Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Snapshots: "Zoo Station" by David Downing.

In Zoo Station, journalist John Russell is living in 1939 Berlin.  The country is heading for war but Russell, a British citizen, wants to stay there as long as possible to be near his German son, who lives with his ex-wife and her new husband, and his German girlfriend.

Looking to earn much needed cash, Russell accepts an offer from a Soviet intelligence officer to write pro-German propaganda articles; articles, Russell assumes, that will be used to help pave the way to a Soviet/German alliance which will then push Hitler's territorial aggressions away from the Soviets.  Russell  subsequently puts considerable effort into keeping the Soviets happy, the Germans from being suspicious of what he is doing and in sharing with the British anything of import that he learns while on assignment.

Although it is a tense and terrible time in Germany, author David Downing's plot didn't sizzle for me until the very end.  Don't get me wrong:  the book is interesting and readable.  The protagonist plays all the angles he can to to help people facing disappearance and death as a result of the Nazi's horrifying practices.  Zoo Station is not, however, a stay-up-all night type of page turner.  But it is a good story, and John Russell is an interesting character living in the strange and scary world that was 1939 Berlin.  In the end, I liked Zoo Station and was sorry when the book was over.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Because it's Sunday.

Check out this wonderful, short poem by Howard Nemerov called "Because You Asked about the Line between Prose and Poetry."  Here is the link.  What amazing command of language and imagery.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Author Lee Child Wins U.K. Crime Novel of the Year Award for "61 Hours".

Speaking of good crime reads for the summer, The Guardian reports that Lee Child won the 2011 Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year award for 61 Hours, Child's 14th mystery book featuring protagonist Jack Reacher.  The award is given each year in the United Kingdom.

61 Hours was a good read.  It is a good choice for a summer vacation or beach book.  If, however, you've already read it, check out the other titles that were shortlisted for this year's Theakstons Old Peculier award:  

From the Dead

Blood Harvest

Dark Blood (Logan McRae)

The Holy Thief: A Novel

The Anatomy of Ghosts

The winner:

The 2010 winner: A Simple Act of Violence by R.J. Ellory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Read "When God was a Rabbit" by Sarah Winman: It's a Wonderful and Original Novel.

About one-quarter of the way through When God was a Rabbit, I was overwhelmed by how good this books is and wanted to immediately hand copies of it to my friends and insist they read it right away.  While such a purchase is not in this blog's budget, I can urge you all to go out and get this book.  I think you'll agree that it's terrific.

When God was a Rabbit is set primarily in the United Kingdom, with some key events taking place in New York around September 11, 2001.  The main character, Elly, is born in 1968.  The story follows Elly, her family and friends over the course of the next four decades.

In particular, the story looks at Elly's strong relationship with her older brother, Joe, and her best friend, Jenny.  Over the years both good and very bad things happen to these characters - there are as many ups and downs recorded in this novel as there are in an electrocardiogram report.  But through all of the gains and losses, there is a wonderful warmth, kindness and vulnerability in the main characters.  There is also great humor and comedy, much of it dark, found particularly in the first half of the story when Elly is a little girl.  Combined, these elements give this coming-of-age story a fresh tone and engaging atmosphere.

When God was a Rabbit is an exceptional novel, and highly recommended reading.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Snapshots: "Midnight Riot" by Ben Aaronovitch.

I picked-up Midnight Riot after reading Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl's recommendation of it at NPR.  The book is set in contemporary London where young Constable Peter Grant discovers he has a knack for talking to ghosts.  Peter gets assigned to a unit of the police force designated to investigate all matters related to ghosts, gods, goddesses, vampires and the like, and where his education in developing magical powers begins.

I had hopes that Midnight Riot would be a bit of a Harry Potter-type read, something fresh and transporting.  Sadly, it was not.  But it was sufficiently entertaining that I slowly worked my way through the entire story.  In my opinion, it rates two out of five possible stars for the reader interested in a breezy read about magical events and creatures in merry old London.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011