Book Review: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Wolf Border by Sarah HallThe Wolf Border: What it is about

Harper (publisher) says: “For almost a decade, zoologist Rachel Caine has lived a solitary existence far from her estranged family in England, monitoring wolves in a remote section of Idaho as part of a wildlife recovery program. But a surprising phone call takes her back to the peat and wet light of the Lake District where she grew up. The eccentric Earl of Annerdale has a controversial scheme to reintroduce the Grey Wolf to the English countryside, and he wants Rachel to spearhead the project. Though she’s skeptical, the earl’s lands are close to the village where she grew up, and where her aging mother now lives.

While the earl’s plan harks back to an ancient idyll of untamed British wilderness, Rachel must contend with modern-day realities—health and safety issues, public anger and fear, cynical political interests. But the return of the Grey unexpectedly sparks her own regeneration.

Exploring the fundamental nature of wilderness and wildness, The Wolf Border illuminates both our animal nature and humanity: sex, love, conflict, and the desire to find answers to the question of our existence—the emotions, desires, and needs that rule our lives.”

The Wolf Border: What I thought

This was not a page turner. It took me a long time to read this, but that was partially because I was too busy to read. Yes, it is possible to be too busy to read (I didn’t realize this either, until it happened to me).

But it’s a beautiful book about a woman, Rachel, who returns to England after years in the US. Her only acquaintance is an estranged brother. So she starts all over again getting to know people and dealing with them. Although she seems a bit of a loner, it isn’t long before she has friendly and supportive people around her.

The story has a quiet pace, and not really all that much happens. But there are some interesting characters, such as Rachel’s brother Lawrence, and the earl of the estate where she works, that made me interested enough to keep reading. There is a bit of excitement, but only in the last 15% or so.

I loved reading about the wolves that are released in the park and about the scenery around the estate. I wasn’t too attached to Rachel, but when something happened to the wolves, I was more worried about how she would take it than about the wolves themselves. So, somewhere along the way, I started to become sympathetic towards to somewhat cool and detached Rachel.

Read it if you enjoy books about nature, solitude and strained relationships.


Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 448

First published: 2015

I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review

Genre: contemporary fiction

Also read by this author: The Carhullan Army

 

Book Review: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Between You & Me by Mary NorrisBetween You & Me: What it is about

The publisher says: “Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker‘s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris’s laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage—comma faults, danglers, “who” vs. “whom,” “that” vs. “which,” compound words, gender-neutral language—and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster’s groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world’s only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.”

Between You & Me: What I thought

As soon as I found out about this book, I knew this was one for me. So when I got an amazon voucher for my birthday, from one of the freelance editors I work with at Book Helpline, I decided this was the perfect book to buy with it, and a perfect birthday present.

Since I’m an editor myself, I was curious to find out what an editor of the distinguished magazine The New Yorker had to say about our profession. I only know The New Yorker from their use of the diaeresis, the double dots on the second vowel in a word such as naïve. I had a fun email conversation with a Dutch author about this once; we researched it and found that The New Yorker is one of the very few publications that still uses it. The diaeresis is discussed in this book, I was happy to see.

Mary Norris starts off her story with her background: her education and her first jobs, and describes how she ended up, many years ago, at The New Yorker. Then she moves on to her editorial pet peeves and other nasty traps an unsuspecting writer may fall into. We also get a peek of her shelves in the office when she describes which dictionaries she preferably uses, and how the first dictionaries came into being. Her love for pencils and pencil sharpeners is described to some detail, too.

The beginning chapters had a certain logical order to them, about Mary Norris’s career and her first steps into the editing world. However, the later chapters seemed like a random selection of topics that interest her. Although I, too, found these topics interesting, for me the book fell apart a little at some point. Still, with her fun, no-nonsense way of writing, Norris managed to entertain me for all 230 pages which I read almost as fast as a good thriller.


Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 230

First published: 2015

I got this book: from an amazon.com voucher that I received for my birthday

Genre: non-fiction, editing

Extra: See also the video’s that Mary Norris made, in which she describes some common spelling and grammar issues: http://video.newyorker.com/watch/comma-queen-comma-queen-series-premiere

 

Book Review: The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

The Cry by Helen FitzgeraldThe Cry: What it is about

The publisher says: “When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.
Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other. Finally Joanna starts thinking the unthinkable: could the truth be even more terrible than she suspected? And what will it take to make things right?
Perfect for fans of Julia Crouch, Sophie Hannah and Laura Lippman, The Cry was widely acclaimed as one of the best psychological thrillers of the year. There’s a gripping moral dilemma at its heart and characters who will keep you guessing on every page.”

The Cry: What I thought

In this novel, you know more or less what happened from the start. And that’s fine. What we don’t know is, what will happen to Joanna and Alistair, the parents of the missing baby.

They made a bad decision (I believe), the kind that, once you’ve done it, you can’t go back without making things ten times worse. So they stick with it.

After the first chapters are narrated by Joanna, the story moves to Alexandra, the ex-wife of Alastair. She’s worried because, as his ex-wife, she is one of the suspects of the baby’s disappearance. Since we already have a good idea of what happened, it’s interesting to see the continuation of the story through someone else’s eyes, who does not know the truth.

Later, we discover that Joanna is on the brink of collapsing, while Alastair tries to keep it together. Their relationship starts to crumble as their reactions to what happened differ so much, and Alastair tries to force Joanna to follow his example.

An interesting tale, with a few unexpected twists. Fun to read, and a quick read, too!


Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 280 (my Dutch edition: De overdosis)

First published: 2013

I got this book: because a thriller festival that I had bought tickets for had been cancelled. They refunded the ticket and sent me a thriller book of my choice, as a consolation prize.

Genre: thriller

Also read by Helen Fitzgerald:  The Duplicate, Bloody Women, My Last ConfessionThe Donor

 

Book Review: Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Love May Fail by Matthew QuickLove May Fail: What it is about

Harper (publisher) says: “An aspiring feminist and underappreciated housewife embarks on an odyssey to find human decency and goodness—and her high school English teacher—in New York Times bestselling author Matthew Quick’s offbeat masterpiece, a quirky ode to love, fate, and hair metal.

Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking to find the goodness in the world she believes still exists, Portia sets off to save herself by saving someone else—a beloved high school English teacher who has retired after a traumatic incident.

Will a sassy nun, an ex-heroin addict, a metal-head little boy, and her hoarder mother help or hurt her chances on this madcap quest to restore a good man’s reputation and find renewed hope in the human race? Love May Fail is a story of the great highs and lows of existence: the heartache and daring choices it takes to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be.”

Love May Fail: What I thought

A book about helping other people and almost forgetting about yourself. People who may not deserve your help, and who certainly aren’t grateful for it. But it’s also a story about destiny: are certain things pre-ordained? There are some amazing coincidences in the story – but are they really just coincidences? Is this all meant to be?

Portia has walked out of her marriage and decides to find back her old school teacher who was such an inspiration to her. He’s not who he used to be and Portia tries to help him, but he does not want her help. She fails badly. Luckily, she is more successful in other ways, until she reaches rock bottom herself and she needs help from others.

The book is divided into several parts, each told by a different narrator, in such a way that one person picks up where the previous one left. One person is dead, but we read her letters. This is only a short section; many letters in a row can be a bit tiresome, but this was just fine.

The story was sometimes a little slow and sometimes ridiculous. It was not a perfect book, but it was interesting, and, like Quick’s previous book, The Good Luck of Right Now, discusses some important questions about life and death.

An easy and fun read, with something to think about.


Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 400

First published: 2015

I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review

Genre: contemporary fiction

Also read by this author: The Good Luck of Right Now 

 

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