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Helpful Votes: 196

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The Madness of Love: A Novel
The Madness of Love: A Novel
by Katharine Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.79
68 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spring is in the air..., February 18, 2005
Davies's novel begins with a beautiful but haunting image: a young man diving to his death from a bluff while snow begins to fall over the village behind him. It was this first chapter, just one page long, that drew me into the novel. The story that follows involves Gabriel's (the young man's) sister, best friend, and a slew of other provicial characters who make up the coastal town of Illerwick. Told in short chapters that follow each of the main characters in turn, the drama unfolds at a slightly slower pace than Shakespeare's classic--flashbacks establishing character, and lovely passages establishing setting and botanical themes fill the early chapters. These are the kinds of moments that I loved: Fitch's father working in the garden, "his clothes faded like broccoli leaves" (39); the river rising over the garden as "she listened to the rain starting to drum once more over the slates" (33).

But eventually the many twists and turns of Shakespeare's original plot take over and the lovely understated language of the earlier chapters is lost. We get lines like, "She had said, 'I thought it was Valentina I wanted. Now I only want you.' And he had told her he wanted her too" (226). Would we remember Shakespeare for lines like that?

Ultimately the novel ties itself up in Shakespeare's love-knot: the thwarted lovers united, the sad, drunken teacher receives his comeuppance. But I found myself wishing that Davies had abandoned the Twelfth Night plot to pursue the more realistic themes of love and loss set up early in the novel. The characters she lovingly created seemed forced into awkward, movie-ready endings--the haunting loss of Gabriel all but written off in one paragraph.

That said, Davies has written a good read for Spring: the botanical themes and the promise of a happy ending are intoxicating. Read it for those early chapters and you probably won't mind Shakespeare's plot taking over towards the end.

Case Histories: A Novel
Case Histories: A Novel
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover
195 used & new from $0.01

139 of 142 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable., October 29, 2004
This is my first venture at Atkinson, and I have to say she's a delightful writer to read. She really knows how to hook you.

The story opens with the accounts of three crimes from the perspectives of those who were there at the time. Then, in the present, we meet private investigator Jackson Brodie (a former police inspector) who is dealing with his painful divorce, serious dental problems, and his ever-maturing eight-year-old daughter. Jackson's perspective guides the rest of the narrative through new leads in the three cases, and it isn't long before all three cases are entwined via their connection with Jackson.

While this sounds like a stock mystery novel or something straight off a British crime drama, Atkinson's style offers a little more than the standard mystery fare. She leaps one perspective to another with admirable grace, always managing to keep the many characters and their intertwining narratives totally distinct and completely engrossing.

My only qualms with the story had to do with the plot itself: it's pretty easy to pick up the clues Atkinson drops, and thus, figure out the conclusion well before the ending; and as for the ending--it wasn't as satisfying as it could have been. But her writing is so fluid, by turns funny and poingant, that I couldn't put it down.

Madeleine Is Sleeping
Madeleine Is Sleeping
by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Edition: Hardcover
82 used & new from $0.01

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angela Carter meets Choose Your Own Adventure, October 4, 2004
This review is from: Madeleine Is Sleeping (Hardcover)
This book is irresistable. The prose poem-like chapters thread through a carnival of characters and settings, leading you from one strange and beautiful world to another. The language is stunning; the story is part fairy tale, part historical fiction, part surreal tableau.

As a book seller, I see hundreds of new novels every year, many of which are well-written, innovative, and lovely, but this is one of those rare gems--a story so perfect in its peculiarity, so delightful in its turns--that you feel you have been given a gift of something you didn't even know you wanted until it was there in your hands.

The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys
The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys
by Deirdre Imus
Edition: Hardcover
198 used & new from $0.01

27 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not vegan at all., August 15, 2004
I don't know anything about the Imuses, their politics, or whatever it is that upsets people about them, but I do know that

"Ovo vegetarian" does not equal "vegan." The inside flap of the book calls the ranch "vegan" but for anyone who actually is vegan, the abundance of eggs & meat replacements that contain egg whites in these recipes is horrifyingly misleading.

For anyone looking for vegan recipes, there are a dirth of new books out there that actually contain information about healthy vegan cooking and the vegan lifestyle. Myra Kornfeld's Voluptuous Vegan, the Millennium Cookbook, & May All Be Fed are good places to start.

And as far as the "personal essays" about the ranch, though self-serving, as some reviewers note, Imus does manage to make herself look completely classist & racist: when the fourth kitchen crew she hired (who apparently have "tattoos, nose rings, do rags & hip hop shorts") quit en masse & she refers to them as "the Crips & the Bloods," relieved that they have left without killing them all. Very nice.

Do yourself, vegans, & members of chef gangs everywhere a favor by spending your money on someone else's book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2006 11:14 PM PDT

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