Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Irresistible Henry House

by Lisa Grunwald

At the Wilton School of Home Economics, young women are taught the basic skills of housekeeping and motherhood under the strict supervision of Martha Gaines, who herself has been neither a wife nor a mother, but is expert on both subjects. Every two years the school receives a baby from a nearby orphanage so the young ladies in the program can practice their skills. Henry is practice baby number 10, and Martha is immediately smitten with him! In fact, she loves him so much that Martha adopts him herself, for fear of losing him to a permanent home. And so begins the story of The Irresistible Henry House, who is loved by many mothers and adored by one.

We follow Henry through the '60's and '70's on his journey to find himself. He bounces among adoring women most of his life, but he can't ever seem to find that love for himself. Ironically, although he knows exactly how to make himself irresistible to women, in reality he truly isn't a charming person.

The one thing Henry does love is art, but even that suffers due to his lack of sentiment, so even though he loves to draw, he seems only to be able to copy the work of others. In fact he becomes so good at copying that he gets a job working with Walt Disney studios as a "betweener." An artist who fills in the cells for the movement of animated characters in films.

I enjoyed this story. It's an interesting perspective on these actual practice houses and the baby-boomer years, which may be part of the reason I liked it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Invisible Man

by HG Wells

A fast and fun read, The Invisible Man is pretty much what you'd expect on the surface, but lying underneath are overtones of how society shapes people, but I'll just stick with the actual story and not venture into assumptions.

A stranger comes to the small town of Iping, checks himself into the inn and locks himself into his rooms requesting no disruptions. This only piques the interest of the townspeople, who invent ways to discover who he is, which only serves to make the stranger angry. What the people don't know is that he is a scientist, who has discovered a formula for invisibility. In the beginning, this seems like a great advantage, but soon the stranger realizes how problematic invisibility can be, but he can't figure out how to regain his skin. Becoming more and more frustrated, the stranger embarks on a criminal path, first some petty theft and then declaring a Reign of Terror and recruiting people to help him.

So if you have an afternoon to sit by the fireplace and read, this would be a good choice. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

In the Woods

by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan is good at his job, and he might be great if he didn't have this nagging unsolved mystery in his past creating a constant distraction. To begin, we learn that as a young teen, Rob (aka Adam) and his two best friends, Peter and Jamie go into the woods to a favorite hangout and stumble upon a rape in progress. The attacker notices the witnesses and begins chase, Rob escapes, his friends do not, but their bodies are never found.

Next we are introduced to the "main" mystery, a dancing prodigy who is murdered just before her departure to ballet school.  Ryan is assigned a new partner, Cassie who coincidentally reminds him of Jamie, which causes some conflicting emotions and instability for him. But he is determined not to let this sassy girl outshine him.

So that's it, two mysteries for the price of one! Here's what happens (perhaps a bit of a spoiler so proceed with caution if the above sounds interesting to you): the mystery of Katy the dancer comes to an unsatisfactory resolution. Despite the blatant clues the answer was still head-scratching. Intertwined throughout this story, Ryan is secretly revisiting the past in hopes of putting it to rest. As the story progresses, you can tell French wrote In the Woods as a beginning to a series, since it is obvious Ryan won't have all the answers by the end of these pages. Problematic though is the fact that by the end of this book, despite all the sneaking and spying, nothing else is uncovered. Detective Ryan is no closer to solving that mystery than he was on page 1. There is not one new clue! Furthermore, as the story develops the characters deteriorate to a point where I had lost interest in them and their plight.

In general the book is well written, just some plot flaws. If you like the noir genre then you'd probably enjoy this book and even continue with the series and discover whodunit. I have my ideas, but don't care enough to discover on my own... so if you read the rest of the story let me know.