Friday, July 30, 2010

Falling Leaves

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yeh Mah

Adeline Yeh Mah was the youngest of 5 children in an affluent Chinese family . Her mother died of complications from her birth in 1937. Soon afterwards her father re-married.

Adeline's stepmother or Niang was extemely domineering and high maintenance. Her natural children and particularly her son were first in her favour. Any of the children not bowing to her wishes were castigated. Adeline was sent to boarding school with instructions that the rest of the family were not to contact her.

Adeline spent her whole life trying to win approval from her father and suffering emotional abuse from her step-mother. Her grandfather Ye-Ye and her Aunt Baba were loving towards her and helped her greatly.

Adeline lived in China, emigrated to England to get a M.D. and finally settled in the US.

This story is somewhat of a Cinderella story and although the story is one that tugs at the heartstrings, the history of China in the 20th century is even more fascinating. I know little about the history of China and find myself wanting to know more.

First Line: "It would not be quite truthful to say that we were all together for the first time in nearly forty years."


The Probable Future

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

Upon Stella Sparrow's thirteenth birthday she develops a skill to see how other people will die. Each of the woman born in the Sparrow clan has a different ability. Her mother (Jenny) sees other people's dreams and her grandmother (Elinor) can see when people lie. When Stella tries to prevent a murder, her father is accused of homicide.

Jenny must try to protect her daughter from all the media and turmoil of the trial and decides to send her to her hometown of Unity and the ancestral home, Cake House. The problem is Jenny has been estranged from her mother for years and they must now join forces to protect Stella. Stella loves it in Unity and is attracted to two boys, one good and one bad.

This is a wonderful story about the relationships of the females in a family, the conflict of mother-daughter and the pangs of growing up and growing wiser. It is also about choosing the love of your life and not the lust of your life. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the magic it created.

First Line: "Anyone born and bred in Massachusetts learns early on to recognize the end of winter."


Monday, July 26, 2010

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

When Stephanie Plum heads in to her cousin's bail office to get her most recent assignment, she doesn't expect to be asked to bring in her fellow bounty officer and friend Ranger. Ranger was the last person seen with Homer Ramos before he was shot in the head and his office building set on fire. Stephanie turns down the job but her office isn't the only one looking for Ranger. Her arch nemesis is the bounty officer looking for him, as are two thugs who won't say who they are working for.

Stephanie tries to go about her usual business, which involves another torched car, a man trying to set her on fire, and dog-sitting turned into dog ownership. Stephanie's antics, as always, can get you laughing while you read. I really enjoy Bob the dog and I'm sure he's around to stay. Of course, the chemistry between Stephanie and Joe is always sizzling and you can always count on Stephanie's granny for a laugh. This book was even more enjoyable than the last couple in the series!

First Line: "Okay, so here's the thing."


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

A man drives off a cliff and gets trapped in his car, burning in the fire until his car falls into a river extinguishing the flames. He has third degree burns over most of his body and is taken to the hospital where he becomes very depressed. The book's unnamed narrator was used to getting by on his good looks and now that he has nothing but burns over his body he has to learn to live differently.

He is visited by Marianne Engle who was treated in the psychiatric ward of the hospital and she believes that he was her lover in the 1300s. She was a scribe at a monastery and he was a mercenary that was burned and brought to the monastery to try to save him. The two fall in love and try to make a life as a stone worker and scribe.

Marianne tells him their story while he recovers, along with some other stories of lovers in other times. Every so often she would disappear to work on carving out gargoyles from stone, which should could work on up to 70 hours straight. The two continue their relationship as he narrator is discharged from the hospital and the narrator finds that there may be some truth in Marianne's stories.

This is one of the very few books I've read where you are never told the main character's name. Every so often I would flip back pages to see if he had been named, thinking he had and I just hadn't remembered, but it wasn't there. This was a unique book though at first I wasn't understanding the different stories that Marianne told about lovers in other times but eventually it all wrapped up together. A bit odd at times, it was still worth it in the end and was an interesting book.

First Line: "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff Historical Fiction

This story is about two 19th wives. The first is Ann Eliza Young , the 19th wife of Brigham Young. Ann Eliza divorced Brigham in the late 1800s and started a crusade against polygamous marriages. The story is told of how both Ann and her mother were forced into their plural marriages. Her father also tells a bit of his own story and her brothers are also included. This is all told from historical accounts of the time. An interesting tidbit is the story of a present day writer trying to get ahold of these accounts. The Latter Day Saints (LDS) church is very reluctant to re-visit such a troubled time in their history.

The second story is in the present time. In a commune of Firsts , a sect that still believes in polygamy, Jason's father is killed and his mother is accused of the murder. Jason was kicked out of the commune at age 14 for holding hands with a girl. Jason returns to try and discover what really happened and to try and clear his mother of the crime.

This book points out the crimes involved in polygamy, the violence behind trying to maintain one's way of life, the sexual abuse and the abuse and neglect the children must put up with. I was intrigued with the history of the LDS but horrified by the total neglect of the woman's and children's human rights. There were a number of extraneous story lines that lead nowhere and were not of any consequence in the story. Jason's love interest and the runaway being but two of them. I still found the story very interesting though.

First Line: "In the one year since I renounced my Mormon faith, and set out to tell the nation the truth about American polygamy, many people have wondered why I ever agreed to become a plural wife."


