This book started out really, really well. I loved Michael, the monk, who is hard not to love --- he's sweet, kind, sexy and disarming. Rebecca's littThis book started out really, really well. I loved Michael, the monk, who is hard not to love --- he's sweet, kind, sexy and disarming. Rebecca's little daughter Mary Martha is darling and she and Michael have a charming relationship. Rebecca's mother Phoebe is a hoot and highly likable. But Rebecca was hard to take after awhile. Her little hissy-fit when poor Michael, who had been out of circulation for 20 years, hesitated about telling her mother that they were sleeping together after their first weekend together was completely childish. I had a hard time liking her after that.
It's a sweet story but Rebecca could use a good kick in the pants....more
Shirley Jackson is a master story-teller and this is a masterfully told story. I wondered if the fact that it was written over half a century ago woulShirley Jackson is a master story-teller and this is a masterfully told story. I wondered if the fact that it was written over half a century ago would make a difference and, truthfully, I found some of the dialogue quite old-fashioned but that did not detract from the impact of the story. The characters were still engaging and the ending still just as creepy....more
On of the purest joys of reading a novel is getting so sucked into a world and lost in it that you forget about the rest of the world. That hasn't hapOn of the purest joys of reading a novel is getting so sucked into a world and lost in it that you forget about the rest of the world. That hasn't happened to me often in recent years but it did over the past week as I read Sena Jeter Naslund's monumental tome, Ahab's Wife. It is nearly 700 pages long and I cannot tell you how much I loved the world Naslund paints with lovely prose and a heroine who is so likeable in all her imperfections that I didn't want to say goodbye to her.
Naslund has written something fabulously creative. She took a few lines from Herman Melville's Moby Dick in which it was mantioned that Ahab had a wife and used them to weave a lush, fascinating, historicall accurate world. Some of the situations are perhaps fantastical but then we are talking about a wife whose husband was carried off into the sea by a gigantic, snow white whale. The story is told with beauty and lushness of language but also letters and occasional chapters written from a different point of view, all handled very skillfully.
Una Spenser (named after the heroine and the author of The Fairy Queen which is quoted in the original of Moby Dick) grew up in Kentucky but, because her fundamentalist preacher father was so hard on her, her mother sent her to New England to live with her aunt's family in a lighthouse off the Massachusetts coast. As a young teen Una becomes enchanted by two young sailors, Kit and Giles, and, when she is sixteen, disguises herself as a boy and signs on as a cabin boy on a whaling ship. So her life of adventure begins.
What follows is a grand adventure with some terrifying twists and turns and some almost painful to read. After a shipwreck and three brutal months at sea doing unimaginable things to survive, Kit, Giles and Una are rescued but their ordeal is too much for both Kit and Giles though in very differnet ways. Eventually they make their way back to Nantucket and there Una meets Ahab whom she had encountered before at sea. She marries him and, as their life together – and apart for he is at sea most of the time – progresses, Una displays a love and a devotion to her older but magnificnet husband that just, frankly, left me breathless. Who could have ever imagined Captain Ahab as the sexy, loving man we see in this book. Their love scenes are handles with delicacy and discretion but seem all the more passionate for that. She refers to them as “taking our bliss” which expresion I found deliciously charming.
Of course, eventually the inevitable happens and Una is alone with their child in 'Sconset where she climbs to the roof of her cottage every night to watch the stars, look for whales and dolphins, and study the horizon in the hopes of seeing the blaze of try-pots aboard a whaling ship coming in to port. Throughout Una's journey we meet other interesting historical figures of the time. During a visit to Concord she has an encounter with some of the Transcendentalists and, when her young cousin comes to live with her, she gets involved with Unitarian-Universalism and with the abolitionists. But the heart and soul of the story is her endless love for her whale-captain husband, whose acceptance of her and wordless understanding of the shame she feels for what she did to survive, is so poignant and beautiful.
