December 23rd, 2009


The beginning

1. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier Rebecca
Summary: A young woman is on a sort of vacation with her employer. While her employer is sick, she befriends and falls in love with a wealthy, well-known man, Maxim DeWinter. They marry and move into the great house known as Manderley. Now she must overcome the pressures of filling in the former Mrs. DeWinter's shoes. Her death and the people who were close to Rebecca still haunt the house and the new Mrs. DeWinter. The narrator has trouble fitting in and no one seems willing to let her be herself, they keep expecting Rebecca. Soon enough, rumors and the past start to fit together to reveal who Rebecca was and what actually happened to her.
Review: I honestly love this book. It is the second time I've read this book but this was more a refresher for me since it has been years since I read it the first time. I love Du Maurier's dark style and the way this story turns from a simple love story to almost a haunting mystery.

2. Kiss Me Again, Stranger Daphne du Maurier Kiss
Summary: This is a book of short stories all written by du Maurier.
"Kiss Me Again, Stranger" is a story about a man that has his life shaken up when he meets a young woman working at the movies. They hang out one night for some time and he falls completely in love. After that night, he never sees her again.
"The Birds" takes place in a small town on the coast where a farmer and his family live. England becomes overrun with flocks of attacking birds. Everyone is in trouble and tries their best to survive.
"The Little Photographer" is about an upper class French woman on vacation with her children. She meets a young photographer and falls in lust with him almost. They meet in secret for a while. Eventually she tires of the relationship and tries to break it off.
"Monte Verita" is the longest of them all and about a man and his friend who are both mountain climbers. His friend, Victor, meets a woman, Anna, and falls madly in love. She is a peculiar sort of woman but neither man really takes note of that. On a trip Anna and Victor climb Monte Verita. They stop in a small village and during the night Anna goes missing only never to be seen again. Victor has trouble coping that she now lives with a tribe of people who live higher up on the mountain. The narrator wishes to help his friend whose life is falling apart and possibly gain something for himself.
"The Apple Tree" is about an older man who has been widowed. He notices an apple tree outside of his house and no longer wishes to get rid of it but a lot of events occur that bring about old memories and delay his action to get rid of the tree.
"The Old Man" is one of the shortest where the narrator sees a family that is very different than any other in the neighborhood. He pays close attention to them and notices the father's in control. He never meets them but he watches them quite often. His constant watching leads to a gruesome discovery.
"The Split Second" is the story of a woman is having trouble living on her own after the passing of her husband and her daughter living in boarding school. She winds up coming back to find out that her house is no longer her home and everything is different.
"No Motive" is the last story. I don't know what the summary is for this one besides the fact that it is a murder mystery. I haven't read it and sites I look at won't give a description.
Review: Some of these I liked more than others. I haven't read all of "The Split Second" and I never touched "No Motive". I really enjoyed "Kiss Me Again, Stranger", "The Little Photographer" and, in a way, "The Old Man". "The Birds" is the short story Hitchcock based his movie off of and just like the movie, I wasn't very happy with it. I am struggling with "The Split Second". Overall, a decent book made up of interesting stories.

3. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Katherine Howe Deliverance
Summary: A graduate student at Harvard, Connie Goodwin is able to move on and begin her dissertation. It is the summer now, so she has a little down time but she must begin her research. Her mother tells her about her grandmother's house in Marblehead, MA. Connie goes there to clean up the house and prepare it to be sold. It is a large, overgrown and rotting house. On the first night, she finds a 17th century Bible with a key and the name Deliverance Dane in it. Connie begins her research on this woman and finds out that she may have been accused as a witch during the Salem Trials in 1692. Interested in what might have happened to this woman and her physick book, Connie begins digging into the past. All while this story is told, Deliverance's story is told. Flashbacks to the past from other people's points of view explain more of what went on a few hundred years ago in Salem, MA.
Review: I really loved this book. I thought it was intelligently written and it brought to light a different view point than what has been said and done about the Salem Witch Trials. It did get a little slow with a lot of the flashbacks because I was more interested in what Connie was doing rather than Deliverance's daughter or granddaughter but it was still something that drew focus onto important plot pieces. All in all, I highly recommend this book to anybody that likes fictional mixed with truth and mysteries.

