This book put a personal face to the terrible troubles of Sierra Leone and is important reading for those interested in the history and social conditi...moreThis book put a personal face to the terrible troubles of Sierra Leone and is important reading for those interested in the history and social conditions of African countries. To read my full review: http://the-iceberg.blogspot.com/2008/...(less)
An entertaining read full of witty dialogue with a British accent. Was disappointed in the way the ending was handled by the author, but overall enjoy...moreAn entertaining read full of witty dialogue with a British accent. Was disappointed in the way the ending was handled by the author, but overall enjoyed the book. To read my full review: http://the-iceberg.blogspot.com/2008/...(less)
I found this book very compelling and well written. The author tells of growing up in a transient and dysfunctional family. Jeanette Walls is to be co...moreI found this book very compelling and well written. The author tells of growing up in a transient and dysfunctional family. Jeanette Walls is to be commended for her love for and lack of bitterness toward her parents in this telling of her childhood. To read my full review: http://the-iceberg.blogspot.com/2007/... (less)
I don't know as though this is really a 4-star book, but I find my mind wandering back to the story long after having read it. I haven't written a for...moreI don't know as though this is really a 4-star book, but I find my mind wandering back to the story long after having read it. I haven't written a formal review for this book yet, but will add the link here when I do.(less)
This is definitely a book for Austen lovers. Not Shannon Hale's best work (her young adult books outshine this one) but a fun read none-the-less. To r...moreThis is definitely a book for Austen lovers. Not Shannon Hale's best work (her young adult books outshine this one) but a fun read none-the-less. To read my full review: http://the-iceberg.blogspot.com/2007/... (less)
The Historian is the interweaving of three stories. One from the 1930s, another from the 1950s, and the main narrative from the 1970s. The common deno...moreThe Historian is the interweaving of three stories. One from the 1930s, another from the 1950s, and the main narrative from the 1970s. The common denominator for all three stories is the quest for answers to the truth about Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), also known as Dracula. These interweaving stories involve mysterious old books, castles, crypts and a realization by the characters that the undead do exist.
Kostova provides plenty of atmosphere and uses a rather old fashioned way of revealing her story that reminds me of Bram Stoker. I'm sure this was intentional. Her novel could have easily devolved into mere cliche, but Kostova put her own twist on the vampire legend. She also avoided too much focus on the grotesque and instead created tension using the sinister. There are plenty of castle ruins, secluded monasteries, underground crypts, sinister librarians, and ominous Eastern Bloc secret police to hold the reader in suspense.
Kostova was able to use her characters to promote the idea that history is not dead and it is not just a story to be told. People actually lived and experienced the events from which we feel so removed. The horrors and the joys of the past were real to someone. Kostova also brought the historical research process to life and showed it as something active and exciting and even dangerous. The map of Cold War Europe on the front and end pages of the book was extremely helpful and gave some sense of place to the story.
At 642 pages (hardback version), the book is a commitment but I found it a good read that held my attention throughout.(less)
Bless Me, Ultima is set in a small village on the edge of the plains (the llano) of New Mexico during the 1940s. It is a coming of age novel from the...moreBless Me, Ultima is set in a small village on the edge of the plains (the llano) of New Mexico during the 1940s. It is a coming of age novel from the Hispanic perspective. Six year old Antonio must grapple with many conflicts as he strives to grow into a man in a multi-faith, multi-cultural setting.
Antonio has been born into a Catholic family and looks forward to his first Communion, but he has many questions about his natal faith. Paganism is native to this area of the Southwest and Antonio finds much to admire in this belief system. Antonio has a keen eye and mind that is open to many ideas as he searches for what is true. Both world views are present within his home. His mother is a strong Catholic while his elderly aunt Ultima (La Grande) is a curandera (healer) who aligns with a more pagan world view with its focus on the natural world.
Being in the Southwest, Antonio must also live in two cultures simultaneously. His native tongue is Spanish. When we first encounter Antonio, he speaks no English. He learns the English language and Anglo culture at school and is such a quick learner that he is promoted directly from first to third grade after his first year at school. He has a naturally inquiring mind that works well in a scholarly environment.
