Friday, June 29, 2012

"Pot Pourri: Whistlings of an Idler" by Eugenio Cambaceres **

  • #3 in Summer Sub Club with Beth
  • Argentinian author
  • Originally published in 1882, first published anonymously
  • Author info:  
    Son of a French chemist father who immigrated to Argentina in 1833 and a mother native to Buenos Aires. Cambaceres went to secondary school at the Colegio Nacional Central and then went on to receive a law degree from the Universidad de Buenos Aires.[1]
    Quickly launching into politics, he was elected to the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and was named secretary of the Club del Progreso in 1870, and in 1873 became Vice President of said organization. However, his denunciations of fraud within his own party led to his downfall, and although he was re-elected to the legislature in 1876 he soon resigned his post and left public life to devote himself to literature. From his career as a liberal politician, perhaps his most important contribution was a controversial tract in a local magazine advocating the separation of Church and State that was quite polemic at the time.
    As a writer, he combined the naturalism of Émile Zola and the Goncourt brothers and a localized realist character with four novels of a pessimistic nature. His first two novels were Pot-pourri (1881) and Música sentimental: Silbidos de un vago [Sentimental Music: Whistles of a Lazy Man] (1884). Both lack a precise plot and leave many threads hanging, containing stories of adultery within a pessimistic and weary atmosphere. The novelty of dealing with such a lurid topic and in such a crude manner provoked a scandalous repercussion and critics did not hesitate in directly attacking Cambaceres. This changed the composition and style of his later works, which were much better received.
    In 1885 he released his most significant novel, Sin Rumbo [Without Direction], where he offered good descriptions of the landscape of sexual pathology, including interesting anecdotes. The year before he died 1887, he published En la sangre (In the Blood), a story about the son of Italian immigrants of humble origin that advances his social standing by marrying the daughter of a wealthy estate, only to squander his fortune and end up with a miserable life. Through his writing, Cambaceres dealt with the problems associated with the arrival of Immigrants to Argentina and the social changes of his time, but ended up taking the perspective of the high bourgeoisie that critiqued the lower classes and European immigration.
    Eugenio Cambaceres travelled to Europe and was in Paris when he died at 45 years of age, in 1888. His daughter, Rufina Cambaceres, was only four years old.
  • Author's Foreword: 
    • p.2..."...I think the mere display of those blemishes now corrupting the social organism is the most potent antidote which can be used against them
    •  p.3..."As I was saying, I had the material before me, but it being carnival time, when everything is transfigured and becomes distorted, my lenses were probably also distorted, leading to slightly altered negatives with a dash too much shade."...Yep
    •  p.4..."After each sentence, each word, each comma, and even in the blank margins, instead of the carefree whistlings of a flaneur, they have heard, .....the whizzing of poisoned darts that I, perverse bastard son, have plunged with parricidal hands into the bowels of our common mother." 
    • p.14..."Turn the page and lend your ears to a collection of melodies, proof and testament to my thesis, that have been arranged as a concerto for whistles, a pot pourri of whistlings and catcalls composed by ear and on impulse - sans embellishment or variation--from the monumental music of the world."
  • Review:   I was very disappointed in this novel.  The author paints a sarcastic, caustic picture of society in Buenos Aires in the 1880s.  The intensity of his invectives crossed some sort of line for me, moving from literature to nasty caricature.  The intense negativity caused me to tune out any sociopolitical substance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"The Coroner's Lunch" by Colin Cotterill ****

  • Audiobook
  • 1st in Dr. Siri series
  • Originally published in 2004
  • Story takes place in Laos, during late 1970s, under Communist rule, Dr. Siri is a pathologist
  • English author
  • Colin Cotterill was born in London and trained as a teacher and set off on a world tour that didn't ever come to an end. He worked as a Physical Education instructor in Israel, a primary school teacher in Australia, a counselor for educationally handicapped adults in the US, and a university lecturer in Japan. But the greater part of his latter years has been spent in Southeast Asia. Colin has taught and trained teachers in Thailand and on the Burmese border. He spent several years in Laos, initially with UNESCO and wrote and produced a forty-programme language teaching series; English By Accident, for Thai national television.


    Ten years ago, Colin became involved in child protection in the region and set up an NGO in Phuket which he ran for the first two years. After two more years of study in child abuse issues, and one more stint in Phuket, he moved on to ECPAT, an international organization combating child prostitution and pornography. He established their training program for caregivers.  All the while, Colin continued with his two other passions; cartooning and writing. He contributed regular columns for the Bangkok Post but had little time to write. It wasn't until his work with trafficked children that he found himself sufficiently stimulated to put together his first novel, The Night Bastard (Suk's Editions. 2000).

