Tuesday 31 July 2007

Classic "read"

Finished July 31
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, read by Michael York
I never had to read this in school, so somehow never got around to it, but I did realize that I had missed a classic. I really enjoyed the book, which was very well read by Michael York. The solidarity meeting was done so well that I and my passenger who were listening to it were howling. This was unabridged so I didn't miss a word. I found it so relevant to the world today that it is hard to believe that it was written 75 years ago. I guess that it was really makes it a classic, although it doesn't say much about progress in "civilization". I highly recommend it and will now to others.

Monday 30 July 2007

Started three, finished two

Finished July 29
In the Woods by Tara French
This mystery concentrates on events near a small Dublin suburb. In the summer in 1984, three 12-year-old friends are playing in and around the woods near their houses, and don't come home for dinner. Much searching is done, and one child is finally found, terrified, with his nails dug into a tree and his shoes full of blood. Neither other child is ever found.
Go forward twenty years, and the child has become a detective on the Murder Squad. He is on the case of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found on the site where the woods once were. As he works on the case, memories of his own past intrude. He searches for links between the two, and hides his connection to the old case. But secrets cannot always be kept.
I enjoyed this one, but found the ending a bit disappointing. The main character was an unhappy one scarred forever by the one event in his past.

Tried and not finished
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
I tried hard to get into this story, where the main female character either kisses a man not her partner or does not kiss him. The story goes off in two different directions, depending on where the kiss took place or not. I found that even though the character is speaking from her own point of view, she seemed to lack depth. She appeared to define herself in terms of others.
I read through the first alternatives, but just found it too much work to continue.

Finished July 27
Momzillas by Jill Kargman
Hannah Allen, her husband Josh and their two-year-old daughter Violet have just moved to New York City, Josh's hometown for his job.
Hannah is from San Francisco, and unsure about how to fit in. Josh's best friend Parker's wife Bee has offered to show her the ropes, and appears very helpful. Hannah still feels like she doesn't belong and Josh encourages her to do her own thing and not to worry too much. But there are rules about applying for schools, and coops and being in the right groups that Hannah does worry about. Also Hannah's mother-in-law seems more interested in the social niceties than her granddaughter, which doesn't help. Hannah tells her worries to her old friend Leigh, now also in New York and connects with a favourite art professor. She also tries to make new friends. The atmosphere described her, and the social world is quite amusing and I loved the glossary given at the front of the book.
I found the main characters realistic, the plot moved at a good pace and the humour was great.
A nice summer read.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Troll, A Love Story

Finished July 25
Troll: a Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo
This is a wonderful book, but very different. Mikael (also known as Michelangelo or Angel) stops some teens from torturing a small animal. When he looks closer and finds it is a baby troll, he takes it home and tries to look after it. He asks a vet friend for advice, and begs food from the woman downstairs as well as using the internet. Just having the troll influences his relationships. His new relationship with the woman downstairs, a Filipino mail-order bride, raises her hopes and puts her in more fear of her husband than she already is. His sexual relationships with other men must take place away from his home. He also finds himself having strong feelings for the troll, whom he names Pessi. All this drama is interspersed with poetry, tales and newspaper stories about trolls, that give insight into how they have been seen by humans. I found it a lovely and touching book.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Another mystery

Finished July 23
The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham
This mystery asked me to suspend belief a little too much. Alisha Barba, ex-competitive runner and a policewoman about to return to work after a bad injury gets a message from a friend who dropped her years earlier. Cate is 8 months pregnant and asking for Alisha's help. On the night they arrange to meet, Cate and her husband are run down by a taxi. Is it really an accident? What does Cate's old tormenter Donovan have to do with it. Why does a young man from Afghanistan have Alisha's name on him? Alisha traces the mysteries with the help of Ruiz, a retired detective, and Dave, a current policeman enamored of Alisha. She seems to get away with a lot, and have a lot of luck as well. The story was okay, but not great.

Monday 23 July 2007

3 Fiction

Finished July 21
Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride
This story, set in Aberdeen, is a definite thriller. A rapist is on the prowl, leaving behind women tortured and disfigured. PC Jackie Watson acts as bait and they catch on the star football player for Aberdeen Football Club. However, he claims he was not attacking her, and has alibis for all the other attacks. Neither she, nor her superior believe him, but are forced to pull back as they are seen as harassing him. DS Logan McRae is following up on a case of a blood-drenched man dumped outside the hospital who has died from his injuries. When they discover the dead man was an actor in pornographic films, they are lead into the local bondage community. Logan also gets involved when an 8-year-old kills an elderly man at a mall, and badly injures a police officer. As Logan gets closer to discovering what is going on in these 3 cases, he deals with personal suspicions, an officer with an insider's view of the local scene, and actions, and non-actions that don't make sense. All the stories gripped me and Logan's actions show him to be human.

