Opening Line: "Driving down Long Valley Road. Lovely day; bright sunshine, blue sky."
This week has been one filled with romantic tragedies for me. FirOpening Line: "Driving down Long Valley Road. Lovely day; bright sunshine, blue sky."
This week has been one filled with romantic tragedies for me. First I went to the see the re-release of Titanic in 3D (oh Jack) and then because I hadn’t had quite enough heartache I decided to revisit one of my all time favourite romances with Somewhere In Time (Bid Time Return.) It’s been years since I first read this as a teenager, -god knows how many times I watched the movie starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve (another tragedy there) and I wasn’t sure if I’d feel the same about it now.
Really the only difference this time around was that I was able to appreciate the quality of the writing and amount of research that must have gone into making this tale of time travel, well, believable. The romance is still as moving as it was. And yes much like Titanic even though I knew what was coming I still shed a tear at the end.
Told from a first person narrative and written as if you were reading a journal, we meet Richard Collier. A 30ish Los Angeles screenwriter with an inoperable brain tumour. Not wanting to burden his family, Richard packs up his life and decides to end his days wherever the road takes him. These beginning chapters are fast moving, choppy and written with short slightly erratic paragraphs as Richard dictates into an audio diary. In the second half the journal entries become longer and more detailed and quite honestly a little dry in places.
Through the fate of a coin toss Richard finds himself at the Hotel Del Coronado, a grand seaside resort, steeped in history that manages to become a character onto itself here. It’s within the hotel museum that Richard comes across a turn of the century photograph of an actress named Elise McKenna, and at that moment everything else in Richard’s life ceases to exist. He can’t stop thinking about the beautiful woman, or the look in her eyes, becoming obsessed with her and the time she lived in. Richard then begins to research her life and in every instance notes a complete change in her character after her acting troupe left the hotel 75 years before. If only he could meet her, if only he could get to her and find out what made her so sad, why she never married.
Its then that Richard begins researching time travel and self hypnosis, convinced that he can get back to her. When he finds his name in an 1896 hotel registry he knows with certainty what the change in Elise was. He was with her, now he just has to get back to her. Some of the time travel paradoxes in this are positively mind bending and you can’t think about them too long for fear of brain explosions.
As I mentioned the writing changes as soon as Richard finds himself in 1896 (yeah he does) becoming more formal and detailed. It is explained that he is now writing his accounts instead of dictating. Matheson’s descriptions of the time are pure genius, not just taking into account the obvious like clothing but the social attitudes, the language differences, the size of people. Is everyone short and stocky? I loved the descriptions and Richards discovery of it all. The romance aspect here is beautifully done albeit a little soppy and with a hint of the supernatural, because as it turns out Elise was expecting him. Well not him but through a physic she’s been waiting for someone mysterious to sweep her off her feet. Her over protective manager plays the antagonist here, trying in vain to keep them apart and while Richard should hate him he finds that he cannot because he knows how the man dies.
I suppose you can’t change the past though and as much as I found myself cheering for our couple it was already written. Probably the most moving part of this book is in the afterward (provided by Richard’s brother) which explains that his time travel was only that of a form of escapism provided by his tumour amassed brain. Robert Collier cannot however explain the love letters in Richards pocket or the antique (yet new) pocket watch or Elise McKenna’s famous dying last words. He leaves it up to the reader to decide if it happened or not. I think it did. Cheers. 291jb4...more
Opening Line: "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."
I really liked this book and found myself absorbed in the world thaOpening Line: "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."
I really liked this book and found myself absorbed in the world that Andrew Davidson has created. THE GARGOYLE is a multilayered tragedy within a love story and it will affect you on many different levels; horrific, sad and gruesome it is also complex, funny, thought provoking and redeeming. Unfortunately any summery you read won't really do it justice.
THE GARGOYLE has been written in a first person narrative and although we never learn the narrator's name he is self-consciously and sometimes humorously aware that he's writing a book. We begin with our good looking and self absorbed narrator (N) driving his car while high on cocaine and with a bottle of bourbon between his legs. He subsequently starts hallucinating and to avoid the burning arrows flying at his car drives off the road. N's car flips several times and catches fire, burning him alive. The next half of the book takes place within the burn ward as N begins his long road to recovery.
