Recent Reads #3

Celine by Peter Heller

I received this ARC from the publisher via work; it will be published in March 2017 by Penguin Random House.

I am always delighted to come across a POV character who is outside of the norm. In Celine we follow the titular character, a nearly 70 year old private investigator and artist with emphysema and a full, fascinating history as she investigates a cold case: the disappearance of a woman’s father in the wilderness outside Yellowstone National Park. The narrative has a natural, almost stream of consciousness flow; the present action is neatly interspersed with Celine’s memories of the past, as various things cause different recollections and explanations. We also see from her grown son Hank’s perspective from time to time, as he attempts to unravel one mystery from his mother’s past. The case itself is probably the least interesting aspect of the novel; I had a hard time getting as enthusiastic about the investigation as either Celine or her husband do, which I think in part was because a lot of the investigation was off-screen and came through in a few info-dumps, albeit well handled ones. Much more intriguing was Celine herself- where did she learn to shoot like that, for one thing? She has clearly had a well-lived life, and the book left me wanting to know more of it.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

I purchased this book at Barnes & Noble. It was originally published in 1986 by Penguin; my copy is the 30th Anniversary Edition.

I have the vaguest recollection of reading this book roughly in middle school; I remember it was popular around then, something my coworker agreed with when he rung up my purchase. Despite being pretty sure that I’d read it, I had no memory of the book itself. It was a little rough going for me at first- I am not accustomed to anthropomorphic animals except as sidekicks, really. Disney movies and Winnie the Pooh are probably the extent of my familiarity with the main characters/entire cast as animals, so reading it took a bit of adjusting. I imagine if I continue reading the series, which I probably will intermittently, it’ll get easier.

The story itself is almost to a T what I would consider a standard fantasy story. A young orphaned (mouse) boy has big dreams, must undertake a quest and attempt to save his home. The time period is relatively generic medieval/Renaissance-esque in a non-specific but England-like territory. It’s a simple, sweet story with a very clear cut idea of good and evil, and even if the evil species are a bit stereotypical (rats, snakes, weasels, etcetera) it doesn’t lessen the charm. Redwall Abbey feels very alive and well thought out (I would’ve loved a map of the abbey, though) and I expect that that lived-in feeling will only deepen as the series goes on. Though it’s not my favorite in terms of prose or storytelling, I attribute that mostly to being the first book of the series; I can see why it’s a bestseller and a classic. I also saw that the audiobook was done with a full cast, and though I have never been fond of audiobooks in the past, I may have to see if I can get a copy- it seems like it would be a wonderful story to hear.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

I received this ARC from the publisher via work; it will be published in January 2017 by Doubleday. (In fact I believe it goes on sale tomorrow!)

A mother who sleepwalks disappears one night, and her family is left wondering, waiting: what happened? Unfortunately, this was almost the same question that plagued me for most of the book- it was does something happen?

Don’t get me wrong- the characterization is lovely, the prose is thoughtful. The female characters feel real and whole and human; the grief was physical and mind-twisting and always there, as grief is in real life. You can’t help but feel for these characters, and the final truth of it all was heartbreaking. My difficulty was that the realism was almost too intense- the slowness, the waiting for answers, for closure. I don’t know if I was expecting something faster paced, more frenetic and shocking, but this is not an edge of your seat thriller or whodunit. Be prepared for a leisurely immersion in a family full of both love and all the ways that people fail themselves and each other. And while there is a mystery to be solved, and the clues are there, what happened to Annalee never feels like the most important question. It’s what happens to everyone else. A good book, just one I had trouble getting into.

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