Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

While perusing the New Fiction section of Barnes and Noble back in 2009, I read the dustjacket of this book and it sounded exactly like my kind of book. "But," that practical voice in my head nagged, "you have that stack of books at home that you just bought. Do not spend for this hardcover right now." And so I put the book back on the shelf and vowed to remember to pick it up in the future when I had read that stack of books that I already had at home.  Then I forgot the title.

About a year later, I decided to do a little research to figure out the title. And somehow I came across it again and I wrote it down on a little list that I was keeping in my phone. Then, I promptly started reading something else.

But the title was on that list in my phone so a couple of weeks ago, while shopping at a Waldenbooks, which was going out of business, I purchased my paperback copy of Deliverance Dane. Finally, the book was in my hands!

As soon as I finished The Last Werewolf, I dove right in to Deliverance.  And I loved this book. I loved it for these reasons:
1. It took me back in time
The book goes back and forth between Salem in the 17th and 18th century and early 1990's Harvard University, and Marblehead and Salem, MA.  I loved getting a clear picture of life in Colonial America through an interesting and suspenseful fictional tale, and since I know that the author did a ton of research while writing her novel, I can trust that she gives a fairly accurate description of the times.
2.The protagonist, Connie, is a witch.
Unbeknownst to her, she descends from a long line of witches, and we get to hear a little bit of their stories in the past as we travel back and forth in time throughout the centuries.
3. There is a hunt for an ancient magical text.
Connie must find the text for her doctoral dissertation.

As much as I enjoyed this book, and googled the author after finishing it to see if there was a sequel coming out, I realized that I wanted the sequel because I wanted more from this book. I wanted to know more about Connie's mother Grace, and so much more that I don't want to mention here so as not to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it.
And I wanted it to be a little less predictable, and/or Connie to realize what was going on long before she did.  For such a smart academic, she missed a lot of stuff.

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, witches, and is intrigued in particular by the Salem Witch Trials.

This is A Curl Up on the Sofa Read with something of the Total Immersion Read, because there were times I just wanted to be left in peace to read it with no interruptions. (See the new rating system in the margin).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Book Beginnings

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you would like, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe

Great title, interesting premise.

"It would appear that we are nearly out of time," announced Manning Chilton, one glittering eye fixed on the thin pocket watch chained to his vest.

I have been wanting to read this book since it was released in 2009. It's premise about a present day Harvard grad student and her mysterious connection to Salem, MA and the infamous witch trials immediately caught my attention.  I am a little over halfway finished and so far I am not disappointed.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Meet Jake.  A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you'd never suspect it.  Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you--and a diet with lots of animal protein.  Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is the now the last of his species.  Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake's depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide--even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old.  It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything.  But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend---mesmerizing and incredibly sexy.  In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the 21st century--a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

One of the most original, audacious and terrifying novels in years.
(A.A Knopf publisher)

The Last Werewolf  by Glen Duncan is being hailed as a new take on the age-old myth.  And new it is, and while the subject matter is ancient, the treatment of it is definitely original, as the dust jacket claims, and audacious (shockingly so at times), and certainly terrifying.  And the vampires involved--yes, where there are wolves there are vamps--are not the irrestibly sexy creatures they're portrayed as is in every other book out there. However, that could have something to do with the fact that the story is told from the perspective of Jacob Marlowe,  a 200 year old werewolf, who is overcome with nausea when in the presence of a vampire. But vampires play a very secondary role in this werewolf story. This very, very wolfish tale.

Was this novel engaging? Yes. Was it thrilling? Yes.  Did I empathize with Jacob, the murderous werewolf protagonist? Yes. Am I left today after finishing it with the sensation that I just spent a few days with a genuine werewolf, privy to all of his most private thoughts and cognizant of all his hideous deeds? Yes, yes and yes!
But. But. But...I think one of the reasons why I was disappointed with this novel was the constant use of the "c" word. I get that the narrator is a 200 year old male werewolf who, even while in human form, has something of the wolf lurking underneath so perhaps this language lends to the character.  Actually, maybe I'm not even realizing how much his language developed and made his character believable and authentic.  But wouldn't something of the well-bred English gentleman that Jacob Marlowe was still be in there somewhere?  But maybe I'm just not getting it.  Maybe it's like Mark Twain's use of the "n" word. 
 I just got a little tired of it with every sex scene, and of those there are plenty so if you're not into that in your books--this is definitely not the book for you. 

