28 December 2012

Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fellowship of the Ring  4Stars

This is the second book by Tolkien that I have had the joy of reading. While The Hobbit seemed to fly along, this first installment of the Lord of the Rings saga has moments where it lags a bit. That is to be expected from a book that, in total, is over a thousand pages. The longer the book the more pages I give it to catch my interest.

Having already seen the movies, I know how the story goes, but I want to see how the author intended it to be. I must say that I was not left disappointed. The political intrigue and betrayal is not unlike watching the news today. I think what I enjoy the most is that Tolkien wrote of these places and people and creatures as if they were real, not merely something out of his imagination. "Merely". I shouldn't use such a word, there is nothing minor or simple about this story. It pulls you in, drags you along the journey as you run from Black Riders, follow Frodo, worry with Sam, listen to the songs of old sung by Aragorn and Legolas, and borrow some of the dwarfish strength of Gimli.

If you have not yet read this book, but have seen the movie, you're missing out. There is so much more that you need to know! I regret nothing, reading the tales of Middle Earth. Neither will you.

20 December 2012

i am the messenger by Markus Zusak

i am the messenger -- 5stars

So there I was, trolling the library, wondering what would pop out at me this time. What treasure would call to me and beg to be read? What story would make me think, make me curious? Who's words would keep me awake until the wee hours? I found it. Or rather, it found me.

We follow a young man named Ed Kennedy for just one year, one single year in the life of a pathetic kid who won't amount to anything, so says his mother. Then one day everything changes, he receives the Ace of Clubs in the mail with three addresses. He has to deliver a message to each place, but he doesn't have a clue what that is to be. He has to to this not just for one ace, but for all of them. The journey isn't just to deliver a message, but to... well you'll have to read it to find out what happens.

This was one of those rare books that I think everyone should read, not because it was a joy and a great read, but because it has the potential to change lives if you let it. There are other books that I can think of that I can think of, most of which are considered young adult, that have the same potential. Deliver a message to someone, maybe not what they want to hear sometimes, but always what they need. Every thing that we do, every thing we say has a power to effect others and ourselves. The point is that we have to allow the change, fighting it only causes more pain.

So is that what happened to Ed Kennedy? Did he change because of the messages he was sent to deliver? You'll have to read it and find out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, I hope the story calls to you in a whisper off the shelves and talks to you until you are wide awake at two in the morning, feeling completely satisfied.

20 November 2012

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit-- 5 Stars

I tried reading The Hobbit once many years ago, but I think I was too young when I made the first attempt. At the time I thought that Tolkien took too long and was far too descriptive with the places he was writing about. Never a great of fan of what I call "straight fantasy", books that are in places completely of the author's imagination, I tend to stay away from them in favour of things more palatable. So here I am, a twenty-eight year old self professed geek, finally completing The Hobbit. "Why?" you may well ask... That's easy, because I want to see the movie and I always read the book first.

Honestly, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. It was a fantastic read, full of adventure and strange new places. My edition has a wonderful map on both the front and back in-covers which makes it much easier to see where Bilbo and the dwarfs are in their adventure.

Bilbo is a simple creature, satisfied with simple tastes of good food and good cheer. When he is hired to act as the burglar for Thorin and Company, he's more then a little apprehensive. He'd rather sit in his arm chair in front of the hearth and blow smoke rings then sleep on the cold ground with goblins and trolls about. Sure, there is a vast hoard of treasure to be had, but at what cost? It takes nearly a year for the small hobbit to return home again. By that time, he has changed from a simple creature of simple tastes to one who has seen great things and appreciates the smallest and most simple of all experiences. Good food and good company.

I must admit some regret in having waited so long to read such a novel, though now my interest has been piqued and I must read more, know more. I do believe that the Lord Of The Rings will be among the next books on my reading list.

15 November 2012

Long Way Down

Long Way Down -- 4Stars

I give this four starts because I cannot stand some of the language they use. I suppose I should be aware that men on motorbikes curse and swear too much, especially when there are no wives about.