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline, performed by Barbara Rosenblat
Natalie Greco, only girl in the Greco construction family, is a law professor who loves her job and feels that she doesn't quite fit in to her football-loving, loud and raucous family. A colleague at the university, Angus Holt involves her in a clinic program he runs at a local minimum security prison. While they are there a riot breaks out and Natalie is attacked by a student in the program Angus and Natalie are teaching. As Natalie tries to find help, she ends up offering consolation and medical help to a dying guard, who gives her a message for his wife. As Natalie and Angus continue to delve into the situation at the jail, Natalie finds herself suspected of murder, and increasingly drawn to Angus. As she runs from the police, buying herself time to find out more about what is going on at the jail, she relies on her own resources and brains. She thinks on her feet and surprises even herself by what she is capable of. I loved every minute of this book and was encouraged as Natalie grew into herself and became aware of her own skills and expertise.

Finished July 19
One Under by Graham Hurley
The story starts with a commuter train running over a body in a tunnel. Police discover the body was naked and chained to the rails. There are no clues to the identity of the man, so they start with the missing persons list. DC Paul Winter is in charge of the Intelligence Cell for Major Crimes and is charged with following up on the list and the items associated with the body. DI Joe Faraday is in charge of the case. Winter gets distracted by another missing person, and starts following it on his own, but eventually comes clean to Faraday and both cases are active. Winter's contacts lead him down some interesting roads, and arouse suspicion at higher levels. Faraday is just out of a relationship and at a bit of a loose end personally. Winter is just back on the job after brain surgery and is still vulnerable. The personal lives of the two men also affect the investigations. I found this book interesting and would definitely look for more with these characters.

Monday 16 July 2007

2 more delightful books finished

Finished July 16
How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Oltermann
What a great idea this book is! The editors asked a number of authors to send information, including photos of objects, about what inspired their writing. The responses vary widely, which makes it all the more fun. The book design by art director Vince Frost enhances the responses and adds to the knowledge, especially for readers like me, who are very visual. Some entries are only one line, some run to extra pages. The authors reply candidly for the most part and I found many fascinating insights into their work. For many the responses made them more human.
Will Self's post-it notes remind me of a colleague's workspace, but so many gave me ideas and inspirations for my own workspaces (both home and office). I might just have to get my own copy!

Finished July 15
Consequences by Penelope Lively
As usual, Lively's characters come alive for me in her writing. This story starts with a young couple: Lorna, from an upper class background and Matt, an artist working in wood engravings. As the story follows their married life, living in a rural cottage without electricity or running water, the characters show theirselves more clearly. The novel continues with their daughter, Molly and her daughter Ruth. The theme of love comes through strongly here, both the love between women and men and the love between parents and children. The importance of family relationships and intimacy is highlighted. As the title indicates, the book is about the consequences of the decisions the characters made and how they continue to affect others in the future. A lovely book.

Saturday 14 July 2007

Quite a few finished

Finished July 14
Small Wonder: essays by Barbara Kingsolver
This wonderful collection of essays addresses the world as Kingsolver sees it. She pulls no punches about this time in history. The essays range from personal ones about her own family and environmental concerns to larger issues politically. Her writing is excellent and you can tell she is passionate about all the subjects she writes on. I found myself moved and inspired by these writings and left with hope for the future despite the obstacles currently facing humanity.

Queen's Court by Edward O. Phillips
This delightful novel follows Louise Bingham as she settle into life in Montreal after moving back there from Victoria after her husband died. She connects again with her cousin Diana, but worries about Diana relying on her too much for company. She also reconnects with a previous lover, and remembers why she ended the relationship, while not necessarily discarding future possibilities. In her new apartment, she finds the neighbour across the hall a bit full of himself and has suspicions about his motives. When her son, Craig, comes to visit, her adds to the mix and she discovers she really doesn't know him that well.
I really enjoyed this entertaining book.

Healing and the Mind by Bill Moyers
Moyers interviews a number of experts in the field of holistic medicine, finding out how they came to where they are in their practice, what they see as the realities of their practice and what are the issues. This was interesting, and the fact that it was written 15 years ago made it interesting to see advances, or lack thereof, in the different areas.

Finished July 13
A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard
This mystery surrounds Detective Inspector Charlie Peace and his wife Felicity. The couple are moving in advance of the birth of their second child and, unexpectedly, Felicity's father offers to give them some money towards their house if he can live with or near them. Since Felicity does not like or get along with her self-centered father, they help him find a house nearby. As they settle into the new neighbourhood and become aware of some issues, they also learn of Rupert's real reason's for leaving his old town. They are already beginning to wonder about the relation of these problems when a death occurs and Charlie thinks it is murder, despite the local police opinion. I enjoyed this story, but found the plot a bit forced and the story light.

Why Can't a Man be More Like a Cat by Linda Kenner and Antonia van der Meer
I got this book from my mother-in-law who picked it up as a discard from Toronto Public Library. A nice little bit of humour about the differences between cats and men, although my cats don't always conform to these descriptions, and neither does my husband!

At Sixes and Sevens by Rosie Harrie, read by Nerys Hughes
Two sisters, who lived with the father, were quite different. Rhianon did all the work around the house and was taken for granted and blamed when anything went wrong. Serena was the pretty one who got everything she wanted and therefore expected everyone to fall in with her whims.
When Serena egged on her boyfriend and Rhianon's to fight, Serena's boyfriend was hurt badly and eventually died. Rhianon's boyfriend went to jail, but not before having a passionate moment with Serena and fathering a child. Rhianon took the child in to look after and Serena went back to her flirty ways while Pryce was in jail.
This story dragged a bit, and Rhianon, despite being described as intelligent, seemed too easily taken in by her sister. Rhianon was too good to be true, and Serena too bad. The characters didn't feel real.

