Friday, September 25, 2009

54. DRAGONFLY IN AMBER - Diana Gabaldon

This novel is the second in the "Outlander" series about Jamie and Claire Fraser. While I would not say that Diana Gabaldon is the most notorious or gifted writer of our times, I will say that she knows how to capture her audience with fantastic plotting and historical information.

Though it starts out a bit slow (we do not join old Scotland until the eightieth page or so), the rest of the book will appeal to those who loved the romance, time travel, and Bonnie Prince Charlie aspects of the first book. This time, the fighting is about to occur, and Claire and Jamie are trying to stop the civil wars from beginning.

I love the Scottish history, I adore the characters, and I wept at the "true end" (not the conclusion - readers will know what I mean and I do not want to give away too much). However, toward the conclusion, the strange plotting began, and this is what made the next three books a trifle frustrating for me.

Still, I am looking forward to the release of "Echo in the Bone" next week. Jamie and Claire are not doomed lovers but life partners, and I will stick with them until the end.

4.0 out of 5.0 Dirty Scotsmen.


Based on Marv Gold's lifelong friendship with Shel Silverstein, this memoir gives a glimpse of the mysterious man who lived a juxtaposition. He created art for Playboy and published children's poems. He wrote incredible songs ("Boy Named Sue") but did not have the voice to sing. He barely gave interviews, and when he did, he turned the questions back to the reporter.

Do I feel like I know the man more now? Not really, though the book does have some interesting stories. However, I wonder if they are meant to enlarge the myth of Silverstein or simply remember that even his closest friends did not really know him.

With its quick narrative style, you can read this in a few hours at most. Because I never felt that I received substantial answers, it was more of a disappointment than an intriguing peek at a famous man whose children's poems will forever be stamped in my mind.

2.0 out of 5.0 Miami Beaches.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

52. THE SPANISH BOW - Andromeda Romano Lax

Feliu was almost born Feliz, which means "happy" in Spanish. After the birth, he lay still and silent, so they began to fill out his death certificate. Due to a slight spelling error, his name was changed.

This signifies the theme of the novel: a slight change can have divining ripples throughout the rest of someone's life. For example, after his father's death, he received a bow without horsehair, too big for a violin, but how else could it be used? As a small child in rural Catalonia during the turn of the twentieth century, Feliu knew nothing about music until, by chance, he meets the famed pianist, Al-Cerraz. Through one note, Feliu is set upon a lifetime of learning the cello, a lifetime that includes historical appearances by King Alfonso and Queen Ena, as well as Picasso.

The author, a practiced cellist in her own right, pours her love for the instrument into this novel. As for the historical aspects, there are some tidbits that are stretched to fit the narrative. This never broke the spell for me of this fascinating world of music and artistry... at least, until the final chapter. Rather than continue with the wavering lines of fate, there is a loud splash of a giant rock thrown into the pool.

While the ending disappointed me, I still find myself reflecting on the other aspects of the novel and appreciate the dedication to historical aspects. When one can enjoy a piece of literature and learn from it, I believe it is worth a look.

3.75 out of 5.0 Spanish Super-Charged Coffees.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2009 Man Booker Short List

The Children's Book by A S Byatt (Random House, Chatto and Windus)

Summertime by J M Coetzee (Random House, Harvill Secker)

The Quickening Maze by Adam Fould (Random House, Jonathan Cape)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate)

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (Little, Brown)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Little, Brown, Virago)

I'm giddy... any recommendations? Predictions? I've always liked Sarah Waters and J.M. Coetzee, but I need to get these in my sticky little hands ASAP.

Monday, September 07, 2009

51. FLYING CHANGES - Sara Gruen

I sorta-kinda liked Water for Elephants and half-remembered that it was historical in nature and literary in style. Mm, no. I should use the search option on my own blog more often.

Flying Changes is the second book in a series (I guess of only two because she's moved on to writing about apes) about Annemarie Zimmer, an almost-40-year-old woman with a pAin in the A daughter and iffy boyfriend. Still, she has her horses. She has wonderful memories of Harry, the horse that tripped and fell during competition, putting Annemarie in a coma and Harry to the great farm in the sky.

As I read, I thought, "This woman is annoying." She is neurotic and obsessive and strange. A-ha, but I didn't know about the first book, so I missed a lot of references.

Still, this was not a journey I wanted to take for pleasure. I have my own teen to yell at me, I have my own experiences with horses that need to go or be put down. Many of you may like this as a quickie read, but I never felt the satisfaction of escape. That is why I read and write. Otherwise, it is like the "stay-cation" of the mind.

1.75 out of 5.0 Bay Horses.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

50. MADAME BOVARY - Gustave Flaubert

I have spent more time considering the name play of the title character than the literary merits of this novel. Did he mean that she was "bovine" or a cow? Also, do publishers read the book before printing the cover? Seriously, it took me five Google pages to find a non-blonde Emma.

Sigh. I suppose I should review this book for those of you who care. Perhaps you skimmed the Cliff's Notes (kids, these were paper versions of items like Spark Notes) or skipped to the end. Whiny, spoiled Emma Bovary has a series of lovers. She kills herself at the end. Oops, sorry to spoil it. Um, spoiler? Is it too late?

Yes, I understand the historical importance of this book - Flaubert was sued after portions were released in serial form. In fact, he dedicates the book to his lawyer. I must have seen too many commercials for Doritos or Bud Light because most of the steamy sex scenes that sent women groping for the smelling salts were lost on me.

And Emma is a spoiled cow. Hmm... I wonder if he planned that.

2.0 out of 5.0 Brown Cows.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there." - Thomas Berger

MH - I promised to remind you when this book was available because my review came out so early.

"The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind" - from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

No, it is not written by me.

Yes, I know the author, but I am not the only one raving about this book.

And, as you are quite aware, I have slammed the books of people I know in the past, so just have a Ciroq lemondrop with me and kick back.

(MH does not give me her email... she is like Batman.)