Saturday, April 23, 2011

BOOK: The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo, 618 pages
Book 3 of 8 in the Harry Hole series

Criminal Plots Challenge: book blurbed by an author; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

I picked this book for the Criminal Plots Challenge. One of the categories was to read a book by a new to you author who has blurbed on a book you've liked.  I read The Man on the Balcony, and Jo Nesbo wrote a blurb on that cover. And now I've found a new series to follow - Harry Hole.

Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian author, and Harry Hole is the down-on-his-luck detective. A struggling alcoholic who gets moved around the Oslo police department because of events that happen to Harry. The cover hints at an espionage/world war 2 type of story, but it's much more a detective story. There are lots of characters, but it doesn't take too long to like Harry a lot, and root for him. This was a long book (over 600 pages) which means it took a long time to set up the story and realize what exactly the mystery was. I was a bit confused with the past and present stories, and all the Norwegian names, but I often have that issue, and just read through it.  Once I hit the half way part though, I couldn't put it down.

Loved the setting, loved the characters, even the ones I hated. My library doesn't have the first two book, both of which are referred to - something that happened with Harry in Australia, and something that happened in Thailand. I'll keep reading this series as one of the characters and his duplicity have not been discovered yet - looks like a long-term story arc for Harry.

 also reviewed: kerry at mysteries in paradise; susan at you can never have too many books;

Monday, April 18, 2011

BOOK: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling, 105 pages

Once Upon a Time Challenge

What a delightful book of wizarding fairy tales! I think I liked the concept as much as the fairy tales, but they were well done too. Having Professor Dumbledore annotate the tales after each story was a great idea. The book itself deals with the history of fairy tales, and how they were written to teach lessons and morals to children, probably before there were many books available to the general population. Thus, the oral tradition of stories was passed down.

Apparently, the wizarding world was no different. Beedle the Bard, much like our Brothers' Grimm, collected and wrote many fairy tales. Five tales are collected here, and much like the old Brothers' Grimm,  were more graphic and scary than some of the more sanitized versions that survived. (Hermione has translated these from the original runes.)

One of my favorite parts of the last Harry Potter movie was the animated version of "The Tale of the Three Brothers". The visuals were so unique and flowing; they looked like a story but in picture version. Finally, I even really liked the edition, with its small size and hardcover, it feels like a truly old book, or one at least that has come from Diagon Alley.

also reviewed by jenny at jennysbooks;  michelle at 1morechapter; trish at love, laughter and a touch of insanity;

Sunday, April 17, 2011

BOOK: Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity by Sarah Waters,  352 pages

Gothic Reading Challenge

Sarah Waters An author I've almost read everything of now, just Tipping the Velvet to go. Waters is a reliable author who tells good stories with good characters in great settings

Characters Margaret Prior, an upper-class spinster, recovering from some incident and the death of her father
Selina Dawes, a spiritualist, who is in jail
Plenty of jail matrons and a bossy family to keep Margaret in line

Plot Margaret meets Selina in her role as a Lady Visitor at Millbrook prison. Can't tell much more in a Sarah Waters book!

Setting Victorian England, women taking chloral and dilaudid and becoming weak, literal swooning, dark and dreary and Dickensian, seances and ghosts and medias

Gothic-ness A pleasing sort of terror, supernatural, secrets, castles (jail), darkness, romance

Verdict Not quite as mesmerizing as Fingersmith, nor as twisty, but still, a great suspenseful book

BOOK: First Love by Joyce Carol Oates

First Love by Joyce Carol Oates, 86 pages

Gothic Reading Challenge; 2nds Reading Challenge

I'll confess, I only took this from the library because it's a Gothic love story (which I'm not sure about after reading it - just because you call it gothic and use gothic fonts?) and because it was short. So essentially, it's just a short story, because the 86 pages are small pages, smaller than a paperback. And then it is a pretty disturbing short story. My sampling of Oates writing is beginning to have quite the disturbing angle - the only other book I've read was Zombie.

Eleven year old Josie and her mother Delia move in with a great-aunt and her grandson, Jared Jr. who is on a sabbatical from the Presbyterian seminary. The house is old, the town is old and Josie is left to her own devices by her mother, who is enjoying her new freedom. Most of the story is then about Josie and Jared and their disturbing relationship. It's told from Josie's point of view, but in second person well after the fact. There are lots of religious questions and symbols - many different versions of paintings of Jesus, the actual snake in the grass, to the hypocrisy of religious leaders. The writing is good, and visual, and there are lots of points of discussion, but I'll not be remembering this book.

My biggest question is why is this considered gothic? Wikipedia to the rescue. The most basic definition,  "a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance" seems to answer my own question. This was a questionable romance, as child abuse is clearly horrorific.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BOOK: Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson

Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson, 182 pages

Gothic Reading Challenge; 4th Canadian Reading Challenge; Once Upon a Time

I remember listening to Bill Richardson on CBC one summer in the early 90s. I had a job where I had to drive around to different job sites, and his program, Crosswords was a wonderful show to listen to while I drove. Listeners from across Canada, and the world, would write letters and Bill would read them, and play some wonderfully eclectic music. Very CBC. I later read his delightfully funny Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast,{reviewed here by eva at a striped armchair and here by Nan at letters from a hill farm) so when I saw this book come up in my library search for Gothic read, I knew I would be reading it. After the fact, I think it could count as a Once Upon a Time book, as surely, cats talking makes it fantasy?

In the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, there are oodles of famous dead people. Imagine, as Bill Richarson did, if they were reincarnated as cats, and the cats still lived in the cemetery. So there would be Jim Morrison, the silent, brooding tomcat exceedingly well-endowed; Sarah Bernhardt, the dramatic actress; Maria Callas, the singing diva; Marcel Proust, the sleeping private detective; Oscar Wilde, being Oscar and infatuated with Jim Morrison and Chopin is the postman who delivers the letters to the cats. And Alice B Toklas, who is waiting for her love and husband, Gertrude Stein to arrive at the cemetery, translated.  So it's a graveyard gothic, but also a touch comedic, because it is Richardson after all, and he can't turn that off.

There was never such a ratter as Sarah Bernhardt.

So, the book was fun. It made me wish I knew more about many of the characters. Richardson has each cat write and speak distinctively, so I liked some cat's voices more than others. The concept is so unique, and the love between Alice and Gertrude comes through. (Memo to self - find one of their books to read?) The first part of the book introduces all the characters and sets the scene. The second part of the book develops a bit of a plot - objects are going missing, and the cats are putting on a revue. With a concept book, the first while was just the fun of seeing how it all worked. Then the mystery arrived and the action picked up. And then it ended.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the poetry, and the fun Richardson has with his writing. Play on words abound, plus, nearly each character gets a poem as part of La Fontaine's Versified Walking Tours:

Attention, please, cats square and hep-
Before we take another step,
May I address a word to those
Who'd rather have their tour in prose;
Who'd rather hears dogs caterwaul
Than hear a cat spout doggerel.