Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smiley's People

Smiley's PeopleSmiley's People by John le Carré
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was so nice to get back to Smiley again...le Carre finished his Karla trilogy with an ode to Smiley. Here Smiley is at his best with his small, quiet thoughts and long walks, but gets thrown in the action, too as he tries to uncover the motive behind the murder of a former agent. Everyone gets their cameos, too, from Toby Esterhouse to dear old Connie. I could have used more Guilliam, though, who played a prominent part in The Honourable Schoolboy and who I kind of crushed on a bit (couldn't you see an English Peter Krause playing him?). The ending is strangely anti-climatic, but seemed entirely fitting: sometimes the ending is not nearly as much fun as the chase.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read this for book club. I loved the beginning, rather enjoyed the way the novel puttered along, put up with the country club scene that seemed to be lifted somewhat from The Help, actually teared up at the thought Major Pettigrew could be a knight in shining armor and then it was ruined with a knitting needle of all things. A knitting needle?? Really?!?? I almost couldn't bear to read it from that point forth.
At the end, I felt like Simonson said to herself, I am going to explore how rules shape our customs, mores, courtesies of our community. When should those rules be kept? When should they be set aside for a greater good? Then she brainstormed all these ideas and fit them together in a novel. Perhaps if she hadn't used every idea she came up with it might have turned out to be a cute, droll and touching novel of finding love when and where you least expect it. As it is, you can almost hear her "you shouldn't follow the rules of class and race because those shouldn't exist"; "you should follow the rules of courtesy because otherwise that's rude"; "you shouldn't follow the rules of business if requires duplicity and underhandedness"; "you shouldn't follow the rules if someone's life is at stake", etc. etc.(We get it, we get it) And then to set these premises up her plot turns to the absurd--KNITTING NEEDLES???? Can you tell how much I hate the plot line of the KNITTING NEEDLES!!!
Otherwise, it was an okay book.

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Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading my kids' YA novels again. Another dystopian love story. This one has more action than love story, which is good. It is also an interesting premise--there are 5 factions that emphasize certain personality traits: Erudite, smart; Candor, truth; Abengnation, selflessness; Amity, friendship; and Dauntless, bravery. All good traits, it is true, but there is a hazard in taking each exclusively and to its extremes. Tris chooses Dauntless as her faction, and it was a little unsettling as a mother to see toughness, tattoos, and lack of feminity so celebrated, until Tris discovers that being Dauntless may not be all it's cracked up to be. It does have good character development and the plot is pretty tight.

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