Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I went to the shops today and noticed that there was 20% off on bikes, and so thought that I might as well pick a bike and get it today. After trying to decide which one to get for a while I finally picked a mid ranged price one and took it to the registers.
When I got there, the helmet and the bike came to a grand total of $46, and I was so shocked I said to the girl that that couldn't possibly be right. She scanned again, and the bike came up at $20, so she called a manager, who called another manager, and in the end I ended up getting it for $16. In effect the helmet that I bought with it cost me twice as much as the bike did!
Of course, buying a bike is the first step. The second step is putting it together, and the third step is actually using it!
Now, I can more easily afford one of the other items which was a barbecue to sit on my back deck!
Samson the hero; a brave warrior, leader of men and Nazarite of God? Or a misfit given to whoring and lust, who failed to fulfil his destiny? In Lion's Honey, award-winning writer David Grossman takes on one of the most vivid and controversial characters in the Bible. Revisiting Samson's famous battle with the lion, his many women and his betrayal by them all - including the only one he ever loved - Grossman gives us a provocative new take on the story and its climax, Samson's final act of death, bringing down a temple on himself and 3000 Philistines.
In exhilarating and lucid prose, Grossman reveals the journey of a single, lonely, tortured soul who never found a true home in the world, who was uncomfortable in his very body and who, some might say, was the precursor of today's suicide bombers.
I originally added this book to my TBR list because it is part of the Myths series published by Canongate. Other books that I have read from this series are Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith (about the Celtic god of dreams and love) and Weight by Jeanette Winterson which is a retelling of the story of Atlas and Hercules. Given that those were both retellings, albeit with a bit of modern day storytelling added in Dream Angus, I was expecting another retelling when I read this book. That is not what I got.
If I was to be the person cataloguing this book I am not sure that I would have even called it fiction. The first few pages of the book are the story of Samson, taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. I guess I was a little surprised to see that, but then again, it isn't terribly long so I though 'okay that's probably as good a place as any to start'.
What followed was more of a long essay dissecting the Bible story trying to ascertain motive for some of Samson's actions including but not limited to dissecting his relationship with his parents, why he lived amongst the Philistines, and the women that he was associated with. A couple of examples - Why did he feel the need to use 300 pairs of foxes to burn the Philistines fields and why did he not tell his parents that he had killed a lion with his bare hands, and most importantly, why was it that he told Delilah the secret of his strength.
In saying that it was not what I expected, I am not saying that I didn't enjoy it because for the most part I did. It was very interesting to read through the text and then refer to the footnotes at the back which may have been referencing the Torah, or some other studies of Samson done by a variety of scholars over the years.
Would I have picked it up if it had not been part of this series - probably not. Do I feel compelled to pick up any other work from this author - not really. It was a quick read, and different from most other things I read.
And besides...it was the first completed read in the Once Upon a Time II challenge...so that has to be a good thing!
Other Blogger's Thoughts:
Things Mean A Lot
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
1754. In a peaceful glen in the Ohio Country, the firing of a musket ball signals beginning of the infamous seven-year that paved the way for the American Revolution.
In Shadowbrook a cast of unforgettable characters brings to life the bloody conflict between the French and the English that ignited the 18th century and sparked a nation's battle for independence. Characters like Quentin Hale, the fearless gentleman-turned-scout the Indians call 'Red Bear'; Cormac Shea, the part-Irish, part-Indian woodsman scarred in battle by his own kin, sworn to drive white man from his land; Nicole Crane, the beautiful young half-French woman whose struggle to reconcile her love for Hale with her vow to become a nun causes her to become a pawn in the quest for territory.
Centred around the coveted Shadowbrook, a prosperous plantation in the northern wilderness, and peopled with such historical figures, including a young George Washington, this richly textured novel vividly captures the conflict that opened the eighteenth century and ignited our nation's quest for independence. A classic in the making, Shadowbrook is a page-turning tale of ambition, war, and the transforming power of both love and duty.
When I read City of Dreams, one of the things that I found most surprising was that the author chose to tell the story of several generations in one book, and therefore covered quite a significant period of history (from 1661 to 1798). Whilst it didn't detract from the novel too much, I do much prefer to read a book that concentrates more fully on just one set of characters.
There is nothing in the blurb to easily connect Shadowbrook to the first book. It is only as you start to read that you find out that Quentin Hale's mother is a Devrey of New York and therefore connected to the characters from the first book. With a time frame from 1754-1760 this book sits within the scope of the first book, but I guess the story was just so much bigger than just being a section of the earlier book.
The two main characters are Quentin Hale and Cormac Shea - they are not physically brothers, but they are in all other ways, including by the fact that they have the same Indian 'adult' father, with Quentin having been adopted by the Potawatomi tribe. Cormac is half Irish and half Indian, and had been bought to Shadowbrook as a young teenager when Quent's father made Cormac's mother his mistress. To the Indians these two young men are Bridge people - men who can provide a way for the Indians to understand what is happening in the very different world of the white man. For Cormac and Quent, quite often it means internal strife as they must try to balance the two worlds of which they are part.
The story that Swerling attempts to tell is huge - not only is there the Indian vs white man issues to deal with, there is also the simmering tensions between the British and the French who are fighting to win control of the land stretching from what is now the northern US up to and including Quebec in Canada. Add in the machinations of the Church, and you have a complicated and diverse cast of characters. There are also episodes of Indian mysticism, as well as Catholic religious experience.
As if that is not enough, when Cormac and Quentin meet after a long time apart, Cormac is accompanying a young lady north to Quebec. Her name is Nicole Crane, and she is half British-half French, and she is travelling north to become a member of a the Sisters of the Poor Clares - a convent. Whilst Quentin is a man of honour and wouldn't dare to touch Nicole whilst he believes that she has chosen Cormac to be her man, he finds himself falling in love with her, and when his mother seems to sanction her as the perfect wife to be mistress of Shadowbrook, he knows that she should be his. The only problem is that Quent will never be master at Shadowbrook. As the younger son, he has to watch his sadistic older brother (a completely one dimensional character - evil in just about every way - particularly in comparison to the perfect Quent!) make decisions that will cause trouble for all those who live there, including the slaves and the Quakers who live in a township on the Hale patent.
There are several historical characters woven into the narrative - in particular during the sections dealing with the battles between the British and the French. Possibly the most interesting inclusions were a young man by the name of George Washington who was leading a force of Virginian soldiers and fighting on the side of the British against the French, influential Indian chief, Chief Pontiac, and several generals on either side of the battles over land.
On many levels this story did work for me, but at the end of the day, there was too much left unexplained for me to really love this book.
