Friday, November 28, 2014

Abandonment and Devotion

Neither Here Nor There by Miriam Drori

Esty is 19 and unmarried, and that's practically an "old maid" in Jerusalem's Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community. However, the reason she hasn't agreed to marry anyone is that she knows the Haredi life is not for her. Once she's married, she might be trapped forever. Gathering up all her courage, she leaves her whole life and family behind. What she finds is a world that contradicts everything her community ever taught her, not the least of which is about falling in love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Slice of Glasgow's Darker Corners

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

This story has nothing to do with motion picture film editing; this is about crime, pornography, erotica, sex, and money with a mystery thrown in for good measure. Rilke is an auctioneer for a small and struggling Glasgow auction house, commissioned to empty out the home of the late (and wealthy) Roddy McKindless. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until Rilke discovers the attic. There he finds a huge and valuable collection of erotica. While this isn't terribly strange on the face of it, he then finds some homemade "snuff porn" (ones that look like murders). This motivates him to investigate the darker side of the illusive McKindless. Rilke's own promiscuous homosexuality and dabbling with drugs mix in with this investigation, leading him into some of the darker corners of Glasgow. That's it in a nutshell, but there's far more in this plot than meets the eye. And you must admit that this is an excellent basis for one twisty ride of a thriller.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Making of a Remarkable Woman

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant

Addie Metsky (nee Baum) was born in Boston to Jewish immigrants in 1900. She's now 85 and her granddaughter Ava wants to know how she became the woman she is today. This is her story, and it will surprise you.

I'm quickly becoming a big fan of historical fiction. I love the way it transports me to another time and place. If it has a Jewish theme, that's certainly going to catch my attention. This is why I asked for this book. Of course, the story of the daughter of Jewish immigrants to America isn't new territory by a long shot. In fact, many would dismiss this book immediately based solely on this blurb. That Anita Diamant, a well-known author, wrote this is certainly one selling point. The question is does this book live up to its author's name?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mother and a Mystery

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

When Jennifer Lewis gets a call from her daughter in the middle of the night, she knows something has gone terribly wrong. Now she has to go to Spain to free her daughter of murder charges, and it could take everything in Jennifer's power to save her, if she can.

At the heart of this story is a murder. Emma, an exchange student in Spain, is accused and arrested for the murder of a man who Emma claims tried to rape her. It is only after Jennifer gets to Spain that some elements of Emma's story start to sound questionable. Now Jennifer has to figure out what is true, what is a lie and how to free her daughter.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Taste of Passion

La Cucina by Lily Prior

They say that authors like Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) and Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange) invented the genre of "Cuisine Romance" or "culinary fiction" novels. If this is true, then with her first novel, "La Cucina," Lily Prior took this genre to heights that none of them ever dreamed they could reach. 

The story of this book, set in Sicily, is very simple. Rosa Fiore lives in a small Sicilian village. When the love of her life disappears, it is obvious that his refusal to marry someone other than Rosa led to his murder. Broken hearted, Rosa leaves her family farm in Castiglione and goes to Palermo. There she becomes a librarian, who feeds her gaping heart with her the finest of Sicilian cuisine – made by her own hands, and with all her pent up ardor. Then one day an English chef comes to the library to research the history of Sicily's gastronomic delights, but apparently Rosa is on the menu for dessert! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So fascinating, it should be outlawed!

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje

With this book, Michael Ondaatje (author of "The English Patient") brings us a unique hybrid of poetry and prose, mixed with both historical fact and fiction based on the true-life story of the famous American outlaw William Bonney, better known as “Billy the Kid.” Already from this little bit of information, you can tell that this is not a book that follows any usual format or structure. Therefore, there is no real “plot” to this book, and there is no linear story here either. Instead, you get more of an account of a small period in one infamous person’s life. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Ex-Lover Ghost Story?

My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O'Farrell

Sinead is – according to Marcus – “no longer with us.” That means that the room Sinead had in Marcus’ flat is now vacant, and Lily moves in. The question is, what else does all that mean – to both Lily and her budding feelings for Marcus?

If Maggie O'Farrell's second novel "My Lover's Lover" is supposed to be her weakest work, then perhaps anyone interested in her work should start with this one, since it is far from weak in my eyes. This is the story of three people - Lily, Marcus and Sinead. After a chance meeting at a party, Lily impulsively moves out of her mother's home into Marcus' extra room after he mentions he's looking for another flat mate. This is because - as Marcus regretfully puts it - Sinead is "no longer with us". But as Lily becomes more involved with Marcus, sinister things begin to happen around the flat, and the other roommate - Marcus' best friend Aiden - is equally as mysterious about Sinead as Marcus.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Cast and Curse of Genius

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

The name of Auguste Rodin is synonymous with the emotionally charged sculptures he created, and practically everyone recognizes his iconic "Thinker." However, far fewer people know the name or the work of Camille Claudel, his student and the woman who shocked the art world of Paris, because of her gender, her own incredible talent, the love affair she had with her mentor and teacher and finally, because of her mental instability.