November 13, 2017

Lonely Graves by Britta Bolt

Lonely Graves is the first book in a crime fiction series written by Britta Bohler and Rodney Bolt under the pen name of Britta Bolt. Both authors draw on their professional and life experiences to write what I think will be a fantastic series.

The Lonely Funerals series features Pieter Posthumus (Pieter is relieved when others do not comment on his last name at first meeting), a team member of the council department known as the Lonely Funerals team. The Lonely Funerals team is responsible for visiting the homes of those who die without family or friends willing to wrap up the deceased's affairs and take care of funeral arrangements. Pieter cares deeply for those deceased persons whose files appear on his desk, and he goes about making final arrangements for them with the utmost respect. Pieter is not a detective but, of course, there is going to be something suspicious and complex with each death that draws him into investigating. If the first in the series is a good measure, the investigations will lead into crimes surrounding very current issues (immigration and terrorism in this case).

The Lonely Funerals series is off to a good start for me. I like the character of Pieter Posthumus and look forward to seeing him develop further as the series continues. I was a bit scattered as I tried to keep track of character names, and was stretched a bit by some regional descriptions because I have no familiarity with Amsterdam, but I found myself easing into it as the story and characters developed - this was aided by a list of Dramatis Personae in the front of the book (thank you Authors!). The pacing of the book was good, especially since the authors needed to spend time developing new characters and settings. The pace picked up toward the end of the book as the pieces of the crime(s) started coming together. I stayed up way too late reading in order to see what would happen!

Books two and three in the series are already on my reading stack and I look forward to jumping into book two right away. I really want to spend more time with Pieter and (hopefully) some recurring characters that are a part of his life - this is an excellent sign of my enjoyment.

I highly recommend this if you like crime fiction, a flawed and compassionate main character, and a plot that draws you into the story.

January 10, 2017

Books Read 2016

Note from Terri: My apologies to those who have viewed this more than once. I was delayed in completing the list and forgot I had scheduled it to post automatically - twice. The following list is finally the finished version. Thank you for sticking with me, Friends!

January

The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - MONTHLY FAVORITE
My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1) by Elena Ferrante
The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Martian by Andy Weir

February

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
Jubilee by Margaret Walker - MONTHLY FAVORITE
The Garden Intrigue Lauren Willig
Singing to a Bulldog by Anson Williams

March

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
Turbulence by Samit Basu
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
True Grit by Charles Portis - MONTHLY FAVORITE
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki
Rock with Wings: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel by Anne Hillerman
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - FAVORITE RE-READ

April

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Orlando by Virginia Woolf - MONTHLY FAVORITE
The Dark Gnu and Other Poems by Wendy Videlock
Foreigner (Foreigner, #1) by C.J. Cherryh
Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner
Slade House by David Mitchell
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

May

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
Slingshots and Love Plums by Wendy Videlock
The Hours by Michael Cunningham - MONTHLY FAVORITE
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
Labyrinth (Languedoc Trilogy, #1) by Kate Mosse
The Future is Japanese by Nick Mamatas

June

Light Years by James Salter - MONTHLY FAVORITE
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Dream London by Tony Ballantyne
Dream Paris by Tony Ballantyne
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

July

Hild by Nicola Griffith
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke - MONTHLY FAVORITE

August

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Before the Feast by Sasa Stanisic
The Healing by Jonathan Odell - MONTHLY FAVORITE
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham | Review
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
In the Cafe of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano | Review
The Decision by Britta Bohler
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

September

The Dogs of Riga (Wallander #2) by Henning Mankell - MONTHLY FAVORITE
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt
Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

October

The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - MONTHLY FAVORITE (Re-read)
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth
I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Girl Jacked by Christopher Greyson

November

Jack Knifed by Christopher Greyson
Jacks Are Wild by Christopher Greyson
The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg
Jack and the Giant Killer by Christopher Greyson
The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes - MONTHLY FAVORITE
Data Jack by Christopher Greyson
Thanksgiving by Melanie Kirkpatrick
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

December

Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny - MONTHLY FAVORITE
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer

September 16, 2016

The Decision by Britta Bohler

Title: The Decision
Author: Britta Bohler
Publisher: Haus Publishing
Year: First published 2013; this edition 2015
Pages: 169
Translator: Translated from the Dutch by Jeannette K. Ringold

The German author, Thomas Mann, lived for three years in self-imposed exile from his German homeland as the Nazi regime grew more powerful and influential. Mann never spoke publicly against the Nazi regime during this time, but during a three day period in early 1936 circumstances forced him to decide whether he would speak out or remain silent. Britta Bohler dramatizes Mann's possible thoughts as he wrestles with this historic decision in her short novel, The Decision.

Mann struggled with a complex array of doubts and fears. He was a German who wrote in German for a German readership, upon which he was financially dependent. He had a Jewish wife and a Jewish publisher. He did not arrive at his decision to speak out in an orderly fashion, but in a messy human way, with fear often driving his thoughts.

Through the intimate narrative of the novel, the reader gets a glimpse of Mann and the things that interested and drove him. For instance, thoughts about music and writing ...
"[H]e always remained a musician in his writing. Music is the prototype of all art. The form of the novel is nothing but a composition in words, a symphony of ideas. A work of counterpoint, an ensemble of contrasts and harmony."
... thoughts on exile and asking what it means to be German ...
"What does it mean, a home? A country, a city, a memory?"
... and thoughts about slow travel ...
"... train travel. The slow passing of the world, the gradual changes in the landscape that prepare the traveler for his arrival in new surroundings."
In one scene, Mann is looking out at the night sky and thinking about the speed of light and how the stars shining there may no longer exist. He is doing this instead of attending to work related tasks. I could relate. It is so much more fun to think and wonder than to work.

