Sunday, August 23, 2009

Under A Blood Red Sky - Kate Furnivall

This novel is set in Russia during the 1930's. It is about a woman named Sofia who has been sent to a work camp in SIberia because her fatehr was considered an enemy of Russia. There she meets Anna, a woman who was once wealthy but now has nothing and no one. They survive in the work camp together by Sofia's courage and by Anna telling stories about her childhood - and her childhood love Vasily. When Anna gets gravely ill, Sophia decideds she must escape the work camp and try to find Vasily so he can help Anna. Sophia travels hundreds and hundreds of miles in search of him. What she finds when she gets to the village where he is supposed to be is not what she expected - friendship, love and maybe even a family.

I was really excited to read this book because I loved The Russian Concubine (which this author wrote as well). I have to be honost and say that I didn't like this book as much as I liked her previous novel but I am not sure if it had to do with th book or my mood when reading it. This book was kind of cheesey and parts were very unrealistic and I found my attention wavering when I was reading it. I had this book for my plane trip back to Turkey with a 5 hour stopover in Munich. I figured i could get through it easliy. I did finish but not until I got home and sat down for another hour. The reason why I think it may have been my mood more then the book is because The Russian Concubine had its fair share of cheese and I loved that. I think that maybe because I had been reading so many murder mysteries lately that I was looking for a little more intrigue and drama.

I really did like some of the characters in this book - especially the young boy Pyotr. It was so sad to see him trying to decide what is right - Mother Russia and all of the propaganda that he has been taught or his feelings for the people around him (even if they did things that seemed to be against Russia). I can't imagine telling on my own family or friends just to get more food or a special favor. I hope I am never in that position. This book made me realize that there is so much Russian history that I need to read up on. Anyone know of any good Russian literature about the 20th century?

Rating - 2

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Grave Tattoo - Val McDermid

I have been trying to read British fiction since I have been in England because some of it is pretty hard to get in Canada. Especially murder-mysteries. I read a Val McDermid novel when I was on vacation with my mom in Greece and really enjoyed it. This one was also really good. The novel is quite different then most murder mystery novels I have read as it has a scholorly twist. Jane Gresham is William Woodsworth scholar who is looking for a lost poem that he has written about Fletcher Christian - the mutinous first mate on the Bounty. A body is discovered in the Lake District; a body that is over 200 years old and had tattoos on it not unlike Fletcher Christian. Jane heads up there to investigate and but death seems to follow when elderly people who are involved in her search begin to die. There is also a subplot about her relationship with a young black girl named Tenille who lives with her aunt in the apartment complex that Jane does. I really enjoyed this extra aspect to the book.

The was interesting cause I thought I knew who the killer was but then I wasn't too sure. I like it when books let me believe I know who did it but then throw in a bit of a twist that makes me doubt myself. They talked a lot about this author when I was at the Edinburgh Book Festival because she is from Edinburgh. Many of her mystery novels take place in the city but I have yet to read one. I hope I am able to find some when I get back to Canada!

Rating - 3

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some New Books

I resisted the temptation to buy books for most of my time in England. I had a great library to browse through and I was really satisfied with most of the books I got to read this summer. But there are some great books and some really good sales here. I realized that I will need to stock up on my books because I will be moving to the Northwest Territories next month. I went to this great store near my father-in-law's house that sells paperback books 3 for 5 pounds (which is 3 for 9 Canadian dollars). I picked up 9 books and here they are:

The Careful Use Of Compliments - Alexander McCall Smith
The World According To Bertie - Alexander McCall Smith
44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith
Helpless - Barbara Gowdy
Ghosts Of India (Doctor Who) - Mark Morris
Under A Blood Red Sky - Kate Furnivall
The Resurrectionist - James Bradley
The Marriage Bureau For Rich People - Farahad Zama
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Has anyone read any of these books and if so are they any good??

Monday, August 17, 2009

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009 Writing Workshop

So I finally got to spend a few days a real book festival and it was amazing! It has been running for 26 years and goes on for about 2 weeks. There are many different events for all book lovers - poetry readings, meet the authors, literary readings, workshops, children's events and a lot more. I only attended two events because I was only in Edinburgh for 3 days and had some other things that I really wanted to see (like a LONG day trip to Loch Ness). As I talked about in my previous posting I went to see Carlos Ruiz Zafon discuss his new book The Angel's Game. The event was sold out and I loved how diverse the audience was. It was awesome to be sitting with a bunch of people who have enjoyed his books as much as I have.

But the first event i went to was first thing opening day - and that was a workshop called Writing Fiction. There were only 20 spots available so I booked this weeks ago. I have always wanted to write a novel, when I was a young girl I used to write all the time. I gave it up as I got older (besides this blog) and now spend most of my free time reading books. Over the years I have decided that I really want to get into writing again but just have no idea where to start. I thought this would be a great starter. The workshop was an hour and a half and we started off by telling our names and if we had written anything previously. It was a diverse group - some had published stories while others had never really written anything before and were interested in starting.

