The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Still Life by Louise Penny

When JaneNeal, beloved teacher, is found dead in the woods near Three Pines, Quebec, Armand Gamache of the Sorete du Quebec, is the homicide investigator assigned to the case.
It appears that Jane Neal died of a wound from an arrow.

Gamache is a wonderful character, thoughtful and decent, who quickly uncovers secrets and unknown relationships, loves, hates and regrets among Jane's friends and aquaintances.
Penny is a master at revealing the tensions between French and English which inform the story. There are also tensions within the Gamache team, that lead to a serious error.
The memorable characters include a gay couple who run the cafe, an obnoxious estranged niece, Jane's closest friend, an expert bowman and his sullen son.

Jane's art figures in a story that is immensely rewarding.

Louise Penny, a Canadian writer unable to find a Canadian publisher, entered her novel in a British competition and was immediately recognized as a find,. Still Life was published and won the Crime Writers Dagger Award in 2004.

Borkmann's Point by Hakan Nesser

Haken Nesser is an award-winning Swedish crime writer ably translated by Laurie Thompson. Chief Inspector Van Veeterin's vacation is interrupted when he is called in to help find an axe murderer in the small town of Kaalbrenger.

Van Veeterin, a veteran of 30 years as a police detective, has only one unsolved crime in his career. He is a believer in Borkmann's point: in every case a point is reached where enough information has been gathered to solve the crime and nothing more is needed except decent thinking.

This case is challenging. Another axe murder occurs and there seems to be no relationship between the two events. When the best police investigator goes missing, Van Veeterin must use every bit of logic and intuition he has to sift through the information that he has gathered.

This is a riveting police procedural, with a compassionate and wise investigator at it's heart.
It's bound to please mystery buffs.

Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness provided me with one of the more interesting reading trips I have had. I am somewhat skeptical of books that discuss happiness. Dan Gilbert, a psychologist from Harvard, has written a clever, scientific explanation of how our brains work. He draws on research from the field of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy to talk about the brain and how it functions.

According to Gilbert, it is when we try to predict the future that our brains make mistakes. Our inability to fully imagine the future finds us surprised by what transpires. Just as we have trouble rememering the past, we can only see the future in today's terms. Our brains desire to control is so powerful, it believes it can control the uncontrollable. I was surprised to find how hard our brains work to protect us--something of which we are not concious.

Gilbert is a witty writer, able to keep us entertained as we learn why the conjoined twins we might pity, feel as happy as the rest of the population. He pressents wonderful examples of what happens when our eyes don't agree with our brain.

If we really want to understand what the future holds--which for some people translates into happiness, Gilbert suggests that rather than relying on the brain we would be better off to ask people who are in like circumstances how they feel.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Off to the Caribbean

It's true we are off for a 22 day cruise in the Caribbean. I have few clothes but many books in my bag.

More from the sea.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can you Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? tells the story of three women born in India, two of whom come to Canada. The novel covers the period of time from the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 to the explosion of Air India in 1985 . Bibi-ji, a beautiful young woman, steals her sister's finace and returns with him to Vancouver where through initiative, ambition and enterprise, she builds a financially secure future and with her husband becomes a pillar of the Vancouver Sikh community. Her sorrow is her inability to have children. She suffers from guilt of cheating her sister and is troubled when she looses contact with her. When Bibi-ji returns to India, she makes arrangements to adopt the oldest son of Nimmo. Nimmo, orphaned in the aftermath of the partition of India and Pakistan, lives a marginal life in Delhi. Married with three children, she agrees to allow her son to go to Canada with Bibi-Ji where he can be educated. The third woman, Leela, comes to Canada reluctantly. She enjoyed the security of her husband's family in India and felt no desire for a new world. For her life in Canada is a half and half life.
Each of these women endures horrific hardships and shattering experiences, many the result of the violent history of India and Pakistan and the clashes between Hindus and Sikhs. Badami is a wonderful writer and her insights allow us to better understand the burdens that immigrants may carry which are not of their own making.
This is a terrific book not only to read but to share with young people. It belongs in the libraries of all high schools.

