Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Vintage Caper

Light and fluffy. The details regarding wine are interesting. I have no idea if they are accurate or not. Light on atmosphere. Stereotypical characters. Frankly this book if it were a good wine would need to age. I guess you might say this is a Beaujolais Nouveau of a novel. It's certainly no Grand Cru.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sarah's Key

This book has been calling out to me from the high-end paperback tables for a while. And I'm so glad I finally read it. It blends a wonderful woman in mid-life crisis tale with a harrowing story of World War II. And best of all, most of it takes place in Paris and its environs, a city I love to read about. I've already recommend it and will continue to recommend Sarah's Key.

A Gentleman's Guide to Gracious Living

Advertised as a novel of manners, this book reminded me of Richard Ford's trilogy about Frank Bascombe and the trials he encounters as his life changes due to a change in marital circumstances. Unfortunately, Dahlie's "hero," Arthur Camden is very hard to root for. All his misfortune seems to be a complete consequence of his doofus-ness. While the world of very rich New Yorkers is often fun to read about, this novel of manners mostly left me wishing I was reading Edith Wharton or re-reading Richard Ford rather than entering the world of Arthur Camden.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Human Croquet

I feel like I ought to go back and re-read this book given the ending, but then again, given that this is fiction, would I really learn the "truth?" A novel of a place and a family, Human Croquet plays with the idea of time and how we interact with it. But more importantly it deals with how we, as humans, young humans in particular, take the facts that surround us and create our story from them. Whether the story of any member of the Fairfax family is accurate is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors, and while Human Croquet comes no where near Case Histories and it's sequels, I'd still recommend this book. Though only after you've read the rest of her bibliography.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Part 2 of the Maureen O'Donnell trilogy. This time Maureen, her brother Liam and her friend Leslie find them tangled in a story that not only involves their native Glasgow, but travels to the Brixton section of London. Maureen is a most unlikely detective, not to mention unpaid. But her shrewdness and resourcefulness make her very sympathetic, not to mention her own underlying personal issues. I look forward to finding out how Maureen resolves those issues as her story winds up in the next book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society

My son asked me to read this book once he finished it. It's an interesting tale of four "orphans" working together to uncover a devious plot. It's nice to read books where there are puzzles that not only the characters, but you as the reader can solve. While I can't say I'm dying to read the next two installments, I'm glad my son is interested in reading them. It was an entertaining example of children's fiction.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I went from noir to noir and at least this noir was set in an actual noir period and place, Hollywood right after World War II complete with returning GIs, German emigrés, and Red Menace hunters. Kanon painted a vivid picture of studio system Hollywood, but unfortunately the novel, at times, read more like a screenplay than a novel (though heaven help us if someone attempts to convert the 500 pages). Overall, I enjoyed it and found it an amusing quick read.

The Bookman's Promise

Well, it turns out a crime solving former cop turned book dealer is a concept that wears thin by the third book. Once again Cliff Janeway is on the move. Why the crimes can't just come to Denver, I'll never know? And once again there's another woman, one who seems to fancy herself a Lauren Bacall to Janeway's Bogey judging from the dialogue which annoyed me to death. The concept was pretty good, but the execution of this book was lacking. I'm not sure if there's a fourth book, and I'm not sure if I care.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Child 44

An excellent novel of the Cold War Soviet Union. Not a spy novel, rather a crime novel, Smith does a fantastic job of conveying the emotions, motivations and actions of members of Soviet society in the days of Stalin and beyond.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lark & Termite

I did not like this book. It's a shortish book, but it was not a fast read. The story is told from shifting points of view over a few days both in 1950 and 1959. Basically it's a character study, and that's my main beef with it. I just did not like, identify with or enjoy these characters. The action was all remembered by the characters, and there just wasn't enough of it for my taste. Some might describe this as lyrical or poetic, but I describe it as dull.

Artemis Fowl

I read this to see if I thought if was appropriate for my 10-year-old and if I thought he would like it. He's just finishing the Percy Jackson, Greek mythology series, and we needed a new series to get to. I think this will suit him just fine. The main character, and the namesake of the book, is a bit of a shady 12-year-old, and thankfully, my son figured that out to. He realized that just because you're the main character, it doesn't make you "good" or "right." But the main part of the book, and the part my son will most enjoy, is Artermis' foes. They are elves and pixies and trolls and centaurs, a whole world of what we'd view as folklore creatures. My son loves fantasy, so this is right up his alley. I think the Artemis Fowl series is the next in our list.