    The reaction to that first attempt was so positive that Colin decided to take time off and write full-time. Since October 2001 he has written nine more novels. Two of these are child-protection based: Evil in the Land Without (Asia Books December 03), and Pool and Its Role in Asian Communism (Asia Books, Dec 05). These were followed by The Coroner’s Lunch (Soho Press. Dec 04), Thirty Three Teeth (Aug 05), Disco for the Departed (Aug 06), Anarchy and Old Dogs (Aug 07), and Curse of the Pogo Stick (Aug 08), The Merry Misogynist (Aug 09), Love Songs from a Shallow Grave (Aug 10) these last seven are set in Laos in the 1970’s.

    On June 15 2009 Colin Cotterill received the Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library award for being "the author of crime fiction whose work is currently giving the greatest enjoyment to library users".

    When the Lao books gained in popularity, Cotterill set up a project to send books to Lao children and sponsor trainee teachers. The Books for Laos programme elicits support from fans of the books and is administered purely on a voluntary basis.

    Since 1990, Colin has been a regular cartoonist for national publications. A Thai language translation of his cartoon scrapbook, Ethel and Joan Go to Phuket (Matichon May 04) and weekly social cartoons in the Nation newspaper, set him back onto the cartoon trail in 2004. On 4 April 2004, an illustrated bilingual column ‘cycle logical’ was launched in Matichon’s popular weekly news magazine. These have been published in book form.

    Colin is married and lives in a fishing community on the Gulf of Siam with his wife, Jessi, and ever-expanding pack of very annoying dogs.(less)  
    Review:   Wonderful tongue-in-cheek tale of Dr. Siri, a coroner in Laos in the late 1970s.  He is out of date, suffers lack of resources, but most of all faces the sometimes ludicrous machinations and beliefs of the Communist regime.  Despite all, he out-maneuvers and outwits his opponents to emerge victorious in the search for truth. Oh....did I mention that he channels spirits of the departed?  A really fun read!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Post Office Girl" by Stefan Zweig *****

  • #2 Summer Sub Club read with Beth 2012
  • Austrian author
  • Originally published in 1982
  • Quotes I Like:
    • p.15..."But still: a little bit of security, a roof over your head, room to breathe, just barely; might as well get used to it---after all, the casket's an even tighter fit."
    • p.19..."She tries harder, this twenty-eight -year-old woman, to remember what it is to be happy, and with alarm she realizes that she no longer knows, that it's like a foreign language she learned in childhood but has now forgotten, remembering only that she knew it once."
    • p.22..."Without meaning to she grows silent."...the result of the onset of WWI and the changes it wrought in her family's life
    • p.28..."For this quiet, unprepossessing , passive man who has no garden in front of his subsidized flat, books are like flowers.  He loves to line them up on the shelf in multicolored rows; he watches over each of them with an old-fashioned gardener's delight, holds them like fragile objects in his thin, bloodless hands."
    • p.32..."She tries to think, but the monotonous stuttering of the wheels breaks the flow of her thoughts,  and the narcotic cowl of sleep tightens over her throbbing forehead--that muffled and yet overpowering railroad-sleep in which one lies rapt and benumbed as though in a shuddering black coal sack made of metal."
    • p.34..."This contact with the overpowering is her first encounter with travel's disconcerting ability to strip the hard shell of habit from the heart, leaving only the bare, fertile kernel."
    • p.66..."In this instant, shaken to her very depths, this ecstatic human being has a first inkling that the soul is made of stuff so mysteriously elastic that a single event can make it big enough to contain the infinite."
    • p.139..."There's an inherent limit to the stress that any material can bear.  Water has its boiling point, metals their melting points.  The elements of the spirit behave the same way.  Happiness can reach a pitch so great that any further happiness can't be felt.Pain, despair, humiliation, disgust, and fear are no different.  Once the vessel is full, the world can't add to it."
    • p.175..."But 'must' is a hard nut to crack, and it doesn't always fall from the tree no matter how hard you shake it."
  • Vocabulary:
  • General Notes:
    • Brilliant juxtaposition of pivotal moments.....the drab, routine of the post office with the arrival of the telegram, the joy of girlhood with the arrival of WWI 
    • I was so touched by the maps which Franz Fuchsthaler made for Christine, unfolding "accordion-like"
    • p.36..."Once shame touches your being at any point, even the most distant nerve is implicated, whether you know it or not; any fleeting encounter or random thought will rake up the anguish and add to it.  This first blow marks the end of Christine's un-selfconsciousness." true
    • p.122..." her presence he sees that one generation's painfully acquired mistrust of life is fortunately neither understood nor credited by the next, and that each new wave of youth is a new beginning." true, maybe even evolutionarily (is that a word?) adaptive 
    • p.216..."The vast power of money, mighty when you have it and even mightier when you don't, with its divine gift of freedom and the demonic fury it unleashes on those forced to do without it...". 
    • Summary on back of my edition says that this novel "lays bare the private life of capitalism"
    • the notion of the marital suicide pact....raised between Christine and Ferdinand....foreshadowing in Zweig's own life
  • Review:   As I read this novel by Stefan Zweig, the image of a roller coaster ride surfaced in my mind repeatedly.  You know the way the car climbs slowly to the summit of each curve then shoots down the slope at high speed, then repeats the pattern again and again?  This novel follows that pattern.  Zweig's writing is brilliant!  He juxtaposes long descriptive, contemplative passages with mind-boggling pivotal moments in the lives of the characters.  The small roller coaster is the string of post WWI experiences of the protagonist, Christine, and eventually with Ferdinand as well.  The meta-roller coaster is the sense of loss, lack of meaning, and search for meaning experienced by all who were touched by the war.  Zweig's use of language, his characters, and his plot make this a memorable read!

