Monday, November 12, 2007
An offshoot a rich family, the new Earl and Countess of Ellesmere (formerly, Elsie & Perce Spender) arrive at Chetton Hall following the deaths of the two previous Earls. But Elsie and Perce don't like the massive and drafty (draughty) stone pile. They want to go home to Clapham. They instruct their man of affairs to sell the lot and they'll distribute the proceeds among their 3 children.
Mr. Lilywaite, though, is a traditionalist. He tries to persuade the Earl and Countess of their responsibilities: to the family; to Engand; to the law of primogeniture.
While sorting out the affairs of the estate, Perce and Elsie's children arrive to celebrate the Earl's 60th birthday. The children are divided on what is to be done. Phil, the eldest and new Lord Portsea, has three weeks to serve on his sentence, but his harridan wife, Elsie, fighting her corner, sees herself as the next Countess. Trevor, the youngest, is easy, although he does think the house would be a fine setting for his next starring porno role with his girlfriend, Michele. The new Lady Joan and her husband, Digby, are busy calculating what the sale will bring.
Then comes the murder.
Enter the rural, but intelligent, inspector and his, self-effacing, but intelligent, sergeant.
A perfect setting and a perfect vehicle for Robert Barnard's sly humour. Highly recommended.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Willie Upton is one of the last decedents of the original founders of her hometown, Templeton. She hasn't been home in years, but she returns, pregnant and scared that she is in much deeper trouble for trying to run over her lovers wife with a small plane.
She has always thought herself the child of her hippie mother's years in a commune and that her father was one of the three male members of the group. Soon after Willie's return to Templeton, her mother confesses that Willie's father is actually a local man. However Willie's mother refuses to tell Willie the name of her father, only that he is someone Willie knows and that he is most likely also descended from the town's founding fathers.
I really liked the book and am happy that I was selected to read and discuss the book with it's author.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I have to say I agree with Kristin: I truly loved this book. It's clever, original, and brilliantly executed.
Quick plot: Ella Minnow Pea lives on the island of Nollop, where the creator of the pangram sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" is revered. Disaster strikes when letters begin falling over the monument to Nollop - the government, in a fit of bureaucracy to rival none, declares that if Nollop had wanted those letters to remain in the language, they would not have fallen from the monument. Therefore, the fallen letters will be banned from use in speech or written form, with draconian punishments meted out to those who offend - the first offence receives a warning; the second a choice or whipping or exhibiting in public stocks; the third banishment.
The first letter to fall is z; surprisingly common once it's no longer allowed, but after all, not so great a loss. However as more and more letters fall, communication - and the remaining population of the island - become more and more strained. Eventually, the High Council - forced to rename themselves through the loss of 'C' - issue a proclamation: if a new pangram, shorter in length than Nollop's infamous sentence - can be found by a given deadline, all letter-related statutes will be reversed, and life can resume it's normal flow.
It's a quirky idea; and brilliantly executed. As each letter falls, the author banishes it from his own arsenal of letters, so by the time the remaining poor citizens of Nollop are left with a mere five letters, so is Mark Dunn. It's a fun book, a quick read, and a darkly sarcastic satire on the abuses and misuses of government. I enjoyed it immensely.
Link on bookmooch is here: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0385722435. It's not currently available (my copy was mooched pretty quickly); but it does come up frequently. Good hunting!
I found this a fascinating read, and a good insight into the author's beliefs and world. Despite that, a lot of this book left me appreciating the beautiful writing and the ideas she was trying to express; but essentially unmoved. I don't think this is a fault in the book. I think this is simply because, unlike Linda Hogan, I'm not an earth person. I don't see the world in the same terms she does. She says it herself, in a chapter on the Voyager spacecraft: "There seemed to be two kinds of people; earth people and those others, the sky people, who stumbled over pebbles while they walked around with their heads in clouds. Sky people loved different worlds than I loved; they looked at nests in treetops and followed the long white snake of vapor trails." If, like me, you trip over dirt because you're too busy watching the sky - well, this is a good book, definitely worth reading, and a very good look into a beautiful world; but it's not going to resonate.
If you're an earth person, fascinated by our world and the creatures who live in it - mooch away. I don't think you'll regret it.
Book available here: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0684830337. Please note the condition notes - there's some (minimal) writing in this book, and a lot of marked passages; don't mooch if this will bother you.
Her only refuge is summers with her father's mother, Mamalita; but these are abruptly taken from her when one summer her father remarries, and instead of going to spend the summer with her father and Mamalita, she ends up slaving for her new stepmother and watching out for her younger stepsister, Yolanda. What nobody bothers to tell her, including her distant doctor father, is that Mamalita is sick, and in no shape to have her visit - although given how self-sufficient Sandrine is, if anybody had bothered to mention this to either Sandrine or her Mamalita, I suspect that would have been no barrier to visiting. We learn why Sandrine's lost her only refuge when she does - long after she's given up hope and run away back to New Orleans for the remainder of the summer - when Mamalita dies. Then to make matters worse, her new stepmother sends her new stepsister Yolanda to New Orleans on the bus; and it's obvious very quickly that Sandrine's mother prefers the far-more-disobedient Yolanda to her own daughter. Now Sandrine's left with a bleak existence; left to care for Yolanda, who despite being only a year younger is far less self-sufficient; and with no hope of a way out any more. Unsurprisingly, she starts to rebel.
