The year is 1989. The place is Paris. Willie Pears has moved to France to be with her brother, Luke, and begins teaching immigrant girls who are hopin...moreThe year is 1989. The place is Paris. Willie Pears has moved to France to be with her brother, Luke, and begins teaching immigrant girls who are hoping for asylum in this new country. What follows is a moving story of hopes, fears and the ways we connect with each other so that we don’t have to go through it alone.
I’ve read Susan Conley’s debut work – The Foremost Good Fortune, and was quite impressed. Conley’s first novel, Paris was the Place, is a good effort. There are many high points to this novel. First – I just love Conley’s beautiful, vivid writing. She is so descriptive – from the sights and smells, you really imagine you are in the various sections of Paris or India. I enjoyed the inclusion of poetry – it’s obvious the author has a love for this art form. Second, there are several story lines here. From the immigrant girls’ desperate attempts to stay in France, Luke’s AIDS diagnosis, the blossoming love story between Willie and Macon, and even the pursuit of an Indian poet’s original manuscripts, I was drawn in and actually left wanting more. Because I was wanting more, I kept expecting the author to connect these stories somehow with a major theme. Is there one? It could be about family and relationships, it could be about needing others, it could be about the hard blows life deals you. But I couldn’t really be sure. Every reviewer chooses a different theme and Conley appears to be elusive in revealing what she had in mind.
I will say that there was one particular element that really impressed me. I was a young twenty-something during that time period. I had been to Paris then. And when I read Conley’s book, I was transported back in time, and brought to a place that reminded me of what it was like then. Through this novel, I relived the experience in a multi-sensory way. And Conley was dead-on right about what it was like. That is a real talent, and in my experience, very few authors are able to master it.
I’m so glad I got the chance to read Paris was the Place. As I said, it’s a good first novel, giving us a glimpse of what Susan Conley is capable of. I’m looking forward with anticipation to her next novel. 3 1/2 stars!(less)
In a single instant, William Bellman commits an act that will have grievous repercussions in his life. He kills a rook with his slingshot. As he grows...moreIn a single instant, William Bellman commits an act that will have grievous repercussions in his life. He kills a rook with his slingshot. As he grows older, he finds position and prospers, becoming a successful manager (and later owner) of a mill. And then one day a stranger enters his life and he has a reversal of fortune. Death surrounds him, his business suffers and he enters into a bargain to save the only precious thing left in his life, his daughter Dora. But Bellman misunderstands what is being offered him, only to realize too late, that the price he paid was just too high.
Setterfield is a master at suspense and like her earlier work, The Thirteenth Tale, the gothic and macabre are staples in her literary toolbox here. This is a book that really makes one think. In fact, I had to go back and review key parts because only then could I fit all the pieces together. It was well-written and moved me along, but for some reason, I didn't love it the way I had her previous novel. At times it was a little confusing - after all, who is the man in black? But as I said it is a book that inspires reflection and discussion, and that alone makes it a good selection for a book club. Thanks to Atria Books for providing the review copy of Bellman & Black. 3 1/2 stars.(less)
Herself born in Evin prison as a daughter of political prisoners, the author crafts an important and moving portrait of a handful of families that wer...moreHerself born in Evin prison as a daughter of political prisoners, the author crafts an important and moving portrait of a handful of families that were affected by the arrests and subsequent imprisonment in Iran following the Muslim Revolution. The novel spans the years from 1983 through 2011, and we are offered an opportunity to see how the children of these revolutionaries carry the same fire and hopes for a freer Iran as their parents. Unfortunately, they are also witnessing firsthand the same type of bloody oppression as their parents.
From the first pages, I was drawn into this novel. The story of Azar’s harrowing ordeal of being interrogated while in labor is enough to make any mother cringe. While some readers may have preferred more historical information and back story, the simple human perspective was very powerful. When reading the prison scenes, I felt as if any of these women could have been me. Further into the book we see the effects on the children. Raised by grandparents, the children were horrified to be handed to a mother who was a stranger to them when that parent was finally released from prison. Many mothers tried to leave Iran and so their children felt displaced. Returning to their home country years later proves to be equally troubling.
