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Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Danielle Trussoni's first novel is completely about the study of angels and is absolutely wonderful, if you are into books that resemble the Da Vinci Code as far as type of novel (but are much better written!). It is a mystery novel that incorporates elements of religion, history and popular culture into a memorable mystery novel that anyone can sink their teeth into.

Trussoni's novel focuses on a group of angels - the Nephilim - the results of angels mating with human beings. According to Trussoni, they are monsters that belong in cages, even though they are physically, extremely beautiful. It also focuses on Evangeline, a young nun who, on a snowy day in Westchester, NY discovers that the former mother superior had been corresponding secretly with Abigail Rockerfeller (yes, the philanthropist of Rockerfeller Center fame). She meets Verlaine, an art historian who has been hired by one of the nephilim families and together, they are drawn into a centuries old struggle between …

Cairo Time, starring Patricia Clarkson

So I haven't reviewed a movie in a while because very rarely will a movie move me to actually review it.  I mean, I like movies but not as much as I like books.  However, this movie was just so beautifully done that I had to share about it.

This is a Canadian independent film that was directed by Rubba Nadda and stars Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. Patricia Clarkson plays Juliette, a Canadian journalist who arrives in Cairo in order to vacation with her husband who is a UN official in Gaza.  Her husband has been delayed so he asks his friend, Tareq (played by Siddig) to be her guide and protector in Cairo until he can escape from his duties to vacation with her. Juliette finds herself falling in love with Cairo but also with Tareq, much to her surprise.

Now, I've never been to Cairo, although I really want to go there someday but this movie made me believe that I had a really good feel for the city - its people, its traffic, its mosques and its coffee shops. And yes,…

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

In this novel, that I think that I saw referred to on NPR, Shriver takes on the health care system and uses his novel to provide social commentary about how it is broken. It also tends to rail against the system of taxation that is currently in place. 

The main character is Shepherd (Shep for short), who spent much of his life building up a handyman business. The business was successful and Shep had a pretty good life - he was married to a wonderful woman and they had two children together. Shep sold the business and put the money into an account so that he could go to Pemba on a trip and retire there.  However, his wife contracts mesothelioma - a particularly virulent form of cancer - that begins to decimate his savings. Glynis, his wife, naturally becomes bitter and blames Shep ( thinking that the asbestos he worked with caused the cancer) and herself, for using art supplies that had asbestos in it as well. As it turns out, the person that he sold the company to has agreed to keep …

American Subversive by David Goodwillie

This is one of the books on the New York Times 2010 list, for good reason. It was a fascinating read. This novel focuses on two people: Paige and Aidan.  Aidan is a 30 something blogger who becomes fascinated with Paige after the bombing of a local agency in post 9/11 New York City. Paige is a 29 year old woman with a history of working for non profit organizations that exist to lobby for the benefit of noble causes. She becomes radicalized after her brother's death as a soldier in Iraq and becomes instrumental in organizing bombings of targets. Paige and Aidan eventually meet and become friends of necessity. Goodwillie's wordy novel details the relationship between the two.

I loved this book - it was ambitious and sometimes fell a little flat but the overwhelming majority of the novel was absolutely wonderful. It's wordiness was something that you could sink your teeth into and the story and writing style were such that it was engrossing - so engrossing that I couldn'…

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Moore

This book is a few years old but is, nonetheless, a wonderful read. AJ Jacobs, at the time, was a writer and editor at Esquire magazine. He decided that he was going to spend one year living according to the word of the Bible, but not just as metaphor. He was going to try to live the words of the Bible as literally as possible.  I picked up this book because, on some level, I related to Jacobs - he was/is a secular Jew who wasn't religious and wanted to see what he could find out about his spirituality by doing this project.  It's something that I found intellectually interesting.

The book is a memoir that is written almost like a journal or diary.  Each chapter encapsulates one month in the experiment and each chapter is further split up by day. For instance, he would start a particular entry as "Day 245" for instance. I loved this book. Jacobs' voice is completely authentic - he's the sort of person that would be really fun to have a beer in a bar with beca…

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I, in spite of my best intentions, saw the movie version of this novel before I read the novel. I usually go the other way - reading the novel before I see the movie because inevitably the book is better than the movie. The movie in this case was actually pretty good and fairly true to the book. However, the book itself was absolutely divine.

