March 14th, 2010


Book 28: The Art of Drowning by Frances Fyfield

Book 28: The Art of Drowning .
Author: Frances Fyfield, 2006.
Genre: Psychological Thriller. Crime Fiction.
Other Details: Paperback. 372 pages.

The protagonist of this novel is Rachel Doe, a shy and lonely accountant who is drifting through her life. Then she meets Ivy Wiseman, who works as a life drawing model at an evening class Rachel attends. Ivy is Rachel's polar opposite: uninhibited and charismatic; a woman who has survived drug addiction, homelessness and the death of her daughter. Rachel develops an intense, platonic infatuation that is further enhanced when she meets Ivy's parents who run a ramshackle farm on the Kent coast. In Ivy's mother, Grace, she especially finds a substitute mother figure and they welcome her as a second daughter.

As Rachel becomes closer to the family she learns of Ivy's marriage to the ambitious, bullying Carl Schneider and of the drowning death of their daughter in the swan-filled lake near to the farm. Since their divorce Carl has become a judge and denies Ivy access to her surviving child. Rachel feels deeply the injustice of this and decides to bring about a reconciliation at least between the older Wisemans and their estranged grandson. When she makes contact with Carl she finds him charming and considerate and very different to the monster described by Ivy.

Although Rachel is unaware of it, someone has been sending threatening images via email to Carl. When a dead rat is delivered to his door, a washed-up police detective is assigned to investigate. This investigation continues in parallel to Rachel's story though eventually both narratives dove-tail.

This was the first book by Fyfield that I have read and did so on the glowing recommendation of a friend. Almost from the first page I could understand why as Fyfield did a masterful job throughout. Especially notable was the way in which she created a growing sense of tension and unease using small details and peripheral events, which indicate that something odd is going on.

It certainly stood out from the average thriller in terms of its complex characterisations. Rachel develops from a naive, inhibited woman moving through doubt and denial to discovering an inner strength and purpose. The supporting characters are well realised emerging as flawed, complex and always interesting. Fyfield also creates a strong sense of place in both her depiction of the urban sprawl of London and the isolated farm with the almost fairy-tale ambiance of the swans and the lake.

From start to finish I was caught up in this powerful story and found it effective on various levels.

Books 19 - 25 / 100

19. The Phoenician Maidens - Euripides
          A play about Oedipus' family, when Polynices and Eteocles are fighting over who will rule now that Oedipus has gone and blinded himself.  Not bad.

20. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultual Life: 1500 to the Present - Jacques Barzun
             Well, the title pretty much explains it.  A very shallow over-view of just about everything (politics, culture, music, art, poetry, literature, film) of the past 500 years in Western Europe and the U.S.  There's so much information on every page that you can't retain it all, but the author is very helpful in suggesting further reading if you're interested.  Which I am, so reading this just increased my To Read List by about 100 books.  Ouch.

21. Vergeen: A Survivor of the Armenian Genocide - Mae M. Derdarian
          A true story about Virginia Meghrouni's experiences during the Armenian genocide.  Pretty interesting, of course, but the writing was terrible.  Where's an editor when you need one?

22. Antony and Cleopatra - William Shakespeare
          A play about....Antony and Cleopatra. 

23. Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens
           One of Dickens' less well-known novels about a young girl named Amy Dorrit, who lived the first 22 years of her life in debtors' prison with her family.  A good read, but nothing fantastic.  Typical Dickens style, with a little more social commentary than his earlier novels.  You get the sense that he was middle aged while writing this and getting more reflective.  I like Dickens, so I liked this, but, man, does he get longwinded sometimes.

24. Orestes - Euripides
           A play about Orestes, the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, after he kills his mother and before he leaves Argos to seek redemption.  Not bad, but it seemed to conflict somewhat with Electra, another play by Euripides.

25. Cymbeline - William Shakespeare
            A play about an early (a few years post-Julius Caesar) British King.  It's like Romeo and Juliet/ Othello / Snow White.  I really enjoyed it, and I'm actually kind of surprised it's not more well-known.  Definitely not the worst of Shakespeare's plays.

(no subject)

1. Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. Older collected issues detailing when and how Hal Jordan met Arisia and battled Krona, along with some other stories.

2. The Last Will and Testatment of Hal Jordan. Excellent story about "Pieface", Hal's sometime sidekick, and how he deals with Parallax and Hal's legacy.

3. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. Mesmerizing story about a disaster atop Mount Everest in 1996 that claimed eight lives.

