Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Scent Trail by Celia Lyttleton


Celia has decided to get her own bespoke scent created for her (seemingly for the purpose of writing a book about it, rather than actually wanting this just for herself?). She visits someone that helps her pick out the top, middle, and base notes of her scent, including a colour consultation as colour and scent play roles together. After this, Celia sets out to find the origins of each of ingredient.

While staring this book, I wonder how Celia can keep me interested in her travels to learn about 11 different ingredients. It was interesting to learn about how these items are turned in to scents, and in some instances the massive volume of ingredient that is required to make a small volume of oil for scent. It makes you wonder how the finances work. While perfumes are not cheap, they aren't super expensive either compared to how much volume some of the ingredients require.

It's also hard to read a book on scent when you can't smell everything she's talking about. I don't recognize some of those ingredients and it would have been great to know what they smell like and what her final scent smells like. Celia tried describing what those smells were like, but many of them were unique to her like the smell of her childhood in some specific place. How can I associate with that? In general, that was my problem with this book. I couldn't connect with anything because I didn't know what the smells were and couldn't connect with her or her descriptions.

First Line: "There are only a handful of bespoke perfumers in London, and Anastasia Brozler, the founder of Creative Perfumers, is one of them."


Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard


Kevin Hazzard re-started his career as an EMS, wanting to help strangers at possibly the worst time in their life. He starts with training and, once he passes, tries to find a job. Unable to find work for a hospital, he works at private company and the tales begin. Given that EMTs are stuck in a truck with another EMT/medic for an entire shift, this book is as much about the people Hazzard works with as the calls he goes on. The two taking all the calls need some level of trust and connection to make it bearable to get through the day.

Of course, having been an EMT, Hazzard has seen some crazy shit. He takes the reader through some of those more crazy calls. Given that EMTs run calls along with firefighters and police, you would think that EMTs see the least amount of danger but it's still a pretty dangerous career.

While the individual stories were interesting, there was nothing that really tied it all together or made me care about Hazzard. He seemed like an adrenaline junkie that this career could suit. But it also made him feel a bit less compassionate than someone who you would want doing this job.

First Line: "I did nothing to save the first person who died in front of me."


Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Dragonwyck by Anya Seton

Historical Fiction

Young Miranda lives on a farm with her large family and one day her parents get a letter from a cousin that asks them to send their eldest daughter to Dragonwyck. The letter comes from Nicholas Van Ryn, socialite from the Hudson Valley. Miranda is super excited to leave behind her simple life and become more sophisticated.

Upon arriving, Miranda meets Nicholas' wife and daughter. The wife doesn't seem to want Miranda around and doesn't hesitate to make that known. Meanwhile Nicholas suffers from violent mood swings and Miranda never really knows what to expect from him. When the family suffers an emergency, Miranda's life changes once again.

I picked this book up because I enjoyed Seton's Katherine so much. Dragonwyck doesn't have the same magic that Katherine does. I didn't really enjoy any of the characters. Miranda was weak and annoying and even by the end of the book I didn't understand what was going on with Nicholas.

Everything just went on too long and all the characters were too annoying to enjoy this a lot.

First Line: "It was on an afternoon in May of 1844 that the letter came from Dragonwyck."


Friday, April 19, 2019

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Science Fiction

Professor Aronnax is invited on an expedition to find a giant sea creature responsible for eating a hole in a steel ship and almost sinking it. Having a passion for studying the sea, he gratefully accepts and brings his assistant along with him. On the ship, they meet Canadian harpooner Ned Land who will be responsible for taking the beast down. It takes a while, but they eventually find the monster and pursue it. When they get close enough they try a shot at the beast, it looks like it does no damage. The beast takes aim at the ship and Prof. Aronnax and his mate go overboard.

In the water, far away from the ship, they also find Ned Land clinging to what looks like a piece of the beast. But it's made out of steel, surely it's not an animal. Suddenly a door opens and they are brought within this ship and kept captive. The beast they everyone has been trying to pursue is an advanced submarine.

Being kept captive on the ship, the trio is allowed to partake in the adventures they go on. They see things no one but those on the ship have seen and venture to places no one has been. It's obviously Verne had an incredible imagination to pull this book together and, despite it being 100+ years old, still reads like something that could happen today. This is where the book excels, as the characters are a bit weak. There was no purpose to Aronnax's assistant in the book at all. He provided absolutely not value to drive the plot forward. And even the main characters like Aronnax, Land, and Captain Nemo we don't find out too much about.