Briony is the youngest of the Tallis children. The year is 1935 - Hitler is a rising star but hasn't done much of anything yet.  The Tallis family lives on a tremendous compound in the English countryside.  Robbie Turner also lives on the compound - his mother is a chambermaid in the Tallis household.  Briony is 13 and very imaginatve - the novel opens with her completing a play that she had written for performance by she and her cousins - Lola (15), Pierrot and Jackson. It is readily apparent that she is an avid writer with an overactive imagination. Cecilia wants to fill a vase with water at the fountain in front of the Tallis house. She m…

The Town (previously published as Prince of Thieves) by Chuck Hogan

I picked up this book because I want to see the movie eventually and because Boston is one of my most favorite, if not my absolute favorite, American city. Four life long friends - Doug McRay, James "Jem" Coughlin, Albery "Gloansy" McGloan and Dez Eldon grew up on the streets of Charlestown in Boston, MA, in the shadows of the Bunker Hill Monument. Doug is the de facto leader of the group and sets up a hit on a local bank.  The robbery is successful but something unexpected happens - Doug falls hard for the manager, Claire, that he robbed during the course of the crime. He is pursued by an FBI agent that is dead set upon catching them.  The group is  made aware of an opportunity to rob Fenway Parkat some point.  This novel is about the crimes themselves and about the relationships between Doug, his friends, Clair and himself - his identity.

I had never read anything by Chuck Hogan, even though he is apparently a very talented mystery/criminal thriller writer. I, in …

Someone To Blame by CS Lakin

I don't normally read Christian fiction but I received this novel as part of an early reviewer program, so I'm reviewing it here.  When you hear about Christian fiction, or at least when I do, I think about people that are self righteous and preach-y and I assumed that this book would be the same thing.  But I was completely wrong. This is a novel that combines Christian themes with mystery, somewhat successfully; however in general, it wasn't that great a first attempt.

Irene and Matt Moore are married and opt to escape their previous lives by moving themselves and their fourteen year old daughter Casey to the small town of Breakers. Breakers is literally on the edge of the country on the Pacific Northwest and is cold and unforgiving. The family moves there in the hopes of escaping family tragedy. While there, the family meets Billy Thurber, a young man that is battling his own demons, including an alcoholic father and being judged by the local town folk. Irene, Matt and…

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

This is Franzen's fourth novel, but only the second that I have read. I read The Corrections quite some time ago; however I picked up this novel not because of The Corrections (because, quite frankly, I don't remember too much about that novel) but because I've heard about this novel all over the place, from NPR to the Times.

Franzen begins by introducing us to his main characters - Walter and Patty Berglund - who are living in St. Paul, Minnesota in a run down part of town. They have purchased a home that can only be called a fixer upper. They seem to be a perfect couple - Walter works and is a sensitive husband to Patty, who stays at home, raises her children and makes staying at home her profession. And she does it well. The novel takes place in the years just following the September 11 attacks. Walter's son, Joey, is Patty's favorite and she becomes the classic helicopter parent to such an extent that she literally drives Joey away - he begins to sleep with th…

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

This is the third installment in the books about the "Wicked" years - the series that began with the ever popular book, Wicked. Both were written by Gregory Maguire, whosepoularity seemingly hinges on re-writing fairy tales from a different perspective. Where Wicked was witty, unfortunately Maguire's subsequent books tend to lack the wittiness and the uniqueness that made Wicked so wonderful to read.

A Lion Among Men begins with the Cowardly Lion, whose name is actually Brrr, meeting with Sister Yackle, an ancient oracle who is living in the same convent that Elphaba lived in before starting off on her tryst as the Wicked Witch of the West. Brr, who is employed by the new Emperor of OZ, has been sent to meet with Yackle in the hopes of getting information about Elphaba, Liir (her son), the Thropp family and the Grimmerie (the witch's book). Sister Yackle is a pretty good adversary for Brr because she sets up a system of give and take: for each piece of information th…

In The Woods by Tana French

This is Tana French's first mystery novel and it was merely all right.  There were some things that I really enjoyed and some things that I really didn't like.

