Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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 humans known as angelologists and the Nephilim, who are slowly dying due to a degenerative disorder.

This novel was beautifully and sensuously written - it was hard to put down because of the writing style. There is a lot of alliteration, which makes it so nice to read. You can hear the words in your imagination as you read and feel them going by you, like silk.  The characters are beautifully developed and described in such a way that you can see them in your mind. It is also apparent that Trussoni did an impressive amount of  research in preparing to write and actually writing this novel. She must have read extensively of memoirs, diaries, letters and research in writing this book and the history that she gave also made me love this novel even more. I also really appreciated that her female characters were very, very strong, spunky women.

LOVED this novel so much...and it totally deserves to be on the NY Times best of 2010 list.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

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, even the pyramids, although I'm sure that it won't be the same as sitting there and feeling the dust or smelling the pyramids themselves. It's very elegant and masterfully done and the acting was absolutely beautiful to watch.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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 him on but the health care plan that the new owner purchased is absolutely horrendous and so Shep ends up having to foot a lot of the bills.

His best friend,Jackson is also in a similar situation - his daughter Flicka has a serious genetic medical condition that will lead to her death soon and which requires constant around the clock care and medications.

This novel was hard to get into but once I got into it, I enjoyed it. The characters are very vivid and well drawn and the diatribes are very relevant to today's issues.  The writing style was all right - nothing to fawn over - and was part of the reason that I had a hard time getting into the novel.

Grade: B

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

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't put it down. The novel was also really funny in some parts. For instance, Aidan heads to suburbia where he visits with aging hippies and the way that they are portrayed made me giggle. The novel was also tender and achingly endearing in some ways - it's quickly apparent that Aidan has fallen in love with Paige and how Goodwillie describes their affair is very touching.

This is a wonderful read, well worth the time and the money to add it to your library.

Friday, December 3, 2010

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 because he's got so many interesting stories. He managed to pull the stories off by using the right combination of seriousness and poignancy along with the appropriate level of comedy, when necessary.  I felt like the material was treated respectfully at the same time that Jacobs attempted to soul search by questioning the parts that he felt contradicted. 

All in all, a wonderful book.

Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Many know Jessica Valenti as the founder of Feministing , a feminist blog and website.  However, she's also a successful author. This b...