Review ~ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Cover via Goodreads

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I watched the Netflix distributed film version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a while back. When I found out that the book was written in epistolary form, I was curious how the story would be pulled off in letter/diary form.

Turns out, the novel version is quite different from the film version.

What Worked…with the Film
I have to admit that there are occasions when I think the film version of a book is better than the book itself. This is one of those occasions. The screenplay writers (Kevin Hood, Don Roos, and Tom Bezucha) keep key elements from the novel, but give the narrative some mystery: who is Elizabeth McKenna and where is she now? In the book, those questions are answered rather quickly. The third point of  Juliet and Dawsey’s the romantic triangle  is provided by a completely different character who is dropped from the film altogether. In the film, Juliet also has some misgivings about the slightly mercenary nature her task. As an outsider to Guernsey, should she be the one telling their stories? This provides the character of Juliet with a more realistic level of uncertainty about the situation. Juliet of the book rarely seems completely uncertain of anything. She is maybe too perfect.

Overall
If any World War II narrative can be a pleasant way to pass the time, it’s this one.

Publishing info, first printing:  Dial Press, 2008
My Copy: Kindle/Overdrive in-browser, Tempe Overdrive library
Genre: historical fiction

The film is directed by Mike Newell, starring Lily James and
Michiel Huisman.

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Top 10 Tuesday ~ Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

I don’t usually do Top Ten Tuesday because…I’m really bad with lists. But I saw this topic around the blog-o-sphere and wanted to chime in.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

The topic for Tuesday, February 19th was: Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads. It’s a built-in list! It turns out that half of my “Favorites” shelf have less than 2000 ratings. Here is a sublist of ten (all summaries via Goodreads):

 The Devil: A Biography cover The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford

Nonfiction

“The Devil’s deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist.” —Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford’s highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist.

The Magician and the Cardsharp cover The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America’s Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist by Karl Johnson

Nonfiction

Following the Crash of ’29, Dai Vernon, known by magicians as “the man who fooled Houdini,” is tramping down Midwestern backroads, barely making ends meet. While swapping secrets with a Mexican gambler, he hears of a guy he doesn’t quite believe is real—a legendary mystery man who deals perfectly from the center of the deck and who locals call the greatest cardsharp of all time. Determined to find the reclusive genius, Vernon sets out on a journey through America’s shady, slick, and sinful side-from mob-run Kansas City through railroad towns that looked sleepy only in the daytime. Does he find the sharp?

The Two Sams cover The Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg

Short Stories

With this unique collection, acclaimed author Glen Hirshberg breathes new life into an age-old literary tradition. In the title story a husband struggles with the grief and confusion of losing two children, and forms an odd bond with the infant spectrals that visit him in the night. “Struwwelpeter” introduces us to a brilliant, treacherous adolescent whose violent tendencies and reckless mischief reach a sinister pinnacle as Halloween descends on a rundown Pacific Northwest fishing village. In “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” a college professor confronts his own dark places in the form of a mysterious haunted house steeped in the folklore of grisly badlands justice.

Sleight of Hand cover Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle

Short Stories

Abundant with tales of quiet heroism, life-changing decisions, and determined searches for deep answers, this extraordinary collection of contemporary fantasy explores the realms between this world and the next. From the top of the Berlin Wall to the depths of the darkest seas, gods and monsters battle their enemies and innermost fears, yet mere mortals make the truly difficult choices. A slightly regretful author and a vengeful-but-dilapidated dragon square off over an abandoned narrative; the children of the Shark God demand painful truths from their chronically absent father; and a bereaved women sacrifices herself to change one terrible moment, effortlessly reversed by a shuffle of the deck.

White Plume Mountain cover  White Plume Mountain by Paul Kidd

Novel

A remorseless ranger.
A sentient hell hound pelt with a penchant for pyromania.
An irksome pixie who sells intrigue and information.
Three companions who find themselves trapped in a city filled with warring priestly factions, devious machinations, and an angry fiend. To save the city, they must find three weapons of power, which lie in the most trap-laden, monster-infested place this side of Acererak’s tomb: White Plume Mountain.

Tesla cover Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson

Nonfiction

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

Angry Candy cover Angry Candy by Harlan Ellison

Short Stories

The sixteen stories collected here are spread over the farthest stretches of time and space, but even the bleakest of them is warmed by a passionate faith in the endurance of life and its ultimate possibilities.

(Includes “The Paladin of the Lost Hour,” my favorite short story ever.)

The House Next Door cover The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Novel

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and inexplicable happenings.

How to Lie with Statistic cover How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

Nonfiction

Darrell Huff runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way the results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to fool rather than to inform.

War for the Oaks cover War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Novel

Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But she’s breaking up with her boyfriend, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point. By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one.

A few of these are out-of-the-way nonfiction books that I’m not surprised have very few ratings. Others, like War for the Oaks, I’m really surprised haven’t gotten much Goodreads love.

It’s Monday, What Are You… 02/18/19

…Reading?

The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery Lady Molly of Scotland Yard The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick

I went to the library last Tuesday, which is only partially the reason for the upheaval in my immediate TBR pile.