Because I live in Gloucester (in fact the first Unitarian cemetery in America is in my backyard) and because I love both New Bedford and Nantucket, I was completely drawn in by her descriptions and her historical details. This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time and I am glad of that. it is a world I wouldn't mind being able to retreat to whenever my imagination – and Sena Jeter Naslund's vision – can take me there....more
This is the first Kenzie/Gennaro book and I had somehow overlooked it but it was hard to put down. Maybe because I worked in Boston for years and useThis is the first Kenzie/Gennaro book and I had somehow overlooked it but it was hard to put down. Maybe because I worked in Boston for years and use it as a setting for my writing, I fid these books especially gripping. Dennis Lehane is not for the feint of heart--his language is gritty, his stories are violent, and his plots are intense. He deals with painful subjects including racial tension, gangland violence, drug dealing, prostitution and pedophilia but he never loses the pain and the humanity at the core of his characters. For me this was an excellent read....more
I listened and read this syncing back and forth between the Audible version and the Kindle version. I liked the story very much but found the narratorI listened and read this syncing back and forth between the Audible version and the Kindle version. I liked the story very much but found the narrator on the Audible version annoying. Connelly is a great story-teller. His style is clean and clear though he tends to over-use certain phrases (he had a LOT of "long moments") but this was a good story with some excellent twists....more
Though I live in Gloucester and have spent a good many evenings in Howard Blackburn's establishment with his pictures and newspaper articles hanging oThough I live in Gloucester and have spent a good many evenings in Howard Blackburn's establishment with his pictures and newspaper articles hanging on the walls, I only recently discovered this book. What a wonderful adventure! The first chapter, which tells the story of the fishing trip during which Blackburn lost his fingers and toes, sets the stage well for the rest of the adventure. And what an adventure it is! Here in Gloucester they talk of the days of "iron men in wooden ships" and Blackburn was the toughest and most indomitable of all those iron men. After surviving the trip that opens the book, he goes on to start his famous tavern in Gloucester, cross the Atlantic twice on his own, sail around Cape Horn and up the Pacific Coast bound for the Klondike, and undertake a perfectly fascinating trip up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi.
Because I wrote a book based in the seafaring history of Lake Erie I was particularly gratified to read that Blackburn wrote that of all the waters he ever crossed he considered Lake Erie to have been the worst --- even worse than the Grand Banks in the Atlantic.
Author Joe Garland is well known both as a historian and a sailor and both those skills are well used in the telling of this tale. This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary man told by an extraordinary writer. What more does a reader want?...more
I don't remember how I heard about The Rasputin Relic but I ordered it and, once I started reading it I had a very hard time time putting it down. ThiI don't remember how I heard about The Rasputin Relic but I ordered it and, once I started reading it I had a very hard time time putting it down. This is one of those books that, as a novel has some flaws, but as story-telling is just flat mesmerizing - appropriately so considering the subject matter.
The story begins in a Pennsylvania town that has slipped into decline since the closing of the mines that once made the entire area prosperous and attracted thousands of immigrants,largely Eastern European and Russian to work in those mines. Since I grew up not far from there I heard stories about the hundreds of miles of mining shafts under towns where fires burned for years, noxious gasses were emitted, and sudden collapses and cave-ins shook the entire town. Because many of the immigrants were Eastern Orthodox the skylines of these towns were punctuated with onion-dome steeples and I have lots of memories of looking at those skylines and being intrigued by those exotic-looking churches throughout the Lackawana River Valley.
The story opens in Middle Valley, Pennsylvania where Viktor Rhostok, a third generation Russian-American, is the acting chief of police. An old man named Vanya has died under very mysterious circumstances - he was confined to the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital - and, though the coroner rules it an accident, Rhostok has his doubts about an 80 year old man managing to crush all the bones in his right hand before falling off the roof of the hospital. The old man, it turns out, is one of three old men who have died in different parts of the country, all with destroyed right hands - and, Rhostok discovers, all veterans of the WWII era 101 Airborne all of whom were part of Operation Overlord, the preparation for D-Day. Rhostok knows one thing for sure, they might have been old men, but they were not weak, easily intimidated old men. (I want to add that, as the story progressed, I could not help but be reminded of Chekov's play, Uncle Vanya, the theme of which was unhappy people and wasted lives.)
Two months later another strange death occurs. Vanya's 50-something son returns from Las Vegas with a stunningly beautiful young wife and, within a few weeks, dies while making love to his bride. The young widow, still in shock, discovers a key to a safety deposit box that her father-in-law rented in 1946 and which has not been opened since. When the box is finally opened it is found to contain a huge male hand, still plump and bloody and fresh. Within hours the game is a-foot and all the people present at the opening of the box begin to die - all of them bleeding to death.
Rhostok, who was taught to read an ancient and arcane form of Russian, is the only one present who recognizes the writing on the paper in which the relic is wrapped. It is the name Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the Mad Monk of Russia who beguiled the Tsarina Alexandra and was credited with saving the life of her young hemophiliac son, Alexi. It is up to Rhostok to find out what is going on, why all these people are dying, and to do it all while keeping it quiet lest unwanted publicity erupt into religious hysteria.