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Dead Souls" by Nikolai Gogol *****

  • Summer Sub Club read w/Beth
  • Russian author
  • Originally published 1842
  • Quotes I Like:
    • p.14..."the fat know better than the slim how to handle their affairs in this world" - the fat sit reliably and firmly....OK...
    • p.20..."He like not so much what he was reading about as the reading itself, or, better, the process of reading, the fact that letters are eternally forming some word, which sometimes even means the devil knows what."...Petrushka
    • p.219..."...a woman is like a sack, she holds whatever you put in it..."...nasty
    • p.278..."Acquisition is to blame for everything; because of it things have been done which the world dubs not quite clean."
    • p.278..."Numberless as the sands of the sea are human passions, and no one resembles another, and all of them, base or beautiful, are at first obedient to man and only later become his dread rulers."
    • p.366..."Age-old experience has proven that man in his agricultural quality has the purest morals.  Where ploughing lies at the basis of social life, there is abundance and well-being; there is neither poverty nor luxury, but there is well-being."
    • p.373..."One ought to begin with a kopeck."
  • Humorous:
    • Petrushka slept without undressing and like to keep a smell about him of where he slept
    • p.27..."And in boarding schools, as we know, three main subjects constitute the foundation of human virtue:  the French language, indispensable for a happy family life; the pianoforte, to afford a husband agreeable moments; and, finally, the managerial part proper:  the crocheting of purses and other surprises."
    • p.103..."Wherever, across whatever sorrows our life is woven of, a resplendent joy will gaily race by, just as a splendid carriage with golden harness, picture-book horses, and a shining brilliance of glass sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly goes speeding by some poor, forsaken hamlet that has never seen anything but a country cart, and for a long time the muzhiks stand gaping open-mouthed, ....though the wondrous carriage has long since sped away and vanished from sight."....beautiful girl goes by
    • "It is well known that there are many faces in the world over the finishing of which nature did not take much trouble....."
    • p.123..."A knowledge of hearts and a wise comprehension of life resound in the word of the Briton; like a nimble fop the short-lived word of the Frenchman flashes and scatters; whimsically does the German contrive his lean, intelligent word, not accessible to all; but there is no word so sweeping, so pert, so bursting from beneath the very heart, so ebullient and vibrant with life, as an aptly spoken Russian word."
    • p.123..."Aptly uttered is as good as written, an axe cannot destroy it."
    • p.149...:...he fell asleep soundly, deeply, fell asleep in the wondrous way that they alone sleep who are so fortunate as to know nothing of hemorrhoids, or fleas, or overly powerful mental abilities."
    • Funny names at times, i.e.....Lousy Arrogance from Cockyville
    • p.234..."Hindsight is the Russian man's forte."
    • p.239..."However you push and pull, you'll never get milk from a bull."
    • p.257.."Not like mother, not like father, but like Roger the lodger."
    • p.291..."And only when it became so unbearable that it even prevented the master from doing nothing, would he send to tell them to make their noise more quietly."
  • Characters:  Chichikov (protagonist) , Selifan and Petrushka (his servants)
  • Vocabulary:
    • britzka:  a long horse-drawn carriage with a folding top over the rear seat and a rear-facing front seat
    • finical:  finicky
    • shalloon:  a light, twilled woolen fabric used chiefly for linings.
    • chibouk:   a Turkish tobacco pipe with a stiff stem sometimes 4 or 5 feet (1.2 or 1.5 meters) long.
    • empyrean:   the highest heaven, supposed by the ancients to contain the pure element of fire
    • quitrent:  rent  paid by a freeholder or copyholder in lieu of services that might otherwise have been required.
    • emendation:   a correction or change, as of a text
    • gammer:   an old woman
  • General Notes:
    •  After the triumph of Dead Souls, Gogol came to be regarded by his contemporaries as a great satirist who lampooned the unseemly sides of Imperial Russia. Little did they know that Dead Souls was but the first part of a planned modern-day counterpart to The Divine Comedy. The first part represented the Inferno; the second part was to depict the gradual purification and transformation of the rogue Chichikov under the influence of virtuous publicans and governors — Purgatory
    • Gogol burned his copy of the "Dead Souls" manuscript just prior to dying
    •  Many references to Germans as role models.....
    • Many anti-Semitic comments, primarily financial
    • Liked the idea of a "storied" person, someone who leaves with a story of something having happened wherever they go
    • The "Tale of Captain Kopeikin"...he sank into the "river of oblivion"......Chichikov's fate as well
    • I usually don't like the author speaking to the reader, but I liked it in this novel
    • p.279 - Gogol expresses his belief that we would have liked Chichikov if he had not dredged up his dark side
    • constant reference to hemorrhoids a bit weird
    • p.381..."Sometimes, really, it seems to me that the Russian is somehow a hopeless man.  There's no willpower in him, no courage for constancy.  You want to do everything - and can do nothing."....Gogol was anti-Imperialist
  • Review:   I am sorry I had not read Gogol before now!  His writing is a blend of Dostoevsky and Dickens.  Absolutely hysterical characters manage to highlight a satiric view of Russian country life in the late 1800s.  The protagonist, Chichikov, manages to persuade a variety of landowners to sell him the names of "dead souls" or workers who have died. Certainly Gogol was attempting to make a statement about the state of his nation and it is done with such satiric wit and wonderful prose!  I think, perhaps, the best way to sum up this great piece of literature is by using a quote from one of the characters, "You must love us black, anyone can love us white."  No person is blameless in this life! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"The Expats" by Chris Pavone ****

  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Originally published 2012
  • Review:   Cross, double cross, triple cross and more.  This complex espionage story falls just short of being overdone.  Pavone's lead character is a just ex-CIA employee who cannot suppress her spy tendencies, which leads to dilemmas as she tries to reconcile the life of a spy with being a wife and mother.  Is she imagining dire plots everywhere she goes or is there something to it.   Noooooo, I am not going to tell you!  However, this story also deals with the eternal theme of marital trust and betrayal, and how much of each a marriage can sustain.  Good read!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Pravda" by Edward Docx *****

