Another Turn of the Page: Last of our Fall Reading

“If you want to get laid, go to college.
If you want to get an education, go to the library.” -Frank Zappa


Our quote this month is from Frank Zappa and unless you are a baby boomer or music historian you probably don’t know who he is. Well he was an American rock musician and composer who had a band called The Mothers of Invention known for musical experimentation and interesting album covers. For me he was the last person I expected to find when I went looking for library and reading quotes.

Here’s our November list of recommended reading.  All fiction this time which is really unusual for this group. We almost always have at least one non-fiction book. Our author, presented by Ellie, was Nora Ephron who was an essayist, playwright, blogger and novelist so I guess we had a non-fiction addition after all.  So I give you our titles: some old, some new. All reviewed well except for Ape House which Ricky liked but didn’t love.

oct atticThe Daughter of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013) 528 pages. The latest from the author of Schindler’s List. This one is about a pair of sisters who are nurses from Gallipoli to the Western Front.

Behold a Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne (2011) 384 pages. A mystery of ancient Ireland (664 A.D.) featuring Sister Fidela of Cashel.

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke (2013) 384 pages. While investigating the video of a boy being saved in a subway from a racing train, journalist McKenna Jordan sees in the background a friend who has been missing for ten years.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) 324 pages. Set after the American Civil War, this book concerns the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver after their escape from slavery. This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (2003) 336 pages.  In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013) 464 pages. A crime fiction novel by J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym. The mystery is okay but the characters are very interesting and I hope there will be future crimes for Comoran Strike to solve.

Ape House by Sara Gruen (2010) 320 pages. A quirky book about bonobos by the author of  Like Water for Elephants.

Peace like a River by Leif Enger (2001) 311 pages. Through the voice of eleven-year-old Reuben, an asthmatic boy obsessed with cowboy stories, this novel tells of the family’s cross-country search for Reuben’s outlaw older brother, who has been controversially charged with murder.

The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget (2009) 256 pages. Set in Minnesota, this fiction debut is about a love story with a heinous crime at its core.

As Frank Zappa would say, “So many books, so little time.” frankZappa


6 thoughts on “Another Turn of the Page: Last of our Fall Reading

  1. Beautiful writing but mediocre plot… I began The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason with great anticipation.What I discovered was beautiful writing with a mediocre plot. The Piano Tuner opens in London in the late 1880s.Edgar Drake is a shy, unassuming and absent-minded piano tuner who has led a sheltered life.He receives a most unusual request from the British War Office to tune a piano in the jungles of Burma.The piano is an impressive Erard and is owned by Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll.Carroll is eccentric and unorthodox, and although he does good work, he sometimes crosses the boundaries of what is acceptable to the British Army.Drake gets caught up in the beauty of Burma and the political turmoil–but not always with good results. From reading The Piano Tuner, I could tell that Mason spent time in Burma (now Myanmar)and was most impressed with this country.But in The Piano Tuner, it seems like he takes pages and pages of descriptions and tries to insert a plot.The plot is not very engaging and I didn’t find myself drawn to any of the characters.Drake, especially, was a bit pitiful.Mason’s writing is beautiful and reflective in spots.Drake listens to a song of mourning, “But it wasn’t a woman’s voice, either.Soprano, yes, but not feminine, not even, Edward thought, human.He could not understand Burmese words, but he knew of what the man sang.Songs of loss are universal, he thought, and with the man’s voice something else rose into the night air, twisted, danced with the smoke from the fire, and drifted into the sky.”At other times, Mason’s writing was tiresome as he described every tree, flower, river, bird, person, sound, tune and/or smell. I have heard that Daniel Mason has written another novel that is much better than The Piano Tuner.I think he definitely has some talent but I am disappointed that this book did not live up to my expectations.

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