Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where are You?

I just returned to Newfoundland from NY city, and I expect there will be big things in my future as I am Joey Smallwood. (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

BOOK: Feeling Sorry When You Reach the Westing Game by assorted authors

Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, 276 pages

Aussie Authors; Young Adult Challenge; 2nds Reading Challenge

Moriarty has the epistolary novel down pat. I previously enjoyed The Year of Secret Assignments. (The two books are part of a loose series, in the same town with connected characters, but not a linear series.) Here, Elizabeth writes letters to her penpal at a nearby school, notes on the fridge with her mother, the odd postcard from her missing best friend Celia, and the hilarious notes from Lizzy's brain from groups like the Best Friends Society, the Association of Teenagers, and the Cold Hard Truth Association. This was written in 2000, so not as much texting or emailing as a more modern book. Fun, easy book with a likable narrator.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, 193 pages

Young Adult Challenge; Newbery Prize Winner 2010

I didn't even realize this won the Newbery this year - much less hype then when Neil Gaiman won last year. Very much related and in homage to A Wrinkle in Time, Miranda's favorite book. Twelve year old Miranda is helping her mother prepare to be on $20,000 Pyramid in 1979 New York City. She is dealing with being poor with a single mother, the shifting sands of friendship in middle school, and suddenly, mysterious notes appearing in her belongings. I loved the setting, and really felt the city as a character and what it might be like to be growing up in NY. Nice use of relativity in a children's book, and if you've ever loved A Wrinkle in Time, I'd recommend this book.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, 185 pages

Newbery Prize Winner 1979; R author, A - Zed Challenge

So many people list this as an influence of their childhood, plus it's a Newbery Winner, I was inspired to read it. Probably one of those books it's best to read first as a young child, then it stays gold. As an adult, it was a cute book, a bit scattered in view points  and abrupt in places, but overall a nice little mystery. The clues are given, and it's a gateway book to Agatha Christie novels, with the locked library whodunnit. Six pairs of heirs are given apartments near the Westing House, and then given clues to decipher. First to figure it who killed Sam Westing gets the money. A colourful cast of characters to keep track of.

A bit unusual, but good intro for kids to a well-written, solvable  mystery.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I'm in New York City, circa 1979 with a young girl named Miranda. Her mother is studying to be on the $20,000 Pyramid, and there is some hint of time travel. (When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BOOK: Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst, 268 pages

thanks to RandomHouse Canada for the review copy

Historical spy novels are not my usual type of fiction, but something about this one, probably the setting of Greece and the Balkans, made me pick this up. Apparently, Furst is well known for his historical spy books, and Spies of the Balkans is the 11th in his Night Soldiers series. (not a series per se, but a series of historical spy novels set in Europe that take place in the years prior to, and in the early part of, World War II.)

Costas Zannis is a special cop in Salonika, Greece, dealing with sensitive situations. He meets up with a woman from Germany helping Jews escape, and ends up helping her, and the refugees, on their path through the Balkans on the way to Turkey. At this point in the war, Greece is not involved, but is definitely a British ally. The plot wasn't as complicated as I feared, as spy thrillers usually leave me wondering who was who. There was just the right amount of suspense and intrigue and I liked Costas as a character. He lived a bit of a playboy life, with women falling all over him, sort of a dream life for guys, so maybe I'm not completely the target audience. It wasn't distracting, but it seemed a little too much for a regular guy to have fall in his lap.

If this is representative of Furst's other novels, I would certainly read another one. Stand-up characters, spy intrigue, world war two, and European settings are all well done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am with Costa Zannis, a Greek policeman, and he is secreting Jews out of Berlin by a Balkan escape route. We just went to France to remove an English scientist, after the English Intelligence network discovered what Zannis was up to. Exciting spy novel set in World War Two Greece. (Spies of the Balkans, Alan Furst)

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

BOOK: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 358 pages

Nonfiction Five 2010; Science Book Challenge

This was supposed to be my nonfiction read for August. The kind of book where I leave it in the living room and read a chapter everyday, or two if they are short like this book. And then I read it all in one day, which should give you an idea of how great a book this is. It helped to have the perfect day to lay out on the (lido) deck and have drinks served by my cabana boy, while watching the sheets dry on the line and reading a book. It was a pretty wonderful day.

I first heard of this book on The Daily Show when the delightful Rebecca Skloot charmed the pants off Jon Stewart. I had never heard of the HeLa cells, extensively used in science and cancer research. And many people using the HeLa cells had never heard of Henrietta Lacks, the woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 whose cells were 'donated' and then lived on. Skloot ties together several stories - Henrietta Lacks and her life, her family, the history of cell and tissue study, and how she helped the family learn about their mother. Skloot writes about the science in easy to understand language, gradually building up the information. She writes as balanced a story as is possible, recognizing that while a great wrong was done, the motives of most of the people were not evil.

A great read about a woman whose contribution to science needed to be recognized. Skloot spend many years researching the book and became very close to the Lacks family. Henrietta's daughter, Deborah, at one point tried to talk to a scientist about her mother. Deborah was not well educated, and for her, the idea that her mother's cells were alive was very difficult to comprehend, not knowing what exactly a cell was. The scientist brushed her off, gave her his textbook to read and autographed it for her. Deborah was shocked to see a picture of her mother she had never seen before. It was a very sad moment to read, as the gulf between the family and the scientists was never really breached.