Even with this, the book's weakest point is the ending. It's like Verne couldn't figure out how to end the book so just gave up and said oh well we're done now. It's unfortunate as otherwise the book was pretty fun.

First Line: "In the year 1866 the whole maritime population of Europe and America was excited by a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon."


Sunday, April 07, 2019

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd


Jessie gets a call from her aunt summoning her home to deal with a family emergency. Jessie grew up on an island off the coast of South Carolina with her mom, dad, and brother until a tragic boat explosion took her father when she was only 10. Since then, the family was never the same. Jessie escaped the island the first chance she got, got married to Hugh and had a daughter. But when she finds out that her mother has purposely cut off a finger, Jessie needs to return to the island and face the past.

When Jessie gets to her mother's house, there's a lot of emotions in that house. Jessie knows something is wrong with her marriage and is trying to re-find herself. Her mother is obviously struggling with a very deep grief. The two aren't good at confronting each other so they just dance around each other for the majority of the book.

Also on the island is a monastery where monks live and the island famous mermaid chair sits. As a child, Jessie was in awe of the mermaid chair and things haven't changed. Finding her mother there one night, she also first sees Brother Thomas and instantly falls in love with him, causing further turmoil in her marriage.

The love story of this book bothered me from the start. Jessie and Brother Thomas see each other, exchange no more than a sentence or two, and decide they are in love with each other? None of the rest of the book read like a fairy tale so not sure why the author went down this path. The internal struggle they both had on whether to accept the relationship was interesting, coming from two completely different points of view.

I know others have not enjoyed this book because it doesn't compare to Sue Monk Kidd's other book, The Secret Life of Bees. Having not read that book before, I had nothing to compare this one to. It was very easy to get in to and though I didn't love the story, it was a good enough read to keep me engaged the entire book.

First Line: "In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk."


Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo


Miss Fuji is the youngest pearl diver in her group. She feels at peace in the water and comes back daily with bounty from the sea. On one dive, she cuts her arm but doesn't notice the pain. She sees a spot on her skin in the same area where she got cut. She doesn't think too much of it until she finds another spot and goes to the doctor. Miss Fuji has leprosy.

In the mid 1900s Japan, those with the disease are shunned and sent to an island to live out the rest of their life. Even though Miss Fuji tries to hide, they find her and send her to this island.

The first part of the book focuses on the profession of pearl diving, which is incredibly interesting. Having recently visited the Korean island of Jeju where this practice is still in place, I really wanted to learn more. Unfortunately this part of the book ends pretty quickly and it moves right in to life on a segregated island. I was disappointed by this, but I blame myself for having incorrect expectations.

The majority of this book is about being in exile with others like Miss Fuji. She finds herself a job that is important to her and the other patients and seems to find some purpose in life. The book becomes disjointed in this part because it is separated by artifacts from the island and what they mean. It would have flowed better if told traditionally; there wasn't really much value in having these artifacts help tell the story.

Though this book wasn't bad, it really suffered because I expected a completely different story from it.

First Line: "Her words are the only remaining artifact of those days before she arrived."


Friday, March 29, 2019

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown


Susan Fletcher is the head cryptographer at the NSA and has a romantic weekend planned with her fiance. He gets called away on an emergency and it's not long before Susan also receives a call from her boss. She needs to come in to work and not say anything.

Once she's in to work she's debriefed by her boss. The super computer that the NSA has built and has never spent more than 3 hours cracking a code has been chugging away for more than 12 hours now. It has finally found the unbreakable code. This will be a complete reset for the NSA and their super expensive machine will become useless. The NSA can't let this happen.

Even though it's the weekend, there are others hanging around the NSA and they cannot find out. But the NSA is full of suspicious people and it's only a matter of time.

The setting for this book is interesting, taking place completely at the NSA headquarters. Despite this book being pretty old by now, it still reads as if it could happen in current day. The story starts off interesting. This code is unbreakable, what is the NSA missing and how do they find the code. It devolves into something completely unbelievable and overblown. The ending was pretty weak and at that point I was just happy the story was coming to a close. This probably my least favourite Dan Brown book.

First Line: "It said that in death, all things become clear; Ensei Tankado now knew it was true."