4. The Ice Storm, by Rick Moody. Funny, tragicomic novel about suburbanites who delve into swinging, drugs, and other 70s escapades. The book is every bit as good as the 1997 film starring Kevin Kline.

5. The Hard Way, by Lee Child. Another entry in the Jack Reacher series that finds Jack aiding a man whose family has been kidnapped and held for ransom. Taut plotting and lots of action.

Books 14-15

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Themes/Topics: Young Adult Fiction, Death, Coming of Age

The Graveyard Book is a terrific book. It was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and although I haven't read it I remembered elements from the Disney classic.

The Graveyard Book isn't simply a change in venue. Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller who paints a rich background for this novel of mystery, intrigue, and coming-of-age. I expected great things since I had previously enjoyed his other work, specifically, Coraline, and I was not disappointed

Title: Ordinary Man
Author: Paul Rusesabagina
Themes/Topics: Rwandan Genocide, Autobiography

What a heartbreaking tale. I was completely unaware of the atrocities committed in Rwanda and this novel paints a very clear picture of the horror that took place there during the genocide in the 90s. Rusesabagina tells his story simply and honestly and doesn't glorify his role: it is what it is.

I enjoyed the end of the book immensely because instead of just ending the story with the end of his role, he explained the necessary steps in order to prevent this from happening again. Not only that, but he explained the steps required to rebuild Rwanda. His capacity for hope, despite everything, is amazing. Truly an empowering and enlightening read

Books 6-10

Book 6: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Crime

Plot: A collection of short stories about the one and only Sherlock Holmes

My thoughts: It's elementary but...why can't I do it until it is pointed out to me?

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

~ * ~ * ~

Book 7: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Crime

Plot: A collection of short stories about the one and only Sherlock Holmes

My thoughts: Still completely loving Sherlock and still completely unable to pounce on the evidence.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

~ * ~ * ~

Book 8: The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Crime

Plot: A collection of short stories about the one and only Sherlock Holmes

My thoughts: Watson is starting to be able to use Sherlock's methods...I still can't.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

~ * ~ * ~

Book 9: The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta

Genre: Teen Fic?

Plot: The sequel to Saving Francesca, this book follows Tom Mackee whose world and family have fallen apart since the death of his uncle in the London Underground. He moves in with his father's twin sister, Georgie, and finds himself begining to make his way back to his friends and family...

My thoughts: Not as good as Saving Francesca but still good.

Rating: 3/3.5 stars (out of 5)

~ * ~ * ~

Book 10: The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Crime

Plot: When a family curse seems to be killing the Baskerville family, one by one, Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate before the last heir can die. He sends his good friend Watson to protect the heir and send him insights into the home of the Baskervilles.

My thoughts: Would have been much more exciting if I hadn't read The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime which spoilt aspects of this novel.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

10 / 50 words. 20% done!
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Books 1 - 10.

1. Raymond - Student's Vegetarian Cookbook
Really good, especially if you like Mexican food. XD

2. Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
I have two of this book; the one I read I bought because of a pic of a copy in Oz. *LOL* But yeah, it's a good book too.

3. McEachern (ed.) - A Holy Life: The Writings Of St Bernadette Of Lourdes
Notebook entries, and letters, worth the read.

4. Yarrow - 1001 Ways You Can Save The Planet
More useful if you have a family, your own house, a garden, a pet and/or a car; I still got many good hints out of it even though I had none of those.

5. Visser - The Rituals Of Dinner (borrowed)
This is one is excellent and very much recommended, plenty of good stuff from both past and near-present, from different countries, and such.

6. Ellis - The Rules Of Attraction
A good read if you don't expect a start-middle-end sort of book (you can expect the 'just-middle' kind). Has many elements and people found in later book. Different strength of a book, but a good 'prequel' XD

7. St Augustine - The Confessions (Finnish translation)
After the bio part comes his yapping about other things; amusing to read that he thought Moses wrote all the Books of Moses (he didn't write any of them - oral tradition ahoy - and so on), but his thoughts on the creation story was interesting.

8. Thomas Kempis - The Imitation Of Christ (Finnish translation)
One that I will read again. Took me three tries to start, just needed to get over myself I guess to find the right angle for reading. :P :)

9. Lee Child - The Enemy (borrowed)
A good quick-ish read, solid. I wish there was (or is there already?) a crossover with him and Jack Bauer meeting *LOL* My first book with this guy, good to start with the prequel. I think I'll read more from this series later.

10. Meade - Eleanor Of Aquitaine
There are a few other biographies of her, but I think I got a good one with this. I also got a good view of the two Crusades, a bunch of kings, and relationship-world of that time. Worth it.