Sunday, November 06, 2011

Metamorphosis 9

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a whimsical little novel by Salman Rushdie. It reads rather like a children's book, but it also contains some clever satire that only older readers will get. There's a lot of commentary about censorship and propaganda, interesting in the light of his being condemned to death by Islam fanatics. I had never read anything else by him, and found it quite witty.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Land of Painted Caves

This is the long-awaited latest in the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel. She has stated this will be the last one; she has also stated that she feels the story of Ayla isn't finished, and I personally thought the end of the book leaves way too many loose ends. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see more in this saga, maybe focusing on her daughter Jonayla.

But what did I think of the book? Well, I did enjoy it although I found parts of it kind of repetitive. The Mother's Song is a beautiful piece of poetry but I didn't need to read it ten times. And I do find it a bit annoying that Ayla and Jondalar seem to the the only people who can figure out how to tame horses and wolves, use horses to haul things, every other new advancement in human history, etc. The dust jacket promises that Ayla discovers a new piece of knowledge that is life-changing. Which it is, but I find it a bit hard to believe that nobody would have figured it out before.

However, as usual the descriptions of the painted caves (the famous ones in France that can still be seen to this day) are breathtaking. I find Auel's characters a bit one-dimensional but she's very good at bringing a scene to life so that I can almost see it in front of me.

If you've read all the others, you gotta read this one too. Even if you've never read any of the others, this one can stand on its own as she does explain certain things that happened in the past. It helped me too although I did read all the others, but it's been so long!

I hope Auel hasn't hung up the quill yet. I think she still has a lot of stories to tell.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Metamorphosis 8

Got really sidetracked by some non-fiction books that weren't on the list, as well as Richard III: The Maligned King by an online acquaintance, Annette Carson. I haven't believed Richard was guilty of killing his nephews ever since reading Tey's Daughter of Time as a teenager. So this book didn't convince me of anything new, but I certainly learned some new things about Richard and his world courtesy of her thorough research.

Putting in some spaces now to go down to the next book, hope this looks half decent to everyone!

No, this is not a Chemistry textbook. The Periodic Table is an autobiographical narrative by noted chemist Primo Levi, who was also an Italian Jew who spent time in Auschwitz during the war. Each chapter, from his boyhood to middle age, takes the name of an element. Auschwitz is mentioned but his time there is apparently explored more deeply in some other book he wrote, which I may seek out at some point.

Far from being dry and humorless as you would expect, it's full of droll wit and observations about humanity. Apparently he won several awards for this book. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would from looking at the table of contents.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Skystone

This was a book borrowed from a friend - lucky it wasn't a purchase because once again I realized halfway through that I'd read it already at some point. But if you like historical fiction about Roman Britain (this book is actually the first of a series, and a precursor to the King Arthur story) you'll enjoy this one.

The only quibble I have? I find it a bit hard to believe that the Romans wouldn't have known what comets were (you'll see).

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Vengeful Longing

By R.N. Morris, a sequel to a previous book which I think I should now read.

This murder mystery takes place in tsarist St. Petersburg in the 1860s. There have been recent reforms but the country is still very much locked into class divisions and corruption. Our detective is Porfiry Petrovich, who was a character in Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment (which I think awaits me on my list of 100 Must-Read Novels). In some ways he reminded me of D.S. Dalziel from Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series, though not quite as rude to his underlings.

It opens with the poisoning of a doctor's wife and son and of course other murders crop up which turn out to all be connected. A good read in my opinion.

The Navigator

Still reading the books I bought at a used book sale in the fall before I get back to my 100 Must-Read Novels or whatever they're called.

A typical Clive Cussler novel, full of action in various exotic locales, spiced with historical connections. This one runs the gamut from the ancient Phoenicians to Thomas Jefferson. I found it quite entertaining although far-fetched in places, but we read these kind of books to escape from the ordinary, right?

I did enjoy the maniac who was obsessed with medieval jousting tournaments. My kind of bad guy!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Another Ian McEwan novel which I found at a used book sale. As the title implies, it follows the Saturday from waking to sleeping of a London neurosurgeon who expects it to be an ordinary day, and instead finds it to be life- and attitude-changing.

This is the third novel by McEwan that I have read, and I admire his gift for getting inside a person's head. He also finds a way to portray even a villain with some degree of sympathy, which is refreshing in these days of one-dimensional baddies in print and film.

He did a lot of collaboration with an actual neurosurgeon and I found the operating room narratives quite fascinating. They are detailed so others may wish to skip over them, but I enjoyed them.


I was expecting to get Life by Keith Richards for a Christmas present, and indeed my oldest son came through. I had heard a lot about it and was expecting a good read, and ended up really enjoying it. There was a ghost writer collaborating with him, but I'm pretty sure much of it is his own words; anyone who has read or heard an interview with Keith will agree that he's intelligent and articulate, and the writing probably just needed some polishing. And possibly some kick-starting.

We hear a lot about his childhood and the legendary early meetings with Mick Jagger, who grew up in the same suburb of London. We learn stuff about his family that I personally had never heard before. He is candid about his use of drugs, the feud with Brian Jones and the later feud with Jagger which appears to be continuing in the present.

I recommend it to any Stones or rock and roll fan.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Charlemagne Pursuit

I very much enjoyed this book by Steve Berry. I realized right away I had read another book with the same main characters but at least it wasn't the same book.

Our hero Cotton Malone becomes caught up in a search for some answers - what exactly happened to his father when he died on a highly classified Navy submarine mission to Antarctica in the early 1970s? Along the way we meet assorted assassins, ancient tales of Nazis and Charlemagne himself.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Princes of Ireland

This was one I bought at a used book sale. As I started reading it I got the feeling I had read it before, which is quite possible as I enjoy Rutherfurd's books, so I think I may have taken it out from the library when it first came out. Or perhaps the early chapters were familiar because I've also been doing some reading about Druidic/Celtic mythology.

Anyway, in true Rutherfurd form it spans a time period from prehistoric times to the 1500s. Most of his others come right up to the present, so I assumed there was a sequel - and yes, apparently he has written another one called Rebels of Ireland. I'll have to check that one out too.

I do love a good historical yarn and his family sagas fit the bill for me! I enjoy reading about historical events and how they affect everyday people.