Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell
Historical Fiction

The four Weber sisters were brought up with music. The eldest two, Josefa and Aloysia, are singers that sometimes compete for both singing roles and affection. The younger sisters Constanze and Sophie stick together and are less musical. In 1770 Austria, the family meets a young struggling musician named Mozart, whose eye is caught by Aloysia Weber. However Mrs. Weber has other plans for her children and carefully plots which fabulous men they should be betrothed to.

The novel plays out as the four girls mature in to women. We see how their mother tries to manipulate them to do what she wants and how they fight back. We also see how Mozart fits in to the family.

What I was most surprised at was how hard it was for Mozart to make a name for himself. I knew he was gifted and recognized for it as a child but I thought he was famous his entire life. Not so, he had to work very hard to become recognized.

I enjoyed the dynamics between the family members, the girls, and Mozart. This was a great historical fiction and I pictured the streets of Vienna in my mind as I read it, though I'm sure a lot has changed since then!

First Line: "I found my sister's wedding hat today in a round box of thin wood at the bottom of my wardrobe."

Rating:
(4/5)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Pale View of the Hills

A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
Fiction/ Literature

A Pale View of Hills tells the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living in England.
Etsuko's youngest daughter is visiting her from London after the suicide of her oldest daughter. Etsuko tells the story about the time when she was living in Nagasaki just after WWII. She is pregnant with her daughter and living with a cold and domineering husband. She embarks on a strange friendship with a mysterious woman and her young daughter.

Ishiguro interweaves the present and the past, England and Japan in a delicate narrative. The reader does get caught up in the story but the ending is what you make of it. I love Ishiguro's style of writing but I find the conclusions are a bit wanting. Things are not 'neatly wrapped in a bow'. I think this book could be re-read to get 'more' out of the story.

First Line: "Niki, the name we finally gave my younger daughter, is not an abbreviation; it was a compromise I reached with her father."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Fever of the Bone

Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid
Mystery

This is the sixth book in the Tony Hills series. The premise of each is somewhat the same, Tony Hill is vulnerable in his life and his job, Carol Jordan and her team have to prove themselves and the dynamics between the two are complex and in turmoil. Does this make a ho-hum read. Definitely not!!!! McDermid has out-done herself with the best in the series.

Jennifer Maidment, a Worcester teen has been found murdered and sexually mutiliated. Tony is brought in as the profiler. Meanwhile, Carol and her team are on a three month probation under her new boss, James Blake. Blake is not sure of the team's contributions and finds the use of Tony as a profiler too expensive.

Carol is given a new murder to investigate and it is strikingly similar to Tony's case. A teen lured into meeting someone from the latest teen social network, Rigarmole is lured to his death. What is the motive and can this serial killer be stopped?

As a side story Tony gets to spend some time in his father's house he has inherited. Tony is so very insecure and vulnerable and I think this is what the reader likes so much about him. This book is definitely a page-turner. I can't wait for the next in the series.

First Line: "It all comes down to blood in the end"

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta
Fiction

It's 1939 in Nazi-occupied Vienna and the residents of an apartment building are uneasy. One resident, retired Professor Speckstein is obviously spying on other residents for the Nazis, which has everyone being very careful about their actions. When Speckstein's dog is murdered, he asks Dr. Beer, a general physician with a background in forensic psychology to help investigate. This brings Dr. Beer closer with Speckstein's niece Zuzka who believes herself sick even though she is not, Anneliese a young girl with a humpback and drunk father, and Otto Frei the mime.

All of these characters' stories interweave and when Dr. Beer learns that Frei is keeping his twin sister in his house who is completely paralyzed, Dr. Beer offers to help. This means he has to keep her presence in his apartment secret, which is hard to do when he's helping with an investigation and the police come visit him.

The pressure of the Nazis is felt by all and is reflected in most character's interactions. The story is a rather grim one, and with the constant cloud of being watched by the Nazis hanging over everyone, it makes things even more depressing. Vyleta did an excellent job painting a dark picture and when I imagined the characters and their surroundings, there was rarely any colour.

