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AUGUST 25, 2011
100 Best Affordable Vacations ~ Jane Wooldridge & Larry Bleiberg
comments by CarolK
I love books like National Geo’s 100 Best Affordable Vacations. They’re great for browsing, for dreaming and for pure delight in anticipation of an adventure. Broken up into four segments, Americana, Into the Wild, Quest for Knowledge, Body & Soul, each provides enough suggestions for even the most traveled of us.
Those I’ve already done provide a bit of nostalgia and reminiscence, others that are on my list make me yearn to get away. Monarch Butterflies in Morelia, Mexico, dig deeper into Nova Scotia, hop a ferry to Alaska or some other exotic locale, all sound delightful and even as the book professes, affordable.
I was pleased to note that are at least 3 more 100 Best in this vacation series published by National Geographic. I’m going to order another and dream on…
AUGUST 22, 2011
Room ~ Emma Donoghue
comments by CarolK
AUGUST 18, 2011
The Ghost Writer ~ John Harwood
comments by CarolK
The Ghost Writer / JOhn Harwood
What to make of this book. I really had to think about it. I really liked the first chapters, the middling’ part found me a bit bored, and then came confusion, and then I got back into the story full swing. It’s difficult to rate The Ghost Writer. I wouldn’t say “you have to read this” but liked it well enough. Perhaps this is a bit vague but something didn’t quite work for me in the end.
The Ghost Writer is a moody story, gloomy, dark and a bit gothic in tone. I don’t think I’m giving anything away in saying it is a ghost story. The things that I loved about the book are that there are actual short stories or pieces of manuscript as part of the story, like reading a book within a book. I felt immediate sympathy for the main character, Gerard Montfort. He first appears as a young boy, living a very sheltered life, in his homeland of Mawson, South Australia. Gerard’s mother won’t let the poor kid do anything. One day Gerard is snooping in his mother’s bedroom, and finds a portrait of a woman in her locked dresser drawers. The portrait is hidden amongst a bundle of papers. It is just at this time that his mother catches him in the act and gives him the beating of his life. “Prying into other people’s things is a terrible sin, she said finally—‘sin’ was word she seldom used—‘like opening their letters or reading their diaries or listening at doors. Promise me you’ll never, never, never do anything like that again.” Of course he does and this begins the quest for the truth of his mother’s past. Having few friends and few outlets for any pursuits out of his own, Gerard, against the wishes of his mother, starts a correspondence with a young English woman, Alice. Alice is a few years his senior and is confined to a wheelchair. Alice has tons of secrets of her own. The two begin a relationship that will span many years. The relationship between Gerard and Alice was one of the best parts of the story for me.
I liked Harwood’s descriptive passages, particularly those describing the countryside and things that Gerard encounters in his travels. The plot with its many twist and turns too ambitious is where I had problems. I truly had trouble following the story. I learned a few new words, like “pleached”, always fun.
The Ghost Writer is Harwood’s debut. I heard about it while reading a review by Gary Niebuhr of Harwood’s latest, Séance. I will read this at some point but hope I understand it better. My overall feeling of perplexity may have been no fault of the author and perhaps my own distracted reading. I still intend to give Harwood another chance, even given my reservations.
AUGUST 16, 2011
Downton Abbey ~ Series One
Many of you told me you loved Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey. I was convinced but wasn't certain if my husband would sit through ten hours of what he might term a soap opera, one with British dialog to boot. Good naturedly, but with a bit of skepticism he agreed to watch Part 1 the other night. Happy to say, Downton is a thumbs up in our household.
It was easy to get caught up in the life of the Crawley family, Lords and Ladies of Downton for generations. As the story begins, death and a right of inheritance threaten to displace the Crawleys. Creator Julian Fellows chose his cast and location well. A blend of old aristocracy, the new self made heir, and the elegant backdrop of Highclere Castle (Downton) make this a first class production. Of course. part of the fun is the back story, the goings on of family and servants; their loves, money, pomp, gossip, secrets, loyalties, deceit, all which will make or break the preservation of Downton Abbey.
We both found lots of humor here, laughing right out loud at the absurdity of some situations and found ourselves talking about the hierarchy of British rule. Dukes, Earls, Dames; we can never keep them straight. The Masterpiece website has excellent information about Highclere Castle, why it was chosen as the location, its role in the story and some good shots of its interior. Makes me want to hop a plane and go visit.