Monday, October 12, 2009

City of Refuge

This is the novel I'll be recommending to anyone who asks me and probably to those who don't. Piazza tells the story of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina through some of the most real characters I've ever encountered in fiction. The descriptions of the storm itself and aftermath of the levee breaks are visceral, but it's the characters who really drive this story. I love the city of New Orleans and have been back several times since Katrina. This story cements my love for the city and my hopes that the government will do whatever it takes to do things right in the future so that Katrina never happens again.


A novel of crime set in Glasgow Scotland, a city I've never read about, Denise Mina paints a vivid set of characters and places as they ostensibly look to solve the crime that occurs in chapter 2. While the crime itself was gory, I'm glad that the novel didn't focus on that. Mina plays with a potentially unreliable narrator in a way that makes you question, yet hope, that our heroine, Maureen O'Donnell is in fact more together than you fear she is. I look forward to reading more of Mina's work.

Twenties Girl

I was so excited to find the latest Sophie Kinsella book available at my library just as I was leaving for the beach. I love Kinsella's heroines. They are always so adorable, and the latest heroines are no exception. As usual it's a quick read that leads to laughing out loud. While not as guffaw inducing as Can You Keep a Secret? and not as series inspiring as the Shopaholic, Twenties Girl is definitely worth taking a day to immerse yourself into and allow yourself the joy of this lighthearted story.

The Enchantress of Florence

This is my first Salman Rushdie novel. And I liked it. It's essentially a fairy tale right out of 1001 Arabian Nights. Set in the Middle Ages, this tale spans from India to the city state of Medici-run Florence and back again (and back again and again). Rushdie plays with the power of story-telling both to ourselves and to audiences. It's easy to be enchanted by this tale.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This has been on my want to read list for about a year, and I'm glad I could finally track it down at the library. The novel, set in Sweden, starts slow. It took me some time to get used to the Swedish names, especially the place names given that I have zero knowledge of Swedish geography. But once the story begins to shift from financial reporting and background checks to that of a disappearing heiress things really pick up and it's hard to put the book down. I won't give any of the plot points away, but I really like how complex this story is, both in terms of the number of elements and people in play to what they've all been hiding. I can't wait to get a hold of the sequel.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie

A delightful debut mystery in the vein of a Miss Marple, well if Miss Marple were only eleven years old. Set in the 1950s Sweetness has all the hallmarks of a good suspense story complete with unexplained deaths, but with none of the grit that infests most modern mysteries. Nancy Pearl put it perfectly, " it's gore-free, very funny in places, nicely written, not too sweet (despite the title) and narrated by a real charmer."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sacred Games

Whew! What an epic. I started this book in late May or so, then put it down in late June and then started back up with it after getting home from the beach. It was 947 pages crammed full of true writing. I'm glad I picked it back up.

This complex tale centers mainly around a Sikh police detective, but he is merely a jumping off point for many, many more well-drawn, thoroughly three-dimensional characters. The novel is mainly one of character and place rather than plot, though plenty happens too. Dickens has nothing on Chandra in terms of interweaving the stories of these many and varied people that populate the novel. It's a sometimes taxing read, but the book was well worth the effort, and I could easily go another 300 pages with these characters.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Arsonist's Guide to Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

Now with a title like this your imagination can go to all sorts of places. But essentially this is the story of a family and a boy/man and his two families, the one in which he is the son and the other in which he is the husband and secondarily the father.

Nevertheless the author also explores our relationship with books and authors, both living and dead and how they affect those of us who read. Like several characters in the novel, several times this week I didn't enjoy a book because I was afraid I was becoming the character I was reading. It raises the interesting and personal question, do we read to escape, to identify, or something else, or all of the above?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Until The Real Thing Comes Along

Okay, it's time to go home (or the book store) because I've scraped the bottom of the condo barrel. This is the kind of "women's book" I hate, namely a women's book that tries to be more in this case by making the love interest gay and by doing something to the mom that was so obvious it was painful. Okay, maybe back when it came out it was more meaningful or something. On the plus side it was less than 250 pages. I won't be seeking out any more of Ms. Berg's apparently plentiful work.

The Other Woman

More chick lit from the condo. I read one Jane Green book ages ago, but didn't like her as much as I like Sophie Kinsella, so I had not read any more. And while I liked this one more than I remember liking the other, there were things about this book -- namely the charcterizations rather than characters -- that annoyed me. None of the characters were particularly relatible or worthy of our sympathy. I know she was going for ambiguity, but it failed to pull it off in a more than skin deep level. Still, I might look for Swapping Lives at the library. Sounds intersting in that whole Trading Places sort of way.