As an example, one of the major story lines was the wheeling and dealing that was being driven by a one-eyed Scottish man, Hamish Stewart, who fought at Culloden. Hamish wants the Hale patent...badly...and will do almost anything to get his hands on it. He manipulates and bribes, even at one stage trying to destroy the Hales, just so that he can be the owner. What I never did get is what his motivation was. He had been coveting the land for over twenty years, but why THAT land. Why was he so determined that Shadowbrook was the only land that he wanted. This is just one example.
Before finishing up I should mention that this is not a book for the faint of heart. There are battles galore, blood everywhere, and plenty of scalpings. For the most part, it is a fascinating read, although it is a long way from being a perfect read. I would class it as mostly enjoyable.
I should also mention that this book was one of the ones that I had listed for reading as part of the Chunkster Challenge, so it is now two down, two to go to complete the challenge!
Set against the dramatic backdrop of America's second war for independence, Beverly Swerling's gripping and intricately plotted sequel to the much-loved City of Dreams plunges deep into the crowded streets of old New York.
Poised between the Manhattan woods and the sea that is her gateway to the world, the city of 1812 is vibrant but raw, a cauldron where the French accents of Creole pirates mingle with the brogues of Irish seamen, and shipments of rare teas and silks from Canton are sold at raucous Pearl Street auctions. Allegiances are more changeable than the tides, love and lust often indistinguishable, the bonds of country weak compared to the temptation of fabulous riches from the East, and only a few farseeing patriots recognize the need not only to protect the city from the redcoats, but to preserve the fragile Constitutional union forged in 1787.
Joyful Patrick Turner, dashing war hero and brilliant surgeon, loses his hand to a British shell, retreats to private life, and hopes to make his fortune in the China trade. To succeed he must run the British blockade; if he fails, he will lose not only a livelihood, but the beautiful Manon, daughter of a Huguenot jeweler who will not accept a pauper as a son-in-law. When stories of a lost treasure and a mysterious diamond draw him into a treacherous maze of deceit and double-cross, and the British set Washington ablaze, Joyful realizes that more than his personal future is at stake. His adversary, Gornt Blakeman, has a lust for power that will not be sated until he claims Joyful's fiancée as his wife and half a nation as his personal fiefdom. Like the Turners before him, Joyful must choose: his dreams or his country.
Swerling's vividly drawn characters illuminate every aspect of the teeming metropolis: John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in America, brings the city's first Chinese to staff his palatial Broadway mansion; Lucretia Carter, wife of a respectable craftsman, makes ends meet as an abortionist serving New York's brothels; Thumbless Wu, a mysterious Cantonese stowaway, slinks about on a secret mission; and the bewitching Delight Higgins, proprietress of the town's finest gambling club, lives in terror of the blackbirding gangs who prey on runaway slaves. They are all here, the butchers and shipwrights, the doctors and scriveners, the slum dwellers of Five Points and the money men of the infant stock exchange...conspiring by day and carousing by night, while the women must hide their loyalties and ambitions, their very wills, behind pretty sighs and silken skirts.
Bearing in mind that I read this, the third book in the series, second, I can't tell you how pleased I was that the author didn't try to fit another 100 years of history into one book. In fact, in this book the time frame of the novel is tightened down yet again, and instead of covering a period of over 100 years (as we were in City of Dreams) or even a handful of years (Shadowbrook), we are treated to the stories of what happened to a group of characters, some imagined and some real, over the period of 10 days or so (with a few flashbacks here and there). And what a tumultuous ten days they were in 1814. The British were advancing on Washington, and everywhere there was fear, distrust and temptation.
The main character of this book is Joyful Patrick Turner. He is a surgeon until he is forced to look for a new line of work due to the fact that his hand is blown off by a British cannon ball during the blockade. Joyful as a character has an intriguing past, having spent many years in China as a young man, and his ability to understand the Chinese way of business as well as to speak the language are very handy skills to have, as he tried to work his way up to being one of the most influential people in the world of New York trade, and if that influence comes to the detriment of his estranged cousins, then so be it.
Along the way Joyful rubs shoulders with many real life characters including the Astors, and some significant events such as the meeting of businessmen in Wall Street (the basis of the Stock Exchange) and the burning of Washington amongst others events.
If I was asked to provide a summary of the events in this books there is no way that you could think that such a variety of plot lines could possibly work, and yet it does. There is opium trading, pirates, love, lust, prostitution, bribery, kidnapping, betrayal, magnificent jewels, talk of secession, battles, blackbirders (people who capture blacks, who may or may not have the necessary documentation, and sell them off to slavers). Whew...there's a lot going on, but Swerling does manage to keep hold of all the various threads of storyline and bring it all to a surprising, if a little fantastical, conclusion.
I have really enjoyed each of the Swerling books that I have read. If I had to pick a favourite though, it would definitely be a toss up between City of Glory and this one.
Now, I need to wait for the next book in the series to come out. According to her website, Beverly Swerling is working on it now. I am looking forward to seeing what period of American history the author wants to show us next.
Cross posted at Historical Tapestry
It was made by Mrs S from the 50 Book Challenge blog which is a new blog to me!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her overbearing mother, who was set on a grand society match. So when Emily's dashing husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was a far different man from the one she had married so cavalierly. His journals reveal him to have been a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector who, to her surprise, was deeply in love with his wife. Emily becomes fascinated with this new image of her dead husband and she immerses herself in all things ancient and begins to study Greek.In my review of Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, I mentioned that just lately it has seemed as though I have been reading a lot of mysteries that seem to have similar settings and characters (i.e young women who become amateur sleuths (two of whom are recent widows) and all set in Victorian times). This was actually the first of those mysteries that I read, and yet strangely enough is the last review written. How odd!
Emily's intellectual pursuits and her desire to learn more about Philip take her to the quiet corridors of the British Museum, one of her husband's favorite places. There, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret involving stolen artifacts from the Greco-Roman galleries. And to complicate matters, she's juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond the marrying kind. As she sets out to solve the crime, her search leads to more surprises about Philip and causes her to question the role in Victorian society to which she, as a woman, is relegated.
Lady Emily Ashton had the misfortune to be married and then widowed very shortly thereafter. Her husband, Sir Philip appeared to have not formed any great emotional bond with his wife, and to be fair, the feeling was pretty much mutual as far as Lady Ashton was concerned. She barely knew her husband, other than the fact that he loved to go hunting in Africa, which is where he died. For her part, marriage meant a chance to escape from an overbearing society mother and having done her familial duty. As the daughter of an Earl, it was her responsibility to attract a suitably titled husband.
With her husband dead, Emily has been forced to basically withdraw from society whilst she undertakes her period of mourning. Inspired by the discovery of some journals belonging to her husband, instead of feeling constrained by her period of mourning, it is a period of freedom for her as she begins to learn some Greek, to know more about her dead husband and his interests, and as she begins to wonder if perhaps he had lived there would have been a chance to actually learn to love her husband.