  • Book Club selection June 2012
  • English author
  • Originally published in 2007
  • Author's online bio:  Edward Docx was born in the north of England. He grew up in Manchester and London. After school, he went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read English Literature and was Junior Common Room President. He began his professional writing career working on the national newspapers. In 2003, his first novel, The Calligrapher, was published to widespread acclaim. It was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as a Best Book of the Year and was a finalist of The William Saroyan prize at Stanford University. It is now translated into eight languages.
    In 2007, his second novel, Pravda (entitled Self Help in the UK), was published; it was long-listed for the Man Booker and went on to win The Geoffrey Faber Prize.
    In 2003 and then again in 2007, Docx travelled in South America as part of the research for his third novel, The Devil's Garden, which is published in paperback this year.
    Edward Docx has written for The Times, The Telegraph, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Observer, Vogue and The Independent. His most recent journalism appears in The Guardian and Prospect Magazine. He lives in London very close to MI6 and the river Thames.
  • Characters: Maria (Russian, wife to Nicholas, mother of Gabriel and Isabella, defected to England, loved St. Petersburg, gave birth to Arkady, illegitimate and put in orphanage), Nicholas (Maria's husband, abusive father, gay, living in Paris, miser),  Gabriel (married to Lina, has lover, Connie, brother to Isabella, found mother dead in her apartment in St. Petersburg), Isabella (Maria's daughter, Gabriel's twin sister), Arkady (pianist, illegimtimate son of Maria), Henry (heroin addict, roomate of Arkady, trying to get enough money together for Arkady to complete study at music institute), Alessandro (Nicholas' young Italian lover who only wants money)
  • Epigraph:  "The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure, to live it you have to explode."  Bob Dylan
  •  Part II Epigraph:  "Pardon me if I lie, all you who understand love."..Susanna, Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro
  • Part III Epigraph:  "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life, and his relations with his kind."...Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
  • Opening line:  "He was relieved to be again among the Russians.  Nothing to do with his head, or even his heart, but in his soul; some kind of internal alignment or tessellation."
  • Quotes I Like:
    • p.19..."Abruptly, and with a sickening feeling, she realized that her heart had a false floor and had been concealing its contraband throughout:..." 
    • p.49..."Half the world is screaming for water and freedom when the other half is ordering cocktails and complaining about the service."...Nicholas
    • p.50..."Honesty--Masha, is it not the most monstrous piece of excrement that mankind has ever come up with?"...Nicholas
    • p.50..."At the end of each of the culs-de-sac down which his mind careered, there was, he knew, a gaudy theater wherein savage satires were ever being staged."...Nicholas
    • p.51.."Nicholas still could not make up his mind which was more annoying, the guile of straight women or the wiles of gay men."
    • p.52..."The naked body of this other human being entranced him, engrossed him, bewitched him like a river god rising in vapors of jasmine and myrrh with a different violin sonata for each of his senses."
    • p.55..."In so many brief years we become strangers to our own blood."
    • p.59..."In art we are in conversation with ourselves across the generations, Gabriel, this is the lodestar of our humanity.  The rest is chasing food and money....".  Maria to Gabriel
    • p.71..."And what was conscience but mood wearing a uniform?"
    • p.79...description of Arkady's relationship to his piano.....
    • p.89..."Somehow he had become a fugitive from his own decisions--a boy in an adventure story, locked in the basement, stock still, ear to the door, listening to the baddies decide what they were going to do with him
    • p.100..."So here--we bequesth yout his desperate, flailing, lopsided world, in a worse and better state than we ourselves received it.  We ask only that you look after it as best you can.  And make sure that when your time is over, there's something to pass on.  For truly, Izzy, this unlikely blue ball is it.  This blue ball is all there is."....Maria to Isabella