Ms. French's first novel follows a snapshot in the career and life of a detective on Dublin's murder squad. It specifically follows him on one case - the murder of a 12 year old girl that occurred in the town that he grew up in and how it draws him back into the tragedy that led to him becoming a detective in the first place. Because when he was 12, Detective Ryan's two friends - Jamie and Peter - went into the woods in the town of Knocknaree and never came out, although Detective Ryan did. He was found in a catatonic state, against a tree, with Jamie's blood in his shoes but with no memory of anything that had happened to them while they were in the woods. The mystery of what had happened to the youngsters was never resolved. Since this has happened, Detective Ryan has changed his name from Adam to Rob…

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

The Imperfectionists is Tom Rachman's first novel. It's about a group of journalists that work for a daily in Rome. This daily was founded about 50 years or so before the stories in this novel take place by a millionaire for reasons that are never really clear. Each chapter is about one of the employees from the publisher down to a copyeditor and even a reader.  There are also a few short pages at the end of each paragraph about the history of the paper from when it was founded to its modern day. The stories reference the characters in the other, but aren't interlaced in the sense that they tell the same story from differen perspectives.  They each tell different stories that are supposed to tell us something about the person that Rachman is narrating about.

This book was just delightful. I really enjoyed Rachman's writing style - it was quick, witty, intelligent and fun. And his characters! I loved them because they were imperfect. They aren't romantic heroes, l…

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. There. I said it and now that I've totally gotten rid of the anticipation of what I recommend, let me tell you about this book. Liz Murray was born in 1980 addicted to crack (because her mom used consistently throughout her pregnancy), but otherwise healthy and lived in the Bronx, New York. During her time growing up, she watched her parents struggle with drug addiction and struggling to provide for her and her older sister, Lisa.  Liz also dealt with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a way that most of us may never, ever know about. At 15, Liz became homeless. She had no place to live and, for a long period of time, did not go to school. However, Liz did manage to get into an alternative school - the Humanities Prepatory Academy in Manhattan, where she managed to complete all of her assignments in the subway stations that she slept in. She earned enough credits to graduate in two years and was eventually accepted into Harvard University.

This…

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

This is Paul Murray's second novel. It takes place at an all boy's Catholic school in Ireland and focuses on Daniel "Skippy" Juster. Skippy got his nickname because he bore an uncanny resemblance to a children's kangaroo character of the same name. He is a boarder at Seabrook College, a Catholic school, at a time in most young boys' life when they're undergoing certain, shal we say, changes. Skippy's best friend and roomate is Ruprecht, a portly boy that is a genius. The novel opens with Skippy and Ruprecht having a donut eating contest at a local eatery that is popular with the Seabrook boys. Ruprecht looks on in shock as Skippy collapses, falls off his chair and dies, while writing "Tell Lori" on the floor in jelly, even though he doesn't seem to be choking. So yes, Skppy dies in the first few pages.  But this satire of contemporary Irish society doesn't just end there. It proceeds for about 650 more pages, in which we meet the mys…

Anthropology of an America Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann

I heard about this book on NPR. This book first came out in 2003 when Hilary Thayer Hamann self-published it.  Then, recently, it really took off and hit the mainstream press. It is 620 some odd pages and covers some years in the life of Eveline Auerbach, a girl that lives in East Hampton, NY and New York City in the late 70's and early 80's. She is raised by her divorcee, professor mother and sometimes, her father takes part in her upbringing - he lives in New York city after all. During her junior year in high school, she meets and falls in love with Jack. Jack is a rebel in every sense of the word, and is, in particular rebelling against his father, a wealthy man who seems to ruin everything that he touches. When that relationship ends, Evie meets and falls in love with Harrison Rourke during her senior year in high school. Harrison is a substitute drama teacher at her high school who also boxes professionally and has ties to the New Jersey mafia. After spending a magical s…

