Saturday, October 24, 2015

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

image from LibrayThing
Serafina hides and scurries and watches from the dark recesses of Biltmore house.  As the C.R.C (Chief Rat Catcher) of the estate she she stalks and destroys the mangy beasts from the deepest corners of the basement that she calls home.

It was on one of those evening rat chases that she comes across something completely different -something evil lurking in her domain.  A man wearing a black cloak attacking a young girl in a yellow dress. Serafina tries to save this girl, fighting desperately to help her escape - when the girl simply disappears in the folds of the cloak and the dark, putrid smelling cloaked man turns his attentions on Serafina.  She narrowly escapes with her life.

This encounter changes Serafina and her connections to her Pa and to the only home she has known.  She begins to question her Pa's wisdom of staying hidden in the darkness.  She longs to figure things out and that draws her upstairs into the edges and shadows of the rooms where the beautiful people live.  Here a chance encounter with Braeden Vanderbilt changes her entire future.

This book follows a girl's self-discovery journey.  There were things I really liked about this book and things I didn't.  I thought Serafina's inner dialogue was a bit stilted - not really the words of a young frightened girl.  And there were moments bogged down with description of the behind the scenes workings of a huge estate.  I felt at times that this Disney published book was trying to jump on the Downton Abby craze with American's own aristocracy.  But - it's an interesting story with twists that I didn't quite expect.  That makes it fun to read. I did care about Serafina and her quest to figure out who or what she is and what is happening to the disappearing children.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

image from LibraryThing
This is the story of 4 friends, 4 weddings, one divorce, one shooting and one carefully guarded secret.

Friendships - are the centerpiece of this book.
Male friendships in a small midwestern town.
Male friendships that span decades - and that fray and tatter and rebuild.

I liked this book.

I liked Henry and Beth - the down-to-earth, live on the farm, stalwart couple with their own secrets - Henry paints landscapes and burns them before anyone can see and Beth was not always the mild-mannered house wife!

I liked Lee the rock star who made it big - yet carried a part of Little Wing with him in his lonesome songs.

I liked Kip the stock broker who came home to show the town how important he was by trying to restore the long defunct feed mill. Kip who was all 'bluster and strut' to hide his real longing to just watch the sun come up over the mill each day and belong.

And I really liked Ronny the washed up rodeo rider.  Ronny with a heart of gold and a brain sloshed around too often from booze and bulls.  Ronny who loves deeply and openly and isn't afraid to share that. Ronny who is sort of the butt of all jokes - but the real glue.

This is a melancholy look at what happens when you have to grow up - and leave behind what you thought you knew for what really is.

I liked this book!

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

image from LibraryThing
This was my book club's October book. I am not sure I would have read it on my own. I really loved To Kill a Mockingbird and after hearing the reviews and uproar about this book I probably would have passed it up.

After reading it - I don't know. It wasn't my favorite book - but not for the reason's I would have expected.  I usually like books where very little happens and much of the story is interior dialogue.  That pretty much describes this book - Scout telling the story all inside her head.  But - it just didn't work for me.  Scout reminded me of a an old movie with a young Katherine Hepburn talking so fast that none of the other characters could keep up with her and it felt like she was talking only to hear herself.  Scout is mad at the world of her home town and yet drawn home in a deep way.  And when home isn't what she had maintained in her mind she doesn't know what to do.

And what an awful world she comes back to - Calpurnia wants nothing to do with the family and her beloved father is hosting a racist town meeting and thinks all is well.  That is awful! And I want to be outraged and I am. But, I am also put off by Scout.

It is one of those books that I am glad I read.  But, I can't really recommend.  It is one that you want to discuss though.  I want to hash it over with others and see what I missed or misunderstood!