The car accident and most of the burn ward scenes are detailed, horrific and at times hard to read but they're also so well written that you'll be able to smell the hospital and really feel N's pain and suffering. N has been burned so severely that he no longer resembles anything close to the gorgeous porn star that he once was and as he begins his therapy it's only in the detailed planning of his suicide that he's able to get through the day. The shots of morphine that silence the snake living in his spine help too but you'll have to read the book to understand that.
One day a strange and wild woman known as Marianne Engel escapes from the psyche ward and sneaks into the burn unit. She proceeds to tell N that she has known him for 700 years, that he has been burned before and that they were once lovers in medieval Germany where she was a nun and he was a wounded solider. It doesn't matter if he can't remember; she tells him, she will prove it to him. And so begins Marianne's tales of their past lives.
The book then begins to jump between time periods as Marianne Engel tells her life story which is set in the middle ages along with several other short stories about different tragic lovers. The flashbacks became my favourite parts of the book taking us to Germany, Japan, Italy and the Vikings of Iceland. The characters from these times are exquisitely interesting and the details of the era, amazing. The research Mr Davidson has put into this book is simply mind boggling.
N doesn't believe Maryanne, concluding that she is schizophrenic, nonetheless he comes to rely on her and in their own way the two begin a relationship. Throughout Maryanne's storytelling and hospital visits she continues her lifetimes work, that of carving stone Gargoyles. We are also introduced to several characters both within and outside the hospital all slowly becoming N's friends as he changes and becomes a man of worth.
The only part of the book that `lost me' a bit would be the several chapters during N's morphine withdrawal whereupon he enters the gates of hell and confronts all the characters from Marianne's stories and quotes Dante's inferno. This was bizarre and went on for too long but did tie up all the characters from Marianne's gripping stories. For me the ending was thought provoking and perfect. Cheers!
"Only after I was born into physical repulsiveness did I come to glimpse the possibilities of the heart" ...more
Opening Line: “Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature.”
Wow, this truly is an unforgettable book that will leave you (kinOpening Line: “Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature.”
Wow, this truly is an unforgettable book that will leave you (kinda wrecked) and unable to look at dogs in quite the same way ever again. Garth Stein has managed to capture the inner workings of the dog perfectly here, the attention to detail and why dogs do certain things is amazing. This really is a look at our human lives as only a dog could see it. Enzo and his family will tear at your heart in many ways and on many different levels. Containing a wonderful, gripping storyline and characters that you'll become deeply attached to, this is a sad yet ultimately uplifting book.
Don’t be scared away by the title. The “racing in the rain” part of this book is a metaphor for life. Yes, one of the main characters races cars for a living and yes, Enzo refers to everything in his life by way of racing metaphors, but this book is so much more. It’s about life and family, heartbreak and loss and ultimately joy, all as seen through the eyes of a dog named Enzo. Think (Marley and Me:) only narrated by Marley not the humans.
Enzo, wants nothing more than to be a man. On the eve of his death he tells what will amount to his master’s life’s story. Enzo has educated himself by watching too much TV, in particular Speed Channel and The Weather Channel. In his own words “the weather channel is not about weather it’s about life.”
His happy family includes; Denny, an up and coming race car driver, Eve, his wife and their young daughter Zoë. Enzo’s life is cheerfully routine until the day he smells the cancer that has come to rest in Eve’s head. He can’t warn her of course because dogs can’t speak (Enzo continually reminds us of this) and as Eve’s condition deteriorates their lives change forever. In the end Denny finds himself in a bitter custody battle that very nearly breaks him. Along the way Enzo must deal with possessed Zebras, the twins, hip dysplasia, hot peppers and demon crows all of which provided some great comic relief.
I absolutely loved this book and I can’t recommend it enough although I would suggest not reading the ending in public as it made me cry… a lot. I will certainly be visiting Enzo again soon and giving him to all my friends as well....more
Opening Line: "Bob had left the food carton on the counter the night before and it now smelled of grease and fish."