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This was another of of those book blogger cult favorites that I just barely got around to reading. It's a 784 page monster of a book (no pun intended) about vampires, but it's not like Twilight or Bram Stoker or Anne Rice type of vampire novel. In fact, these vampires are highly trained killing machines created by the US government from people that were on death row after committing capital offenses in their home states.  The recruits are found and signed up by FBI agents after the ranks of death row inmates were culled. They have no mercy and nothing to tell them what is right or wrong, but they do often wonder who they are. 12 death row inmates (a Biblical reference I wonder?) are the original test targets and a six year old orphan is also found, to be a potential test subject. The 12 become jumpers, who eat the animals thrown into their cells until they escape and begin to prey on humans, who become vampires in their own right once attacked.


There are humans that somehow …

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I think that I'm the last blogger to have read and reviewed this book but I finally got around to it.  This is technically classified as young adult science fiction but there were some themes that were pretty mature in it and which adults could relate to, perhaps for different reasons.

The setting is the country of Panem. Panem is a fictional country that rises out of what once was the United States, Canada and Mexico.  It seems to be almost a post apocalyptic society in the same way that The Handmaid's Tale was.  The country consists of a wealthy Capitol district in the Rocky Mountains and twelve poorer districts who are known for certain types of industry.  The main character comes from the 12th district - Appalachia - known for its coal mining. There is a 13th district that was torn apart and literally wiped off the map by the Capitol due to a rebellion - it no longer has residents or industry and exists in name only, literally. The story takes place sometime in the futur…

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mantel

Ms. St. John Mantel's first novel is about Lilia Albert. At seven, Lilia Albert is visted by her father, a man that she hasn't seen in about one year, and taken by him from her rural Canadian home in the middle of the night. As a result, she never sees her mother or brother, with whom she already lives, again. Instead her father, who has his own money, moves her from one American city to another, sometimes not spending more than a few hours or a night in one place. Along the way, he provides for Lilia's education - she mostly learns languages while he's driving, upon which she is quizzed later on.

At the beginning of the novel, though, we know none of this. We meet Lilia as a twenty something dishwasher who is living in New York City - Brooklyn to be exact - and she is dating a young graduated student named Eli. Eli is in love with her so when Lilia leaves him somewhat unceremoniously as only she can, his spirit is utterly ravaged and he is left devastated. As Eli be…

Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time in ninth grade Honors English class. It was one of the few books where our English teachers also showed us the move, which is also one of my favorite movies. I liked it then and I liked it now, albeit for different reasons.  For me, Atticus was the main figure, where for others it may have been Scout or Boo Radley.

Anyways, this book by Mary Murphy is based upon a video documentary that she is working on, in book form. The first of two sections is written aby Murphy's own personal experiences with the book. She discusses her feelings, thoughts and reactions to the book version and the movie version and why she was inspired to compose her own documentary and accompanying book. The second section is composed of essays written by famous people, including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw and Mary Badham (who played Scout in the movie) and which includes their own impressions of the book.

I generally enjoyed the first se…

Lit by Mary Karr

I loved reading Mary Karr's other memoirs so I was excited when this one came out. Unfortunately, it took me until now to get to it.

Lit, Karr's latest memoir, details her struggles with alcohol, her road to sobriety and her converstion to Catholicism. The focus is on her early years as a writer and young parent and how alcohol impacted those things as well as contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Timeline wise, this book takes place 9 years after the events discussed in Cherry, Karr's coming of age memoir. The story begins with Karr as a teenager and then as a college student, then as a poet and grad student and finally her family life.

