Tuesday 2 September 2008

Vacation Reading

I've just come back from a week away, so here is what I've been reading.

Finished August 23
Borderlands by Brian McGilloway
I've been carrying this one around for a while in my purse for waiting in lineups and at offices. It is the first in a new series featuring Inspector Devlin of the Garda in Ireland.
Local teen Angela Cashell's body is found on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. There is a ring on her finger, and a photo placed with her body.
As Devlin and his team work the case, they are led back to a disappearance of a woman 25 years before and clues that link to many men, on both sides of the law.
The personal life of Devlin and his fellow police officers is also brought into the book. His wife Debbie is no pushover and she often gives him useful advice.
I liked this book and will look for more as the series progresses.

Finished August 27
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
The subtitle of this book is "a sheep detective story," and that is definitely what this is. George the shepherd is found dead, a spade through his body. The sheep find him first and after the initial shock try to work out what happened. George read to his sheep regularly and on many subjects including sheep diseases and romance novels (what the sheep call "Pamela stories"). The sheep are led in their detective work by Miss Maple, the cleverest sheep in Glennkill. Also taking on significant roles are Mopple the Whale, the memory sheep; Othello, a black Hebridean four-horned ram, and Zora, a brave black-faced sheep. The characters of the sheep are well-developed and show individuality. There is much humour here and great fun. This is a good summer read, and I left it with my mother to be passed around among her needleworker friends.

Finished August 28
The Postcard by Tony Abbott
This book is for 8-12 year-olds and I found it to have a unique story. Jason Huff is sent off to Florida after his grandmother's death to assist his father in packing up her belongings. His grandmother, Agnes Monroe Huff was the daughter of a wealthy man, who owned a hotel among other holdings. Jason receives a strange phone call that leads him to the discovery of a postcard among his grandmother's things. The postcard shows the Hotel DeSoto, the hotel owned by Jason's great-grandfather. He also finds a magazine, Bizarre Mysteries, with a story that seems to be about his grandmother. At the funeral, Jason notices many strange characters. As Jason follows the clues left to him, and is joined by Dia, a young friend of his grandmother, he finds himself more and more interested in his grandmother and her life.
Jason is an interesting boy, respectful of adults, yet not a goody-goody. The story developed in interesting ways and was theatrical in plot.
I've left this book with my eight-year-old niece to read.

Finished August 29
Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia by Wojciech Tochman, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
This book was a finalist for the Nike Polish Literary Prize and for the Prix Temoin du Monde. First published in 2002, this is the first English translation. The book begins with a quote from Tadeusz Mazowiecki about the Bosnia War: "Humanity unites us in misfortune, in experiencing it. If only people understood that." Tochman does his best to help us do that.
The stories cover the Serb Republic (not Serbia) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
His stories of survivors searching for family members as well as their remains are poignant. Over 100,000 people died in the wars, and it was years before the mass graves began to be exhumed. The book includes a picture to begin each chapter. One chapter talks about the displays of victims clothing, and the codes that indicate how much of the victim's body was found. Another talks about life in the refugee camps. There is mention of the abandoned towns and villages and some attempts to repopulate these. One key figure in the stories is Dr. Ewa Klonowski, born in Poland and now living in Iceland. She spends all her time trying to identify bodies, and it has become her life. She talks about how the bones speak to her.
While this is a short book, it is a book that touches the reader.

Finished August 31
Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D.Wall
This mystery is set in Kentucky in 1938. Olivia has run Harker's Grocery since her father died and she recovered from a car crash. Her mentally unbalanced mother Ida lives in a tarpaper shack out back. With Olivia lives her grandson William who she has raised. This year someone is hunting the silver wolves that live on Olivia's land and as she tries to find out why, she also finds out that she and William are also under threat.
The reappearance of William's mother begins the revelation of terrible secrets among the community and about Olivia's family. As Olivia searches desperately to save herself and her friends, she must confront the evil that has bound her community for years.
This story is riveting and intense and Olivia is a genuine rebel who has friends in both the white and the black people in her community. She has raised William to be strong as well and he fights for what he feels is right alongside her. This story takes the reader to a specific region and time period and brings it alive. I found it engrossing.

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