This is a beautifully written book, but emotionally draining. The setting is a very bleak one; her one friend suffers a fate that could easily have been Sandrine's own, but effectively abandons Sandrine to her own devices in the process. Sandrine however maintains a core of courage and strength through a litany of horrible situations and dawning revelations about herself, her mother, and her life, peaking when she realises that, if she wants to get out of her situation and of New Orleans, then she's just going to have to do it herself.
Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow is enthralling, and despite the horrific events, manages to impart some good lessons: decide for yourself what you are worth; rely on yourself, but don't lock yourself away from trusting other people; the world can be what you make of it.
It's also one of the most disturbingly racist books I've read in years. Many of Sandrine's problems stem from the fact that she is black, but could 'pass' for white if she chose to - and that everyone (including her mother) then assumes she chooses to, when in fact all she wants is to be allowed to be who and what she is and not be ostracised for it. This part is explicit in the text. More subtle, and therefore more disturbing, is an underlying 'white people are bad' theme, which Sandrine herself - despite mentioning that all she knows of white people is what she's seen on a television she's rarely allowed to watch - subscribes to. One wonders how, with such an attitude so prevalent and unnoticed, our world will ever cease to judge people by the colour of their skin.
Book is available for mooch here: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0978843126. Note it's an uncorrected proof edition.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Six months before her 67th birthday, Jane Juska, a semi-retired English teacher, placed a personal ad in the New York Review. It read:
Before I turn 67 -- next March -- I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. NYR Box 10307.
Round-Heeled Woman is Juska's account of the men she met (and slept with). It is also a memoir of growing up in a small Ohio town, marrying, having a child, divorcing, moving to San Francisco and being a mother and a teacher.
Having placed her ad, she sorted the replies into Yes, No and Possible, and set out to have an adventure. And sex. And so she did. Except for an initial disaster, the men were intelligent, educated and interesting (as you would expect from readers of the New York Review), and happy to meet an intelligent, educated, interesting woman, and jump into bed with her. But they did talk, even about Trollope. Juska discovered New York and fell in love with the city, its libraries, museums and music -- and the man she went to meet. It was not mutual. She was saddened, but moved on to the next on the list.
This is not a sexy book. Juska is not shy about the details of what went on in the various beds she jumped into, but does not dwell on them. Still, the sex binge seemed to me sad and unfulfilling. Real passion can't limit itself to one-night stands; she ended up asking herself, "Once you've had a lot of sex with a man you like, how can you stop wanting him?" The answer appears to be, "You can't". When someone shares your interests, is kind and funny, and gives you what you want in bed, women generally fall in love. Juska fell in love with one soul-mate after another, but her ad had dictated terms that did not encourage a lasting relationship.
It is only in the last few pages that she identifies the true impulse behind her ad. There is the obvious: one big fling before age and infirmity rule. But more, she needed an outlet for the passion she had poured into teaching. And it is when she describes teaching -- her high school English classes, the writing courses she teaches at San Quentin, and her students -- that her book sings. Love, enthusiasm, and her gift for her vocation pour off the pages. What I wouldn't have given for such a teacher!
Round-Heeled Woman is a funny, witty and somewhat sad memoir. Did I say that Juska is a fine writer? I'm looking forward to the sequel.
Orthodox, Southern, Jewish girl marries Black man in 1942. Her parents say the prayer for the dead for her. Her husband is a good man and religious. Ruth converts to Christianity, not because of her husband, unless indirectly, but because she's drawn to Jesus. They live in one room in Harlem and have 4 children. This is probably the most prosperous period of her life until her kids are grown.
They move to the projects and have 3 more children. He becomes a minister and they start a church (still existent). When she's carrying their 8th child, he dies from cancer. She has nothing, but somehow keeps going, although the kids are always hungry.
Eventually, she meets another man, a city worker, also Black, and they get married. They have 4 more children. He has a stroke and dies. She's alone, has 12 children, refuses anything like welfare. She has the church, a menial job and a small pension from the city worker. Here's how her kids turned out:
- Andrew Dennis McBridge, BA, Lindon University; MD, University of Pennsylvania Medical School; MA, Public Health, Yale University, Director of Health Department, City of Stamford, Connecticut
- Rosetta McBride, BA, Howard University, MSW Social Work, Hunter College; Staff Psychologist, New York City Board of Education
- William McBride, BA, Lincoln University, MD, Yale University School of Medicine; MBA, Emory University, School of Business; Medical Director Southeast Region, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Merck and Co., Inc.
- David McBride, BA Denison University, MA History, Columbia University, PhD, History, Columbia University, Chairman of Afro-American History Department, Pennsylvania State University
- Helen McBride-Richter, RN, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, GONP, Emory University School of Medicine, Graduate Student in Nuse Midwifery, Emory University School of Nursing
- Richrd McBride, US Army veteran, BA Cheney University, Chemistry, MS Drexel University; Associate Professor of Chemistry, Cheney State, Chemistry Research Associate, AT&T
- Dorothy McBride-Wesley, A. A. Pierce Junior College, BA La Salle University, medical practice office manager, Atlanta, Georgia
- James McBride, BA Oberlin College, MSJ Journalism, Columbia University; writer, composter, saxaphonist
- Kathy Jordan, BA Syracuse University, MS Education, Long Island University, special education teacher, Ewing High School, Ewing, New Jersey
- Judy Jordan, BA Adelphi University; MA, Columbia University Teachers College; teacher, JHS 268, Manhattan.