I loved this memoir.  There were some parts of it that really struck home for me as a young parent - especially when Karr details the impact of her drinking on her son in particular.  It was poignant and touching and emotional and raw, but eloquent and wonderful at the same time.  She's also really meticulous and frank in h…

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

This novel by Tatjana Soli is about a female photojournalist that covers the Vietnam War from 1969 until a little bit beyond its close in 1972. Helen finds that the violence that she photographs changes her life in numerable ways and that she can't just leave the country, no matter how many times she nearly dies in the process. It's an addiction, akin to that possibly felt by extreme sports fanatics. Helen arrives there in Vietnam obsessed with learning about her brother, who died in the war. She is young and naive and inexperienced. She quickly becomes hooked to Sam Darrow, another photographer, who becomes her mentor and lover. He's already a ton of time doing what Helen will spend the next decade of her life doing. He can't return home, even though he constantly promises that he would do so. And Linh is, perhaps, the most complicated of all - he is Vietnamese with ties to both the NVA and SVA and the underground, black market.

The title is a reference to the Greek…

The Good Son by Michael Gruber

This is one of the books that I heard about on NPR and decided to read, and was wildly glad that I did.

The Good Son was written by Michael Gruber, a man that had a lot of careers before becoming a novelist, including chef and journalist. I'm convinced that his background as a journalist helped him in composing this novel about the intersection of the Muslim world of Pakistan/Afghanistand and the West.

The protagonist, Sonya Davis, is a white, American woman that practices both Islam and Catholicism and married a wealthy Pakistani. After working briefly in a circus, she and her husband, Farid Laghari, moved to Lahore where they had three children - one of whom (Theo) we get to know intimately in this novel. Theo is raised in Lahore. At ten, a family tragedy inspires Theo and his best friend (and adopted brother) Wazir to run off to join the jihad against the Russians (it is, after all, the late eighties when the Russians were in Afghanistan). At 13, Theo becomes a legendary jihadis…

The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman

I heard about this book on one of the podcasts that I listen to - the Manic Mommies interviewed Hope Edelman on one of the podcasts that I listened to (I'm really behind) and the book sounded really interesting. And it was really interesting.

This memoir takes place in 2000. Hope is living with her three year old daughter (Maya) and her husband, Uzi, in California. She's a writer and her husband works for a start up computer company.  Hope is going through a rough period - she's not happy with her writing, she feels like she gives up a lot of time with her daughter and Uzi has been working long hours at the start-up so her relationship with him is suffering. She resents him for not being around for her or for Maya.  So the family plans a trip to Belize. As the trip approaches, Maya begins to act strangely. She begins to act out by becoming violent towards her parents, playing alone and blaming everything on her new imaginary friend, Dodo.  All the doctors and social workers…

Fun With Problems by Robert Stone

This is a short collection of seven stories written by Robert Stone. I heard about this collection on NPR I think, but I had never heard of the author before.

The main characters in each of Stone's stories seem to deal with the same issues - dissatisfaction with their life in some way, shape or form that they deal with by consuming massive amounts of alcohol. Some consume so much alcohol that they are literally and figuratively drowning in it (there are at least two drownings/near drownings in this collection). 

When I first started reading, I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to get through the entire collection.  While some of the stories drew me in immediately, some of them did not. I lost interest in some of the characters easily, perhaps because all of the main characters were male and their struggles were not like mine, not because they were male but simply because I didn't have their issues and couldn't relate to their issues. But I kept on and when I ask …

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is the 11th novel by Guy Gavriel Kay and I'm surprised that I haven't heard of this author or read anything by him before because this book was an absolute treat. It is set in 8th centruy China, during the Tang dynasty, but the country is only loosely based upon that time and place. The main character is Shen Tai, the second son of a reknowned general that has passed away. Shen's older brother, Liu, is the assistant to the prime minister of Kitan (as Chinas is known n this novel). The brothers have a younger sister that becomes a princess and part of the royal family.

Their father has recently died and part of Shen Tai's mourning was to go to a remote village, where a battle has recently occurred and where there are many unburied bodies.  Of course, ghosts roam the area as well, at least until their bodies are buried. Shen Tai buries the bodies of the dead soldiers that he comes across. As a result of his work, he is given a gift of 250 horses; horses from the nie…

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

I think that this is the second or third book in a month that waxes eloquently on marriage - specifically bad ones.  I hope that it doesn't say anything about my unconsciousness or whatever (it doesn't, but seriously, why are all the books that I have been picking up about dysfunctional relationships in some way shape or form?).