It is this romantic hopelessness that causes Emily to become more interested in many of the beautiful antique objects that her husband surrounded himself with and for her to become a regular visitor to the British Museum. She stumbles onto a forgery plot, and soon finds herself with more excitement than she knows what to do with. As her period of mourning comes to an end and she prepares to reenter society as a widow of beauty and financial independence, Emily finds herself with not one but two admirers, both of whom were connected with her husband. It is however difficult to deal with suitors when one seems to be falling in love with your own dead husband.
This novel is a charming read about a woman who is trying to once more find her sense of self in the world of her time - a time when the social restrictions for a young woman were very strict - whilst also having to reevaluate the things that she knows about her own history. It was interesting to take a side trip or two to France where the rules were not quite so extreme.
It was also interesting to get a comparison to Emily's life by looking at the lives of her friends Ivy and Margaret, and to a lesser extent her French friend Cecile. Ivy is a newly married young woman, subject to the restrictions placed on her by her somewhat conservative husband (his shock at discovering his young wife had a taste for Emily's port collection was very amusing). Margaret is an American heiress, something of a blue stocking who doesn't really want to be part of society and therefore seen as eccentric, and then the freedom allowed to Cecile within French society.
The historical details about the life and times of a young Victorian, from customs to fashion to language were beautifully integrated into the storyline and yet Alexander still managed to provide us with a very intriguing mystery about a compelling female amateur sleuth.
London's social season is in full swing, and the Victorian aristocracy can't stop whispering about a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But he's not the only topic of wagging tongues. Drawing rooms, boudoirs, and ballrooms are abuzz with the latest news of an audacious cat burglar who has been making off with precious items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.Normally I try to say a little bit about the novel before I start talking about my reactions to it, but I am going to do the opposite this time, and start with saying what a great premise this novel has!
Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Emily. But the strong-minded and fiercely independent Emily will not be shaken. It will take all of her considerable wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, even as a brewing scandal threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves.
A Poisoned Season is a delicious blend of sparkling romance, heart-pounding suspense, and rich historical detail that only Tasha Alexander could create.
Marie Antoinette may have died during the French Revolution roughly a hundred years on, but her influence lives on. There have been a spate of robberies in London, targeting only those items that were previously owned by the late French queen - whether they be letters, jewels or other items. Surely it can be no coincidence that society is also buzzing about the arrival in their midst of Mr Charles Berry, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Dauphin, and therefore legitimately entitled to be the King of France. With the French republic a little shaky, Mr Berry is garnering as much support as he can from the highest echelons of British society, including to find a suitable bride before returning to France to claim his rightful place on the throne.
Lady Emily Ashton becomes involved in the case when her house guest has her earrings stolen, and yet nothing else of value in her home was taken during the robbery. When another robbery victim is encouraged to go the police, and then not long after is found dead, Lady Ashton can't bear to think that she may have hurried his death along by involving him. It turns out that the dead man has secrets that are waiting to be told after his death, and Emily is the one to try and uncover those secrets.
Along the way, some letters that were written by Marie Antoinette come into her possession, and she must try to decipher the code to find out exactly what did happen a hundred years before, and how that is affecting the current case that she is working on.
What I did love in this story was the relationship between Emily and Colin. There is no condescension towards Emily on Colin's part. He has belief in her abilities, and encourages her to be self sufficient, and yet is available if she needs him...and she does!
If you are looking for a hot and heavy romance between the two of these characters, then you will be disappointed, as the book is filled only with glances, the briefest of touches, and kisses on gloved hands. Colin Hargreaves wishes for Emily to marry him but he understands that Emily is an independent woman now, and that he therefore wishes for her to want to marry him on her own, not just because society dictates that she must marry again and soon. When even the Queen gets involved in her romantic affairs, that is a lot of pressure! The fact that Colin is determined to have a very proper courtship with Emily and therefore there are only the briefest moments between them is paramount in building up a palpable emotional tension within the novel.
What I wasn't so keen on was the number of other suitors that are drawn to Emily. We have a gentleman with an improper offer and a secret admirer who may or may not be dangerous to her and whose motives are somewhat twisted throughout the novel. In addition, society is all aghast that not only does Emily seem to have Colin Hargreaves courting her, she also seems to be having an affair with one of her childhood friends who is supposed to have an attachment to Emily's friend Margaret.
It is Emily's somewhat unusual intellectual habits as well as her romantic entanglements that see her on the very edge of ruination in the eyes of society. Between trying to stop her reputation from being irrevocably damaged, convincing several members of the gentry to hand over some invaluable ancient treasures to the British Museum, discover who the perpetrator(s) of several crimes were and to determine who her secret admirer really is, Emily is a very busy lady!
This was another very enjoyable novel by this author. The next novel, A Fatal Waltz comes out in June and I will definitely be trying to get hold of it as close to release date as possible.
I was having a very leisurely morning when the thought crossed my mind that I should check the train timetables for getting to the game. So having checked both game time and the train times it transpired that we only had 15 minutes to get ready. We made it in time, but with a little more preparation time I might have remembered the sunscreen. There are a couple of patches on my arms and face that are a little pink!
As for the game itself, it was a thriller. The game was lost on the last kick of the game, and the result didn't go our way unfortunately. The stadium was only half full, but the good thing about that meant that we got to sit in the more expensive section of the ground for the same price (four rows from the front - close enough to see muscles rippling!).
Today was the 300th game for Western Bulldogs player Brad Johnson (the happy looking bloke in the picture to the right). After a lacklustre first half, Johnson showed why he is such a superstar and in the end, he got a fairy tale result for his showcase game. He was inspirational in the last few minutes and scored three good goals to help his team to a win.
So to sum it all up, I am a little sunburnt, my throat is sore from yelling so much, but it was a nail biting end to the game...very exciting! Pity the result didn't go our way!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
After having temperatures of 40C last weekend we are back to a far more reasonable 20C, but having said that my feet are cold!
And lastly....footy's back! Below is a promotional video that someone did for Aussie Rules Football. Last night there were two games played - the opening games of the season. I managed to watch one all the way through and then fell asleep during the second one because it was late! Of course, footy season means footy tipping, and so far it's not going all that well. Of the two games played I picked neither winner so am 0/2 so far.
Watching (kind of) those two games last night meant that I didn't spend any time on the computer (very unusual) and that I didn't do any reading either (also very unusual) so today (on Good Friday) I have spent the whole morning trying to catch up!
C'mon the Crows!!
This week's Booking Through Thursday question:
You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?
(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)
I notice a lot of people have said that their answer depends on the book, but for me the answer depends less on the book than on where it is that I am when I finish the book.
Every morning I have a look at how much I have left in my book, and decide whether or not I think I am going to finish the book I am currently reading or not, and if I think that I will I put my next book in my bag as well. Then, if I do finish it on the train, I immediately pick up the next book and start reading.
