Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas

Fifteen years ago troubled teenager Irene Dos Santos went missing in the lush Venezuelan rain forest. Her best friend, Lily, was found nearby, semiconscious, with no memory of what had happened. Now, years later, as she prepares to give birth to her first child, Lily has a vision of Irene. Whether it's a memory, a dream, or a ghost Lily can't be sure, but she is finally ready to uncover the truth about what happened that fateful day.

But before the quest can begin, Lily slips and falls. Confined to her bed, she is surrounded by her family and closest friends, and each offers prayers and a personal story to guide the baby's spirit safely into the world. What emerges over the next nine nights is a vivid portrait of Venezuela during a time of revolution and uncertainty - and the unraveling of the mystery behind Irene Dos Santos.

The above is the synopsis on the back of the book. Lily never has a vision of Irene, she finds a letter she had written to her when they were teenagers. It does offer a vivid portrait of Venezuela, if you can keep up with all the different characters that come into play and remember all of them throughout. There is no unraveling the mystery of Irene, and as to Lily being found nearby when Irene goes missing, semiconscious, is in fact that she is found in a hammock half asleep.

I read this in one day and kept hoping for a big revelation but this was a complete let down. Once you find out about Irene at the end and find out the truth about the rest of the characters I felt immensely cheated.

1 star

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drood by Dan Simmons

Charles Dickens, along with his mistress and her mother, were on board a train in the 1800's when there was a major accident. The car carrying Dickens' and his company was the only first class car not to derail. Dickens climbed out and went down below to help the dead and dying. As he was headed down he met another man going to help. This man's name was Drood. He was hideously deformed and as Dickens went around trying to help where he could, he noticed that everyone Drood went to help immediately died. He becomes obsessed with this creature named Drood, and drags his good friend and fellow author Wilkie Collins, to abandoned graveyards, the slums of London and into crypts themselves in search of the truth.

Well, I am still not too sure what I think about this one. It was interesting enough, the character of Drood was fascinating, but I really wish he would have made more appearances. His lisping, hissing speech gave me the creeps. Even though the story is about Dickens and Collins search for the truth surrounding Drood, it is more about their friendship, their rivalry, and their jealousy of one another, which drives one (or both?) to murder. I was hoping for a huge climax, but by the time I was about 30 pages from the end, I started skimming because I just didn't care anymore. Simmons definitely has a way with words, but it is too wordy at times. I would skip entire pages with long descriptions of things that made no difference to the story whatsoever.

I am a big fan of historical fiction and historical mysteries, but I think all in all this fell very short for me. I wanted more Drood, more nights in the tombs; not ridiculous jealousy to the point of being adolescent, detailed descriptions of opium addiction, and pointless side stories like the marriage of Dickens daughter Kate to Collins brother Charlie.

It was good, but if you are looking for an amazing historical fiction mystery, look elsewhere.

3 stars

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

Interesting enough story about a young man in England who becomes the keeper of two elephants bought by his master. The elephants had me laughing out loud. They are like mischievous children. Good enough read. Wish I would have gotten it from the library instead of buying it though.

3 stars

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

I absolutely loved The Forgotten Garden and hurried up and went and got this one upon completing it. I could not get with the story at all and I didn't see where the plot was going. I gave up about 250 pages in. Disappointing

1 star

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Cassandra finds out after her grandmother, Nell's, death that she was not who she thought she was. Her "father" found her on a ship when she was 4 years old all by herself and brought her home where he and his wife raised her as their own. She did not find out until her 18th birthday that she was not who she thought she was and everything she knew was a lie. After Nell's father passes away when she is in her 60's, she receives the suitcase she had with her all those years ago as a little girl. Inside it she finds a book of fair tales, written by an Eliza Makepeace and illustrated by the well known portraitist Nathanial Walker. The book stirs some memories within her and she sets off to England to find out her true story. After her death, Cassandra follows in her footsteps to finish what Nell had started when she finds out that her grandmother had bought a house in England years ago that once belonged to Eliza Makepeace. Thus begins the journey that will change Cassandra's life.

I don't even know how to give this book justice. Beautifully written, heartbreaking, 4 different time periods written about in a way that I was breathless to find out what happened next. This is 550 pages, I bought it for my vacation this week, and I finished it today. Be ready to stay up late to see what happens as the story goes from present time, to Nell's trip to England in the mid-1970's, to the early 1900's with Eliza's story, and Nell's memories as a child, secrets revealed at the turn of every page. May very well be the best book I have read in 2009 so far.

5 stars

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Connie Goodwin is about to begin research for her dissertation at Harvard University in Colonial History when she receives a call from her flighty New Age mother, asking her to go to Salem, MA to clean out her grandmothers house to get it ready for sale. While there Connie, discovers her original source for the dissertation, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. It is a recipe/spell book from a Salem witch of 1692 who has never been documented. As she digs further into Deliverance's story in quest in locating the book, she finds that her own familial ties to Dane and the use of spells throughout generations may be more than she is willing to believe. As the hunt for the book goes deeper, and her mentor at Harvard slowly revealing his true intentions for her and the book, Connie is caught up in a mystery she could never have imagined.

3 stars