Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trying Youth

Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe

Sue Bowl has been through a lot more in life than most 17-year-olds have. Her mother, Buddleia, committed suicide, and not long after that, her father took up with another woman. Buddleia's sister, Aunt Coral, was still mourning the loss of their father when Buddleia took her life. Looking for comfort, and knowing Sue needed some comforting herself, Coral invites her to Egham to spend her gap year in her mother's ancestral home. Of course, Sue can't leave Titford fast enough, mostly because she's sure that Green Place will be the perfect setting to start writing her novel. While she's there, perhaps she can find some answers about her mother, with a dash of romance on the side.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stitching together Thessaloniki's story

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

During the 20th Century, the seaside Greek city of Thessaloniki saw it all – fires, wars and earthquakes. This is the backdrop of Victoria Hislop’s novel The Thread. In it, we get to know the story of this city through a fictional cast of characters. As the book opens, Katerina and Dmitri’s grandson has come to visit. He asks them why they still live in this city, since their children and their families are all in England or the USA. The answer to his question is the story of these two people and this special city.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Twins and Ghosts

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Elspeth and Edwina were identical twins, estranged for many years. When Elspeth dies in London, she leaves her flat to her sister's, nieces - Julia and Veronica - who are also identical twins. However, there is a condition. The two girls must leave the USA and their mother behind, and in the flat for a year. After that, they can do what they want with it. The girls decide to take up the challenge - since seriously, how horrid could a rent-free year in London be? Especially if what they've inherited, is a bright and sunny flat, situated near the amazing Highgate Cemetery. However, soon after they arrive, they meet their unusual neighbors and some strange things start to happen.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Mystery of Christopher Marlowe

Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

During the Elizabethan era, Christopher Marlowe was a famous and popular playwright, but today when we think of that time, practically the only writer that comes to mind is Shakespeare. One reason for this could be Marlowe's untimely and early death, at the height of his career. Although his life has been the subject of several studies, it seems that the only absolute facts we have are his murder, the injuries that killed him and where they found his body. Somehow, Louise Welsh wrote a whole novella with only this scant bit of background.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Odd One Out

The Children's Crusade by Anne Packer

How can one deal with someone you love pulling away from you? This is the question posed in Anne Packer's latest novel about the Blairs, Penny and Bill, their marriage, their home, the land it was built on and their four children, Robert, Rebecca, Ryan and James. More than that, this is about Penny's gradual detachment from them, and how it affects each of them, later in their lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Secret of a 100-Year-Old Woman

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Roscommon Mental Hospital is about to be torn down, and the director, Dr. Grene has to figure out what to do with his patients, including Roseanne McNulty. Should he move her to the new facility? Maybe he should find her somewhere on the outside? She doesn’t seem at all crazy, but she’s been living there since she was a teenager; how would she survive in the outside world? What’s more, she is already so old; how much time does she have to live? The only way to decide is for Dr. Grene to delve into Roseanne’s history. At the same time, Roseanne has been secretly writing the story of her life from before her institutionalization.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Frankly Amazing Woman

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Anyone interested in early 20th century architecture might recognize the name Mamah Borthwick Cheney as being the woman who was Frank Lloyd Wright's lover - for whom he left his wife and family, which caused a scandal that rocked not only Chicago's society, but also the world of architecture. For those who don't know of Wright, he was of the Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" school of architecture (quoted as saying, "less is only more when more is bad"). To this, Wright added his own organic elements in trying to make buildings blend in and feel like they belonged to their natural surroundings.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Calm within the Storm

Restless by William Boyd

Ruth Gilmartin is a single mother, working on her Master’s Thesis and teaching English as a Second Language in Oxford. Her mother, Sally, has decided to write down the story of her experiences during WW2 and give them to Ruth. This is when Ruth discovers that the woman she grew up with was actually Eva Delectorskaya; a Russian recruited to be a spy for England who moved to Paris in 1939 after the discovery of her brother's dead body. The problem is Eva is certain that her story didn't end there, and now she feels it may be time for her last job. Unfortunately, without Ruth's help, she can't accomplish her mission.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Dream within a Dream

Sleeping Patterns by J.R. Crook

What is the relationship between the writer and his audience? J.R. Crook’s debut novel investigates this through a group of characters – himself included – living together in student accommodations in London. The main story here centers on an artist Annelie Strandli, known as Grethe to her friends, and a writer Berry Walker. As the book opens, Grethe tells of the death of Crook and how she received the book – chapter by chapter, and out of order. She also explains why she decided to publish it exactly as she received it. What may be confusing here is that although Crook is a minor character in his own novel, it is Berry who is writing the chapters, and allowing Grethe to find them one at a time (and again, out of order). Yet the overall premise here is that Crook sent the chapters to Grethe before he died, despite the fact that he is very much alive in real life (thank goodness).

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Gambits and Pawns

The Death's Head Chess Club by John Donoghue

Obersturmführer (1st Lieutenant) Paul Meissner's battle injury has taken him off the front lines, and put him in Auschwitz, assigned to bolster flagging morale in the camps. His superiors are skeptical about his chess club idea, especially if he's allowing officers and enlisted men to play against each other. These doubts fade with the club's popularity, boosted by the betting on the side. All seems to be going well until Meissner hears about a Jewish prisoner, the one they call the Watchmaker, who is apparently "unbeatable" at chess. What better way to prove the superiority of Aryan intelligence and raise the men's spirits than to defeat this Jew. However, Meissner insists it be a fair game, the Jew must play to win, or beating won't be satisfactory. So begins a relationship between Meissner and the Watchmaker (better known as Emil Clément), as complex as the game itself, the moves of which are only revealed years later, during the 1962 international chess tournament in Amsterdam.