Antonio's mother is extremely proud of her little scholar since she has aspirations for him to become a priest and fill a role that has been missing for generations from her agrarian family. Antonio's maternal grandfather and uncles are the Lunas. They are peaceful farmers connected to the land and the flowing of seasons. Mama wants her Antonito to grow into a gentle and quiet man who fits into the Luna family mold. Antonio's father hopes for his son to become, like all Marez men, a plainsman of the llano. This group are a free spirited and wild bunch who prefer the wide open spaces and nomadic life. Alongside this parental struggle to bestow identity upon their son, is Ultima who teaches Antonio the healing arts and encourages him to listen to his own mind and heart. Ultima tells him that he must decide for himself what kind of man he will become.
Antonio experiences change as a palpable thing that affects him deeply as he searches for identity and embarks on his journey to manhood. I was transported back to that youthful hypersensitivity to change as Antonio tells his brother:
"I don't know--sometimes I get the feeling that I will come home, and it will all be changed. It won't be the same anymore--" I could not tell him that I wanted the castle of giants to stand forever, that I wanted the goat path and the hill to be for always. But I had misgivings, I was beginning to learn that things wouldn't always be the same.
Bless Me, Ultima is a poignant novel that engaged my emotions while it wrapped me in beautiful prose that made it hard to put down each night. I was drawn into the story. I felt sadness and terror and confusion. I also felt happiness and peace and hopefulness. Anaya's descriptions of the natural world were absolutely stunning and, at times, brought me to tears. I will not soon forget this book.(less)
Dreamers of the Day is a historical novel set mostly in Egypt during the Cairo Peace Conference of 1921. Agnes Shanklin is a forty-year-old, unmarried...moreDreamers of the Day is a historical novel set mostly in Egypt during the Cairo Peace Conference of 1921. Agnes Shanklin is a forty-year-old, unmarried, Ohio schoolteacher who has lived through the Great War (WWI) and the Great Influenza of 1919. Having lost her family and inherited a great fortune, Agnes determines to take a trip to Egypt and the Holy Land. She arrives in Cairo with only her long haired dachshund as company. Very soon after arriving, Agnes meets and falls into the company of T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, and Lady Gertrude Bell. We know these luminaries of history for their roles inventing the modern Middle East.
Ms. Russell sets her novel during this momentous time in history, but the story does not so much focus on the historical facts as they do on the characters themselves. We meet Lawrence, Churchill, and Lady Gertrude Bell in a way that gives insight into the personalities that drove the redrawing of Middle Eastern borders; decisions that continue to affect relationships between people groups and world events to this day.
The character of Agnes is fictional and tells the story of a middle-aged woman coming of age in a very romantic setting. Imagine lush hotels with marble floors and columns, potted palms, and blue tiled pools of water. Further imagine a trip by camel to visit the Great Pyramid and the mysterious Sphinx ... a journey into the desert that includes a full British tea under tents hastily erected by servants who serve the meal on fine bone china and silver. It is in this bigger-than-life setting that Agnes interacts with the aforementioned historical characters. It is also in this setting that she experiences her first love affair and comes to know her own mind and heart as a woman. Agnes' discovery that Karl, her lover, is a German spy adds an element of intrigue to the already full plate of historical, coming of age, and romantic aspects of the novel.
Ms. Russell shows great insight into human nature within the context of her characters and their relationships. One such insight occurs during a painful yet illuminating conversation between Agnes and Karl -- a conversation about her mother and the nature and effects of tyranny. Ms. Russell does not neglect cultural and political commentary in her novel, but I found these a bit jarring as they come from the mouth of a character enmeshed in a "history" still in the making. It seemed a bit of 21st century hindsight was leaking into early 20th century cultural and political insight, but this small "bump" in presentation did not affect my overall enjoyment of the book.
Dreamers of the Day will take you on a leisurely journey through an intriguing place and time in world events using both historical and fictional characters. It is a well written and atmospheric book that I did not want to end.
"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." -- from ui>Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
Advance Reader's Copy of Dreamers of the Day graciously provided by Random House through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.(less)
This is a wonderful retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale by the same name. Whereas the original tale is sparse in detail, Ms. Hale is able to fl...moreThis is a wonderful retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale by the same name. Whereas the original tale is sparse in detail, Ms. Hale is able to flesh out her retelling in characters, place and politics and skillfully includes various fairly tale characteristics such as magical elements and transformations. I highly recommend this book to young and old alike. To read my full review: http://the-iceberg.blogspot.com/2007/...(less)