"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Cellar

TITLE: The Cellar
AUTHOR: Minette Walters

For six years, 14-year-old Muna has been a slave of Ebuka and Yetunde Songoli. Having two sons of their own, they claimed Muna from a West African orphanage, then emigrated to England. During her years with the Songolis, Muna suffered much abuse, physical and sexual, but when one of the Songolis' sons, Abiola, disappears, Muna's fortunes change for the better.

To keep the police investigators from discovering their shameful secret, Yetunde claims Muna is their daughter and moves her from the cellar where she's been confined to live when she isn't cooking and cleaning for the family, into a spare bedroom upstairs. Yetunde claims the girl is brain damaged and doesn't speak English, but Muna is far more clever than the Songolis know. Muna has a full grasp of English and slowly realizes how much power she now has, power she uses to manipulate the Songolis in order to better her own position. As the family's fortunes continue to take a downward turn following Abiola's disappearance, Muna's improves.

This novella is a bit of a change of pace for Walters, one of my favorite writers. Told in third person from Muna's pov, this isn't so much of a mystery as it is a psychological suspense story. It is also a disturbing one, and one I found compelling.

Monday, March 28, 2016


In a fit of boredom last night, I started a GoodReads account, just to see what the site is like. I think I tried it and Shelfari (now going away) years ago, but settled on LibraryThing (which I still prefer). So far, the navigation on GoodReads is annoying me, but that might be because I prefer LT. However, I like the quotes section and might try some of the games and quizzes. How social of them!

So, here's my GoodReads account: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/54342440-shelly
There's not much there yet.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A God in Ruins

TITLE: A God in Ruins
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

The first thing I think after finishing one of Kate Atkinson's books is "When is her next book?" I finished this one last night and it's still in my head, almost a part of me. That's what I love about Atkinson's writing: her indelible, almost real characters and her amazing prose that get under my skin and take up residence there. Her characters become part of me, no more so than the Todd family, the focus of two of her books. In Life After Life, Atkinson presented us with Ursula Todd, born in the 1910s, and her family as Ursula lived her life over and over in various permutations, some where she didn't survive childbirth and others were she lived well into adulthood.

This book focuses on younger brother Teddy. In many of Ursula's lives, Teddy didn't survive his exploits as a bomber pilot during WWII. In this book, we encounter a Teddy who did survive, as a POW in a German prison camp. This is a Teddy who married his childhood sweetheart, who had a daughter Viola he never understood and two grandchildren he adored. This is a Teddy who wants to live a simple life, loving his family, loving nature, and being kind to those he meets.

Told non-linearly, the narrative brings us into the cockpit with Teddy on his and his crews' bombing missions, as well as his life before and after the war. The book is about life and death, the cost of war, the choices we make, and the meaning of it all, and probably even more that I haven't quite processed yet, because that's the kind of writer Atkinson is. As with her other books, there are family secrets and how they can affect the lives of the family members, especially the children. There's much about how we treat each other, especially the old and dying. Atkinson packs so much emotion and philosophy into her books and this one is no exception. I cried, not at the twist at the end, but at what came just before. Any author who can bring me to tears (which I admit isn't all that difficult to do as I'm a crier) over characters who really just live in words on a page is someone special to me.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Time for Reading

I always make time for reading, but the issue is what I'm reading. Often, I'm reading articles online. Anyway, I don't want to ignore this blog between reviews, so this post on making time for reading gave me fodder for a post of my own.

1. Forget breakfast TV

I don't watch TV in the morning. I read my email, catch up on Facebook (that includes news articles from sites I follow on FB like the Daily News and HuffPo), check the blogs I follow, and read daily comics online.

2. Read at work

I did this when I was working, sometimes during lunch (when I wasn't going for walks -- need to get some exercise!) and if it was quiet at the reference desk at the library.

3. Listen to an audiobook at the gym

Audiobooks put me to sleep. I read paperbacks at the gym, and yes, it's a bit of a juggling act on the treadmill.

4. Chill at home with a novel

I sometimes read novels at home, but usually, I catch up with graphic novels and comics at home.

5. Keep a book in the glove compartment

The idea with this one is to have a book with you. I always have a book with me, in my bag, or an ebook on my phone's Kindle app.

6. Put reading on the menu

This suggests reading with cooking. Since I don't read audiobooks, this means a hardcopy and I'm no way coordinated to do that.

7. Dive into a story during dinner

I sometimes read while eating, but I'm usually eating at the computer, working on posts and scrolling through my Facebook feed.

8. There’s always the evening

I read after the night's TV viewing and sometimes, during commercials, though I often check Facebook during commercials, too. That's a form of reading, right?

There were some other suggestions on the post that linked to this. It's a graphic, so I have to type the suggestions, along with my thoughts about them.

1. Throw your phone in the ocean or use on airplane mode.
Aside from reading ebooks on my phone, I'm not addicted to the thing. I spend a lot of time at home on my computer, though.

2. Carry a book at all times.
This goes with #5 above. I always have a book with me.

3. Have another book ready before you finish the one you're reading.
I'm iffy on this one. Sometimes, I know what I want to read next, either the next book in the series I'm reading, or something completely different, and if the latter, I tend to wait til I finish a book so I can see what I'm in the mood for. I have a few hundred unread books at home, so finding something isn't a problem.

4. If you aren't enjoying a book, stop reading it immediately.
I try to give a book a fair chance to engage me, but unlike in my youth when I finished a book even if I didn't like it -- something I got from my mother -- I now will stop reading after a chapter or two if the book isn't doing it for me. There are too many books waiting for me to waste time on one not suited for me.

5. Schedule one hour a day for reading on your calendar like you would for an important meeting.
I can see this working for some people, but not for me. I read whenever I can but I'm not always in the mood to concentrate (which is why playing on Facebook is a good time filler or watching TV). Sometimes, my eyes are too tired. I don't like thinking of reading as a chore, which scheduling it could wind up making me feel.

6. Keep a reading log and share it.
I've had a reading journal since 1965 and now I have Library Thing and this blog for sharing my adventures in reading. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ancillary Justice

TITLE: Ancillary Justice
AUTHOR: Ann Leckie

This is the first of a trilogy, and a award-winning book, that is narrated by an AI that once had been a ship called the Justice of Toren with a consciousness that commanded hundreds of ancillaries, human bodies that had become vessels for a shared artificial intelligence. Now confined to a single body known as Breq, she is on a mission of vengeance. Her story unfolds in two timelines, the present and twenty years earlier, the flashback chapters serving to explain how she became so singular.

This is also the story of an odd friendship, as Breq inexplicably, to her, comes to the aid of one of her former officers, Seivarden, who is a down-on-her-luck addict and never one of Breq's favorites. But don't let the pronouns confuse you; in the Radch Empire, there is no gender designation and "she" and "her" are used for all.

Breq's narrative voice gives the story a unique perspective, especially in the flashback sequences where she can relate in an omniscient voice the events that led to her present situation. As for the story, itself, Leckie masterfully handles an increasingly complicated political situation, slowly pulling back layers of conspiracy and machinations to reveal what may or may not be truth. Leckie has created a fascinating realm, one where the Radch are driven to conquer and assimilate other worlds, and where the consequences of annexation resonate. I'm glad I'll be able to visit this realm at least twice more.