Thursday, July 31, 2014

Capturing Children's Imaginations with Mozart's Golden Notes

"The Case of the Haunted Swamp" by Cliff MacGillivray and Kelly Ward, illustrated by Phil Mendez


Legend has it that Mozart wrote his "Perfect Symphony" using gold ink. But as soon as the ink had dried, the notes magically came alive and flew right off the page, scattering themselves across the world. Over two hundred and twenty years later, the grizzly bear musical philanthropist, Lionel T. Hollingsworth wants to capture them and return them to the empty sheet music. He's hired the famous mouse detective, and musical genius, T. W. Strouse to find them, and he thinks the first ones are haunting his own old homestead on the bayou in Louisiana. This is the first in the series of "Note Hunter" children's books, "The Case of the Haunted Swamp" by Cliff MacGillivray and Kelly Ward.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Presto, a Perfect Book!

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell



The mental institution that housed Euphemia Esme Lennox since she was 16 is closing down. After over 60 years being there, Esme has almost no relatives who could help. The one person they find is her great-niece, Iris Lockheart. The problem is that Iris didn't even know Esme existed, so she has a double dilemma - what to do with her elderly great-aunt, and how can she find out why the family never mention her. This is the basis for Maggie O'Farrell's novel "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A 21st Century Holden Caulfield?

"The Universe versus Alex Woods" by Gavin Extence


Alex Woods is probably one of the most remarkably famous people in the world. That's because he's only the second person in recorded history (after Ann Hodges) who survived being hit by a meteorite. Alex was only 10 at the time, and his meteorite struck him in the head. That he lived was nothing short of a miracle. With this begins a chain-reaction that includes getting epilepsy and being bullied in school, leading Alex to Mr. Peterson - the American recluse and widower. The publishers of this novel call this "a celebration of improbable accidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that give life meaning." Well, I couldn't have summarized "The Universe versus Alex Woods" by Gavin Extence any better than that.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Haunting Read


"Anil’s Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje

Anil Tissera is a forensic archaeologist who was born in Sri Lanka (where author Michael Ondaatje also hails from). After having been an ex-patriot for nearly 15 years, a human rights commission asks her to investigate a gravesite in her home country. What she finds there, and the colleagues she works with, gets her tangled into a web of conspiracy and intrigue over the bones of a person she calls "Sailor" who she believes was a victim of the civil unrest during the 1980's and 1990's in that country.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Story of Sins and Fashion


The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger


Amanda Sachs has just gotten her first job out of college, but it’s not just any job; it's THE job that "millions of girls would kill for." She's the new junior assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of the world-famous fashion magazine, "Runway." The only problem is that Miranda is the most evil boss on earth, who only seems to adore tormenting her assistants and making everyone's lives a living hell. Even so, what won't a girl suffer if one year in purgatory could open the door to a job with the magazine of her dreams – "The New Yorker," but at what cost?

All about Alice; All about Us

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell


Alice is a woman very much in love after a terrible tragedy happens to her. The book starts with the line: “The day she would try to kill herself, she realized winter was coming again”. With an opening like that, there’s no way you won’t want to read on, and this perfect combination of foreboding and the mundane could easily become a classic “gotcha” opening sentence. But this book isn’t just about Alice and why she would want to kill herself. It’s also about her mother and sisters and even her grandmother. Of course, there are other characters involved, and they are a kaleidoscope of women with their strengths, weaknesses and the usual things that life throws at them, and how all these things shaped their lives. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Story of Vistas and Passions

Ardor: A Novel by Lily Prior


This is a story of love - misdirected love, unrequited love and love between people who, for one reason or another, never find a way to bring their mutual affection out into the open. What makes this story unusual is that at the center of this story is the love that a donkey has for a human! Yes, that's right. And one of the unique things about this story is that it is from the perspective of that donkey.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oh, the tangled (ww)web we weave...

Kiss me First by Lottie Moggach

How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many of them are people you met online? How many are "real life" friends you haven't seen for months, maybe even years? I'm betting those people make up a pretty big percentage of your list. In fact, if your online life was your primary way of communicating with the world, that percentage might be pretty close to 100. But that doesn't mean these people don't care about you, and I'm certain you care about them. So, if you suddenly disappeared - stopped posting and liking and commenting - I'm betting that people would notice pretty quickly. Some people - maybe even most of them - would get quite upset. But… what if there was a way to disappear while your online life remained?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Get Jazzed with this Bolden Book

Coming through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

The name Buddy Bolden probably means absolutely nothing to most readers. That is, unless you're a Jazz enthusiast and/or a music historian. In which case, you'll probably know that Bolden was a coronet player in New Orleans at the turn of the previous century. You'll also know that he was a bit of a legend - not only for his coronet playing, but also because at the age of 31, he went crazy. But not before his music had found its place the annals of Jazz history. Just enough about Buddy Bolden survived to inspire Michael Ondaatje (author of "The English Patient") to write the book, "Coming through Slaughter".