Downton Abbey is a delightful period piece. We're happy to know there will be a series 2. but can hardly wait until it's aired in January of 2012.
AUGUST 15, 2011
Joy for Beginners ~ Erica Bauermeister
comments by Merand
Joy for Beginners ~ Erica Bauemeister
I love Bauermeister's writing! I don't know how she manages to do it. Every word is perfect, every description tangible, every moment striking. There are many books I have given 5 stars too - usually because the story is fun or enjoyable, not necessarily because the writing itself is so incredible. I loved Bauermeister's first book and am equally enthralled with her second.
Now that's not to say that this book is easy. Far from it, for me anyway. The author explores all manner of loss and betrayal and sadness. I don't like sad books but these I can handle because the sadness is always tempered with love, friendship, joy, and hope. You aren't left feeling desolate, and it's not that every story has a happy ending either, but the reality of life continuing on and that one can get through is always present. Just like in School of Essential Ingredients, the book is broken into sections by character, with each section its own miniature novel. Bauermeister's writing always leaves me with the desire to hold my husband and children, wanting to cherish them against the inevitability of life.
Bauermeister's writing is fluid and effortless, her descriptions magical. It might not be the kind of book everyone would enjoy but I would recommend it for its sheer excellence. It's a book that leaves me breathless and wishing I could write like Bauermeister, knowing I never could, and yet not saddened by that thought at all.
AUGUST 14, 2011
This is Dedicated...
You Know When The Men Are Gone
Amy Einhorn Books, G.P Putnams Son's
Best friend, husband, father, soldier,
you are always worth the wait.
AUGUST 10, 2011
Without Consent ~ Frances Fyfield
comments by CarolK
Without Consent / Frances Fyfield
I've had Without Consent by Frances Fyfield on my book shelf for years. It was recommended to me but I can't remember where. It could have been in the Mystery Reader's Journal or possibly Foreward Magazine. All I can remember is I thought, "oh, this sounds good", and I promptly ordered two books by the author and then put them on the shelf for someday. The someday arrived.
Without Consent is about rape. Rape, the definition, rape as seen from many angles and many perspectives. I don't think you could read this without thinking about your own feelings on the subject. The bulk of the story is told by Helen West, Crown Prosecutor. Helen is a complicated woman and Fyfield has done a great job revealing enough of what makes her tick to keep us interested and wanting more. Her role as prosecutor is frustrating to say the least. She must decide what cases have a chance and leave others behind. "The best level of success in a rape case was the victim being believed; and then believed to the extent that there was no room for the jury to be distracted by sympathy for the accused". Powerful statement.
Supporting cast includes Helen's lover, a senior police officer, Detective Sergeant Ryan, of The Rape Unit, accused of rape, himself. In addition there are a myriad of other sorry victims and those their counterpart of possible suspects of the crime. I was not surprised at the outcome but did like how Fyfield got there. Psychological, dreary, the continued examination of what rape is, make this a provoking read.
What's truly splendid about Without Consent is how each chapter begins with a piece of the law about rape. "It is an offence (British spelling) for a man to rape a woman." Consent becomes a a key to the whole.
Helen West is featured in other Fyfield novels. Without Consent stands well enough on its own and I didn't feel lost not having read any others. I've also discovered that a few of the stories have been made into movies and I'm definitely going to watch these.
AUGUST 8, 2011
Bright's Passage ~ Josh Ritter
Debut Author Josh Ritter believes angels are far from being benign characters. This might explain why he made an angel so much a character of his book, Bright's Passage. Michael Kindness of Books on the Nightstand raved about this book back in Episode 135, Writing So Good It Will Scare You". Michael described the plot as the story of Henry Bright who returns from World War I with an angel on his side. The opening scene begins with Henry holding his infant son, mourning the death of his wife, Rachel, who has died during childbirth. Father and son must leave their home to escape the revenge of his wife's father and two brothers who feel Henry stole their daughter/sister from them. Henry does flee with his son but not before he starts a fire that destroys his home and threatens life for miles around, a fire that he has been told to start by his angel. The story continues and moves rapidly as flashbacks fill in Henry's life during the war in France, and his childhood.
