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Charlotte Vale-Allen "writerinresidence" RSS Feed (CT USA)
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This Must Be the Place: A novel
This Must Be the Place: A novel
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.36

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh, June 9, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Through most of this book I kept thinking of the film Notting Hill. The trope of an ordinary man meeting and falling for a famous film star has been done often - on film or in novels. This is one of the more irritating efforts.

This tale just didn't work for me. One of the primary reasons is the author's misuse of language for American Daniel Sullivan, the romantic lead. I have never heard an American speak of a plughole when referring to a bathtub drain. Or talk about being spanked as a child with a hurling stick. Or a non-westerner say, "I reckon." There are a lot of these errors throughout the book. It's jarring, to say the least.

The most successful part of This Must Be the Place is the segments dealing with the various children. They are more alive and compelling, more fully realized than the adult characters.

I give it three stars because I greatly admired The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and was hoping this novel would be better than it is.


How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel
How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel
by Jesse Ball
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.71

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!, May 15, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Just when I was at the point of despair with my Vine queue and its dreary, inappropriate offerings (dog toys, vari-colored napkins, and bed frames) on offer is this remarkable book. It is the first one I've read by author Ball but it won't be the last.

Where to start? Truly, I loved this novel. The inside of Lucia Stanton's head is a paradise of affections, disaffection, amazing intellect, and a powerful sense of honor. This is a young girl with no self-pity, who trusts her insticts (rightly so) and who has a wonderfully accurate sense of right and wrong.

Everyone in this book is fully developed, intriguing/interesting in his/her own way. Lucia's Aunt Margaret is a beautifully drawn character - someone wise and caring and given to being whimsically truthful, gentle yet firm. Lucia's friend Lana is unexpectedly rewarding in her own right. Even the most transient of characters is perfectly drawn. And Lucia's writing skill, her powers of observation, her instinct for self-preservation are completely believable.

Coming to the end of this novel is like the aftermath of a banquet: one is sated and a little sleepy and completely satisfied. Books of this caliber are too rare.
MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Far Empty
The Far Empty
by J. Todd Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.46
74 used & new from $4.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A DECENT FIRST NOVEL, May 15, 2016
This review is from: The Far Empty (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I often wonder about advance copies of forthcoming books that are festooned with rave quotes from authors -- the majority of whom are completely unknown to me. Shot through with hyperbole (this one had a quote using the word "astonishing") and revealing the skill of the in-house employee of the PR department who is truly earning his/her salary with well-done cover copy.

The offerings in my Vine queue these days have become stranger and stranger: dog toys and food for those dogs (I am not a pet person), half a dozen offerings for cloth napkins in different colors, and only a few books. So, all that said, I chose this book because the author's background was interesting, and I'm an optimist.

The feeling I had throughout my reading of The Far Empty was that I'd read this book before, but that's really just proof that author Scott was faithful to the western style. There are good guys and bad guys, naughty and nice women, and the struggling young son of the bad-guy Sheriff. What I liked about the book was its moments of unpredictability, when the characters did the unexpected and redeemed the plot.

It's an entertaining book with good pacing and reads faster than might be expected of a novel that comes in at just over 400 pages. If western fiction is your preference, I don't think you'll be disappointed.


At the Edge of Summer: A Novel
At the Edge of Summer: A Novel
by Jessica Brockmole
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.77
70 used & new from $10.39

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars LACKLUSTER AND OLD-HAT, April 17, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Oh dear. This is a story that has, in one way or another, been done to death. Poor lonely orphaned girl in pre-WW1 Scotland gets shipped off to France to the decrepit chateau of longtime friends of her runaway mother. There, young Clare almost instantly forms a strong attachment to Luc, son of the Crepet family. It's a heavy-handed narrative, alternating chapters (throughout) between Clare and Luc. A story that, in one way or another, is too familiar. There is nothing about Clare's manner of speaking that would indicate that she's Scottish, just as there is precious little about Luc's speech to indicate he is French. (Near the end of the book, the author makes a bit of an effort to define Scottish speakers when Clare and her grandfather return to Scotland.) Too little, too late. From the outset, the dialogue and the letters between Luc and Clare both go on for far too long. It's tedious reading, even irritating. All the way through this novel, I kept thinking of the tiresome books of fairy tales that were almost all that was available at the library when I was a child (hundreds of years ago.) Those books were pretty much interchangeable and this book fits right into that predictable mode. Almost 350 pages of this made me fairly desperate to get to the end and pick up something with some bite to it, some narrative tension -- both of which are almost entirely missing from this tale.


Persun Women Grey Lapel Open Front Pocket Detail Long Sleeve Knit Coat
Persun Women Grey Lapel Open Front Pocket Detail Long Sleeve Knit Coat
Offered by Persun Clothing
Price: $29.79
2 used & new from $29.79

2.0 out of 5 stars LOOKS GREAT, BUT IT ISN'T., April 17, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This one-size garment runs small. As well, it doesn't actually have pockets, merely pocket flaps. If you're looking for an item with pockets, a garment that fits comfortably loose - this isn't it!


Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel
Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.49
54 used & new from $11.97

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STARTS SLOW, THEN GAINS TRACTION., March 31, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book starts off like one of those irritating Amelia Bedelia creations for kids: a dolt at the forefront who is so literal that she invariably messes up anything she touches. But then ... not too far in, Britt-Marie begins to acquire dimensions and, even more important, she evolves into a truly sympathetic character. A woman who's been put down in one way or another for her entire life, of course she comforts herself (and rewards others) by cleaning everything in sight, making the view of her immediate world acceptable, even pleasing. Having accepted a job overseeing the recreation center in a financially devastated town, without actually trying, her presence begins to make itself felt. At the core of it all is the local children's passion for soccer--a game about which she knows nothing. It's quite an accomplishment for author Backman to make us care about all the characters in this novel. And we do care - particularly about Britt-Marie who scarcely knows herself after a childhood with an uncaring mother and decades of marriage to a dismissive, controlling man. By the halfway mark, we're rooting for her and for the children, and for the local policeman who's taken a shine to this woman.

This was my introduction to Fredrik Backman. I intend to read his other books because I was so taken and so touched by the townful of well-conceived characters he brought to life and about whom he made me care.
RECOMMENDED.


The One-in-a-Million Boy
The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Monica Wood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.14
61 used & new from $11.51

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS TO APPEAR LATELY, March 29, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a rare, wonderful novel filled with lovable, unpredictable, profoundly well-conceived characters who take hold of the reader and just don't let go. Everything centers around a nameless, eleven-year-old boy who is so good-hearted, so interested and so invested in the unique one-hundred-and-four-year-old Ona Vitkus that we cannot help but be interested and invested in both of them. This book is so well-conceived, so artfully constructed to keep the boy present even when he is gone, that I was left filled with great admiration for the author and for her immense talent. A beautiful, rewarding book that is not to be missed.
MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2016 7:10 AM PDT


Reliance, Illinois
Reliance, Illinois
by Mary Volmer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.34
69 used & new from $2.68

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A DECENT TRY, BUT IT DOESN'T SUCCEED, March 29, 2016
This review is from: Reliance, Illinois (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This novel starts out with an intriguing premise. But, sadly, not even halfway through it falters and, ultimately, fails. The primary reason for its failure is the extreme dislikeability of the central character Madelyn. There are a number of other reasons why it fails. There's the use of the verb "fluster" as a noun; the introduction of the "boneshaker" velocipede (bicycle) in 1875 as something new when it was actually introduced more than 5 years earlier; mention of a "clipboard" at least 75 years before it came into usage. So there is the misuse of language and a fair number of anachronisms. Then there is the cumbersome segment of the book dealing with Sam Clemens - also known as Mark Twain - that contributes precious little to the narrative and almost nothing of interest about one of America's great writers.

Given that Madelyn is the primary focus of this novel, her unrelenting anger and her inability to forge a relationship with her mother -- or with almost anyone else, for that matter -- deprives the plot of a viable heroine. More appealing and more fully developed is Madelyn's mother, Rebecca, who changes and grows and makes the best of a desperate situation. It's a pity the author chose Madelyn, rather than her mother, to be the center of this disappointing novel.


The Second Life of Nick Mason (A Nick Mason Novel)
The Second Life of Nick Mason (A Nick Mason Novel)
by Steve Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.54
88 used & new from $12.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A NEW SERIES TAKING OFF LIKE A ROCKET, March 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been addicted to Steve Hamilton's work since his first book, A Cold Day in Paradise. What elevated his work for me was the level of heart and gentle humor he brought to it. This new stand-alone effort has a much harder edge and substantially more violence. He makes it work but it's a different genre really. And that's okay. The characters come to life. Nick Mason gets up and walks off the page; his emotions and his connection to reality ring true. Writers have to change and grow, otherwise the work gets stale. With this introduction to a new series, Hamilton has the opportunity to deal with a lot of built-in tension and menace for the newly free Mason. It's anything but stale, and I'll be most interested to see where it goes.


Mothering Sunday: A Romance
Mothering Sunday: A Romance
by Graham Swift
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.87
80 used & new from $10.30

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A TEDIOUS LITTLE EFFORT THAT GOES ON FAR TOO LONG, March 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don't know what I expected of this skinny little book, but it definitely didn't deliver much. I didn't subscribe to the heroine, Jay. Her endless reexamination of her afternoon tryst with Paul Sheringham is meant to be indicative of a writer's compulsion to mull over details of her experiences. Granted, writers do tend to travel back and forth over events, mining them for telling details. But 176 pages of this becomes tiresome. So okay, this young maid is compulsive in her mining. It gets stale fast. She didn't come to life for me, so I didn't care about her. The only character in this book who felt real to me was Jay's employer, Mr. Niven. And when a secondary character manages to take over the stage, to my mind you have a novel that has failed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2016 5:05 AM PDT


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