This is one of those books that is just right up my alley. It's got historical-fiction, mystery, murder, a literary celebrity, and just plain good cha...moreThis is one of those books that is just right up my alley. It's got historical-fiction, mystery, murder, a literary celebrity, and just plain good characters. And don't worry if you've never read anything by Charles Dickens. After reading this, though, you may want to start.
The story starts off just after the death of Charles Dickens. His death has caused quite the stir, not just because of his popularity but because he left his latest novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Back then, many novels were published segments at a time as serials. So everyone knew that the title character, Edwin Drood, had been murdered by his uncle. But how did the story end? This was particularly aggravating to his London and American publishers.
It's left to one of the partners of Dickens' American publishers, James Osgood, to track down and see if Dickens left any notes or papers revealing how the story would end. They are racing against thieves and unsavory characters who will publish their own versions and who will even murder to get their hands on the valuable document.
I enjoyed this novel on so many different levels. First of all, this is a fun mystery adventure filled with thieves, creepy villains, opium dens...all that is great in a Dickens novel. James Osgood and his assistant Rebecca Sands are just an awesome hero/heroine duo. I loved the insight into the cut-throat publishing world of the 19th Century. I had no clue that the U.S. was such a breeding ground for unauthorized printing.
But my favorite aspect of this book was all that I learned about Charles Dickens. There is one segment that flashes back a few years to when Dickens did a whirl-wind American tour. I had no clue how huge of a celebrity he was back then. I mean HUGE. I really want to know more about him. And his story is one of those things where fact really is more crazy than fiction. For instance, he was in this huge train accident and miraculously survived, even helped to save other passengers. But the whole experience haunted him tremendously. Five years later, to the day, he passed away. And this is just ONE of the crazy things I learned about him.
So again, you don't have read any of Charles Dickens novels to enjoy this one. But it inspired me to read some. I'm in the middle of reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood right now and am really enjoying it. It's actually pretty humorous as well.(less)
If you enjoyed Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", then you'll love this. While Atwood's tale was especially scary for women, this tale is gender...moreIf you enjoyed Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", then you'll love this. While Atwood's tale was especially scary for women, this tale is gender un-biased on it's creepiness.
This terrifying not-so-distant future takes place in Sweden. Dorritt Weger is turning fifty and her life is about to change. Although she is fit, healthy, and relatively happy, she is as labeled dispensable. She is not married nor does she have kids. So she packs her bags, has to give her beloved dog a new home, and is packed off to The Unit.
The Unit is like a slice of paradise. There's beautiful gardens, delicious food, swimming pools and saunas, and stores with luxury clothing. And it's all free. The catch...they are guinea pigs and organ donors bit by bit until their final donation. Some tests are simple psychological ones. Others test drugs and have horrible side effects. Some organ donations are easy such as kidneys, others, like cornea donations have obvious setbacks to the donor. Some people in The Unit live there for a handful of years and some are just there a short while.
Dorritt doesn't really question all of this. Obviously she'd rather not be there and misses her dog and her old life terribly, but escape is never really thought of. That is until she finds love with someone in The Unit and it gives her a reason to live. What then?
Like Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", I thought this future was terrifying. The idea that some people are more dispensable than others is just horrifying. This book really sucked me in and I think it's a must-read dystopian novel.(less)
In 2003, two thirty-something friends take a vacation to Granada, Spain to enjoy the town and take lessons in flamenco dancing. Sonia is in a love-les...moreIn 2003, two thirty-something friends take a vacation to Granada, Spain to enjoy the town and take lessons in flamenco dancing. Sonia is in a love-less relationship with her husband and has taken refuge in her weekly flamenco classes. During her trip, she meets an elderly waiter who proceeds to divulge the torrent history of Granada and Spain during the Spanish Civil War which started in 1936 in an army coup led by General Franco. The story revolves around one family's tale, the Ramírez family who's daughter Mercedes was a talented flamenco dancer and who's son was a famous bullfighter.
The first part of the story was ok. I'm more of a historical fiction fan so I was impatient to get to the Ramírez family's story. But it did drive home a point that many of us are not too familiar with Spain's story during this time period.
When it was time for the Ramírez family's story, I almost thought I wasn't going to like this book. The story is definitely laid out as a narrative with few actual dialogue pieces. I'm not used to this type of story telling. I thought it was a bit too removed and distant. BUT...then I got into the story. Victoria Hislop paints the town of Granada with such vividness that I can almost see the streets. Mercedes was such a beautiful character living for two things: flamenco dancing and her love for the gypsy guitarist Javier. Long after the story ended I still think on the Ramírez family, just one of thousands of families who's lives were ripped asunder by the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime.
This book is a bit of a trip. Take chick-lit, a bit of romance, Irish historical-fiction, and time travel and mix it all up, throw in a little bit of...moreThis book is a bit of a trip. Take chick-lit, a bit of romance, Irish historical-fiction, and time travel and mix it all up, throw in a little bit of Irish wolfhound and you've got Now & Then. And I totally enjoyed it. **Warning: The dog plays a fairly small part in the story.**
Anna O'Shea is a bit of a mess. Her father abandoned the family, her brother has anger issues, her nephew has just landed in jail, and her husband left her for another woman after three failed pregnancies.