If the book that I finish is my at home book, that usually means that I am reading in bed late at night and so I won't start reading a new book that night.
Either way, as soon as I am able, I come onto the computer and start my review post by finding the blurb, finding the cover picture and then update my lists that I keep of books that I have read, want to read etc etc. It doesn't actually feel like my reading experience for that book is over until I do these things.
This is really as simple as the name implies and is to Once Upon a Time as the experience was to The Sci~Fi Experience. It means you are participating but not committing yourself to any specific number of books. All reading is a journey, perhaps none more so than reading fantastical fiction. By signing up for The Journey you are agreeing to at least read one book within the four categories during March 21st to June 20th period. Just one book. It has always been of utmost importance to me that the challenges that I host be all about experiencing enjoyable literature and sharing it with others. I want you to participate. Hence, The Journey.
Quest the First
Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time II criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.
Quest the Second
Read at least one book from each of the four categories. In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology. This proved to be one of the more difficult quests last year merely because of the need to classify each read and determine which books fit into which category. I am not a stickler, fear not, but I was fascinated watching how folks worked to find books for each category.
Quest the Third
Fulfill the requirements for Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Love the story, love the films, love the idea of that magical night of the year and so this is my chance to promote the reading of this farcical love story.
I am not 100 percent sure of which quest it is that I am going to undertake. These are the fantasy books that I currently have out from the library, divided into the relevant categories (I hope I have them in the correct categories anyway).
So basically what I am saying is that I have enough books to fit into Quest the First, but if I am going to do Quest the Second then I will need some book recs for Folklore. Any suggestions? Edited to add In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente. Happy to read other suggestions still though.
The again I do own a copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'll decide later if I can fit it in or not.
Belladonna by Anne Bishop (review here)
Onion Girl by Charles de Lint (review here)
Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix (review here)
Lions Honey by David Grossman (review here)
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (review here)
In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente (review here)
Before I could decide on which books I am going to read, I need to decide which button to use:
Anyway....the books that I am going to list for this challenge are:
Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig
Aztec by Gary Jennings
Dreaming the Serpent Spear by Manda Scott
Counting the Stars by Helen Dunmore
The Witches Trinity by Erika Mailman
and as spare/alternate choices
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Thinking by Carrie Tiffany
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
This book has been on my TBR list for at least two years. When I first heard of it it was notable because it was written by the daughter of a former Irish President, and given that I had just discovered Marian Keyes and therefore that I liked Irish chick lit, I added it to my TBR list...and haven't gotten around to reading it until now even though when the movie came out earlier this year I was determined that I was going to read the book before I went to see the movies. Now I guess I will have to wait for the movie to come out on DVD to see it!
Enough background for now though. For full details of TBR Day and a list of participants check out the Avidbookreader.com website.
Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry.
They were childhood sweethearts - no one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other.
Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry's death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Holly discovers that Gerry has left her a bundle of notes, gently guiding her into her new life without him, each signed "PS, I Love You".
With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing - and being braver than ever before.
Life is for living she realises - but it always helps if there is an angel watching over you.
When I sat down to read this I knew that I was setting myself up for quite an emotional journey. Because I am a crier from way back, there was no doubt in my mind that I would cry at least once, the question was just whether or not the story would be well balanced enough to make me laugh and to feel positive at the end of it.
What I didn't expect was that I would be sufficiently engaged with the storyline that I read it in one sitting. It certainly helped that it was a very, very hot afternoon - far too hot to do anything other than sit under a fan and read.
Holly and Gerry are the perfect couple. They do argue about silly little things, but for the most part they love each other desperately and they are looking forward to a long life together, to having children and to grow old together. It is not to be as a Gerry is diagnosed with a brain tumour and dies leaving Holly grieving and completely bereft. She understandably withdraws from the world, into a private hell where she can't sleep, she can barely make it through the day and she doesn't want to face anyone, no matter how good their intentions.
One of the long standing jokes between Gerry and Holly and their best friends was that they would need to write each other a list of things to do. A couple of months after Gerry's death, Holly's mother reminds her that there is an envelope at her house addressed to her, and when Holly opens the envelope and finds lots of little envelopes in their she is surprised to find that Gerry has done just that. There is one instruction in each little envelope and most of them are signed "PS I Love You".
Some of them are jokey instructions, but others are designed to get Holly out of the house, and out with her friends, and to stretch her ready for the new life that she has to have without Gerry. Along the way, Holly learns to deal with her grief, makes new friends, watches the lives of her best girlfriends as their lives moves forward.
Holly's grief is overwhelming at the start of the book, and yet still tinged with humour, enough so that it isn't completely morbid. If I do have any criticism of this book, there would be two things. One is to do with the cliched nature of a couple of the family members, particularly her emotionally withdrawn elder brother. The other thing would be that when Holly did decide to do some things within her life, it was oh so easy for her. At one stage, she realises that she is going to run out of money, and voila money appears. When she decides that she is going to look for a job, and that she is not going to settle for one of the typical humdrum jobs she has had in the past she gets a dream job at her first attempt. I didn't want to read about her going through dozens and dozens of interviews, but by the same token, getting a dream job when you have no experience in that field should not be quite so easy.
For me, having loved Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes when I read it last year, it is inevitable that I would make comparisons given the similarities in the themes. Whilst I did enjoy this one, the Keyes was definitely a better book. This was certainly a good debut though, taking some very difficult emotional issues and dealing with them with aplomb.
Whenever I finish reading a book I come and start the review post, and most of the time I write just a couple of sentences so that when I come to write the actual review I can remember my initial reaction. For this book I wrote the following:
Oh my goodness. I feel drained. Read this in one sitting. Laughed, cried, laughed again. Cried buckets.I'm glad to have read this book, and will definitely be attempting to find more books by her. Now, I just have to keep an eye out for the movie to see whether it was a good book to movie transition. Having Gerry Butler in it certainly won't harm the chances of me enjoying the movie.
Other Blogger's Thoughts:
Melody's Reading Corner
She thought her date was out of this world.
Actually, he was not of this world . . .
We've all been on bad dates, nightmare dates, dreadful experiences that turned out to be uniquely memorable in the very worst way. But at least our partners for these detestable evenings were more or less . . . human!
Now Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, and Lori Handeland -- four of the very best writers currently exploring the dangerous seduction of the supernatural -- offer up dating disasters (and unexpected delights) of a completely different sort: dark, wicked, paranormally sensual assignations with werewolves, demon lovers, and the romantically challenged undead. Sexy, witty, chilling, and altogether remarkable, here is proof positive that some love matches are made someplace other than heaven.
I originally picked this anthology up because it had the next story in the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong included (it follows Haunted) . Two of the other authors seem to be authors that I only read in anthologies, and the third was new to me!
Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil
Kim Harrison takes us to the Hollows, where living vampire homicide cop Ivy Tamwood, investigating a string of very nasty murders, finds herself caught between two different men, who put every dating principle she holds dear to the ultimate test.
Kim Harrison is the new to me author in this anthology. I have had her Hollows series on my TBR list for a while now, with the intention of getting to it eventually. When I saw that this was a prequel to that series I thought it would be a fair introduction to the series. I really hope this story wasn't a good representation of what the series is like because I really didn't like it. What I suspect is that this prequel was written a fair way into the existing series, because there was little coherent world building, full of vampire politics, and I suspect a lot of assumptions made in terms of what the reader did and didn't know.
It also didn't help that I didn't really like Ivy as a character. Given that each of these novellas is around 100 pages long, I normally would have got through one of these stories in just over an hour - this one took my three nights. Ivy was meant to be this kick-ass heroine living vampire, but she ended up coming off as alternating between whiny and needy, and distant and aloof. The other strange thing is that the blurb says that she is caught between two men, but I counted three - the one who was the date from hell, the one that seemed to control her and she had a really unhealthy relationship with, and then the third man who she seemed to dominate (although he at least seemed to have genuine feelings for.
I will still give the series a go, but I wouldn't necessarily think that this is a good starting point for anyone else reading the series.
The Claire Switch Project
Lynsay Sands gives the power to shape-shift to a most resourceful woman, who uses it to her wickedly sexy advantage at her high school reunion.
I have read one book and one novella by Lynsay Sand previously, and it is fair to say her writing didn't really do it for me on either occasion, so I was a little sceptical when it came to reading her contribution to this book.
A young lab assistant works in a laboratory where they are doing testing on animals for molecular destabilisation. Due to the antics of a really bad guy, instead of the bunny getting stung by the ray gun, Claire gets zapped. Once her boss, who happens to be her best friends brother, and the (unrequited) love of her life since the time she was a teenager, finds out that she has been zapped he takes her home for the weekend. Her best friend has just been dumped and when she finds that Claire just has to look at a photo of someone and then she can shape shift to appear to be that person, she asks her to be her date to the school reunion that night, and take on the form of Hollywood heartthrob Brad Cruise (yes, really). Matters are complicated when Kyle (said boss) he then asks her out to the same school reunion (because she is the unrequited love of his life since he was a teenager). Of course, she agrees to go with both of them and much hilarity ensues.
Actually, I probably shouldn't have written the summary quite like that, because up to a point, this was an entertaining story with a fun premise, but instead of leaving it be, the author decided to take the hilarity a couple of steps too far in my opinion. Of course, humour is completely subjective, and so there are probably some that loved those extra couple of extra laughs, but for me it pushed it from the realm of amusing to silly.
I think it is time I just accepted that Lynsay Sands humour isn't for me.
Kelley Armstrong enters the Otherworld to help a beautiful half-demon tabloid reporter escape a disastrous blind date by giving her a hot lead...that leads to an even hotter werewolf jewel thief.
My main reason for reading this anthology and the best story out of the four!
Hope is a half-demon whose talent is for finding chaos. She can see it, smell it, taste it when there is any kind of chaos nearby, and she loves it! Craves it in fact. Having been raised outside of any kind of demon community, she was grateful when she was found, and given the task of assisting the Interracial Council by identifying when things are happening that shouldn't be.
Hope's blind date from hell is with a particularly arrogant and selfish man at a crowded museum gala, a man determined to belittle her chosen profession, and who doesn't even notice when she disappears having sensed something a little out of the ordinary going on in another part of the museum.
Having tracked her prey, she comes across a particularly debonair werewolf who is helping himself to a couple of the most priceless items from the museum. Little does Hope know but the chaos is really just beginning for her. The werewolf is Karl Marsten, who in some of the earlier books was something of a bad guy, but who seems to be mostly reformed now, and he is pretty sure that Hope really isn't working for who she thinks she is working for. Hope has to decide whether to trust him or not.
Let me tell you just one of the reasons why I liked this story so much. The whole story covers the event of just one night. There is no happy ever after, although there is a hint of a future happiness. Hope and Karl meet, are thrown into a situation, are attracted to each other, and to a certain degree they act on that attraction, but this is no hasty meet on page 1, kiss on page 50 and live happily ever after. Because the author is not trying to cram a whole relationship into a shorter than normal novel, you manage to get to know each of the characters better, and to get a well written story of the events of one momentous night. I am really hopeful that we will get to see more of the development of Hope and Karl's relationship during other books in the series.
Dead Man Dating
Lori Handeland gives the term "dating hell" a whole new meaning, when a Manhattan literary agent out on her first date in months, is forced to choose between a sexy devil, and the rogue demon hunter who's out to destroy him.
I have only read one other Lori Handeland story, and that was another novella in the Stroke of Midnight anthology. This one had a completely different premise and feel to it.
Kit Marinelli is a literary agent who is looking for love. Having given up on meeting a man any other way, she places an ad in the personals and is completely surprised when she gets a response, especially when he is a totally gorgeous man. Kit has been saving herself for true love, and therefore can't believe her sexual response to this man, and it is only when she is at the point of giving it up in a dark alley, and she is stopped by a rough looking demon hunter, that she starts to think there might be something strange going on. Her date is actually dead, and his body has been inhabited by an incubus who needs to sacrifice a virgin to sustain himself.
The incubus isn't really playing fair, in that he keeps on changing bodies, and almost getting to Kit before she can be rescued. She isn't totally helpless for her particular skill is ancient language and research and so while Chavez (the demon hunter) tries everything he can think of to kill the demon and not being very successful, Kit is able to contribution at least something to the puzzle, and that is not only the due to the fact she has to sacrifice her virginity. After all, if a incubus is desperate for a virgin, one way to keep her safe is to make sure she isn't a virgin any longer right! (Highlight for spoiler)
I did enjoy this one, even though it did have a couple of eye-rolling worthy elements in it! It could be an interesting premise for an urban fantasy type series.
According to the new blog for Abbey's Bookshop, the new book is called Tales from Outer Suburbia and will be in shops in July! By clicking on this link, you can also see the first couple of chapters (it's a pdf version). Having looked at them, it's safe to say that I want it now!
There was also a very interesting post about an unauthorised sequel to Gone with the Wind that is going to be published here in Australia soon, despite the fact that it has been banned in the US.
Someone gave me an earworm this morning for an Australian band in the 90s which lead me to start clicking links on Youtube, which led me to this song by Things of Stone and Wood. It's called Happy Birthday Helen, but it is such a catchy and joyful song that it deserves to be played more often than just once a year!
Let's see where my clicking will lead me now!
OH yes! Transvision Vamp!
Can you tell I am not going to work today?? I took my son to the doctor last night - the same doctor that gave him two weeks off last year for a cold, and so now he has a certificate for the rest of the week off. I could really do without this, especially seeing as I think the shit is about to hit the fan at work!
Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flowers (Headline Review)
Stella Duffy's The Room of Lost Things (Virago)
Jennifer Egan's The Keep (Abacus)
Anne Enright's The Gathering (Cape)
Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago)
Tessa Hadley's The Master Bedroom (Cape)
Nancy Huston's Fault Lines (Atlantic)
Gail Jones's Sorry (Harvill Secker)
Sadie Jones's The Outcast (Chatto)
Lauren Liebenberg's The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam (Virago)
Charlotte Mendelson's When We Were Bad (Picador)
Deborah Moggach's In The Dark (Chatto)
Anita Nair's Mistress (BlackAmber)
Heather O’Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals (Quercus)
Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul (Viking)
Dalia Sofer's The Septembers of Shiraz (Picador)
Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr Y (Canongate)
Carol Topolski's Monster Love (Fig Tree)
Rose Tremain's The Road Home (Chatto)
Patricia Wood's Lottery (Heinemann)
The shortlist will be announced in mid April.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Star Wars Horoscope for Gemini
Like most Geminis, you are a playful little creature.
You tend to be extremely curious, craving knowledge but sometimes having a short attention span.
For the most part, you are charming and lovable.
But at times, you can seem scattered and high-strung.
Star wars character you are most like: Ewoks
When I saw this over at Nichtszusagen I did it, and was just ready to post it just as it appears above, when I realised that there was no way that I could post this without making a confession that will undoubtedly surprise quite a few people.
I have never seen a Star Wars movie from beginning to end. That's right...NEVER! Can you tell how deprived my childhood was?
I actually don't know why I wasn't allowed to watch it. I have a feeling it had something to do with not being acceptable for a church-goer to watch. Another movie we were never allowed to watch was Grease. The first time I saw it was when I went and stayed at a friend's place. If it had of come on at home it would have been turned off extremely quickly along with the accompanying "You're not watching that rubbish".
Do you all have something that you have never seen which would surprise the rest of us?
Sunday, March 16, 2008
It's the DA BWAHA game! Still not clear? Well how about the Dear Author - Bitchery Awards for Hellagood Authors. (Subtitled 2008 Romance Madness Tournament).
Or in other words a tournament for romance books! 64 different books from different sub genres to match off to determine which is the best overall!
You can get more details here.
I've put my votes in, but I have to say I am not expecting to go too well! There are loads of books in the tournament that I haven't read yet! The 20 plus hours a week I spend reading (on average) obviously just isn't enough!
Having said that there were a couple that I have added to my TBR list on the basis of seeing them in the tournament!
"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."
These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.
Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.
Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.
Just recently I seem to have been reading a few historical mysteries set in Victorian times. The fact that they have all featured young women as the heroines, and that two of the three heroines were young widows is probably nothing more than a coincidence right? Fortunately, regardless of that very superficial similarity to Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive (which I haven't yet reviewed, but very much enjoyed), they are both very different books.
Silent in the Grave opens with the death of Lady Julia Grey's husband Edward. Edward and Julia had grown up together, and when he proposed Julia was happy to enter into a marriage with a man that she knew that she liked, even if there was no great love story between them. And she was basically happy. She knew that Edward suffered from what was considered a family affliction - a weak heart, so when Edward suffers a fatal attack in the midst of a dinner party, she is of course upset. However, when she is approached by Mr Nicholas Brisbane, an investigator her husband had hired to look into a matter for him, and Mr Brisbane suggests that Edward may have been murdered, Julia thinks that there could be nothing further from the truth and dismisses his claim.
A year later, Julia has been in full mourning for the whole period, and is looking forward to the day when she go into half mourning, even knowing that she will shock some of the more traditional members of her family who expect her to remain in mourning forever. When she goes into Edwards office, she is surprised to find something that confirms Nicholas' suspicions of the previous year and therefore approaches him to open an investigation into Edward's death. Nicholas does not want to get involved, knowing that the trail of the killer, if there is one, is well and truly cold, but eventually Julia convinces him to investigate, with her assistance of course.
What follows is the upheaval of everything that Julia thought to be true about her husband and her marriage, and indeed some of the people still living within her household.
The dynamic between Julia and Nicholas is intense to say the least.
She is determined to shake off her staid and obedient persona that she had during her marriage and before, and be more wilful and independent, much to her father's pleasure. She has long been the most boring member of his family, the rest of whom are known to be somewhat eccentric.
Nicholas is my kind of man. He is dark and secretive, tormented and honourable, whilst still managing to skirt around the edge of many of society's rule. He is not who he at first appears to be, and as we get to know more about him, his background gives a terrific scope for both character and plot development.
In a way, Deanna Raybourn seems to come from the school of writing where there is a hook at the end of every chapter to try and keep you reading the next chapter, and the next chapter and the next. Even the very last line of the book is a hook to get you to pick up the next book. What can I say other than she caught me! I can't wait to read the next book!
This was a terrific read, lots of twists and turns along the way to a very interesting conclusion. It features two very interesting characters, with a good array of secondary characters, my favourite of which was the butler who was a former circus performer, and a really strong story.
By the way, Deanna Raybourn has an entertaining blog that you may wish to take a look at.
One thing that is a little strange is that my library doesn't appear to have the second book in the series just yet. They do however have a book called Pesthouse on order, but I can't find any reference to a book with this title anywhere else! Luckily, my work has just moved and I now work about five minutes from a library. I know that they have this book on their catalogue. I might just have to join up so that I can borrow it! Either that or ask my current library to hurry up and get the second book!
Cross posted at Historical Tapestry
Other Blogger's Thoughts:
Saving My Sanity
Mysteries in Paradise
And then, when I was about 10, my mother decided to leave Perth, and we moved to Adelaide. Adelaide is situated on a gulf so there is no direct ocean frontage. The beaches are really sandy (most of them anyone), very few stinging jellyfish, but not very much in terms of waves either. We lived about half an hour away from the beach, and I used to spend quite a bit of time down there in the summer just hanging with my friends, and also during winter for brisk walks along the sand.
I lived in the UK for five years, and during that time I went to the beach twice - once to Blackpool and once to Brighton (very rocky beach) and when I left there I returned to Adelaide for just under two years.
Now I live in Melbourne, and have done so for nearly 7 years. Melbourne is in a bay so again there are no huge waves in the suburban areas. I do like to kid with those die-hard Melburnians that the beaches here are all really horrible, but that is an exaggeration, because there are some sandy stretches of beach and on the other side of the bay there are some lovely beaches (an hour and a half drive is a long way to get to one of those nice beaches though). There are also lots of stretches of really rocky areas.
And what is the point of this post?