As a dog lover I was enchanted by LOpening Line: "Bob had left the food carton on the counter the night before and it now smelled of grease and fish."
As a dog lover I was enchanted by LOST AND FOUND but just about anyone will be able to find something to like within this engaging story. Filled with love, loss, adventure and even a little mystery, this is a story about the ability of the human (and dog) spirit to carry on and just what grief can reduce us to. Full of very real and charming characters, a surprising whodunit storyline and a suspense filled yet ultimately uplifting ending.
As we begin, the main character, Rocky discovers her husband lying lifeless on the bathroom floor. She tries using CPR to revive him but for Bob it's just too late. This forever sets into motion the abrupt transformation of Rocky's world. Unable to continue with her job as a psychologist (can she really help anyone while she's insane with grief?) Rocky cuts off the hair that Bob loved, takes a leave of absence and moves to a small island off the coast of Maine. There, she takes a job as Animal Control Warden. A job of which she knows nothing about but one that's thankfully a million miles from her old life.
Not having told anyone about her past Rocky is able to settle into a rather anonymous form of island life free, from the "I'm so sorrys" and concerned looks of friends. But the grieving process is proving harder than she thought and its not until she discovers a black lab with a arrow sticking out of his shoulder that the healing truly begins.
Once Lloyd enters the scene he fast becomes the focal point of the story, pulling in a host of great secondary characters; like her crotchety but compassionate boss, a pained teenager suffering with anorexia or the delightful old woman with sythesia. Rocky then begins a search for the truth behind the arrow in Lloyds shoulder. Inadvertently taking up archery in the process and getting pulled into a mystery that will endanger both her and her new canine best friend's lives.
This was a surprisingly great read with characters so real and well done that I didn't want their stories to end. Jacqueline Sheehan has also managed to capture the inner workings of a dog perfectly, giving him a unique personality. I did find it a little strange however that half way through a singular POV book she suddenly decided to add some secondary ones, almost as an afterthought. I enjoyed their perspectives though, especially Lloyds. She also repeats some of her characters back stories unnecessarily. In the end I was just glad to read a dog story without the usual heartbreaking ending (think Marley or Enzo) Cheers. ...more
Opening Line: "Sucking weak coffee through a hole in the plastic lid of a red and green styrofoam cup, Sera spots a place to sit down."
Charming at timOpening Line: "Sucking weak coffee through a hole in the plastic lid of a red and green styrofoam cup, Sera spots a place to sit down."
Charming at times yet brutal in its honesty LEAVING LAS VEGAS is ultimately a graphic and depressing love story. There is no hope for redemption here and author John O'Brien makes no apologies for it, having committed suicide soon after the movie rights to this book were sold, many consider LLV to be the authors suicide note to the world. However this is also a beautiful and compulsively readable masterpiece. Exploring the dark depths of alcoholism, the needy loneliness of prostitution and the unconditional love between two lost souls.
LLV is told in 4 sections. Alternating between Sera, a content yet increasingly jaded hooker and Ben an alcoholic on one final bender. We also get to meet Al (unlike the movie) Sera's violent and broken former pimp who's hoping to reclaim what was his. I will admit to having a bit of trouble following the story in the beginning as I got used to O'Brien's style of writing. He tended to jump between the past and present in a pretentious manner that was very hard to keep track of. In these beginning chapters we watch Sera go about her daily routine and witness some of the harshest and most shocking moments in the book.
Section 2 traces Ben as he ties up the loose ends of his former life in California and prepares to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. Ben never makes excuses for being an alcoholic, the issue is completely irrelevant to him. He just shows us what it takes to get through the day as one. With his alcoholism progressing Ben has become a time keeper; when do the bars open? When do they close? Which stores sell liquor? How much will he need to see him through the night? And how the hell did he get home? It's all quite exhausting and he knows he doesn`t have much time left. Ben now dreams of Las Vegas where he can pawn his watch because they never stop serving there. Through circumstance Ben and Sera meet in Vegas and immediately identify each other as kindred spirits. Each accepting the other for who they are and entering into a desperate and bleak relationship that you just know isn`t going to end well as neither is about to change.