All this c stuff, and my disappointment aside, I think this novel is worth reading.  I think Jacob Marlowe's diary, which is what it is, has something important to say. And I think it's interesting to see just how much we are willing to identify with, and forgive or at least overlook the heinous crimes of the beast when we accept that he is just doing what he must to survive in a very lonely world.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

The Masque of the Black Tulip is the second book in the Pink Carnation series, and I must say I enjoyed it more than The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  While both books are purely fun historical fiction, the main characters of the Black Tulip, Henrietta and Miles, I found more likable, and just generally more well-rounded characters, and more believable—as much as a 19th century debutante stumbling upon a deadly French spy can be considered believable.  That being said, the love affair between Henrietta and Miles is fun to read, as is the burgeoning relationship between present day characters Eloise and Colin.  The story goes back and forth between present day and 1800’s England.  Eloise is a Harvard PhD student, who is doing research in England for her dissertation, and Colin’s family, being the descendents of these spy capturing heroes, provides the archives she needs.  Though she has just barely met him, she conveniently finds herself staying the weekend in his ancestral home holed up in his library.  An attraction ensues despite Colin’s initial opposition to her being there and having access to the family archives. 
Though there are some eye-roll inducing scenarios, such as when Colin comes upon her in the library in the middle of the night:
I sat to attention, suddenly very conscious that I was wearing nothing but an ancient white tank top, washed to invisibility”
This scene, along with a number of times that Miles’s pants were suddenly “too tight”, were  all rather too obvious, and clich├ęd for my taste, however they didn’t detract enough for me to stop reading.  I think this is a fun series and I am interested to see how Colin and Eloise’s relationship develops.  I'm looking forward to the third book in the series, The Deception of the Emerald Ring.

Midnight In Paris

Just saw this new film by Woody Allen last night, and I loved it!
A fantastic performance by Owen Wilson who plays a successful screenwriter intent on writing a serious novel.  He finds himself in Paris with his fiancee, played by Rachel McAdams, and her parents all with whom he really has nothing in common.

At the stroke of midnight every night he discovers a world exactly to his liking. I won't say anything more so as not to spoil it for anyone. I will say that this film is perfect for booklovers, writers, aspiring writers, artists, would-be artists, lovers of Paris, the 1920's and fans of Owen Wilson as he is truly great in this.

If you haven't already, go see this movie!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Book Beginnings

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you would like, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

The title: The Last Werewolf
Author: Glen Duncan

"It's official," Harley said. "They killed the berliner two nights ago. You're the last."

A nice beginning.  I'm really excited to read this book! I finally finished To the Lighthouse, The Sheltering Sky and I'm very close to the end of The Masque of the Black Tulip.

Has anyone read this? And if so, did you like it?

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles is the story of three young American travelers in post WWII North Africa. It is said that it "explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert". (Harper Perennials)

I really enjoyed this book after putting it off for soooo long. It was given to me as a gift and it took me about 4 years to pick it up and finally read it and I am glad that I did. This story was beautifully written and gave me a very real sense of the place, but also of the period in which it takes place. I had a very distinct impression of who these American expats were with their inevitable philosophical soul-searching, and bland indifference to the culture of the Arabs. I knew them and yet I did not for they barely knew themselves.

The story centers on Kit and Port Moresby and their tag-along friend, Tunner. Tunner is impressed with them and a bit in awe of them initially and is probably how he came to be travelling with them. They must have initially sensed his admiration, and let him come along in order to detract attention from themselves and their crumbling relationship, although the author never dicloses exactly how the two became three.

The theme of this novel could be emptiness; the emptiness they felt within themselves, the emptiness in their relationships to each other or the emptiness that they find in northern Africa while they're searching for exactly the opposite. They want to be fulfilled emotionally, culturally, and intellectually. Also, the emptiness of the expansive and desolate desert, which plays such an important part of this book, it's practically another character in the novel. Indeed, the theme of emptiness comes up frequently when searching discussion groups online.

But it's the symbolism of walls throughout the book which is very powerful for me. Whether they are the walls of a city, the walls or parapet by which Port escapes from the Arab men after the episode with Mahrnia, the walls that their society puts up around them and from which they are fleeing, the walls in his relationship with Kit, the walls that Kit puts up all around herself in order to deal with the unforgettable potential threats and tragedies that she feels are awaiting her at every turn, the wall of Eric Lyle who isn't able to be himself. The prison like walls of Belquassim's house for Kit and finally the walls that her are her madness in the end.

There is much to discuss in this novel. I had chosen it for my library reading group and then unfortuantely was not able to attend the discussion held about it.  I was told that they had a lively discussion about it despite the fact that most of them did not enjoy the book. It's a shame they didn't enjoy it as much as I did. But at least it got them talking! Now I am looking forward to seeing the movie.