Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review of Beautiful Ruins

Because of personal circumstances, I have found it hard to read a book since September, so the fact that I read this novel in starts and stops probably colours my opinion. At first, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters, seems to tell the tale of dying actress, Dee Moray, set in a small fishing village in Italy against the background of the fated 1960's filming of "Cleopatra".The characters of innkeeper Pasquale Tursi and producer Michael Deane fit with this narrative. But shortly into the book we are given a short chapter from an anonymous writer about the war and then another chapter about failed musician Pat Bender set in present day. The stories don't seem to have anything to do with the plotline but Walters does a masterful job at weaving characters and times together to form a complete story at the end of the book.

You Will Like This Book If:

- you like tales of old Hollywood glamour and dirt
- you like books set in Italy
- you like your novels told in nonlinear time

Best Quote:

"What we want to do and what we must do are not the same...the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review of Life After Life

I just finished reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and I want to go back and read it again, and again, and again...

If you have ever wanted a "do over" at some point in your life you will relate to this novel. Protagonist Ursula Todd, an English girl born in 1910, dies immediately after she is born, or drowns as a child in the ocean, or is beaten to death by her husband... Poor Ursula loses her life so many times in the course of the novel but she is given the gift, or curse, to relive it with the new knowledge she has gained and the chance to get it right.

You Will Like This Book If:

- you are interested in the idea of parallel universes, reincarnation or a flexible idea of time
- you are a fan of the British experience during the two world wars
- you're intrigued by the idea of changing history if you could only go back in time

Favourite Quote:

"Time isn't circular," she said to Dr. Kellet. "It's like a...palimpset."
"Oh dear," he said. "That sounds very vexing."
"And memories are sometimes in the future."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review of The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird picks up the story of Anna Moray (daughter of John Moray and Sophia McClelland) where it left off in The Winter Sea. The novel weaves this historical storyline with a new contemporary one that features Londoner art gallery curator Nicola Marter and Scottish policeman Rob McMorran, an ex-lover. Both characters are psychic which is how they are able to see into the past life of Anna.
Nicola has a talent for "seeing" the history of pieces of artwork so when she meets a woman who has a piece of artwork that she insists has a connection to the Russian Empress Catherine, Nicola sees the past and believes her. She hooks back up with Rob who helps her develop her psychic powers and unravel the mystery.

You Will Like This Book If:

- you liked The Firebird and other works of the author
- you like Scottish history, specifically around the time of King James
- you ken read a wee bit o Scots dialect without finding it bloody distracting
- you can suspend belief about how easily and conviently psychic powers work

Best Quote:

"He sent his mind in search of me that morning."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review of Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

I have read two of the illustrious Paulo Coelho's books before - Brida and of course The Alchemist. Both were novels but the story lines were written to illustrate the teachings that Coelho wanted to get across. It was referred to somewhere as "visionary fiction".

Manuscript Found in Accra is different in that there really is no plotline. The basic story is that a secret manuscript is found in Jerusalem in 1099. It creates quite a stir so different people ask the Copt, or wise man who can read the manuscript, what it teaches about certain issues like anxiety, love and fear. It reminded me a bit of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

While Manuscript Found in Accra contains some truths and insights into our universal human condition, if you are wanting to read a novel, this is not the book for you. Try some of Coelho's other novels. If you are interested in wisdom literature, maybe read some of the classics like The Bible, The I Ching and others on which Coelho's ideas are based.

You Will Like This Book If:

-you like your wisdom literature short and to the point
- you like short books
- you're a fan of Paul Coelho's other works

Best Quote:

Don't try to be useful. Try to be yourself: that is enough & that makes all the difference.”
― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review of Inferno by Dan Brown

Dan Brown is one of those authors that you either love or hate. Being the fan I am I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his latest novel Inferno and bought it the first weekend it was out. And I'm going to be honest, I'm such a nerd that I also bought the accompanying volume of Dante's Inferno, the classic Brown's book is based on and which Indigo Books thoughtfully placed along side the bestseller. Whoever owns Dante's royalties is going to be raking it in!