Some of the aspects of the story did not make sense to me. For example, why would the police go to Dr. Beer to ask for help. Surely outside help was not asked for in a case like this? It also seemed that Dr. Beer's practice took a back seat to everything. These didn't really bother me while I was reading the book but once I was finished and thought back over the book I found these didn't make sense.

Vyleta gives you just enough to want to continue reading and keeps pulling back the layers one by one so the reader can learn more about the characters and what exactly is going on. The ending is completely satisfactory and for the most part, all the characters get exactly what they deserve.

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First Line: "When Peter K├╝rten was but a young boy, he would watch his uncle attend to the slaughter of dogs."

Rating:
(4/5)

Night Road

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Fiction/Literature

Jude Farraday has raised her two children, twins Mia and Zach, by being very involved in their upbringing. She has been there for every step and has helped plan their every move. The twins are bright, smart and Zach is popular. Mia is a little shyer and but when she enters high school she meets Lexi Baill, a former foster child. They become inseparable and when Lexi and Zach fall in love, everything is perfect.

Senior year at high school the twins are a little more rebellious against their mother. Jude becomes more and more concerned about their well-being. And then the worst possible thing happens and there is an accident. Lexi gets all the blame and faces it with integrity.

Night Road is a novel about profound loss and how it affects each member of the family. It is a story that tells about doing the right thing and the courage that takes. Forgiveness is the hardest thing in the world but love is the most lasting and hope is the most powerful.

This book is an emotional read that I just couldn't put down. Loved it!!

First Line: "She stands at the hairpin turn on Night Road."


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Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Narrows by Michael Connelly

The Narrows by Michael Connelly
Mystery

Harry Bosch is still retired from the LAPD when he gets a call from his old friend Terry McCaleb's wife after McCaleb passed away. McCaleb was the character in Connelly's Blood Work. His wife found out that McCaleb's pills had been swapped out to placebos and she suspects her husband may have been murdered. She asks Bosch to investigate. As Bosch goes through all of McCaleb's stuff he finds many old cases that McCaleb was working on, including a string of 6 murders out in Nevada.

As Bosch follows the lead, he's drives directly into an FBI investigation. They suspect that The Poet (from a book similarly named) has resurfaced and those six murders in Nevada were by him. Disgraced FBI Agent Rachel Walling works with Bosch to try and hunt down The Poet before he kills again.

You definitely have to read The Poet before you read this book or else the entire story will be ruined for you within the first 10 pages of this book. True to all the other Bosch books, this is a quick and entertaining read. I don't like Agent Walling much and hope she won't appear in another book because I find her very cold and detached. It'll be interesting to see how Bosch handles being back on the force and how his peers treat him after having been retired for 2.5 years.

First Line: "I think maybe I only know one thing in this world."

Rating:
(4/5)

Marrying Mozart

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell
Historical Fiction

There are four Weber sisters- Josefa, plain with a good voice; Aloysia, beautiful with a voice to match; Sophie, bookish and religious; and Constanze, quiet. Their father Fridolin is a music copyist and teacher and full of fun struggling to meet all his family's needs. Their mother Marie Caecilia is socially ambitious especially for her daughters even to the point of keeping a book with all marriage prospects in it.

Mozart enters into the Weber's life on one of their Thursday music nights. Caecilia who is aiming to marry Aloysia to a Swedish baron finds herself thwarted when Aloysia and Mozart fall in love. However first Mozart must earn some money not only to marry but also to support his parents and sister. Aloysia wearies of waiting for Mozart to carry her off to better things and becomes pregnant and elopes with a painter.

As Mozart continues to create beautiful music his broken heart heals and he finds himself again returning to the Webers.

This book really brought Mozart to life. It is interesting to me that in all books about this era the parents are trying to gain esteem through their children and not their own endeavors.

First Line: "I found my sister's wedding hat today in a round box of thin wood at the bottom of my wardrobe."

Rating:
(4.0/5)