Gripping, powerful and important. An excellent first novel. 3 1/2 stars.(less)
Ever since I read A Game of Thrones, I knew I had to read the next book in the series, and it did not disappoint. When we last left off, King Robert B...moreEver since I read A Game of Thrones, I knew I had to read the next book in the series, and it did not disappoint. When we last left off, King Robert Baratheon is killed (murdered) in a boar hunt and his son (well, actually the child of his wife and her brother) Joffrey has ascended the throne. Young Joffrey is only a teenager, but a very wicked one, with a penchant for cruelty. Case in point - he beheads the father of his betrothed, Sansa Stark. in front of her. The Starks of Winterfell are now led by Sansa's brother, Robb, who declares himself King of the North. Add two more newly declared Kings to the mix (Joffrey's uncles Stannis and Renly Baratheon) and you have an all-out war.
Here are the thoughts and questions that flew through my head as I read this book:
What is the real connection between the direwolves and the Stark children?What will be the result when Daenerys Targaryen appears claiming to be Queen over all? How do the dragons stand up against the "unknown" creatures that will descend from the north? Why do I keep feeling that Tyrion Lannister is a good guy even though he defends his evil family? Will the author kill off more Starks even though I was devastated that Ned Stark was killed?
I admit I watched the first season of the HBO series prior to reading this book. Since I read the first book nearly a year ago, it was very helpful in keeping the characters straight. Since the second season has already been released on DVD, I may decide not to wait a year for the next book. And it's a given, I'm going to read it. I just have to find out what happens next!(less)
I had never read a book by this author before, but had heard many good things about his previous books, so I thought I’d give it a try.
In 1943, an Ita...moreI had never read a book by this author before, but had heard many good things about his previous books, so I thought I’d give it a try.
In 1943, an Italian noble family, the Rosatis, were forced to share their estate with the Nazis. Life at their idyllic haven had now shattered, as the war came to their front door. The Rosatis were forced into a balancing act, trying to keep their family safe without betraying their country. Fast forward to 1955. A serial killer is on the loose and the victims are members of this noble family. As the story unfolds, jumping back and forth between the two decades, the reader is left guessing how the War continues to haunt this family.
First, this wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought it would more along the lines of historical fiction, but in actuality it was a murder mystery similar to the Donna Leon bestsellers. That said, I’m not really a fan of this genre. I thought the book was okay, but I would have preferred more developed characters and a more fleshed out story. I could have stayed in World War Ii and done without the serial killer. But that’s just me. I’m sure there are plenty of readers out there that will enjoy Bohjalian’s latest summer release. Thanks to Doubleday for sending me an advance review copy of The Light in the Ruins. Look for this novel in bookstores in mid-July.(less)
“What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong?” “Or what if,” he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, “they chose their...more “What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong?” “Or what if,” he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, “they chose their own jobs?” “Frightening, isn’t it?” The Giver said.
Last week I was visiting with the school librarian and the 8th grade teacher, discussing my favorite subject, books. The topic of The Giver came up and the librarian was astounded to learn I’d never read it. Typically I don’t read young adult books. I’ve got nothing against them, it’s just that my reading list is already so long that they are low on my priority list. Without even asking if I’d like to read it, she checked it out and thrust it at me.
Who can say no to a librarian? I took it home and read it over the weekend. I can say I’m glad they are teaching this book in school. The setting is a dystopian society, where the government (aka those in power) decide to create a better world by eliminating those things that cause us pain, which includes differences. “Sameness” becomes the norm, so over time, this world has no sunlight, so winter, no color. Every family is allowed two children, a boy and a girl. The Giver explores the themes of freedom, choice, euthanisia, murder, and human values. It is a timeless topic, given that humans are always asking their government to legislate a better way of life. Being able to look critically at these requests, in the context of freedom versus protection, is important at any age.(less)
"On the point you can still find bones - fox sculls, rabbit femurs, porpoise vertebrae, and, on the shore in the crevice between two hard-lodged sto...more "On the point you can still find bones - fox sculls, rabbit femurs, porpoise vertebrae, and, on the shore in the crevice between two hard-lodged stones, a milk tooth lost by a child no longer a child."
