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Acton@bookrastinating.com

Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

I read mostly literary fiction, but I also enjoy mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.

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Eleanor Catton: Birnam Wood (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 4 stars

This fascinating thriller takes its name from a forest featured in Shakespeare’s play McBeth. Like that famous play, this novel is populated with flawed individuals whose ambitions prove hard to balance with their morals. Accidents, deceptions, and cross purposes make for a complex, exciting plot.

In Eleanor Catton’s new novel, Birnam Wood is the name of a small nonprofit organization that seeks to plant crops in unused spaces, sometimes with permission, and sometimes not. There is certainly some lawlessness and trespassing going on, but the group’s members see it as a necessary evil in their mission to help those in need and to work for a more fair society. Before I read this, I was not aware of guerilla gardening.

There are four main characters in this book, plus two important supporting roles. Mira and Shelley are prominent members of Birnam Wood, and their relationship is complicated. They’ve been close …

Eleanor Catton: Birnam Wood (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 4 stars

New Thriller from Eleanor Catton

5 stars

This fascinating thriller takes its name from a forest featured in Shakespeare’s play McBeth. Like that famous play, this novel is populated with flawed individuals whose ambitions prove hard to balance with their morals. Accidents, deceptions, and cross purposes make for a complex, exciting plot.

In Eleanor Catton’s new novel, Birnam Wood is the name of a small nonprofit organization that seeks to plant crops in unused spaces, sometimes with permission, and sometimes not. There is certainly some lawlessness and trespassing going on, but the group’s members see it as a necessary evil in their mission to help those in need and to work for a more fair society. Before I read this, I was not aware of guerilla gardening.

There are four main characters in this book, plus two important supporting roles. Mira and Shelley are prominent members of Birnam Wood, and their relationship is complicated. They’ve been close …

Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (2004, Harper Paperbacks) 4 stars

The town psychiatrist has decided to switch everybody in Pine Cove, California, from their normal …

The Title Says It All, Really...

4 stars

This is quite the zany read. If this hadn't been foisted on me by a friend, lustful lizards would never have been on my radar, believe me. And yet, I was very entertained. There are a few parts that are very funny. So, if you're in the mood for a light read that is humorous in a surprisingly smart way, I recommend it.

reviewed Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Carole Johnstone: Mirrorland (2021, Scribner) 4 stars

Review of 'Mirrorland' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is a riveting, twisty psychological thriller and mystery. It might start a wee bit slow, but the plot thickens exponentially as it goes. It's an intriguing read and I do recommend it.

Note: it would be best (in my humble opinion) to read as little as possible about this novel before reading it--just start.

Zadie Smith: NW (2012) 4 stars

NW is a 2012 novel by British author Zadie Smith. It takes its title from …

Review of 'NW' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

The star of this novel is Zadie Smith's writing. It's a thoughtful exploration of the lives of four people who grow up in the same area of London, especially the two friends Leah and Keisha/Natalie. I especially admire how the author imagines different dialogues and demonstrates the different expectations and world views of her characters. Overall, it's melancholy, but manages to end on a hopeful note for the two main protagonists. There is a pleasing symmetry to their relationship.

This is beautifully written, and it will stay with me for awhile.

Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna / Stories of Eva Luna (Paperback, 2017, Vintage Espanol) 4 stars

La escritora chilena Isabel Allende revisita su novela Eva Luna para reunir en Cuentos de …

Review of 'Cuentos de Eva Luna / Stories of Eva Luna' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This is another very engaging story by Isabel Allende. Eva Luna has been an orphan since her early childhood and by the time she comes of age, has lived several different lives. A gifted storyteller who can weave together many pasts and futures, she eventually discovers meaning and purpose for her talents, as well as a family of her own.

I found this story and its characters fascinating, with its touch of magical realism and realistic chaos. Most of the story takes place in an undisclosed country in South America, sometime in the late 1960's, I believe. The variety of cultures and the political warfare of the times make a compelling backdrop for Eva's story.

