Monday, November 28, 2011


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

One of my favorite novels of all time is JANE EYRE.  This is just something about it.  Maybe it is the fact that it is a hard-luck tale of one intrepid little girl. Maybe it's the unlikely love story. Maybe it's the gothic style element of horror.  It's a wonderful book.  In THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY, Margot Livesey reenvisions the classic tale in a more contemporary setting.

Set in 1950s-60s Scotland, THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY follows young Gemma as she is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland by her uncle after the death of her widower father.  All is well until the death of her beloved uncle when Gemma suddently find herself persona non grata in her aunt's home.  Desperate to escape, Gemma agrees to become a scholarship student at a boarding school.  Hardly more than an unpaid servant, Gemma works hard until the day the school goes bankrupt and she is forced to look for employment.  She takes a job as an au pair in the Orkney Islands where she meets the enigmatic Mr. Sinclair.  Their unlikely attraction sets loose a chain of events that will change Gemma's life forever.

Sound familiar?

This book really is almost scene for scene a retelling of JANE EYRE until the end.  I really enjoyed the twist of Gemma's search for her past and her time in Iceland at the end of the book. I think it really added somethign to the story. However, I was disappointed that one of the major plot points in JANE EYRE was left out of this version. That definitely surprised me. 

This book is incredibly readable and very entertaining although I'm not sure if I loved it for itself or because it reminded me so much of JANE EYRE.  Sometimes, I think books of this kind work best when they simply nod to their predecessors rather than stick so closely to the original. Still, fans of the original will find much to like here.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A little TOO close to the original for my taste but entertaining nonetheless.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NYPD Targets Occupy Wall Street Library--Again

Link to article:

NYPD Targets Occupy Wall Street Library--Again

I urge you to follow the above link and read the accompanying article. The police really aren't doing themselves any favors by targeting libraries. Everyone knows you should never piss off a librarian!!! When I read this article, I was reminded of a quotation from one of my favorite movies, THE FISHER KING:

"It's social anarchy when people start pissing on bookstores!"

What kind of message does it send when we have police officers pitching books into a dumpster?

I love the part about the attendees of the National Book Awards bringing books to the Occupy site. Whether or not you support the Occupy movement, I think we can all agree that libraries and books should be protected---wherever they are located.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

It's all about steampunk these days. Well...steampunk and vampires.  In this novel, the U.S. military has developed a very realistic virtual reality simulation to help soldiers become familiar with non-traditional battlegrounds and styles such as that in Afghanistan. The Demi-Monde was programmed to be an extremely realistic world filled with the economic, geographical and religious stressors common in today's battle arenas.  To add a little something extra, the programmers added some of the world's most dangerous psychopaths such as Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich, Stalin, Torquemada and others.  These individuals share control of the Demi-Monde. Instead of scarcity of water, oil or other resources, the programmers added in a need for blood.  Now, these aren't vampires in the traditional sense of the word.  Citizens of the Demi-Monde simply require a certain quota of blood in order to survive.  They get these quotas at designated blood banks but only enough to survive. Not enough to quench their thirst for it. When the Demi-Mondians realized that the soldiers sent into their world could bleed (Demi-Mondians don't have blood), they began kidnapping them and holding them hostage in order to drain them.  That was bad enough. And then the President's daughter was kidnapped and taken into the Demi-Monde. Now, young Ella has been recruited from our world due to her resemblance to Dup (all residents of the Demi-Monde are duplicated of real people) and sent into the Demi-Monde on a rescue mission to save the President's daughter. This isn't just any simulation. It's a matter of life or death.

This is the first in a planned series of four.  It reminded me of THE MATRIX in many ways.  I thought it was incredibly creative and I loved the introduction of the various historical figures and what happened when they were thrown together in a simulated environment.  I can absolutely visualize this as a movie or television series.  That being said, I don't think it as particularly well-written.  I would recommend it more as a Young Adult level novel. It was interesting and entertaining but I wasn't drawn in enough to want to read any more of the series.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations.  This is much more a Young Adult title although there is a great deal of violence and sensuality.  Great for fans of both steampunk and the vampire genres. It was an entertaining read but my interest stalled out towards the end.  I won't be reading the rest of the series.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Each year I set myself the same reading goal---to read 52 books during the year.  An average of one book per week.  Well, I hit my goal in October!  I am currently at 55 books completed for 2011. Not bad.  If I can find the missing galleys I was in the middle of, I will be on track to have quite a few more finished before the end of the year.

I love using Goodreads to track my reading.  I tried using LibraryThing but I think it is much clunkier.  Goodreads is great for posting review, tracking your books, storing titles for future reading and networking with other readers.  Plus, I often can't resist taking a few of their reader quizzes.

I'm currently blazing through THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY which is a modern retelling of JANE EYRE. I have also finally gotten around to reading FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen and I'm about a quarter of the way through that one. Hopefully, I'll get some good reading done this weekend.

If you are looking for something good to read this Veterans' Day weekend, why not try MATTERHORN? I'm not one for war books but I could not get this one out of my mind.  One of the best of 2010.

Happy reading!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

I was so intrigued when I heard the subject matter of this book.  At first glance, it looks like one of those books that delves into the dystopian nature of affluent society. On some levels, it is.  However, Schulman adds an interesting twist. 

The Bergamots are a fairly grounded, liberal-minded family whose lives are changed when they move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City for Richard Bergamot's new job at a large university. Their lives are thrown into disarray be their entry into a new level of elite society.  Liz Bergamot gives up her academic career completely to care for her children in their new life.  Young Coco seems to adjust well but 15-year-old Jake has trouble fitting in at his new elite private school.  Everything seems to fall apart when Jake opens an e-mail the morning following an unchaperoned party to find a sexually-explicit video from an 8th-grade admirer.  Having a hard time dealing with the complex array of feeling that the video elicits, Jake sends it to a friend who then forwards it on.  The video goes viral and the fall-out for the Bergamots and the other individuals involved are profound.

I think this novel is particularly timely as it deals with the issues stemming from social media and the internet.  It is so hard for young people to grasp the fact that anything they do on the internet can get out to a wider audience or possibly affect them forever. They don't always understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions. While it is interesting to see how the various teens deal with what happens, I also appreciate Schulman's view of how the adults act in this crisis. No one comes out unscathed and no one seems to act within an appropriate ethical realm. 

While this book brings up really interesting truths about social media and society today, I was a little disappointed.  Schulman had great ideas and great characters but the book felt a little too short.  It seems like there was so much more to say and she just didn't go deep enough. The book really left me wanting more.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. Great ideas and interesting characters but a little too short and undeveloped. I wish she had taken it farther.