This novel begins with a diary entry written by Irene America - she actually keeps two diaries. One of the diaries is for herself and she keeps it in a lockbox at her local bank - a lockbox that only she has access to. The other she keeps in her desk drawer in her home and she writes in it what she wants her husband to see. Both Irene and her husband, Gil, are of Native American descent and both are raised by single mothers, but the novel doesn't delve into typical Native American Indian themes.  Its focus is more on relationships. Gil, a painter, paints portraits of Irene and uses them as weapons and, sometimes therapy, in much the same way that…

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom

I haven't been put off simply because my last foray was just plain awful!  I picked up Amy Bloom's newest edition of short stories and I wasn't disappointed at all.

This collection of short stories looks at a few different families who must deal with certain common American themes: they often must deal with death, aging, love (or the lack of it) and children moving away.  But the one common silver thread in all of these stories is strength: strength to leave or stay, to stand up for what you believe is the right thing to do. Of all the families that she focussed on, my favorite was about Julia, a white woman, who marries Lionel, a black musician with a son from a previous marriage. I loved following this family through all of its tumultuous events.

Amy Bloom is an extraordinary writer. She manages to hook you with the very first words that she writes and manages to keep you interested throughout her entire story.  The words that she uses were obviously carefully considere…

Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont

Sometimes I read reviews of books on blogs and I think that I might enjoy the book enough that I should buy it, so I do. And more often than not, I'm not disappointed - I end up liking the book enough that I'll keep it and am glad that I bought it. But there are also times that I can't believe that I purchased a particular book because I end up not loving it (in purchasing books, it's become important to me that the book is either a classic or one that I love before I purchase it - it's a way of saving money!).  This book is one of those books that I didn't love and almost (dare I say) regret buying.

This novel is about Noelle Ryan, a vet technician whose husband Jay has told her that he's gay and filing for divorce, thereby eviscerating her hopes and dreams of a family with him and forcing her to re-evaluate her life and her goals for it. Noelle has a lot of stuff going for her, although dealing with her issues and problems isn't one of them. She'…

Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky,translated by Tim Mohr

This short and yet heavy novel is Alina Bronsky's debut novel.  Originally published in German, it has been translated into English by Tim Mohr. Sasha Naimann is a teenage girl. She, her mother (Marina), stepfather Vadim, younger brother Anton and younger sister Alissa moved from Russia to Germany, where they settled into a Russian ghetto. Sasha, a brilliant woman, opens the book by saying that she plans to murder her stepfather because he murdered her mother and her mother's new boyfriend. Vadim is incarcerated, giving Sasha the belief that she has more time to plan his execution. Sasha takes care of her brother and sister with the assistance of Maria, also a Russian immigrant and Vadim's cousin. Sasha struggles with the powerful desire to remain in the apartment that her mother was murdered in, in the housing project known as the "Emerald," because her neighbors (also Russian immigrants), want her family to leave and take their bad luck with them.  Sasha also f…

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Island Beneath the Sea is Isabel Allende's eight novel. It's historical fiction set in the 1700's and 1800's in both Santo Domingo/Haiti and New Orleans during the slave uprisings, the French Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase. Zarite, also known as Tete, is the heroine of the novel. She is a slave that was brutally raped by her master, Toulouse Valmorain, at the age of 11. Somehow, Tete manages to survive this and subsquent harsh injustices through her indomitable spirit and her religious beliefs - a mix of voodoo beliefs and Christianity. 

