The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Dear Fellow Reader,

One day after my library book club meeting, I was talking to the librarian. She was talking about several books and authors that she has read. Since she reads fantasy and I generally don’t, I had not heard of most of the books and authors she was talking about. But she mentioned one that caught my interest.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is the first in the Thursday Next series. Thursday Next is the female detective in the series. The book takes place in an alternative universe in 1985 England. In the world of this book, there are police but there are also Special Operations agents. The Special Operations agents work in levels with each level having a different job. As the book opens, Thursday is a SO-27, which is a literary detection. The department investigates claims of discovered manuscripts, provides security systems for original manuscripts and prosecutes forgers. The story takes a turn when Thursday is recruited to help as a SO-8 because she knows who Acheron Hades is and what he looks like. He is a particularly slippery, dastardly bad guy. Acheron kidnaps Thursday’s uncle Mycroft and steals his invention. By using that invention, he goes into the world of the novel, Martin Chuzzlewit and removes a character and kills him. Because he has does this using the original manuscript, the character disappears from the story never to return. When Acheron does not get the ransom he demands, he announces that he is going to go a step further and kidnap and kill a major character.

Acheron has so many tricks up his sleeve that even though they are carefully guarding it,  he steals the original manuscript for Jane Eyre and kidnaps Jane Eyre. Thursday has to think fast in order to return Jane to the book. (Since Jane Eyre is written in first person, there is essentially no book if Jane is gone.)

I’ll admit that this sounds like a spoiler alert and in some ways it is but there is so much going on in the book that while telling you about what happens with these two books is a spoiler, it is nothing compared to everything else that goes on.

The book is so clever. It is so much fun to read. I kept laughing. If you are a fan of Jane Eyre and literature in general, you will enjoy this book. Thursday has her hands full with her family and Acheron Hades and even her pet dodo. (It was an early clone.)

I don’t usually read fantasy, but this book was well worth making an exception. I think you will find it to be an enjoyable read. This is also the first book in a six book series. Yes, they need to be read in order.

Thanks for reading!

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Evicted by Matthew Desmond

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

I am sure that I have told you before that one of the best parts of belonging to a book club is that I read books that I would not normally read. There have been several that I am so glad that I read but I know I would not have ever picked them up.

This month is another example of a book I would not have read on my own. I had heard about Evicted because I live in Wisconsin and the book is centered on Milwaukee, but the book could be written about any city.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond is a nonfiction work about – as it states on the cover – “poverty and profit in the American city“. Desmond refers to himself as an ethnographer, which is when the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. In the book, eight families are followed through their journey of trying to find a place to live. The book points out the factors that are against them in this search and what happens to families caught in poverty.

“…the presence of children in the household almost tripled the tenant’s odds of receiving an eviction judgment.”

It is hard to know where to start to talk about this book. It is a hard book to read. The book makes you want to help the people stuck in sub-standard housing and bad neighborhoods but at the same time, it is hard to know where to start. The system is broken but it seems that the things that have been done to fix it have caused other problems. For example, the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances (Section 80-10) allows for the police to charge a landlord if there are more than three nuisance activity calls within a 30-day period. The charges are itemized down to even $4 for a 911 call. If the activities continue, the landlord can be subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 or thrown in jail. The landlord then must write back to the police and tell them what is going to be done to abate the problem. In the case in the book, writing back to say that they are going to work with the tenant is not an acceptable answer. The acceptable answer is to send a copy of the eviction notice to the police. One of the families in the book had called 911 for a medical emergency. They were then notified by the landlord that it better not happen again or they would be evicted. So while I can see that there could have been good intent for the ordinance, in many cases, it works against the tenant.

The eviction process seems to be arbitrary and retaliatory in many cases. If your plumbing doesn’t work and you call the housing people because your landlord doesn’t fix it then you can be evicted. It doesn’t matter if you have paid your rent. The tenants don’t seem to understand that if you are being evicted and you don’t go to court to fight it that you will have an eviction on your record. But going to court to fight your eviction takes time from work that most people at the poverty level can’t afford. Also, fighting your way through all the different programs is confusing and takes a lot of time. The book shows the progression that happens when a person is evicted and how it just spirals down and down the housing food chain.

“Some of the most important findings to come out the Milwaukee Area Renters Study have to do with eviction’s fallout. The data linked eviction to heightened residential instability, substandard housing, declines in neighborhood quality and even job loss.”

The book serves to open a dialog about the problem and what can be done to help the people caught in the eviction spiral. It is well written and informative. I urge you to read the section at the end “About this Project.”  I felt this section was important and think it is a shame it is at the end of the book, where it could be skipped over. The book is well worth reading.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

I have signed myself up to read more than I can read. I don’t know how I got in this position, but I don’t like it. I hate feeling that I am behind with my reading. Between the book clubs and the Library Adult Reading Challenge, I would be reading plenty. But there are so many books that I want to read. The reading life isn’t a box of chocolates, it is a never-ending smorgasbord. I have decided that I am going to read my TRB pile that is staring at me in the living room. I will complete those books this year. Do you have a pile of books to read staring at you?

