Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

This is a novel about emotions. It opens with a newly married couple, Florence and Edward eating dinner in their bridal suite. Both are apprehensive about what is to come. Edward for screwing up and not controlling himself and Florence for suppressing the disgust she feels. This is the era before the sexual revolution when such things are just not discussed.

McEwan is able to write beautiful prose depicting with intensity how each of them feels. The story of how they each got to this point is told. What is missing is why Florence feels disgust the way she does.

"By doing nothing" was a real moving statement that we all can take to heart. This story is about what happens when two people do not communicate. Anger and disappointment get in the way of love.

The other thing I came to realize was how differently men 'love'. Women love an all-encompassing love and men love from deep within.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Theft of the Master

Theft of the Master by Edwin Alexander

Theft of the Master starts in 1493 with the commission of a wood carving of Christ preaching in a sitting postition. The carving is placed in an Estonian church. During the German occupation in WWII the masterpiece is taken.

The book then jumps forward to 1992 where a young lawyer is sent to Paraguay to document and transport a large number of stolen masterpieces belonging to a former Nazi officer who is dying. One of these pieces being the wood carving. This lawyer works for The Templars who wish to return The Third Reich to power. The poor lawyer is caught up in a situation of having a job he can not quit. He dreams of absconding with the carving.

The next story takes place in the San Francisco Bay area. Meg Gilchrist is staying with her godfather while starting her first job, studying superconductivity. The young brilliant physicist is killed while walking on a beach and inadvertently observing a smuggling operation. Al Hershey is hired to investigate her death which was ruled accidental.

Al Hershey visits Sweden, Paraguay, New York City and San Francisco in search of what has happened. In each locale a little bit more is learned until it leads back to Half Moon Bay.

Edwin Alexander weaves all these stories together in a dramatic mystery where all is not what it seems. The sculpture is the centerpiece linking it all. Who really has it now? Although these stories seem all unrelated to begin with they are all very cleverly brought together.

This is a fast-paced thriller with amazing descriptions of the locations Hershey visits.



Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lauren's Meme

Jeane originally tagged us for a meme. I told my mom to do it simply because I hate finding people to tag after doing a meme. Now Shelley has tagged me. I can't escape!! Time to answer this thing!

1. What book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
The latest Mitch Albom book. I've read two of his previous works and they just were not to my taste - way too philosophical. I don't think I'll be going anywhere near his most recent one.

2. If you could bring three characters to life for a social event, who would they be and what would the event be?
First and foremost, I would bring to life Nick Stone from Andy McNab's mystery novels. This guy is amazing. He is an elite member of the SAS but comes from a pretty horrible background. He thinks of everything when he is on an operation yet remains completely humanistic. The way ladies drool over James Bond, I drool over Nick Stone.
I think Grandma Mazur from the Janet Evanovich series would be an absolute hoot to be around. Talk about a kick ass granny!
I need an intellectual now... hmmm. I'm tempted to say Robert Langdon from Dan Brown's books because he's the only professor I can think about off the top of my head. But I think I'm going to say Daniel from the book Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. An ex-Microsoft programmer - he could easily be me!! Heck, he's even traveled to my alma matter in the book, so we would have something to talk about!
There is no way these three could be in the same room together, so the event would never exist to begin with!

3. You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to give you a nice grave?
Ulysses by James Joyce or Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I have a preconceived notion that both these books will be dreadfully boring.

4. Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read, when in fact you have been nowhere near it?
Does this include textbooks for school!?!? :D I don't lie about whether I've read a book. What's the point?

5. As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to 'reread' it that you haven't. Which book?
Huh? No.

6. You've been appointed Book Advisor to a VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you would pick and why?
Blindness by Jose Saramago. Everyone should read this book. It's a picture of where society could end up if it's not careful. Wow. This book is one of my favourite books!

7. A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. What language do you go with?
I don't think this would factor in much to my reading decisions. I don't have enough time to read the books in English, let alone books in other languages. But wouldn't it be cool to be able to read in Latin?

8. A mischievious fairy comes and tells you that you must pick one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life. Which book would you pick?
Something short - like any Robert Munsch book!! These are children's books for those not familiar. Some of my favourite children's books in fact!

9. I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What is one bookish thing that you 'discovered' from book blogging?
I've added a heck of a pile of books to my wish list. But so far, I haven't had any ground breaking moments.

10. That good fairy is back for one last visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it and the books that would fill it.
A picture window overlooking the Rocky Mountains. High ceilings with sturdy cherry bookcases from floor to ceiling. The floor is carpeted to keep my feet warm, there's a fireplace somewhere in the room (not too close to the books though!!), a huge comfy chair to sit in.... ah heaven!

