Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel


A five year old girl is orphaned after an earthquake takes her family. Wandering, she escapes a cave lion attack and happens upon the cave people, who are searching for a new cave to live in after the earthquake collapsed their previous home. Iza, the medicine woman, wants to take the child in even though she's an Other, with light blonde hair. Brun, the leader of the tribe, reluctantly agrees but tells Iza she must teach the child the ways of the clan. Ayla, the child, is a free spirit and doesn't really understand the ways of the clan. She has problems conforming, which brings negative attention upon herself although Iza loves her like her own daughter. Broud, son of Brun, particularly hates Ayla because of all the attention she gets despite not being part of the clan.

There are two good reasons to like this book. The first is the environment. Bringing the pre-historic age to life I'm sure is no easy task. Though current-day descriptions are used to describe how things were back then, which took me a while to reconcile in my head, the environment was fascinating. I haven't read a book set in this time before.

The second is the character, which is where this book excels. You immediately pull for Ayla, hate Broud, and love Iza and Creb. It can't be helped. The only thing I tired of was how often the author reminded us about how much Broud hated Ayla. He actions spoke loudly, Auel's words didn't need to follow, it was a bit overkill.

I have the next book in the series and I'm looking forward to it.

First Line: "The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the small river."


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs


Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist that splits her time between North Carolina and Quebec. In this novel, Tempe spends her time in Montreal, with three bodies of girls that were dumped in the basement of a pizza parlour and left there for years. Tempe eventually determines how old, how tall, and which race the girls are which takes them one step closer to finding out who these girls are. When Tempe doesn't get as much help from the detectives as she'd like, she starts to investigate things on her own with the help of her good friend Anne who is in town to take a break from her marriage.

With Reichs' career in this field, her knowledge of the subject easily transfers to the page and makes this book authentic. The details of this book are what I appreciated the most because the characters weren't really doing it for me. Tempe and Anne were lacking a bit in personality and the men detectives all had their own problems. There are too many distractions in this book: Tempe's relationship with one of the detectives, Tempe thinking about her daughter, Anne and her marriage falling apart and then Anne disappearing. It doesn't really add much to the story nor to the characterizations and instead had me annoyed.

This is the first Reichs book I've read. I don't know whether I'd continue with the series.

First Line: "As the tune played inside my head, gunfire exploded in the cramped underground space around me."


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Schumann Proof by Peter Schaffter


Vikkan Lantry is returning to the music world after taking a leave and mourning the loss of his lover. He doesn't have the desire to be famous, he just wants to play his music. With a famous musician coming to town, a fame-hungry singer asking for his accompaniment, and a friend trying to get Lantry odd music jobs, he is slowly getting sucked back in to the music world. A newly found Schumann is found and competition to sing and play it is so high than two people are murdered. Lantry knows the victims and the music and tries to determine who could do such a thing.

This book takes place in Toronto and for those not local, probably goes in to way too much detail about the city. Detailed descriptions of which streets Lantry is on, which restaurants he goes to, and the area around the University of Toronto music department and Royal Conservatory of Music. Too much detail for anyone not aware of the city, but interesting for those of us that are.

There's an interesting mix between music and murder in this book. The crimes don't actually take place until about 1/3rd the way through the book so there's a lot of story set-up but that back story is quite interesting.

If I had any complaint about this book, it would be about the seemingly unnecessary (and oddly explained) relationship between Lantry and the police officer. It comes out of no where and fades in to nothing very quickly.

First Line: "I released the Steinway's pedal slowly."


Saturday, November 07, 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard


The world is split in to two classes: reds who are the workers and silvers who have special abilities and are the upper class. Mare and her family are red. All of her brothers have been sent to war and Mare is expected to get the same summons when she runs in to a mysterious stranger. Trying to pick-pocket him, he catches her but instead of getting her in trouble, offers her more money. The next day, Mare is wisked away to the summer palace and expected to work as a servant. This is a big change from going to war. Soon, Mare finds out that the person that saved her is the prince. As he tries to find a wife, all the silvers represent their abilities to him: moving metal, creating fire, shifting water. When the last girl causes part of the arena to be destroyed and Mare to fall towards her, Mare realizes she has a power too: harnessing electricity. The royalty puts her in a position representing her as a silver raised as reds even though she is red through and through.

The start of the book described this world where silvers rule and reds work for them. This interesting new world raised questions for me about how they got to that point. It would have been nice to have some insights on this. The book started off good and I wanted to pull for Mare to have a better life for her and her family. I also wanted the reds to bring down the silvers. But going through Mare with her journey didn't really help me continue to feel this way.