The book is just plain fascinating. The writing is straight-forward and never intrusive and the author, William M. Valtos, has done a tremendous amount of research. In the past I have criticized books for containing long passages of speeches and explanations - a fictional form that seems to be growing in popularity since The Da Vinci Code: A Novel: 1 - and Valtos' characters do a lot of that but the stories they have to tell are so interesting I was very willing to overlook the form. The plot involves phenomenal amounts of Russian history, culture, mythology, religious mysticism, and medical anomalies. There is discussion of the phenomena of the "incorruptibles", the role of the 101st Airborne, and contemporary biological warfare.
And some of the characters are just great. Rhostok is delicious, as are the two women he is forced to deal with, the widow Nicole whose life has been traumatized by years of sexual abuse and slavery, and a news reporter, Robyn, who is only too willing to use her sexuality to get what she wants. There are mad scientists and another equally mad Russian priest as well as a pantheon of really nasty bad guys.
If you are intrigued by Russian history and willing to suspend disbelief, this is a delicious read. I found it to be somewhat reminiscent of some of the books by one of my favorite authors Arturo Perez-Reverte, especially The Flanders Panel and The Club Dumas. I've ordered Valtos' novel La Magdalena: A Theo Nikonos Mystery and if it is as good as this one I'll be thrilled. ...more
Very interesting. A better writer than Dan Brown with a similar subject matter. I found the plot "twist" a little gratuitous but it held my interest aVery interesting. A better writer than Dan Brown with a similar subject matter. I found the plot "twist" a little gratuitous but it held my interest and I'll read more of his books....more
This is a remarkable book loaded with insight into President Obama as a young man struggling to come to terms with his identity and to reconcile his cThis is a remarkable book loaded with insight into President Obama as a young man struggling to come to terms with his identity and to reconcile his complicated heritage. In the past few years some of the facts that he was raised to believe were true have been proven to be false but his telling of them is based on what he was told as a child. I would have given this 5-stars but it isn't quite as wonderful as his The Audacity of Hope. Regardless of your political ideology, this is heart-felt insight into a man who overcame a very, very complex and, at times, heart-breaking childhood, to become an incredible man of integrity and values....more
I loved this book -- it is mostly a series of anecdotes and essays on Nantucket where Conroy lived for many years. His writing is lyrical and evocativI loved this book -- it is mostly a series of anecdotes and essays on Nantucket where Conroy lived for many years. His writing is lyrical and evocative about one of my favorite places on earth....more
This is a charming collection of articles about a woman who moved from an urban life to a small town in Alaska. It started out really well but got a bThis is a charming collection of articles about a woman who moved from an urban life to a small town in Alaska. It started out really well but got a bit tedious in places. Still a worthwhile read....more
I read this book several years ago but recently re-read it mostly because of a book I am working on. I had forgotten how fascinating it is. AccordingI read this book several years ago but recently re-read it mostly because of a book I am working on. I had forgotten how fascinating it is. According to the author (a Harvard psychologist who just happens to live in the town next to mine, Rockport, MA) 1 in 25 Americans are sociopaths, people with no conscience. It seems a little difficult to believe that anyone could be completely free of a conscience but the cases she describes are so familiar that I found myself recognizing behavior patterns I've encountered both in business and in private.
Stout explains the patterns, the causes, and the best way to cope with sociopaths in business and in your personal life (stay as far away as you can0. According to her there is no cure for sociopathology -- sociopaths are distinguished by their inability to ever consider that they might be the one with the problem.
Frankly, as I read the book this time I wondered if 1 in 25 is a conservative estimate....more
The writing was adequate but the story is incredible. When did Remarque find time to write? He had affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, DoloresThe writing was adequate but the story is incredible. When did Remarque find time to write? He had affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Dolores Del Rio, Maureen O'Sullivan, ... unbelievable life he lead!...more
Another wonderful Cara Black mystery. This one wasn't quite as gripping as some of her plots but I loved the ambiance anyway. There are are scenes inAnother wonderful Cara Black mystery. This one wasn't quite as gripping as some of her plots but I loved the ambiance anyway. There are are scenes in the sewer system and underground of the Ils saint-Louis that are worth the read alone. Boy, for someone who collects flea-market designer dresses, Aimee sure is hard on her clothes!