The first exercise we did was to write 3 sentences describing the story we either had already started writing or that we want to write. I sat there for about 10 minutes with a blank piece of paper. Suddenly an idea came to me. I wrote it down and then rewrote it, then changed it. It was really interesting and got my brain thinking about ideas that I never knew were there. We then all went around and talked about our ideas. It was great to see how different everyones story ideas were and the positive feedback I got on mine.

For the last bit we talked about character development and how to keep a plot moving in a novel. We got some work sheets and some information on a week long writing workshop in Northern Scotland that I would die to go to at some point in my life. We also talked about how to get motivation to write and how important it is to write everyday - even if it is only for 10 minutes. It was a great workshop and I think it has motivated me to really sit down and start to write something. I think I have it in me - I just need to really do it!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I got up early yesterday morning to finish The Angel's Game before heading to The Edinburgh International Book Festival to see the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon speak about it. When I found out a few months ago that I would be going to the Book Festival for the first 2 days I was SO excited to see that I would be able to see Carlos Ruiz Zafon and get him to sign my favorite book The Shadow Of The Wind. I picked up a hardcover edition of The Angel's Game as it was only released a few weeks back. I began reading it on the train to Edinburgh and got involved in the story right away.

The book is set in Barcelona in the 1920's. It is a dark book filled with mystery and supernatural elements. David Martin the main character - he is an author who has had a hard life that seems to be getting harder. He makes a deal to write a book for a mysterious Parisian publisher - and then people around him start dying and David begins to wonder who is the man he is working for and what dark secrets need to be uncovered. I don't want to give any more info because I don't want to give away any of the twists of the book. There are many of them! If you have read The Shadow Of The Wind then you will recognize some of the characters in this new novel. But don't worry - it is a stand alone book and you don't have to know The Shadow Of The Wind to enjoy this book. But I do have to say that The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is back in this novel and will play a part in his next two novels as well!!!

When I finished the book yesterday morning I was worried that I had read it too fast. I had a hard time with the ending and wasn't sure if I really understood it. I reread the ending but still didn't get it. I went to the Book Festival hoping that the author could shed some light on what I had read. And he did. Carlos Ruiz Zafon was excellent to see speak. He was funny and engaging and talk about books like they were friends. He said that many people were very angry with him because they did not understand the ending to The Angel's Game. When I heard this I breathed a sigh of relief - Thank God I wasn't the only one who didn't get it!!! He said that this was a book that you had to think about. It didn't take you by the hand the way The Shadow Of The Wind did and wrap everything up nicely. This was a darker book - one that you had to think about and interpret for yourself.

When I went to get my books autographed I told Mr Zafon that I was one of those people who didn't understand the ending but I was not angry about it. It just made me want to reread the entire book again and see what I could pull from it. That is a sign of an excellent book! There are 2 more books coming and I cannot wait to read them!

Rating - 5

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas - John Boyne

This novel is about a nine year old boy named Bruno whose father is a Commander with the Nazi's. The father is sent to work in Auschwitz and the family goes along to - to live in the house beside. Bruno doesn't really know what his father does or really about anything that is going on around him. All he really knows is that his friends are no longer here and he cannot go exploring like before. That is until one day he finds a boy his age wearing striped pajamas living behind the fence. His name is Shmuel. And then the book just gets sad.

This is a short novel. A little over 200 pages, I read it in 3 sittings. Written from the point of view of a German child this story is heartbreaking. I had to sit back and think when I finished the last page because it made me feel so utterly sad. It made you feel for everyone in Auschwitz and especially for these 2 little boys who just wanted to be friends above everything else. The only problem I have with this book is how little Bruno is aware of what is going on around him. I don't know if it was typically for boys to be not told anything about Hitler or the Nazis - especially if the father was so important. Bruno seems a quite selfish and silly little boy - but if the author did that on purpose to show how he was just a boy being a boy unaware of the horror around him then it did work.

I think that this should be read in elementary schools and high schools. It brings the story of the holocaust from a different viewpoint and also looks at friendship between two little boys who live on different sides of the fence. If this book doesn't break your heart I don't know what will.

Rating - 4

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

I always tell myself that I am not going to read another Jodi Picoult book because they always just make me feel sad and hate humanity. But then I see one at the library and pick it up. It was not exception this week with The Tenth Circle. I read this book in 2 days. An easy and a pretty good read. Maybe I like it because it didn't bring out as strong emotions in me that reading her other books (like Nineteen Minutes and Mercy) did. That can be both a good and a bad thing because those books will stay with me where I don't know if this one will.

