Moby Clique

Moby Clique (Bard Academy, #3)Moby Clique by Cara Lockwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This has only 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, but I very nearly gave this a one star DNF. However, I made myself finish it, and I’ll grudgingly say it did get better. The idea for the series is intriguing, if a bit Harry Potterish, with teachers who are the ghosts of dead authors (in a kind of purgatory) and with the conjuring of fictional characters. Even our heroine, Miranda, is apparently at least partially the descendant of a fictional character herself, which gives her some sort of special powers. Without giving too much of the plot away, Miranda will face an eventual confrontation with Ahab on the Pequod, and with Moby Dick. Cara Lockwood does seem to have a good ear for teen dialog as well as teen angst and drama, and a good sense of humor. I’m just a long way from being a teenager and found it rather tedious.

Book Description:
Some literary classics have been around for centuries. Miranda Tate’s just hoping to survive junior year…. Her summer reading assignment is Moby-Dick, but Miranda’s vacation hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. Between working at her stepmother’s hideous all-pink boutique, and having broken up with her basketball champ boyfriend Ryan, not to mention snoozing her way through one of literature’s heaviest tomes, she’s almost looking forward to returning to Bard Academy. That was before her kid sister Lindsay smashed up their dad’s Land Rover and got shipped off to Bard herself. Is the punishment Lindsay’s — or Miranda’s? A private school staffed by the ghosts of famous dead writers is hard enough to navigate without a freshman kid sister in tow, but now Miranda’s trying to sort out her feelings for her brooding friend Heathcliff, who happens to be a fictional character, while keeping Bard’s secrets from her nosy sister. And when her nemesis Parker handpicks gullible Lindsay to be a Parker clone, Miranda knows a storm is brewing. Then, Lindsay disappears in the woods…and a frantic search sends Ryan, Miranda, and Heathcliff to Whale Cove, a spot rumored to hide a sunken pirate’s ship. But something — or someone — even more ominous and terrifying lurks there. Can Miranda stay the course and save her sister?

Opening paragraph:
Call me bored.

As in — terminally.

I’m a hundred pages into the Longest Book I’ve Ever Read — Moby-Dick — Bard Academy’s summer reading requirement. If you ask my opinion, Herman Melville could’ve shortened this tome by about five hundred pages if he wasn’t so long-winded (I mean, twenty pages alone on the color white? Yeah, I got it — okay? The whale is WHITE. Sheesh. Get on with it!).

 

Tigers in Red Weather

Tigers in Red WeatherTigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Description: Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha’s Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their ‘real lives’: Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war. Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena’s husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena–with their children, Daisy and Ed–try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same. Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment.
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This book falls under my Moby-Dick project because it is written by the great great granddaughter of Herman Melville. It may be brilliantly told – but I didn’t find much to like about this book. It does have a certain elegance which kept it from being one star for me. None of the characters are likeable. I’m not even sure they are believable. But this was an audiobook, and I can listen to things that I wouldn’t have the patience to finish reading. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion and from different points of view. If you like liars, lust, family secrets, a certain psychological tension, and dysfunctional relationships, then this probably isn’t a bad book.

Ahab’s Bride

Ahab's BrideAhab’s Bride by Louise M. Gouge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, but it was okay. Originally a dissertation project, the time period seems to be thoroughly researched. But despite all the detail, I couldn’t quite put myself into this time and place. There’s a stiffness and formality to the writing that gives this a rather old-fashioned feel and kept me on the “outside” looking in. It is a Christian novel, so the author indulged in a lot of theological dialogue. At least she didn’t seem to be trying to save the reader’s soul! Mostly it seems historically appropriate. I found the background about the Quaker schism interesting. Hannah, herself, seems to be open-minded to different points of view.

Hannah starts out in her marriage to Ahab with a great deal of naivete. Some of the romantic dialog is far too sickeningly saccharine for my taste, but I wouldn’t say this is a romance novel. It is a portrait of a woman, growing and changing over time. Mostly we see her through her relationship with Ahab. The lengthy periods of his absences are glossed over far too quickly. Through her eyes, we see an Ahab that is too perfect to be real in the beginning. I do think the author did a better job with his character following the loss of his leg. One of Hannah’s friends explains toward the end of the book “he’s always had something broken inside” but we don’t really see that foreshadowed at all. It seemed quite an abrupt shift in his personality after the accident. But again, it is all through Hannah’s eyes.

It might be interesting to see how Hannah develops in the next book of the Ahab’s Legacy trilogy now that she is separated permanently from Ahab, but I haven’t decided if I really want to read it or not. I do like the historical detail, and there are hints of what Hannah might become through her interests in transcendentalism and introduction to the thinking of Lucretia Mott.

Description: Before Captain Ahab encountered Moby Dick, he met the woman who would capture his heart – Hannah Oldweiler. This voyage back to 19th Century Nantucket completes the portrait of the man who ruled the sea with an iron will, and introduces us to the woman who had a spirit and determination to match. When Ahab becomes obsessed with settling a score with the great whale, Hannah is left alone to raise their son and to oversee her husband’s estate. Waiting and praying for his safe return, Hannah is faced with loneliness – a deep longing in her soul that not even her husband can meet. Will Hannah become as independent as Ahab? Will she take her future into her own hands? Who will fill the emptiness in her heart?

