Opening line: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and pred...moreOpening line: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.”
Well this was a surprise; the classics and especially mysteries are not my usual fare but due to my recent obsession with the BBC series Sherlock (How yummy is Benedict Cumberbatch) and then watching Downey and Jude Law in the movie Game Of Shadows I realized that I had never actually read any of Conan Doyle’s stories. After some research trying to figure out where to begin, I eventually bought The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes and settled on this story. And wow, I didn’t expect to enjoy this half as much as I did (or at all for that matter) but I guess this is why Sherlock Holmes is still relatable today.
I’d initially expected to have to put in considerable effort just to get through this, I mean it was written in 1892 so it was bound to be very, well literary. You know all formal and tedious. In fact I’d anticipated needing a dictionary just to be able to understand what the characters were talking about, but to my surprise A Scandal In Bohemia turned out to be an absolute delight to read. The actual story is quite basic yet also filled with complexities and hidden meanings and I would also have to call this a romance -of sorts. It’s also funny, relevant, cunning, witty, romantic and ultimately sad. What a great introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes.
Told from Dr. Watsons POV (now that I didn’t know -I’d just assumed these were Sherlock’s stories.) We begin with Watson “dropping by” Baker Street to visit Holmes. He hasn’t been by his old residence or seen Holmes of late due to his recent marriage and the two have drifted apart. I guess you could say he feels nervous about visiting because he never really knows what state Holmes will be in; elated, depressed, manic, high on opium or cocaine or in some clever disguise? It’s always a bit of a crap shoot. In any case he appears happy today and also excited due to the prospect of a new and exciting case. Sherlock then asks if Watson will assist him;
“I shall be delighted” “You don’t mind breaking the law?” “Not in the least.” “Nor running a chance of arrest?” “Not in good cause.” “Oh the cause is excellent.” “Then I am your man.” “I was sure that I could rely on you.”
The client turns out to be the King of Bohemia; he requires Holmes’ assistance in obtaining an incriminating photograph of himself and one Irene Adler before he marries. It seems this past affair would ruin him because of her “station.” So far the King has tried unsuccessfully to buy it (she won’t sell) to bribe her servants and finally even to steal it but Ms. Adler is always one step ahead. Holmes dons several disguises throughout his case, first as a groomsman to gain access to Adler’s property and spy on her and then later as an (injured) clergyman. Irene Adler is a fantastic character, gaining the upper hand and in the end even outsmarting Holmes. I suppose it’s her cleverness that causes Holmes to fall for her and why in the end she becomes known only as the woman. Cheers 305jb5(less)
Opening Line: “It was about nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattles in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two b...moreOpening Line: “It was about nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattles in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two broad-shouldered guards marched purposely in.”
Wow what an amazing story, epic is I guess more the word I’m looking for. I read this after watching the movie The Way Back and as is usually the case the book is much better, vastly different yet obviously maintaining the gist of the year long trek across an entire continent to freedom. As a point of interest (or not) Colin Farrell’s tattooed gang character does not exist in the book. Anyways…
Slavomir Rawicz wrote this memoir in 1959 as a form of therapy to escape the memories that still haunted him. It has lost nothing with time however and remains one of the most incredible journeys of strength, endurance and human spirit you’ll ever read.
Its 1941 and “Slav” has just spent two years in a Soviet prison. After multiple beatings and interrogations at the hands of the sadistic prison guard “the Bull” he is eventually found guilty of espionage (?) and sentenced to 25 years forced labour in a Siberian work camp. (These sections were actually some of the most brutal in the whole book)
Thus begins his journey. Transferred during the dead of winter Slav somehow survives the 3000 mile cattle car train ride and subsequent chain gang death march into inner Siberia and camp 303 in Yakutsk After enduring starvation, cold, illness and brutality he and six other prisoners escape.
Together they cross an entire continent on foot with nothing more than an axe, a knife, a weeks worth of food and an unbreakable will to live. Covering some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth they travel out of Siberia and through China, across the Gobi dessert into Tibet and finally over the Himalayas and into British India. This is where the epic part comes in because their journey is so brutal, so filled with despair and suffering its at times unbelievable and also impossible to put down.