It was details such as these that gripped me while reading The Decision and the only real complaint about the book that I can make is that I wanted more. I wanted more about "the gap between being an artist and bourgeois life," and "the artist as a pure spirit" with a mystical "cast of mind."

Britta Bohler is no stranger to the struggle between individuals and governments. She is an international human rights lawyer who has defended individuals against the abuse of governmental power and, as such, brings a unique outlook to this three day period in the life of Thomas Mann. I don't know a lot about Mann, but the book has a ring of authenticity and is a psychologically convincing look at a man agonizing over a decision that would cut him off from his homeland and put him at odds with an abusive regime.

"There is so much in a life that is not lived."
- from The Decision


August 30, 2016

Returning to BookTube!

Watch this video http://youtu.be/lVCWc9jI78o
I've decided to try and revive my YouTube channel after a two year "break." I really did not plan to be gone that long, but you know how these things go once you get out of practice. Come by and say hello and look for more videos in the very near future. I'm not sure what kind of schedule to follow yet, but if you are subscribed to the channel you should see videos when they appear. Hope to see you!

August 23, 2016

In the Cafe of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano


Title: In the Cafe of Lost Youth
Author: Patrick Modiano
Translator: Translated from the French by Chris Clarke
Publisher: New York Review Books
Year: First published in 2007; this edition published 2016.
Pages: 118

In the Cafe of Lost Youth takes place in the Paris of the 1950s. Paris is known as the "city of light," but this short novel looks into the shadows of that city and the bohemians that wandered it and frequented its cafes.

The focus of the story is a twenty-two year old woman, named Jacqueline Delanque, who quietly arrives one day at the Cafe Conde -- no one is quite sure when she first began frequenting the cafe -- and sticks to the shadows. Who is Jacqueline Delanque? What is her past? Why does she haunt the Cafe Conde? No one knows. She is eventually given the nickname Louki by the other habitues of the cafe and enfolded into that small group; she is, in a sense, baptized or given a "second birth" whereby her past becomes unimportant.

The story is told by four narrators -- the mysterious Louki and three others who are themselves only partially revealed. I believe it is the author's intent to keep his characters shrouded in order to create an atmosphere that is reflective of the Paris he is trying to portray; this may be somewhat disconcerting to readers who are looking for character development and a reason to care about those characters. This tactic does create modest suspense though.

Major themes of In the Cafe of Lost Youth are identity, memory, time, and escape. The theme that stood out to me is that of escape. Louki is clearly trying to escape, but from what or from whom? A sense of discontent, always seeking, never finding -- this is Louki. She is self aware enough to reveal, "I was never really myself when I wasn't running away."

Generally, where there is a desire to escape there is also a search. Again, a search for what? Perhaps we are provided a clue in a small detail. Louki is given a copy of Lost Horizon to read, which she carries about with her and conspicuously displays. This is a book about a search for paradise. Maybe this is what Louki and the other wanderers seek -- an undefined paradise.

In the Cafe of Lost Youth is a melancholy little piece that leaves the characters and the reader without any true resolution, yet I am strangely drawn to it. Perhaps it speaks to my own "lost youth" and the restless need to escape and seek out that indefinable paradise.
"At the halfway point of the journey making up real life, we were surrounded by a gloomy melancholy, one expressed by so very many derisive and sorrowful words in the cafe of the lost youth." -- Guy Debord
____________________________________

Read this book if you are looking for a quiet and moody story that will make you think. Do not expect a tidy plot with resolution or full character development. This is a reflective piece.

August 15, 2016

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

I recently read The Day of the Triffids and wanted to follow up with another John Wyndham, The Chrysalids. Both books are post-apocalyptic novels of the time in which they were written and represent many of the fears and thinking of the mid-twentieth century (at least as I know them from a North American perspective, which apparently aligned at least somewhat with those in Great Britain). Mid-century issues of cultural confrontation, the generation gap, and a geographical shift of power and progress from current locations are well represented in The Chrysalids. One could spend a fair bit of time discussing the use of metaphor as well - deviance and telepathy as metaphors for greater issues - and whether these are still effective means for communicating current concerns.

I would describe the tone of the book as somewhat secularly preachy (is this a thing?), but the book is overall a good post-apocalyptic story that will give the reader something to think about.

January 27, 2016

On Writing and Not Writing

Moon set and sunrise from my porch this morning
I've been lamenting the fact that I don't seem to get around to personal writing anymore. I used to write personal essays and book reviews at Tip of the Iceberg (it's all still there) and then, more recently, book reviews and thoughts here at Terri Talks Books. Lately I can't even seem to write a brief book review. I hang on to this bookish community and participate mainly by tracking my reading on Goodreads, posting photos on my Instagram account, and chatting everyone up on Twitter. Why? I don't really know why. Life. Work related writing. Vague and unexplainable REASONS.

My current read is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and I am loving it. It seems to speak to my soul in some way. It is about life in all of its joy and lonliness and is supported in this by the setting ... by turns harsh and bleak, and short and fecund. This book reminds me of one I read in January four years ago, Touch by Alexi Zentner, so I went back to see what I had written. I found a thoughtful piece of writing that took me by surprise. I wrote that? Why am I not still writing? Again. You can go back and read the entire "review" if you'd like, but here is how I wrapped it up:
We have our own harsh yet beautiful forests that we walk through; forests that are sometimes tinged with a touch of the magical. Those places that hold memories and perhaps the lingering presence of those we have loved and lost. This is how they live on ... we remember them and we tell their stories; we pass them to the next generation. We walk again in those places where those stories have their beginnings and middles and ends. We can almost see them, feel their presence as though they have left something of themselves behind ... which, of course, they have ...
Well.

This little bit of my own writing has at least partially inspired me to "take up the pen" and write something today. I should write more often. I hope I do.