Moby-Dick Project

I have created a new page for the list of books I’ve compiled relating to my Moby-Dick project (link on the left under Pages). It is not intended to be exhaustive. Most of the books (with a few exceptions) tie in some way to Melville, Moby-Dick, whaling, or Nantucket. Obviously I could have included much more under The Sea category, or Nantucket, for example, but those are secondary subjects. I am also focusing on fiction, not all the many scholarly books written about Melville and Moby-Dick. I welcome comments or suggestions for additions!

Cathedral of the Sea

Cathedral of the SeaCathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is everything I love about historical novels and family sagas: big, sweeping, panoramic, enough history to understand the context, enough detail to put me in that time and place, characters that I care about, a little romance, a lot of adventure, and a satisfying ending. This caught my attention in connection with my Moby-Dick project because it had the word “sea” in the title. Other than that, there is no connection. It is not a sea story. For information and pictures of the cathdral see http://www.aviewoncities.com/barcelon… . I listened to an audio recording of the book. Otherwise I would have been stumbling over the pronunciation of Spanish names and places. It had me sitting in my garage on multiple occasions after driving home from work because I didn’t want to stop the narrative. Arnau begins life as the son of a runaway serf, joins the guild of the bastaix (porters who unload the cargo from the ships in the harbor) who carry stones from the quarry to the building site on their own time because of their dedication to the Virgin of the Sea. Through Arnau’s eyes, we see life in Barcelona during times of famine and plague, relations with the Jews, the Inquisition, war, the growing maritime prosperity of Catalonia and the merchant classes, and the role of religion and faith from differing perspectives. Arnau is a good man at his core, but he is not above exacting revenge on those who have harmed him and those he loves. Well researched, I did not mind the historical asides, and learned a lot about a less familiar region of medieval Europe.

Description:
In the tradition of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, here is a thrilling historical novel of friendship and revenge, plague and hope, love and war, set in the golden age of 14th-century Barcelona. Arnau Estanyol arrives in Barcelona and joins the powerful guild of stone-workers building the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar, while his adoptive brother Joan studies to become a priest. As Arnau prospers, he secretly falls in love with a forbidden woman. When he is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved cathedral is finally completed, or will his brother spare him?

The Secret of Lost Things

The Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book much more than I did. The premise sounded so promising – a coming of age story, a lost manuscript, a large used bookstore, a Melville tie-in. I love literary stories, and there is some beautiful language here, but it wasn’t enough to make it 3 stars for me. In fact, if this hadn’t been an audiobook, it might have been a DNF. The characters were outrageously quirky – not a normal person in the bunch – and had such promise, but they were not developed enough to make me care about them. The plot ultimately went nowhere, with lots of loose ends. It didn’t really work for me as a coming of age story – did the main character grow and change during the year the book takes place? Did the lost girl find herself? Nor did it work as a literary mystery. Some of the characters were creepy, but there wasn’t much in the way of suspense.

The book might work as an exploration of lostness. I’m just not sure anything was found by the end of it. Rosemary is lost and alone when she arrives in New York City. She strikes up a friendship with Lillian, an Argentinian woman whose son was “disappeared.” At the book store, she finds another friend, Pearl, a black wanna-be opera singer transexual. And then there is Walter Geist, an albino losing his eyesight, and probably his mind. A second theme explored is obsession and its consequences. That’s where Melville and the manuscript come in. Geist seems to represent both Moby Dick and Ahab, with his obsession for both the manuscript and Rosemary. Rosemary develops a crush on Oscar, a handsome but emotionally unavailable coworker who is also obsessed with finding the manuscript. Lillian, of course, is obsessed with the need to find her son, or at least find out what happened to him. Sex and sexuality might be a third theme – the naive Rosemary, the lonely and repressed Walter Geist, the asexual Oscar, and the delightful transexual Pearl, who might be my favorite character. In her own way, she comes across as the only one who isn’t lost. She’s real and honest.

This isn’t a bad debut novel. I would read a second book about Rosemary, hoping for the further development of some of the characters, and answers to some of the loose threads. Sheridan Hay definitely has potential.

Description: Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city.

Dive Deeper

Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-DickDive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t think I need to add anything to the publisher’s description (below.) This is a marvelous book. The topics are random and varied, tied loosely to each chapter of Moby-Dick, and provide insights into Melville’s world and the themes within the novel as well as its influence on music, art, film, and literature since 1851.

Description: Herman Melville’s epic tale of obsession has all the ingredients of a first rate drama–fascinating characters in solitude and society, battles between good and evil, a thrilling chase to the death–and yet its allusions, digressions, and sheer scope can prove daunting to even the most intrepid reader. George Cotkin’s Dive Deeper provides both a guide to the novel and a record of its dazzling cultural train. It supplies easy-to-follow plot points for each of the novel’s 135 sections before taking up a salient phrase, image, or idea in each for further exploration. Through these forays, Cotkin traces the astonishing reach of the novel, sighting the White Whale in mainstream and obscure subcultures alike, from impressionist painting circles to political terrorist cells. In a lively and engaging style, Dive Deeper immerses us into the depths of Melville’s influence on the literature, film, and art of our modern world. Cotkin’s playful wit and critical precision stretch from Camus to Led Zeppelin, from Emerson to Bob Dylan, and bring to life the terrors and wonders of what is arguably America’s greatest novel.