This recently released novel harkened back to an early interest of mine. Right after I stopped binge-reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (middle school), I started reading about ballet. Much later, I read biographies of wonderful dancers, like Suzanne Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland.
The Ballerinas brought me up to date on the strange, wonderful and very, very insular world of ballet.
Kapelke-Dale includes sexual politics that wasn’t obvious in the older books. Gender is ALL. Male dancers are few, highly privileged and likely to feel “entitled”. Aspiring ballerinas are numerous and fiercely competitive. The men continue to grow and develop much longer than ballerinas, who “freeze” at about age 16. Retirement is mandatory at age 42. Partnered dancing (the pas des deux) accounts for much of the chasm between men and women.
(I wonder what’s happening with transsexual dancers? Kapelke-Dale didn’t tackle this.)
The Ballerinas follows the lives of three dancers, classmates at the school of the Paris Opera Ballet, and an older woman who raises one of them. “Life balance” is not a concept for dancers, who rise to stardom only if extremely obsessive. One of the dancers becomes a choreographer, which I found fascinating.
Obsession leads to drama. I didn’t foresee the climax of this book, which I won’t share.
If you want something exciting, fast paced and thoroughly contemporary (published 2021), read this book!
I found this book in “New Arrivals – Fiction”. A very lucky pick!
Lots of sci-fi writers try this premise: a new technology emerges and causes trouble. In this case, it is a procedure to erase memories. Originally, it’s touted as a way to help PTSD sufferers. But things go wrong…
Three quarters of the way through the book, I had no idea how it would END, or who were the bad guys… The plotting was almost overly intricate, but instead of being turned off, I finished the book and considered turning right back to the first page for a slower, more thoughtful read.
Psychology and memory are so interesting! What is the role of narrative in private life? (This book doesn’t address communal memory.) How do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from life’s most painful blows? From accidents and errors?
Harkin throws in interesting references – to Shakespeare (Lear, Othello), Haydn and StarTrek, for example.
Speaking of narrative… I’m looking for books that just tells a story, without jumping all over the place. Too much “structure”. Guess I may have to default to Jane Austin. I liked To Kill a Mockingbird and Cold Mountain for their plain narration.
The genre associated with this book is “literary sci-fi”.
This little book (172 small pages) could probably be classified as “magical realism”. It contains just a hint of the supernatural, the appealing notion that books respond to people, want to be read, want attention. Aside from that, it’s a simple story about the transformative power of reading. Anyone who ever REALLY gets lost in a book will understand.
Juliette lives a safe and quiet life, but she’s endlessly curious about the people she sees reading books on the Paris metro. She stumbles into a place marked “Books Unlimited”. It’s not quite a store. Sometimes it’s referred to as a “depot”. It’s not clear where the books come from, but they arrive in a steady stream.
Before the dust settles, not only has Juliette quit her unsatisfying job, but so have her two colleagues, each moving towards fulfillment of a happily cherished dream.
This book is being marketed for Book Clubs. I think it will be popular! I could happily spend some time imagining backstories and alternative futures for Feret-Fleury’s loveable characters. And there’s an extensive book list included!
Genre: cozy southern chick lit. What else do I need to say?
This book takes place on a coastal island near Charleston, South Carolina. It’s narrated alternately by a mother and daughter. I found the daughter, Jackie, to be the more sympathetic character. Jackie and her (deceased) husband were professional risk takers – she as an Army nurse (several times deployed to Afghanistan) and he as a New York city firefighter. His tragic death causes Jackie to end her military career in order to care for their ten year old son Charlie.
Jackie takes Charlie to her childhood home on in South Carolina. Her relationship with her (estranged) parents is tense. But all is resolved, Jackie finds a new relationship, and the family lives happily ever after. A bit sentimental, but pleasant. Just the book you want for a rainy afternoon or a pandemic.
How often does anyone write fiction about an academic forensic archaeologist? And female, no less? Griffiths’ protagonist, Dr. Ruth Galloway, kind of spooked me at first. I mean, she’s got the same first name as my sister, and her last name is my hometown! But the setting is in England, so I soon forgot about those two coincidences.
Dr. Galloway is an expert on bones who lives in a part of England littered with archeological sites. The timing is contemporary. Two locations are involved – one out in the country, the other in a small city where a developer needs archeological clearance to tear down an old mansion and erect luxury apartments. (Griffiths is not a fan of developers.)