If you are looking for a nonfiction book, with a touch of science, well written and compelling, you can look no further - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

also reviewed:
laura at musingsdevourer of books,
kailana at the written world, maggie at maggie reads,
jill at fizzy thoughts,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BOOK: The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, 227 pages
translated by Stephen Sartarelli

Suspense and Thriller Challenge; Four Month Challenge: a book and the next in the series (August Heat and The Wings of the Sphinx)

I'm impressed that book number eleven in the series is still on par with the earlier books. This book had all the great elements - Mimi, Gallo, and Fazio, plus lots of Catarello; still having issues with Livia; dealing with his commissionaire; and of course, lots of wonderful food and drink to distract Salvo. His midlife crisis is still going on as he deals with aging, the historical and literary allusions are a plenty, and the dealings with suspects was even more slapstick than usual - Montalbano is in his prime, even while dealing philosophically with Montalbano One and Two, sort of a Thing One and Two in his brain.  I thought this was a lighter way to tackle his aging and it worked well. The mystery wasn't too complicated and was easily solved. Now I am up to date on this series, and just need to wait for the next three to be translated.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BOOK: The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, 261 pages

Global Mystery Challenge; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

I first read an Inspector Espinosa mystery last year, December Heat (second in the series) and I quite enjoyed it. I marked this one at the library and finally got around to requesting it. Reading this out of order doesn't seem to have affected my experience at all.

I quite enjoy Inspector Espinosa. He is a bit of a philosopher, spends his spare time reading and haunting used book stores, his house is a mess and his family has left him. Working in Rio de Janeiro, Espinosa complains about the lack of resources which leads him to solve his crimes by thinking of motives and opportunities for the crime. He's a bit like Poirot - making his theory fit the facts and what he knows about suspect's character.

The first part of the book was in third person, and then jumped from several perspectives, showing what exactly happened in the crime, after the fact, but before Espinosa figures it out. Then the middle section is from Espinosa's narrative as he questions the suspects and thinks. The last section is again third person as the mystery plays out, with a great ending. I liked this changing perspective to see different aspects of the characters and crime, and to get to know Espinosa better. Brazil is a place that I don't imagine I'll ever visit, so spending time in these books is a vicarious vacation in Copacabana and Impanema Beach.

I wish my library had more than these two books, and then the seventh in the series. Who orders books 1, 2 and 7 in a series? That makes no sense at all!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where are You?

I am in Rio de Janeiro with Inspector Espinosa, investigating a death of a business man. (The Silence of the Rain, by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BOOK: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin, 368 pages

Four Month Challenge: Chick Lit; Early Reviewer Book from Librarything

Who's fault is it when there is an affair in a marriage? The other woman? The husband? The wife? Heart of the Matter takes a very balanced look at an affair and shows how messy and hurtful it is for everyone involved.

Alternating chapters between the wife, Tessa and the other woman, Valerie give both sides of the story so neither is the wrong one although poor husband Nick doesn't get to give his side of the story. I found this aspect interesting (and somewhat confusing) because Tessa gets to tell her story in first person, but Valerie is relegated to third person, even though both were written with the same level of insight into their thoughts. I thought they should have been either both first person, which it essentially was, or stay a little further from Valerie's viewpoint, a little less omniscient. If I am supposed to know Valerie's thought process, let me hear it from her first person. I really got distracted by this point of view issue, as it kept jarring me as the chapter would change, and I was wondering what the purpose between the different viewpoints was. It kept taking me out of the story, which was too bad, because Giffin writes a great book

I didn't realize until after that two of the characters, Tessa's brother Dex and his wife Rachel are from Giffin's first books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue. It's been a long time since I've read those books, but I remember Giffin writing an affair story that makes the reader again question whose fault is it in an affair. Those books also played with point of view as Something Blue retells Something Borrowed from the other character's point of view. Maybe affairs and point of view are Giffin's trademark storytelling style, and I shouldn't be bothered; I should just go with it and know to expect that from now on.

My other concern in the story was that the characters are all quite perfect in their reactions. They all seem to be straight out of a therapist's chair, with mature dealings, for the most part, and good analysis of their actions. However, I am nitpicking here, because I read this book quickly, quite absorbed in the story. The characters were real, yet flawed, doing the best they can in an awful situation. It's like watching a train-wreck because people are definitely going to get hurt, but since I watch Big Brother, I am a train-wreck kind of girl. It's a chick lit type of book, but I never really like that label - how about 'great read with women as characters dealing with real life since books about emotions and women (who read a lot of books) are just as important as war might be'?

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Summer is rolling along very nicely here in PEI. Lots of lazing around, a bit of visiting, watching soccer and baseball, fun family get-togethers, amazing weather, and plenty of time for reading. It gets hard to go back to work in the fall after settling into a very slow-paced life.

I just bought a farm in Spain! I'm giving up my life in England and moving to Spain.(If only this were true, and not just the nonfiction book I started reading) (Driving Over Lemons, by Chris Stewart)

I'm also back in Newfoundland in the 1980s as the Ocean Ranger went down. Does anyone else remember this disaster? (February, Lisa Moore)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.