mansion in West Dorset. Ginny is a recluse known locally as the 'Moth Woman'. She has spent her entire life studying moths, following in the footsteps of her father, a world famous lepidopterist. The novel takes place over the course of a single weekend and opens with Ginny waiting for her younger sister Vivien to arrive. Vivien had left home forty-seven years previously and now is returning to live with her sister. Vivien's arrival prompts Ginny to relive memories of the past but her presence also challenges Ginny's view of events.

US Title Cover
This is a consciously claustrophobic novel given its setting and focus upon the strained relationship between the two sisters. As the tale unfolds, Ginny's reliability as a narrator is increasingly brought into question. As might be expected from the title there is a great deal of information about moths and the practices of lepidopterists. As someone who always tries to free moths and butterflies when they become trapped indoors and enjoys watching them, I found some of the descriptions of their experiments made quite uncomfortable reading.

This was a reading group selection for October and again was one that strongly divided opinion, with some abandoning it early on. I did read it completely but found that I was very much on the fence. There were certainly themes throughout the novel that appealed to me, such as the slow revelation of family secrets, its psychological aspects and the Gothic elements of the setting. However, overall it left me with a sense of disappointment, which may have been a lot to do with how unsympathetic I found Ginny as a character coupled with a level of frustration at how the story played out.


Two years ago, I recommended Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945. I'll parallel that review in this year's Book Review No. 42 by recommending his D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. In the Cold Spring Shops library, it's an excellent supplement to Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day and to Stephen Ambrose's D-Day: June 6, 1944 -- The Climactic Battle of WWII. If you don't have either of those books, buy this one. There's less individual detail than Ryan's or Ambrose's, but more overview of coordination, or not, among the allies, as well as an overview of the breakout from Normandy, the second invasion through the south of France, and the liberation of Paris. Mr Beevor suggests that the most difficult part of the invasion, Omaha Beach, still featured the fortunes of war, with some units landing almost unopposed and beginning to work their way up the bluffs within the hour, and with the Germans unable to oppose the landings their as vigorously as they might like, thanks to the success of the British and Canadian units to their right. And perhaps those optimists, including me, who gave some credence to the notion that Iraqis would welcome American liberators, will gain perspective from the stories of unrest and score-settling among the French as their liberation occurred. There was the potential for a civil war loosely along communist and republican lines: possibly an area for future research? And Mr Beevor has no brief for his countryman General Montgomery. Perhaps he will follow up with an investigation of Market-Garden -- after all of General Montgomery's lapses in the dash from the beaches to Paris, it's hard not to sympathize with General Patton griping about General Eisenhower holding Monty's hand and starving Third Army of supplies.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)