I moved to my current location about 2 and a half years ago, and today, for the first time, I went to my local beach. I had avoided it before now because I had heard that it wasn't very nice, and on the few occasions I had driven along the beach road, it appeared to be all pretty rocky. It was however so hot here today, as it has been for the best part of a week, that my son and I decided to go for a drive and take a closer look. Turns out it isn't so bad. No waves, quite a few jellyfish but I have no idea if they sting or not, and quite a coarse gritty sandy stretch with lots of pieces of shells and small rocks in the sand, but beach nonetheless. We'll be going back again for sure.
I might even go down there at some stage during winter and contemplate life with the wind blowing through my hair and me all rugged up sitting listening to the sounds of the water.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Best Book: Karen King-Aribisala (Nigeria) The Hangman's Game Peepal Tree Press
Best First Book: Sade Adeniran (Nigeria) Imagine This SW Books
Canada and Caribbean
Best Book: Lawrence Hill (Canada) The Book of Negroes HarperCollins Publishers
Best First Book: CS Richardson (Canada) The End of the Alphabet Doubleday Canada
Europe and South Asia
Best Book: Indra Sinha (India) Animal's People Simon and Schuster
Best First Book: Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh) A Golden Age John Murray
South East Asia and South Pacific
Best Book: Steven Carroll (Australia) The Time We Have Taken HarperCollins
Best First Book: Karen Foxlee (Australia) The Anatomy of Wings University of Queensland Press
I took a little time to see a bit more about these books than I did when the longlist was named. There are links to Amazon pages (or other bookstores) where I could find them.
The Hangman's Game sounds really interesting - a mix of modern and historical fiction, with a focus on the slave trade of the 1800s in the historical sections.
Imagine This has really positive reviews on Amazon.co.uk. The story of a young girl who moves from London to Nigeria. Most reviewers seem to be surprised by the fact that the story works so well given that it is told in a journal format.
The Book of Negroes is also focussed on the slave trade and sounds really good.
The End of the Alphabet - a dying man wants to visit the must see places in the world, but must also deal with issues around love and grief.
Animal's People has been on my TBR list since it appeared on the Booker longlist last year.
A Golden Age - set during the Bangladeshi fight for independence from Pakistan.
The Time We Have Taken - a Melbourne suburb is celebrating it's hundredth birthday, and the people look back to see what to commemorate. I might read this just because it is set in Melbourne.
The Anatomy of Wings - a young girl looks for answers following the death of her sister.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller, A&U
Love without Hope by Rodney Hall, Picador
Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital, Fourth Estate
Secrets of the Sea by Nicholas Shakespeare, Harvill Secker
Sorry by Gail Jones, Vintage
The Fern Tattoo by David Brooks, UQP
The Memory Room by Christopher Koch, Knopf
The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll, Fourth Estate
The Widow and Her Hero by Tom Keneally, Vintage
I do intend to read some of them eventually!
The shortlist is announced in April
Thursday, March 13, 2008
This week's Booking Through Thursday question:
How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:
__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.
The response I am about to give is honestly the first one I thought of, despite the fact that I read the book over three years ago. Maybe part of the reason that I thought of it is that I have just finished reading People of the Book this week by the same author. Not sure.
So my answer:
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks would have been a much better book if it didn't have such a stupid ending!
If you've read the book you will understand - it kind of takes off an this completely unbelievable tangent that just doesn't fit the rest of the story. Of course, that is just my opinion!
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Today I was browsing through my Amazon recommends list over and Breaking Dawn was one of the things that was recommended. Nothing unusual there...until you look at the cover image. Normally if the cover hasn't been released yet, then there is a No Image....errr.....image. But not for this book! This is what is shown for Breaking Dawn.
In case you can't read it, the bottom right hand corner says "Cover to be Released Summer 2008...".
I don't think I have ever seen that before. A sign of the hype to come?
Friday, March 07, 2008
You should have seen this one coming … Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?
I actually did a post not all that long ago about my favourite types of heroes, so I am going to link back to that one as a starting point for this question.
Other memorable heroes are the three main male characters from Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop - Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar - yum, yum, yum!
Maybe because I have a bit of Sara Donati/Rosina Lippi excitement going today, I also wanted to mention Ben from Queen of Swords. When he enters the narrative, he is resourceful and competent, persistent without being overly forceful, good looking and charming, and yet he resides in a place between two worlds - not really comfortable in either. He is exactly what Hannah needed at that point in her life, and a worthy addition to an already strong cast of male characters in the Into the Wilderness series.
Some time ago I did a caption post for competition that Rosina Lippi is having over at her blog to celebrate her new book, The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square (in stores now).
Having just gone through the first round of voting, my entry is in the Final 4! I actually didn't expect to be in the final 4 at all because there were lots of good entries...but there I am!
The prize is a good one, (either $100 or $150 in Amazon vouchers, plus some other goodies) so I am going to be unashamedly begging and asking you to go and vote. Vote for which ever one you really like, but just in case you were wondering, this is mine:
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Jacques Rebierre and Thomas Midwinter; both sixteen when the story starts in 1876, come from different countries and contrasting families. They are united by an ambition to understand how the mind works and whether madness is the price we pay for being human.
As psychiatrists, their quest takes them from the squalor of the Victorian lunatic asylum to the crowded lecture halls of the renowned Professor Charcot in Paris; from the heights of the Sierra Madre in California to the plains of unexplored Africa. Their search is made urgent by the case of Jacques's brother Olivier, for whose severe illness no name has yet been found.
Thomas's sister Sonia becomes the pivotal figure in the volatile relationship between the two men, which threatens to explode with the arrival in their Australian sanatorium of an enigmatic patient, Fraulein Katharina von A, whose illness epitomises all that divides them.
As the concerns of the old century fade and the First World War divides Europe, the novel rises to the climax in which the question of what it means to be alive seems to hang in the balance.
This is Sebastian Faulk's most ambitious novel yet, with scenes of emotional power recalling his most celebrated work, yet seen here on an even larger scale.
Moving and challenging in equal measure, Human Traces explores the question of what kind of beings men and women really are.
Do you have those authors who you know that you should want to read, but really just don't? Sebastian Faulks is one of those authors for me. Having read Girl at Lion D'or back in my pre-blogging days and being less than overwhelmed by it, I kept on thinking that I really should at the very least try and read Birdsong or Charlotte Gray, but by the time I got to the library checkout or the bookstore checkout the idea had completely slipped from my mind. Then a while ago, this book, Human Traces was nominated for book club discussion in one of the groups that I in. While I am late in reading it, I am definitely glad to have done so, and will be making a more concerted effort to read more by Faulks.
This book is a chunkster, and it is about a subject and ideas that could be considered pretty dry and boring unless it is something that you are already fascinated by them. And yet, it was surprisingly readable.
