July 17, 2004
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson: a novel about the life of Kate Reddy, a British working mother.

When we first meet Kate Reddy, she’s in her kitchen at 1:37 a.m. distressing mince pies for her daughter’s Christmas party at school so that they will look homemade. Kate is a hedge-fund manager, one of the best in her office. She’s also the mother of two children, Emily and Ben, whom she hardly ever gets to see. She has a lovely husband, Richard, whom she also never sees.

Her days are measured by seconds and each one of them is used in the most efficient manner possible. She tries to be the best mother, wife, and employee, but things are starting to give.

I really enjoyed Allison Pearson’s novel for many reasons. First of all, I liked Kate. I wanted her to be happy and spend some time on herself and have a peaceful life. Secondly, Pearson’s writing style was just beautiful. It walked the line between funny and poignant while making us really care about Kate and her family. While I’m not a mother, I still sympathized with Kate and would highly recommend this one, especially to all the working mothers out there.

July 13, 2004
Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor)

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor): a collection of fairy tales written especially for adults.

Datlow and Windling are some of the best editors, especially in the horror and fantasy fields, that almost any book they put together is wonderful and this one is no exception. As Ellen Datlow herself says, there’s nothing new in this collection in regards to the themes of the stories since in literary fairy tales, uniqueness and novelty are besides the point. However, even with nothing new, these stories are still amazing.

The stories themselves range from light fantasy to darkly horrific and are retellings of such well-known tales as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Little Match Girl,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and more. Even though we may be familiar with these tales, the authors invariably give each one a bit of their own style or idea and it becomes something entirely different in most cases.

Personal favorites in this anthology included “The Beast,” “Masterpiece,” “Roach in Loafers,” “Brother Bear,” “The Real Princess,” “The Huntsman’s Story,” “Match Girl,” “Waking the Prince,” “The Fox Wife,” “The White Road,” and “The Printer’s Daughter.”

July 08, 2004
Heartstone by Phillip Margolin

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin: a mystery involving the murder of a young couple in 1960.

In November of 1960, Richie Walters and Elaine Murray are brutally murdered. Roy Shindler, one of the detectives on the case, is convinced that two brothers, troublemakers and gang members, are behind the crimes. It becomes his life’s mission to bring them to justice, no matter what the cost. In the process, the lives of several people are changed irrevocably, most of them not for the better.

Since the novel is done as a flashback, we know that Bobby Coolidge, one of the brothers was brought to trial. This, however, just makes the journey that much more interesting, in my opinion, and I definitely was surprised by how the book ended. I always appreciate a book that can lead me down one path and still surprise me that way. I also enjoyed the trial, especially the glimpse into some psychological beliefs of the era.

All in all, the book was solidly written, the characters very believable, and the plot really well done. Well worth a reading.

July 07, 2004
Trust No One by Harlen Coben

Trust No One by Harlen Coben: an intruging novel about a man who loses his wife only to find out that she might not really be gone after all.

Eight years ago, Dr. David Beck lost his wife Elizabeth when she was kidnapped from the cabin that they had gone to every year since they were teenagers. Ever since he’s been essentially just walking through his life in a daze, missing her every day and not moving on. Suddenly, out of the blue, he gets an e-mail containing references and phrases that only his wife would know. Who could send something like that? Could Elizabeth still be alive? If so, where has she been and why has she been hiding?

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The characters were interesting (from his best friend - a lesbian fashion model who’s his sister’s domestic partner - to one of his patient’s drug dealing fater), the mystery puzzling, and the book was just generally well written, as you would expect from an Edgar winning author. I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: considered one of the finest books of all time, this novel tells the story of an unrequited love that has lasted for half a century.

