Welcome to Friday Reads. Each Friday, I’ll review any books I’ve completed that week, as well as share what I’m reading right now. And by “Each Friday,” I mean “some Fridays.”

I’m still working toward that goal of 40 for the year. Currently at 34. Will I make it?

Finished:

Touch Not the CatMary Stewart – 3.75* (Dec 4)

This book is one of my Heywood Hill subscription novels.

The book was released in 1976 and the story was set roughly in that timeframe. Still, it felt slightly dated. Also, it felt as if it should’ve been set far before then. Perhaps it’s my familiarity with Downton Abbey but I couldn’t help but place this book, with it’s similar family agreement that cuts her out of inheriting the family land when her father dies suddenly. It has to go to the ranking male in the family – her cousin. The setting in time kept pulling me out of the story.

In general, the story is the sort that interests me. A young woman must solve the mystery of the cryptic last words uttered by her father as he is dying, the result of a questionable accident. The twist I was sure would come did not, which both pleased me and disappointed me. The tie to the past was interesting, though weird.

The thing that took me out of the story the most was the gift of “sight” some of her family experienced. It was explained as a kind of telepathy, except she had entire conversations with someone she called her “lover” and assumed was one of her cousins, though she had no idea which one. I would’ve liked to cut that entire bit from the book completely except it played a major role in the conclusion.

Not my favorite, but still interesting.

The Trouble with Tuck – Theodore Taylor – 1(Dec 4)

To say this book has aged poorly is an understatement of epic proportions. It was published in 1981 (set in the mid-50s) and I read it at some point probably around the mid to late 80s. I recently found my copy on a shelf at my parents’ house and thought I’d read it again. But when I read it today, I was angry at almost every character in the book.

The crux of the story is that Helen’s 3-year old dog is going blind. Because he’s saved her life twice, she’s determined to save his. Aww, heartwarming! Except not.

So spoilers are ahead.

The things wrong with this book. Where to start?

  1. The male author makes sure to mention how “shapely” the young girl’s mother is. Why is this relevant? Because Helen, age 11, feels ugly.
  2. But don’t worry – at the end of the book, because she has persevered in training her dog (Tuck), she gives us the final line. “I’ve never felt so good. So confident. So beautiful.” Well then!
  3. Helen is saved by Tuck from an attempted abduction and rape. Seems appropriate for the audience!
  4. They take him to the vet for help. At first I was on-board because the vet didn’t give them false help. He told them there was no hope, no surgery, nothing that could be done. But then, the vet:
    • doesn’t give them any guidance about what they can do
    • when they return to his office to offer guidance, he offers to “put the dog away” right then
    • his alternative suggestion is to turn the dog over to a research lab so maybe he can help other dogs in the future
    • when the family insists that’s not cool, he tells them to consider what’s best for the dog, that it’s unfair to him to be on a rope
    • he further shares that the worst bite he ever got was from a friendly but blind (and scared) dog (this is ok, but not so much how he says it)
    • and when they express (natural) concern for the dog being tied up, he says then they can expect him to get hit by a car, showing them a cat with a head wound and saying “this is what it looks like when an animal is hit by a car.”
    • the dog IS soon hit by a car and the family is terrified, but the child asks if the dog will live, the doctor “laughed heartily” before assuring her he would be ok this time.
  5. Several times hitting the dog is mentioned as an acceptable option (though a last resort) when he’s resisting his training or otherwise acting out.
  6. They also leave the dog chained outside all day once he is hit by the car. The girl makes sure he has water, acknowledging the terrible southern CA heat.
  7. There’s very little consequence to the girl lying repeatedly, including to a school for the (human) blind where she tries to get her dog an assistance dog, or when she runs away because she was eavesdropping.

That’s more than enough reasons to dislike this book.

Current:

Caroline: Little House, Revisited – Sarah Miller – 17%

Interesting so far. The style is very similar to the Little House books. Seeing the story from the viewpoint of “Ma” is an interesting angle since Laura was so young during this part of the story.

Bad Dreams and Other Stories – Tessa Hadley – 53%

I haven’t made any progress here. I’m going to try to be done with it by next Friday.

Up Next:

I’m not sure but possibly The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s a re-read but after watching the (barely connected) miniseries on Netflix, I’m interested in revisiting the original story.

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