Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

Several months ago, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet received glowing reviews in the USA Today.  The story seemed intriguing in an Asian setting, I had to have it.  I ordered it from Amazon and sneaked it on to the shelf were it sat until now.

Talk about a hook!  The first chapter shocked me.  I had to keep reading after that.  Every night before I go to bed, I read.  Every night I looked forward to reading the next few chapters.  That elevated level of anticipation doesn't happen to me very often.

The author is a master of language. This is the story of Dutch merchants living and trading on a small island in Japan in 1799.  The dialect was perfectly written and that is not a simple task.  Dutch people are trying to speak Japanese while the Japanese are translating for the Dutch.  Then throw in a British captain and his sailors all while writing for a person reading in English.

I felt I was in the place and time period, not only because of the dialogue but because the prose is amazing.  The author's word choice was spectacular and transported me into each scene.  I breathed the air, smelled the sea, and felt each character's pain.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is a beautifully written, powerful story of strategy and intrigue.  I'm rating it a 4 out of 5 because I loved it but I was disappointed in the ending.  That happens sometimes even in the stories we adore.    

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mystery Solved

Two years ago, in January when the whole world seemed to be on the brink of disaster, Richard and I leaped over the falls to start our new wondrous life.  We packed up all our belongings and moved to our new home 150 miles north where we knew no one.  Based on our life prior to this time, it looked like a very impulsive action on our part.  We're planners, leaving nothing to chance if we can help it.  Yet here we were all alone in a strange new town.

We've faced many rough spots in two years, owning 2 homes when the sale of our old house fell through at the last minute, not being able to find a good job before finally realizing that $10 an hour is a pretty decent job in this new economy and battling the alcohol that made the unknown seemingly bearable.  All these challenges have been resolved so that I'm now in a place of peace, love and harmony.

But there was one little thing that's been gnawing at me.  When I inventoried my unread books, two were missing.  For two years I've been searching for them finally deciding that when I left Richard alone for a week to unpack after our move, he'd thrown them out with the trash.  Every time I went to the bookstore I looked for these titles trying to resist the urge to purchase them again.  I highlighted them in orange on my book log so I'd never forget them.  I knew they had to be here somewhere but had given up hope.

Richard has been doing the spring cleaning.  Today he was cleaning out the closets, tossing out all the stuff we don't need.  I took Ginger for a walk since she's afraid of the vacuum.  It's always quite an ordeal when the vacuum is running.  On our return a pile of junk greeted my on my desk.  And there they were.  The books I couldn't forget about.  The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I screamed with delight.  

I have less than 100 pages left to read in my current selection and then I'll start these two.  This is their time, I'm certain of it.  They've magically reappeared for a reason.  I've leaped over the falls into a new wondrous life to learn something new about myself through my books.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

I thought I'd start out the new year with a classic.  I remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as a youngster but had no knowledge of the other six chronicles.  Until the movies started coming out.  My how times are changing.  Old stories, new medium.

All 766 pages of this book seemed daunting at first until I realized that there were seven stories of roughly 100 pages each.  The introduction stated that the stories were in order of how C. S. Lewis meant for them to be read.  Interestingly enough that is not the same order in which they were written.  After reading them in order I realized the talent of Mr. lewis in creating this wonderful land of Narnia.  The transitions between tales were smooth and seamless.

I loved Aslan and wanted to be able to rub my face in his soft, thick mane like the children did.  Each child had a distinct personality that was so easily woven into the stories.  They came to know Narnia in such believable ways, by walking through the back of the wardrobe, holding onto a magic ring or admiring a painting of a sailing ship.  I want to go to Narnia but I know that I'm too old.  Darn!

I do have to say that reading all seven chronicles at once did get a little boring.  I have to admit that I only skimmed The Silver Chair, chronicle number six.  But since each story is rather short, I might suggest reading one or two, then reading something else in between before coming back to the stories of Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Susan, Diggory and Eustace.  They'll be fresh.

I love the classics and The Chronicles of Narnia didn't disappoint.  I rate it a 5 out of 5.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...