A tale spanning generations, The End of the Point immerses the reader in a specific geographic location - Ashaunt Point, which is a tiny peninsula reaching into Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts. From 1942 to the present day, author Elizabeth Graver takes the reader on a journey where we witness the Porter family's ties to the land, and the way that time affects both.
Graver's writing is stunning. Not only does she get inside her characters, but her attention to detail is impressive:
"It was an old metal milk truck with the wheels removed, painted army fatigue green so that blended into the bush, but you could still see some letters through the paint - an S, a V."
There is no question that Graver is a literary artist. There was also some excellent character development, specifically with the younger Charlie from the 1970's to the present. My biggest complaint would be that Graver took too long to establish the storyline in the beginning and I found it difficult to keep track of who the characters were. With the exception of "Plants and their Children" about 100 pages or so into the book, the style was third person narrative. This particular chapter changed things up a bit with a first person narrative, specifically in diary form. This really worked for me, and the transition helped me to better absorb the actual story.
While the family is affected by the times (specifically World War II and the Vietnam era) don't expect dramatics here. The changes are subtle and quite a bit is internal to the characters. A John Jakes saga this is not.
The End of the Point is a quite, intimate novel, rich in landscape and prose that shows how people and place can be connected as surely as family. 3 1/2 stars.(less)
I was offered an advance review copy of this novel, which enticed me with the publisher’s description:
“…a haunting novel about a grieving woman who d...moreI was offered an advance review copy of this novel, which enticed me with the publisher’s description:
“…a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.”
When I received the book, I discovered that it is one of a series, in which the author explores seánces, reincarnation and the supernatural world. Frankly, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but I did resolve to give it a try. When I got to the part about contacting Satan through a seánce, I knew I did not want to read further. Life is too short, and there are too many wonderful books out there (many already on my bookshelves!) just waiting to be read. Chalk this one up as abandoned.(less)
Of course, I thought I knew about Frank Lloyd Wright. I am familiar with his work – his fantastic, cutting-edge structures, from the clean-lined homes...moreOf course, I thought I knew about Frank Lloyd Wright. I am familiar with his work – his fantastic, cutting-edge structures, from the clean-lined homes with stained glass windows, beautiful pieces of mission-style furniture and amazing buildings like the Guggenheim in New York City. But I had no idea about his personal life whatsoever.
In Loving Frank, Nancy Horan examines the life of the architectural genius from the point of view of his mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who abandons her husband and children to pursue of life of intellectualism, art and love with Frank Lloyd Wright.
I was very impressed with this first novel by Nancy Horan. Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she knew of the Wright legend and thus began the idea for her book. Her research was impressive and her writing style equally so. She obviously spent a lot of time learning the subject of art, architecture and design, and the excitement Wright must have felt in creating shone through the novel’s pages.
I have to admit it really got under my skin. To have the story told from Mamah Cheney’s point of view, you hear her arguments for the choices she has made. Of course, this is supposition on Horan’s part, but it is educated supposition. I, like the general public at the time, did not approve of her choices and it made me a little uncomfortable with the style of writing that invited a relationship with her. On the other hand, because she was cast out from society because of her illicit relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright, it made me question how I would treat her myself.
I was equally amazed at the eccentricities of Wright and the personal history of the couple and their respective families. I am stunned that I had heard nothing of this before.
Finally, I couldn’t help but see a similarity between Wright’s life and the story behind Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. It made me wonder if she got the idea for her book from Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius and the public’s backlash against his way of life.(less)