July 27th, 2010


Book 39 and 40

39. No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos. A very easy read on one hand -- it's easy to follow, despite the finance and math terms (which are well explained), and Markopolos has a sense of humor that ranges from wry and sardonic to downright sarcastic. But fair warning: read in small doses or with a lighthearted, more upbeat read, because this will make your blood boil. I was somewhat familiar with the Ponzi scheme launched by Bernie Madoff, that it was huge, it was bad, and it ruined a lot of people financially, and that the government agencies that were supposed to be minding the henhouse were on the other side of the farm while the foxes had moved in and were sending out party invitations to their lupine friends. I had no idea the level of incompetence by the SEC and the sheer brazenness of Madoff. Markopolos is quite thorough, even including a draft of one of his reports to the SEC.

40. Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier. A really enjoyable story. I love Chevalier's turns of phrase, such as towards the beginning, describing Vermeer and his wife as having voices full of (and I'm paraphrasing here; I've returned the book) tapestries and silks. In the story, Griet is sent to the home of Johnannes Vermeer, the Dutch painter, to work as his assistant and as a maid for the house. Trouble comes at Griet from all sides -- especially from Catharina, his high-strung and temperamental wife, from a lecherous patron. Griet has to learn how to juggle her duties to the Vermeers, to her own family and to herself. Throughout, Griet is very mature and modest, who generally knows when to hold her peace and when to stand her ground. An enjoyable read; I finished it in one day.
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Not a book review but a question that I thought you might be able to help me with. I have recently read both Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, both of which I absolutely loved.

I was wondering if there were any more fiction books which explore similar subjects? So Irish (although they don't necessarily have to be Irish) immigrants to America in the 1900s-1960s, specifically women, their lives in america, the jouneys they go through etc.


Books 71: Savage Lands by Clare Clark

UK Cover
Book 71: Savage Lands.
Author: Clare Clark, 2010.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Early 18th century.
Other Details: Trade paperback. 384 pages.

This novel opens in 1704 as Elizabeth Savaret arrives by ship at the French colony of Louisiana. She is part of a group of young French women who have come as prospective brides for the colonists. Elizabeth is a quiet, scholarly girl and she quickly falls in love with the charismatic and handsome Jean-Claude Babelon, a French Canadian ensign.

It is fairly obvious that despite this passionate marriage that her life isn't going to be much fun given her husband's 'bad boy' character and his frequent absences on various expeditions. Added to this are the harsh conditions of the colony and Elizabeth's estrangement from many of the other women there. Another main character is Auguste, a gentle soul, who was left as a boy among the local Native Americans to learn their language and report back on their activities. When he comes to reintegrate back into society, he and Jean-Claude develop a strong friendship. Auguste and Elizabeth also become close.

US Cover
The scope of the book covers a number of years and charts the fortunes of these characters and others as well as the colony itself. In 1719 a fourth major character enters the narrative. Vincente le Vannes is another French girl who has come to the New World as a bride-to-be. In her case she is pledged to marry a minor local nobleman. She brings a fresh perspective on the colony and how it is perceived back home in France.

As with 'The Nature of Monsters', Clark does a wonderful job of evoking her 18th century setting. I could almost feel the oppressive heat and experience the bleak conditions that the settlers had to deal with. It was easy to appreciate the tenuous hold that they had upon the land and it is quite amazing that the colony eventually prospered. However, she seemed to be restraining herself in terms of the story and her characters. As a result it felt rather dry in terms of the human experience with her passions poured into descriptions of place and the accuracy of the historical aspects.

While I started off with a great deal of empathy with Elizabeth, this rather slipped away and I almost had the feeling that Clark had rather lost interest in her part way through the book. Also, there were times when Vincente seemed a little too modern in her attitudes and felt underwritten. However, I loved Auguste and really wished there had been more details of his experiences with the Native Americans and more about the tribes in general.

I did find that Clark's unsparing realism became almost oppressive at times as she does paint a very pessimistic picture in terms of human interaction. Still I did enjoy the book for the strength of its historical accuracy and its geographical detail even if I longed for a little levity or romance. Overall, I felt that it had the potential to be a great work of historical fiction but somehow just missed the mark.

July Reads #9-15

Wish I could get through this many books every month.  Still got a lot of catching up too do!

# 9 The Ambassabor's Mission by Trudi Canavan

Sonea, former street urchin, now a Black Magician of Kyralia, is horrified when her son, Lorkin, volunteers to assist Dannyl in his new role as Guild Ambassador to Sachaka, a land still ruled by cruel black magicians. When word comes that Lorkin has gone missing Sonea is desperate to find him, but if she leaves the city she will be exiled forever, and besides, her old friend Cery needs her help. Most of his family has been murdered - the latest in a long line of assassinations to plague the leading Thieves. There has always been rivalry, but lately it seems the Thieves have been waging a deadly underworld war, and now it appears they have been doing so with magical assistance ...

Intododuces a new trilogy.  Sets the scene for an exciting new story that follows on from the Black Magician Triology.  A must read for fans of Trudi Canavan.  Looking forward to whats to come.


