Monday, August 11, 2014

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

First sentences:

"So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one."

Description:

"AN EMOTIONAL, PROVOCATIVE, AND UNFORGETTABLE NOVEL ABOUT HOW WE LOVE, HOW WE TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER, AND HOW THE CHOICES WE MAKE RESONATE THROUGH GENERATIONS.

Broad in scope and setting, wise and compassionate in its storytelling, And the Mountains Echoed is a profoundly moving, captivating novel that demonstrates Khaled Hosseini’s deeply felt understanding of the bonds that define us and shape our lives—and of what it means to be human.

It begins with the heartbreaking, unparalleled bond between two motherless siblings in an Afghan village. To three-year-old Pari, big brother Abdullah is more mother than brother. To ten-year-old Abdullah, little Pari is his everything. What happens to them-and the large and small manners in which it echoes through the lives of so many other people—is proof of the moral complexity of life. In a multigenerational novel revolving around not just parents and children but also brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which family members love, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

Propelled by the same remarkable instincts and philosophical insight that made The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns so remarkable, And the Mountains Echoed shows once again that Khaled Hosseini is a born storyteller." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

I liked this book about family told from different points of view. I especially liked how the events in the past rippled into the future in unexpected ways.

Date read: 8/10/2014
Book #: 27
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 159463176X
ISBN-13: 9781594631764
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Year: 2013
# of pages: 402
Binding: Hardcover
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Friday, August 8, 2014

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig

First sentence:

"My father was the best bartender that ever lived."

Description:

"Tom Harry has a streak of frost in his black pompadour and a venerable bar called The Medicine Lodge, the chief watering hole and last refuge of the town of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom also has a son named Rusty, an “accident between the sheets” whose mother deserted them both years ago.The pair make an odd kind of family, with the bar their true home, but they manage just fine.

Until the summer of 1960, that is, when Rusty  turns twelve. Change arrives with gale force, in the person of Proxy, a taxi dancer Tom knew back when, and her beatnik daughter, Francine. Is Francine, as Proxy claims, the unsuspected legacy of her and Tom’s past? Without a doubt she is an unsettling gust of the future, upending every certainty in Rusty’s life and generating a mist of passion and pretense that seems to obscure everyone’s vision but his own. As Rusty struggles to decipher the oddities of adult behavior and the mysteries build toward a reckoning, Ivan Doig wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This is a beautifully written book about family and life in a small Montana town. I loved the descriptions of daily life and the interactions between the characters, especially between Rusty and his dad, Tom.

Date read: 8/7/2014
Book #: 27
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 1594487359
ISBN-13: 9781594487354
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Year: 2012
# of pages: 387
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott

First sentence:

"Unrepaired and swollen with rain, the gate in the orchard wall refused to move until Cameron put his full weight against it and pushed, hard."

Description:

"A Cambridge historian is found drowned, leaving her study of Isaac Newton’s alchemy incomplete and a spate of mysterious deaths surrounding Newton's rise in fame unsolved. Her fellow writer, Lydia Brooke, agrees to finish the book as a favor to the historian’s son, a neuroscientist with whom she had a long affair. But her attempt to complete the book’s final chapter, and her return to her former lover’s orbit, put her in mortal danger as she uncovers troubling evidence surrounding Newton. As Lydia becomes ensnared in a conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the past, the seventeenth century slowly seeps into the twenty-first, with the city of Cambridge the bridge between them." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this mix of history and fiction. I especially liked how Lydia figures out how the past is influencing the present.

Date read: 7/29/2014
Book #: 26
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0385521073
ISBN-13: 9780385521079
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Year: 2008
# of pages: 322
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

First sentence:

"I was the youngest of three daughters."

Description:

"A strange imprisonment.

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhapss make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, 'Cannot a Beast be tamed?'

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this version of "Beauty and the Beast". I especially liked the interactions between Beauty and the two "spirits", and how Beauty and the Beast gradually became friends..

Date read: 7/22/2014
Book #:  25
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0060753102
ISBN-13: 9780060753108
Publisher: Eos
Year: 2005
# of pages: 325
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

First sentence:

"According to the First Scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised, Wen stepped out of the cave where he had received enlightenment and into the dawning light of the first day of the rest of his life."

Description:

"Time itself is threatened— and it's up to the History Monks to save it in Terry Pratchett's bestselling Discworld® series

Everybody wants more time. Which is why, on Discworld, only the experts can manage it—the venerable Monks of History who store it and pump it from where it's wasted, like underwater (how much time does a codfish really need?) to places like cities, where busy denizens lament never having enough of it.

While everyone talks about slowing down, one young horologist is about to do the unthinkable. He's going to stop. Well, stop time, that is, by building the world's first truly accurate clock. Which means esteemed History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd have to put on some speed to stop the timepiece before it starts. For if the Perfect Clock starts ticking, time—as we know it—will end. And then the trouble will really begin " -- from Amazon.com

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book about time, destiny and the Four, or is it Five, Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I especially liked Monk Lu-Tze and his lessons to his apprentice Lobsang Ludd.

Date read: 7/9/2014
Book #: 24
Series: Discworld  #26
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0062307398
ISBN-13: 9780062307392
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2001; 2014 (this edition)
# of pages: 432
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

First sentence:

"On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross."

Description:

"After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This is a beautifully poignant book about hope and loss, good and bad decisions, and how people's choices affect people they don't know.

Date read: 7/9/2014
Book #: 23
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre; Fiction

ISBN-10: 1451681739
ISBN-13: 9781451681734
Publisher: Scribner
Year: 2012
# of pages: 345
Binding: Hardcover
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

First sentence:

"Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder."

Description:

"The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web design drone--and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customer, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything. Instead, they 'check out' impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, longs-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger. Soon Clay has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what is going on. And when they bring their findings to Mr. penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside he walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or the young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that is rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book of books both new and old. I especially liked how Clay and his friends use their skills and interests to solve problems big and small.

Date read: 7/5/2014
Book #: 22
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0374214913
ISBN-13: 9780374214913
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year: 2012
# of pages: 288
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page