71. The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman

71. The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman - 288 pages (3.5/5)

Firstly, I want Joe Haldeman's life. He teaches two classes in fall on science fiction writing at MIT. The rest of the time he writes, draws, paints, plays guitar, and travels extensively with his wife, whom he's been married to since he was 22. What a life.
Of Joe Haldeman's work, I've previously read The Forever War and Forever Peace. The second is not a sequel to the first, despite the similar names. The name of the sequel is, confusingly, Forever Free. In general, enjoy Haldeman's work because he has a degree in physics, and so the science in it is at least vaguely plausible, or perhaps one day possible. It definitely gives him an edge over other authors who treat technology very similar to how magic is used in fantasy.
The Accidental Time Machine tells the story of a young graduate student at MIT, Matt, who, you guessed it, accidentally makes a time machine. He jumps a few weeks into the future, finds out he's wanted for a crime he didn't committ, and jumps forward again. He doesn't like that future, either, so he proceeds to jump again. This trend continues, with the increments getting longer and longer, because he hopes that eventually he will come to a future where they have invented a machine to send him back. This, in my opinion, is very silly logic, because he easily could have jumped into a future where humanity is extinct, the atmosphere is toxic, or there was a second dark age and there is no technology whatsoever.
I enjoy Joe Haldeman's postulations of the future. In The Forever War, in order to combat human overpopulation, most of Earth's population becomes homosexual. In one of the futures in The Accidental Time Machine, Christianity has become beyond fundamental because "Jesus" has returned and is now president of the United States. In that future, he connects with a very naieve young woman named Martha, who ends up accompaning him to other futures, and eventually a robot named La also joins their motley crew.
Initially, I was not too impressed with the pacing and dialogue, but once he leaves the near future of Earth and ventures through time, I enjoyed myself. I thought the end was too tidy and a bit of a cop out, but I was not upset with it enough that it soured my enjoyment of the book. I'll continue to read and enjoy Haldeman's future, but I wouldn't consider this his best work.

(P.S. Hi, I like new friends!)
  • Current Mood
  • blinger

Books 30 & 31 - 2009

Book 30: A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton - 326 pages
My little synopsis: With her harem of lovers/guards, Merry is now set with the task of not only getting pregnant with an heir in order to beat her cousin Cel to the Unseelie throne, but of protecting herself and her own before Cel gets out of prison. Back at work for the Grey Detective Agency, she is called upon by Maeve Reed, former Goddess and member of the Seelie court, who has a strange request for Merry and her men. Moreover, someone has let loose the evil Nameless and large numbers of people are turning up dead under mysterious circumstances that Merry knows has more to do with the Sidhe than the police are willing to admit. Never a dull day for an Unseelie Princess!
I liked this book, if not as much, than 90% as much as the first book. It seemed a bit slower and less seemed to happen though I'm not sure this is actually true. Again, the sex scenes are over the top, and if I hear Merry describe any part of her body as moon-like again, I'll deck her. Nonetheless, I do find this series engaging. The first part can drag a bit as Hamilton seems to waste a bit of time re-introducing things (I personally think that if you start a series midway through than its your own fault if things don't make sense - going over what happened in previous books is a waste of time). However, once she finally gets into the story, it’s good. Her harem of men are all delightfully funny and intriguing in their own way - I can't quite pick a favourite just yet. And I liked Andais more in this one - sure, she's sadistic and insane, but I felt she was more vulnerable and showed more humility in this one. Overall, I think this series has promise, but given what I've read in the reviews of later books on facebook, I'm not holding my breath for it to get better and better!


30 / 50 books. 60% done!

11121 / 15000 pages. 74% done!

Book 31: The True Story of Butterfish by Nick Earls – 280 pages
My little synopsis: Curtis Holland was one half of Brisbane’s success story Butterfish, until the band’s third album tanked and the group disbanded. Moving back to suburban Brisbane to produce, Curtis’ attempt to move on with his life is complicated by his new neighbours, single mum Kate and her two children, Annaliese and Mark. But just as he’s coming to grips with the tough guy routine from Mark, and Annaliese’s crush on him, his former band mate Derek flies back into town.
Um, this book was different. It seemed to meander through a lot of people and topics but never quite reached a climax. Earls writes people really well. Curtis, the unwilling rock star; Kate, the struggling single mum; Annaliese, part woman, part girl, enamoured with Curtis; Mark, hating on his father while writing porn and raising fish to make money for his mum; Derek, hiding from reality under the lights of L.A. They are all very real and very believable.  Yet, instead of exploring these people fully, Earls seemed to spend more time talking about Brisbane. I know that you take the Gateway Arterial to the airport, I know city cats, I know the highway to Caloundra. I’ve lived in Brisbane my whole life, I know these places. And I can’t imagine why a non-local would even care about how to get to Brisbane Airport, or the timetable of the public transport, or a highway to a small beach town. Earls seemed to spend more time babbling on and on about these details than he did about the characters. No one cares! Honestly, I truly feel that the reason that Brisbane, and Australian in general, writers don’t do well overseas is because they get too caught up in talking about Australia, and forget to tell a story. I was tired of reading about Kenmore and Gap Creek Road by page three (having said that, maybe I’m just annoyed because all books set in Brisbane seem to be set either in the CBD or on the North side (Kenmore being a North side suburb) and I am from the humble South side and would like for once a book to be set in my area!). Oh well, moving along, I think this book had some very bittersweet, very poignant moments and after I got through the first 120 or so pages I really got into it. Overall, an interesting look at fame and relationships and regret that could have been a whole lot more if it had talked about something other than Kenmore!

31 / 50 books. 62% done!

11401 / 15000 pages. 76% done!