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard

Charlie Grover is the Police Chief of small town Promise, Oklahoma. His wife has passed away and he's left as a single father to his teenager while he tries to balance being a father, his career, and the demons he wrestles with from his past when his father beat him and he almost died in a fire.

As the tornado season winds up, Charlie comes across three suspicious deaths. A family is impaled with debris, which is typical to a tornado scene, but it looks like they were impaled multiple times, possibly dragged, and had teeth removed. As Charlie examines further he finds more inconsistencies and then finds previous deaths during tornadoes with a similar MO. Charlie tracks a serial killer while the killer tracks the tornadoes, a deadly combination.

This book was a very easy read and unfortunately I think it was more due to the fact that it's not the best written book than it was a page turner. Having a murderer that commits crimes during a tornado adds a new dimension to a murder mystery. It wasn't that complex of a mystery and there was much about the family dynamics of Charlie's family than there was about the murder. I also felt the book was rather poorly named. I don't equate breathtaker with tornado killer, but what do I know?

First Line: "Rob Pepper stepped into the cheery yellow kitchen, ready for a fight."


Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

The Mortmain family is an odd family unit living in an odd residence. The family exists of sisters Rose and Cassandra, their brother Thomas, their father, their step-mother Topaz, and their orphaned helping hand Stephen. The family lives in an old dilapidated castle and their money is running out as they wait for their father to return to his writing glory and follow up his first successful book with another.

When brothers Simon and Neil Cottom get stuck in the Mortmain drive, their world starts to change. They just inherited land from England even though they had been living in America for a while. Rose determines that she is going to make one of the brothers fall in love with her so that she no longer has to live in poverty. Cassandra finds herself being left at home more and more as her family goes on trips to London with the Cottons, which gets Cassandra thinking about whether she agrees with Rose's selfishness. As she writes in her journal, she tries to find a way to help her father get back into writing.

The book is told through Cassandra's journal entries. She believes that she may be able to become a writer some day so she has some pretty lengthy descriptions of things that are not essential to moving the story along. I found myself skimming through these parts because I wanted to get on with the story. Rose's selfishness also made me increasingly frustrated with her as I got further and further through the book. Maybe that was the point though?

For a BBC Top 100 book I expected more from this book. There was a twist at the end but I felt it kind of fizzled out and wasn't worth the journey.

First Line: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."


Friday, July 09, 2010

Judgment in Death

Judgment in Death by J. D. Robb
Genre of book

This mystery starts in a nightclub called Purgatory. An off-duty policeman working as a bartender is brutally slain. Who is the nightclub owned by? None other than Dallas' husband Roarke.

The investigation leads toward Max Ricker, an old colleague of Roarke before he turned 'legitimate'. Another policeman is killed and the investigation heats up. Police corruption and revenge lead Dallas into a case which has her walking a tightrope between other police annoyed with her for breaking the blue code and a cop bent upon murderous revenge.

Another great book in the series. The steam between Roarke and Dallas lifts off the pages. The humour between Peabody and McNab is wonderful but the best part of all is the interaction between Dallas and Mira. Looking forward to the next in the series.

First Line: "She stood in Purgatory and studied death."


Friday, July 02, 2010

The Ghost Brush

The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier
Historical Fiction

Oei is the daughter of a famous Japanese painter Hokusai, living in 19th century Edo(Toyko), Japan. This is the era of emperors and shoguns. The western world is feared and kept as far as possible from the Japanese.

Hokusai has a large family but chooses his daughter as his apprentice and helper. He loves her and abuses her. Oei is left to deal with their finances, often moving from place to place to dodge creditors. Living conditions are not the best especially for a young lady. Oei lives next to the brothels and be-friends prostitutes. On occasion they even have to leave town due to what Hokusai has said or painted.

Oei becomes an artist in her own right but is under her father's studio and thus her art has his stamp on it.

Oei's relationships are flawed. She is continually choosing men whom she can not have or do not want her. Even her relationship with her father is a love-hate one which the reader sympathizes with. Hokusai is a selfish arrogant unthinking man who really does not think of his daughter's well-being at all.

I loved this book. The prose is very lyrical and the descriptions of pictures make them appear right before you.. I found that while reading this book it seemed like a non-fiction account rather than a historical fiction. The story was so interwoven with the facts it all seemed so real. Oei and Hokusai are truly unforgettable characters.

First Line: "Hey, you!"


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

There are two classes in the world: Crosses (dark skinned) and Noughts (light-skinned). The Crosses are the ruling class; the only ones in government, the majority of lawyers, the ones who get to school their children and send them to university, etc. Callum is a Naught and his best friend Sephy is a Cross. They became friends when Callum's mother worked for Sephy's family and even when she was fired through no fault of her own, Callum and Sephy kept seeing each other secretly. However this is not a world where Naughts and Crosses can be together and as they grow to love each other they realize that life is not going to be easy for them if they want to stay together.

Each chapter flips between Callum's narration and Sephy's narration, giving the reader insight into what each of them is thinking as they both deal with racial tensions but from completely opposite sides of the spectrum. I couldn't help but thinking 'what if' during the entire book. Everyone deserves to be treated equally, but how frustrating and upsetting would it be to be a part of what is considered to be the inferior race?

I really enjoyed the forbidden love story. It was very easy to relate and connect with both characters and it was such a page turner to watch their love unfold. You hope for the best but know there's a chance things won't end up the way you want. A fantastic story, I highly recommend this one.

First Line: "'Honestly, Mrs. Hadley,' said Meggie McGregor, wiping her eyes."