Love in a Cold Climate

 

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Fanny, our main character, is just a device to view the story.

The book focuses on Lady Montedore and her daughter Polly. Polly is the still-waters-run-deep type. Silent about her dreams, grumpily submitting to her mother’s plotting.

Lady M is social shark, always moving to keep alive. Reading gossip, throwing parties, name-dropping.

Polly finally rocks the boat. How?

Though Fanny is boring, her family is hilarious. Her one uncle puts names of people he wants to die in drawers, hoping to kill them telepathically. Her other uncle keeps trying oddball health cures. Her 2 cousins are realistic teenage specimens, with inside jokes galore.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John BuchanThis book was nothing more than a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book without the choices. Buchan details too precisely each step his hero takes to elude his would-be capturers.

The plot? Cliché-city! Richard Hannay: an out-of-work soldier. A mysterious American appears, begging for help, fearing for his life. The man is killed and Richard–unable to turn to the police as he is the prime suspect–flees with the American’s coded diary, assuming various disguises to outwit the murderers, a faceless group called Black Stone.

Hannay is an early version of all our spy heros, but one-dimensional, a bit too capable and a mite too lucky. Forgettable.

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Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers

Dorothy Sayers - Murder Must AdvertiseI liked it better than the other Dorothy Sayers.

Lord Peter goes undercover at an advertising agency to investigate a suspicious death. He finds he has a knack for copywriting, as well as solving mysteries. My favourite scenes are the ones devoted to the ad agency, its office workers and their work. It’s like Mad Men but more innocent. The murder investigation becomes a hunt for drug dealers. Fun parts: Lord Peter has to bluff his way out when his undercover and real lives clash. Dumb parts: Lord Peter is too perfect: a friendly, flawless Sherlock Holmes. And there’s no Bunter.

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverAt the cusp of the Congo Crisis, an oblivious missionary family arrives in the village of Kilanga.

Nathan Price, the father, is aggressive and unbending, confident he is bringing enlightenment to Africa. The rest of the family is pulled along in his wake: an overshadowed wife and four daughters, each one different. Rachel, the superficial highschooler, Leah, the idealistic and strong twin, Ada, the cynical and crippled twin, and Ruth, the baby. The story follows each family member as they meet Africa (a thriving, cruel, smothering, surviving and liberating entity). Africa erodes Nathan’s power but does it really set his family free?

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

A recipe book for disaster, this fable tells of Tita, born and raised in the hot comfort of a kitchen. But Tita’s mother denies her the liberty of marrying Pedro. Only through her cooking can Tita express her passion: a love as dangerous as a hot stove. One meal causes her sister’s clothing to spontaneously combust!

I didn’t connect with any of the characters because they were so exaggerated. I didn’t want to care about them because the author seemed to take their fates so lightly. Magic realism? Not sure I like it. Not sure about the recipes in this book either.

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

It’s literally a book of war stories.  But it’s also a book about war stories.

What makes a war story true? The facts? Or the fable? O’Brien says a tall tale can be more true than what actually happened. Maybe because exaggeration better satisfies the need to communicate feelings.

O’Brien blends fiction and truth about the Vietnam war till you learn to hear the stories without caring about specific facts.

This book is about experiencing war.  And telling about that experience through stories.

It’s obscene and poetic, violent and emotional. What did the soldiers carry? More than I have.

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Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

In one thread of this story, Kafka, a mature 15-year-old, runs away from home to escape a dark prophecy. He is intelligent but troubled. So he hides in a library where he meets a woman who lives in her memories.
The other thread is Nakata, an elderly simpleton, who is neither intelligent, nor troubled.  Mr. Nakata can talk to cats. As he searches for a lost cat, he finds himself drawn despite himself into a courageous quest. Can Kafka run from his destiny? Or must he and Nakata act out their destinies to keep the universe from going awry?

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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder was raised in a warren of thieves. Gentleman recruits her in an ambitious scheme to deceive an heiress, but once she replaces the victim’s maid, Sue is plagued with feelings of compassion. Will cold feet prevail?

The book’s atmosphere is like Oliver Twist meets Jane Eyre–complete with pickpockets, madhouses and murderers.

The cast of villains go about duping each other for selfish reasons, but Waters has a knack for making you root for the most fault-ridden humans.

The storytelling was so engrossing that at two points, I actually reacted out loud: “What?” and “Drama, drama!” The plot is twisted and fully enjoyable!

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Another blogger’s review

And another one for good measure

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a book most people read in high school. I didn’t, but it reminds me of a short story I had to read back then: “The Lottery.”

Atwood’s novel carries the same tones of a heartless society and its desperate victims.

It’s a cautionary tale of a dystopian society where woman are the core–the few fertile ones have become indispensable resources–yet they are without power. Every person is contained in their role and even the captors are enslaved.

Blood red suburbia. People are cloaked and confined. There is no one who trusts in humans.

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Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

“Hey Baby, what’s the story?” says Victor Ward, It Boy of the moment. “Never mind, spare me.”

It’s so cold that frost is creeping along the walls as Victor brushes confetti off the sleeve of his Comme des garçons tux.  Later in the script, Victor will be recruited by models-slash-terrorists and eased into senseless violence. For now, he’s oblivious.

“It’s what you don’t know that matters the most.”

As Victor flirts inattentively, from somewhere, an ominously relevant song from the 90s begins to play.

I am faux-freaked out by this book.

It’s the same plot as Zoolander but it’s hardly funny.

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