- Hunter Jordan, BS, Computer Engineering, Syracuse University; computer consultant, US Trust Corporation, Ann Taylor.
- Henry Jordan, junior at North Carolina A&T University; customer service and purchasing, Neal Manufacturing, Inc.,
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
From Back Cover:
My Thoughts on the Story:
All I have to say is really "WOW" what a story! My first instinct when I got through the first few chapters was that I was reading a ordinary "haunted building kills everyone in a bloody mess" story but boy was I wrong. Instead I got this amazing roller coaster ride that kept me turning page after page long after I should have gone to bed. I can't go into why the story kept me on the edge with out spilling the beans and giving away tons of spoilers needless to say... you must read this if you like on the edge of your seat thrillers. I started reading this book at lunch, continued after dinner and finished long after I should have been in bed. I simply can not imagine anyone being disappointed with the action in this story. Mind you there are a few unanswered question to the story that I feel if were answered would have made the story even better. There is a book two out to this series but I have not read it yet. It is on my mooching list for bookmooch. It is called Scavenger.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
By Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
About the Series:
Journey into a world where fairy tales are a fact of life and life sometimes is just plain boring. Follow the adventures of Cimorene, an unconventional princess as she discovers what it means to follow your own path and not the one set out by others.
Book 1: Dealing with Dragons: Meet Princess Cimorene the youngest daughter of The King of Linderwall. Cimorene is a princess who wants to do un-princess like things like sword fighting, magic and even cooking! Each attempt to learn a new skill is put to a halt by her parents. Finally in desperation to escape the drudgery of being a princess she takes the advice of a magic frog and soon discovers herself belonging to a dragon. Between caring for the dragon's needs and chasing away knights and wizards Cimorene discovers the life she always wanted to lead.
Book 2: Searching for Dragons: Kazul is missing and it is up to Cimorene to find her but she can't do it alone. Along with Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted forest she embarks on a hilarious expedition to discover what is killing the forest and who has stolen her dragon.
Book 3: Calling on Dragons: The Enchanted Forest is dying and the King's sword has gone missing. It is up to Cimorene to join forces with a hedge witch, a magician, a dragon and a rabbit called Killer in order to discover the scoundrels behind the plot to destroy her new home.
Book 4: Talking to Dragons: Skip ahead a generation. Daystar is a young man who lives outside the enchanted forest with his mother. When he turns 16, a wizard shows up to his house to his surprise his mom melts him. Then wanders into the forest, returning with a magic sword she hands him then tells him to get out and don't come back till he discovers what he is supposed to do with it. Confused Daystar stumbles into the Enchanted forest to discover his fate. Luckily for him he stumbles upon a few friends that join in as he discovers his path.
My Thoughts on the Series:
This is a good series. Wrede writes quite well had her story is chalked full of humor. Her twists on the age old fairy tales is enjoyable and she does an amazing job of satirizing them. Even though they are geared toward Young Adults they are quite appropriate for us "old" Adults and didn't drag at all. With each book you discover more strange and unique characters that help the story grow and flourish into an excellent series.
Friday, September 7, 2007
About the Book:
Charley and Rip are back once again in a high flying UFO thriller. In this sequel to Stephen Coonts's Saucer, Rip and Charley have gone their separate ways. Charley leaves to join a expedition to the moon and Rip is left at home to work on refining the technology they recovered from the Saucer's computer banks. What they don't know is that Charley's new boss, Artois has a master plan for taking over the world using the Moon base as a weapon. Along the way it is up to Charley and Rip to save their family and the world from the malevolent madman.
My Thoughts on the Book:
This story smacked of a "James Bond" movie genre. I absolutely loved this book as much as I did the first, though I did find the first half to drag out too long. It felt like they were trying to fill up page space with details on the space trip. But once the action started the book took off in a flying leap in which I did not want to put it down. Coonts is a master at writing great action stories with a lot of humor splashed through out to keep you smiling.
Book One: Saucer
Book Two: Saucer the Conquest
Happy Reading :)
Tesse aka blissful2beme
Thursday, September 6, 2007
I have to say this is the first book I've even seen made into a movie where Hollywood didn't screw it up. Granted, they invented characters, but the situations and events are the true story. The book, naturally, gives more detail on the mechanics of digging, providing clothes and documents, tools and food for the escape, which I found fascinating. You also get more sense of the grimness and hunger which can't be provided by well-fed actors.
Highly recommended and already mooched.
This book made me feel so good. Obama always makes me feel good. He is positive and optimistic without being unrealistic. He can explain the great divide in American politics and how it came to be, and make you understand that it's not just meanness of spirit that has brought us to this pass. He talks about values without making you feel that there are quote marks around the word. He discusses the constitution with love and intelligence as might be expected from a professor of constitutional law. He talks of race and religion without making you feel threatened by either. There are chapters on Family, Politics, The World. He identifies problems without malice and lays out ideas for solving them; ideas that are down to earth, practicable and appeal to the common sense of most Americans.