Friday 13 July 2007

Work-related title

Finished July 12
151 Quick Ideas to Deal with Difficult People by Carrie Mason-Draffen
The ideas given here cover a large range of situations and personality types. They include help on confronting conflict, both as a player and as a third-party. A lot of them relate to communication including what to say, how to say it, body language, and who to say it to.
There are also ideas given that help to prevent problems from occuring in the first place, much easier than cleaning up afterwards. The ideas also relate to a variety of situations: issues between peers, team issues, meeting issues, and supervisory issues. Some were common sense, some were intriguing, and others were a bit unlikely. Overall a good tool to improve your people skills. Everyone should be able to get something out of this book.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

One to read and one to listen to

Finished July 11
Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott
This is a fascinating novel, part mystery, part romance, part paranormal, and part history. Lydia Brooke, historian is asked to finish a book on Isaac Newton that a fellow historian and friend, Elizabeth Vogelsang, has almost finished. But there are several issues that arise. Lydia previously had an affair with Elizabeth's son, Cameron Brown and left him. Elizabeth's death is suspicious in nature. Some of Elizabeth's notes are missing, and her friend Dilys has been helping her by contacting the dead through seances. Elizabeth had a young friend, also a historian, Will who helped with research and who warns Lydia of the dangers she sees for her. Animal rights activists appear to be launching violent protests in attacks on animals and on humans related to research involving animals, as Cameron is. How and whether these issues relate to each other and whether there are connections between Newton's time and the present are questions Lydia is forced to look at. She is not sure what her role is and how others may be using her.
This is a fascinating book, especially the bits of Elizabeth's book that appear throughout.

Out of the Blue by Charlotte Bingham, read by Kim Hicks
I finished this audiobook on the way to work this morning. This story has both mystery and romance as well as a touch of the supernatural. Set in Somerset, in and around Swindon, the story also relates to the history of the area. Florence Fontaine lives in the Old Rectory and her daughter Amadea lives in town. Both women are still affected by recent tragedy. Florence's husband died and then her son David died in a swimming mishap when he rescued his sister and another swimmer who needed assistance.
The story begins with Florence finding a young man asleep in her guest cottage, dressed in Regency clothing. He appears to be suffering from amnesia. Amadea's neighbor Rob, who is a doctor specializing in brain injuries becomes involved and so does Florence's neighbor Dottie as they try to help the young man discover his identity. A good choice for a light summer read.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

A psychological thriller

Finished July 5
Suffer the Little Children by Donna Leon
This mystery in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series set in Venice is a gem. Brunetti's wife plays a role in this story, but his children are not as evident as the are in some others. Brunetti gets drawn into a case run by the carabinieri in which a doctor is injured when his home is invaded. As Brunetti and his co-workers try to figure out what is going on, with the doctor, with illegally adopted children, and with false doctor visits, some questions are answered, others lead to more questions, and ethics and morality rear their heads. Wonderful!

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Memoirs, Historical Fiction, and Self-Improvement

Finished July 2
Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg, read by the author
This is a bit different than what her novels usually are. It is set during World War II in Chicago, around an Irish Catholic family, the Heaneys. Besides the parents, Frank and Margaret, there are 3 girls Kitty, Louise, and Tish along with 3 younger boys. Louise and Kitty having been seeing two young men that are now shipping out to war. Louise and Michael become engaged, while Kitty remains unsure of Julian's intentions. Besides their own two young men, the sisters write to other young soldiers they have met at USO dances endeavouring to keep their spirits up. Kitty begins working at the Douglas aircraft factory to both help support the family and the war effort. She also learns to take pride in her work. Tish is the lively one, flirting with the men and keeping everyone's spirits high. As the war goes on, Louise finds herself pregnant after Michael comes home for leave and the family supports her through this. As the girl's allegiances to young men adjust, so do their relationships to each other. I found the ending forced and unfulfilling and generally did not enjoy this as much as Berg's other books.

Finished July 2
Live Longer: Boost Your Energy, Strength, and Mobility--and Feel Young for Life by Sally Brown
This is a nicely written book with each idea (of the 52 brilliant ideas) given in around 5 pages. I found several that I was already doing (yeah!) and some that I will definitely start doing. Each idea is fairly well presented and tips are given. There are links from one idea to others in the book and questions and answers at the end of each idea. The book is well formulated and the ideas reasonable and stated factually. I liked it and made notes on several.

Finished June 29
The Company They Kept: Writers on Unforgettable Friendships edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
This was an interesting collection of writings on special friendships brought together in one volume. Many were published previously or given as talks at memorials. I found the range of writing interesting and the types of relationships varied. Some of the writers were more admirers than close friends, while other friendships had interruptions. The stories give new viewpoints to those written about as well as about the writers. An interesting idea, well-executed.