Anyway, I truly did enjoy traveling with them as they made their way from Scotland to the Southern-most tip of Africa. From deserts to rain forests, the two friends made their way south, forever south. They stopped at various points to visit UNICEF centres and talk with the children effected by war. From the sick and dying children of Robin's House in the UK to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda. I must confess that there was more then point in which I cried for those children. No child should go through that, land mines at their front doors or being forced to become a soldier at only eight years old. If you don't feel for them, then you are numb.

The friends traveled through some terrible roads and met every challenge with stubbornness, if not grace. Tumbling off the bike in the sands of the Sudan, getting mucked in the mud after the rains of Ethiopia. No matter what was thrown at them, they continued on and laughed about it later. I suppose that is what true friendship is, dealing with the crap in life and laughing at the end of it. Boil-in-a-bag dinners with elephants walking past your tent, I can't imagine a better way to see Africa. Can you?

28 October 2012

Holy Warrior by Angus Donald

Holy Warrior --4 Stars

This is the second book in the series and yes, you do have to read them in order. I picked up the first book a few years ago and loved it, this was no different. We continue following Alan Dale and his master, Robin Odo (Robin Hood) as they keep a promise that Robin made to go to the Holy Land and recapture Jerusalem from Saladin. There are plots to assassinate Robin, kill Alan, and destroy the King's position, although he can do that all on his own anyway.

While not for the faint of heart, this is a novel that is historically accurate to certain degrees. King Richard the Lionheart did indeed go to the "Holy Land" and fought Saladin, though never face to face. He also burned through massive amounts of gold to accomplish this pilgrimage. While Alan Dale didn't truly exist, there were many like him. Many who fought through Sarasen  hordes did so because they believed it to be a noble quest that would secure their place in heaven, no matter how often they had to deny Christ's law to love your neighbour as yourself.

I love that this is a fast pasted novel of battles, loyalty and betrayal. A story a young boy forced to become a man with a sword and shield. A telling of Robin of the Hood like we've never seen before from an author who knows how to mix fiction and fact in a beautiful way in which you are no longer sure where one starts and the other ends.

19 October 2012

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Dance Dance Dance -- 3.5 Stars

I love Murakami and enjoy his prose and his creative word use, yet this was not one of my favourite stories. We pick up where we left our unnamed protagonist from Wild Sheep Chase while he searches for his girl-friend. He starts at the Dolphin Hotel where they're adventure began four years prior.

Unfortunately, the entire story is so disjointed that its hard to make heads or tails of anything. He's in Tokyo, then Sapporo then Hawaii then back to Tokyo and finally Sapporo. Dreams pop into his head that you aren't sure are real or not, but then neither is he.

All in all this novel left me feeling as if I'd wasted my time, as if there should have been something more, but that it was forgotten or edited out. Either way, I'm sorely disappointed in Dance Dance Dance. 

04 October 2012

The Reading Goals So far

This post is a little different than most of I've written. So far this year, I've read less then I would have hoped, only twenty-five of the forty books I had as a goal. Puts me a little behind, unfortunately. At the moment, I'm reading Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami and his books always seem to take a little bit, since there is so much depth to his tellings. This will be the last book in my "Group Reading Challenge" from Good Reads. It also counts towards my personal goal to read all of Murakami's books available in English, this is number seven out of the eleven that I own.

After Dance, Dance, Dance I'm not sure what I want to read. A mystery? A fantasy? A young adult? A fiction? Oh the choices are endless! I could even be daring and borrow one from the library, though that isn't something I do often. I tend to go to the local book shops see something I may read and say "oh why not buy it". Tends to happen quite often with me, buying yet more books when I've not finished the ones I have already. I really cannot help myself, I'm quite the book junkie.

I find being a book addict to be rather harmless addiction as these things go. If there was such thing as Book-Addicts Anonymous, it would become a book club within about three sessions... if that long. When I meet someone that says they hate to read, I feel very sorry for them. They miss out on all the grand adventures. I'm twenty-eight and have already been on several sea voyages, been under water exploring. I've traveled to Sherwood, Oxford, Paris, Tokyo, Hongkong, Middle Earth and Shangrilah. I've fought dragons, defended kingdoms, saved the universe at least twice, and solved countless murders. All those stories and so many people won't know such grand adventures! Truly, its a depressing thought.

