Monday, June 29, 2009

The Summer of My Greek Taverna

Tom Stone

Tom Stone went to Greece on summer to write a novel – and stayed twenty-two years. On Patmos, the tiny island where St. John received the apocalyptic visions recorded in the Book of Revelations, he fell in love with Danielle, a beautiful French painter. His novel completed and sold, he decided to stay a little longer.

Seven idyllic years later, after the birth of their second child, they left Patmos for Crete, where Stone taught English to civil servants and Danielle painted icons for tourists. But Stone’s heart was still on Patmos and when a Patmian friend. Theologos, called and offered him a summer partnership in his beach taverna, The Beautiful Helen, Stone jumped at the chance – much to the dismay of his wife, who cautioned him not to forget the old adage about Greeks bearing gifts.

Back on Patmos, Stone quickly discovered that he was no longer a friend or a patron but a competitor. He learned hard lessons about the Greek’s skill at bargaining, and about how truly effective the curse of the Evil Eye can be…..”
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The Inquisitor

Catherine Jinks

An inquisitor in southern France in the early 14th century, Dominican Father Bernard Peyre's job is rooting out remnant Cathars. Shrewd and empathic, he is an effective inquisitor, but when his superior starts looking through old depositions for evidence of corruption and is brutally murdered, he has to become a detective as well. The Inquisitor starts off as a kind of "inquisition procedural", introducing us to the personnel and workings of the Holy Office and the other powers in the town, the Bishop, the Seneschal, and the Prior. But authorities can't always be trusted, approved procedures are not always followed, and the replacement chief inquisitor is more interested in demonic magic than in heresy — and has a personal grudge against Bernard. Even worse, Bernard has fallen in love, endangering his vows and clouding his judgement, and his situation rapidly becomes untenable.
The Inquisitor purports to be written by Bernard, though of course no one in the 14th century could have written something that works as a modern novel. Clever sleight of hand by Jinks stops us noticing the contrivance, however, and the result works both as a thriller and a historical novel. The background exposition necessary for a reader without knowledge of the period is unobtrusively slipped in and the language and characterisations capture something of "the spirit of the times" without making the novel indigestible. Bernard in particular is a fine psychological study: he may occasionally seem anachronistic in his sensibilities, but he is not just a modern dressed up in historical costume. -- A book review by Danny Yee © 2002
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Bunny Girl

Joan Conway

Clara Bowe’s life is not is not in the best condition: no job, no boyfriend, back living with her mother in suburban Dublin. Enter John, Clara’s ex-an-never-slept-with-him boyfriend, who’s launching his new telecommunications company. He’s very interested in helping Clara out of her predicament – and into his bed.

Her new job is not what she dreamed of. Well, dressing up as a giant rabbit to market a mobile phone is hardly the high point of a career in advertising, is it?

Clara spends her days as a bunny and her evening being wooed by John but something strange is happening… is someone trying to get her out of the way? Who are the other rabbits that John has recruited? And who exactly is the owner of the startling violet eyes, handsome face and bad line in rabbit jokes who keeps hopping into her life?

The answers are there – but dare she find them?
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dirt Music

Tim Winton

Georgie Jutland is a mess. At forty with her career in ruins, she finds herself stranded in White Point with a fisherman she doesn't love and two kids whose dead mother she can never replace. Her days have fallen into domestic tedium and social isolation. Her nights are a blur of vodka and pointless loitering in cyberspace. Leached of all confidence, Georgie has lost her way. One morning in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she looks up from the computer screen to see a shadow lurking on the beach below, and a dangerous new element enters her life... book cover
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Bubbles Ablaze

Sarah Strohmeyer

There's more to Bubbles Yablonsky than blond curls and bright outfits. She's becoming a hot reporter, but she still needs to add new highlights to her image. Right now, though, she's planning a romantic break with gorgeous photojournalist Steve Stiletto. He's already hours late when she's summoned to cover a press conference at an old coalmine. Bubbles arrives to find it strangely deserted,except for an injured Stiletto - and a dead body. It's Bud Price, a businessman whose plan to build a casino in small-town Pennsylvania divided the old-fashioned community. An instead of relaxing at the Passion Peak Resort, Bubbles is suddenly dodging explosions and investigating a murder.

As her loony mother and precocious teenage daughter throw themselves into the fray, Bubbles is in a race against time to beat Stiletto to the scoop, discover who wanted Price dead - and keep her own pretty little head out of the line of fire....--book cover.
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The Blithedale Romance

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Blithedale Romance is a somewhat dark, depressing tale of idealism gone awry and of friendship and love torn asunder by private ambitions. The romance of these pages is not what many modern readers may expect to find here; there is no penultimate consummation of love among these characters, nor is there much happiness indeed to be discerned from the complexity of their relations one with another. Much has been made of Hawthorne's own temporary residence at the utopian-minded Brook Farm a decade previous to the publication of this work; it is true that some of the experiences derive from his own memories, but Hawthorne went to great pains to make clear that this is a romance first and foremost and bears no direct relation to the experiences of his own life. Those who would read this novel in an attempt to get at Hawthorne's true feelings about the utopian socialism he flirted with and watched from afar during his pivotal creative years may well miss out on the thought-provoking treatment of such wonderfully literary, fascinating characters as Hollingsworth the idealistic philanthropist, Zenobia the modern feminist reformer with a fatal flaw inimical to her self-realization, and the sweet and frail Priscilla.
The first-person narrator of this story is Miles Coverdale, a man difficult to come to terms with. He joins with the pioneers behind the utopian farming community of Blithedale and truly takes heart in the possibility of this new kind of communitarian life offering mankind a chance to live lives of purpose and fulfillment, yet at times he steps outside of events and seems to view the whole experience as a study in human character and a learning experience to which his heart-strings are only loosely bound. The drama that unfolds is told in his perspective only, and one can never know how much he failed to discern or the degree to which his own conjectures are correct. His eventual castigation of Hollingsworth cannot be doubted, however. This rather unfeeling man joins the community on the hidden pretext of acquiring the means for fulfilling his overriding utopian dream of creating an edifice for the reformation of criminals. This dream takes over his life, Coverdale observes, and his once-noble philanthropic passion morphs him into an overzealous, unfeeling man who brings ruin upon those who were once his friends. It is really Zenobia, though, upon which the novel feeds. She is a fascinating woman of means who makes the Blithedale dream a reality, a bold reformer seeking a new equality for women in the world who ultimately, at Hawthorne's bidding, suffers the ignominious fate of the fragile spirit she seemed to have overcome.

This is not a novel that will immediately enthrall you in its clutches. The first half of the novel is sometimes rather slow going, but I would urge you not to cast this book aside carelessly. The final chapters sparkle with drama and human passion, and you find yourself suddenly immersed in this strange community of tragic friends-turned-foes. You care deeply what happens to such once-noble spirits, and while you may not find joy in the tragic conclusion of the ill-fated social experiment of Blithedale, you will certainly find your soul stirred by the tragedy of unfolding events. - Review from the Oxford World Classics
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Catch Me if You Can

Frank Abagnale

Frank Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, imposters and escape artists in history. During his brief but notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot's uniform and co-piloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practised law wihtout a licence, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged cheques - all before he was twenty-one. An hilarious, stranger-than-fiction account of his sumptuous life on the lam, international escapades and ingenious escapes, Catch Me if You Can is a captivating tale of deceit.
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