The LONG WALK is written factually and Slav doesn’t ever tell us how he feels, he just gives a meticulous account of what is taking place. However for this type of storytelling it was perfect. Included in this 1997 version is an afterwards with some of the readers most persistent questions answered. What Slav’s life was like after The Long Walk, What happened to the other men? Did he ever see them again?
This is a story I won’t ever forget and I highly recommend. I mean they walked from Siberia to India, just think about that for a second.(less)
Opening Line:"My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen."
I came away from this feeling, very cold, very hungry and...moreOpening Line:"My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen."
I came away from this feeling, very cold, very hungry and with an inexplicable need to make sure my pantry was full. CITY OF THIEVES is a fantastic story; set in 1942 during the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad. It’s a coming of age story filled with adventure, suspense, friendship, romance and tragedy all washed down with (from what I understand) a historically accurate picture of Leningrad during the blockade.
I should point out that despite the events of the time this is also a surprisingly funny read as our two main characters; Kolya the romantic optimist and Lev with his random internal observations both have an interesting way of looking at life around them during the absurdities of war.
The story begins with a powerful opening chapter; a writer asks his grandfather to tell him about his experiences during the war. All the narrator knows -and he doesn’t remember anyone telling him its just one of those family folklores that he always has- is that his grandfather, "the knife fighter" killed two Germans before he was eighteen and is missing a finger. And so Lev begins to tell his story to his grandson. Talking openly for the first time about his childhood, coming to America and sex. Mostly though he talks about a two week period in 1942 when he met his best friend, the woman that would become his wife and killed two Germans. I actually referred back to this chapter several times during the course of the book and again when I finished.
Its January 1942 Leningrad is under marshal law, surrounded by the German army and what’s left of its inhabitants are starving. Our hero 17 year old Lev Beniov has just been arrested for looting and placed in a cell with a handsome friendly deserter named Kolya Vlasov. Both of their crimes are grounds for execution and as our heroes get to know each other that’s what they expect come morning. However in a twist of fate they are given a chance to save their own lives, a secret mission for a powerful soviet colonel, all they have to do is find a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake.
A dozen eggs in a city cut off from supplies, a city resorting to cannibalism and eating glue from book spines to survive. It is of course a ludicrous and impossible task one which takes our new friends far into German occupied territory, through the bitter cold of winter and countless adventures and atrocities. The outcome didn’t really surprise me but I haven't stopped thinking about it either.
“One moment I thought I had a few minutes left to live; the next a sniper was flirting with me. Was she flirting with me? The days had become a confusion of catastrophes; what seemed impossible in the afternoon was blunt fact by the evening. German corpses fell from the sky; cannibals sold sausage links made from ground human in the Haymarket; apartments blocs collapsed to the ground; dogs became bombs; frozen soldiers became sign posts. I had no food in my belly, no fat on my bones and no energy to reflect on this parade of atrocities. I just kept moving, hoping to find another half slice of bread for myself and a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter.”(less)
4.5~ Wow, this was one of those short sneaky books that you devour in a day and then can’t stop thinking ab...moreOpening line:“I have always loved my wife.”
4.5~ Wow, this was one of those short sneaky books that you devour in a day and then can’t stop thinking about. At about 130 pages SUNRISE ON KUSATSU HARBOUR has a huge story to tell and with about 200 more pages it would have been an epic read. As it stands though it felt rushed and important events that I would love to have read about in greater detail were glazed over. However the narration style almost dictates this as it is the retelling of a story from a third person and the underlying message does still manage to shine thorough.
Sunrise is a frightening, tragic and haunting story of star crossed lovers. Encompassing love and hate, revenge and prejudice but most of all forgiveness. It’s a small book with a big message and a twist at the end that will really leave you wondering. I also think that this book would make for a fantastic movie, regardless I’m just glad I found it.
