Monday, December 31, 2012

"Zorro" by Isabel Allende. ****

  • Originally published 2005
  • Peruvian author
  • Review:  Allende, as always, is a wonderful storyteller

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"The Sculptress" by Minette Walters. ****

  • Audiobook
  • Originally published. 1995
  • English author
  • Review:  I really enjoyed this novel.  The characters were engaging, the multiple storylines were well handled, and i liked the way the plot started with a murderess in prison and worked, essentially, backwards.  The crisp prose made the story move along at a good pace, and there were just enough surprises to keep me on my toes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Noah's Compass" by Anne Tyler. ***

  • Audiobook 
  • US author 
  • Originally published 2009
  • Review:    A nice, quiet Anne Tyler novel.  An unprepossessing man struggles to makes sense of his life and winds up working in a preschool.  Starting over? A quiet, pleasant read.

"The Final Martyrs" by Shusaku Endo. ****

  • Part of year long read of Endo's works on LibraryThing. com
  • Originally published 1959
  • Japanese author
  • From Foreword by the author:
    • "...a good deal of time passes between the point when I drive the chisel into the block of ice and the moment when I can first sense that my characters have begun to move."
    • "...even a character who appeared only once in a short story waits now in the wings, concealed by the curtain, for his next appearance on-stage."
  • Quotes:
    • p.129..."Sometimes as I look into the mirror, I think this face must be what in Buddhism is called the 'face of dark delusion'.  A world where I search for salvation but have yet to discover the light; .....". 
    • p.130..."The appropriate level of darkness and the appropriate clamminess in the room provide me with the same feeling of liberation as that of being in my mother's womb." - describing his ideal writing environment
  • Interesting ideas:
    • room size is described by number of mats.....i.e. a "four-and-a-half mat room"
    • his description of death anxiety mirrors mine exactly!!
  • Review:  The themes in these stories included Endo's usuals:  Catholicism in Japan, martyrdom, loyalty, aging, facing mortality, parental conflict, and disappointment in the frailties of humanity.  The foreword to this collection was written by the author.  He indicates that many of the characters went on to be featured in his novels.  He also confirmed that much of his writing is autobiographical, which adds an interesting layer to the understanding of the themes.  Frankly, I think Endo is a very good writer, but was clearly driven to seek resolution to his own philosophical, spiritual, and personal issues.  Consequently, his plots, characters, and themes are repetitive, more so than other authors, in my opinion.  So, just read a couple of novels and you will be satisfied without being frustrated.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"The Vanished Man" by Jeffrey Deaver ****

  • Audiobook
  • Mystery/Suspense, Lincoln Rhymes series
  • US author
  • Originally published 2004
  • Review:  This installment of the Lincoln Rhymes series was fast paced and well done.  The evil magician and the novice match wits and the magical tricks really make this a good read!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Last Kind Words" by Tom Piccirilli ***

  • Audiobook
  • Mystery/Suspense
  • Originally published 2012
  • US author
  • Review:  I liked this story quite a bit and will read more by the author.  Generally, the notion of struggling with being a member of a family of criminals and trying to prove that his brother only committed some of the murders he is being put to death for is a unique plot.  What codes of honor exist in families and among criminals is an interesting question. Sometimes I thought too many issues were being tackled at once and the story seemed jumbled.  Definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Women of Algiers in Their Apartment" translated by Assia Djebar *****

  • Short stories
  • Algerian
  • Originally published in 1980
  • Vocabulary:
    • laterite:   a reddish ferruginous soil formed in tropical regions by the decomposition of the underlying rocks.
  • Quotes:
    • p.21..."Hatred! the painter hissed as he brought both tea and whiskey,  We suckle it with the milk of our exploited mothers!  They've understood nothing:  it's not only colonialism that's at the root of our psychological problems, but it's the belly of our frustrated women!  When we're just fetuses, we're already damned!"
    • p.34..."Gold coins don't need to go looking for takers!"
    • p.47..."I see no other way out for us except through an encounter like this:  a woman speaking in front of another one who's watching; does the one who's speaking tell the story of the other one with the devouring eyes, with the black memories, or is she describing her own dark night with words like torches and with candles whose wax melts too fast?"
    • p.48...." this strange city, drunk with the sun but with prisons high up on every street, does every woman live first for herself or for the chain of women once locked in, generation after generation, while the same light, an unchangeable, rarely dimmed blue, continues to pour forth?"
    • p.50..."For Arabic women I see only one single way to unclock everything:  talk, talk without stopping, about yesterday and today, talk among ourselves, in alll the women's quarters, the traditional ones as well as those in the housing projects.  Talk among ourselves and look.  Look outside, look outside the walls and the prisons!...The Woman as look and the Woman as voice....".
    • p.64..."The sobs outside seemed more muffled, but I could still distinguish their singsong.  Their gentle singsong.  This is the moment, I said to myself, when grief becomes familiar, and pleasurable, and nostalgic.  This is the moment when you weep almost voluptuously, for this gift of tears is a gift without end."
    • p.69...:I knew my part, it was one I'd played before; stay mutelike this, eyes lowered, and patiently let myself be examined until the very end:  it was simple.  Everything is simple, beforehand, for a girl who's being married off."
    • p.70...."...for life never comes unaccompanied to a woman, death is alway right behind, furtive, quick, and smiling at the mothers....".
    • p.73..."There are those who forget or who simply sleep.  And then there are those who deep bumping into the walls of the past.  May God take pity on them!"
    • p.121..."Ramadan is the truce of all grudges."
    • p.133..."Thus, Morocco is revealed as the place where dream and its incarnation of an aesthetic ideal meet, the place of a visual revolution."...referring to the paintings of Delacroix
    • p.134..."In these brief and graphic or written annotations, there is an almost feverish hand at work, an intoxicated gaze:  a fugitive moment of evanescent revelation standing on that borderline in motion where dream and reality converge."...
    • p.151/Closing line...."Only in the fragments of ancient murmuring do I see how we must look for a restoration of the conversation between women, the very one that Delacroix froze in his painting.  Only in the door open to the full sun, the one Picasso later imposed, do I hope for a concrete and daily liberation of women."
  • Review:   The title of this collection refers to a painting by Eugene Delacroix, which was allegedly inspired by a brief visit inside the harem of a home in Morocco.  The painting and the stories in this collection depict the emotional and intellectual state of women hidden within walls and the veil.  It is also a collection comprised of haunting, evocative prose which stirs the deepest aspect of the reader's self.  The yearnings, fears, coping mechanisms, faith, belief, and suffering of the women in these stories will forever be imprinted in my heart.  I have rarely read such a marvelous collection.