Friday, March 14, 2014

How the Light Gets In

by Louise Penny
New York : Minotaur Books, 2013.

This is - let me see - the ninth book in the fabulous Three Pines/Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. My reviews of previous titles in the series (from newest to oldest) can be found as follows:
At the end of the last book, Jean Guy Beauvoir walked away from Inspector Gamache to follow after his addictions and Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francour. As the Christmas season gets closer, Gamache's department has been completely decimated and only Isabel Lacoste is left standing with him. Meanwhile, Myrna Landers calls from Three Pines when a friend of hers goes missing.

This series has been incredible in the way I've come to know and care about these characters almost as much as friends. The end of The Beautiful Mystery left me incredibly unsettled (should books be getting these reactions out of me?), and I couldn't wait to pick this up and find out what would happen next. Many of the storylines that have been threaded through previous books come to a head in this one, in a way I found incredibly satisfying. I gobbled this up in three days, became invested even when I'd already figured out part of the solution, and found myself swinging from emotional extremes of fear and joy. I wasn't sure Louise Penny could top Bury Your Dead for my all-time favorite in the series, but I do believe she has done so with this one.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Crossing to Safety

by Wallace Stegner
New York : Random House, 1987.

Larry and Sally Morgan. Sid and Charity Lang. One couple from the west, poor and hardworking. The other from the east and rich. Larry and Sid happen to work together at a university in Wisconsin; their wives strike up a friendship, the Morgans are invited over for a party and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is essentially the story of an unlikely friendship between four people, sometimes held together by a shoestring, memories, and the force of Charity's personality, but always dear to all. These are rich characters, likable and maddening, and so completely real. The narrative descriptions are pitch-perfect word pictures that made me wish I could write that (seemingly) effortlessly, and what isn't said is as important as what is.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dad is Fat

by Jim Gaffigan
New York, NY : Crown, 2013.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan reflects on his experience as a father of five, living in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City.

That one line of description both says it all and, well, doesn't really describe it sufficiently, unless you happen to have experience with large families or living in New York City. I'm the oldest of five, so I found many of the stories amusing even though my knowledge of the scenarios he describes comes from being one of the kids. I could relate to some of what he wrote about, and those were the funniest parts for me. Parents could probably relate best, but even if you're not, consider giving it a try. I have it on good authority from a couple of my co-workers that the audiobook is excellent, since you get the comedian's own delivery.

To get both a flavor of his brand of comedy (and to have a frame of reference for one of the routines he refers to often in his book), check out his thoughts on "Hot Pockets":

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oath of Fealty

by Elizabeth Moon
New York : Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2011 (hardcover published 2010).

Kieri Phelan, the former Duke and soon to be crowned King of Lyonya, has a new challenge in ruling a human and elven kingdom and convincing his Council that they need to have a protective army for defense. His former captains, Arcolin and Dorrin Verrakai, have challenges of their own as Arcolin takes over the Duke's mercenary company and Dorrin returns to her estranged family's holding as the new Duke Verrakai.

Though Oath of Fealty begins with events soon after the end of Oath of Gold in Paksennarion's trilogy, this book could also be read as a standalone and the beginning of the new series. As such, it is less focused on Paks (though she's still a character) than on Phelan, Arcolin, and Dorrin as well as political events between Tsaia, Lyonya, and Pargun. The various events involving the Verrakai betrayal and companies of bandits clearly have an underlying link that apparently have some connection to the former pirate, Alured, a much bigger conspiracy than anyone first guessed. I really enjoyed returning to Paks' world, and enjoyed getting to know some of the characters better who had been more minor, especially Dorrin. She's the one good out of a pretty rotten family, and often questions herself and her motives while she tries her best, very believably a mix of doubt and action. I hope I won't wait so long before reading the next book in the series.