So at the beach I ran out of reading material that I had brought, and I didn't want to go to the bookstore all greasy, so I ransacked the condo looking for something that would keep me going, and the first thing I found was Fishbowl. That little red dress on the top of the cover let me know exactly what I was getting into, chick lit through and through, but overall I enjoyed it.

The author tells the story of three 20-something Toronto "roomies" by alternating through the various roommates, switching POV with each chapter, and even resorting at times to omniscient narrator to cover all three at once. It does make me wonder which of the three is most closely the author herself. I'm guessing Jodine with a dash of Allie. While not the greatest book I ever read, the author does a fine job of keeping me entertained on the beach.

Water for Elephants

This book cover has intrigued me for quite a while. I would see it at the book store, and that shiny pink coat would catch my eye. But I had never picked it up to even see what it was about. Instead I found it on list of NPR's Summer Beach Reads and decided to bring it with me.

And boy am I glad I did. It's about the circus! Train circuses in the 1930s to be specific. What a world. Gruen does a fantastic job of painting a picture of this strange world and the people who find themselves in it. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone. It's a fast read with engaging characters and a spectacular setting. I want to continue to follow Jacob wherever he ends up.

The Prodigal God

A fleshing out of the parable of The Prodigal Son, Keller's book is especially aimed at the Elder brother's in our society, something I'm definitely guilty of being. Keller reminds us that it's not only going into the far country that separates us from our grace-filled God, but that self righteousness can be an even more insidious way to keep ourselves from the life God longs to give us. Something I need to remind myself of every single day.

Boy Meets Girl

More Meg Cabot, more emails, and memos and Instant Messages and the like. And more little girl in the big city finding her well-off soul mate while overcoming the odds of a horrible boss, a psychotic ex, and of course a constant shortage of cash. Cabot's books are predictable, but then again, I'm at the beach and that's what I want. Cabot's heroine lacks the sheer hilarity of Sophie Kinsella's and even Cabot's own Queen of Babble, but all in all, a fine quick read.

In Big Trouble

The 4th Tess Monaghan moves from Baltimore to central Texas, and Lippman does a great job inhabiting a new city. I love how poor Tess regularly bemoans her inability to instantly navigate new streets of in distinct contrast to her innate knowledge of her beloved hometown. But best of all, best, best of all, is that Crow is back. That's all I'll say because he's at the heart of the novel, but Crow is back. Yeah! I can't wait to see what happens to Tess next.

To Kill a Mockingbird

I had never read this novel despite growing up in Alabama. And after reading it with it's sensibilities mired somewhere between the 1930s and 1960 I can see why school didn't have us read it in the still not quite settled early 1980s. But boy am I glad I finally got around to it.

I grew up in a series of textile mill towns. While it's not exactly like Maycombe, I can relate easily to Maycombe and the people who inhabit it. Completely leaving aside the issues of justice, Lee does an amazing job painting a picture of Southern life in the 30s. Frankly that kind of life persisted well into the 60s and beyond.

I also like how Lee didn't sugarcoat Tom Robinson's story. I think she handled it with true realism. As for the enigmatic Boo, he reminds me of what Julia Sugarbaker once said. In the South, the question isn't do you have crazy people in your family; the question is what side are they on?

I finally get now why people are so disappointed Harper Lee never wrote another novel. Her prose was infecting, and now I too can be added to that list of many, many disappointed fans.

Revenge of the Spellmans

Oh Spellmans, you make me so happy. The 3rd book in the series is every bit as funny and engaging as the earlier editions. Everyone is acting as odd and suspicious (both acting like they're guilty and suspecting everyone else of guilt) as ever, and the trouble they get themselves into and out of is a fast-paced romp that will have you turning pages rapidly and wishing there was a fourth, fifth and sixth Spellman book already available.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interpreter of Maladies

An earlier collection of stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, earlier than Unaccustomed Earth that is. These are more "Indian" stories than those of Unaccustomed Earth. And while they were pleasant, these stories were a little too short and a little too foreign to be relatable. Nevertheless Lahiri is an excellent painter of small stories of small people, people we are or know. I look forward to more of her work.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Gone-Away World

A blending of Catch-22 with The Wolves of Calla, The Gone-Away World started fast, drug a bit in the middle, but once the twist was revealed (granted 400 pages in), I couldn't read fast enough. Harkaway combines humor with the very real feeling possibility of what we might be doing with our world. While a fantasy, this gone-away world could and might easily exist.

