February 1st, 2012

marie masked

Book 7: Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees

UK Cover
Book 7: Mozart's Last Aria .
Author: Matt Rees, 2011
Genre: Historical Mystery. Vienna 18th Century. Music.
Other Details: Hardback. 303 pages

It’s 1791 and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is enlightenment Vienna’s brightest star. Master of the city’s music halls and devoted member of the Freemason’s guild, he stands at the heart of an electric mix of art and music, philosophy and science, politics and intrigue. But six weeks ago the great composer told his wife he had been poisoned. Yesterday, he died. - from cover blurb.

The narrator of this novel is Wolfgang’s older sister Nannerl, who had been estranged from her brother for a few years. She is living a quiet married life in the provinces when she receives a letter from her sister-in-law telling of Wolfgang's final illness and death. Constanze also confides Wolfgang's fears that he was being poisoned. So Nannerl travels to Vienna to pay her respects and there learns more of the rumours and suspicions surrounding her brother's death. She decides to investigate and finds herself quickly ensnared in a web of intrigue that includes jealous lovers, rival composers, disgruntled creditors and others. Most significantly she uncovers traces of Masonic secrets in his personal papers as well as in his opera The Magic Flute. Had he broken his oaths to this secret brotherhood and reaped a dreadful penalty? Despite the protection of her brother's friends and a powerful patron, Nannerl finds herself in danger of meeting the same fate as her brother.

US Cover
As with most historical mysteries, Rees has used known historical facts and imaginative leaps to propose a solution to the mystery of Wolfgang's death. Alongside this he explores the sense of loss felt by Nannerl, not only about her brother's death but about the choices that she made in her own life that took her away from the music she loved so much as a girl.

This was a very enjoyable novel which increased my knowledge about the Mozart family as well as late 18th Century Viennese society and politics. I wouldn't have minded if it was longer though did appreciate Rees' economical style that allowed me to read it in a couple of afternoons. It was something of a new direction for Rees, who following a career as a journalist reporting on the Middle East has written a series of modern day crime novels featuring Palestinian teacher turned detective, Omar Yussef. It was obvious from his author's end notes that he felt a strong connection to Mozart's music and was also interested in telling Nannerl's story. His notes on the background of the novel include the revelation that he used meditation techniques in order to find Nannerl's voice as a character and that the novel had an underlying musical structure based on one of Mozart's piano sonatas. I found these aspects quite fascinating and they added to my appreciation of the novel.

I have included cover art from both the UK and US editions as I quite liked both, though feel the US one by featuring a female figure is truer to the content while the UK cover is more dramatic with its splash of blood and the almost ghostly figure of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ever present as indeed he is in the story.

Matt Rees' page on 'Mozart's Last Aria' - includes links to photographs of the locations in the novel and the music used.
  • slickmc

Books 1-6/75

2011 was a tough year for me, and it wasn't until I tallied up my book total in December (and compared it to what I read in 2010) that I realized how abysmally I'd done on my reading.  Not only didn't I make my 75-book goal, but I also read a lot of crap.  Too much young-adult fiction.  Not to dump on young-adult books, but it isn't really though-provoking anymore, and it amounts to brain-vacation reading for me.  I thought I'd relax by reading a couple of easy teen horror and romance books, and suddenly almost all of 2011 turned into a brain vacation.

I've resolved to do better this year, and so far I'm pleased.  In an effort to read more non-fiction, I've (once again) imposed an every-other order to my fiction and non-fiction reading, and I've actually been succeeding.

Collapse )

read in order to live

Books Read in January

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
The Hardy Boys: When the Clock Ticked by Franklin W. Dixon

I only made it to 48 books last year, but hopefully I'll make my 50 book goal this year :)

Collapse )

Book 7

Title: Fast Food Nation
Author: Eric Schlosser
Themes: History, Non-fiction, Fast Food, Health

As a food lover and health enthusiast, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to eat in order to have a healthy and balanced diet. This is tricky of course, because there is so much conflicting information about what exactly "healthy and balanced" means but I try my best.

Although I rarely (only on car trips) eat fast food, this book has probably curbed me of even that habit. Schlosser does a good job of explaining the entire history of the fast food industry, and the changes it has made to our nation, in a way that I feel is balanced and fair. Some corporations and the meat/potato packing industries come out looking very badly, but that's only because it seems they are doing bad things.