Vote for who you want, but read this book. You can feel good, too.
Monday, September 3, 2007
This is an amazing book. I did not expect to be this good!
From Back Cover:
They were Terrans, considered by Central Control to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy. Divided into "Hordes" and "Legions," the former serving on primitive worlds with hand weapons, the latter indulging in technical warfare on more advanced planets. These men of death followed orders perfectly -- until rumors of whole unit annihilations began to spread. . .
Kana Karr was just a Swordsman of an extraordinary planet to quail a common rebellion. A simple assignment -- until Kana discovered teh awesome truth behind the inter galactic rumors and realized that not only his life but the fate of the whole human race was irrevocably entwined with the outcome.
My Thoughts on the Story:
This book sat in my TBR pile for almost a year, I would pick it up then put it back never really moving to read it till today. I find that I am glad I did pick it up and finally read it. The narrative starts out this an informative preface that sets the mood for a story along piquing your curiosity about what the main character did to set the galaxy on it's ear. I found the main character Kana, to be a believable character and one who grew as the story did. The interaction between the different alien races were interesting and kept you guessing as to what was going to happen. I found the ending to be satisfying and made me instantly want to see if there was a sequel to it. I would recommend reading this book to others. Since this is a 2 book series you may want to start with book one . Star Rangers first.
Star Rangers http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0449240762
Star Guards http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0449236463
This story is set in Birmingham, AL. The story centers on Chance, a 23 yr old paleontologist, who is dealing with the grief and guilt of loosing her friend and family; Deke, Chance's ex-boy friend who has psychic powers, which gives him the ability to see the past from touching items and Dancy, a pale albino runaway who can see monsters and is the catalyst in the story. Dancy tells Chance and Deke about the monsters that are tied to Chance's family and the fossils they are researching...from there it becomes a tell of intrigue and horror as they discover how futile it can be to struggle against something that has no answers to an ending that can only be called ..."what just happened?"
I personally should have put this book down when I hit about mid way. The style of this writer is annoying and disjointed. I had trouble following the story because it was so mashed together with quick bursts of visions/dreams/character thoughts in the head, I was never sure what was actually happening or what was being imagined by the characters. There is no clearly defined reason for the creatures to be assaulting the family or if they were defined I missed in the disjointed dreamy prose the writer used. And the ending was very unbelievable, anti climatic and a jump to making me say " What the hell?" I personally will not read another book by this author, I found it annoying to the very end.
BM Link: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/045146124X
Review by Blissful2beme
Sunday, September 2, 2007
This was a really good book. I was almost not able to put it down once I started reading it.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Nick Hornby's collection of articles written for Believer magazine on his struggle between the books he brings into his house and the ones he's actually able to read is so relatable that it made me believe that I too could be a wildly successful pop novelist if not for the lack of talent, time, and friends in high places. In endeavoring to write these reviews for the TBR blog I resolved that I would only read and review books I've accumulated (and not yet read) through BookMooch and PaperbackSwap. The number of books coming in vs. the number being read has gotten to a point that my wife has demanded I stop requesting books altogether. I've agreed to stop adding books to my wishlist.
"Housekeeping vs. The Dirt" is the second volume of these collected articles following "The Polysyllabic Spree." The running theme through the essays month after month is a choice that all of us readers must make every time we decide to crack open a book and resolve to finish it: meaningful, difficult, classic literature or pop, easy, pulp fiction. He says in the preface, "One of the problems, it seems to me, is that we have got it into our heads that books should be hard work, and that unless they're hard work, they're not doing us any good." I relate. I love his honesty and ability to drop his guard that we'll think he's lacking depth. In fact, I believe his depth is quite evident when he actually begins writing the essays.
He eventually happens upon "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson which he describes as "this extraordinary, yearning mystical work…" At this point, November 2005, the collection of essays take a turn, and he heaps unprecedented praise on Marilynne Robinson including calling her "one of America's greatest living writers." At the risk of contradicting much of what he's built his thesis around with this collection he says, "I have always prized the accessible over the obscure, but after reading 'Housekeeping' I can see that in some ways the easy, accessible novel is working at a disadvantage…" Oh Nick, say it isn't so. He goes on to equate how long it took him to read the book as one of these advantages: "If you are so gripped by a book that you want to read it in the mythical single sitting, what chance has it got of making it all the way through the long march to your soul?" In the space of two pages he flips his hypothesis on its ear and convinces me in the same breath.
I've never read any of Nick Hornby's fiction or purchased Believer magazine, but this collection of essays has made my own quest to read the avalanche of books crashing into my home feel noble in its own way. To find meaning in my life and connection between books simply because of where they sit on the shelf or the juxtaposition of two books being read simultaneously is all part of the wonderful experience of reading.
I'll leave you with another great quote that we can all remember when we're just not up for reading that classic behemoth and just want our best-selling, genre novel to sit on the beach with:
"…here's something… no one will ever tell you: if you don't read classics, or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do." Thanks for the reassurance Nick.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
To be honest, I was disappointed with this book. I'm not quite sure what I was looking for from it - I don't normally read true crime - but whatever it was, I didn't find it. There's no real insight here - all Berry-Dee manages is to recount (badly) some fairly horrific crimes, and push a couple of pop-psychology buttons. If any of those years of letters and interviews have told him anything about these people, it's not evident here. There are a handful of excerpts from them, but they're the exception, rather the rule. In a book subtitled 'The Most Evil People in the World Tell Their Own Stories", this is definitely a disappointment.
