Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cat Scan: All the Best From the Literature of Cats, compiled and edited by Robert Byrne and Teressa Skelton. Fawcett Crest, 1983

A compilation of quotes, poetry, fiction, odd facts, and what not written about cats through the ages – from ancient Greece to today (well, to the early 80s). Some are funny, some are sweet, some are sad. Not all are from cat lovers; some are quite disparaging of cats. One of those ‘pick it up and read a page or two whilst waiting for someone’ books. Probably was quite inclusive when published; I’m sure the editors could not have imagined the boom in the interest in cats in the 30+ years since! 

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This in no way altered my review.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin, by Stephanie Knipper. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016

I love magical realism, and this book had the bonus of being set on a flower farm, so I jumped at it. Sisters Rose and Lily were very close as girls and teens, but when Rose’s unexpected pregnancy while in college led to the birth of a daughter on the autistic spectrum, Lily couldn’t deal with it. Having OCD with some aspects of autism herself, Antoinette was all her fears in human form: unable to speak, difficulty with movements, repetitive behaviors. It all reminds Lily of her own problems that made her constantly bullied at school, and in her mind threatens the ‘normal’ life that she’s built in the city where no one knows her. Lily and Rose haven’t spoken in years. But that has to change now: Rose has end stage heart failure, a complication of her pregnancy with Antoinette. She needs someone who will take care of Antoinette and her only option is Lily. Complicating their reunion is the ‘boy’ next door, Seth. He and Lily used to be an item, until he broke it off to go to seminary, breaking her heart. He dropped out and bought into the flower farm. Then there is Lily’s next door neighbor in the city who flirts constantly…. Also, Antoinette has this ability to restore wilted flowers and temporarily heal anything from birds to broken human hands.

I enjoyed the story, in large part because of the setting (at the nursery/flower farm) and the growing relationship between Lily and Antoinette. Lily is able to help Antoinette with some of her problems, having faced similar herself. The physical setting is described beautifully- the gardens, the lavender fields, the farmer’s market – although I do wonder how two people keep that many acres weeded and harvested alone. Where are the workers? But the story is like some fairy tale, where no one has any flaws (other than physical health problems). Seriously, everyone in this story is honest, giving, hardworking, pleasant natured, and just plain good people. I find it hard to believe in a town where *everyone* is this great! The ending is rushed; in fact, the whole story is in a way. A lot happens in a very short time. The ending also lacks an explanation; we are left guessing as to how Antoinette works her miracles and why one character makes the choice he does. I’d give the story four stars out of five. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something - anything - from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from Library Thing's Early Review's program.

Neither of these things influenced my review. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Summerlong, by Peter S. Beagle. Tachyon Publications, 2016

This novel has some of the most beautiful prose. Everything is described with loving detail; I could smell the spring in the PNW and feel the damp air. (of course, I have been in the Pacific Northwest enough to have a head start on that, but still) Early in the book I started caring about the characters.

Joanna Delvecchio is the head steward on a regular Seattle/Chicago run, and counting the days left before she can retire. She’s had a 20-some year relationship with Abe Aronson, retired history professor, which she refuses to admit is a relationship. Her daughter, Lily, can’t seem to find the right woman. It’s a nice life, with great regularity to it. When they meet the new waitress at their favorite little restaurant, she rocks the lives of all of them.

Lioness Lazos, needing a place to stay, moves into Abe’s garage. She has nearly nothing and is fine with that. She is hiding from someone and traveling lightly. But things start changing the minute she arrives. Abe and Del start living out their dreams apart from each other. Lily falls in love with Lioness. The neighbor kids learn how to produce flowers from bare soil… instantly. Spring comes early and lasts all summer and fall.

It’s obvious pretty quickly that this is not your average novel but a fairy tale. I figured out who Lioness really was pretty quickly. While I knew what would have to happen with Lioness, I did not expect what she would do before giving in to it. And I do know *why* she did it. That’s one of my quibbles with the book: Lioness is a cypher. Everyone loves her on sight, but she does little and says little. Of course she’s a magical being, but still. She’s interacting on a human level, so I expected more humanity from her. She had to know that what she did would destroy Abe and Del’s relationship; did she think she was doing them some sort of favor? Or did she just not care, and was indulging herself? The ending left me angry at her and at Abe.

Still, even though I was not happy with the ending, I enjoyed most of the book too much to not like it as a whole. It was a magical read and I rushed through it, not wanting to stop reading. I guess I just expected a happy ending from a fairy tale like this! 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received my copy of this book from Net Galley for free, in return for a fair review.

Neither of these things affected my review.