Tuesday, July 22, 2008

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street was originally written as a serial for an Edinburgh newspaper in small daily installments. The first book in a trilogy that centers around the eclectic tenants of 44 Scotland Street; their thoughts, their relationships, and their lives. There is Pat, a twenty-something in her second-gap year looking for love, passion and life; Bruce her narcissistic flatmate; Domenica who lives across the hall providing friendship and humour; the Pollock family who live below Irene who has her very own thoughts about child rearing, Bertie aged 5 and trying to be heard, and Stuart a father and husband who has no voice or chance.

I enjoyed the book, but found I had to keep reminding myself that it was written as a serial. Once I adjusted to the pace of the story I really enjoyed the characters and their adventures. I loved little Bertie, the boy believed to be gifted and pushed to learn Italian and saxophone against his wishes. If only someone would talk to the boy. I look forward to reading the second and third book in the trilogy.


Eric Walters has created an incredible novel in Shattered. Ian Blackburn is a slacker, he leaves everything to the last minute and now he needs to complete 40 hours of community service to ensure passing his civics class or risk losing the new car his parents have promised him for passing his courses. He chooses to volunteer at The Club, which sounds like fun until he finds out it is a soup kitchen for the homeless. Ian is forced to face his many prejudices through a fascinating cast of characters including Mac who runs The Club, and Sarge a retired Spec. Ops. soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. Shattered opens the readers' eyes to the plight of homeless, the difficulties faced by our Canadian soldiers when they return from Peace Keeping Missions and the horrors of genocide.

Shattered is a great book for teens and adults alike. Eric Walters makes the reader aware of many tough issues honestly. The book elicits incredible discussions and reflections. I liked that Ian Blackburn was an average teenager, he may have been rich and spoiled, but he wasn't troubled or angry. His development of character from apathy to curiosity and finally action was very believable. It is definitely a book I will return to with many different classes.

Kiss the Girls

James Patterson never ceases to amaze me with his ability to create complex villains in his novels. Alex Cross having just solved the horrific case of Gary Soneji is pulled into a new case, but this time it's personal. Cross' niece, Naomi is missing in pursuit of her kidnapper Alex makes his way to North Carolina where pursues twinning personalities Casanova and The Gentleman Caller. Patterson has created a dark novel that is impossible to put down as he takes you around every twist and turn as Alex Cross attempts to find Naomi.

I really enjoyed the book. It is the first ebook that I have read from start to finish (I shouldn't mention that it is my way to make meetings and workshops pass quickly). Honestly, my heart races as I read Cross' adventures. I am looking forward to the next one!

The Black Tower

Through a well-crafted historical thriller, Louis Bayard recreates Paris' days of Restoration in The Black Tower. Vidocq, a crass, but brilliant detective, begins to investigate Hector Carpentier, a young medical student, when Hector’s name is found upon a dead body. One murder leads to another and Vidocq and Hector begin chasing a mystery that began twenty years previously when many French believed that Louis-Charles the dauphin, son of Marie-Antoinette, escaped the torture and entrapment of the notorious Black Tower. The plot thickens when Vidocq and Carpentier begin to wonder if the dauphin had escaped The Black Tower, who would kill to ensure that the potential King not be found?

The Black Tower was excellently written. The pages turned themselves as the mystery propelled the reader along. Vidocq’s character was at once obnoxious and endearing. It was clear why Hector, trying to battle his own family demons, was drawn to Vidocq. Bayard offers the perfect balance of historical fiction and thrill in The Black Tower.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Human Stain

Philip Roth uses Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and his possible impeachment for this American tale of blurring lines. Through Nathan Zuckerman, a novelist who lives outside of a small college community, we learn of Coleman Silk. Silk was a Dean at a New England University returns to teaching only to be forced out due to an off the cuff comment which was viewed as a racial slur by a few of his students. Zuckerman explores his friendship with Silk, Silk's spiral out of control upon leaving Athena College, his relationship with a 34 year old caretaker, and the skeletons in Silk's closet.

When I first began reading this book, I thought I was going to enjoy it, but I began to lose interest in the characters very quickly. I could not understand Coleman Silk, or his life decisions. I still find myself shaking my head at times.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

In Khaled Hosseini's second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns portrays life in Kabul as a woman. Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a rich man who grows up in squalor with her mother. After the loss of her mother, Mariam is forced into a marriage to a cruel man who beats emotionally and physically. Laila is the daughter of a teacher who looks forward to a future with education and achievements. In a moment her life takes a turn and she too finds herself in a marriage where domestic violence is frequent. The two become close friends through an unlikely situation.

I must admit, I loved this book. If I had to choose, I would say that I preferred it to The Kite Runner.