I think readers will each take something different from this story. For me, it is a story of faith and just who or what God is and what is the truth of angels. It comes in just under 200 pages, but packs so much into its brevity. It was a beautiful read with a story that will stay with me and a message to consider. The lyrical quality of the writing reminds me a bit of my feelings when reading Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, though tighter and sparse.
Josh Ritter is a singer/songwriter in his own right. I am not familiar with his work but after reading Bright's Passage I'm eager to hear his vocal voice. I plan to listen to some of his songs soon.
AUGUST 7, 2011
This is Dedicated...
Last Letter from Your Lover
Penquin Group, C.2011.
To Charles, who started it all with a paper message
AUGUST 4, 2011
Sacrifice ~ S.J. Bolton
Sacrifice ~ S.J. Bolton
Beth could say "I told you so". She's the friend who recommended Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton to me some time ago. Who knows why I didn't pick it up immediately as Beth and I have like tastes in fiction; not just in thrillers but across the board. Beth told me I'd like this one and she was right!
Tora Hamilton is having a bad day. Her beloved horse Jamie has died and Tora plans to illegally bury him on her Shetland property. Her husband's away so she'll need to do this alone, no easy task for this inexperienced woman using a digger in muddy ground with heavy rain in the forecast. Just when Tora thinks she is making headway with the hole, the bucket catches. Getting out, Tora peers into the hole and sees some linen. Gingerly investigating further, which means dropping into a hole she may not be able to get out of she realizes the peat bog is concealing a dead body. After freeing herself from the grave, the police are called and Tora is questioned extensively, not only about the body, but harassed about the illegal burial of her horse. To make matters worse, she is informed one of her patients has gone into labor and she is needed at the hospital. Tora is not Dr. Hamilton but Ms. Hamilton as she a consultant surgeon at the local hospital. If that’s not enough after delivering the baby, her patient is in jeopardy of hemorrhaging and decisions need to be made. All this in the first 25 pages. A bad day indeed!
Sacrifice hooked me immediately with this opening scenario and continued its fast pace throughout. Consider I read this in two sittings. Besides a good "grab you" opening, all characters, and there are many, are interesting in themselves, not all likeable, but people I want to know more about. I loved the character DS Tulloch, female investigator, who starts off as a real thorn in Tora's side and eventually evolves into a strong relationship. I liked Bolton's descriptive passages of her locale, The Shetland Islands, and her blend of legend, folklore, runes and Trows. What are Trows? You'll need to read to book to find out. Bolton did extensive research to conjure up this tale of good and evil and the writing is sound, the plot, good.
Sacrifice was Bolton's debut in 2008 and since she has written three others. I'm definitely adding her to my list of must read authors, becoming a GoodReads fan and checking out her blog.
AUGUST 4, 2011
Emily Alone ~ Stewart O'Nan
****comments by CarolK
I'm a big fan of Stewart O'Nan and have read several of his books. They're not easy reading even though most are not overly long, coming in at a publisher's dream of 300 pages. O'Nan's stories are slow and complex with a lot of room for perspective of the reader.
Emily Alone left me feeling drained and a bit sad. It's never quite clear, at least to me, exactly what age Emily is. I'd like to think she is way older than me but I don't think that's true. This perhaps is the reason for the emotional pull I felt throughout the story. Emily Alone...a woman struggling with aging and feelings of being all alone and on her own. Children scattered, an empty house, husband gone, alone. Independence is hers even if she doesn't want it. This new life is a struggle and though I know Emily will make it; she still has spunk; I can't help but feel sad too. I think it hits too close to home. I think of my mother who in her 80's lost my dad and found herself in much the same place as Emily. Though I tried to understand her loss, reading Emily's story makes me wonder if I somehow failed to see its complexity. My mother and Emily put up a good front. Emily Alone also confronts some of my own demons, the process of aging and issues that I may have to deal with in my future. Alone, what will that mean to me?
Slow paced, Emily Alone, was thought provoking, humorous at times and a good read. I have not read the book that this was a sequel to, "Wish You Were Here". I think I'll add that to my list. I don't think you can go wrong with O'Nan. Come prepared to think.