28 September 2012

A Wild Sheep Chase By Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase-- 4 Stars

We follow an unnamed protagonist as he searches out a sheep with a star on its back. He searches for the sheep while also searching for a long lost friend of his. He leaves Tokyo and heads north into the mountains. There are times when you think that you know exactly what is going on then the author yanks the rug out from under you and leaves you stranded in a vacuum.

I always enjoy the novels, but honestly I find myself at a loss of how to describe them to others. The satirical talent that reigns here defies proper description. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and have already started on the next one.  

The mix of mystery and pure anarchy makes for a lovely adventure, one that keeps me turning pages long into the night.

23 August 2012

Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

Long Way Round -- 5 stars

All right, this has been sitting on my shelf for several years and I really have been meaning to read it. I'm actually not a huge fan of travel genre because the writers often sound so bloody pretentious when they describe the country side that they view from the spit shined windows of their over priced hotel. This book starts off as a couple of mates act on a dream they've each toyed with since childhood, to ride a motobike around the world.

After months of planning, they start off from London and make their way east to New York City, a trip that will take them four months and 18,887 miles. I laughed with them as they encountered one strange adventure after another. I worried when the rivers they crossed were higher then the engines. With every border crossing, I hoped they would get through it safely and with little hassle. Every day seemed to bring something new to the boys, and therefore to me. By reading the journey they took around the world, I learned that there are still people out there who will stop for a total stranger to help him repair his bike, that will take him into their home, feed him, and offer him a warm bed. The world is full of people who are willing offer a hand in exchange for a smile. I also learned, along with McGregor and Boorman,  that not everything is as it seems and every person deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Most of all, I learned that life isn't about the destination, its all about the journey. Lovingly and honestly written, Long Way Round shows everyone that takes the time to read it that sometimes all you need is a little adventure and fresh air to find what you were looking for, which is often not too far from where you started in the first place. 

12 August 2012

Memory and Dream by Charles De Lint

Memory and Dream - 5 stars

All right all right... we already know that I am partial toward De Lint's novels. I just love his stories. I love how he mixes myth, legend and the real to make a beautiful story. You can't help but fall in love with the characters, the story...

Imagine you're an artist, oils are your medium. You are taken under the wing of one of the most celebrated artists of your time. Under his tutelage, you learn that your art can be a gateway to bring across whatever your subject in the painting is, whether its a Native American, a reading woman or a wild girl. You love each one that crosses over, they aren't just figments of your imagination... they are real people.

This is where Izzy finds herself. She's so excited to be learning from one of, if not the best and most celebrated artist of her time. Everything is going just fine until she starts to have nightmares of her work being destroyed, burned. The people she has been bringing over are being killed, they are connected to the paintings. If the paintings are destroyed then the person dies too. But is Izzy just dreaming, or are her dreams real?

I was up late last night reading, I just had to finish the story and see what happened. As always, I wasn't disappointed.

09 July 2012

The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate-- 3 stars

I am convinced that every author writes a dud novel, one that doesn't live up to the standards said author usually accomplishes. This happens on average once every ten years, could be more often if the author is rather prolific. In this case, Grisham has disappointed me. I read the novel hoping for the thrilling twists and turns that usually accompany his novels. I was sadly disappointed this time.

The novel starts off with a decent enough twist, a man from some agency blackmails Kyle McAvoy, law school graduate, by using something from his past. His job is to infiltrate a law firm, the largest in the world, and steal documents. But that is where the adventure and twists end, really. Boring and straight forward. Sure we see what happens to every law student after they pass the bar exam. They are over worked, but they get paid well, so there's reason to complain. Unless of course, you have some guy telling to betray everything you've ever known.

Not one of my favourite books by Grisham. I haven't read one of his books in some time and was depressed by how predictable the entire thing was. Most of the time, I have to run to catch up with him, but not this time.