Other than Raising Cane's (regional, chicken fingers, started in Louisiana) I believe I am off of fast food completely. A lot of the information in this book resonates with me, and I won't soon forget it, but the things I'll remember most is that McDonald's uses "beef flavoring" in the french fries. Just makes you wonder what exactly is in everything else...
cowboy reading

Book Number One done...

OK... on the weekend I finished book number one for this year... James A Michiners' "Centennial"

Took me a bit longer than I had expected, but I really enjoyed reading this once again... even if it was 1100 pages! lol

Have started on Book Number Two now... Elizabeth O'Connors masterpiece "The Irishman", the Miles Franklin Award winning story of Paddy Doolan, an Irishman living in outback Queensland, and his family. He is a teamster in an age when horses are about to be replaced my motor vehicles.

I read this many years ago and it is one that has something of a personal element in it for me, as my own great-grandfather was a teamster at the exact same time when this story is set (after WW1) and was killed when a team of horses bolted on him and in doing so wrapped him around a tree, the chains wrapping him up and crushing him. Not pretty.

Anyhow, I think it is due to my outback origins that I enjoy reading (and re-reading) these types of stories!

Cross-posted on my LJ
  • Current Mood
Jazzy Looking Around the Corner

January Reads

1.  The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
2.  At Home in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
3.  Good Time Man by Emilie Richards
4.  Grave Situation by Alex MacLean  This crime drama is one that holds your interest until the last page.  We do see a little bit about police detective, Allan Stanton’s private life though it doesn’t go into much detail.  It does cover finding a serial killer on the loose in Halifax Canada and in a small Canadian town where we do discover why the killer did what he did.  The book does keep you on the edge of your seat while you wait for the cops to find out who the serial killer was.
5.  Summer Friends by Holly Chamberlin Both Delphine Crandall and Maggie Weldon are best friends and did everything together during the summer months when Maggie spent the summer in Ogunquit, Maine.  Maggie gets her MBA, lands a lucrative career and marries while Delphine moves back home to run the family farm and has a married lover.  Delphine is satisfied with her life until Maggie comes back to Ogunquit for a visit.  With Maggie’s visit Delphine is forced to reevaluate her life and the choices that she has made.  Maggie also reevaluates her life choices in that she is bored in her marriage.  This is a book about the female midlife crisis where our life choices are questioned.
6.  Tour de Force by Elizabeth White   Gillian Kincade is a soloist with a New York ballet company who is originally from Alabama and is returning to dance the lead in the Nutcracker for Jacob Ferrar’s regional ballet company.  Both Gillian and Jacob are Christians who had dealt with the New York ballet scene in different ways, since Jacob was a former dancer in New York until he became a Christian.  This book offers a realistic view of the ballet world in New York where Gillian doesn’t live in a Christian bubble but instead has a dance partner who is gay and a former roommate who is promiscuous.  She does give us an honest look at what Christians deal with every day and the temptations that they face.
7.  Over My Head by Maria Lamba   This young adult book is about one half Indian’s summer vacation where instead of spending a week at the Jersey Shore they have purchased a membership at the local pool club.  Sang’s parents sign her up for swim lessons at the club in order to help her get over her fear of the water.  She meets and falls for the lifeguard who helps out with her swim classes where she is one of the oldest students along with her cousin from India who is visiting with her family for the summer.  Her younger sister Doodles is trying to raise money in order to help their parents in order to pay for a bone marrow transplant for an elderly relative in the States.  This book takes an honest look at the experience of a teenage girl who falls for an older guy that her father doesn’t agree that his daughter should be dating.
8.  Learning by Karen Kingsbury This is another light read from Karen Kingsbury, the second book in her Baily Flannigan series.  In this book we see Baily land a role on Broadway and she experiences the bigger world for the first time in New York City instead of in her small town.  She does board with a Christian couple who do mentor her though is it realistic that she would board with an older Christian couple instead of rooming with another young woman who is in her stage in life.  Karen also escapes a small detail in the book where Baily has five siblings instead of only four.  Cody on the other hand is still coaching the small town football team in Indiana.   The two of them go through important issues even though their stories are not finished yet.  This is a sweet story that you can read quickly.
9.  Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford