The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon","David Grann" "This is a very readable, well researched book. It focuses on explorer ColThe Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon","David Grann" "This is a very readable, well researched book. It focuses on explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett, and his obsession to find a great. ancient city deep in the Amazon jungle which he called Z. Z ,if it existed, may have given rise to the legend of El Dorado. The book tells the story of Fawcett's quests, and of the author attempting to journey to the Amazon to try to solve some of the mystery around Fawcett's mysterious disappearance on his 1925 expedition. Anyone interested in early 20th century exploration and past and present day Amazonia should enjoy this book. Prior to his ill-fated journey, Fawcett had explored the Amazon several times before. He was an arrogant man, rarely getting along with those who accompanied him on his journeys. He seemed immune to most tropical illnesses and scorned those who became ill or couldn't keep up to his break-neck pace, regarding them as weak. His obsession to find Z bordered on madness as he consulted spiritualists. The author found that his papers showed ever increasing bizarre beliefs. For his last journey he advertised for strong men to accompany him (no women allowed). A large number of scientists, explorers, athletes and people wanting adventure or just wishing to get just away from home replied. Among those turned down was Lawrence of Arabia . Fawcett felt that a person used to the desert would never keep up to him in the jungle. Instead he decided to go accompanied by his 21 year old son and the son's best friend. As Fawcett was very secretive, not wanting any rival explorer to find Z before he did, his exact route was unknown or sometimes written in code. The disappearance of Fawcett and the two young men caused a sensation, and countless people also vanished or died searching for them.It also tells the stories of other explorers in the early part half of the 1800's. These adventurers have now been replaced by archaeologists and anthropologists. Grann discovers in his journey that a ruins which may have led to the legend of Z is being studied and excavated, and believes he knows the fate of Fawcett and the two young men from stories passed on by several Indian tribes."...more
"The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope","William Kamkwamba"
"An inspirational true story about and written by a yo"The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope","William Kamkwamba"
"An inspirational true story about and written by a young boy from a farm in Malawi. The family is poor and it becomes worse, as the entire village, in fact the whole country, is struck by a famine. He has had very little schooling, and has to drop out when the crops fail as his family are barely surviving starvation and cannot afford his tuition. As there is nothing growing on the farm, his father allows him to spend time at the village library. One day he sees pictures of windmills during his time looking at science books, and decides to build a windmill out of pieces he assembles from garbage dumps and salvage yards. He is successful and manages to bring electricity to the family home. While building it he was laughed at by the villagers and called a boy who liked to play with garbage. When they see he has made electricity they are most impressed, and he begins to teach others to do the same. He is asked to travel to technical conferences in Africa and then the USA to describe to others his accomplishment. He later builds windmills to irrigate the family farm , and sponsors have funded his way to a college which he now attends."...more
Although I do not often read historical fiction, I enjoyed this book. I learned many years ago that Socrates taught Pl"The Golden Mean","Annabel Lyon"
Although I do not often read historical fiction, I enjoyed this book. I learned many years ago that Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle.Then Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. I could not imagine Alexander the Great with a teacher so different than himself, but fortunately Annabel Lyon did in this well researched and imaginative story. Aristotle's task was to teach the Golden Mean between extremes of behavior. Alexander was torn between his father, king and warrior, and Aristotle, man of reason and science. The insight into the battles, roles of women, slaves and servants was insightful.I sometimes felt the characters way of speaking was a bit too modern. I liked the author's sense of humour at the Giller ceremony, and the fact that her book is doing so well in sales. She stated that (considering what is popular in recent books and mass media) that maybe it would have been better to portray Aristotle as a vampire, which I found amusing."...more
"Galore","Michael Crummey" "This was a sprawling, multi-generational epic, focusing on two Newfoundland families living in a small outport community."Galore","Michael Crummey" "This was a sprawling, multi-generational epic, focusing on two Newfoundland families living in a small outport community. The author helpfully included a chart of the family trees to which I found myself referring back.. I wish more writers used this device in their books, The characters were eccentric and larger than life. A very enjoyable read!"...more
