Friday, July 30, 2010

The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves is Elizabeth Kostova's new book, and it was given to me as a leaving present. I was very impressed that my friend chose so well for me. It was a beautiful story, covering art, history, romance, mystery, mental illness, so much. And the characters, so believable. The love stories were deliciously intense. I learnt so much about art and the Impressionist artists and now want to go to France to learn more, to explore Paris from another point of view and to discover some of the other areas that the author describes. The description of techniques and colour were really interesting, making me long to have artistic talents...I have none, unfortunately. I really enjoyed reading this tale, and it has made me a week behind in my PhD reading, but it was really worth it. I couldn't put it down. The author has such a talent for educating and entertaining. I love the story and I was delighted that although it was a piece of fiction, it was based on fact, in particular a picture by Alfred Sisley - Snow at Louveciennes - it was good to see this picture after reading about it (and it was quite different to how I had imagined it. I learnt this from the Amazon customer discussion lists. Very interesting.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Agatha overdose

I have just finished two Agatha Christie's and both were so different. I wasn't wild on the first one - Hallowe'en Party. It was interesting because it was written in 1969 and it dwelled on the falling standards of society. Actually, Agatha Christie's books would make a very interesting sociological study because her writing spanned several decades. I think with this one, it was evident that she wasn't thrilled with the freedom available to people, and she focused especially on crimes of a sexual nature. So, it was okay, but reminded me too much of what is in the news today. I prefer escapism, and that is what I got with the next one - And Then There Were None. It was fabulous. So much mystery and speculation and I still got it completely wrong. I won't say anymore, but I do think it would be great to write a fictional book about Agatha Christie carrying out the perfect crime. Has this been done? Personally, I don't have the imagination, but I would love to be able to describe the sort of crime that she would do. Is that wrong....not meant to be, but she has such a brilliant mind, it does make you wonder what she would have been like as a criminal. I am glad she chose to be an author - her books are amazing!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More Sarah Addison Allen

After reading Garden Spells, I went straight to Waterstones to buy the next one The Sugar Queen. The lady in the shop said that she preferred Garden Spells, but that it was still a good read. I was a bit worried, but took the risk and was pleasantly surprised. It was slightly different, and I can't say how, because it would spoil the story. But again, the book had strong female characters, complicated romances, and a touch of magic, in the form of a fairy-godmother-type character. It is a lovely Summer holiday read.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Spanish mystery

I loved The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, so I was delighted when The Angel's Game was published. I enjoyed this almost as much, although I was surprised by the ending. Personally, I had a different ending in mind. But, it is a highly complex story, and perhaps I need to read it again, to understand the chosen ending. The story is superb and completely captivating, although a little scary in places. So much is implied and I think that adds to the fear element. Barcelona sounds so full of passion, life and history, and the characters in the story were so full of drama. I couldn't put this book down. It centers on the life of a writer and his relationship with a kindly bookseller who encourages him from an early age to read and then write his own stories, and his wealthy mentor, also a writer, but not on the same scale. The story tells of betrayal, secrets, lies, madness, love, and desperate deals to prolong life, made with mysterious and fearsome publishers. It is beautifully written; a complete treasure; unputdownable.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Floral magic

I have just finished Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, and it was just lovely. Actually, lovely is probably the wrong word as the are some sad/difficult moments focusing on domestic abuse, but the majority of the story is about the magical powers of flowers and how they can be used in cooking to manipulate emotions. You can find the recipes on the author's website - just click on books and choose a title, and there you will find the recipes. Back to the book, I love the sound of the garden, with the mischevious, magical apple tree. The style reminds me of Alice Hoffman, but gentler. All the women have strong characters and they are all so engaging, and not just the women, but the five-year old daughter of one of the women too. I have The Sugar Queen waiting in the wings, while I read The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.