The writing itself is uninspired, and could use a good editor - one who knows how not to abuse commas would have been a plus. The chapters themselves are either too ambitious or not ambitious enough - he either glosses over details, or goes into so much detail he manages to turn what should be shocking into merely tedious.
If you already know the stories of the serial killers he covers here, there's nothing new added. If you don't and are interested in such things, Berry-Dee does cover the basics. That's about *all* he does, and he doesn't remain unbiased - he clearly thinks two of them are innocent (of the particular serial killings they're accused of) and framed by police, and he spends the last few pages of the chapter on Aileen Lee Wournos attempting to make excuses for her - but if you want a short and unimaginative rundown of a dozen or so serial killers and one mass-murderer, this is the book for you.
Talking with Serial Killers is currently available for mooch here: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/1904034535. Note the condition notes. ETA: now mooched
Friday, August 24, 2007
From the Back of the Book:
A relic from the past. A bridge to the future.
After 140,000 Years?
Seismic Surveyor Rip Cantrell has made an exhilarating discovery-a flying saucer embedded in the Sahara sandstone. Buried for eons, it's not the invention of modern man. Computer-equipped, it can't belong to ancient man. Rip's betting his life on the only alternative. If the ship's memory bank holds the proof he needs, it's going to rock civilization, and make Rip a very famous man.
Its Time Has Come.
Once the secret's out, Rip's outwitted by an enterprising billionaire set to steal the saucer's profitable technology-and outnumbered by the Libyan army looking to lay claim to history. But it's in a skeptical UFO investigation team that Rip finds an unlikely ally: test-pilot Charlotte Pine. Together, they come up with a plan to protect the saucer's secrets.
But Where In The World Is It Going?
Under a hail of bullets, in an exhaust of white fire, Rip and Charlotte are off. Accelerating on a fantastic journey across continents and oceans, they're about to experience the mystery of what once was, and explore the possibilities of what could be, on an adventure 140,000 years in the making.
MY REVIEW: What would you do if you were lucky enough to find a flying saucer in flying condition and had several armed forces chasing you all over the world for possession of it? Why, buzz a baseball game for the fun of it of course! I found this book to be one absorbing story. Reality would just slip away as I was reading it. The story was written in a serious tone highlighted with humor throughout and a smattering of romance. There was not a whole lot of character development in a deep inner sight sense. The book was like a excellent action flick. Once event leading to the next in a loud beautiful bang... I enjoyed the book so much, that I have put all of Coont's books on my TBR list, he's that good.
BM Link: http://www.bookmooch.com/m/detail/0312983212
Reviewed by Tesse aka blissful2beme
Monday, August 20, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I really liked this book. It was very well written and all the elements of the story tied together in surprising ways.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I found this story to be a quick read and found the ideas presented in the book to be thought provoking on many levels. It addresses a lot of social issues and is on the verge of being an apocalyptic tale but just doesn't really follow through. When I read the final chapter a part of me thought "Oh, only if that really could happen in real life".Though I did feel the ending was rushed. On a scale 1-5, I would give it a 3-4 rating. I am sure a teenager would like it better than I since it is written for a youthful audience.
Review by Tesse(blissful2beme)
A Long Long Way is an excellent sleep aid. Unfortunately, I was trying to read it on the bus, where falling asleep just makes you miss your stop, rather than in bed, where falling asleep gets you a good night's rest.
This book is the story of young Willie Dunne, born in the closing years of the 19th century, son of a Dublin policeman. We get the story of his childhood in a few short pages at the start of the book; then we jump straight into Willie's volunteering to go and fight in the British trenches in 1914. He then proceeds to spend an interminable number of pages (and years) sitting in trenches scratching lice and seeing fellow Irish die. This appears to be interspersed with randomly spaced visits home, where he argues with his father over the events in Ireland at the time - the Easter Rising, and all the political tension both leading up to and arising from the British screwups handling it. Although to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how that impacts the storyline, because by the time it showed up, I was skipping fifteen to twenty pages at a time, skimming through to try and pick up any threads of storyline that might actually be worth reading through the intervening pages for. I didn't find any.
If you're looking for a good read, don't pick up this book. If you're looking for a cure for insomnia - might as well try it, it's surely not good for much else.
I'd put it up for mooch, but I got it out of the library.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
In my opinion, J. K. Rowling is the best thing that has happened to children's literature since Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott and Frank Baum.
And Rowling finished up the Harry Potter series in fine form. After beginning to lose her way as her books got longer-- No. 6 was veering toward the leaden -- No. 7 is as good as it gets. We meet many of our old friends, the adventure rattles right along, and all is revealed in the end.
Thank you, Ms. Rowling.
Bennett is an expat-Brit, living in New Zealand where he writes a newspaper column and teaches English. Both occupations are evident in this collection of essays. He has a love for language, words and grammar, that make you savour his writing, especially if you're a person who thinks there is no one left in the world who knows an adjective from an adverb.