I hope the writers of LOST will ignore this one because if the Island could do what Stuff does we might never sort things out. Still it's fun to speculate on what Stuff might to do oneself. In the meantime I hope Gonzo and crew will continue to hold the pencilnecks of the world at Bey. Ninjas beware!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Bookman's Wake

The second Cliff Janeway novel. Cliff ranges beyond Denver and doesn't suffer for it. An intriguing lesson on printing books, how it's done, who does it, who collects it. Again a good detective novel with the interesting, at least to me, hook of the book business. Maybe a little long, but that's okay.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Boy Next Door

Ah Meg Cabot I can always count on you. Another adorable laugh out loud tale of a girl in the big city. It's funny how quickly the idea of email has progressed from something new to something we can't be separated from. Told entirely in emails this story of a 20-something finding love in NYC is not ground breaking, but it is entirely entertaining. Just what I needed for a holiday weekend.

The Venetian Betrayal

This book was just like the TV show 24 for me. It started out fast with an interesting premise and by the end I wasn't interested in finishing it and didn't care if every single person in the book died. If you like interesting sympathetic characters this is not the book for you. If you like plausible plots this is not the book for you. If you like things to make sense this is not the book for you. If however you like fast-paced, short chapters, boring action movie hero and villain types and don't mind things being utterly implausible then this is the book for you. Enjoy, but I did not.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Booked To Die

I was supposed to be reading this really long critically acclaimed deep dense novel, and I have gotten 300 pages into the 90o+, but I was on vacation and I was tired of reading for 3 hours and only covering 50 pages, so I switched to Booked to Die, a mystery involving a cop turned book dealer. And boy was I better for it.

A cop turned book dealer you say? Crazy, huh. But I found it believable and the book dealer stuff was really interesting. I can't say that I 100% bought the resolution of the prime mystery, but still it was an enjoyable vacation read and I intend to pick up the next in the series when I head to the beach in August. In the meantime, I've got to finish the other pulp book I used to avoid the deep novel and get back to the deep novel. Really. I have to. I'm a finisher.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Little Book

I am so over time travel.  After 17 episodes of Season 5 of LOST, Star Trek and this book, that's it.  I'm done with time travel of any sort for months if not years.

This book should have been right up my alley, essentially a historical novel but with an added element of time travel.  But I guess all the debate over whether whatever happened happens versus alternate universes finally fried my brain because I could not get into this novel.  And having forced myself to finish it I can't recommend it.  

It certainly proved the LOST producers point that time travel without characters you care about can be boring.  My biggest problem with The Little Book was that I just didn't care about Wheeler Burden or any of his ancestors.  My second biggest problem with the book is the focus on Freud and psycho-analysis.  Blah, blah, blah, that stuff doesn't interest me in the least and the contrivances with respect to Weezie were gross and unnecessary.  

This novel has been 30 years in the making.  I think that's part of the problem.  It was trying to be too many things at once -- a period piece; sci fi; a character study; a mixture of the real and the fictional.  It did none of them well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lace Reader

This is an unusual book for me.  It's what I'd call a woman's book, but it's not chick lit and it's not romance.  Still I can't imagine a man really enjoying it.  The book is set in Salem, Massachusetts.  I visited Salem about this time last year, and I like reading books set in places I've been, so it definitely satisfied on that level.

This is a very psychological novel and strongly involves the supernatural.  It's not a book I'd recommend without qualifications, but it was a good read.  The way the author plays with narrative is interesting, but most of all, the characters are well-drawn so that you care about their outcome.  I think the end was more disquieting than satisfying for me.  Still I'm glad I read The Lace Reader.  And for the record, I'd never get lace read for myself.  Not my scene.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

City of Thieves

A novel of WWII featuring plucky residents of Leningrad and the surrounding areas and their encounters with the evil Germans.  The writing was good; the story was taut, but I guess this just isn't my kind of subject matter.  It's a small tale of two young men in their personal war with the Germans and their own countrymen.  And as neither a male, nor Russian, nor Jewish it just didn't have much for me to identify with.  It was okay.  It wasn't a bad thing to read, but it wasn't a favorite and didn't have me staying up late turning the pages.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Story of a Marriage

I was so tempted to put this book down unfinished.  It started strong, but in the middle it got meandering and confusing.  I was never quite sure what was happening or what the characters intended to happen next, but boy was I glad I stuck with it.  The last 30 or so pages packed quite the emotional wallop, and I was very glad about how things turned out.  And the middle made more sense once I got to the end.  What we know and don't know but guess about others -- acquaintances, those we're intimate with and even ourselves is at the heart of this novel.  

