Tag Archives: Book

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

Bantam Books, New York, 2012

Borrowed from my local library.  A book from my RIP VII reading pool.  I am really glad to have discovered this author.

Wow, talk about dysfunctional families.  The Rand’s are a family of thieves and have been thieves for generations.  They are bound by honor, love and closely held secrets.   When Terrier Rand is called home by his brother, Collie, some of those secrets are exposed to the light, with devastating consequences.

Let me explain.  Collie ( yes, the Rand’s are all named after dog breeds) is on death row, about to be executed.  He was charged with the murders of eight people, openly admits his crime, and has never explained what happened on that awful night.  Five years after the murder his family is still in shock.  Terry, having run from home after the murders, abandoning his girlfriend and his family, comes running back at his brother’s request.  He doesn’t even understanding why.  He returns to the house where he grew up, to his Mother and Father, Sister, Grandfather and Uncles, and all the buried feelings held within.

Surprisingly, considering the horrible violence,  I loved this book.  The Rand family is not exactly likable, but I found myself caring about each one of them, even Collie, unrepentant, sitting in prison and waiting to die.  Pirrilli’s writing kept me up at night, his ability to build relationships and grab onto the defining, disturbing aspects of this family, had me in awe at times.  I really appreciate emotional depth in a thriller.  I also appreciate humor, which Pirrilli uses to bring light to the dark.   I suggest you read this one, even if you are not a fan of the genre.

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Mystery, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts, Thriller

Player One: What Is To Become Of Us, A Novel In Five Parts by Douglas Coupland

Player One: What Is to Become of Us: A Novel…Player One: What Is To Become Of Us by Douglas Coupland

House of Anansi Press, Totonto, 2012

From my library.  My final book for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

This book had an interesting beginning.  A novel written for the  CBC 2010 Massey Lecture Series, each chapter was presented in a different Canadian city.  I have read and enjoyed printed versions of these lectures before, including works by Margaret Atwood and Wade Davis.

I’ve never read Douglas Coupland and maybe this was not the book to start with, or maybe I’m over the “coolness factor” displayed by some authors.  The story starts and ends in a typical airport lounge where we meet five characters, one disembodied, all from different backgrounds, all going through some kind of life change.   Enter the apocalypse, in the form of drastically rising oil prices.  There is a self-help guru and a sniper involved, some people get shot, and at the end there is an interest glossary.

I get this.  How our reliance of a way of life could be disastrous in the face of sudden change.  How people lead driven and empty lives, and that we really ought to stop and think about this and make different choices.  I guess that’s Coupland’s point, but for someone who enjoys apocalyptic and dystopian fiction,  I found this brief novel too cold and empty.  I could not connect with the story or the characters.

If anyone has read Coupland can you suggest another novel that I might enjoy?

6 Comments

Filed under Canadian, CBC Massey Lectures, SpeculativeFiction

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Reagan Arthur Books, New York, 2012

From my library hold list.   It is my first book for Once Upon A Time VI.

The story of a couple who leave a comfortable life in Pennsylvania and travel to Alaska to homestead.  In the 1920’s this is no easy task and Jack and Mabel struggle to build their life together, all the will filled with the memories of the child they lost.  The hard work of survival and their loss has driven a wedge between them and the joy and close feelings they once had for each other has hardened in the struggle.

Woven into this story of struggle and survival is the fairy tale called The Snow Child.  One evening, as the first snow falls, Jack and Mabel find themselves outside tossing snowballs and laughing together for the first time in quite a while. They build a snow child, even adding mittens and a scarf.  Afterwards, warming in their cabin they feel tender and loving for the first time in ages.  In the morning the snow child is gone but leading from the collapsed pile of snow are footprints, and Jack thinks he sees a young child running through the woods.

Jack and Mabel struggle with their thoughts and dreams.  Has the desire for a child driven them to madness or is this girl glimpsed running through the woods real?

     She had sought reasonable explanations.  She asked Esther about children who lived nearby.  She urged Jack to inquire in town.  But she had also taken note of those first boot prints in the snow – they began at the vanished snow child and ran from there into the woods.  No tracks came into the yard.  from page 87.

From this beginning the story evolves into one of mystery and what seems like magic.  Realistic in its depiction of life in 1920’s Alaska and of the people who settled there, bound by hard work, friendship and love, this is a charming novel told in crystal clear language.  The way Ivey  weaves together history and fairy tale was for me a new and exciting experience..

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under Fairy Tale, LiteraryFiction, Once Upon A Time VI, Thoughts

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – Book 1

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Random House, New York, 2006

From my TBR pile.

I am taking part in a read-along organized by Mrs B, Arti andMeredith.  We are taking four months to read the book that won the Booker of Booker’s prize twice.    After reading Book One, I wanted to jump ahead and continue reading but decided to take the time to digest the first section.

In our den we have several wall hangings, presents from a friend who visited India and Nepal.  They are made up of pieces of cloth and imbedded with bits of mirrors.  When the sun hits them they bounce light all over the room.

