Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm breaking my own promise

Argh. Remember that time when I said I wasn't going to do any reading challenges this year? All of what, two months ago?

Yeah, I'm breaking it.

I've had this urge to reread the Harry Potter series for a month or so now and while I've been struggling to suppress it, it's not going away.

So, I figure I might as well join the Harry Potter Reading Challenge while I'm at it. It ends July 31, 2010, so I've got plenty of time to finish.

I cannot believe I broke on this so early in 2010. Shame. Shame on me.

Except, not really. It's going to be so much fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Just read the entire book--thank you, NY MTA and my roommate--and I have to say as much as I loved the entire novel--and all the twists--would someone--Dennis Lehane, maybe--please resolve the last 3 1/2 pages for me.

I mean, I think I know what happened, fairly certain how the ending actually ends, but it doesn't say for sure, 100%, definitely. And that bugs me.

Damnit, am I going to have to see this movie?

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I knew next to nothing about Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin, before I started to read it. In fact, the only thing I knew about this novel was that it is set in the area of Brooklyn I live. I'm very glad I read it though; I found it to be a very detailed, beautifully written coming-of-age story.

From the publisher:
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
Having no idea what the novel was about, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it and by how much of myself I saw in Eilis. From her trip alone across the Atlantic Ocean, how she forces herself to smile so she doesn't lose her job as a salesgirl, even the way she takes walks through the city on her lunch break, trying to see and explore more of her new home.

Eilis doesn't just have to learn how to survive on her own in Brooklyn, manage night classes and work, and dating, but she also has to deal with her ever-present sense of loss for the family she left behind. One day, after almost two years in Brooklyn, finally settling in, she is called home to Ireland to deal with a family crisis. Suddenly, Eilis finds herself in the position of having a choice; she can stay in Ireland with her family, working as a bookkeeper, and settle down, or she can return to Brooklyn, without her family, work as a shop girl, and eventually give up on her professional dreams to keep house and home for Tony, who wants to marry her.

Brooklyn is a beautiful story, not just because of the plot--which is good--but in the way that Toibin describes things in this novel, making each part seem so real.

On one morning, Eilis goes to work and finds there that the store is having its yearly nylon sale.
The morning was full of frenzy; she did not for one moment have peace to look around her. Everyone's voice was loud, and there were times when she thought in a flash of an early evening in October walking with her mother down by the prom in Enniscorthy, the Slaney River glassy and full, and the smell of leaves burning from somewhere close by, and the daylight going slowly and gently. This scene kept coming back to her as she filled the bag with notes and coins and women of all types approached her asking where certain items of clothing could be found or if they could return what they had bought in exchange for other merchandise, or simply wishing to purchase what they had in their hands.
As someone who has worked retail during a holiday sale, that exactly describes how I felt during my shifts. Body on automatic, mind somewhere pleasant.

Another true-to-life description is Eilis' take on her daily walk to work:
As she walked along, however, she knew she was getting closer to the real world, which had wider streets and more traffic. Once she arrived at Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn began to feel like a strange place to her, with so many gaps between buildings and so many derelict buildings. And then suddenly, when she arrived on Fulton Street, there would be so many people crowding to cross the street, and in such dense clusters, that on the first morning she thought a fight had broken out or someone was injured and they had gathered to get a good view.
That paragraph perfectly describes what my mornings--and evening--are like here in New York. Crowds of people, jostling to get closer to the street, forced to dodge them left and right... The whole book is like that; he just sucks you in. Now that I'm done with Brooklyn I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Toibin's other books.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old favorites found

I have no idea who Ellis Peters is, but I'm beyond grateful that someone--Maxim Jakvbowski--put together a memorial anthology of historic crime in honor of her. Dozens of authors--including my new favorite, Kate Ross--wrote short stories for this anthology. Surprisingly, Ross' story isn't my favorite; perhaps if it had been a Julian Kestrel story, it would have been. Instead, my favorite story is by Marilyn Todd, a British author I fell in love with ten years ago during a semester I spent in London.