But that isn't to say that this is a heavy read. He is a funny and observant man and many of the columns made me laugh out loud. It is evident however, after the first couple of essays that they have been written as newspaper columns, and, like a year's subscription to the newspaper, are not meant to read at one sitting. They quickly become like being assaulted with a series of one-liners. Small doses are better, so it has taken me a couple of months to read a very light book, which I highly recommend.
Fun Run has been added to my inventory.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Note: this review is based on the Advance Reader's Edition of the memoir.
The main characters are the Rector and his wife, along with their maid, Anna—whom the author learned from historical documents survived the plague, as did some of the villagers, though I won’t give away too much here! What happens to our human nature when we are “trapped” with fatally ill, contagious people? What happens when your beloved family and friends are suffering and dying all around you, and you are helpless to cure them?
I thought this was a fascinating account of the period. They lived a very difficult life in those days, and we have no right to complain about our easy lives in comparison! As a warning to the very squeamish, some of the details are quite gruesome. Toward the end, it got a bit like a “romance novel” to me, of which I’m not a big fan, but I enjoyed the novel nonetheless.
Cage of Stars is about a Mormon family who suffers a terrible tragedy. A schizophrenic man wanders onto their small farm in Utah, and kills the two youngest girls. Their 12-year-old sister, Ronnie, is there when it happens, and the rest of the novel deals with her and her parents’ grief, guilt, and subsequent attempts at healing from this awful event.
The parents eventually decide, for their own emotional well-being, to forgive the murderer. This decision shocks and horrifies Ronnie, who develops a very different plan of her own for dealing with him, which will keep you in suspense until the end.
I learned a lot about Mormon life (beyond the stereotypes), and felt compassion for not only this lovely family torn apart by this tragedy, but also for the murderer and his family. Sometimes the dialogue between Ronnie and her parents and friends doesn’t ring true—everyone is too mature and articulate about their emotions. But it was an interesting and different novel.
I really liked this book, by the author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” and found myself (embarrassingly) sobbing at the end. It’s a simple tale, and can be read quickly. It’s comparable to “It’s a Wonderful Life” or to “The Christmas Carol” because of its theme of looking back at the life of a man, and seeing moments where his life intersected the lives of others, and what those moments meant in the larger scheme of life.
It would be great if this is how things really happened—you die and meet up with the spirits of select people in heaven, who help you to make sense of your life, so that you can find peace in the afterlife; and then your spirit, in turn, helps others make sense of their lives.
Even if you do not believe in an afterlife or a higher power, it’s worth thinking about how your actions here on earth affect others in ways you may never know, positive or negative.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
But, you know? This is maybe my best mooch to date. That includes a couple of books I've been looking for for a couple of years now, and a few wishlist books I still don't believe I won the race for. Those were great to get; but this... this is the perfect present you didn't know you wanted. I love this book. The writing sucked me in on the very first page; it's beautiful, lyrical and just sings.
So, the story is this: Gabriel Emerson is a resident in a colony for the feeble-minded somewhere on the Cumberland fells. The colony is in its final days; the residents are slowly being shuffled out and reintegrated into the outside world, and only the hardcore cases are left. As the last weeks of the colony draw to a close, Gabriel embarks on an epic journey: in a disused icehouse on the edges of the colony he sets out to re-imagine and re-trace the steps of the doomed - and disputed - discovery of a Northwest Passage by his namesake two centuries earlier.
Intertwined with Gabriel's dream - a dream powerful enough to carry three of his fellow residents through the Arctic ice with him, and be clearly visible to a fourth, watching from above and narrating the story for the rest of us - is Gabriel's story; and that of his family (unorthdox as it was); and the story of the mining town of Laing, that bore and shaped him; and that of four internees bound to the town by the detention acts for foreign nationals during WWII; and of the ways these all rubbed against each other and exloded one night in a tragedy horrifying enough to haunt Gabriel straight into the colony in the first place.
Ultimately, this is a book about dreams. It was a dream that built Laing; it was dreams that kept the internees going; it was the lack of dreams that cursed the town; it was a dream that Gabriel and his fellows followed in the last days of the colony. In Paul Wilson's own words: "But we were men who, like most poor men, fought and fought, and scrapped for life -- for pieces of the stuff in crevices and dreams. Our story is not in the leftover bones of our lives to be found bleached here in a heap on some shelf of ice, but our hearts that brought us here, and the dreams that drew us on."
I really can't recommend this book highly enough. If I ever find any more copies (priced reasonably!), I'll be buying them up to mooch out, because this definitely deserves to be out there - but this one I'm keeping for me :-).
Monday, August 6, 2007
Iles weaves two mysteries that seem inexplicably connected though separated by nearly 25 years into a compelling story. Though quite long this book grabs your attention and doesn't let go until the end. Through all the twists and turns of Cat's quest to learn the truth about her family's secrets the suspense builds to an explosive conclusion.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Maria works at a day program with mentally and physically disabled adults. She is mandated by her agency to include her clients in the larger community. Unfortunately she is finding it a challenge to get the Scottish working-class town where she lives to welcome her clients. She decides to put on a community variety show and invite participation from all the community groups. With the help of her spiritual guides, Madonna and Nelson Mandela, and a fascinating group of eccentric characters, will Maria succeed in creating a hit show?