30 June 2012

The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale-- 5 Stars

How could this book have been sitting, languishing on my shelves for so many years? How had I managed to deprive myself of such a story for so long? Its inexcusable, simple as that.

Upon suggestion from a fellow book-aholic on GoodReads, I picked up The Thirteenth Tale. I was not disappointed. We follow a young woman by the name of Margaret Lea, who is contacted by the author Vida Winter to write her biography. Margaret doesn't read books written by authors still among the living when there are so many others to read by authors who will never write again. However, she is intrigued by Ms. Winter and accepts the commission to "tell the truth".

The story unfolds of strange relationships, feral twins, a governess, a ghost, a garden and fire that destroyed it all. All too often, I found myself, or rather lost myself, in this telling of gothic strangeness and I loved it. I would come up from this story only to eat or drink and that begrudgingly. I stayed up late last night reading, it was well after two in the morning before I turned the last page and shut out the light. I've not done that in some time and it was a joy. Our protagonist, Margaret, left no stone unturned and even told us what happened to all the side characters in this tale, something that most authors don't bother to do. I had to find out what happened to everyone.

The Thirteenth Tale pulls you with a strange magnetic force into the pages of the story and doesn't let you go. You find yourself thinking about the characters long after you've had to set the book down and go back to work. You find yourself wondering what is going to happen next. Will Margaret finish the commission before time runs out? Will we ever know what really happened in that house so long ago? Will Margaret find the peace she is looking for? Questions such as these haunt you until you reach the last page and smile at the complete story, happy that everything worked out in the end even if it wasn't how you thought. In a rare fashion, I actually cried when this novel reached its conclusion. I was sad that the story was over.

There are books that we find a few times in our lives, if we are very fortunate, that have a power over us, that mystical power of a story. It fills us, guides us down it's own path and when we reach the end of that journey, we are left feeling a sense of both joy at completion and sadness that these characters we have met will go on without us. You see, their story is over for now and ours must continue. We have to say good-bye and good-byes are rarely kind and happy affairs in their entirety, but a cloud of sadness always lingers. Always, and I wouldn't change it for anything.

12 June 2012

City Of Bones by Michael Connelly

City Of Bones -- 4 Stars

Yes, yes, yes... I know I read them out of order, but oh well. Good thing about the Harry Bosch novels is that they can stand alone, though I really do think I should have read them in order. Oh, well...

Anyway... when a dog digs up an old bone from a small child, Detective Bosch is assigned the case. It turns out to be a cold case, the bones buried twenty-five years ago. Harry is distracted slightly by a beautiful young "boot", a probationary officer. We follow a budding romance and a gruesome murder of a young boy. Will Harry be able to find his killer after all this time?

Again my only major complaint is the amount of swearing in this novel! Its demeaning. I like a good mystery, the more twists the more I like it. My wish is granted in a Connelly novel, but that amount of swearing is just getting on my nerves.

The Closers by Michael Connelly

The Closers -- 4 Stars

This is one of the books in the Harry Bosch series and the first of which I've read. Detective Bosch has just returned from a three year retirement and he has been assigned to the Open-Unsolved Unit, also known as Cold Cases. His first case is one that is seventeen years old. A teen girl is found dead in the hills behind her home, an apparent suicide. The detectives on the case at the time botched the investigation and her killer was never caught. Now its up to Harry Bosch and his partner Kizman Rider to give this young girl a voice once more.

The investigation unfolds in so many ways and leads the reader down the path to the truth, not the fabrication that everyone else was led to believe over the years. There are so many twists in this book that a map may be required.

I did enjoy the action and the way the plot unfolded in such an intriguing way. However, I personally think that Bosch swears far too much for my liking. I understand that he's an old man, left over from Vietnam and a resident of L.A no less, but seriously? I don't hear sailors swear so much. That was a real detractor for me. The story has great merit but all that useless and stupid language was unnecessary.  

07 June 2012

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer -- 4 Stars

This is the first Connelly novel I've read and I must say it was thoroughly enjoyable! We start by meeting Michael Haller, a defense attorney in L.A. His job is to not just get you off for possession, but to neutralize all evidence that the District Attorney's office may have on you. And he's not too bad at it.