This is a long explanation that I did not read my book club book for last month. It was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I understand that it is to be very good, but I ran out of time. It is on my TBR pile and I will get to it this year. But while I didn’t get to Lilac Girls, I did receive a promotional copy of Lost Roses and I read that. Lost Roses is the new book by Martha Hall Kelly and today is its publication date. Happy new book day to Martha Hall Kelly!

The story, Lost Roses, starts in 1914. Sofya Streshnayva is in New York visiting her friend, Eliza Ferriday. The two friends are about to leave to go to St. Petersburg. The two friends met in Paris years ago and are happy to continue their friendship. Sofya is a cousin of the Tsar of Russia. She lives with her husband, son, father, step-mother, and sister. They are wealthy and have always been wealthy.

The two friends get to St. Petersburg, but times are turbulent for the Tsar and his supporters. Then as it had been threatening, World War I starts. Eliza Ferriday rushes home to New York. In the meantime, Sofya and her family flee to their summer home to escape the violence that is overtaking the city. The family needs domestic help and hires the daughter of the local fortune teller, Varinka, to help with the care of Maxwell, Sofya’s son.

The story follows how the friend’s friendship survives turbulent times. Eliza loses contact with Sofya and is anxious to find her. She goes to Paris as soon as it is safe to search for her friend. She doesn’t know if Sofya is alive, but she knows that she has to find out.

I found that it was a very entertaining tale of friendship, family bonds, and how war can bring out the best and the worst in people. It is a book worth reading. (And I promise to read Lilac Girls and let you know what I thought of it.)

Thanks for reading!

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The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story by Adele Griffin

girl reading

 

Dear Fellow Reader:

Today is publication day for The Becket List by Adele Griffin.  This is a Young Readers book that I received in exchange for my review.  This is not the age level of book that you might to expect to find here but you might have a young reader in your life who is looking for a book.

BeckettBecket Branch and her family are making a big move.  They are moving from the city to a farm out in the country.  Becket is embracing country life with both hands.  She is a very enthusiastic little girl who is sure that she will fit right in.  She finds it is harder than she thought but she learns to make some adjustments.  She makes mistakes but learns from them. Whether it is taking care of animals or making new friends, Beckett jumps in with both feet.  She learns things about living in the country and how to make friends.

 

It is a nice story for a young reader.  The book is rated for ages 7 – 11.  I found that it is important to get a book for a young reader that they can relate to. I think that with this story, they will find many things that they will recognize.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

outside reading

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

Each week, I get an email from my local bookstore with the list of their best sellers for the week. Often after I see a book on that list, I start seeing it all over the place. That is what happened with this week’s book. It was like it was following me around.  I placed a request at the library and it came before I could take a breath. I think I was supposed to read it.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a very interesting and absorbing book. Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist and writer. This book is her first work of fiction. I didn’t realize that the book is a mystery. Even after I read it, I would not have said it was a mystery. It is not a classic “who done it”.

Crawdads

The book has two stories intertwined. The first and most lengthy is the story of Kya Clark. Kya lives out in the marsh outside of town and is the youngest of five children. As the book opens, Kya is watching her mother walk away from the house. She waits for her mother to return but she never does. Kya’s father is a card playing drunk who is abusive. Over the next couple of years, all the children leave the house except Kya.  Kya has attended one day of school but she has been taught to read by Tate Walker, a boy from town. She is a talented illustrator and makes drawings of all the nature and wildlife that live around her.

The people in the town refer to her as “the Marsh Girl” and when a local man is found dead, the first person blamed is Kya. But Kya is not the person most in the town thinks she is. Interspersed with Kya’s story is the story from the sheriff’s investigation into Chase Andrew’s death. Chase was the high school football hero and from an influential family in town. Why would Kya have anything to do with him and why would she have killed him?  Is it easier to blame her than to look at Chase’s background?

The book had beautiful descriptions of the wildlife and the landscape of the marsh. But it does not get bogged down in the descriptions. The descriptions in the book set the scene more than they feel like a nature study.

I liked the book and would recommend it. I felt it was absorbing and an interesting story. For those who might not like mysteries, I think you could read this book and not feel like you are reading a mystery. It is much more an interesting story about a young woman raising herself and the people who help her.

As a side note, I read this book, The Great Alone, and Educated all within about two weeks. All three books had a theme of an abusive father. (Where the Crawdads Sing is the only one where the father is more of a minor character.) I would rank this book as my favorite of the three followed by The Great Alone. In contrast to what seems to be the rest of the world, I did not like Educated. It might be an instance of too many books with the same theme. I will say, that Educated has stuck in my mind but I am not a fan.

Thanks for reading!

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