We begin with a man finding a video tape at a garage sale. Instead of the tape containing the movie he was expecting it instead shows the confession of an older Japanese man. And so our story begins with the writer of this tale telling us Meiko’s story via the video diary. Taking us back to Japan during the 2nd world war where we watch a young couple fall in love and make plans for a promising future together. One fateful day our hero Meiko is called to serve in the army, he pledges his undying love to his girlfriend Tori on Kusatsu beach, vowing to always be true to her and return and get married as soon as Japan wins the war. Meiko then leaves his peaceful village in Hiroshima to help create biological weapons for the war effort.
So, now that we know where they are, we all know what’s coming next and it was very interesting to see life from the other side of the war. On the day the US drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Tori is in Kusatsu harbour, missing her man. The blast knocks her from the beach and into the ocean saving her life. However everyone and everything else she has ever known is now gone. Deciding that she must try to find Meiko, Tori then travels many hundred miles to where he is stationed in Nagasaki only to learn that just the day before Meiko went AWOL and is now trying to find her back in Hiroshima.
That is when the 2nd bomb drops on Nagasaki, leaving Tori alive but horribly burned and disfigured. She is hospitalized for a long time. Meanwhile Meiko has of course not been able to find his true love and can only assume that she is dead. When the Emperor of Japan surrenders Meiko makes his plans for revenge, sailing out of Kusatsu harbour on a boat bound for America. Little does he know that the figure watching from Kusatsu beach is his Tori. As I said this a star crossed lover’s story and our couple cross paths many times before finally meeting again far away and under unusual and fateful circumstances. For such a short read this book is decades in it’s telling with Meiko paying a huge cost for his revenge. Not easily forgotten. (less)
In the beginning of Water For Elephants Jacob Jankowski tells us that he is ninety or ninety-three. One or the other. He's not really sure anymore. Hi...moreIn the beginning of Water For Elephants Jacob Jankowski tells us that he is ninety or ninety-three. One or the other. He's not really sure anymore. His body betrayed him years ago and Jacob now fears that his mind isn’t far behind. Shuffling along miserably behind his walker, he’s living out his final days in the nursing home and hating every minute of it. Just another invisible senior citizen who’s family and the world as a whole has forgotten about.
When the circus comes to town and sets up its Big Top tents across the street Jacob comes alive and through a series of flashbacks begins to tell us his life’s story. Taking us back to when he joined the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show On Earth, a traveling circus he toured with during the great depression. So step right up folks because this old man has quite the story to tell.
At the age of 23 Jacob had a predictable future set out ahead of him, one that certainly didn’t involve joining the circus. However with his parents untimely death and the bank foreclosing on his family home Jacob soon finds himself homeless, heartbroken and mentally quite unable to sit his final veterinary exams. When an exotic, animal filled train steams toward him Jacob doesn’t even think. Flinging himself aboard the boxcar and inadvertently changing his destiny forever.
I absolutely adored this book, alternately falling in love with both Jacob, the crotchety old man and Jacob, the young, moral and penniless circus veterinarian. Water For Elephants transported me to another time and quickly became one of those books I never wanted to end.
Author Sara Gruen has researched the depression era circus life down to the smallest of details and I feel that this captivating and vivid story will appeal to almost anyone. Filled with action, adventure and a sweet forbidden romance there is also a fascinating sideshow of secondary characters including a clever Polish Elephant, a grouchy little person as Jacob’s roommate and a cruel and schizophrenic animal trainer whose wife Jacob just happens to fall in love with. All of this has been wrapped together with a compelling and innovative behind the scenes look aboard a travelling circus train. Showing us more often then not the darker side of circus life after the big top closes down. This is a love story, a life story, an animal lover’s story but above all it’s a circus story and who of us hasn’t dreamed about running away and joining the circus at some point in our lives? And the ending… *sigh*
I can't say enough good about this book, its easily one of my favourite reads this year and with Robert Pattison now taking on the upcoming movie role version of Jacob, I was able to picture him while reading, making it all the more sweeter. Cheers!