I loved the historical backdrop of this novel.  The details about the sugar plantations in Haiti and the fights that occur between slaves and freepeople/planters as well as the tension between mulattos and blacks is just delightful. Her cast of characters was also particularly memorable - it wasn't just about Tete, Toulouse and their children. It was about a revolutionary former slave that Tete falls in love with (and who fig…

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Mr. Peanut is, I believe, Adam Ross' first novel and it was a really good one! The main character is the institute of marriage, specifically the marriage of Alice and David Pepin. They met in a college seminar on Alfred Hitchcock and were married for 13 years. While David ostensibly loves Alice, he is also obssessed with her death and writes a novel describing how he would kill her. Then, one day, Alice is dead and David is the main suspect. The two detectives who investigate the case also have their own experiences with the institution of marriage - Detective Haskell's wife has become militantly bedridden although there is seemingly no reason for it and he reacts, sometimes meanly and sometimes explosively to that.  Detective Sam Sheppard was convicted and then exonerated of his wife's murder years before (yes, he's Dr. Shepard of The Fugitive fame). The plot then thickens when David is linked to a reknowned hit man known only as Mobious.  I don't want to say too …

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

I've had this book kicking around for about a year right now but haven't ever gotten around to actually reading it. Wally Lamb's most recent novel follows Caelum and Maureen Quirk's life. When we first meet them, they are both working at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado - she as a nurse and he as an English teacher. Their marriage is in shambles, in part due to her affair and in part due to his own social disorders. In April of 1999, Caelum returns to his hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut in order to be with his aunt Lolly, who has had a stroke. She dies on his first night there, the night before Columbine's shooting. Maureen finds herself hiding in a cupboard in the Columbine H.S. library, hoping that the shooters don't kill her (they don't) and listening to some of her students get shot. She is unable to recover from the trauma, in spite of counseling. In order to help Maureen recover, Caelum and she move to Three Rivers permanently, and, …

The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock

I finally got around to seeing this movie, mostly because I was really curious about Sandra Bullock's performance in it. After all, she garnered the Academy Award for her portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy. While I generally have no strong feelings regarding Sandra Bullock (before this I wouldn't have said that I despised her or really loved her - thought that she was cute), I wouldn't have expected her to pull off an Academy Award winning performance. Anyways...

This movie was released in 2009 and was directed by John Lee Hancock. It was based on the book The Blind Side: An Evolution of a game, written by Michael Lewis. It stars Sandra Bullock (as Leigh Ann Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (as Michael Oher), Tim McGraw (as Sean Tuohy, and yes, that would be the country singer). When we first meet Michael Oher, he's 17 years old, poor and bouncing around from foster home to foster home, mostly because he runs away. A father's friend manages to convince the football coach at a wealt…

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

I've had this book for a while but have just gotten around to reading it. It takes place in New York City in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The narrator, Hans van den Broek, is a Dutchman that begins playing at the Staten Island Cricket Club, having rediscovered his childhood passion. He and his English wife, Rachel, have moved to New York in 1998 so that he can work at the NY Stock Exchange as a broker and she can work as a lawyer in the New York Branch of her law firm. They bring a young son, Jake, along with them.

During one of his very first matches, Hans meets Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian immigrant and businessman who is obsessed with bringing cricket to the mass market in America, mostly by building a tremendous stadium in the outer boroughs of New York. As Hans and Chuck became closer, Hans begins to accompany Chuck around the city. Hans, whose marriage has failed (Rachel has returned to England with Jake), believes that the trips are so that he can practice his d…

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is Stieg Larsson's third, and final, novel in the Millenium series. It begins where the second novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, left off.  Lisbeth Salander, the "girl" referred to in all three titles, is being sent to Sahlgreska Hospital in Stockholm after sustaining a bullet wound to the head and massive wounds to her shoulder. Surprisingly, she's still alive. After a long, intense surgery, Lisbeth is placed in the ICU, where she is only visited by medical staff, police and her lawyers, since she's under arrest for pretty serious offenses - attempted murder, aggravated assault and the like.  There's also talk about getting her committed to a mental hospital for pretty much the rest of her life. But the book itself, like it's previous two books, centers around government corruption and conspiracies, hatred and abuse of women (and Larsson's obvious concern and hatred of that hatred), and the threat to Swedish democracy by right wing elements …
This is the third in a series of young adult books written by Megan McCafferty. Jessica Darling, the protagonist from the first two novels, has returned and is a student at Columbia University in New York City, a place that is decidedly different from her hometown of Pineville, New Jersey. She is still madly in love with her high school boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, who has decided to attend college in California. Because he's off to California, they don't see each other all that often. This novel follows Jessica's life from a freshman through her graduation from Columbia and is told as entries in Jessica's journals.