Currently reading:

-           From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology by Lawrence Cahoone – 600 pages

-           The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 2: The One Tree by Stephen Donaldson – 472 pages

-           Seduced by Moonlight by Laurell K. Hamilton – 367 pages

-           Next by Michael Crichton – 540 pages

And coming up:

-           The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory – 486 pages

-           Angels and Demons by Dan Brown – 620 pages

-           Nightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon – 154 pages



Cyclical models of history often draw a cpnnection between the remoteness of an event in the living memory of the current population and the greater likelihood of something like that event recurring. Something like that appears to be at work in Paul Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, material for Book Review No 46. Professor Krugman begins with a summary of macroeconomic hubris ("between John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, we thought we knew enough to keep [stagnation and deflation] from happening again," p. 4; "The Central Problem Has Been Solved," chap. 1) and the collapse of Communism, taking the principal intellectual challenge to market-system economics in theory and practice with it. He then notes that early in the 1990s, ominous signs, not unlike those present in the 1920s and oh-so-visible with hindsight, appeared in the economies of developing countries and diffused to more developed countries and particularly their financial sectors. Professor Krugman does not make his case in detail, although he covers some of the same ground Michael Lewis's Panic, reviewed here, and Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance: The Bankers who Broke the World, reviewed here, is a useful companion piece on events leading to the Great Depression. And thus we are contemplating the end of the Oh-Ohs, and Professor Krugman's concluding observation invokes that cycle.

Depression economics, however, is the study of situations where there is a free lunch, if we can only figure out how to get our hands on it, because there are unemployed resources that could be put to work. The true scarcity in Keynes's world -- and ours -- was therefore not of of resources, or even of virtue, but of understanding.

We will not achieve the understanding we need, however, unless we are willing to think clearly about our problems and to follow hose thoughts wherever they lead. Some people say that our economic problems are structural, with no quick cure available; but I believe that the only important structural obstacles to world prosperity are the obsolete doctrines that clutter the minds of men.

What makes this year's collection of Book Reviews intellectually intriguing is that other books contemplating The Latest Bubble to Pop, or Depression 2.0 would treat the Keynesian doctrines as obsolete.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
  • Current Music
    Beethoven "Grosse Fuge."
  • Tags

Book 131: Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

Book 131: Beyond Black Author: Hilary Mantel, 2005
Genre: Contemporary Fiction. Literary. Ghost Story. Black Comedy.
Other Details: Harper Perennial Edition with interview and essay. Paperback. 466 pages

"Other mediums have spirit guides with a bit more about them — dignified impassive medicine men or ancient Persian sages — why does she have to have a grizzled grinning apparition in a book-maker's check jacket, and suede shoes with bald toecaps." - from Beyond Black.

I've tackled a few novels this year dealing with the subject of spiritualism and for the most part they proved a disappointment as they focused on fraudulent practices rather than the real thing. Mantel's pitch-black comedy was the exception as it captured perfectly the day-to-day life of a jobbing medium in which the presence of the recent and long dead are a fact of life.

Alison Hart makes her living as a medium, doing shows in scout halls, psychic fairs and spiritualist churches throughout the suburbs of London and the Home Counties. She channels the dead to pass on messages to their living relations. Alison is the 'real deal' though sometimes even she has to fake it. She is overweight, in constant pain and although on the surface is happy-go-lucky, underneath she is is troubled by memories of a childhood filled with dreadful abuse. As noted above rather than a serene spirit guide she has the seedy Morris, who constantly reminds her of that past.

She is accompanied by her personal assistant Colette. In contrast to Alison, Colette is severe and all-business, a sceptic who does not believe in Alison's gifts. Her concern is to put Alison on a diet and ensure she keeps to her timetable of engagements. Eventually Colette decides that Alison should write a book about her experiences so she can make more money. However, this process stirs up the past causing Morris and his spirit companions to torment Alison more than ever.

I had been looking for a copy of Mantel's latest book, Wolf Hall, when I spotted Beyond Black on the shelf with a quirky cover depicting a figure from the Marseilles Tarot pushing a vacuum cleaner. Even though I opted to buy a different edition for its extra features, including an interview with Mantel and a short essay on her research and writing process, that first cover really sums up the mixture of the extraordinary with the everyday found in its pages.

It is an unusual ghost story with a definite sting in the tale! A novel that is both very dark and very light and I admire Mantel for her skill in finding a balance between the two. I found it a superbly written, intelligent and witty novel and one of my favourites of 2009, though its tone and subject matter is not going to appeal to everyone.

Hilary Mantel on Beyond Black - January 2006 article when Beyond Black was chosen as the Book of the Month for The Guardian's on-line Book Club.
Edward/Bella (asian_soul)

No. 56 of 2009

Title: The Secret of Joy
Author: Melissa Senate
Rating: 5/5
Book: 56
Book in personal challenge with niun: 2/50 Fantasy, 1/50 Mystery and 0/25 Classics
Pages: 330 pgs
Total Pages 20,082
Next up: I, Alex Cross by James Patterson

This was a great read. I loved all of the characters and the book flowed with such ease. I definately recommend this one to everyone!!

xposted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages and bookworm84

Collapse )