Life Mask

Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
Historical Fiction

This is a rambling book about the late 1700s England. Eliza Farren is an actress who has been accepted into the Beau Monde of the Lords and elite of England. She is the constant companion of Lord Derby (of the famous horse race). She is chaperoned by her mother and is waiting endlessly for the Lord's current wife to finally die. Eliza befriends Anne Damer, a scupltress and rumored lesbian. Friendship with Anne brings mockery and ridicule.

Although this book is the story of these characters, I found it more interesting in describing the era. The parliamentary frustrations dealing with Pitt and trying to topple the government of the time. A mad King and his fun-loving heir are portrayed. The marriages and affairs, friendships and liasons ebb and recede with the writing of many a libelous pamphlet. The Drury Lane Theater and Sheridan the playwright are described embroiled in their private dramas.

This is a world close to revolution as France gets rid of their monarchy. War seems imminent.

The book is a leisurely and enjoyable read

This book was read for the From the Stacks Challenge. I have now completed this challenge



Reading Meme

I very rarely do meme's but thought this one was interesting.

A reading meme from Eva; I was tagged by Jeane:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Cringe isn't exactly the right word but I have yet to read the last two Harry Potter's and The Da Vinci Code. Why? There are so many books on my shelf and these are on Lauren's. No particular reason

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event, who would they be and what would the event be?

I have always been drawn to Anne Shirley as she has pluck. I recently read An Ordinary Man and would love to talk to Paul Rusesabagina. To talk about his philosophy in life would be very illuminating. The third person would be Bosch from Michael Connelly's series or Rebus from Rankin's series. I would hold a coffee get-together at my fav place: Starbuck's

You are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

I actually finished this one but One Hundred Years of Solitude ***gag***

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

None. I can not tell a lie!!

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

I have picked up a book which sounded interesting, read about 1/2 and realized that I had already read the book. That is the closest I can come on this one.

You’ve been appointed Book Advisor to a VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why?

I have a bunch of friends who come to me for suggestions. I ask them about their interests and then recommend or even go and buy the book for them. It really depends on what the individual likes

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Chinese. I love Asian literature and it would be very cool to be able to read it in the original language

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

I just do not re-read books. I have no idea which one to pick

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging?

One thing is that my Wish list is now so long I will never get through the list before I pass away. I have also been exposed to books I would never have picked up on my own. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong comes to mind

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

My dream library!!!! A large room lined with wooden oak bookshelves. Only as high as me so that I can easily reach them. A large leather over-stuffed armchair with wide arms that I could disappear in and read. A built-in librarian to keep everything in order and to mail out books when I am done with them

Now I have to tag four other book bloggers for this meme:
Susan, Karen, Shelley, Sheila your turn!

Friday, January 25, 2008

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Florence and Edward a newly weds in 1962. They arrive at a hotel on Chesil Beach hours after their wedding ceremony and take dinner in the honeymoon suite with the expectation, fear, and excitement of what is to come after dinner. Both virgins, their outlook on sex is very different. Edward is eager and excited, but fearful of screwing up. Florence, however, is filled with dread and repulsion. She is disgusted by physical contact. The story takes us through their wedding night, where emotions run high, but also tells us of how the characters meet.

I was amazed at what a page turner this little book of 200 pages was. McEwan writes the emotions of the characters so well that you want to know what is going to happen to the relationship between the newlyweds. Both characters are flawed, neither is right. I found this book quite unique from what I'm used to reading.

I don't really get moved by written word in fictional novels but this sentence really spoke to me: "This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing." I'm a strong believer that you make your own luck, and doesn't this say the same thing! If you do nothing, you end up no where.

This book should be a lesson not to let your pride get in the way of love.

First line: "They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible."



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin

Tooth & Nail by Ian Rankin

Book number 3 in the Rebus series sees Rebus getting requested by the London squad to help solve the Wolfman serial killer case. Wolfman has been attacking female victims at night, slashing their throat and leaving bite marks on their stomach. The London police have no more leads and can't figure out what to do next. After researching serial killers and seeing that Rebus has experience, George Flight requests to bring him down from Scotland. Rebus doesn't fit in and his accent is too thick for some to understand. He feels like a fish out of water. But that doesn't stop him from doing his job and finding who is behind the Wolfman murders.

I didn't find this book so much about finding a killer as it was about Rebus trying to fit in in London. Of course, he doesn't do a very good job, however the London "copper" George Flight is an excellent balance to Rebus' slightly wild style. I really enjoyed Flight as a character and would have loved to see him partnered up with Rebus back up in Scotland.

