Conversations with Tom by Angela Lockwood

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers and Zombie Apocalypse style novels so this one seemed to start very slowly. Then about 1/3 of the way through, I realized that I just couldn’t put it down. The conversations between Tom and his owner were hysterical. I loved the way the author moved between human and feline viewpoints, and the humorous lists and question sections scattered between the chapters were a hoot. But just trying to envision a business full of stray cats cleaning mink coats by licking the Whiskas off them had me nearly doubled over. This was the perfect blend of sweet, funny and romantic. Highly recommended!

 

What Happened In Dingle by Fiona Cooke Hogan

I don’t often read romance. When I do, it’s usually because some other aspect of the book drew me in – space aliens, warm and fuzzy critters, a historical setting I find fascinating, etc. In this case, it was the Irish setting.  I had the privilege to visit Ireland a few years back with my youngest daughter. So I enjoyed the main character’s observance of the tour group she joined to escape for a few hours. “She watched her own country through foreign eyes in the dripping shelter of a shop doorway.” Ruth’s observations were pretty spot on. I was especially amused by her internal assessment of the tourist reaction to a near miss with another tour bus. “Would it be a dreamlike roll and crash to the soundtrack of Celtic music and screams? …. Would the railing hold? Jees, could we get out and maybe video it?” [And yeah, we totally would have tried to video it!]

I thought the author elegantly captured Ruth’s ambivalence. “Unsure of what to do, stay or go? She was weak, nervous but excited all at the same time. This is what young feels like, she thought.”  Her assessment of “old” love is also poignant: “We were like you, she thought, smugly in love. In our own indulgent bubble, oblivious to the trials and struggles of others…. Over time lovers forget that they hold each other’s hearts and they eventually harden and close against their keepers.” Ouch!

I didn’t find Neil as convincing as Ruth. His character seemed a bit flat. Then again, he wasn’t actually IN most of the story. I suspect that if this were a longer work, he’d be more developed and believable.

Definitely a worthwhile short read. And PS. Thanks to the author for making me aware of a new and different curse word (“pegging”). Throw it into Wikipedia if you’re curious – and Ohhhh myyyyy.

33 pages

Time for Honesty by Mette Barfelt

A Time for Honesty is a sweet, gently paced romance, set in Norway and written by Norwegian author Mette Barfelt.  I suspect it’s the first translated work that I’ve read this year.

The translation is excellent and the book is clean. By which I don’t mean that it gratefully interprets “adult” as mature and thoughtful rather than explicit – although it does. What I really mean is that this editor with 25+ years experience didn’t find a SINGLE typo or grammatical error. I honestly can’t remember the last time that happened when reading ANY book – traditionally published or self-published.

The cultural details about Norway and Norwegian culture add ambiance without being intrusive. I love to travel, and although we haven’t yet hit Norway in our travels, I found myself longing to try the reindeer filet and Norwegian cakes; to try my hand again at slalom, etc.

One thing you’ll notice immediately is that the pace of the novel, like the town in which its characters reside, is measured and calm. Since I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers lately, I found that slightly offputting at first. But eventually it came to me that this is a novel paced for a more deliberate time. I’ve been gorging on microwave popcorn – Barfelt is serving us hand-stirred risotto.

In many ways, this novel reminds me of the era of Henry James. The characters are thoughtful and deliberate. The language and construction also even, thoughtful; albeit a tad formal. I’m not sure if the formality is due to the translation or the style, bit if anything it adds to the gentle charm of the book.

The characters are well-drawn although at times I must admit that I wanted to slap our dear protagonist upside the head for the excruciatingly painful snail speed at which she addressed the problems in her life.  Her sister Julie, with whom she had a “Jerry Springer”-level complex relationship, I understood. (I didn’t LIKE her sister; but I did understand her.) And the differences between the sisters in many ways drive the tension in the novel.  Early on, Julie complains of our leading lady, Emmelin: “How anyone could live like this, engulfed by so many items, was a mystery to Julie. She liked things clean, tidy and simple.”

The leading man, Dennis, is equally pensive, deliberate and patient.  “He felt drawn between different emotions for her. It was faith and doubt, mixed with disappointment and betrayal…”

I strongly recommend this book for a relaxing rainy afternoon read.

– Read via Kindle Unlimited

 

 

 

 

Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Johanna Craven

This is a fantastic book. The controlling captain slowly losing control of virtually everything. The mulatto slave, desperately loyal to the father who spurns her. The repentant soldier, dreaming of the fiancée (and life) left behind. The rebel noblewoman, determined to choose her own path. Literally, this book has everything. PIRATES. WITCHES. VOO-DOO. Even SWIVING (which is apparently 17th century slang for a word that Amazon doesn’t actually allow in reviews….)

The writing is elegant, even when it’s not. Case in point, “Harry feels her eyeing him, taking in his calloused hands, scruffy hair, dungaree breeches with the faded arse. He feels like the palace sh*t-shoveller being watched by the queen.”

Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend this for reading on a plane or anywhere else where the Wi-Fi’s been disconnected. The author’s gone to great lengths to include terms appropriate to the period. I found the Kindle feature that brings up a definition if you highlight the word immensely useful for archaic nautical terms like davits, capstan, orlop, hawser, and mizzenmast. Not the mention clothing terms like justacorps.

My only real complaint was a handful of instances where the author included phrases in Creole that she didn’t translate in the text. For example: “Bata!” cries Serafine suddenly. Archer jerks in his seat. Her eyes are flashing. “Ou merite yo mouri!” Unfortunately, the translate option doesn’t include Creole.