Mar. 2nd, 2013

freakykat: (bookworm)
First batch read so far. Not a bad start.

title or description

1. The Time Keeper
by Mitch Albom
genre: fiction/spiritual

Summary: In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time. The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world--now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began--and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Rating/Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. Albom has a sparse literary style that appeals. He says a lot without wasting words. Though it is a narrative about belief, it doesn't preach. I appreciate that. His 5 People You Meet In Heaven is still my favorite but this is a great second place.


title or description

2. Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes
by Betsy Woodman
genre: historical fiction/cultural fiction

Summary: Meet Jana Bibi, a Scottish woman helping to save the small town in India she has grown to call home and the oddball characters she considers family.

Janet Laird's life changed the day she inherited her grandfather's house in a faraway Indian hill station. Ignoring her son's arguments to come grow old in their family castle in Scotland, she moves with her chatty parrot, Mr. Ganguly and her loyal housekeeper, Mary, to Hamara Nagar, where local merchants are philosophers, the chief of police is a tyrant, and a bagpipe-playing Gurkha keeps the wild monkeys at bay. Settling in, Jana Bibi (as she comes to be known) meets her colorful local neighbors—Feroze Ali Khan of Royal Tailors, who struggles with his business and family, V.K. Ramachandran, whose Treasure Emporium is bursting at the seams with objects of unknown provenance, and Rambir, editor of the local newspaper, who burns the midnight oil at his printing press. When word gets out that the town is in danger of being drowned by a government dam, Jana is enlisted to help put it on the map. Hoping to attract tourists with promises of good things to come, she stacks her deck of cards, readies her fine-feathered assistant—and Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is born.

Rating/Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. I was really charmed by this novel and surprised to learn it is Woodman's first one. It brims with a love of India (where it is set) and its characters. Wonderfully funny and witty, it's a quiet sort of novel about every day life, really. India fascinates me so I may be biased but it is a very good read.


title or description

3. The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo
by F.G. Haghenbeck
genre: historical fiction

Summary: When several notebooks were recently discovered among Frida Kahlo’s belongings at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this beautifully wrought fictional account of her life. Haghenbeck imagines that, after Frida nearly died when a streetcar’s iron handrail pierced her abdomen during a traffic accident, she received one of the notebooks as a gift from her lover Tina Modotti. Frida called the notebook “The Hierba Santa Book” (The Sacred Herbs Book) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes. Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical ride through Frida’s passionate life: her long and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her art, her complex personality, her hunger for experience, and her ardent feminism. This stunning narrative also details her remarkable relationships with Georgia O’Keeffe, Leon Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dalí. Combining rich, luscious prose with recipes from “The Hierba Santa Book,” Haghenbeck tells the extraordinary story of a woman whose life was as stunning a creation as her art.

Rating/Recommendation: 2.5 out of 5 stars. I wanted to like this book because I find Kahlo such a compelling artist and woman but it lacked the emotional depth that I would expect from a character like Frida. Half of the book is actual recipes which isn't really a problem but the fictional accounts of what may have happened don't ring true. At times it feels like the book is simply name dropping famous people of the time. It's definitely not one to re-read.

title or description

4. A Book of Horrors
edited by Stephen Jones - Various Authors
genre: horror/anthology

Summary: Many of us grew up on The Pan Book of Horror Stories and its later incarnations, Dark Voices and Dark Terrors (The Gollancz Book of Horror), which won the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Critics' Guild Award and the British Fantasy Award, but for a decade or more there has been no non-themed anthology of original horror fiction published in the mainstream. Now that horror has returned to the bookshelves, it is time for a regular anthology of brand-new fiction by the best and brightest in the field, both the Big Names and the most talented newcomers. A Book of Horrors is the foremost in the field: a collection of the very best chiller fiction, from some of the world's greatest writers

Rating/Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Though the book had some misses, (it is a bit uneven) it does overall live up the hilarious (and quite adept) forward by Jones. He claims in his forward that most horror stories now a days are "lite" with sparking vampires and government-employed werewolves. I agree very loudly. For the most part the stories are creepy and in two instances completely scared the crap out of me. Stephen King's contribution "Little Green God of Agony" is old school and great but the stand outs for me were Peter Crowther's "Ghosts with Teeth" and Karl Ajvide Lindqvist's (author of "Let The Right On In) "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer." Both have stayed with me long after I finished reading because they take a look into the horror human's manage to inflict on others. I strongly recommend this to horror aficionados.


title or description

5. Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
genre: mystery thriller/fiction

Summary: Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Rating/Recommendation: 5 out of 5 stars. There's nothing -- literally, nothing -- I can say about this book because it is just brilliant. Not just the writing style that Flynn has which is dark but hilarious, twisty and breath taking in its ability to make you keep reading even though you know the end is not going to be pretty or even remotely what you want but when it gets there all you can do is nod and say "yeah, that's about right." Gillian Flynn has a great narrative voice that gets you inside her characters and whether you love them or despise them, you can't help but wanting to know more about them. Excellent book; highly recommend.


title or description

6. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
genre: historical fiction/cultural fiction/literature

Summary: A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.

Rating/Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Gorgeous and heartbreaking. That sums up the experience this book was. The twelve narratives grab you and you want to scream at Hattie for what her actions do to her children and scream at the adults those children become for letting that affect them -- which is just something the book focuses on -- children pay the price, always. Yet you understand them, care about them, want to hug every last one of them because you feel the pain there. I loved that Mathis didn't shy away from subjects like sexuality, mental illness, abuse, suicide but she didn't beat you over the head with them in her narrative: they were simply a part of life. Highly recommend this.

6 / 50
(12%)

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