Following a chance meeting when they were both sixteen years of age, Thomas Midwinter and Jacques Rebriere both decide to devote themselves to the relatively new branch of medicine which looks at the brain and the diseases associated with that organ. For Jacques, this interest and passion is understandable. His own older brother Olivier has been gradually withdrawing into a silent world where he can only be reached infrequently. For Thomas, his decision is a little less straight forward - perhaps he was searching for something and having found it that then became passionate about it. By the end of the novel, however, their passion had become very, very personal to both of them.
Over the years Jacques and Thomas remain in close contact as they finish their schooling and then go onto further education, gaining their medical qualifications. Jacques is working as an intern in Paris. under the influence of many of the foremost European specialists of the time, and Thomas finds himself working in a Victorian asylum. His job is to assess the patients as they come in and allocate them to a ward, all based on nothing more than a visual inspection, and for many of those patients that is where they will spend the remainder of their days. The conditions described are horrific, and yet only a short time earlier these asylums were seen to be at the cutting edge of the treatment of these types of conditions.
In due course, Thomas and Jacques dream to build a treatment clinic start to come true, assisted by Thomas's sister, Sonia, who after an unsuccessful marriage early in the book, ends up married to Jacques.
What follows is a tale of science, of discovery, friendship and family, rivalry, and adventure.
There were occasions throughout the narrative where I did glaze over just a little with all of the discussion about the brain, about the nature of neurological conditions and descriptions of medical procedures, but there were fewer examples of that than I actually expected.
I am kind of torn in some ways about this book, because in order to keep the novel interesting, the author chose to send the two main characters on separate journeys - one to America and the other to Africa - and then he also focused on the life of another character for a short while showing what they went through during WWI. Whilst these trips away from the main narrative were definitely enjoyable and very interesting of themselves, I am not 100 percent sure that they were necessary. At over 600 pages long, there could perhaps of been a bit less padding in the book.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book!
This was the first book that I have read for the Chunkster Challenge 2008.
Cross posted at Historical Tapestry
Since that time, I have been trying to track down any news that might be had about the next book and have been able to find nothing! Not long ago I had a brainwave and asked one of my Spanish speaking friends from one of the forums that I participate in if she could find any information on any Spanish sites.
Guess what....there is news!
Apparently the book is called 'El Juego del Angel' - The Angel's Game. It is set on the 20s in Barcelona and is coming out on April 17th. The Publishers didn't want to say anything about what is the book about so there is lots of secrecy.
I know that I can't read it yet, but at least there is now hope that it will come out in English in the not too distant future!
The shortlists for the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award and Best First Book Award have been announced (Wednesday 13 February). Four international judging panels in each Commonwealth region; Africa; Canada and the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia; and South East Asia and South Pacific have chosen the following books in each region from an impressive list of 320 entries.
Barbara Adair (South Africa) End Jacana Media
Ifeoma Chinwuba (Nigeria) Waiting for Maria Spectrum Books
Finuala Dowling(South Africa) Flyleaf Penguin Books SA
Karen King-Aribisala (Nigeria) The Hangman's Game Peepal Tree Press
Susan Mann (South Africa ) Quarter Tones Harvill Secker
Zakes Mda (South Africa) Cion Penguin Books SA
Best First Book
Sade Adeniran (Nigeria ) Imagine This SW Books
Ceridwen Dovey (South Africa) Blood Kin Penguin Books SA
Dayo Forster (Gambia) Reading the Ceiling Simon and Schuster
Ken Kamoche (Kenya) A Fragile Hope Salt Publishing
Sumayya Lee (South Africa) The Story of Maha South Africa Kwela Books
Carel van der Merwe (South Africa) No Man's Land Umuzi
CANADA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Gil Adamson (Canada) The Outlander House of Anansi Press
Erna Brodber (Jamaica) The Rainmaker's Mistake New Beacon Books
Lawrence Hill (Canada) The Book of Negroes HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Robert Hough (Canada) The Culprits Canada Random House Canada
Frances Itani (Canada) Remembering the Bones HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Michael Ondaatje (Canada) Divisadero Bloomsbury Publishing/ McClelland & Stewart
Best First Book
David Chariandy (Canada) Soucouyant Arsenal Pulp Press
Tish Cohen (Canada) Town House HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Arley McNeney (Canada) Post Thistledown Press
Ameen Merchant (Canada) The Silent Raga Douglas & McIntyre
C.S. Richardson (Canada) The End of the Alphabet Doubleday Canada
Neil Smith (Canada) Bang Crunch Knopf Canada
EUROPE AND SOUTH ASIA
David Davidar (India )The Solitude of Emperors Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)The Reluctant Fundamentalist Viking, Penguin Books India PVT Ltd/Hamish Hamilton
Usha K.R. (India) Girl and a River Penguin Books India PVT Ltd
Hari Kunzru (UK) My Revolutions Hamish Hamilton
Nicholas Shakespeare (UK) Secrets of the Sea Harvill Secker
Indra Sinha (India ) Animal's People Simon and Schuster
Best First Book
Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh) A Golden Age John Murray
Priya Basil (UK) Ishq and Mushq Transworld Publishers
Shandana Minhas (UK) Tunnel Vision Roli Books
Catherine O'Flynn (UK) What was Lost Tindal Street Press
Jeremy Page (UK) Salt Viking, Penguin
JM Shaw (UK) The Illumination of Merton Browne Sceptre
SOUTH EAST ASIA AND SOUTH PACIFIC
Best Book Award
Steven Carroll (Australia) The Time We Have Taken HarperCollins
Sonya Hartnett (Australia) The Ghosts Child Penguin Australia
Sarah Hopkins (Australia) The Crimes of Billy Fish ABC Books
Mireille Juchau (Australia) Burning In Giramondo
Michelle De Kretser (Australia) The Lost Dog Allen & Unwin
Alex Miller (Australia) Landscape of Farewell Allen & Unwin
Best First Book Award
Steven Conte (Australia) The Zookeepers War Australia Harper Collins
Karen Foxlee (Australia) The Anatomy of Wings Australia UQP
Sara Knox (Australia) The Orphan Gunner Giramondo
Carol Lefevre (Australia) Nights in the Asylum Picador
Marcella Polain (Australia) The Edge of the World Fremantle Press
Stephen Scourfield (Australia) Other Country Allen & Unwin
Of the books on this list I have read precisely one book! I think I have one other book on my TBR list. Next week the regional winner in each category is announced and then the winner will be announced in May.
The interesting thing I find in these lists is the diversity or lack of it in each region. Does the fact that there are only Australian nominations in both categories in the South East Asia and South Pacific regions mean that Australian literature is going through a really good patch. Surely it can't mean that there are no shortlist worthy books from other regions. At least in the Canada and the Carribean category there is one non-Canadian author! There is some diversity at least in the other catergories.
This isn't a prize that I normal follow but when I saw it today, I just found these observations interesting.