"Under the Dome: A Novel","Stephen King", "At 1072 pages, this is a mammoth book. I listened to the audio version on my iPod and the length was 34 hrs"Under the Dome: A Novel","Stephen King", "At 1072 pages, this is a mammoth book. I listened to the audio version on my iPod and the length was 34 hrs.29 mins. There were many vividly drawn characters, heroes, dastardly villains and ordinary citizens of a small town in Main cut off from the rest of world by a large invisible dome. Often when I listen to an audio book I wish I were reading it in print, as I feel I need to go back and review in order to keep the characters straight. It is a tribute to King's genius that he could populate the novel with so many characters, and the people were so well depicted. The story gripped me from page 1. There was a lot of suspense and the pace kept accelerating. The Dome touched on many topics: the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, cruelty of humans to animals (and insects), environmental degradation, religious fundamentalism, crooked politicians, drug trade, etc. Unfortunately I found the story dragging for about the last 5 hours. I liked the supernatural part, but found the dreams and visions of people in later part of the book tiresome, and thought there must have been a better resolution for the plot. I would have giving the book 5/5 stars for most part, but started to lose interest near the end. 3.5 stars"...more
"A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta","Paul Theroux" "I found this an unpleasant and disturbing story about a Western writer who gets involved with a we"A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta","Paul Theroux" "I found this an unpleasant and disturbing story about a Western writer who gets involved with a wealthy and mysterious woman renowned for charity work when she asks him to solve a murder. The woman is not what she seems and leads him through the cults and child labor workshops in the country. Found the story ugly and pointless."...more
"The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery","Alan Bradley" "I thought this was a better book than Sweetness at the Bottom of t"The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery","Alan Bradley" "I thought this was a better book than Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Bradley's description of the woods is wonderful. He knows how to use words to draw you into and feel the settings. The mystery is more complex than in the previous novel, and Flavia is several steps ahead of the police force in solving a present murder, and she also solves a mysterious death which occurred 5 years before. There is the addition of an elderly aunt who visits Flavia's family, and a handsome farm worker who was shot down in the village and became a German prisoner of war. The first murder is of a traveling puppet master, and the other death was that of a 5 year old whose death several years previously may or may not have been accidental."...more
"Ordinary Thunderstorms","William Boyd","1408802473","review","A young, successful climatologist moves from the USA to London after a divorce. He has"Ordinary Thunderstorms","William Boyd","1408802473","review","A young, successful climatologist moves from the USA to London after a divorce. He has just been interviewed for a prestigious position for which he will probably be hired. Following the interview something happens, and through a series of bad luck and bad choices he finds himself on the run from the police and from an ex-commando hit man. He finds himself penniless, with no identity and living in the streets, or rather behind some bushes on the banks of the Thames. He gets involved with a prostitute and her young son, and also a cultish fringe religion which attracts the homeless because of free meals..The Church of John Christ, and then a policewoman. None of them know his true identity. I did not find the characters believable and didn't care for any of them. The book started out with a good premise, but wasn't feeling the middle or the unresolved ending....more
"Beatrice and Virgil","Yann Martel" "In this book Henry is living a good life. He has published a best seller and critically acclaimed book with animal"Beatrice and Virgil","Yann Martel" "In this book Henry is living a good life. He has published a best seller and critically acclaimed book with animals the main subjects. He brings his next book idea to the publisher. His idea is to write a flip-book. Half will be a non-fiction , historic account of the Holocaust, then when it is finished half way through, turn the book upside down for a fiction story on the remaining half. The members of the book committee turn his presentation down as being too bizarre. What Yan Martel has written is even stranger. Henry moves with his wife to some unnamed city in an unknown country. His wife gets work and Henry passes his time taking music lessons and performing in an amateur drama club. He has a writer's block after the rejection of his book idea. Henry's wife has a baby and they adopt a dog and cat. One day while walking the dog Henry comes upon a taxidermist shop run by a dour old man who has written to him asking for help. This mail was among the many fan letters Henry has received,and it has piqued his curiosity as it contains a short story by a famous author. Without giving too much away, the old man demands he listen to a play he has been writing for years. The play contains dialogue between a stuffed monkey in the shop and a stuffed donkey. This goes on for a number of pages where they discuss pears and bananas, and is rather yawn inducing. For a long time I was feeling the book had no plot. The man demands three things from Henry: to describe the appearance of the two animals in literary terms, to describe in words the scream of a howler monkey and to make up a number of games for the play. The old man never thanks him for any help but Henry keeps going back. Needless to say, Martel has written an interesting, but very strange story, which I will not give away, and I liked it , but as time goes by find am liking it less. I found it no where as good as Life of Pi, his previous book....more