I would quibble about the lack of actual communication between the main parties.  It seemed overly contrived.  The setting and the backstory makes it somewhat plausible, and as the main character often notes those were different times.  Still, these characters seemed to persist in non-communication in a way that's hard to imagine in the days of Dr. Phil.  All in all, a bit of a difficult book to read, but the end justified the journey.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Charm City

Charm City is the second Tess Monaghan novel, and much like many second episodes of television shows, I liked it even better than the "pilot."  Of course, being able to skip over the character set-ups and get down to action is the key to that.  Which is not to say Lippman skimps on her characters.  Instead we're able to focus on key details that make our recurring characters what they are, at least as relates to their strengths and weaknesses that come to play in the grander scheme of the mystery.

Lippman started writing these novels in the late 1990s, and it's sometimes jarring to reflect on how far we've come in a mere 10 years.  Computers alone have made exponential leaps, and the idea that everyone isn't carrying a cell phone, much less some Smart phone makes for more interesting plot twists than those writing about 2009 could get away with.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Monaghan at Ms. Lippmann's leading head into the 21st century --- and beyond.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth

Wow!  And wow!

I am not a fan of short stories or novellas, but Jhumpa Lahiri may have changed that for me.  These stories just blew me away.  Facially all stories of Indian, specifically Bengali immigrants, and their children, Lahiri manages to tell every kind of story -- parent, child, spouse, lover, housemate -- bringing empathy and identity with every differing point of view.

This changing point of view, this reading of our own expectations on those who surround us is patently evident in the first story as we shift between daughter and father.  My favorite story though was the 5th, Nobody's Business, as Sang and Paul navigated their paths.  In fact it was so compelling I was reading it during commercial breaks of LOST.  And trust me, for me that is very compelling.  

This was a book that was so good you both hurried to finish it and hated to finish it, and I'll admit the end even made me misty.  I could see what was coming, but so wanted to hope that it would not.

I have not read any of Lahiri's other works, but they are now on my list, and I can't wait to get to them.  

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Baltimore Blues

On the recommendation of Mo Ryan I decided to check out Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan novels.  I'm not a big mystery reader, but this was a good one and I plan to read more of the series.  Set in Baltimore which is on my radar thanks to The Wire and Ace of Cakes it's your basic murder mystery in which our fearless heroine tries to help out a buddy.  But the writing is good, the twists are good, the characters are good, and so the book was good.  Good job Ms. Lippman.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Size 12 Is Not Fat

So taking my own advice from the previous post, I went from that horrible book to Meg Cabot.  I was hoping that Heather Wells was going to be the antidote to whatever the name of the heroine was in The Manny.  And while Heather was definitely an improvement, she was no Queen of Babble or better a Shopaholic.

This book did have its LOL moments though, and for that I am grateful.  The plot tried admirably to twist and turn, but mostly the turns came after the signal had been blinking for blocks.  I'll probably give the next book in the series a try, but not until the library just happens to have it at my branch.  

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Manny

I don't know where I first heard of this book or why I thought I wanted to read it.  I think I must have thought given the title and the cover that this would be fun, harmless Chick Lit.  Entertaining, amusing, another Nanny Diaries type book.  But boy was I wrong.

Save yourself and never, ever pick up this book.  It is not funny.  The writing is terrible.  The plot is hackneyed and beyond predictable.  If you want a fun look at New York's Upper East Side watch some Gossip Girl or pick up any of Meg Cabot's books set there.  But for my Type A, must finish what I start personality, I would have and should have put this book down well before hitting its 351 page end.   Allegedly Ms. Peterson is writing another novel.  It will not be on my To Read list.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The End

I'm cranking through series this month.  In this period of time where I'm thinking about endings, first Dark Tower, then Battlestar, LOST next year, I think The End does a wonderful job of telling yet another story in the misadventures of the Beaudelaires yet also waxing quite eloquently on the nature of stories and the in medias res nature of most. We just don't get all the stories, even the ones that prominently affect our own lives.  While we might want to know everything, we just don't get to because that's not the nature of things and that's certainly not the nature of fiction where the number of pages or episodes are finite. And while we may not be satisfied with all endings we're given (fade to black), Lemony Snicket has done an admirable job of ending the beginnings he started. Bravo!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

When Will There Be Good News?