Enter his latest client, Louis Roulet (pronounced roo-lay) who is accused of attempted rape, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Its clear that he's guilty, but guilt and innocence is not Haller's job, acquittal is. Roulet isn't the type of guy we thing he is, though and Haller may in over his head this time.

I read this book rather quickly, but it took me a bit to get the review up. After reading this novel I would absolutely read another by Connelly. I was completely wrapped up in his character and the plot. Speaking of which, the twist at the end had me almost "No way!" at the lunch table at work. It was that unexpected. I'm looking forward to another Michael Haller novel. He's a very sound character, even if he is a defense lawyer.

13 May 2012

How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

How The Irish Saved Civilization -- 4 Stars

I picked this up a few weeks ago in a used book store and was rather surprised with the out come. I have seen this title before but never bothered to read it. Oh, why did I wait so long? WHY!? Anyway... Cahill writes in such an easy to read fashion that you can hardly tell this is a history for it reads more like a novel. Using a multitude of available scripts, scrolls and codices we are transported to the post Roman world where only the most wealthy are literate, maybe. The clergy can read and write but usually they are limited to Latin.

In the first millennium, the Irish present themselves in a strange way. Many people today would not think of Ireland as a seat of great learning but in those crumbling years of the Roman Empire, they were far enough away to be just that, an educational Mecca of sorts. Monks, starting after Patrick (yes, the saint), started to copy down every scrap they could get their hands on. Whether Greek tragedies and mythologies, Roman histories, or their own verbal stories passed from the Celts to the "modern" Irish, the monks started to copy down everything, so doing creating libraries.

Knowledge used to be gained through books, pages provided enlightenment. Nowadays we have Google and Wikipedia, when we used to have Encyclopaedia Britannica. From the Dark Ages to the dawn of the Middle Ages, Ireland and the monasteries started by traveling monks and friars were the reservoirs of learning. Once the Vikings started sacking everyone along any known coastline, Ireland lost that, but still today we can look at the early Irish and say "thank you". Had they not copied everything that came their way, we would have lost the stories, the histories and the commentary of their own day and going back certainly farther then the First Century.

Truly a fascinating read!

19 April 2012

The Doomsday Key By James Rollins

The Doomsday Key -- 5 Stars

All right, all right... so I'm partial, sue me. I truly love how the novels of Rollins unfold into these grand epics of intrigue and mystery. In The Doomsday Key, Rollins pulls from history and science, which is his usual mix, though it never seems to get old. This time, we follow Grayson Piece and the rest of the people at Sigma as they travel throughout Europe on the trail of an answer to a problem that could wipe out the world's population in a mere few years.

From the science of genetically modified crops and diseases, the political firestorm of over population to the history of the Celts, the pagans and the early Church, we are taken on a whirlwind of adventure. I had a hard time putting this book down, as I wanted to figure out the puzzles with Gray and Rachael and Seichan. There were several times when I was literally sitting on the edge of my chair waiting to see what would happen!

The Sigma Force Series is always a fast moving tale of... well of everything. I never do get tired of reading them and can never wait for the next one to come out. These books are everything that I love. A little mystery, a little adventure, a little history, and a little science with a smidge of romance tossed into the mix to make things interesting (as if they weren't already). With this novel finished, now I can start the next in the series. Oh joy and delight!

02 April 2012

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

The Last Oracle-- Five Stars

I have been meaning to read this for some time. Rollins is a favourite of mine and I truly enjoy his Sigma Force Series, reading every new story. The Last Oracle was no different. We follow the usual team on an adventure through Washington DC and Russia with a Romani gypsy and an archeologist in tow. The world is about to be thrown into a nuclear Holocaust and the only hope lies in the hands of a few autistic savant children and a man without a memory.

As with every one of Rollins' novels, it was nearly impossible to put down. Having an hour for lunch doesn't seem long at all when I'm nose down in a good book. Sigma Force is everything that a good adventure should be, face paced and unpredictable. I love a reading books that make me sit on the edge of my chair and hope and pray that everyone will come out at the end all safe and sound. This is one of the few authors that makes me care so much about the story that I will talk out loud to the characters to not go down that road; to duck because there is someone behind that door; to look out because that truck isn't going to stop. I walked away from The Last Oracle feeling satisfied at the ending. And waiting for more...