Midnight’s Children is a book made of words like bits of  mirror, reflecting the time before and after India gained independence from Britain and was partitioned into the states of India, West and East Pakistan.  The story is told by Saleem Sinai.  Each evening he writes his scattered thoughts and reads them to a woman he works with, Padma, who is illiterate and seems a bit grumpy and slow-witted.  It is Padma who helps bring Saleem’s thoughts into focus as he recalls his family history from the time before he was born.

Midnight’s Children reminds me of a twisted version of 1000 and One Nights, a comparison I’m sure the author is tired of,  and I love it.  Rushdie’s mix of tumbling language, history and magical realism is like looking through a kaleidoscope, where the image is split into a thousand parts but somehow comes together beautifully.

Book One covers the story of Saleem’s family up until the time of his birth, August 15th, 1947, which is also the exact time of the creation of the independent State of India.  By telling his story Saleem also tells of India’s struggles for independence, the bigotry between classes and religions and the lasting impact of the British Raj.  All this is told with grace,  humor and a burning coal of anger at its core.  Anger at the thick-headed greed of politicians, thieves and governments.

I find it difficult expressing  my admiration for Salman Rushdie’s abilities with language, with story-telling.  I can not wait to move on to Book Two.

11 Comments

Filed under Booker, Historical Fiction, India, Read-Along, Salman Rushdie, TBR Double Dare

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Pyr, Amherst, NY, 2011

From my library TBR holds.  This is the first book in the Everness series.

A great young adult novel, the first in a series,  from one of my favorite science fiction authors.

Everett Singh leads a pretty normal life for a fourteen year old until the day his father is kidnapped.

Everett knows his father is a theoretical physicist, working on the Many-Worlds Theory, but when he tries to explain to the police that his father has been kidnapped they brush him off.

“Do you know what the Many Worlds Theory is?” Everett said. He leaned forward across the table. Previous occupants had doodled stars and spirals and cubes and the names of football clubs on the peeling plastic. “Every time the smallest least tiniest thing happens, the universe branches. There’s a universe where it happened, and a universe where it didn’t. Every second, every microsecond every day, there are new universes splitting off from this one. For every possible event in history, there’s a universe, out there somewhere, right beside this one.” Everett lifted a finger and drew a line through the air. “A billion universes, just there now. Every possible universe is out there somewhere. This isn’t something someone made up, this is a proper physical theory. That’s what physics means: real, solid, actual. Does that sound not so important to you? It sounds to me like the biggest thing there is.”

Through clues and an inter-dimensional map left by his father, Everett opens a gate between worlds and finds himself in a London that is at once familiar and terribly strange, dealing with people from that world, his own world and many others worlds.

McDonald does a fabulous job of making a very complex idea understandable for both young adult and adult readers.  There is adventure, drama and the meaning of family wrapped up in this wonderful story and I can’t wait to read more in this series.

5 Comments

Filed under Review, SciFi, Young Adult

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

Picador, New York, 2008

From my TBR stack.  On the short list for the 2009 Orange Prize.

It is difficult taking a piece of history and turning it to fiction.  Helen Feldman has done that by taking a racial motivated  event from 1930’s America and using it to create a powerful historical novel.

In 1931 nine black teens ranging in age from 12 to 19,  jump a train traveling from Tennessee to Alabama, end up in a brawl with some white men and are accused of raping two white women.  The arrests and subsequent trials of the Scottsboro Boys drew national attention.

Scottsboro is told in two voices.  One, Alice Whittier, a reporter from New York City sent to cover the initial trial, is a whip-smart, well-educated white women from New York City with a trust fund. Distanced from her family and involved in a sexual relationship with her boss she is thrilled to be offered the story.  The other, Ruby Bates, is one of the accusers, manipulated by her “friend” Victoria Price and considered “poor white trash” by members of her own community.

The case is a magnet for the national media and for the Communist Party who hope to recruit more members from the south.  The C.P. sends lawyers from International Labor Defense to stand as defense attorneys for the accused.

Knowing some of the history of this case, including the fact that the crimes did not occur, does not detract from Scottsboro.  Feldman includes many of the  actual participants in her novel, using quotes from articles, reports and interviews as epigraphs for each chapter.  She gives voice to the politicians, reporters,  lawyers and defendants.

Ruby and Alice are central to Scottsboro but historical elements of the 30’s America add strength to the novel.  The descriptions of Jim Crow lynchings,  prison environments , the rampant racism, anti-Semitism and sexism pervasive throughout the country and the political maneuvering by the courts, the government and the Communist party are woven throughout and, for me, add to the sense of historical truth.

Feldman also includes other pieces of 1930’s American  history.  The depression, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Hooverville and The Bonus Army all have a place here.  Alice tells the story from the future, reflecting on all that has happened to the country, to the 9 defendants, to Ruby and in her own life since that fateful train ride from Chattanooga.

I enjoyed this novel and would like to read more about Scottsboro, including  Remembering Scottsboro by James A. Miller and Stories of Scottsboro by James E. Goodman.

3 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, OrangePrize, Review, TBR Double Dare