Friday, September 23, 2011

The Broken Hearts Club

The Broken Hearts Club by Ethan Black

A psychologist has brought together a group of men to meet once a week at a tavern in New York. They all suffer from a broken heart. There is a banker, a literary agent and a mechanic. As they continue to talk they get more and more angry and then this turns to hate and finally to rage. The rejection fuels the rage and then it spins out of control.

Detective Voort, the richest cop in New York, with his partner, Mickie is assigned the case to catch the killer. But the killer seems to change identities at will and knows how to cover his tracks.

Voort is dating Camilla, who has just dumped him. Will he be dragged into this vortex of violence?

This is not the best-written book but has an interesting plot and is definitely thrilling. Note: This is a sexually graphic book.

First Line: "Grief? I'll tell you about grief, says the man in the dark suit."


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre was born poor. When she was very young her parents died and her uncle, who was wealthy, had her come and live with his family. However her uncle died and Jane was not wanted in the household. Her cousins were not kindly towards her and she suffered abuse from her male cousin and aunt. Fairly soon she was sent off to a boarding school. The boarding school was austere but Jane loved to learn and 'turned out' fairly well.

After finishing school she stayed to teach but soon grew bored and placed an ad for a position of governess. She found herself as a governess to Mr. Rochester's ward at Thornfield. But all is not as it seems, there is a very strange woman servant who works in the attic. A strange man appears one day and disappears with Mr. Rochester only to turn up injured. The doctor visits to patch him up and he then is spirited away. Jane grows steadily in love with Mr. Rochester.

This novel was written in the 19th century when women were little more than a man's possession. Jane is a strong-willed feminine character. She is not afraid of going it alone and has strong principles. There were several situations where it would have been so much simpler to just give in. Even the male characters have something to learn, mostly humility.

I had never read this book before and was enthralled. It is an ageless book full of strong characters, good and evil, romance and mystery.

First Line: "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Man Named Dave

A Man Named Dave by Dave Peltzer

This is the third in a series of books about Dave Peltzer's life. Dave was from the age of 4-12 abused in the most horrific ways by his mother while his father passively did nothing. This last book takes place after he is grown and on his own.

Dave goes through a exhausting and rigorous ordeal of paperwork to apply to the US Air Force. After many many rounds of this he is finally accepted and although he wants to be a fireman, he ends up as a mid-flight re-fueler via a stint of cooking. First of all, how he made it through the psychological evaluations is astonishing. Dave works hard and it is to forget all he has been through and to prove to himself he is worthy. The second thing is how inept at paperwork the Air Force is. They misplace his paperwork for the fireman placement and then also misplace his paperwork for the re-fueler position. Is the Air Force that inept??

While in the Air Force Dave works other jobs in order to support his wife, Patsy and their son. Dave is a workaholic and replaces work for emotions but all the while seems to be very much in touch of his emotions around his son. He also starts to help other abused children.

One has to admire the resiliency and persistence of Dave. He tries and tries to get some sort of approval from his mother and father. Dave's self-esteem and feeling of worthiness is almost non-existent. Surprise!! Dave has trouble in trusting other people. This book details how he starts on the road to his full mental health.

First Line: "I'm scared."


Sunday, September 18, 2011

What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

What the Dog Saw is an accumulation of different articles that Gladwell has written for the magazine The New Yorker, split in to three categories: Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius, Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses, and finally Personality, Character, and Intelligence. Most of the articles are written pre-2005 which dates some of them, though this doesn't negatively impact the book. Gladwell is a creative thinker and I started this book with high expectations having really enjoyed his other works. Though you'd think that reading small articles would make the book easier to read, I actually found it harder because every 15 pages or so I'd have to start fresh with a new story.

Of the three sections, I enjoyed Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses the best because it had the most food for thought. For example, why should the Enron guys be put in jail when they clearly made everything public and didn't hide what they were doing with the company vs. Nixon who hid everything. Both lied, cheated, and stole so what differentiates them? I liked the Obsessives, Pioneers, and other Varieties of Minor Genius the least. There was one article I couldn't even get through.

While I did enjoy this book, I would recommend Gladwell's others over this.

First Line: "The extraordinary story of the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ begins with Nathan Morris, the son of the shoemaker and cantor Kidders Morris, who came over from the Old Country in the 1880s, and settled in Asbury Park, New Jersey."


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Time and Again

Time and Again by Jack Finney

What a lovely book. Si Morley is a bored illustrator working in advertising in 1970s New York when he is approached by a top-secret government team. They want him to travel back in time to San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake. Si convinces the team to allow him to travel to 1882 New York and witness the mailing of a letter.

The letter is a piece of his girlfriend's history which involved a rich ancestor who committed suicide. Si travels back to a more gentler time and embarks on solving the mystery of the missing words in the letter and the subsequent sequence of events. At first Si is not allowed to interact with anyone lest he change anything in the future but as he travels back several times he does interact with the people. Will the future be changed?

