Monday, May 15, 2017

What I'm reading this week (5/15/17)

Sorry about not posting a "What I'm reading this week" post last week. We arrived home late Sunday night, and to tell you the truth, I didn't read a single word while we were on vacation. I took all my books with me should the mood strike or the opportunity present itself, but neither happened. I hope to have a Chicago vacation post up soon, but it will be bookless.

Last week I finished:

I'm glad to finally be done with The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. I was just sure I'd love this book--the reviews have been very good--but I have to tell you, I was disappointed. I had no problems with the plot or characters. Briefly: this book takes place on the English home front during World War II. Most of the men of Chilbury have gone off to war, leaving the women to carry on. They change their church choir into an all-lady choir. But it really isn't about choirs or the power of music to heal or uplift. That is touched on superficially, but not in depth. This is really the soap opera of the home front. There are seductions and scoundrels and folks falling in love and love triangles and ambitions and abuse and death and all the rest. But here is my problem with the book: I didn't like the way it was told. Instead of a straightforward narration in either first or third person, it was told through journal entries and letters. This in and of itself doesn't bother me, but when you choose this narration method, you are obligated to give each character her own voice. This is where the writing falls miserably short. All of the journals and letters sound exactly the same, whether written by 13-year-old Kitty or middle-aged Mrs. Tilling. They use the same language and observe things in the same way. Additionally, the characters describe their actions as an omniscient narrator would, not as a person would describe their own actions. People reporting their actions are prejudiced in favor of their actions; they are not objective about them. It was pitifully distracting to me. I often wondered if it had been written as a conventional novel and then a hasty revision changed the book to a series of journal entries and letters without paying much attention to the details. Plus, although things ended well or rightly for all, there was one plot point that was not resolved that irritates me. Did the author forget? Long story short, I think I would have loved this book (or at least rated it higher) had it been better written. For a good soap opera-y book about the English home front during war, try Julian Fellowes' Belgravia. And for a really good book about post-WWII England written in letters, try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It does a superb job of giving diverse characters their own voice. My rating: 2.5 stars.

Last week I abandoned:

I stalked Worst. President. Ever. to obtain a copy. I wanted to read it so badly. But about 40 pages in, I'd fallen asleep too many times, and the information gleaned just wasn't worth the slow-going. I might return to it some day, because I do want to know by James Buchanan is consistently judged to be the worst president ever.  

This week I'll be reading:

After abandoning Worst. President. Ever., I picked up Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In) and Adam Grant's Option B. So far, I'm liking it.

This week I continue with:

I diligently traded off between these four titles every night last week, and a bunch this weekend, to make headway in each. I am loving each, which makes for nights where I just don't want to go to bed.

My audiobook:

I'm enjoying my return to Mitford with Out to Canaan, but it's taking me so long to get through it that I won't be getting to the other audiobook I'd planned to finish in May. I'll have to juggle my reading list around a bit. 

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