This book is about Trixie, a 14 year old girl who says she has been raped by her ex-boyfriend Jason at a party where everyone has been drinking. It is also about Trixie's father Daniel, who only wants to protect his daughter and make Jason pay for what he has done to his little girl. The book is a he said/she said and you really are not sure of what to believe while reading it. Rape is one of those hard to read about subjects and I hated reading about the backlash that Trixie went through at school when everyone found out. Also the rape and sexual violence statistics that Picoult talked about are really shocking, especially when most North Americans have no idea about them. This novel made me scared to death to have a teenage girl someday. The excessive drinking, drugs and unsafe promiscuous sexual activity is enough for me to cringe. We see things like this all the time on daytime talk shows but its still hard to swallow.

I did love Trixie and Daniel's relationship. Very rarely do you see a novel with a father/daughter bond that is so strong. It reminded me a bit of my own relationship with my dad and how he would react if he found out something like that had happened to me. I think that without that bond the story wouldn't have been nearly as good.

Rating - 3

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Name Of The Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Somewhere (and I cannot remember where) I heard some really good reviews about The Name of The Wind. I heard that it was the next Harry Potter for adults. This got me excited but a little bit skeptical - I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series and it would be hard to find another series like it. I am so happy that the reviewers were right about this one - cause it is so good!!!!

This book is science fiction. I am normally not a science fiction girl - I find it hard to remember all of the made up names and places (so it makes for a very long reading experience) but this one was something different. This book is about Kvothe - an extraordinary man who is telling the story of his life to a man known as The Chronicler. He is trying to live as an innkeeper under an assumed name but things are happening around him that could spell trouble coming.

This quote is from the back cover of the book and if it doesn't draw you in I don't know what will!
"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me."

I really really loved this book. It took me a few days to finish this because I didn't want it to end all at once. I found the stories interesting and the writing amazing. This is the first in a trilogy. The next book doesn't come out till April - it will be hard to wait till then! I guess I will just have to reread this one!

Rating - 5

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo

I really wanted to read this book because was going to Paris and I love reading books about places that I will be. I looked at bookshop upon bookshop (and library) in England and couldn't find it. I finally got one when I was in Paris - so I started reading it there. Let's just say it was not what I had expected.

I am sure most people have seen the Disney movie or read the children's version of this French classic set in Paris in the 1500's. The real book is in no way like the movie. I should have realized this but I didn't. So I was really surprised at how the book turned out. The book really isn't about Quasimodo (the hunchback) or Esmeralda - its really about the cathedral and also a lot about the people living in that time. The book was hard to read in places and I will admit that I skipped the chapter about Paris from a 'Birds Eye View' (I rarely skip chapters but I felt that if I didn't I would never get through this book). There was more descriptive writing then dialogue, which is common for classics but I found it a bit difficult to understand because I don't really know much about French history.

The more I read the book the more I liked it. It took me a good week to finish it but when I did I was glad that I read it. The end surprised me - the brutality of the book also surprised me. I was looking for the feel-good Disney ending and I didn't get it. The book left me feeling sad at how people are judged by what they look like and sometimes their characters are shaped by the way people act towards them. Things are not so different today.

Rating - 2

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

July's Reads

I just got back from vacation so I am a little late writing in my monthly reads. This was an amazing month for me. I read more then I remember ever reading before. 20 books in one month. I was on vacation and had access to a really good library and loads of time. Some books were great (like, Yes Man, The Abstinence Teacher and Swan Song) and some not so good (like, The Shack and The Piano Teacher ).

I read 3 non-fiction books and 17 fiction books. I really need to step up the non-fiction reading. The books I read this month were:

88. The Last Days of Dogtown - Anita Diamant
87. A Concise Chinese English Dictionary For Lovers - Xiaolu Guo
86. Yes Man - Danny Wallace
85. Lord John and The Hand Of Devils - Diana Gabaldon
84. Petite Anglais - Catherine Sanderson
83. Growing Pains - Billie Piper
82. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
81. Ines Of My Soul - Isabel Allende
80. The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta
79. The Camel Bookmobile - Masha Hamilton
78. Size 12 Is Not Fat - Meg Cabot
77. Fatherland - Robert Harris
76. The Shack - William P. Young
75. Killing The Shadows - Val McDermid
74. The Piano Teacher - Janice Y.K. Lee
73. No Time For Goodbye - Linwood Barclay
73. When Will There Be Good News - Kate Atkinson
72. The Fifth Victim - Beverly Barton
71. Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs
70. If You Could See Me Now - Cecelia Ahern
69. Swan Song - Robert McCammon

Not all of these were reviewed. I got most of them done but didn't have time for some of them. I am aiming to review all of my books in August. I would also like to reach my 100 book goal by the end of August. That means I have 12 books to read (actually 11 because I already finished one). I am feeling pretty positive that I can do this - especially if I keep reading the way I have been!