March 2021: challenge check-in and a galley
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
"E": Eberhart, Mignon G.- Murder by an Aristocrat
"F": Feret-Fleury. Christine- The Girl Who Reads on the Metro
Wolitzer, Meg- The Wife
Brooks, Geraldine- March
Bardugo, Leah- Shadow and Bone
Godspeed: This a story largely about three men who own a construction company and a house they're building. I tend to read more stories about women and their friendships, so this was a good change for me. It's also about the woman who is having it built; why does she want this house, why is her timeline so important to her, does she have a boyfriend.
I would have liked some more depth from the few other female characters; each of the three male main characters has a woman around at some point. One of them is married, so his wife is around alot, but her only role is wanting a house of her own and having sex in the car when it looks like she's going to get it. Another one has a date with the woman divorcing him. and the third inexplicably gets a beautiful girlfriend because she didn't like anyone she dated when they were apart. One of the three main characters has an arc that changes him, and his motivations and decisions are interesting. One of the other two doesn't seem to change at all, and the third is just a mess, and for these two, their motivations seem to center on having more money and power, which is boring to me but realistic.
I like a book in which the setting is important. It's a luxurious house being built in an extremely beautiful, remote place, near a town where working-class people are being priced out of being able to live there. There are some questions about income inequality without ever using that phrase. I was waiting, towards the end, for any of the characters to come to some sort of conclusion about it, but no one ever does. All the descriptions of the house, the history of the place, and all the work that goes into building a complicated construction project were the best parts of the book to me. The job is very high-pressure since the owner wants it to be put up fast, and is willing to pay large bonuses to get that done.
There is some drug use in the book. If I'd ever been curious about trying meth, I'd be cured of that now.
This book will come out in July. Thanks to Netgalley.com and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the e-galley.
Murder by an Aristocrat: This book was fun. I liked the main character, who was a nurse sent to take care of a patient in his home, which doesn't seem to have been unusual for the time. (It was published in the early 1930s). I assumed that it was set in England, in an actual aristocrat family, but it's set in America. The family, the Thatchers, have been settled in a big house in a small town for several generations. They have servants and a safe full of family jewelry, so when the nurse comes to stay with them after someone's injured, she thinks of them as aristocratic. The mystery in the book was impossible to me to figure out because the family circles their wagons and keep coming up with stories to cover for each other. This book is a part of the American Mystery Classics series by Penzler Publishers.
The Girl Who Read on the Metro: I don't know what to say about this book, except that I found it annoying. A young woman stumbles onto an organization that goes out carrying bags of books so that they can give the perfect book at the perfect moment. No idea who is paying for all these books, or if these book-carriers are being paid. In this story, if people find just the right book at just the right time, it magically fixes their lives. Look, I think reading is magical, but if there was a magic book to make all my troubles disappear, I`d`ve found it by now.
The Wife: I saw the preview to the movie based on this book recently, and it looked so good, but I always like to read the book first. I suspect that I'll like the movie better, but I'm glad that I read it. There's a bit of a twist towards the end, a revelation that changes how I saw both characters. I won't spoil it. The story is about a woman trying to manage her relationship with a writer and her own creative work, and it follows the relationship from the late 1950s and on for about 45 years. The MC is Joan, wife to an author who is about to receive a prestigious award. It's an award for his lifetime's work, and it makes her reflect on her own writing in college, her experiences as a woman interacting with men professionally in the late 50s/early 60s, her satisfaction with her lot in life compared to that of her husband. I didn't like either of the characters very much, but over the course of the book, I was more and more interested in Joan. Now, I'll have to watch the movie.
Shadow and Bone: The Netflix adaptation comes out on April 23, 2021, according to IMDB. This is all pretty standard stuff. Young person in danger unleashes secret powers, has to decide who to trust, there's two boys. That said, it's pretty entertaining. I thought that the court life described and the system of magic were pretty well done. I probably won't read the rest, but maybe someday I'll be in the mood for an adventure/fantasy and move on to book 2. That's the beauty of the backlist- no waiting. I don't read much YA, but as a librarian, I feel like I should make an effort to try some, and I suspect that I would have liked this better if I'd read it as a teenager... although, now that I think of it, I wasn't into fantasy then and didn't start reading it until I was out of high school. And this book wasn't in existence when I was a teenager. Two fantasy trilogies for adults that I enjoyed more were Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab and The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
March: I've written notes for this book twice and they've somehow been erased twice. I don't understand why this book is cursed, but I'm not writing about it again. It's good. It won a Pulitzer, but it's readable and interesting and didn't go over my head once. Read it or don't.
OK, one last time: this book is about the father figure from Little Women, who went away from home to serve as a chaplain in the Union army in the Civil War. Little bits of the real-life father of author Louisa May Alcott are worked in as well. Mr. March recounts his time traveling the south as a peddler before the war, meeting and falling in love with Marmee, losing his money, and going off to war. He is very idealistic and became an abolitionist after seeing some of the horrors of slavery first-hand, and he doesn't fit in even with the Union soldiers. Fans of Little Women already know that he is badly injured and makes it home in time for Christmas; in this version, the homecoming isn't so happy, but it does end on a hopeful note.
I liked my readings this month, but I learned when reading the Metro book, to avoid anything that could be described as heart-warming. Apparently my bitter old heart can't be warmed. I'm also considering ditching my rule that I won't stop reading any of these challenge books before I'm done- for each of the last three months, I've pushed myself through a book that I just can't stand. I haven't made my mind up yet.
I have already started on my April challenge books. I have two mystery/thriller books, a book of essays on Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, Plain Bad Heroines, and Wives and Daughters.
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