Joseph O'Shea is a bit of a mess. He's sixteen, unpopular at school, and only good at wrestling, not the most popular sport at school. His father just got into a huge car accident while on his way to pick up Joseph from jail and his aunt, Anna, is furious with him.
Enter the time-travel. How? Why? Read the book!
Anna and Joseph get whisked back in time to country Ireland, 1844. Just one year before THE potato famine. And they get separated. Anna is injured and is taken in by some of the country people. Joseph gets taken for a non-Irish Canadian and is taken in by a wealthy Englishman. And of course, they both fall in love with someone while in historic Ireland. Anna and Joseph have to find each other, figure out what happened and why, and how to get home...if they still want to go home.
What I liked:
I enjoyed the sections narrated by Anna. I really liked her and just wanted her to be happy. I loved the historical setting in Ireland. The way the Irish were suppressed by the British landlords and what they had to do to survive was fascinating and horrible at the same time. I love that it was kind of realistic too. Anna got beat up quite a bit which I don't think you'd find in a romance novel. I mean, at one point she looses some teeth. O yeah.
What I didn't like:
Ok. I think the cover and blurb is so misleading. I thought this book would be more dog-centric, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong. There is a dog. An Irish wolfhound name Madigan. He has more to do with Joseph's part of the story. But just a bit. Madigan's importance really only comes out at the very end. And speaking of Joseph, he was so annoying. I guess he's a sixteen year-old but still. Hmm...I guess that is it.
While it wasn't the story the cover led me to believe it was, it was still a fun time-traveling ride. I have to admit I'm a sucker for Irish history so that was a huge bonus for me. (less)
I love this novel. I'm not sure if I love it because I had no expectations or what, but what a beautiful book. Beware: If you are the type that might...moreI love this novel. I'm not sure if I love it because I had no expectations or what, but what a beautiful book. Beware: If you are the type that might tear up while reading a book, this is one of those books. The idea behind the story is based on events in the author's life. You can read his idea for the book here.
The story follows the life of a dog named Giv. The book is composed as the story of Giv's life written by one of Giv's many owners, Sergeant Dean Hickok. From Giv's birth, by chance, fate, or luck, he gets passed on from person to person, from experience to experience. The blurb from the press release by Americans Speak says "The Forrest Gump of dog books." I'm not sure about all that, but boy does Giv go through some stuff. He's in Dallas with some struggling musicians checking out the book depository, he's there through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and he's there for an Iraqi war vetran.
While the book is about a dog named Giv, it's also about the people he meets. Memorable characters. Heart-wrenching characters. It's about the free-will, undying spirit of man and man's best friend. I loved how the idea of the act of rebellion, not always a bad thing, was a piviotal aspect of the book and the character of Giv. Boston Teran wrote rebellion as "the power to choose freely who one will or will not be". I like that. As he points out, America was founded by rebels and there's a little bit of rebel in us all.
I find it hard to write about this book and not sound cheesy or blubbery...but I can't help it. I really loved it. I was really surprised how much I liked it. It's not a book I would have picked up on my own but I am so glad I was sent it. (less)
The Creed of Violence starts out on the Texas/Mexico border in 1910. Mexico is rumbling for revolution which is a problem for both countries because o...moreThe Creed of Violence starts out on the Texas/Mexico border in 1910. Mexico is rumbling for revolution which is a problem for both countries because of Mexico's much-needed oil fields (hmmm...sounds eerily familiar). John Lourdes is a young agent in America's Bureau of Investigation (early FBI). His job is to take the criminal known as Rawbone and travel with him and a truck full of weapons across the border into Mexico undercover. Rawbone is working with the Bureau to gain immunity. Problem? Aside from the obvious dangers of working undercover in a country on the brink of revolution, Rawbone is John Lourdes dead-beat father. John Lourdes knows this. Rawbone does not.
I really enjoyed this book for two reasons: the setting of the novel and the relationship between father and son. I could totally see why The Creed of Violence is being adapted in to a movie. What a violent and vivid portrait he paints of Mexico, the revolutionaries, the violence, and America's intervention into the fray. The setting sucked me into the novel but it was really the relationship between Rawbone and John Lourdes that kept me reading.
Here's the first line of the book which is about Rawbone:
"He was born in Scabtown the day Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater."
I love how it starts out. Rawbone is a criminal and a common killer. He never knew his father and his prostitute mom died when he was young. Left on his own he turned criminal. Honestly, I kind of liked him. He was sort of funny with a type of wit that made him a likable character. John Lourdes, ironically, had a similar sad upbringing. Rawbone was married to his mom and then took off when Lourdes was young. His mom passed away shortly after. But instead of turning criminal like Rawbone, Lourdes joins the Bureau of Investigation. He's angry at Rawbone and really wants to see him dead.
But their journey together changes them. And that's the part of The Creed of Violence that I enjoyed. I'm excited to see how this book will be adapted to the big screen. I wonder who would portray Rawbone and John Lourdes. (less)