Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two For Four --- Not Bad

Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield tells the story of a New York magazine editor whose husband disappears. Sarah Larkin, a cautious, anxiety-living mother of a six-year old, finds that her worry has been misplaced -- instead of some disaster for her child, it happens to her husband. While her husband is vacationing in Florida, he simply vanishes. No body. No crime. No evidence. As one detective speculates, Todd Rankin seems to have walked away from his life.

Left to deal with her daughter's grief as well as her own, Larkin stumbles to her job, struggles as single parent, and tries to right herself and her life. Based on her own real-life experience, Listfield must know the emotions of such a heart-wrenching loss, but she simply fails to move me to vicariously feel it.

Sharyn McCrumb's Once Around the Track dives into the world of N.A.S.C.A.R. A group of women investors hires hot-looking, race driver Badger Jenkins to drive their pharmaceutically sponsored car on the circuit. As a way of drawing buzz and publicity, the investors determine to man (no pun intended) an all female crew. Lack of experience from the beginning seems to daunt this venture, but, of course, the predictable outcome is just a matter of time.

I usually love McCrumb's work (Ghost Riders was an awesome book), but even though she determined to get inside N.A.S.C.A.R. with this fictional tale, I kept waiting to feel invested in the "inside" track -- to perhaps learn something.

Normally, a good story-teller, McCrumb just couldn't keep me caring whether this team won. With meandering sub-plots and relatively under-developed characters (perhaps having too many characters was one of the flaws), the story does not come to a screeching halt but to a sputtering and puttering end, leaving me wondering why I hung around for the finish.


Anne of Avonlea
by L.M.Montgomery does not disappoint in any way. In this second in the series, Anne, "with an E," entertains with her shenanigans and scrapes and her two-year tenure as teacher at the school at Avonlea. Again, Montgomery mesmerizes with beautiful description of nature and food, of course, humor, and couples it with the introduction of new characters. Who can't love Davy and Dora and the quirky, yet luminous, Miss Lavender and her Charlotta the Fourth? There were times when I wanted to clap my hands in delight. :)

*claps hands*

There is something about A. Manette Ansay's prose that keeps me returning to her works. In the second book that I have read by her, Midnight Champagne, she sets her story during a snowstorm on Valentine's Day weekend in the tacky, but successful, wedding chapel, Great Lakes and Hideaway Lodge, at the wedding between April and Caleb.

Even though April and Caleb had been living together and fully intended to elope, her mild mannered, but insistent father Elmer, wishes for his daughter to have a ceremony. Perhaps as a way to mock her father's need for "tradition," April chooses the less-than-stellar, kitschy, rumored "prostitutes to your room if you want one" chapel for her nuptials. LOL

What unexpectedly unfolds is a close look at family and marriage... and an even closer look at the expectations, fears, desires, and agendas that go into those relationships.

One midnight toaster to the bride and groom sums it all up this way: "Oscar Wilde said '"men marry because they are tired, and women because they are curious, and that both are disappointed.' He was right about the disappointment. You will be disappointed. Not just in each other, but in yourselves. It's inevitable that you'll each fall short of your own expectations. But you will also exceed those expectations, again and again, and in ways you can't possibly imagine. And my wish for you both is that there will come a time when you'll look back on this day and realize that -- in spite of the disappointments -- even the best of your old expectations seem pale in the face of the actual life you have lived together."

Ansay creates characters and then cuts them loose. What results is a laser examination, sometime painful, of who we are and how we treat those we supposedly love best.

So for the last four books I have read --- two for four -- not bad -- in baseball, it's batting 500.


  1. Love the book reviews. Thanks. L

  2. I am trying to read Sharyn McCrumb's latest "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers" on my Kindle. I say trying because I have read all of her other books, and I just can't seem to get into this one. I was patient with the NASCAR books, and they did have their charm, but to me, they cannot live up to the early ballad novels. Even this latest one does not have the voice and tone that the other ballad novels did. A friend of mine who knows McCrumb says that she is trying to move away from the ballad novels because she doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as a mystery writer. I think that they are her finest works because of the wonderful characterization and the beautiful language. I hope she re-thinks her decision -- these are the novels that have made her famous! I'll keep trying to finish the new one and let you know.

  3. I agree. As I said, I loved Ghost Riders, but I did not care for this book.

    I'll look forward to your telling me if you make it through the one you are currently reading.

    Some writers would love to be that pigeon in a hole. At least she has one.


    Welcome to the blog.