I thought the first book was pretty good - Ms. McCafferty seemed to have really hit upon something with Jessica. She had developed a character that was smart, witty, and was outside the box.  These traits were developed in the second book in the trilogy - aptly named Second Helpings.  But somehow, it got lost in the third book.  Jessica wasn't the same pe…

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Wes Moore was born in Maryland in 1978 but currently works for Citigroup in New York City. His life path was  pretty interesting.  At three, he saw his father die in front of him after his father was misdiagnosed at a local area hospital.  His mother moved the family around a bit and sent her son to a private school. While there, he failed out because of behavioral issues and non-attendance, even though his two sisters did fairly well.  He was then sent to a military academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with honors and as a regimental commander, even though he attempted to run away four times in his first week there.  Wes eventually went on to college and became a Rhodes Scholar.

As Wes was preparing to attend Oxford University in 2000, Wes learned of another man named Wes Moore who also, coincidentally, grew up in Maryland.  In fact, the two had lived in the same neighborhood, and the "other" Wes Moore was two years older. The two had never met. The "other"…

My Life in France by Julia Child

I picked up this book and started reading it right after I finished up reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell (reviewed here). My Life in France is an autobiography by Julia Child (written with her husband's grandnephew, Alex Prud'homme). It was begun during the last eight months of her life and completed and published by Mr. Prud'homme after she died in August of 2004.

The autobiography is comprised of various stories, linked of course, and which focus on Ms. Child's life from 1948 through 1954. During that time period, Ms. Child and her husband, Paul Child, began their life in Europe - most notably France - and focuses on how Julia came to love all things French - the culture, the people and the food, of course. It also focuses not just on her life there, but on how she and her co-authors wrote her famous treatise on French cooking: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It details their struggles to find a publisher and get the cookbook slimmed down (it was apparent…

Stitches by David Small

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David Small tells the story of his unhappy childhood in this graphic memoir. About 50 years ago, when Mr. Small was 14, he underwent surgery that rendered him mute for all intents and purposes and also resulted in his thyroid gland being removed. He believed that a cyst was being removed, but it turned out that the "cyst" was a tumor that had begun to grow as the result of the x-ray treatments performed on David when David was just an infant by his own father (who was a radiologist). At the time that David was an infant, radiological treatme…

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Julie Powell, while working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in the wake of 9/11 as a secretary, began the Julie/Julia project.  She was going to cook her way through the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and she was going to blog about it. Her sole purpose in attempting to slog her way through this classic recipe collection is to enliven her dreary life and who wouldn't feel the same? I would be depressed answering phone calls from the victims of 9/11 and people complaining about the LMDC's plans to rebuild the World Trade Center. This blog became the basis of her book and the movie entitled Julie and Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep and serves to commemorate her process. She attempts to weave Julia Child's life in Paris into her memoir as it is during this time that Julia learns about French cooking in almost painful detail. Julie's blog is highlighted in the media, and this leads to a lucrative …

Books v. Movies (or Order of the Phoenix movie v. Order of the Phoenix book)

OK, so I know that I haven't posted in a while but there's a reason for that, I swear.  I broke my ankle and had to have surgery. For the first few weeks, I was in a lot of pain and because I am also pregnant, there wasn't a whole lot that I could take for pain management (sorry Tylenol Extra Strength, you just don't cut it for an ankle that's broken in three places). I wasn't reading a whole lot because I was in pain - I couldn't really focus on what I was reading - and then, when the pain became more bearable, I was a tad depressed. Not being able to really leave the house, drive anywhere and to be utterly reliant upon another person to care for you can get depressing. But I'm back on the wagon now and for my comeback post, I wanted to talk about books v. movies generally. The inspiration for this post was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I'm nearly done with reading and which I watched last night as a movie. 

After watching HP and…