16 March 2012

House On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford

House on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet-- 4 Stars

I picked this book up a few years ago and read so far into it then became distracted and left the book on the shelf for some time. I'm glad that it was recommended that I pick it up again. Such a lovely story, so many emotions in one book! Love, joy, anger, confusion, pain and back to joy again.

We meet Henry, a Chinese boy in Seattle. He falls in love with a girl, Keiko. This is out of the question for several reasons not the least of which her being Japanese and Pearl Harbour is not a distant memory. Henry and Keiko are friends, no matter what his family and the government say. So when the government takes the Japanese people and ships them inland to "interment camps", they continue their friendship, for a time anyway.

Fast forward forty years, Henry is now a widower and his son is at university. Life has been kind to him for the most part, but its also given him pain. His wife has died of cancer and the past has come back to haunt him. An old hotel is being refurbished, the contractors have found a stash of items dating back to those terrible days of 1944 when America was at war with Japan, a time when innocent families put their precious belongings in the basement to save them from looters. Henry recognizes a parasol from his long lost Keiko.

And thus the story begins. Mr Ford writes a wonderful story in which he goes between Henry's past in 1944 and his present in 1986. A part of American history that most people either don't know or don't mention, the interment camps. People, second generation American citizens, were packed up and shipped off to camps around the country, treated as little more then cattle. There were some at the time that viewed them as mistreated human beings, convicted without a court hearing, without justice. Some went home again, most relocated to other areas, never returning to their homes again and starting over.

I couldn't put my book down and had to finish last night, in spite of the raging head ache. I was left with a feeling of having completed a wonderful tale of more then joy and pain, bit one of hope... always hope.

11 March 2012

Snow Flower And The Secret Fan By Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan -- 3 Stars

This novel is one of pain and love, two things most common to all women. We follow Lily and her laotong, old same, Snow Flower. The two girls are matched much like a marriage and will be friends for their lives with a deeper love then a man and a woman. They endure foot binding, a custom to make a girl's feet very small and thus shows her strength and obedience. A woman's worth is only secure when she produces a son, but with a laotong you are worth much more.

We follow these two women through their lives, through their joys and pains, triumphs and sorrows. We listen to Lily as she tells their story and it is full of so much, yet not enough.

Lisa See has trouble making me care about the characters. I almost tossed the book aside but pushed myself to the end. I was afraid to miss something, the way other people have raved about the title. I was glad that I did. Without giving anything up, the final chapters were perfect. All the turmoil finally comes to a head and we see true redemption and true friendship. More then that, we are shown how strong women truly can be, and are.

While there are several things in this novel that I disagree with, I understand that they are all parts of ancient Chinese culture. Arranged marriages are never a guarantee of a happy lifetime. Foot binding is simply barbaric and telling your daughter she is worthless is horrifying. While I realize these are all parts of a culture, it doesn't mean that I agree with it.

Honestly, my biggest problem with this book is the characters! Lily is pathetically selfish and is given much, so much that she becomes a "holier then thou" type. Her redemption at the end is a case of too little too late. And yet... the memories of my own past came flooding back. All the times I should have done something, could have done something and didn't. I cried at the end though I'm not sure if I was weeping over the book or myself. 

29 February 2012

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town  --5 Stars

I'm not sure if it is completely possible to be enthralled with a book but infuriated by it as well. If this is indeed possible then I am in those shoes. In 1983, a lovely young woman was found brutally murdered in her apartment in Ada, Oklahoma. The police and prosecutor knew who committed the crime, they just had to prove it... by whatever means necessary. The prosecutor didn't care that he actually needed evidence to convict, the confessions heard by jailed prisoners would be plenty. Give him an attorney who didn't defend and his fate was sealed with prison bars.

Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz were innocent of the murder of Debbie Carter, as they stated throughout the "investigation". The entire thing was not merely injustice but a severe miscarriage! I was appalled that no one seemed to notice that the confessions, so called, were illegal; the prosecution failed to convince beyond a reasonable doubt that either man was even seen with the victim prior to her death, let alone in her apartment; the defense missed that Mr Williamson was obviously not competent enough to stand trial.

I do believe that if you commit the crime then you must serve the time for it. But what if you are indeed innocent? Twelve years of legal maneuvering and two men are finally free but forever changed. I know I just gave it away, but the so does the synopsis. Getting to the end is the trial, if you'll forgive the pun.

John Grisham has not before, nor since, delved into the world of true crime or non-fiction. "Writing fiction is just too much fun," he says. His style, though, is clear throughout. The Innocent Man reads almost like a work of fiction. Indeed, I hoped that it was, instead of some cruel imprisonment for two men. This book has been on my shelves for some time and once started, I found it difficult to put down.

19 February 2012

The 39 Steps By John Buchan

1 Star--
Oh my.. this marks a first on Quill and Ink, I didn't bother to find a cover and I will not be posting a link for purchase. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in this novel. First, we find our protagonist, a bored London socialite, bemoaning his life. He is quickly met up with murder and mayhem, outrunning Germans who want to kill him before he tells the authorities of their plans, which will ultimately bring about World War II. The fact this man manages to out run and out smart the German secret service in the moors of Scotland is not even remotely believable. The author realizes that he is pushing the limits of the imagination and cuts out ten days, since the man has to run for three weeks, to speed up the story.

Really, this is one of the worst novels I have ever read and so far the worst of 2012. I am glad that the author didn't write too many books. His lack of talent saddens me.

29 January 2012

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

Shoeless Joe -5 Stars

"If you build it, he will come." One of the most famous lines in both film and literature. We, as readers, are dropped square in the middle of Iowa with Ray and his family on his small farm. The place is mortgaged to the hilt and he starts to hear an announcer and see visions. He knows what he has to do without being given any specific instructions. Build a ball field, ease an author's pain, going the distance... all in hopes that he can see one person again.

Throughout the story, we are regaled with purity of baseball. I don't care how many players are using steroids, the game always has a purity to it. A stadium always smells like hotdogs, beer, dirt and fresh grass. Baseball is the smell of summer, the feeling of joy that brings even the biggest men back to a small boy if only for a few hours. Dreams are baseball.

Now I am lover of the game. I can't give you statistics or tell who won what series on what year. I always love to watch the game though. Even minor leagues, there's a local minor team in my home town and I can never get enough of there games. Shoeless Joe reminds all of what its like to dream again, even if it seems impossible, we are reminded of simple joys like the sound of ball hitting a bat with a whack and not a ping.

I wish I could put into words how wonderful this novel was. It may go off on a tangent here and there, but its always coming back to baseball. "The one constant in America has been baseball."

27 January 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel  -- 5 Stars

A story that caught me from the beginning and did not let me go! I was struck by how wonderful this novel was. The French Revolution, 1792: People are being offered to the guillotine daily, sacrificed in the name of liberty. Aristocrats in particular are being slaughtered; they are called "traitors" simply for being wealthy. One man risks his live to save them, men women and children, from their engagement with Madame La Guillotine. He is called The Scarlet Pimpernel!

He is a cleaver man, who has a small band of his English companions to help him save these poor souls from death. He risks everything to go back to France again and again. No one knows who he his and one man, Chavelin, will do anything to catch him red handed in smuggling people across the Channel. Chavelin employs  woman to find the identity of the Pimpernel. What will she do? Give him up to his enemies and death, or risk her life for his?

I love the mystery that goes throughout the novel, never truly knowing who the Pimpernel is until the final chapters. I was disappointed by another French novel not long ago and was dread to read this one. Oh how glad I am I did! What a wonderful mystery! Full of royal court life, high society and intrigue.

This book is on the challenge to read twelve books that have been on my shelf for a year or more and I believe 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.