"The Elephanta Suite: Three Novellas","Paul Theroux", "I have read with pleasure all of Theroux's travel books and a couple of his novels, but always"The Elephanta Suite: Three Novellas","Paul Theroux", "I have read with pleasure all of Theroux's travel books and a couple of his novels, but always felt that for a travel writer he did not enjoy most of the places he visited, or the inhabitants or his fellow travelers. This book is set in India, and is composed of 3 separate stories. There are some wonderful sights in India, and some lovely people. However he only dwells on the ugliness. The first two stories involve Westerners who get mixed up with people in the sex trade, and I found unpleasant to read. The 3rd story involved a British girl and her misfortunes in India and her revenge. At least this story had a plot! 2.5 stars" ...more
"Baking Cakes in Kigali" "I looked forward to listening to this by audio book. The book is set in Rwanda and the writing has been compared to that of"Baking Cakes in Kigali" "I looked forward to listening to this by audio book. The book is set in Rwanda and the writing has been compared to that of Alexander McCall Smith, which is an insult to both Smith and Precious Ramotswe. The main character, Angel Tungaraza, has moved to Kigali, the capitol of Rwanda from Tanzania, and makes her living baking cakes. She draws out stories from her customers when they come to order cakes.I hope her cakes were not as sickly sweet as the narration. I found the book to be boring, and the dialogue didn't ring true. All the characters talked the same way, and I don't think anyone speaks in the manner of the book. Angel lives with her husband and they are raising 5 grandchildren from her late daughter and son. McCall Smith's gentle stories have a plot, but could find none here. With the terrible events in Rwanda's recent past, and the numerous deaths from AIDS in the country, it would be difficult to write such a dull book set in this country."...more
"House Rules: A Novel","Jodi Picoult" "I didn't feel it was one of her best novels. The mother was supposed to be sympathetic, but I felt she neglecte"House Rules: A Novel","Jodi Picoult" "I didn't feel it was one of her best novels. The mother was supposed to be sympathetic, but I felt she neglected her younger son in caring for her 18 year old with Asperger's Syndrome. Unlike her previous novels, I didn't find the characters to be completely believable....more
"This is a Pulitzer Prize winning inspiring true story.It tells the story of a young 3rd year medical studen"Strength in What Remains","Tracy Kidder"
"This is a Pulitzer Prize winning inspiring true story.It tells the story of a young 3rd year medical student from a family of farmers in Burundi. He belongs to the minority Tutsi tribe and is working in a hospital in a town away from his home village. When the Hutus begin slaughtering the Tutsis the killing reaches the building where he is working, and after hiding he flees on foot. He cannot get back to his home so walks to Rwanda just before the mass murder starts there. Not a good idea! He camps out in Rwanda hiding amongst a group of Hutu refugees in fear he will be recognized as a Tutsi and become another victim. He finally makes it back to his home village in Burundi and finds his family and friends are either missing or dead. It is still unsafe for him there. A friend's father from his former school who is a French man gives him a plane ticket to New York City and he arrives in NY with $200 which is soon gone He speaks no English.. He works for a cruel boss delivering groceries at very small salary and is sleeping in abandoned buildings on floor amongst drug addicts and thieves and feels unsafe, so sleeps on ground in Central park. He is befriended by several generous Americans while camping out in the park, and eventually learns English, goes to medical school in America. He returns to Burundi and arranges for building a free medical clinic in a village where he locates the remaining living members of his family. The book gives an excellent political and historical summary of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict both in Burundi and Rwanda, but I found the narrative rather repetitive."...more
"A Beautiful Place to Die: A Novel","Malla Nunn" "This is an excellent, Edgar Award nominated mystery. I felt it was well written, with an excellent s"A Beautiful Place to Die: A Novel","Malla Nunn" "This is an excellent, Edgar Award nominated mystery. I felt it was well written, with an excellent sense of place and characters who seemed very real. An English speaking policeman from Johannesburg is sent to a remote settlement near the Mozambique border to investigate the murder of an Afrikaner (Boer) police chief.Helping him is a Black policeman who is not permitted to do much and an teen aged policeman. The Afrikaners seem to be the elite of the settlement, and feel superior to the English, the Coloured population (people of mixed race), and the Blacks. The time is 1952 and laws of separation have just been enacted, and people who cross these lines do so at their own peril. Also in the village is an old German Jew who is shunned by most. The Boers are described as religious in the extreme, sanctimonious, believing it is their God giving right to rule and spiritual destiny. This is how the murdered police chief presented himself, but the policeman soon learns he had a secret dark side. He has grown sons who want to avenge his murder and don't like the English policeman interfering. To complicate matters a couple of very brutal, vicious Security men arrive planning to place the blame on a Black Communist student, and try to get the English policeman off the case, as he believes the murder was based on personal rather than political motives. I am hoping there is a sequel. Enjoyed the book very much!"...more