This book is a great combination of science fiction, romance, historical fiction and mystery. I simply loved it!!!!

First Line: "In shirt-sleeves, the way I generally worked, I sat sketching a bar of soap taped to an upper corner of my drawing board."


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Factory of Cunning

A Factory of Cunning by Philippa Stockley
Historical Fiction

"Mrs. Fox" arrives in late eighteenth-century London on the run from a scandalous French past. She has taken on a new identity and wishes to rehabilitate herself to her former class level. At the same time a dear friend from the Netherlands has asked her to destroy Earl Much. Earl Much is a British aristocrat who collects priceless objets d'art and ruins young maidens.

The reader is transported to a world of bawdy houses, debauchery, ruination of willful maidens and intrigue. The earl proves to be a equal match to the cunning sinfulness of Mrs. Fox.

This is written in an epistolary mode, that of letters and diary entries. It was very difficult to get into the story to start with but finally near the middle of the story I started to 'get' it.

First Line: "Scribbled at the quayside, London."


Monday, September 05, 2011

Still Alice

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice Howland is a 50 year old Harvard professor with three grown children. She has begun to notice some forgetfulness but becomes alarmed when she goes out for her customary run and gets lost. This must be more than menopausal symptoms. It is. A diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers is devastating.

The reader follows Alice through her increasing fogginess and confusion. Her family deals with the disease in varying ways.

I found it very difficult to read this book as my mother had Alzheimers. Every test that Alice took, I took and failed. Every single thing I forgot got blown out of proportion. Several of the earlier things that Alice forgot were things that had happened to my mom that the family put down to busyness and forgetfulness. To read the book as through Alice's eyes gave me an insight into my mother's problems. Like Lydia, I took charge and could relate to her. I had a hard time with how John, her husband dealt with the disease. It seemed to me to be selfish and not very caring. A fascinating book from the eyes of an Alzheimer patient.

First Line: "Alice sat at her desk in their bedroom distracted by the sounds of John racing through each of the rooms on the first floor."


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

Debbie Rodriguez is a hair dresser who decides to go to Afghanistan and open up a beauty school to teach Afghan women about hair dressing, makeup, and other similar activities to make them more self-sufficient. As expected, there's a lot of problems for women in Afghanistan and Debbie is right in the middle of it. She learns of her students' problems, some of which are heart wrenching. Debbie only sort of tries to assimilate to the culture. She never really seems to learn the language but ends up marrying an Afghan man. She takes her mission to teach the women of Afghanistan to be self-sufficient through opening up a beauty school and becomes fairly successful.

I enjoyed this novel's story, but I couldn't really understand or connect to Debbie. She left her kids behind after a bad divorce and it seems like she didn't give much thought to them after landing in Afghanistan. She also married an Afghan man without being able to speak the same language as him or understand who he was. She knew he had another wife, but would throw a tantrum when that wife got pregnant. She seemed to throw tantrums quite frequently which became annoying. How she survived in that environment with her attitude is beyond me. If you can ignore this part of the book, the rest of it is quite touching and a good idea of how to help out women in a troubled nation.

First Line: "The women arrive in the salon just before eight in the morning."


Saturday, September 03, 2011

Change of Heart

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

June Nealon's life has not been easy. Her first husband was killed by a drunken driver and she was left to raise their daughter. June marries the policeman who looked into the accident and is 7 months pregnant when a day labourer kills her husband and her daughter.

Now, twelve years later Shay Bourne is on his last days on the death row. Claire, June's daughter is at death's door because of a faulty heart. Shay wishes to donate his heart to Claire. Other characters include Father Michael a conflicted spiritual adviser and Maggie a competent lawyer and spinster.

This book has elements of other stories in it: The Green Mile by Stephen King and The Chamber by John Grisham. Does this constitute plagiarism? It is a story about religion, the death penalty, salvation, vengeance and regrets. This is a typical Jodi Picoult story even to the twist at the end. I found this story to be quite unbelievable. However, the concepts were interesting to read about and provoked a lot of thought about the issues

First Line: "In the beginning, I believed in second chances."


Friday, September 02, 2011

A Step From Heaven

A Step from Heaven by An Na
Young Adult

Young Ju is only 4 when her family moves from Korea to the US. This book follows the journey of a young immigrant entering the school system without a word of English and being sort of in between the American and Korean cultures. Her father strives to maintain his Korean culture and values and becomes increasingly frustrated. He eventually becomes abusive and finally decides to return home.

Young Ju's mother is more able to cope and after having a son joins a Korean church and starts to become assimilated. The son while spoiled for just being a boy spirals into worse and worse behaviour.

This book reads like a collection of short stories. I had a bit of difficulty with all the Korean words and would have liked a translation somewhere. An interesting journey about a family trying to achieve the American dream.

First Line: "Just to the edge, Young Ju."