20 January 2012

Review Request

Just in case anyone was wondering, yes I will do read requests. I was indeed asked to read a title, by the author himself. John Michael Cummings sent me a request, through my Drood review, to read a title called Ugly To Start With, a collection of short stories. I did reply, though rather late, and was unable to reach the author. I will, however, check the title at my local library. If I can find it, the title shall be read and reviewed.

Please, if you, my dear Readers, have any titles you'd like reviewed, please send me a message. Thank you for reading.

18 January 2012

Promises To Keep by Charles De Lint

Promises To Keep --5 Stars

All right, so I'm partial. I love Charles De Lint!! His novels always take me to a new place, a new adventure. In this case, my favourite character, Jilly Coopercorn, is in her early twenties. She has only just cleaned up her life and is attending Butler University, studying Fine Art. Jilly is given an invitation to see a band preform and so walks through a doorway to an afterlife.

I say "an afterlife" because, as the book says, there could be several. Jilly is given everything she was denied in her life. She is safe, has money, no one is wanting to pimp her out for cash... In short its the perfect life. The only problem is that she feels she's in the wrong place. She is making a life in Newford and wants to earn her happiness, not have it simply handed to her.

Problems really start when Jilly is told she can't home to the "World As It Is". Since she accepted the wealth offered, she has to stay. Jilly wants to go home. But how?

Beautifully written. This is a recent novel, but tells the early history of a character that I have grown to care very much about. I have loved Jilly since I first read of her in The Ivory and The Horn. Of course that was the De Lint novel that started this whole Newford obsession. When compared to the other book I finished that day, this one was a joy! And yes, I read all 192 pages in a single day. I couldn't stop myself. 

The Phantom Of The Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom Of The Opera -- 1 Star

All right, I have seen the film starring Gerard Butler and listed to the same sound track a hundred times. I do enjoy the story... on stage! The novel, however, was a chore to get through. Christine is a tease, as we would say today. She strings poor Raoul along and leaves him hanging any number of times. The dialog is excrement! And I was left sorry I even started the book in the first place.

This book was on my reading list, and I've had it on my shelf for some time. I should have left it that way. I just could not believe such a renown novel could be so lousy! Honestly, it felt like a French version of Gone With The Wind. I had to speed read to get through this.

15 January 2012

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Grotesque -- 3.5 Stars

This is the first novel by this author that I have read and I was left feeling unsure about the book as a whole. Written in Japanese surrealist style, the novel follows one woman through her life and how she reacts to a world where she is merely average yet her younger sister is a monstrous beauty. The focus is on the time spent in high school and then middle age.

When her sister and a school mate are both murdered, the unnamed protagonist goes back through her memory and explores the past they all shared. There are two journals and one confession that we are given to read to gain further insight into this world of prostitution, murder and money. Spanning well over thirty years, this book has a lot of detail but it doesn't really go anywhere.

I do enjoy Japanese surrealism, but not this book. It was average in almost every way. The way the story kept flipping from one view to the next was uninspired. The protagonist is a malicious whiner, not a character I attach to or care about.

This is book number one in my list of novels left on my shelf for longer then one year.

05 January 2012

A Year In Books

I made a goal to read forty books in a year. Well I missed it by four books. It was an interesting adventure, reading so many books with such a varying array of titles. This has motivated me to try this goal again. In 2012, I want to read forty books. Mixing with that goal are three others. Goal One: To read twelve books that have been on my shelves for at least a year. This is to be completed in 2012. Goal Two: To read all books available in English by Haruki Murakami, this is an on going goal. Goal Three: To read all books listed in 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, also an on going goal.

I will continue to add my reviews for books I read and I'm looking forward to yet another year in books. I am pleased to share my journey with any and all who want to join me. Until next time...

Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto

Lizard -- 4 Stars

This is a collection of short stories, though calling them novellas would be a better description. The stories are strange and surreal in a way that I have only seen from Japanese authors. Its hard to describe them in a way that anyone could understand, but I can try.

There are four stories and they vary on topics from love to dreams, the past and the present. I enjoyed the shorts and will indeed pick up more novels of this author. I wish I could write more by way of review but there is just no way to put into words how lovely these stories were!