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Wanted a Bit More

All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve

Nicolas Van Tassel was enjoying a quiet meal when the fire broke out in the hotel's kitchen. Luckily, he escaped, and there, among the survivors was Etna Bliss. For Nicolas, it was love at first sight, and from that moment on, Etna was all he ever wanted. Anita Shreve's "All He Ever Wanted" is the story of one man's obsession with a woman who wanted something else.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Scent of Letting Go

A Faraway Smell of Lemon by Rachel Joyce

Binny isn't in the Christmas mood, so she ducks into the first shop she can find to avoid the cheer of another mother. What she finds there is far more than some items she has no interest in buying.

Hello, my name is Davida and I'm a Rachel Joyce addict. I am hereby publicly admitting that after I read "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" and "Perfect" I couldn't wait to read something else by her. So I immediately bought her short story "A Faraway Smell of Lemon," despite knowing that it was a Christmas story. (Of course, being Jewish most of these holiday stories don't interest me.) But I am truly glad I did, since it was not at all like any Christmas tale I'd ever read before.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Endings, Exists, Finishes and Finales: A Collection of Six Short Stories


"Going Out in Style" by Daniel Kelley


In Daniel Kelley's collection of six short stories, he investigates things coming to an end from various perspectives. While often one thinks of finishing something as being sad, not all of these stories visit the darker sides of this, and that is one reason why this collection is so interesting. The stories we are given here are entitled:
  • Performer
  • Bathtub Ripples
  • Getting to Know You
  • Thinking Back
  • Doing it All
  • A Child's Game 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Puppy for your Thoughts?

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney


To be honest, I am not much of an animal lover. I've never had any pets (aside from the occasional goldfish I killed during childhood). I especially don't like cats - I'm allergic to them and frankly, they scare me to death with their silent approaches and sudden leaps onto my lap. But dogs, yeah, I get people having dogs, although I doubt I'll ever have one myself. With their shedding and funny smelling food, and cleaning up after them and taking them to the vet, I just don't think I have the patience or the energy to take care of one properly. That would certainly make me a very bad dog owner. Come to think of it, it might actually be practically criminal to leave a dog in my care.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wild and Crazy Love - for children

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Max is a young boy with a wolf suit and vivid imagination. When he acts up a bit too much, his mother calls him a "wild thing". After he talks back to her, she sends him to his room without any supper. But once there, Max imagines that he is transported to a land where the "Wild Things" live and this is where his adventures begin. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Compliment to P.G. Wodehouse

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks


Who hasn't heard of Jeeves and Wooster - that charmingly bungling gentleman and his inimitable gentleman's gentleman? Who can forget the antics that Bertie Wooster falls into and the ingenious ways that Jeeves is able to manipulate him back to safety? And if you haven't read the books, you might have caught one of the television adaptations staring Hugh Lurie as Wooster and Steven Fry as Jeeves. But in case you are not familiar with this these two, they are the archetype for early 20th century high British comedy written by P.G. Wodehouse.


Beauty out of ugliness

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron


Sera James has spent the last two years searching for the painting of a beautiful girl with her violin, which was painted in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. When she finds a reproduction in the home of William Hanover III, she decides - against her better judgment - to join forces with him to find it, even though the Hanover family fortune could end up lost to the painting's owner, according to the terms of William's grandfather's last will. Their search brings them more than they both bargained for, not the least of which is the story of the girl in the painting and the man she loved over 70 years ago.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Something Literarily Different

And now I have a blog on the Times of Israel. I hope you'll come along for the read.


Something Literarily Different | Davida Chazan | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel



Saturday, July 12, 2014

The "Da Vinci Code" for Dracula!

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova



What if the infamous Dracula really existed and wasn't just the fruit of the overactive imagination of one Bram Stoker? What if he's been recruiting people all these years since his 'death' to help him in his vile work? What if some people figured out that he could actually be tracked down? And what if that search overtook their lives to the point of frenzy and placing themselves in mortal danger? This is the premise of The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova's first novel - and touted as "The Da Vinci Code for Dracula".


Friday, July 11, 2014

A Taste for French Gusto

Ann Mah spent three years in France with her diplomat husband. She used that time to find out more about some of their culinary specialties - how they became famous, their history and how they're made.

When it comes to writing about French food, there is no one as famous as Julia Child. She discovered this country's rich (in all senses of the word) culinary fare while her husband was stationed there as a diplomat not long after WWII.  Over 60 years later, travel and food writer Ann Mah found herself in a very similar situation. However, almost as soon as they had arrived in the magical city of Paris, her husband was sent to Iraq, without her. That meant she had a year on her own. While being parted from her new husband, one of the ways she dispelled depression was to investigate some of its most treasured foods. And that is how her book "Mastering the Art of French Eating" came to be written.