August 30, 2009

Storm Peak

John A. Flanagan is the successful author of the Rangers Apprentice series which are very popular with our younger readers. This is his first adult novel and it is a well crafted murder mystery with a competent loner female sheriff, a troubled and also competent man with a past who is drafted as her deputy and a suitably nasty serial killer on the loose. It is a paint by numbers story, with a little love interest, a mountain chase and a spectacular setting in a ski resort town. A satisfying read for lovers of this genre. I'll be happy to look out for his next offering.


One Thousand White Women

This novel is written in the style of fictionalised journal entries and letters from a white American woman who takes part in an attempt by the American government to treat with the Cheyenne nation by supplying them with 1,000 white women to be their wives and aid assimilation to white culture. In spite of the novel's attempts (including the blurb on the back cover) to set this out as historical truth, an author's note at the back of the book states that although this was a request from the Cheyenne, it was turned down flat with considerable disgust by the authorities. Nonetheless, it is an interesting construct - looking at a sad time in American history when the Cheyenne knew their days as an independent and proud nation were numbered. The wives who were drawn from mental homes, prisons and the vulnerable in society have a remarkable adventure facing troubles and happinesses - identifying with their new husbands and families but unable to understand the more brutal aspects of their culture.


The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

I quite enjoyed this slight novel dealing with the retired Mr Ali who creates a Marriage Bureau to use up his energy and time when he becomes bored after retirement. There are echoes of Alexander McCall Smith in his gentle prose and exploration of social customs although his finished product is nowhere near the well crafted delights of Mr McCall Smith. The plot is perhaps contrived and many of the characters are not developed however you do get an understanding of a very different culture and discover that human relationships do not vary so much wherever you are n the world.


August 22, 2009

Audition by Ryu Murakami

This is proclaimed to be the novel behind the "acclaimed cult movie'' which I haven't seen. A Japanese documentary maker, Aoyama, hasn't dated since his wife died seven years before and he is urged by his son and friend to seek a new wife. He advertises for actresses for a film he doesn't intend to make so he can look over many women with the characteristics he seeks. When Yamasaki Asami enters the room, "Aoyama had a very distinct sensation that something extraordinary was happening all around him. It was like being the millionth visitor to an amusement park, suddenly bathed in spotlights and a rain of balloons and surrounded with microphones and flashing cameras." When she spoke "it was a voice that poured into your ears and oozed down the nerves to the nape of your neck - neither high-pitched nor deep nor dusky, but round and smooth and crystalline". Beguiled by her beauty and intrigued by her troubled past, he ignores the warning signs and rushes headlong into a steamy relationship. Aoyama is a decent man getting though life the best he can but Asami-san is playing by different rules and she wants to be the only person in his life.
This novel is beautifully translated from Japanese by Ralph McCarthy. It is a short novel, lyrically descriptive, explicitly sexual and shockingly violent. It is truly said that you should be careful what you wish for!

The Sonnets

Warwick Collins has imagined Shakespeare's life during the time he was exiled from London when theatres were closed as a result of the plague in 1592-4. In conjuring this time, Collins gives a context for 32 of the 154 Sonnets and explores some of the political events as the periphery to the poet's work. He postulates a theory as to the 'dark lady' who has fascinated Shakespearean scholars over the centuries. He may or may not be right - but it is an interesting conceit and a pleasant way to re-acquaint yourself with some of the best-known poems of all time. You get a flavour for Elizabethan life and the insecurities of a young man with his way to make in the world. And I couldn't resist including one of my favourite sonnets below!

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

August 21, 2009

The Underneath

Kathi Appelt has published several picture books according to her biog in this book but I hadn't particularly come across her. Her debut novel is haunting, cruel, endearing, heartbreaking, disturbing, glorious, and captivating.

"It wasn't the chirring of the mourning doves that woke the calico cat, or the uncertain sun peeking through the clouds, or even the rustling of a nearby squirrel. No, it was the baying of a nearby hound. She had never heard a song like it, all blue in its shape, blue and tender, slipping through the branches, gliding on the morning air. She felt the ache of it. Here was a song that sounded exactly like she felt.............." Wendy

August 11, 2009

Hugo Awards

The Hugo Awards

for SciFi/Fantasy

have just been announced -

check out the website

for more details.

Briefly these are
annual awards for excellence
voted on by fans!


August 06, 2009

Still Alice

I cannot rave enough about this book! It is a long time since I read something with such impact.

Have you ever paused a moment to consider what it might be like to descend into dementia? Still Alice is the story of one woman’s journey through early onset Alzheimer’s. Alice is a 50year old psychology professor who, at first puts her forgetfulness and confusion, as most of us would, to ageing, stress, lack of sleep.

Although fictional, Still Alice is a truthful and respectful depiction of life with Alzheimer’s and has been endorsed by the US National Alzheimer’s Association. Author Lisa Genova has a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard and combines her scientific understandings , with lots of research and contact with people who have Alzheimer’s and their carers resulting in a unique, touching story told from Alice’s perspective. I think that is what really makes the book so powerful as you become Alice. An easy read which I managed in a weekend ( although some of my tears slowed me down from time to time!).

Reading Still Alice has increased my awareness and understanding to the realities of the illness, and had me questioning issues of self and identity. The book left me moved and inspired. I reckon it will stay with you long after you have closed the last page. Linda

Devil's Brood

Sharon Penman has delivered an enthralling power play as Henry II and his fascinating wife, Eleanor of Acquitaine, deal with their 'devil's brood' growing up in her final volume of her trilogy on this the original power couple! Their 5 sons who include Richard the Lionheart and Prince John (of Robin Hood infamy) grow to manhood struggling to be recognised by their controlling father and to carve out their own destiny as Kings, Dukes and Counts in England and France. This is a long book - over 700 pages but the story rockets along as Henry deals with the aftermath of the murder of Thomas Beckett and the necessity to keep all his vassals in order. Sharon Penman does extensive research and adds notes explaining why she makes the choices she does when the historical record is not clear. Her website is also a source of good information on the period and her processes in writing historical fiction. As well as 'straight' historical fiction, she writes medieval mysteries which you will find in our Mysteries genre. I took a while to read this simply because the book is quite heavy - and I found it too heavy to read in bed but it's a great read so give it a go!

Kellerman Mysteries

The Kellerman family have added significant depth to our mystery collection. Jonathan Kellerman writes forensic psychology novels which delve into the murkier areas of human interaction following the cases of Alex Delaware and featuring a regular cast of LA police and Alex's on-again off-again relationship with a troubled sculptress. Faye Kellerman writes police procedurals with a cultural twist as her protagonist, Peter Decker, a seasoned cop marries a Jewish widow and then deals with the religious/cultural issues of that blended family as his stepsons grow up. his daughter from his first marriage, Cindy, also becomes a cop so some of the stories revolve more around her. Each of the Kellerman parents deliver well written genre offerings. Their son, Jesse Kellerman, is now well established as a mystery writer in his own right, having delivered 3 novels - Sunstroke, Trouble and The Brutal Art - which are all different, all excellently written and all show he has his parents' gifts for story telling and character development. His people are more likely to be adrift in a modern world where they are struggling to define their own place as they deal with unfolding mysteries and are well worth a look if you like a good mystery read.