This is a funny and endearing book. The community of Hexton is full of wonderful characters. Maria’s clients are all fully realized individuals. Also helping with the show are Ray, the mysterious and charismatic furniture maker who lets Maria use the deconsecrated church he is using as a workshop to hold her show, Alice, the leader of the senior citizen can-can dancer group, an evangelical Pastor, and a transvestite Madonna impersonator. Maria has some challenges, some romance, and some moral choices to make as she tries to fulfill her mandate to include her charges in the larger community.
Having worked with children and adults with special needs for over 25 years, I can relate to Maria’s situation. The humour and humanity of this book make it a very enjoyable read.
I love these books! They are funny fantasy/adventure and marvelous social commentary. Pratchett, as noted by The Times (London) is the Jonathan Swift of our day. This isn't the best of the lot, but that's like saying it isn't the brightest diamond in the pile.
A child is born and is invested with great powers. Eight years later, he arrives at Unseen University where all the wizards are happy to follow him for the greater glory of their kind. (The general population tend to ignore them.)
Almost all are happy. Rincewind, who failed most of his wizardly studies, and the Librarian, who, by mistake, was transformed into an Orangutan and prefers to remain one, are not happy. Together with Conina, daughter of Cohen the Barbarian, Nijel, a hero-in-training, and The Luggage, they set out to save the world from the Apocolypse of the Horseman and Three Pedestrians.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Mistress of the Art of Death opens with a clever parody of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It describes a group of pilgrims traveling toward Cambridge in Medieval times. Among the group is a doctor, trained in Solerno Italy in the art of examining the bodies of the dead. More unusual even than the doctor’s specialty in these superstitious times is the fact that she is a woman. She is traveling incognito with an investigator/spy to look into the deaths and disappearances of children in Cambridge. The children’s deaths are being blamed on the local Jews and King Henry has asked help from his cousin, the King of Italy, to solve the murders before all the Jews in Cambridge become victims of an angry populace.
Franklin’s novel is both an engaging and suspenseful murder mystery and a detailed historical novel. The mystery of the children’s deaths, and the uncovering of the identity of the perverted child killer, is intriguing. But it is the exploration of the character of Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar that is central to the novel. Adelia is a woman of science in a time of superstition. She is an independent woman in a time when women have no power and no rights. She is an agnostic and a humanist in a time when the Church and the Crown are struggling for supremacy: when Thomas a Becket’s death is still fresh.
To do her work as a doctor Adelia must pretend that she is just the assistant to one of her male companions. Much of the fun in the book is reading how she holds her own with the men around her. As the mystery unfolds there is political intrigue, religious controversy and even a little romance. The novel has a satisfying ending yet leads me to hope there will be a sequel and another opportunity to spend time with this fascinating character.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I would classify it a gothic romantic tale, complete with the clueless heroine, Miranda Wells, and the lord of the manor, Nicholas Van Ryn. Miranda lives on a farm with her parents and a lot of younger brothers and sisters. She is fanciful and prefers reading and daydreaming to churning butter or milking the cows. Her mother receives a letter from a distance relative who lives in a manor in upstate New York. The relative, Nicholas Van Ryn, needs a governess for his daughter. Nicholas is involved in a loveless marriage and Miranda soon falls in love with him. The book is full of the usual dark secrets, tenant unrest, and dark overtones.
I enjoyed reading this book, but it was a bit predicable. Perhaps it is because I read so many similar books when I was younger (Gothic romance held my attention for all my junior high and high school years).
12 yr old Nicky was taking a walk in the forest with her father when they heard the cry that would change their lives. The cry of a baby abandoned in the snow. Follow the events which cause the shadows and questions that laid still and quiet since the death of Nicky's mom and little sister surface, as does the mother of the abandoned child. Discover the choices which lead each person to be where they are and the little details which enable them to grow to be who they destined to become.
I found this book to be completely engrossing and could not put it down until the last page was turned. I could feel the emotions emanating from the characters. I was impressed with the vividness in which Anita Shreve was able to bring them to life. I found myself on a wild emotional roller coaster ride as I turned the pages. A must read.
Light on Snow
Review by Tesse aka blissful2beme
Thursday, July 26, 2007
My reaction to the story: I ate it up in one day, well the first two books. The third is still on my wish list. I found the story to be full of action suspense and mystery. The story was refreshing and almost movie like. I would not be surprised if they did end up making a movie out of it. I found the characters to be believable as children and was happy with the character development. I liked it so much that I am considering to go buy book 3 just so I do not have to wait for a wish list hit...lol.
Books in series are:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride)
Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (Maximum Ride)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I really liked this book and I want to read the follow-up book "Pigs in Heaven". I went to a book talk by Barbara Kingsolver a couple of months ago and this was one of the books I purchased. I had never read anything by her before seeing her, but now have audios of several of her books and a copy of her newest book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" on my list of TBRs.
After a near-fatal battle with cancer Sarah Talbot gets a second chance at love. When a friend arranges a ride in a chartered plane for her birthday, she meets Will, a man still grieving the death of his son several years ago and his teenage daughter Susan. When she later hires him to fly her to the remote island where she grew up to reconcile with her father and son, Susan stows away.