  • The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James – I’ve been wanting to read this since I came across the Wikipedia entry about the 1912 axe murders in Villisca, Iowa. Library book.
  • Lady Molly of Scotland Yard by Emmuska Orczy – Did you know that Baroness Orcy wrote detective fiction? With a female detective? I’ll be dipping into this collection over the next few weeks.
  • The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara – This ARC is next in the queue.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

Review ~ Ashes to Ashes

This book was provided to me by Repeater Books via NetGalley for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016 by Chris O’Leary

From the ultimate David Bowie expert comes this exploration of the final four decades of the popstar’s musical career, covering every song he wrote, performed or produced from 1976 to 2016.

Starting with Low, the first of Bowie’s Berlin albums, and finishing with Blackstar, his final masterpiece released just days before his death in 2016, each song is annotated in depth and explored in essays that touch upon the song’s creation, production, influences and impact. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Like many people of a certain age, I was ensorceled by David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1987). My parents listened to the local rock/classic rock radio station, so I was familiar with Bowie’s hits, songs like “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Changes.” But after Labyrinth, I became a fan. Never Let Me Down (1987) was one of the first albums I bought on my own. I lucked out; starting in the 90s Rykodisc started releasing his back catalog.

What Worked
Ashes to Ashes is an incredibly comprehensive look at David Bowie’s works from 1976 (the album Low, one of my favorites) to the end of his career (2016’s Blackstar, an album I still haven’t listened to very much). Every song that Bowie wrote, sang, covered, co-wrote, co-produced, or hummed a few bars on a television show is given an entry. I might be overstating, but only a little. By going through each of the songs in the order of their creation (or performance), O’Leary provides a very through biography of Bowie.

Each song has an entry that contains information on the song’s writing, production, and the musicians involved in its recording. There are also stories attached and, in the case of the first songs recorded for a new album, information about the album. The 700 page work (the second of two volumes) contains an amazing number of crunchy tidbits.

What Didn’t Work…For Me
I don’t know much about music and music theory, so some discussions about the musical makeup of songs went over my head. O’Leary is also not an entirely objective reporter. He definitely has opinions about certain songs and certain albums. And occasionally these views differed from my own not-objective opinions.

Overall
I read Ashes to Ashes over a series of months, listening to each album, each song as I read about it. I learned a great deal about David Bowie’s solo work and many collaborations and I gained new appreciation for albums both familiar and relatively new to me. As a fan, I consider Ashes to Ashes worth the time I spent on it.

Publishing info: Repeater Books, released 2/12/19
My Copy: ePub, acquired through NetGalley
Genre:
nonfiction

It’s Monday, What Are You… 02/11/19

…Reading?

Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Affinity

Finished Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016, a book I started back in November! It’s a 700 page tome that I knew I couldn’t rush through. Should have a review on Thursday-ish. I should also finish The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society today or tomorrow. Then I think I’ll start on Affinity. It will be my first Sarah Waters book.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

Yellow Tail, photo courtesy Amanda Herrmann

My team finished the season undefeated, making us B League 2019 champions. That’s the second B league championship in a row for me. It was gray day, windy and cold for Tempe. Eric’s team won A league, so we’re a championship household, at least for a few days until spring league begins. Literally, a few days; games start Tuesday.

I have to say, I haven’t been in too much of a blogging mood, so things might be quieter around here for a while. Or not, who knows?

Deal Me In, Week 6 ~ “Marley and Marley”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Marley and Marley” by J. R. Dawson

Card picked: 7
Found at: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November-December 2017

Before she showed up, she was preceded by this man in a pinstriped suit. A harbinger. He sat me down in his sterile office and said, “Time Law is no joking matter.”

Time travel is a tricky thing to handle. Why bringing Old Marley from the future is easier than putting Little Marley in foster care, I don’t know. It ends up being a sort of scientific MacGuffin that gives characters in science fiction stories something to do. That isn’t to say that “Marley and Marley” doesn’t have its clever points or isn’t well written. By the end, I wondered if the “time cops” knew anything about the future at all. (And the title: a play on Marley and Me?)

Author trivia: J. R. Dawson lives in Omaha, my hometown.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 15

The Wedding Date cover The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I don’t read a lot of romances, but I will probably have some romantic elements in the story I’m writing. Hence, I’m going to make an effort to read a few. I picked The Wedding Date because it was available and it sounded fun. And it was! Pro: Alexa’s growth as a character wasn’t directly linked to her relationship with Drew. Con: The ending was very tidy. But I’ll allow it.

The Cure for Dreaming cover The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

For some reason I thought this was book was going to be a heavier romance than it was. Due to its mesmerism plot, it had come up on my radar anyway. All in all, The Cure for Dreaming was okay. The protagonists were fairly young, which is a minus for me, but there were a few fairly scary bits.

Black Klansman cover Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth

And now for something completely different… I became interested in Ron Stallworth’s story due to the current coverage that the movie is getting. Stallworth was the first black police officer in Colorado Springs in 1972 and spearheaded an information gathering task force investigating the local Ku Klux Klan in 1978. In an era when background checks were not easily done, Stallworth placed three officers in the Klan and had personal contact over the phone with Klan members, including speaking with (and ending up as personal security for) David Duke. The writing is occasionally repetitive, but it’s a pretty amazing story.