Like all Dan Brown books, Inferno deals with a controversial topic and a secret society: this time it is the theory of overpopulation and an elite world organization that controls situations for VIP's.

It's a fast paced thriller that has hero Robert Langdon hooking up with an attractive, young but brilliant woman on a breathtaking chase through famous European landmarks (Florence, Venice, Turkey) as they try to solve the puzzle of painting that references Dante's Inferno while avoiding people that are trying to kill them.

You Will Like This Book If:

- you liked Da Vinci's Code and Angels and Demons
- you like to read the book before the movie comes out (which it definitely will)
- you like to refer to Google constantly while you are reading so you can see what the landmarks look like where the story is set
- you love a good conspiracy theory (who doesn't?)

Best Quote:

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Bertrand Zobrist”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review of The Host by Stephanie Meyers

The Host is author Stephanie Meyer's departure from paranormal teen romance into the sci-fi romance genre. (Oh, yah it's also a movie now).

In The Host, Meyer's creates a world where human bodies are taken over by alien souls. Fortunately for human host Melanie, her inhabiter, Wanderer,is sympathetic towards her and lets Melanie find her younger brother and boyfriend Jared. Problem is, they, along with the other humans in their enclave in the Arizona desert, don't trust the alien.

But as Wanderer increasingly becomes accepted in the community, Melanie's feelings for Jared become Wanderer's own even as she develops strong feelings for the another hot, strong guy, Ian.(Love triangle anyone?)

What I liked about this book is the way that Meyers, once again, is able to create a world using the characteristics of the setting. Also similar to Twilight is the extended family aspect of the characters in the enclave, reminiscient of Edward's vampire family. I also thought the concept was unique - the idea of a planet of souls inhabiting other creatures' bodies.

There are a couple of things I didn't like about the novel. The first was that I thought the crisis (the threat of being discovered by the alien seeker) was too easily resolved. As well, I thought there were a lot of filler scenes that didn't have anything to do with furthering the plot line (like the soccer game where Melanie gets to show her stuff to the boys). I guess it's like the vampire baseball game in Twilight.

The thing I disliked the most about The Host is the violence both Jared and Ian show towards Wanderer. She is basically beaten by them several times. Their justification - they think she is the enemy. But guess what? She still loves them anyways! (After all, they said they were sorry). I think this is a dangerous element to have in a novel that will be read by myriads of teenage girls.

You Will Like This Book If:

- you are a fan of the Twilight series

- you like sci-fi mixed with romance

- you like love triangles

Quote: I watched his fingers clench and unclench, and I wondered if he was dreaming that they were wrapped around my neck.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review of February by Lisa Moore

I have a love/hate relationship with award winning books. I know it's supposed to be good - it won an award for God's sake beating out who knows how many other deserving works - but I always find these books difficult to read.

The language is lyrical; phrases like "the water poured down in fat ropes and thin sheets that tapered to a point and got fat again". You know that takes work.

The plotline seems simple - a man dies in an oil rig accident off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982 and the remaining family, consisting of widow Helen, prodigal son John, and dutiful daughters Claire and Cathy, grieve the loss of him in their own unique way. At first the whole thing feels self conscious, like author Lisa Moore has written the novel solely to show off her mad writing skills.

But somewhere in the middle of February, like many other award winning books, I'm hooked and I get it and I can't put it down and when I finish the book I can't stop thinking of it. An ordinary situation, a man dies, becomes extraordinary in the way Moore makes us feel for and understand the characters.

Which is why February was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and is a Canada Reads 2013 Selection.

Favourite Quote:

And it occured to Helen then that Heathcliff had come and gone. She was slow to accept it. She was stunned. Heathcliff had come and looked at her and didn't find her attractive. It was so far outside the scope of what she knew to be decent human behaviour that she could not fathom it, though some part of her also knew it exactly. She went to the bathroom and got down on her knees in front of the filthy toilet and puked...what she was vomiting was the belief that getting old didn't matter. Because it did matter.