Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time Among the Dead

Title: Time Among the Dead
Author: Thomas Rayfiel
Pages: 158 in Bound Galley Print
Published: 2010 The Permanent Press
Read For: Library Thing Early Reviewers
My Rating: 3 out of 5 starts (somewhat below average execution mingled with somewhat above average premise)

Time Among the Dead is interesting and quick to read, although it feels unpolished. No doubt the plot device--an older gentlemen writing in a journal during his last days--has something to do with this, but one can't help feeling like there were parts of the book that had too great a contrast between practiced and amateurish writing to be convincing. To make a book seem as if it is written as a journal by someone who had never written anything before in their lives, while trying to accomplish some sort of background, plot, character, and setting development, and at the same time having as unstilted an air as possible--as to make it fluid and enjoyable to read--must be quite the challenge. It wasn't quite mastered in this piece, although some sentences were so good that I can't help but think that if the author had a little more time to spend revising the effect would have been much greater.

The main characters in this book immediately reminded me of the Hamleys in Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, which made me connect with them somewhat. There was definitely a late Victorian air about it, and I liked how the estate itself felt like it was decaying right along with the Earl's physical and mental health.  All of the sordid and sundry details of the people's lives in this book, however, got to be a bit tiresome. It was an interesting premise, one that I wish had been developed further.

A bit from page 19:
     He is nervous.  He is...in love.  It came upon me in that slow breaking way the sun dismantles a cloud.  Reexamining the girl Kate, I could certainly see how even a callow oaf such as my grandson could seize on such a relatively unspoilt specimen as entrĂ©e to that world where all laws are altered and all colors shift.  My heart was flooded with an equal admixture of pity and envy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

For the Record: March 2010:

I had a pretty good month for reading.  I got a few books read that have been on my shelf for quite awhile (my goal for the year is to get through some of those!) and had a nice mix of different types of books.

 20. Prayers For Sale, Sandra Dallas (4.5)  Sandra Dallas is so much fun to read...she has a great balance of real, slightly historical and heartwarming, with a fluid writing style. This story is about an older lady in a small mining town in Colorado in the 1930s having to come to terms with moving out of her town to live with her daughter because of her age.

21. Mansfield Park, Jane Austen (5)  The last of Jane Austen's published novels I had yet to read.  It was great, much better than I expected to be honest.  I didn't find the main character to be overly pious or prissy as I have heard from other people.

22. The Return of the Plant That Ate Dirty Socks, Nancy McArthur (3) This was a read-aloud for my kids, because they rolled with laughter at the first book in the series.  This one wasn't quite as funny, but the kids loved it and want to read the rest.

23. Matilda, Roald Dahl (4.5) The more I read of Roald Dahl, the more impressed I am.  I wasn't exposed to him in my youth, and always held the preconceived notion that all of his books would be like the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which I didn't like).  Matilda was great, magical in fact.  Makes me want to read more.

 24. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford (4) Read for my book club, see my review here.

25, 26. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll (3) The average rating was arrived at because I felt that the lasting quality, making this into a classic, had to balance out the fact that I really didn't like either book.  They got old fast and were difficult for me to get through.  Most likely, however, it just simply isn't my style.  I didn't like Peter Pan or Wizard of Oz either.

27. Sixteen Brides, Stephanie Grace Whitson (3.5) Read for LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, see my review here.

28. The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian (2.5) Borrowed from one of my book club cronies.  I'd read another book by this author (Midwives) and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give this one a shot.  While I thought the plot/premise was great, and enjoyed the tie-in to The Great Gatsby and the major twist at the end, I just didn't think that it was well written at all.  There were parts that seemed to be focused on too much (especially considering they didn't factor into the ending at all) and most characters were pretty 2D.  Oh well.