I’m not sure what it was, but for some reason, I just could not get into this book. The prose was gorgeous, the descriptions wonderful, but I just could not get past page twenty. I suspect that a lot of stuff that’s going on in my life is to blame, but since this is a BookCrossing book that needs to move on to others, I’m going to surrender and pass it on. I hope to try it again at a later date and see if I can’t finally get into it.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: considered a modern classic by many, Bulgakov’s book is anti-Stalin, dealing with the Devil coming to spread havoc in 1930s Russia.

Since this book is so highly regarded, I really looked forward to reading it. Unfortuantely, I couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters. I read some reviews suggesting that a few of the translations out there are almost unreadable, so I’m just going to assume I got a bad one. Maybe I’ll give it a try again some time in the future.

July 06, 2004
Harry's War by Dr. Edward Bradley

Harry’s War by Dr. Edward Bradley: an account of a teenager’s life in a British private school during World War II.

Fourteen-year-old Harry Lockwood has just set off to attend Markhaven College on the outskirts of London. It’s 1941 and World War II is happening all around him - bombs go off, airplanes fly overhead, and people he knows are getting killed. At the same time, Harry (or Woody to his friends) has to contend with growing up and with the harsh realities of life in the British educational system.

The thing that impressed itself upon me most of all from this book was the description of the British educational system. I’ve always found all of the corporal punishment and hazing that goes on in schools like the one Harry attended abhorent and that idea was only reinforced by this book. I find it unbelievable that people ever would think that treating a child in that manner would be good for them.

Otherwise, I found this book to be very interesting both in the description of the war and in Harry and his group of friends. I would like to read the sequel to see what happened to Harry, Captain, and the rest of his group from school.

July 05, 2004
Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson

Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson: an intruiging mystery set in the British art world.

Isobel Sadler is a farmer trying desperately to keep her family farm afloat after her father’s death. Her family can lay claim to one famous ancestor, William Sadler also called “Bad Bill” so when some papers of his come up cheap at a local auction, she decided to buy them. For some reason, though, the papers go for far more than she would have expected.

While there, she is approached by a dealer, Molyneux, who later offers her money for a picture that has been in her family for generations. She turns him down, but is awakened a few days later, though, by a buglar who is trying to steal the painting. Isobel takes the painting to an art dealer, Michael Whiting, trying to find out if it’s worth something. He says no, but after spending some time studying it, finds out that it’s a “puzzle map.” The figures and images on the painting themselves are actually clues to unearthing a treasure trove of items worth millions of pounds. Thus begins Isobel and Michael’s adventure to decipher the riddle and find the treasure before Molyneux does.

The coolest thing about the book, though, was the cover which was actually the “Landscape of Lies” painting - the one that the whole book was about. I loved flipping to the cover whenever something was discovered so I could see exactly what they were talking about. It was a stroke of genius, in my opinion, to use the painting that way and really made me feel move involved in the book.

All in all, I found the book to be quite enjoyable. There was mystery, romance, intrigue, and the hidden meanings used in the painting as symbols, which I found the most fun to read about. Well worth checking out.

July 03, 2004
A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds

A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds: a novel that examines the relationships between people, both those that are living and those that are dead.

Finch Noble is a cemetary caretaker that has no real friends except for the dead. Burned and left disfigured in a horrible accident as a child, Finch has been shunned by most of the town and is content to care for the cemetary and talk to the dead, her parents among them. All this begins to change, however, when she follows the request of her best friend, Lucy, a stripper who committed suicide.

Lucy’s mother cannot believe that her beautiful daughter, once a beauty queen and pageant winner, would ever kill herself and refuses to believe Finch when she tells her that her daughter wasn’t murdered. Filing harassment charges against Finch leads her to becoming close to Leonard, a policeman who’s been nothing but a failure to his father. As the two worlds interact with each other through Finch, the tension builds and results in a climax that reveals hidden secrets.

In a way, this novel was more about the people and how they deal with both their lives and deaths more than moving towards a plot resolution, though one was given. I enjoyed getting to know Finch, Lucy, and Leonard and enjoyed Reynold’s style. An enjoyable, quick read.