Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #4 – Dodger by Terry Pratchett

I got this book as a freebie (or a cheapie) for the Kindle (sorry if I keep sounding like an advert for Kindle, but I do love it. I was solidly anti-e-reader, pro-paper book, until I started reading the Song of Ice & Fire series, which was difficult to lug around, and since I was getting the books from the library, there was the whole sanitariness issue. But I digress). Anyway, I felt like I had read Pratchett before, but it turns out I haven’t. Guess I just heard people talking about him. This book was an excellent introduction, and I kind of feel like I need to dive into the whole Discworld thing.

Part of what drew me to this book was my family’s habit of naming our pets after Dickens characters. I had a dog named Dodger. He was adorable. That, and my love for Oliver Twist. This may or may not be that Dodger. He’s a teenager living in the slums of London, making his living as a pickpocket and a tosher (a dude that rummages around in the sewers, picking up the stuff that gets swept and/or dropped down there). He comes up into the street in the middle of a rainstorm, and sees a young woman being assaulted. He saves her, because this particular Dodger is a paragon. As he’s trying to help her, they’re accosted and aided by Charles Dickens and the guy who started Punch. This begins a mystery, because no one knows who this girl is; it also begins the story of Dodger’s rise in the world.

Throughout the book, Dodger encounters real and fictional characters (Sweeney Todd, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Robert Peel, among others). He dodges and outsmarts pretty much everyone, while figuring out who the girl is, and solving the mystery of why she was being chased and beaten.

One of the neat things was that Dodger lived with an older Jewish man, who had been all over the world, and was respected both in the slums and by the gentry. It’s definitely an interesting take on Fagin, almost a redemption of the Dickens character.

There is plenty in this book that defies even the strongest suspension of disbelief, but somehow it all worked for me. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone. If you like Dickens, historical mysteries, Zelig-type stories, or just a ripping yarn, then I’d grab this one.

Petalfrog’s #CBR5 #2: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I’ve long been a fan of the quirkier children’s books. Roald Dahl has always been my favorite. He has a way of putting kids in awful situations and bringing a wacky sense of humour and resilience to them. He introduces crazy situations, and the kids always pull through. So, when I saw the first in A Series of Unfortunate Events was on wicked sale on Amazon.com I jumped right on it.

This book certainly featured kids in an awful situation. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are three happy and life-loving kids. When their parents die tragically in a house fire, they are sent to live with their distant relative, the mean and somewhat sociopathic Count Olaf. The kids quickly realize Count Olaf is working on a plot to get to their extensive inheritance. The story is a quick read (167 pages), and I found my heart breaking for the kids throughout. Some of the situations were almost too upsetting (I am such a softie) for a kids’ book (I could see younger kids being really scared by Olaf and his meanness), and lacked the Roald Dahl wacky humour to balance things out. We’ve got some malnutrition, neglect, face-slapping, and some random (non-sexual) incest thrown in.

Overall, it’s a bizarre scenario and a sort of bizarre little story, and maybe I’m being entirely too prudish about the whole thing (I readily admit). I did feel really invested in the story and the kids, but when they triumphed (of course) at the end, I didn’t find myself wanting to cheer. Rather, I just felt a sense of relief that no more horribleness would happen to these sweet kids in this book (obviously more unfortunate stuff will happen in the rest of the series). I felt the book lacked the light airiness and whimsy required in a book where mean and bad stuff happens to kids. I just wound up wishing it was a Roald Dahl book instead…

Anastar13’s #BDR5 review #3: Diary of the Displaced by Glynn James

ImageDiary of the Displaced is a free Kindle download right now and I say get it while the gettin’s good!!  This one, folks, is really good.  The title, in its entirety, goes like this:  Diary of the Displaced Omnibus 1 Parts 1 – 4, The Journal of James Halldon.   It’s a lot and thankfully, the story itself is far less clunky.

James Halldon is a lost man, waking up one day in a grey, unfamiliar world with no memory of how he got there.  He’s the only human there, as far as he can tell, but there are zombies and demon dogs aplenty.  James records what he finds (and how he feels about it) and the result is a great story set in a fascinating world.

The story ends neatly but is set up for a series and I’m looking forward to reading more about the adventures of of the displaced.

iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #5: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories by Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a young writer’s captivation with his upstairs neighbor, an inscrutable society girl with an odd philosophy towards life.

Reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s nowadays it is impossible not to view the story and it’s most famous character through the popular, and much-criticized trope, of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The MPDG is a free-spirited young woman with unconventional ideas whose openness to the richness of life inspires the male character to open up and free himself from the constraints of society. While Capote’s precursor is more nuanced than the cliche, his creation of Holly Golightly still seems a little too preciously quirky to be engrossing.

The chief joy in the novella is in Capote’s prose-style, which is just perfect enough to be awe-inspiring without becoming airless and unnatural. Capote’s sentences flow gracefully one into the other with nary a misplaced word to be found.

This edition also included three short stories: The House of Flowers, The Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory. The first two are intriguing because of the breadth of Capote’s imagination, as he writes about Haitian prostitutes and Cuban prison inmates with incredible veracity. However, the third story is the real prize. A Christmas Memory is a heartbreaking story of a young boy’s friendship with the outcast of his family, a mentally addled old woman without another real friend in the world. It’s a sweet, touching look at innocence and childhood, and it alone would justify Capote’s status as an important American writer.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #7: The Invisible Ones

A mystery novel involving gypsies, a disappearance and possible murder. The book has a blurb from Tana French – the novel has a similar voice to hers, and equally damaged narrators and characters, but isn’t as good as French’s novels. Still, not a bad pick for a rainy afternoon, but it has some flaws, mostly with the character interactions, and the pacing.