Read this author!  One of my favorite books I've read in a while.  I was enjoying it so much I didn't want to keep reading because then it would be over.  This is the 3rd novel by Atkinson that features Jackson Brodie.  Case Histories comes first, then One Good Turn.  Atkinson is a master of writing intertwining narratives about characters you really care about.  Ostensibly crime fiction, but the crimes serve merely to get the actors in motion.  Full of twists and turns, I envy everyone who is reading this book for the first time.  I can't wait until Ms. Atkinson's next offering.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battlestar Galactica

Wow what a series!  I watched most of it on DVD, but managed to catch up in time to watch the last 10 episodes as they aired.  This is a fantastic character driven story full of themes ripped from the headlines of our early 21st century world--themes like racism, multi-culturalism, terrorism, torture.  This was a show that could really make you think, but instead of being merely high-minded and preachy, it got down and dirty by driving the story with characters you loved, characters you hated and characters that made you love then hate them then love them again (or vice versa).  

Don't be scared off by thinking it's too Sci Fi (or SyFy, stupid network).  The setting of space was merely that, a setting, though it did lead to some kick ass action sequences, always a plus.  This is a series I'd recommend to everyone, especially everyone who likes LOST.  The continuity of the story is not as intense as in LOST, but BSG does pay off long threads, most of them in a very satisfying manner.  Go watch BSG!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Island of Doctor Moreau

Yep, another Island book. And boy am I glad this isn't one that's had too much influence on LOST. I much preferred this to the other Wells book I read recently, The Time Machine. Wells writing style in the 8 years between the two greatly improved in terms of readability. Essentially a shipwreck story, the Island is a place for science to be pushed to its limit and those things which define humanity itself challenged in more ways than one.

Arthur & George

This book has been on my To Read List for a couple of years now. And now I wish I'd read it earlier. This is one of my favorite type of novels. It's the story of two lives, essentially from birth to death, and how they came to overlap. And what's more, it's based on real people. Arthur is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, or infamy he might say. And George, well he's also real, but I'll let you discover his story for yourself. To tell you much would give his part away. Much of the story is based on fact including actual transcripts of various proceedings and correspondence. The setting is pre and post turn of the 20th century England. The pacing is a little slow in the beginning, but then it is wonderfully quick paced. The author does a great job of making you feel for the characters, but all the while making you wonder if there's something you don't know yet that will turn everything on its head. While not at its heart a mystery, the way those elements blend into this story of lives, famous and mundane, add to the enjoyment of reading Arthur & George.

The Dark Tower

Thousands of pages and I and Roland have finally arrived only to find --- no, I'm not telling. I've actually added up the pages from the 7 books I read. It's 4656. Wow! And worth it. I've enjoyed this journey I've taken with Roland and his ka-tet. I started reading the books because of LOST, of course, and there certainly have been numerous themes that overlap between the two endeavors.

But a couple of things stood out to me as I embarked on this last 1000 pages of my quest. First and foremost, the Dark Tower protagonist and those involved with him understood their quest, much as I understood my quest was to read all these pages. That's a key thing that's been so lacking and often so frustrating in a hurts so good way on LOST. It's clear our 815ers and therefore us as viewers still don't have a clue what our goal is. Widmore may know; Ben may know; Jacob may know; Richard may know, but I wonder if we'll ever know even after that final episode airs.

Given this lack of goal on LOST I decided not to try to document all the overlaps in details between this book and the TV series. There were lots. I'm not sure if it's a case of homage or if it's a case that certain details signify certain things in the sci fi/fantasy genre, but trust me, the next time I encounter brain hemorraging, I'm going to assume teleportation or some form of time travel.

I don't really want to go on anymore, just suffice it to say that I'm glad I finally finished this series. I was very satisfied with the ending, and I think both the journey and the destination were worth the commitment.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Penultimate Peril

Only one more Beaudelaire book to go!  The Penultimate Peril reunites the Beaudelaire orphans with many volunteers and villains from their past.  In fact this is getting more and more like LOST and its myriad crosses.  And as the question of justice arises, our "heroes" can't plead innocent, but only comparatively innocent which makes me wonder if Ben or Widmore should make that plea.  The question of whether it is okay to do bad things for good reasons is at the forefront of this tale.  And as is the case with life I suppose, non of us are completely innocent, not even children orphaned and placed repeatedly in peril through no fault of their own.