This is one of those books that stays with you long after you've finished. I found myself captivated by Ben's world and all his tricks to remain as intoxicated as possible. His POV is awesome and I think Nicholas Cage was cast flawlessly in the movie as there are moments of harsh, sardonic humour that he captured perfectly.
I recently lost a dear friend to alcoholism (he was a funny, no excuses man too) and I read this book in an attempt to somehow understand why. Now that I'm finished I still don't understand why, Ben doesn't know why either, he just is. I suppose you have to admire someone who leaves this life on their own terms, however horrible they might be. ...more
Opening line: “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die”Opening line: “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die”
There’s not much I can say about FIGHT CLUB that hasn’t been said already (besides I’m not supposed to talk about it -first rule of FC and all) It’s one of those books on everyone’s “to read” list and ultimately it's everything you'd expect it to be; disjointed, astonishing, dark, gritty and fantastic. Although I did wonder how you’d manage to understand what’s going on in the beginning chapters without having seen the movie first because they don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Of course you can’t help but compare the book to the movie. And in saying that I was surprised to learn that Fight Club the movie followed the book faithfully (including dialogue). It is so similar in fact that the book now reads much like a screenplay adaptation, even though it came first. Movies rarely follow the book word for word and subsequently I didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d been expecting to. There wasn’t anything extra here, no added insight into Tyler Durden’s character, no dirty scenes that didn‘t make it into the movie. I just kept picturing Brad Pitt and Edward Norton (not a bad thing) but then I also pictured Meatloaf Big Bob and his huge man boobs.
The ending however is completely different and it blew my mind. We see the unnamed narrator’s split personality develop much earlier “I know this because Tyler knows this” It’s not the zenith moment, just a symptom, and he (and we) become aware of it much earlier. We then get to watch “him” try to keep it together, to reign in his space monkeys, to get rid of Tyler by staying awake, to disband project mayhem "Tyler told us you’d say that" and his descent into madness is just brilliant.
The afterwards by the author is also very interesting. Detailing how this all started as a 7 page story he wrote when he was bored at work one day (its included as chapter 6 in the book) and then of course he expanded, added some friends stories (the naughty waiters and film splicing) and wrote what has transformed into the cult classic it is today.
Still, I think everyone should read this book....more
This book blew me away with its beautiful writing, many layers of story and the credible tension that Russell Banks was able to create out of such a sThis book blew me away with its beautiful writing, many layers of story and the credible tension that Russell Banks was able to create out of such a simple premise, in fact it almost reads like a mystery. Banks writes in such a way that he opens up the small town of Sam Dent and deposits you right in the middle of it leaving you feeling as if you personally know all the characters or might have once lived there yourself. It is also an interesting character study and from my experience realistic in the way each person here deals differently with grief; Some self-destruct while others find new strength, all want to lay blame somewhere and everyone in this once innocent town is irreversibly changed. Banks manages to show all sides of these ordinary characters, even the negative and because this was written from 4 different perspectives almost anyone will be able to find a piece of themselves in one of them. Ultimately it will leave you looking at yourself and those around you differently because every town has its secrets.
As I said the story is simple; One snowy morning a school bus goes off the road and into the frozen waters of a small American town, 14 children are lost in the accident and its citizens are confronted with life's most disturbing question when the worst happens who do you blame and how do you cope? We then enter surviving school bus driver Deloris Driscoll's head as she recalls the morning of the accident and introduces us to the town and its members while making stops along the bus route.
We then switch to widower and war veteran Billy Ansel who is following the bus on his way to work, his story is heartbreaking and full of secrets. The narration then turns to New York lawyer and pariah Mitchell Stevens who has come to Sam Dent like all the other lawyers and media to try and make a buck off the tragedy, surprisingly I really enjoyed his view as you can`t always judge a book (lawyer) by its cover. We also hear form 14 year old Nicole Burnell, who before the accident was a cheerleader and the town princess and is now confined to a wheelchair, her part in the story shocked me.
I highly recommend this and hope to now see if the movie can live up to this amazing book. ...more