The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez

The Last of Her Kind is a compelling account of the America of the 1960's, the turmoil and the counterculture that it produced. Nunez brilliantly explores the political climate in America during the 60's and 70's through the eyes of two young women. Georgette George, a product of an impoverished an abusive family, arrives at Barnard College for her freshman year to find she will share her room with Ann Drayton, white, rich and angry about the injustices she sees in the country. Ann rejects her family and sets out to make the world a more egalitarian place to live.
Georgette is appalled at the way Ann romanticizes poverty but becomes mesmerized by Ann's single-minded committment to issues of class, race, gender politics and social justice. George marries twice, has two children and a career in journalism and one great love affair. Nine years after their freshman year Ann murders a policeman in an attempt to rescue her black boyfriend from a confrontation with the police and spends many years in jail. There she continues to advocate for women, even when her services are not requested or wanted. She is in fact "the last of her kind"

Nunez has written a remarkably readable story of the last three decades in America, the divisiveness of the Vietnam War, and the violent idealism that existed. She has created two women from opposite sides of the economic spectrum whose lives are informed by their early relationship.

Sigrid Nunez has received several awards for her work including a Whiting Writer's Award, The Rome Prize for Literature and a Berlin Prize Fellowship.

MYSTERIES by Paul Adams, Kate Atkinson, Peter Robinson, Fred Vargas,

The long foggy, rainy, nights have given me a chance to discover two new (to me) mystery
writers and wallow in the works of two old favorites.

The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adams is set in Cremona, Italy. Gianni Castiglione, a violin maker, plays in a string quartet with fellow violin maker Rainaldi, the parish priest, Father Arrighi and police detective Gustafeste. Rainaldi, an authority on violins, is found murdered. Why anyone might want to murder this older unassuming fellow is a puzzlement.

Gustafeste is charged with solving the crime and he asks Castiglione to assist him when he interviews veteran Venetian violin collector, Dottor Foriani. The mystery deepens when Foriana is murdered. Because Castiglione is a walking encyclopedia on the violin, who understands not only the technical aspects of construction but the history of the instrument, both those that are legitimate and those that are forged, he continues to work with the police detective. Their journey to solve the mystery takes them across Italy and England, to auction houses, tombs and an estate in England.

This is a wonderful read, full of fascinating detail about an aspect of classical music that we don't often hear about in the mystery genre.

Fred Vargas, a historian and archaeologist by profession, has written The Three Evangelistas. Set in Paris, it tells the story of three poverty-stricken historians, Mathias (Matthew) Marc (Mark) and Lucien (Luke), the three evangelistas, who live next door to
Sophia Simeonidis, a Greek opera singer. When a tree suddenly appears in Sophia's yard, she asks her neighbours to dig around the tree to see if something has been buried. They find nothing, but when Sophia's body turns up weeks later burned beyond recognition, they along with Vandoosier, an excop who lives in the same house, decide to investigate. The reader is treated to a wonderful romp through Paris and into the countryside. Vargas who is well-known in Europe, has created several eccentrics characters and has brought Paris alive. I am looking forward to reading her police thrillers featuring Chief Inspector Adamsberg.
The best way to obtain this book is to order through your local library. It doesn't seem to be available in book stores.

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson's new thriller, brings back Jackson Brodie, former detective and now millionaire. He has accompanied Julia, his girlfriend to Edinburgh where she is performing in the Edinburgh Festival. On his arrival, he observes an act of road-rage that has far-reaching effects. Paul Bradley, a mysterious thug, is knocked unconcious with a baseball bat. Dectective Brody is reluctant to become involved but he has no choice when he is hired as a bodyguard. Other bystanders to the accident include shy Martin Canning, writer of historical mysteries who saves Bradley's life and Gloria Hatter who is plotting to end her marriage. Stories of the tough detective, Louise Monroe and her teenaged son, Archie; a fraudulent real estate developer; an obnoxious stand-up comedian and Russian prostitues all share parts of the story. Atkinson develops the plot by shifting points of view, eventually linking the stories of all the characters. Along the way, she explores their lives and their relationships and has a great deal of fun skewering real estates developments and drama troupes.

Peter Robinson's, Pieces of my Heart, is the 14th novel to feature Yorkshire police detective
Alan Banks. In 1969, the body of a young women is found stabbed the night after an outdoor rock concert in Yorkshire. Stanley Chadwick, the detective assigned to the case, is a tough cop with little sympathy for the hippies he must interview. His life is complicated by the behavior of his daughter, who is spending a great deal of time with members of a rock band.
Thirty-five years later, Alan Banks and Annie Cabbot, are investigating the murder of a music journalist in the same community. Banks discovers that the journalist may have uncovered information that relates to the earlier murder. Robinson develops parallel plots, one set in
1969 and the other in the present day giving readers two exceptional thrillers. Robinson recreates the hippie culture-- music, sex, drugs and the strained parent-child relationships of the late sixties.