I expect Mare to be a fish out of water while she's with the silvers. However her reactions started to wear on me. Every time someone said something stupid, she wanted to punch them in the head. These reactions didn't fit with her personality and it more seemed like the writer's way of showing that Mare was frustrated. It got obnoxious after a while and made me not care for Mare as much.

There are some good twists and turns in this book. I'm mildly interested in what continues on in this world, but I'm not sure if I'm interested enough to pick up the next book in the series.


Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


Minutes before his 100th birthday party, Allan Karlsson decides to escape. He's not really interested in the party and he wouldn't mind some alcohol, which the nurse strictly forbids. Allan climbs out of the window and heads to the bus station, where he's asked by a young gentleman to look after his suitcase while he uses the bathroom. Allan makes a split decision to steal the young man's suitcase, hops on a bus, and heads out of town going as far as his money will take him. What he doesn't realize is that he's stolen drug money and now has a gang after him. He meets many interesting characters along the way and they get in a lot of trouble. At the same time, we learn more about Allan's past and world events that he was part of making happen.

This book is quirky, which makes it a lot of fun to read. Though the telling of what Allan does once he escapes out of the window from his birthday party is good, I enjoyed the telling of his past the best. I was actually reading this book while on vacation in Asia, as Allan was talking about meeting China's Chairman Mao and the North Korean leaders, I was seeing the border between South Korea and North Korea, then heading to Beijing. I think being in the general area where Allan helped bring the book to life that much more for me.

First Line: "You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to tell others of his decision."


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman


March and her teenage daughter Gwen return to March's home town for the funeral of the loving homekeeper that helped raise her. March's husband stays behind in California but is concerned, knowing that March will be in the same town as her teenage love Hollis. She never really got over him and knows that seeing him will be hard so she tries to avoid him. We learn about March's childhood in this sleepy town and what happened between March and Hollis. Gwen, having never been to this town before, quickly catches the eye of Hollis' ward and a horse that they keep on their property. For a California girl , she may want to stay here.

Typical to Oprah's book club books, this book is beyond frustrating. Yes, I understand that love can make people do crazy things. But in this case March has a daughter. You would think that March would put her daughter above all else, but it seems like she just forgets she even has a daughter to spend time with Hollis. It's irresponsible and annoying to read.

I found the ending disappointing as all of the characters got off to easy; even Hollis. Furthermore, where and what March ended up was glossed over. For all the flowery descriptions that Hoffman had throughout the book, the ending was rather rushed and not well thought out.

Overall, disappointing. I'm not sure why I bother with Oprah book club books anymore.

First Line: "Tonight, the hay in the fields is already brittle with frost, especially to the west of Fox Hill, where the pastures shine like stars."


Friday, October 09, 2015

Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard


Jim is just a kid when World War II comes on Shanghai. An American ship it attacked in the harbour and in the chaos that follows, Jim is separated from his parents. He's taken to a hospital but escapes and roams the city. The Chinese are no help, the Japanese are not interested in Jim at all, and there aren't many Europeans around to help him. Jim tries to go back to his family home but eventually Japanese move in there and Jim has to move on. He tries to turn himself in to the Japanese multiple times but it doesn't work. Only when he hooks up with two thieves does he finally manage to become a prisoner of the Japanese.

How does a young boy process the war? Jim doesn't understand it and is excited by the action he sees. He's in awe of the Japanese pilots. And he's not really scared. The adults that surround Jim and take care of him while they're held prisoner try to do their best by him but he's his own person and it's hard to point him in the right direction, if they can even figure out what that is.

I picked this book up because I'm travelling to China soon and wanted a book that takes place in the area. This was a very interesting one. Usually WWII books take place in Europe and speak about the Americans/Europeans. This one takes place in a country not really involved in the war as the Japanese take over. Furthermore, it's from the view point of a child which adds to the intrigue.

There are some confusing parts to this book. I had troubles keeping some items straight. It felt like Jim took hours to walk from one location to another, only to go back to the original location quickly. I'm not sure if I misunderstood but this seemed to be a recurring problem.

I had no clue this was a movie. One with Christian Bale as a kid no less. It's an interesting story; I'd be interested in seeing how it translates over to the big screen.

First Line: "Wars came early to Shanghai, overtaking each other like the tides that raced up the Yangtze and returned to this gaudy city all the coffins cast adrift from the funeral piers of the Chinese Bund."