Thursday, January 26, 2012

All Her Father's Guns

All Her Father's Guns by James Warner is a fairly brief novel told from the perspective of two different men, connected by a woman they both love:  the woman is Lyllyan, and the men are Cal, her father, and her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Reid.  Cal is a successful venture capitalist and a proud Libertarian with a military past.  He loves his guns probably about as much as he loves his daughter, or maybe a little more - it's difficult to say.  Reid is a British ex-pat trying (rather unsuccessfully) to find a job in academia.  He and Lyllyan don't have the most stable relationship, but as she is a formerly straight-edge post-punk college radio DJ, that is probably not altogether surprising.

In fact, unstable relationships are kind of all over the place in this book - Cal and his ex-wife Tabytha, a Republican congressional candidate with a penchant for prescription medication, are not exactly on the friendliest of terms, and things only get more rocky as Cal's story progresses.  Furthermore, to call Cal's relationship with his philosophical Romanian therapist, Viorela, "complicated" might be something of an understatement.  They make such an odd couple to me.

The central plot of All Her Father's Guns is basically this:  Cal has had it with paying so much in alimony to Tabytha, and goes well out of his way to do what he can to cause problems for her in her political campaign; he even has Reid helping him with some of the dirt-digging.  He wants to find enough to blackmail Tabytha, but he ends up getting much more than he bargained for, and the truths could potentially ruin both of them.  Things take an even more unexpected turn when Cal wrecks his car, sustaining injuries to his brain.  It is a pivotal moment, as none of their lives will be the same from then on.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a story centering around a fourteen-year-old girl, Susie Salmon, who is raped and murdered near her home in the 1970s.  She narrates the story after death, as she watches over her family and keeps tabs on her killer from her heaven.  She follows each of her family members as they deal with her death, each in very different ways.  She follows Ruth, a classmate who felt her presence as she passed through a parking lot from this world to the next and whose life is never the same from that moment on.  She follows Ray Singh, another classmate who was in love with her - her almost and only romance.  And she follows the man who took her life.

Rape is difficult for me to read, and it's even more awful to me in this book because of Susie's young age and the gruesome way in which she dies afterward.  Sebold treats this delicate subject matter well, though; perhaps because she herself was a victim of rape.  The scene isn't drawn out, and we get only those details which are vital to the understanding of the story.  So to anyone wary of picking this up because of this topic, I would at least give it a go, because the reading of it isn't as bad as I anticipated.  Of course, you may end up not being able to get through it, but trust me - at least try, because it's really an extraordinary book.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling is the second book in her wildly popular series about boy wizard, Harry Potter.  Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, are in their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and I hope none of them thought this year would be more normal after all the danger and shenanigans of their first year, because if they did - well, they were sadly mistaken.

The book starts out, like the first, at Harry's aunt and uncle's house on Privet Drive.  They are still horrible people, but since they're afraid Harry will do magic on them, it is perhaps not quite as unbearable as before; and this summer, he had his friends from school to keep in touch with.  Or so he thought.  He hasn't actually heard from any of them all summer, and Harry's uncle never lets him send his owl out, so he hasn't been able to write either.  He also can't study, since all his school stuff is locked up in the cupboard that used to be his bedroom.  Being that he is around twelve years old, though, I seriously doubt he would have been spending his time actually studying, but I guess you never know.

Anyway, so one evening, the Dursleys (that is, his aunt and uncle) have Harry shut up in his room while they have company over, when a house elf shows up and gives Harry some cryptic warnings about how he shouldn't go back to school, because bad things are going to happen there.  Obviously, this house elf was not aware of the events of the previous year, or he would have realized that Harry has been there and done that as far as "bad things" are concerned.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

We All Wore Stars

I won my copy of We All Wore Stars by Theo Coster through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and I was well beyond pleased when I received it from the publisher, Palgrave-MacMillan.  For a long time I've had a kind of morbid fascination with the Holocaust.  I love to read anything I can about this tragic event in history, and any time I see that a World War II documentary is on TV, I watch it if I can.  Discovering that I have relatives who were killed in the war was no surprise to me, since my dad's mother's family is Polish; discovering that one of those relatives (maybe I should say one that I know of so far) was not only an inmate in Auschwitz, but was killed there, makes me that much more interested to soak up anything I can get my hands on to learn more about it.

We All Wore Stars is a short book of, as the subtitle reads, "Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates."  But it isn't just memories about her - I would describe this book more as a brief collection of memories of the contributors' own wartime experiences.  Coster decided to create a film about his and some of his classmates' experiences from the war, to ensure that their stories would endure after they have passed on; this book seems to be almost a companion to the documentary, in a way, and having read this, I'm very interested in finding the film.  Not many of their classmates survived the war - indeed, a vast majority of Holland's Jewish population in general did not survive - but Coster was able to get in touch with a few individuals, who he met with both as a group and individually, to reminisce about their time together at the Jewish Lyceum in Amsterdam, and to talk about some of their individual experiences after either going into hiding or being arrested and sent to the camps.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday #1: Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

It's my first post for Wishlist Wednesday!  This is a meme hosted by Pen to Paper.  The idea, as you may have guessed if you aren't already aware, is to share a book that is on your wishlist!  It can be something that's maybe been sitting in your wishlist for quite some time, or maybe it's something you just discovered and are really anxious to get and start reading!  It isn't really about hoping someone sees your post and grants your wish (though it would be nice if I had a Fairy Godmother for my wishlist!) - it's just another fun way to share books you would like to get on your shelves, and to see what others are wanting for theirs.  You might find something new to add to your own list!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Golden Compass

For my first full read of 2012, I decided on The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, the captivating first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy.  The original published title for this book is Northern Lights - The Golden Compass is the US title, and since that is the version I have, that is what I will be calling it here.

