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Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.39
279 used & new from $0.01

139 of 164 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In Need of a Decent Copy-Editor, November 10, 2009
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
I rarely give books negative reviews--simply because I think I have some idea what kind of Herculean effort and ability it takes to write a novel.

So my review here is more of a warning to people who might be looking for a "story."

I bought my copy at a local independent bookstore, and I paid full retail, $27, for the book, and for the first time in my life, I later looked at the receipt and considered attempting to return it--even for a store credit.

The opening scenes here of Cromwell as a boy are quite strong, and I had no trouble following the prose, even though the pronoun "he" was sometimes a little confusing.

But then, I slogged through about a hundred pages, trying desperately to figure out who was speaking, who was thinking . . . and at times, if the conversation was actually happening or in someone's mind. After about 127 pages, I began alternately skimming and reading some parts closely, all the while hoping a story might begin. I read a number of paragraphs six or seven times just to try to figure out what in the world was happening--and most of the time, I never did.

Rather than needing an editor, I think this book needed a much, much more stringent copy-editor. The copy-editor is the person who goes over the final manuscript and looks for a number of things, such as continuity issues . . . or sentences or areas that don't make sense.

Clearly, some people really liked this book, and so I don't want to be discouraging. I just warn people who are looking for an actual story in a novel.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2010 6:37 AM PDT

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
by Novella Carpenter
Edition: Hardcover
116 used & new from $0.01

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surprising Treat, August 27, 2009
I bought this book on a whim--as it's not my usual reading fare.

Within the first few sentences, I was hooked. This is the most engaging memoir I've ever read.

I did read Barbara Kingsolver's book ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, and I found it both interesting and educational, but while reading it, I never seemed to lose my awareness that Barbara Kingsolver has a LOT of money. Dumping society to start a farm was a great deal of work on her family's part--but they could also afford to hire people with large equipment to come in and prepare their gardening soil. And they have a certain safety net at the prospect of failure.

In FARM CITY, Novella and her good-hearted boyfriend, Bill, are so poor, they must continually come up with creative ways to shoe-string their urban farm and keep it going. Seriously, they are scavenging wood from garbage piles to build their raised gardens. Novella takes two buckets out into the streets of the ghetto in Oakland to go "weed hunting" to bring some treats for her hens. They borrow a truck and drive way out of town to shovel up free horse manure themselves to use as fertilizer.

This alone made this book stand out for me.

One small warning though . . . vegetarians may not enjoy this book about halfway through. Some of the farm animals Novella raises are there as "food," and she does not flinch from killing them herself--and explaining the best methods. I grew up on a farm, so this didn't surprise me, but I do think readers should be warned.

Anyway, the book is wise and very funny at times and clever and unique and also provides a warm theme of community spirit. I read it in three sittings.

The Savage Garden
The Savage Garden
by Mark Mills
Edition: Paperback
70 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment, July 1, 2009
This review is from: The Savage Garden (Paperback)
This novel is clearly a work of great effort, and so I feel bad not giving it a glowing review.

I really *wanted* to like it.

But none of the characters ever become real. I never felt anything for or became interested in the main character.

Although I enjoy both descriptions of imagery and classical mythology, the long . . . looooooong descriptions the writer provides to try and give the reader hints involving what happened in the past did not help the plot.

Also, the more words the writer used, the less I could actually "see" in my mind.

I can see from the reviews below that many people truly enjoyed this book, so this is just my reaction, but the characters simply never came to life for me.

Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery)
Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery)
by Sarah Addison Allen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
160 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully engrossing story, June 17, 2009
I won't do a plot synopsis, since many of the ones below are quite well done.

But I loved this book. The writing has that "deceptively simple" style that is easy to read--and yet not so simple when studied more closely.

I was hooked from page one. The characters are so well drawn, and their lives and situations are so interesting I felt I "knew" them.

It's a charming story, and I learned to trust the writer along the way. Several of the male characters are . . . well, nice. It's been a while since I've read a truly nice male character.

Two thumbs up.

The Various Haunts of Men: A Simon Serrailler Mystery
The Various Haunts of Men: A Simon Serrailler Mystery
by Susan Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
150 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for most mystery readers . . . but not everyone, February 26, 2009
Okay . . . I did like this book very much. I read it in a few sittings. The reviewers below me have already done a fine job of explaining the plot as a series of "disappearances" in the quiet town of Lafferton and Detective Freya Graffham's efforts to not only solve the disappearances, but to even establish whether or not a crime has occurred--as no bodies have been found.

Pros of the novel:

This is a well written, wonderfully detailed book. I read Susan Hill's THE WOMAN IN BLACK years ago, and recently, I read MRS DE WINTER, her sequel to Daphne Du Maurier's REBECCA. So I am familiar with her writing style and I like it very much.

The characters in THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN are well developed, and the reader does get to "know" everyone in the book at a personal level.

I knew who the killer was by his third scene--but I don't count this as a failing. I don't like mystery novels where the killer is not part of the story and just sort of "pops out" at the end. For a little while, I wondered if the writer was just throwing out clues to make him look guilty, but this is not the case. He's pretty easy to spot.

Cons of the novel:

I found the theme of new age/holistic healing to be very interesting at first, but it never goes anywhere, and in the end is treated rather lightly as there is a good deal more to the "science" than we are shown here. The characters who engage in this practice as a profession are broken into two camps: either hardcore charlatans OR serious, well-trained acupuncturists and osteopaths--with no one in-between. The less predatory types in the novel do little more than tell people to eat raw vegetables.

There are several interesting and important storylines that are simply abandoned and left by the roadside.

The ending is very, very British--which I do like, but it can be frustrating for some readers. I don't want to give too much away, but if you've read a few of the Midsomer Murder books by Caroline Graham, you'll know what I mean in reference to what often becomes of the "killer."

If you like richly detailed novels, with a large cast of interesting characters, and mysteries with slightly unorthodox endings, I highly recommend the book. I've already ordered the sequel.

Silent In The Grave
Silent In The Grave
by Deanna Raybourn
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
119 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Light but Enjoyable, January 13, 2009
I did enjoy reading this novel--even if I knew who the killer was by the end of chapter three.

This is a more a "worth the ride" mystery than a "who done it" mystery.

The heroine is engaging, and I enjoyed all her wacky family members--including an aunt who goes from relative to relative, living with anyone who has suffered the most recent death in a household.

The prose is crisp and clever.

However, if you are looking for deep character development, you will not find it here. This is more of a "cup of tea and a Sunday afternoon" novel.

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
by Diane Setterfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.28
787 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing Novel, January 7, 2009
This truly is one of the finest novels I've ever read--well worth all the hoopla.

The main narrator has a smooth voice that is easy to get lost in, and I loved the theme of the importance of "story tellers" in our society. I loved the stories within stories within stories.

This is a clear and easy read, but the multiple levels of the novel and character development are brilliant.

I would highly, highly recommend this book for anyone to enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate on a rainy afternoon.

A Respectable Trade
A Respectable Trade
by Philippa Gregory
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.17
235 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Story and Setting, April 8, 2007
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
I found myself drawn into this story very quickly. I liked how "human" all the characters showed themselves to be--both good and bad.

At times, I felt sorry for almost everyone, and at times, I disliked many of the characters, but I could always identify with certain choices they made.

I've not read many novels regarding England and the painful subject of slavery--and it's handled very well here. I also liked learning about the shipping business in this era.

This is a interesting novel.

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