Being rather poor--and London being rather expensive--I used to spend a great deal of time in the local library. I spent most of my time in the fiction section, completely enthralled by all of the new authors I "found." One of those authors--in fact the only books I can still remember--was Marilyn Todd, and her Claudia series. I was hooked the instant I started to read them. There were only four stories in the series (I think) at that time, and I read them all. Sadly, I didn't purchase the books before I left. Over the years, I remembered the series, but I forgot who the author was and therefore couldn't find the books here.

But thanks to this anthology--Past Poisons--all that has changed. The NYPL has some of the books from the series in stock and now that I've "found" the author again, I'll start tracking down the other books I missed.

I love it when books and my life come full circle like this.

The Annual & Awesome United Methodist Book Sale

I missed this last year and was bitterly disappointed. I haven't been to a book sale since...fall of 2008? ACK!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Once a Spy, by Keith Thomson

I subscribe to several book newsletters, which I inevitably stop reading and just scan through. I try not to do this, because how am I ever going to find something new to read if I don't read the newsletters, but alas.

Still, every now and then something on the page will catch my eye and I'll stop, scroll back up, and read. In this case, it was a flashing advertisement for an ARC of Once A Spy, the debut novel by Keith Thomson. It looked interesting, so I filled out the request form* and several weeks later, received a copy in the mail.

I'm so glad I did, because this novel was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

From the publisher:
Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll and he’s just a confused old man who’s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him.

When Charlie Clark takes a break from his latest losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn home, they find it blown sky high—and then bullets start flying in every direction. At first, Charlie thinks his Russian “creditors” are employing aggressive collection tactics. But once Drummond effortlessly hot-wires a car as their escape vehicle, Charlie begins to suspect there’s much more to his father than meets the eye. He soon discovers that Drummond’s unremarkable career as an appliance salesman was actually a clever cover for an elaborate plan to sell would-be terrorists faulty nuclear detonators. Drummond’s intricate knowledge of the “device” is extremely dangerous information to have rattling around in an Alzheimer’s-addled brain. The CIA wants to “contain” him--and so do some other shady characters who send Charlie and Drummond on a wild chase that gives “father and son quality time” a whole new meaning.
From the very beginning of this story, I was hooked. Drummond is fascinating, with his moments of lucidity and the slow revealing of his skills--usually with Charlie looking on completely flabbergasted--contrasted by the effects that Alzheimer's is having on him. He'll hotwire a car, talking to Charlie, and suddenly to him, Charlie is twelve and late for school. Charlie, meanwhile, was less endearing at first, although by the time he's rescued his father from the shelter, I'd started to warm up to him. By the end, when he's actively planning a mission, I've completely warmed up to him.

I was actually a bit disappointed by the ending--since the book doesn't end up resolving itself--but I've gotten over that as I recently (read, today) learned that Thomson is in the process of writing a sequel.

Seriously, this is the best spy duo since Mr. & Mrs. Smith. One completely untrained son. One former spy whose mind is being destroyed by Alzheimer's. Eight million dollars on the table--somewhere--and so many people who want both Charlie and Drummond dead.

How can you doubt a plot like that?

* Yes, this was an ARC, and one I requested. Blah blah disclaimer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

August 24, 2010, can't come soon enough

Why, you ask?

Because that's when Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins comes out!

See the cover here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


  • I triumphed at the NYPL last night when I found the book I was looking for. It had been horribly misshelved--no where near where it was supposed to be. But I was clever, I persevered, and I unwilling to leave without my book!
  • I'm no where near reading fourteen books this month. I think I've read two.
  • 2666 is one of the books I'm reading (subway book) and I have no idea what it's about. I kind of want to look it up on Amazon--for the synopsis--but I'm worried that will just confuse me more. Anyone read it?
  • Apparently we're supposed to get between twelve and eighteen inches of snow tonight.
  • I am woefully behind on book reviews. WOEFULLY BEHIND.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2010 update

Taking a leaf from Sassymonkey and her idea to post monthly on her reading goals...
1. Read 178 books. I read 8 books in January, 6 shy of my goal of 14 per month*. Only 170 to go!
2. I read 1 military nonfiction book and started a second.

Sadly, I did not do half of the posting I told myself I would do, despite bookmarking interesting articles and links. I'm also way behind on my reviews.

*Well, there will be some months where I need to read 15 books a month. I'll figure that out later.