Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ian Fleming's Dr. No

I've never read a James Bond novel until now, although I have often wondered where the audacious agent originated. I enjoyed seeing a different side of Bond. In the movies, 007 is always confident, knows exactly what he's doing, and never questions the next move. In the book, James is more human. He makes mistakes and even doubts he'll win the battle when things get rough, and, his heart shows. However, I have never seen the cinema version of Dr. No, so maybe Sean Connery's Bond was different than what I've gotten used to.

In Dr. No, 007 is just getting out of the hospital when the perfect case shows up on M's desk. Two agents have disappeared suddenly from a post in Jamaica, and M, believing they have simply run off together, sends Bond out, on the premise of investigating, to rest and recover for awhile. James instincts however, are telling him something else. As soon as James is off of the plane, his picture is taken by a reporter who shouldn't even know he is there, and not long after, that same reporter is found following him. When James questions her, her fear of what might happen if she answers is greater than her fear of Bond, and he begins to really question what he is up against. With help from an old friend, Bond must track down the paths of the absconded agents, protect the beautiful girl he inadvertently involved, discover who is behind the plot to have him killed, and, of course, save the world.

It was nice to see a softer side of the overconfident agent I'm used to, and I'm curious enough now to watch the movie version to see how it compares. Besides, spending an hour of so watching a young Sean Connery can't be a bad thing can it.

Dr. No

Monday, September 27, 2010

Continuing the series..Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro and King's Mary Russell

Darkness, Take My Hand is the latest in Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro I have read. As I started the book, I found myself quickly attracted to the story, and even more so, the characters. I find I really like Patrick's sardonic sense of humor. One of the passages that comes to mind..
"Someone Murdered her last night"
"No." Her eyes were huge.
"Yes." With all the extra cream, my coffee tasted like baby's formula. "Crucified her on Meeting House Hill."

She closed her eyes for a moment, opened them. She looked at her cigarette like it might tell her something. "Any idea who did it?" she said.

No one was parading around Meeting House Hill with a bloody hammer singing, 'Boy, oh boy, do I like to crucify women,' if that's what you mean." I tossed my coffee in the sink

Quietly, she said, "you done snapping for the day?"
I poured fresh coffee into the cup, "don't know yet. It's still early."

Although, honestly, I do find the story a little too dark and harsh for my taste, but I also find that I want to keep reading the series just to see how things work out with the characters. I do hope, both, at some point, end up with some amount of the peace they've never had.

Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary is another one I have finished recently. I will admit, I had a hard time getting interested in this one. I normally really enjoy Ms. King's novels, and her style of writing, for some unknown reason however, this one didn't grip me as her other stories have. However, by the middle of the novel, I did find some amount of curiosity growing and kept with it, realizing I really had no idea which direction the author was going to take the story. She had several avenues open, and I had to know which she chose. In the end, I was not disappointed, and I am left wondering where the characters will go next. I also find I am getting a bit of a character crush on Mr. Sherlock Homes.

Darkness Take My Hand
A Letter of Mary

Next on the reading plan is Ian Fleming's Dr. No and I'm currently listening to Fern Michael's Weekend Warrior's

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

84 Charing Cross Road

Last night my husband was hunting around the Netflix instant watch and came across this charming movie, based on the true story written by Helene Haniff, and staring a very young Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft and Judi Dench. About 15 minutes into the movie I looked at my husband and asked if he was sure he wanted me to watch it. You see, the storyline was about a young woman living in New York in the late 1940's who is looking for certain British second hand books. She contacts an antiquarian book seller at Marks & Co. with her request, and then begins a 20 year correspondence, and friendship, with everyone at the store. It's a beautiful story, and although I'm not one to collect rare or hard to find books, the movie almost had the quixotic part of me ready to give it a try. The bookshelves displayed in the store were beautiful and covered with old looking books, and I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to have a room full of books like that and how satisfying it would be to find just the right one. However, I also realize I can't begin to imagine the cost in today's world just to find one single antique novel. Alas, I will have to make do with enjoying what I do have and can get at local stores, but it is a fun thought.

If you're interested, here are a couple of links - 84 Charing Cross Road on Imdb, 84 Charing Cross Road on Wikipedia

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen is an author I didn't expect to enjoy, however, I have been proved wrong. Northanger Abbey was an enjoyable book that I, at times, didn't want to put down. The characters were amusing and somewhat overdone, in a good way, as I think only Jane Austen can pull off, and the language was very elegant and enjoyable, if not a bit of a challenge.

Catherine Morland, our "heroine", in an idealistic young woman whose very nature demands she always see the best in people. She also has an over active imagination, encouraged by the reading of Gothic novels, that tends to get the best of her. When Mr. and Mrs. Allen invite Miss. Morland to join them on a trip to Bath, she is given a harsh lesson in the realities of life. While enjoying society she is quickly introduced to new friends, Mr. John Thorpe and Miss. Isabella Thorpe, an avaricious brother and sister hoping an acquaintance with Miss. Morland will be advantageous. She is also introduced to the witty Mr. Henery Tilney, who lives, with his sister and father, at Northanger Abbey, which Catherine imagines to be much like the abbey's in her Gothic stories. She is soon entreated to accompany them home, and it isn't long before the most prosaic events get the best of her imagination and Henery is forced to explain the truth of his mother's death, and help her learn that things aren't always as they seem.

I have been told that Northanger Abbey is not Ms. Austen's best tale, but it was a good place to start, and I look forward to soon reading her most popular novel Pride and Prejudice.

Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sam Millar's Bloodstorm

Bloodstorm was a very interesting book. I must admit, I was a bit irresolute about reading this book after the author himself gave me a warning saying the book was "very gory and in very bad taste", and, I have to agree, he was right. However, once all of that was waded through, I found that I really enjoyed the story, and characters, and was glad I wasn't easily dissuaded.

Karl Kane is a Belfast P.I who is all but broke because of a tendency to lose money on playing cards or the horses. As he is sitting in his office contemplating how to pay the bills, in walks his next paycheck in the form of Mr. Munday who needs some information about a recently killed friend. $500 dollars now, and $500 when the P.I finds out the where, when and how seems like a pretty good, quick, and easy, job. A chat with some acrimonious cops and Kane is set. Six days later, Mr. Munday returns to not only find out the answer to his questions, but also with another request to find out information about some prostitutes, this time for $1000 up front. Kane isn't sure about his clients motives and decides to turn him down. Unfortunately, however, a chain of events has already been set in motion, including the death of his client, and regardless of what the impecunious investigator wants, his conscience decides he must finish what he started.

It's not a story for the feint of heart, and I often thought to myself "that was more than I wanted to know", but, I found as it went along, the crudity lightened up and the story and characters became more my focus. I'm glad I stuck with it and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks

I'm a bit tentative about blogging about The Guardian simply because of how much I really didn't like it. It was greatly disappointing. After all of the hoopla surrounding Nicholas Sparks' books and movies, I don't know what I was expecting, but it was better than this. I thought the writing was plain and redundant, the plot was stale, and the story itself was overly punctilious. On top of all of that, the author kills the best written character, Singer the Great Dane. Now, I can deal with a lot in a book, but I would have liked one redeeming factor.

Julie Barenson's husband died of cancer at a very young age, as a parting gift, he left her a Great Dane puppy named Singer who quickly becomes one of her best friends, and her protector. After spending years of trying to move on, Julie finally finds herself ready to date again, unfortunately, it seems all of the good guys are taken...until she meets Richard. Richard is polite, caring, exciting and treats her like a queen. After a few dates however, Julie starts to feel that something she can't quite put her finger on is lacking, and, in the meantime, she starts to find that something in her other best friend, Mike. When she tells Richard of her feelings, jealousy takes over and Julie's life changes forever.

It's a story we've all heard before, and granted Nicholas Sparks does, at times, pull the heart strings, but overall I found it painstaking trying to finish. I really don't mean to be harsh, but it just wasn't up to par I don't think.

The Guardian

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel

One of the purposes of this blog is, in theory, for me to not only post my thoughts on the books I read, but also to explore some of the the thoughts those books bring up. I've noticed that occasionally a book will mention something that makes me curious, something I'd like to learn about just for the sake of learning something new. However, although there is a growing list of things to look up, I haven't been very good at following through on it. I'm going to attempt to change that. On that note...

As a teenager I remember having a bit of a fondness for the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I'm not sure why, but it was one of my favorites, (along with the musical Guys and Dolls). I was recently reminded of this when my mom showed me a picture of a Scarlet Pimpernel flower she was thinking of drawing for her art is a very pretty flower. I remember in the play and novel that the elusive Pimpernel would draw this flower when he left messages for his men, and I remember wondering "Why that flower?". Well, in looking a few things up, the best I came up with was from Wikipedia..
This common European plant is generally considered a weed and is an indicator of light soils.

But even so, did the writer know that? I honestly doubt it considering the play was written in 1903. None the less, I think it fits well enough. If I remember the story right, (it's only been about 15 years since I've read it), the English did consider "The Pimpernel" to be a weed, not realizing he was one of their own who was masquerading as a slow-witted and deficient individual. They couldn't see what he really was.

For those that don't know about it, here's a short little trailer I found. The first 30 seconds are a bit long, but otherwise.. (and I particularly like the poem).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Naked Came the Phoenix

Naked Came the Phoenix is a serial novel in which 13 female mystery authors each contributed a chapter to make up a the whole novel. They were given the setting, main characters, order of their chapters and a few simple rules such as write in the third person and no pursuing each other for favors. No asking the person before you to set a clue, hide a murder weapon or leave a certain character alive. Each writer had to take what they were given by the previous author and do what they could, which at times included making a mess for the next to clean up...which was of course, part of the fun.

Caroline Blessing, newly married to Congressman Douglas Blessing, is taken by her mom to visit a sybaritic spa for a week of relaxation after her father died. Not long after they check in however, they discover the body of the spa's owner laying in a mud bath with a shawl tied tightly around her neck. Amazingly none of the other guest saw anything. Not the long famous rock star, the anorexic model, the popular actress or the washed out movie producer, and to add to the verisimilitude, and the detectives frustration, no one is saying anything without their overpriced lawyers...or, they aren't saying anything until the bodies start stacking up.

As you can see on the picture, there were some pretty famous, and talented authors on the list, which made things, shall we say, interesting. Every chapter was a different style, and at times was inconsistent. You honestly had no idea what the characters would do since every author would turn them into who they wanted them to be. It was a bit frustrating. However, at the end of it, Laurie R. King somehow managed to take all of the twist, turns and discrepancies and make them make sense. She did a wonderful job of it, and she is what made the other, somewhat discouraging chapters come together. In my mind, Ms. King is the master of the suspense novel.

Naked Came the Phoenix