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Showing posts from July, 2011

Post 100 is here!

And I'm reviewing The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva. I don't remember where I heard about this book.

Gabriel Allon is an aging and retired Israeli operative who has retired to the English coast with his wife, Chiara, in order to enjoy the good life.  Instead, an old friend has managed to wrest him from exile to find a missing painting - a painting created by Rembrandt - a pairing that has actually been stolen. The painting is the source of many dark secrets related to the Holocaust, its perpetrators and its victims and the dark side of Swiss banking that helped to perpetuate thefts and stolen money.

This is a mystery novel that details a multinational and eccentric group of people that are forced to work together in order to solve the crimes surrounding the money, the painting and the evildoers that have stolen it.  Very enjoyable and a wonderful novel.

The Great Journey by David McCullough

So I'm absolutely plowing through my books for the summer. This was another recommended both by NPR and by The NY Times.

In this masterpiece and monster of a book, historian (and Pulitzer Prize winning author) David McCullough (who wrote about John Adams the last time around) writes about the American expatriate community that lived in and around Paris during the 19th century - he focuses on the ENTIRE century, not just a small portion of it.  He chose this era to focus on because these expats inspired the expats of the 1920's and 30's in their journeys in and around Paris. In writing about this time period, McCullough looks at such figures as Samuel Morse, George Healy, Charles Sumner, Mary Cassatt, James Fenimore Cooper and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

This book was intriguing. It took me a relatively long time to complete the book - about 5 or 6 days (which is a long time for me) - but it didn't feel that long.  I attribute this in part to how wonderfully written the boo…

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

This was again a book that I found on NPR's summer reading recommendations and it intrigued me initially because of the subject matter. It's a cross between drama/literature and crime but it isn't really any of both - it's not a crime novel like a novel by James Patterson would be but it isn't really dramatic literature either.

The book is written from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer White. At the time of the novel, Dr. White is a 65 year old retired orthopedic surgeon - she specialized in hands - who is suffering from Alzheimer's/dementia. There are days when she's completely lucid and knows what is happening to her and days when she doesn't remember anything, including her own history, children or caretakers. She is living in the beautiful family home in Chicago with Magdalena, her caretaker and is visited occasionally by her two adult children - Mark, a lawyer and Fiona, a financial analyst and college professor.  When she didn't have the disease…

Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison

In the manner of being ethical and up front, I wanted to let people know that I got this book from Librarythings for free to review.  Now onwards!

Soul Clothes by Regina Jemison is not a particularly long book - it is comprised of 44 pages and 12 poems, with a mostly African-American and law based leaning. However, I found that it really and truly packed a punch that I, at least, associate with a much larger, more dense book. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it - I'm not normally someone that reads a lot of poetry, with the exception of a former co-worker's published works, so I was really hesitant at first.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The poems reflected Ms. Jemison's history and taught us a lot about her personal story, her feelings about topics from the criminal justice system all the way to religion and spirituality and relationships. I learned, for instance, that she went to law school and taught criminal justice and criminal law classes. I also l…

Big Machine by Victor LaValle

At the recommendation, yet again, from the people at NPR, I elected to read this novel. I had never read anything by Victor LaValle before, even though this is his third novel apparently.

Ricky Rice is the flawed hero in this novel - he's a recovering heroin addict who has been summoned from his janitor's post in Central NY to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont by a mysterious man that everyone has taken to calling The Dean. While there, he and several other recovering social misfits become a group called The Unlikely Scholars and they begin to peruse newspapers from all over the country and investigated The Voice that spoke to the founder of the library at which they study. At some point, Ricky is selected by the Dean to go to California with another scholar - Adele - to assassinate a former scholar that has defected and has started his own rogue group intent on bringing down the Unlike Scholars. During his mission, we learn about Adele and Ricky and the lives that they abandon…

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

I've been getting a lot of my reads lately from NPR and this is no different. NPR has consistently recommended quality books and continues to do so in this debut novel by Amanda Hodgkinson.

World War II survivors - a husband, wife and child - are attempting to re-create their lives together after surviving the war.  He was in the Polish Army and, eventually, the British RAF and spent time in France after getting injured.  His wife and child were refugees in Poland during the German occupation and spent most of the time in a refugee camp hidden deep in the woods of rural Poland. They are rescued by American liberators as the end of the war.  Superficially, the family has all the ingredients for a successful post-rescue life: a home in Britain, jobs, food, clothing and all the amenities. They even have a connection to the black market that will get them the things that they need for free and they have a car (which was almost unheard of for most middle class British at this time). Bu…

A Singular Woman by Janny Scott

So, I had read Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father a while ago - maybe during the election season - and was sorely disappointed in the seeming lack of attention that he paid to his mother even though she was, by all accounts, a driving force in shaping him. So when NPR had a story about this book, I immediately decided to get it.

Stanley Ann Dunham led a completely unconventional life from the beginning apparently.  Her parents gave her the first name "Stanley," although later in her life she often went by just "Ann" or "S. Ann" if she were writing something professionally.  As an adolescent, she moved to Hawai'i with her parents (who had eloped) and began to study Anthropology. Her love of anthropology, and industry/textiles in particular drove her life.  During her studies, she met Barack Obama, Sr., a Kenyan national also studying at the University of Hawai'i. At 18, she found herself pregnant with his child, so they got married and then d…

Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz

I read somewhere, probably NPR (because that's where I normally get all of my stuff to read) that John Burnham Schwartz had a new book out but he's perhaps best known for Reservation Road, so I was determined to read this one first to see if I liked it before I delved into the new stuff.

After a wonderful, peaceful and idyllic summer concert, a youngish family is driving to their home one evening. The Lehrners think that their night has been perfect.  The couple pulls into a little gas station in Wyndham Falls, CT so that Emma, the eldest child, can use the bathroom. Grace, her mother, accompanies her. Ethan Lehrner, the father, remains outside momentarily with Josh, their son. He is there long enough to tell Josh to get away from the side of the road before he goes inside as well to buy some windshield wiper fluid. Within a matter of seconds, a dark blue car plows around the corner and hits Josh, throwing him feet into the air and away from the side of the road and killing hi…

Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin

I am finally catching up on my reviews - I've been so behind lately because of health issues but now I'm finally getting there!

Unfinished Desires is a fictional account of an all girls Catholic school - Mt. Saint Gabriel's - in the early fifties. The school is located in a small Southern town that isn't exactly known for its tolerance of anything other then Protestantism. We are told the story by Sister Suzanne Ravenel, who is telling the story to us as she writes her memoirs in 2001 at the age of 85.  Sister Ravenel was a student there and she was also the headmistress of the school during the 1951-52 academic year. Sister Ravenel is haunted by what happened to her during that year, and, in particular, the actions of the small, freshman class.

I particularly loved the characters that Godwin introduces to us, in part because they are so vivid and in part because they embody the narrative device that was used so effectively by Godwin.  There is Sister Ravenel, who is p…