#10 White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel is cursed. Cursed by the memory of the fourteen year old girl he murdered. Life at school is a constant trial. Life at home even worse. No-one at home is ever going to forget that Cassel is a killer. No-one at home is ever going to forget that he isn't a magic worker. Cassel's family are one of the big five crime families in America. Ever since magic was prohibited in 1929 magic workers have been driven underground and into crime. And while people still need their touch, their curses, their magical killings, their transformations, times have been hard. His granddad has been driven to drink, his mother is in prison and his brothers detest him as the only one of their family who can't do magic. But there is a secret at the centre of Cassel's family and he's about to inherit it. It's terrifying and that's the truth. The White Cat is a stunning novel of a world changed by magic. In this world only 1% of the population can work magic but they have the power of nightmares. (Amazon.co.uk)

I loved this book.  I only started reading Holly Black's work this year with The Modern Faerie Tale series which I really enjoyed and this book certainly didn't disappoint.  Another start to what will be a fantastic series.


#11 The Secret Circle Vol 2 by L.J Smith

Now that Cassie is part of the most alluring and deadly clique imaginable, she is starting to realise that power comes with a price – more dangerous than she knows. Torn between the dueling desires of the two leaders of the Secret Circle, Cassie is struggling again. Does she use her considerable supernatural power to save lives, or does she put all her energy into keeping Adam, the boys she loves. Cassie’s relationship with Adam is threatening to tear the circle apart, so where does Cassie’s loyalty, and strength, truly lie? Is she brave enough to lead the coven out of danger? Or will she fall prey to the darkness..?

Really enjoyed The Secret Circle books.  I have watched The Vampire Diaries on TV but wasn't interested in reading the books, but this was something new and different. Vol 2 really tied everything up well.


#12 The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is the riveting story of Bree Tanner, a vampire first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the world she inhabits. The novella chronicles the journey of members of the newborn vampire army from their preparations to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullen family to its unforgettable conclusion. (Amazon.co.uk)

I can't help it but I love the Twilight books and I was really excited to get to read some behind the scenes stuff.  I finished this an about 4 hours and thought it was great.


#13 Evermore by Alyson Noel

Seventeen-year-old Ever is the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her entire family. Living with her aunt in Southern California, she's plagued by the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her, and haunted by the ghost of her little sister. She tries to tune everyone out, shunning her old lifestyle as the pretty, popular cheerleader, but somehow she can't hide from Damen, the new guy at school. Stunningly handsome, clever and not a little bit intimidating, there's something about him that doesn't quite add up. Ever realises he's hiding something, but nothing could prepare her for the truth - especially when the truth involves past lives, murderous enemies, everlasting love and the secret of eternal youth . . . (Amazon.co.uk)

At times it felt a like Twilight and in other parts like Fallen, but if you can look past that you are in for one hell of a read.  I am currently obsessed with the The Immortals series.  If you enjoy romantic fantasy and mysterious males you will also love this.


#14 Blue Moon by Alyson Noel

Things have changed for Ever since she met her beloved Damen – not least because she’s got a whole new set of powers, courtesy of her new Immortal status. Just as she's getting stronger, though, Damen seems to be weakening. Panicked at the thought of losing him, Ever finds a path to the in-between world known as Summerland, where she learns the secrets of Damen’s tortured past. But in searching for a cure for him, Ever accidentally discovers a way to twist time so she can save her family from the accident that killed them. It’s all she’s ever wanted – but so is Damen. And Ever must choose between them . . .

This book has taken such an interesting twist.  I can't wait for Shadowlands to arrive as I have to know what going to happen.  Ever has turned into such a stong character, I sometimes find the female leads in this sort of book annoying but I think Ever is great.


#15 Sister Red by Jackson Pearce

The story of Scarlett and Rosie March, two highly-skilled sisters who have been hunting Fenris (werewolves) – who prey on teen girls – since Scarlett lost her eye years ago while defending Rosie in an attack. Scarlett lives to destroy the Fenris, and she and Rosie lure them in with red cloaks (a colour the wolves can't resist), though Rosie hunts more out of debt to her sister than drive.
But things seem to be changing. The wolves are getting stronger and harder to fight, and there has been a rash of news reports about countless teenage girls being brutally murdered in the city. Scarlett and Rosie soon discover the truth: wolves are banding together in search of a Potential Fenris – a man tainted by the pack but not yet fully changed. Desperate to find the Potential to use him as bait for a massive werewolf extermination, the sisters move to the city with Silas, a young woodsman and long time family friend who is deadly with an axe. Meanwhile, Rosie finds herself drawn to Silas and the bond they share not only drives the sisters apart, but could destroy all they've worked for.

I brought this for my best friends birthday and she loaned it to me as I didn't want to start anything too big as I am waiting for Shadowlands to arrive and she promised me I could get it finished in time.  Now I am disappointed that I did read it so quickly.  A great modern day spin on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale.  Quite a violent book for something I found in the Childrens section!!!!


Eagerly awaiting Shadowlands By Alyson Noel

1/5 = I hated it
2/5 = It was ok
3/5 = I liked it
4/5 = I loved it
5/5 = It was amazing