The love stories in these types of books are always a bit corny. I'm not sure why mystery authors feel that these characters need a constant love interest - one per book (Connelly has the same problem). It seems to make the whole story a little less credible.

Rankin always puts a forward in his Rebus books explaining how he came to write that novel. These always provide interesting insight into his thinking process and I really hope that the rest of his Rebus series continues to have these little letters to the reader.



Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This is a very creative book. As the letters fall off on the Saying "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" underneath a statue of Nevin Nollup who coined the phrase, the residents of the island nation of Nollup are banned to use the letter. The punishment is flogging, expulsion and even death. It is easy to think that some letters would not be missed too much and at first they are not.

The book is a series of letters using the allowed letters only. The author cleverly uses words and makes up new words. I found the book a little silly and at the end really had to work at 'reading' the letters



Monday, January 14, 2008

Trunk Music

Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

Harry is assigned to what looks like an open-and-shut case of a Mafia hit. A B-movie producer is killed and stuffed into a trunk. He is apparently laundering money. This is a case that has connections in L.A. and Las Vegas.

Bosch is making enemies yet again but this time his new boss really seems like a stand-up person. We also get a new love interest. The chemistry between these two is not as well written as in the past. Furthermore his new girlfriend is a convicted felon which could end up with Bosch losing his job.

There is a wonderful twist at the end which clearly shows Bosch has not lost his human touch.

Another great read!!



This was read for From the Stacks Challenge

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski

The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski

This one is a tough one to explain. I will probably have to re-write my explanation of this book a couple times before I come up with something that actually makes sense!

There are three characters - Andrew, Lara, and Jake, who all attended Princeton in the same year. Then there is an author, Horace Jacob Little, who is an enigma. No one knows what Little looks like, where he lives, or anything about him. Jake introduced Lara to the works of Little, who then introduced Little's novels to Andrew. Andrew becomes obsessive about Little and begins to think that Little is out to get him. Eventually, Andrew is admitted to the Muse Asylum - a psychiatric hospital for the artistically gifted. It is here that Andrew writes his biography and the details of the Horace Jacob Little conspiracy. Andrew believes that Horace Jacob Little was murdered and replaced with another equally gifted author who continued to write in his name. Now that Andrew knows this secret, he believes that Little seeks to kill him or at the very least drive him crazy.

When Jake meets up with Lara years after graduation, he learns about Andrew's admittance to the Muse Asylum. Jake is now a journalist and believes that this would make a good story. He visits Andrew and tries to understand Andrew's obsession. Jake also takes on the project of finding out who Horace Jacob Little actually is, and what, if anything, he has to hide.

Of course, with such a plot, it's obvious that there are going to be twists at the end. I would have been disappointed if there were not! Although I have to admit, this is the type of book that allows your imagination to run wild and I was coming up with some pretty crazy theories of how I thought the book was going to end.

The characters were very interesting. The book alternated between Jake's narrative and Andrew's confessions from his biography. Usually in novels about patients in psychiatric hospitals you only get an outsiders view. I really enjoyed getting the perspective from the character who is in the hospital.

I found it ironic that one of the first pages in the book was the author's biography while the book discusses how not knowing an author should make the experience with the novel truer.

Overall, an interesting and very unique novel. If you like novels that are a little off the wall and different from main stream stories, you would enjoy this.



Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea and her family live in Nollopville, a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina. The country is named after Nevin Nollop, the person who came up with the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and the country idolizes Nollop. At the city center stands a statue of Nollop and his famous phrase in tiles.

The entire novel is a bunch of letters, mostly between Ella and her cousin, but also between other characters in the novel. When a tile containing a single letter from Nollop's phrase falls off the monument, the city council decides to ban the letter from usage. Anyone that is heard using the word or seen writing it is given a warning, then a whipping, then banished from the island. But soon, more and more letters start to fall from the monument until only LMNOP are left.

I had heard so many good things about this book and I have to say I was a bit let down by it. While it was a very unique concept and quite interesting to see an author skirt around the inability to use specific letters in his writing, I found that overall the novel fell a bit flat.



Read for:

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

Evelyn Ryan is a woman who discovers the contests available in the 1950s and 1960s. She has an alcoholic husband and 10 children. Poverty is right around the corner but Mrs. E. Ryan enters contest after contest multiple times in order to feed her family.

The jingles she writes are worthy of the ad writers today. I must admit some of them were mind numbing, meaning they made no sense to me. Every contest she won seemed to be in the nick of time to save her family from disaster. Terry Ryan also writes of the joys of living in a large family. Sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating.

The moral is an upbeat enterprising woman can solve anything.