Griffiths offers us a fairly convincing lunatic, plus other outside-the-box characters. There’s plenty of action, references to mythical figures (like Janus, the two faced god), and some romance. A winning combination!
Griffiths has written two mystery series (totaling 19 titles) and a handful of books under her REAL name, Domenica De Rosa. Looks like she can keep me entertained for a long time!
291 pages, published 2004, ACE Fantasy/Mystery
Vampire fiction… not my usual genre, but the pandemic is a great excuse for reading absolutely ANYTHING! As vampire fiction goes, this book is old. No cell phones!
I was pleasantly surprised by how well this book held my attention. It’s highly inventive. Sookie is a young woman “gifted” with telepathy. She can read minds, a mixed blessing which makes her a misfit.
Background… The invention of synthetic blood allowed Vampires to“come out” as part of the human race, because they can thrive without killing, at least most of the time. Other supernatural creatures, like werewolves, shapeshifters and even fairies (!) are beginning to mix openly with the general human population. The action takes place in rural Louisiana.
Sookie’s only living relative is her reckless, charming brother. He disappears, and Sookie’s efforts to find him are complicated by a power struggle between witches and werewolves. With one chapter remaining, I couldn’t imagine how the book would end.
I liked “Dead to the World” so much I may dig up the earlier novels in the series, all of which have “dead” in the title.
“Lovely War” by Julie Berry
This book is marked YA for Young Adult, a category that troubles me because most of the young adults I know read all kinds of books.
For starters, I hate the title of this book. War is not lovely. I’m often accused of being overly literal… And we are often told we need to read/think/live outside our “comfort zones” in order to grow/learn/whatever. Was this title an intentional manipulation? I’m not in the mood for such.
This book is a romance about World War I. It is interestingly framed by a “trial” among Greek gods, the Olympian crowd – Aphrodite, Apollo, etc. The interventions of gods into the lives of mortals are interesting.
Fine! But is it necessary to be so didactic? I don’t think the reader needs to be told (in 12 pages of historical notes) what to think about war, race, gender, ageism, etc. The Bibliography (14 titles) is quite sufficient for the reader who wants to go deeper into that time period. Doesn’t Julie Berry realize that her readers can find supporting/interpretive/analytic material with a few keystrokes?
Right now, a wrenching romance about World War I is not what I need. Maybe I’ll finish this book later.
I just want someone to tell me a good story!
I had a little trouble getting into this book, because the protagonist (Arthur Less) was agonizing over turning 50. Been there, done that, LONG ago! Fortunately there’s lots of other stuff going on. Less undertakes a journey, a literal trip around the world, to get away from a romantic break up.
One stop is Berlin, my city of dreams! Not as I knew it, but recognizable. Less thinks he speaks serviceable German, but in fact he makes all kinds of mistakes. With confidence and hand waving, he gets by. He teaches for 5 weeks at an institution that sounds like the Free University of my memories.
Greer cheerfully critiques the American gay scene. A friend tells Less that the reason he (usually) doesn’t win literary awards is not that he is a bad writer but that he is a “bad gay”. Too reflective. Not sufficiently upbeat! Less accepts the advice and gamely starts to transform his recently rejected novel into a comedy.
Returning from his trip, Less finds his old love waiting for him. Happy ending! I’m glad I found this book.
I’ve read four books by Neal Stephenson.
- Snow Crash
All are LONG. I almost bailed out on Cryptonomicon. Too long, too many characters, etc. (See my blog entry dated September 27, 2017.)
Stephenson benefitted from having a coauthor on this book (or maybe he found a better and more assertive editor, or maybe he just improved). The story had a more comprehensible narrative course. In the middle, the plot began to wander, but the ending was captivating. And “only” 742 pages!
A recurring theme in D.O.D.O. is language. Protagonist Melisande Stokes is a hardworking graduate student in ancient and classical linguistics when she is recruited by a “shadowy government entity” to translate some very, VERY old manuscripts. Everything about her work is “classified”. Soon she is deeply involved with…time travel and witchcraft!
The authors single out academics and government administrators for scathing parody. If you’ve worked in either of those settings, you may enjoy seeing pomposity punctured.
I haven’t read Nicole Galland, but I’m looking forward to checking out her contemporary and historical fiction.