Lyra Belacqua has grown up at Jordan College in Oxford under the care of the scholars and their servants; she is the ward of her uncle, Lord Asriel, who is only rarely present because he travels most of the time for research and exploration.  Her life is mostly carefree, as she spends much of her time playing war with other children from around the city (as well as the gyptian children, when their people are passing through) and exploring every bit of the College with her best friend, Roger.

She finds herself on a real adventure and on the brink of a real war, though, when one day she spies on the scholars and Lord Asriel during a meeting about important - and heretical - discoveries in the North:  Dust, and the apparent existence of another world.  Not long after, children begin disappearing from cities all across England, mostly from the lower-class neighborhoods and from the gyptian families.  Rumors spread about the child-stealers - the Gobblers - and soon Roger is also taken.  She is determined to find her way North to rescue him, and her opportunity comes up when the charming and endlessly fascinating Mrs Coulter visits Jordan College and requests for Lyra to live with her and be her assistant.  Before leaving, the master of the college meets with Lyra in secret, to present her with a mysterious object - the alethiometer, a kind of compass that will tell you the truth, if you know how to read the symbols - and he has her promise to keep the device a secret from Mrs Coulter.

Lyra soon finds out that Mrs Coulter is also vastly interested in Dust, and the more she hears about it, the more dangerous the whole business seems to be, as she finds herself not only in the midst of the conflict, but playing a key role.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Come In and Cover Me

I received my ARC of Come In and Cover Me by Gin Phillips through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  The book is set to be released on 12 January, so keep an eye out!  Because my copy is an uncorrected proof, things may have been changed for the finished version (though I hope not too much, because I really enjoyed this book!)

Come In and Cover Me follows Ren, an archaeologist who specializes in pottery.  When Ren is in the field, the sites speak to her, but it isn't just the passion for the work - she can see ghosts of people who once inhabited the site, and they sometimes point her in the right direction for somewhere to dig, or can give her clues as to the interpretation of a find.  Her colleagues believe she has incredible intuition, that she just gets a feeling about a place, and leave it at that.  She's never told anyone what she sees, though she's an extremely private person in general anyway - she's closed herself off since the death of her brother in a car accident when she was twelve years old.

It's because of one of these ghosts that she has made such a big name for herself, when she was led to the location of some intact Mimbres bowls, all seemingly made by the same person.  When items turn up at a different site that also appear to have been made by Ren's artist, she is invited to come take a look.  Working in the canyon is Ed, a colleague and former mentor; Paul, the landowner's son, who is interested in possibly becoming an archaeologist himself someday; and another archaeologist, Silas Cooper, who has a knack for identifying bones.  Ren and Silas are drawn to each other, but while Silas is ready with a story or an anecdote whenever the opportunity presents itself, Ren is extremely guarded.  She's also preoccupied with the ghost of her Mimbres artist coming to her again in the canyon; at this site, though, she's joined with another ghost - the Parrot Woman.

Ren tries to piece together the story of these women, but Silas wants some pieces of Ren's story; can she let go of her ghosts and allow herself to be close to someone tangible?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading Challenges - 2012

Well, everyone, it's a new year - and in February, Les Livres Here Be Bookwyrms will be celebrating our one year blogoversary!  You have all made this such a great experience for me - I started off very slow here, but upon finding the huge community of book bloggers, things have really started to take off and I know that 2012 will continue to see good things here!

Things have been pretty hectic here for me, so I know I haven't been posting as frequently as I had started to get used to posting; I know that things have been crazy for others of you out there too, thought, not just because of the holiday season, but also for my fellow students who were wrapping up the semester.  I'm taking a winter class this year, too, so I'm still quite busy.  I'm still reading every day, though, so even if I don't have many "filler" posts for a little while, there will still be reviews coming as I finish books!  You can expect the next very shortly, as a matter of fact.

Things have also been tight financially, which is another thing I think most people have in common these days! So those of you who won my last giveaway - I haven't forgotten about you!  I was expecting a paycheck that hasn't come through yet, but as soon as the money shows up in my account, your prizes will be shipped right out!  I will email you individually once I'm able to send your packages.

Anyway!  I signed up for a few year-long reading challenges, and I just thought it would be nice to have a sort of kick-off post, to recap what I've gotten myself into for the year.  The links to each of their sign-up posts are also available on the sidebar, so if you would like to join in, you can follow the sidebar buttons, or the links on any of my reading challenge posts throughout the year.

I'll also be updating my main post for each challenge as I finish a book that counts for it, to track my progress.  If you're doing any of the challenges, and you get stuck on ideas, feel free to stop by and see if any that I've used interest you!