The story of Sarah and Will's romance is as sweet as it is heart-wrenching. It is a testament to the life-changing power of love.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The storyline is a disturbing one; a female teacher becomes involved in a sexual relationship with a teenage male student. This isn’t as farfetched as you might like to think (or hope) it would be as such events have been prominent in the news over the last few years. Zoe Heller’s intriguing and slightly distasteful tale introduces two of the most captivating characters I have encountered in a novel, Barbara and Sheba. Barbara is the quintessential almost elderly spinster and Sheba is the fey like upper class bohemian. The juxtaposition between these two women only serves to reinforce the many diametric opposites that permeate this novel.
The supporting characters are almost as intriguing and it would be interesting to hear their version of the events that make up this story. However the reader is only ever exposed to Barbara’s perspective. Even though Barbara maintains that Sheba has related events so many times that she (Barbara) feels like she was actually there for all of them, Barbara’s own biases are more than apparent and it is because of the filter they provide that we are spared much of the insufferable romantic outlook Sheba has on the whole affair.
Barbara is the sort of friend that you can never work out if you want them in or out of your life and the naive Sheba is enmeshed in her web. While Barbara comes across as somewhat frightening with her stalker like manner, Sheba’s ingénue makes you want to slap her. One has to wonder what would make an educated, attractive wife and mother in a position of authority take up with a student such as Stephen Connelly. Whatever it is, it is real as this type of behaviour seems to be becoming more common in the wider community. While there doesn’t appear to be any malice in Sheba’s actions and she doesn’t mean Connelly any harm, there is no excuse for her abuse of her position of power. But for some reason the reader is left not knowing whether to pity her or condemn her. A similar conundrum is experienced in relation to Barbara’s character and many of the supporting cast. I think this is a good part of why Heller’s tale is so captivating. It captures the essence of the human condition in that there is good and bad in all of us.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Fifth in the Stephanie Plum series. I wonder if I'm ever going to get tired of these? Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I probably wouldn't give it an A, simply because a book needs to do more than entertain to really hit the "A" level in my personal, completely subjective grading system. However, I love that Stephanie's world has moved forward from the 1980's to the 1990's, seemingly without taking much time at all.
The Memory-Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards.
I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook. It is a very flowery book, with tons of over-description decorating it everywhere. Normally, I would find the style irritating. In audio format, however, it's not quite as bad. I listened to it while driving and, more often, while knitting. It's definitely a good "while knitting" book. Your eyes are already engaged in something treat-ful, and then your ears start passing all this flowery imagery to your brain, so it basically gives you an overdescription high.
As for the content of the book, I sort of liked it. I think I was looking for something a little different than these very sad lives orbiting each other, each person unaware of the pain the others are in. I never found any emotional honesty between the main characters (the people who actually had agency to change). For that reason, I would label this as a family tragedy.
I give this one a B. It's good, but has some flaws that make it less than excellent.
Monday, July 16, 2007
I frequently wonder about character motivations and backstories. This novel provides this information about superheroes and super villains (as in comic books).
What if Batman and the Joker had actually gone to high school together? In this book, the villain was the kid who was a geek, picked on and pushed around, overlooked by all the popular kids unless they wanted something from him. The heroes were the popular kids, the jocks and the pretty girls, completely unaware of the damage they did to the villains-to-be. This book appealed to the band geek I used to be, still resenting the plastic popular people, happy to go to one of my reunions and see the cheerleaders had become obese. I found myself rooting for the villain.
I loved this book. I read it on a long car trip over a weekend. It isn’t a taxing read, and it is so entertaining! I highly recommend it, even if you don’t read much science fiction. The psychological aspects of the characters are fascinating, and the writing is so vivid it is almost like watching the comic book unfold.
The narrator’s name is Sanie, a deliberate play on words. She is living with her husband at his ancestral home in backwoods South Carolina while he studies for the bar exam. Sanie is bored and disillusioned. The weather itself is almost a character. The author uses the drowsy-hot, humid days and the lack of transportation to depict how completely Sanie is removed from the world. For entertainment, Sanie has taken to walking the miles to town, sitting on the porch of the gas station swilling beer, talking to the men who venture in. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Sanie’s husband has closed himself off in the library while his sister wafts through the house like a shadow and his brother seems to drift in and out of a peyote induced dream. Sanie believes the house to be haunted, and her brother-in-law encourages this idea. He claims he sees the ghosts better when he is under the influence, so he shares his drugs with Sanie. Are the apparitions she sees real, or are they peyote hallucinations? When Sanie finally makes a decision to take care of herself and what she needs, her husband and his family show themselves for who they are. The conclusion is as nebulous as the novel, leaving the reader to decide what did, or did not happen.
I enjoyed this book very much. It is a short novel that drew me in quickly and was a speedy read. It made me think, and would be a good novel to read with someone else so discussion could be had. Some people might be put off by the dreamy tone of the writing.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Follow the heroine Shirley, mother, wife, friend, business owner and daughter as she heads through life feeling loss seeking something that is elusive. Something many women seek but can not put words to... validation. Discover how Shirley gets the validation from the people she thinks she needs it from and how she discovers the one person who she needs validation from isn't a person she ever put on her list.
I found this book to be a quick and fun read. I found myself nodding my head in agreement to many of her revelations as she discovered more about herself then she knew before. It almost read like a self-help book but instead of bullet points it was all narrative. I recommend this to any woman or man who seeks some form of validation out of life and needs some humor along the way.