    • p.148..."One day they may just about persuade you to believe that business is the engine and money the fuel, but whaever they say, you can be absolutely certain that neither is the journey and neither is the view."...Maria to Isabella
    • p.153..."The artist's vision without the accompanying artistry:  the cruelest curse of the gods.:...Nicholas about his own work
    • p.189..."He watched her a moment, thirsty as a hermit for her beauty and her being."...Gabriel watching Connie
    • p.338..."The truths within the lies, the lies within truths, thoughts within feelings within thoughts--they were all so many beguiling matryoshka dolls to him
  • Interesting Ideas:
    • p.5..."The difference between the Russian character and the Western is that we Russians have learned to live our days in the full knowledge that whatever transpires in the interim, the sun will eventually expand and humanity will be incinerated. It's a way of life precisely opposite to the American Dream.  Call it Russian fatalism if you like.  But it gives us a sense of perspective, a sense of humor, and perhaps a certain dignity."
    • p.8..."Democracy is difficult for us.....In Russia we are required to live within the pathologies of the strongest man--whatever he titles himself.  That way we all know where we are and what we are doing.  However bad it gets."
    • p.9..."Duplicity, hypocrisy, and cant, the primary colors he once would have scorned, he now saw in softer shades.  Perhaps this was the aging process; bit by bit truth grows faint until she vanishes completely, leaving you stranded on the path, required to choose a replacement guide from those few stragglers left among your party--Surly Prejudice, Grinning Bewilderment, Purblind Grievance."
    • p.10..."We have--all of us, the whole world--we have all lost our belief in our bewtter selves.  And the great told-you-so of capitalism will roll out across the earth until there is no dining place.  And every day that passes, Marx will be proved more emphatically right.  And all the men and women waking in the winter to the slavery of their wages will know it in their heart." 
    • p.149..."When a parent passes away, the family demons do not retreat but rise from their sarcophagi and move out across the borders of the mind, swearing in their puppet regimes as they pass."
    • three levels of internal war.....conscious (cigarettes, food), war against the father.....the war against despair
    • p.166..." and love are like two principle dancers of the ballet:  sometimes they aremagnificently, beautifully indissolubly together,,,,,,but sometimes the one will dance while the other watches in the wings; or sometimes they will dance in parallel, on opposite sides of the stage, together yet apart, a curtsey for a bow, an arabesque for a tendu...................."
    • the first time one sees oneself thinking or behaving like one of one's parents...."like a whetted knife slicing out of the fog......p.186....Gabriel
    • p.188..."...there are infinite infinities in just one infinity.  This is the great paradox in the laws of our universe, and this is also the great paradox of the human heart.".....Gabriel's love of both Lina and Connie
    • p.237..."Very few people have their inner and their outer selves aligned in any kind of meaningful way."...Grandpa Max
    • p.238..."That's the secret, and that's what all great leaders do.  They somehow let their people know that they understand the inner as well as the outer human life and that it's all right by them."....interesting
    • 326..."Life is about ignoring the fact that life isn't about anything.  That's it.  Get used to it.  And stop looking for excuses."...Gabriel to Isabella.....very existential
  • Vocabulary:
    • tessellation:   form of small squares or blocks, as floors or pavements; form or arrange in a checkered or mosaic pattern.
    • quiddity:   the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.
    • purblind:   nearly or partially blind; dim-sighted.
    • steatopygous:   extreme accumulation of fat on and about the buttocks, especially of women.
    • contrapposto:   a representation of the human body in which the forms are organized on a varying or curving axis to provide an asymmetrical balance to the figure.
    • kraken:   legendary sea monster causing large whirlpools off the coast of Norway.
    • viscid:  having a glutinous consistency; sticky; adhesive; viscous.
  • Reference to "Pravda": p.103