This was a good read!

Samantha Irby: We are never meeting in real life (2017, Vintage Books) 4 stars

Review of 'We are never meeting in real life' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A both hilarious and devastating work including some riveting stories and wise insights into one woman's life. I am thankful that Samantha Irby is with us, and no, I won't ever be seeing her in person. I'm guessing that those author readings and book signings aren't her thing.

Seriously, even if my life has been nothing like Samantha's, there is plenty to identify with here, mostly because I'm a woman. I'd recommend this to anyone who is not easily offended by language. I'm very glad to have gained the acquaintance of Samantha Irby's writing.

Bravo!

Lynda Rutledge: West with Giraffes (Paperback, 2021, Lake Union Publishing) 3 stars

“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, …

Review of 'West with Giraffes' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Westward with Giraffes is an historic novel, based on a well-researched, true event about a pair of giraffes who survived a hurricane at sea and then a road trip across the country, from New York City to San Diego, California. It is also a tumultuous coming of age story for one young man named Woodrow Wilson Nickel, or Woody Nickel for short. The year is 1938, a time when this country is still recovering from The Great Depression and Hitler is threatening war in Europe.

Woody, all of seventeen years old, has already suffered loss and trauma, but we the readers never get a sense of exactly what Woody has lost: I’d like to know more about his time with his mother and sister. Were there any good times at all, bittersweet memories of life before the dust bowl?

Also, the story is supposed to be told by Woody when …

Irving, John: Last Chairlift (2022, Simon & Schuster) 4 stars

Review of 'Last Chairlift' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

John Irving’s much awaited new novel is a treasure chest of the memorable characters and backstories I love him for, and it is probably twice the length of Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. I mention this because another thing I enjoy about Irving’s work is that he always shines a light on other works of fiction that have factored into his life.

This tome focuses on Adam Brewster and his formative years in Exeter, New Hampshire, amongst relatives with diverse world views and lives. The reader can count on encountering some zaniness, here.

Adam has been born out of wedlock to Rachel “Little Ray” Brewster, an expert skier and former serious competitor. Since Ray spends part of the year as a ski instructor in another location, Adam spends plenty of time missing his mother. In her absence, Adam’s early experiences involve hearing his insufferable maternal aunts moralize about his mother’s situation, …

Review of 'Last Chairlift' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

John Irving’s much awaited new novel is a treasure chest of the memorable characters and backstories I love him for, and it is probably twice the length of Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. I mention this because another thing I enjoy about Irving’s work is that he always shines a light on other works of fiction that have factored into his life.

This tome focuses on Adam Brewster and his formative years in Exeter, New Hampshire, amongst relatives with diverse world views and lives. The reader can count on encountering some zaniness, here.

Adam has been born out of wedlock to Rachel “Little Ray” Brewster, an expert skier and former serious competitor. Since Ray spends part of the year as a ski instructor in another location, Adam spends plenty of time missing his mother. In her absence, Adam’s early experiences involve hearing his insufferable maternal aunts moralize about his mother’s situation, …

Elizabeth Strout: Lucy by the Sea (Hardcover, 2022, Random House) 5 stars

Review of 'Lucy by the Sea' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

The real star of any Elizabeth Strout novel is her voice. Her sentences are simple, clean, and elegant.. Her main character, Lucy Barton, is always, eventually, able to examine her feelings until she can express them with a rare eloquence. We spend time with Lucy and her thoughts, while not a lot happens around her, and yet there is a story here that does not drag.

This is a pandemic story. The world is going into lockdown before Lucy can absorb what is happening. Luckily for Lucy, her ex-husband, William, comes to her aid, insisting that she evacuate New York City with him, to a place on the coast of Maine. He also makes arrangements for their two daughters.

When life suddenly becomes unrecognizable to her, Lucy expresses how alone and adrift she feels, bereft for her late husband, her apartment, and her purpose. Lucy feels like she is losing …