  • p.235....Wonderful description of Grandpa Max
  • Themes:  parental loss, national identity, family secrets, multiplicity of emotions
  • Review:  I think this is a marvelous piece of literature!  The plot, characters, and writing are all marvelous. I keep a reading journal, in which I include quotes that I like along with interesting ideas from a novel.  The list is equally long for this book.  Docx starts with the death of a wife, mother, and mystery.  He then sets up pairs of characters who play off of each other through a difficult, soul-searching period of their lives.  The pairs include twins, two gay lovers, an ex-seminary student/heroin addict and a brilliant struggling pianist, the past and the present, childhood v. adulthood, mother v. father.  I might normally give a novel 4 versus 5 stars because there are a few slow, overly drawn out periods in the story, but the vast majority of this novel merits 5 stars for story, ideas, characters and some lovely prose!

"The Invisible Ones" by Stef Penney ****

  • Originally published 2012
  • Audiobook
  • Scottish author
  • She also wrote "The Loneliness of Wolves" and although this plot involves Gypsies in  England, it also involves a missing girl, and seems to echo the theme of transformative appearances of characters from the past
  • Review:  Once again, Stef Penney serves up a wonderful story which contains an intriguing plot, memorable characters and some food for thought in the form of background on the lives of modern day gypsies.  The search for a missing woman leads the reader into the world of gypsies and "gorgios" (non-gypsies).  We learn about their social status, their own social hierarchy, their prejudices, their oppression, and the complications which naturally arise from living in a closed society within an open one.  If you have read "The Loneliness of Wolves", you will recognize the repeat of the missing person theme, which has left me intrigued to know more about the author's life.  This is a very very good read!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova ****

  • Audiobook
  • Originally published 2011
  • USA
  • Review:  I found this debut novel to be profoundly moving.  The story of a woman with Early Onset Alzheimer's, and the degenerative process which ensues.  Obviously, it is hypothetical, but there is a clear ring of potential truth to the story.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Doc" by Mary Doria Russell ***

  • Audiobook
  • USA author
  • historical fiction about Doc Holliday
  • Originally published 2011
  • Review:   A very interesting story about "Doc" Holliday.  I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the Old West, or to anyone who enjoys a good character study.  Russell paints a picture of a genteel man of the Old South, forced to live a tragic life in which he spends most of his time dying of tuberculosis and who is also greatly misunderstood and misrepresented in historical renditions of his adventures.