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Silk Armor
Silk Armor
by Claire Sydenham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.44
29 used & new from $0.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating novel, in plot and concept, April 7, 2014
This review is from: Silk Armor (Paperback)
"They were never supposed to go to university, Sevgi and Didem told me; universities were for men. Any father fool enough to let a daughter enroll deserved what the place made of her."

When we meet Claire and Victor they are at the train station in Turkey, preparing for the first leg of a journey which already seems fraught with despair. They do not know, exactly, what time the train will arrive. There are no seats available in the waiting room. Soldiers guard the entrance to ensure that everyone who comes into the station has a ticket. Then suddenly Victor stands up because Didem is waving to him outside the window. In the middle of the night. He runs to her, disregarding his duffel, as well as the fact that his ticket is with his colleague, Claire. And so the story begins, from somewhere near the end of it, first.

Sevgi and Didem are beautiful students at Anadolu University in Eskişehir. They long for more in their lives than to be simply a butcher's daughter or a female who must live under the constraints of a Muslim woman. Sevgi wears a veil, which covers her luxurious auburn hair; Didem is less conservative and, in the beginning, able to deceive her father. She tells him she is taking language lessons from Claire when actually she is sleeping with Victor, and from this duplicity their story unfolds.

It is a story involving the girls, their teachers, their families, and even a Turkish young man. It is a complicated story of kismet (fate) which could be deacribed as simply the end result of the choices that we make.

While I was caught up in their story, in the way that life is so very complicated especially when we exercise our own will or desires, the part that especially struck me is the meaning behind the title. I have always wondered why it is that women will submit to wearing a veil, thereby abandoning not only their individuality but their beauty. What Didem explains, in a letter to Claire, makes clear to me that sometimes women choose to wear a veil for themselves. That sometimes having an armor, even if it is merely of silk, is a good and necessary thing.

"So I need to say: I did this myself. For myself. I put on the veil not to remind other people of who I am but to remind myself. This is important. I need it the way near-sighted people need glasses. To compensate for a weakness. It's through the veil the world comes into focus for me. Men on the street don't look at me as if they want to devour me anymore. And so I don't think of them that way anymore. I think of them the way I should. The veil helps me to see what is good in them."

This fascinating novel took me to Turkey. It showed me the lives of American teachers abroad, the lives of young and lovely Turkish girls, the strictness of their environment, and how our expectations and dreams can be thwarted by our desires. No matter from which country we call home.


The Detour
The Detour
by Gerbrand Bakker
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $0.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read from the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize short list for 2013, May 15, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Detour (Paperback)
Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
~Emily Dickinson

With this poem as its foundation, Gerbrand Bakker writes the most piercing novel I have read all year. It unfolds slowly slowly slowly before us as he teases out the reason why Emilie has come to Wales, to live in a thatched cottage once inhabited by old Mrs. Evans, and dwell there with the white geese who gradually are reduced to only four.

Halfway through the novel a boy with black curly hair, and a great dog named Sam, join her. The boy cooks for her, and fixes up the garden, and refuses to leave each time she asks him. He doesn't inquire about the way her lucidity slips away from time to time, nor about the strips of pills from which she gradually presses more than one to ease her pain. He simply stays with her resolutely.

Far away in Amsterdam, Emilie's husband decides to look for her. He meets with her parents, he hires a detective, and eventually he sends a card which simply says her name, and his, with the words "I'm coming" in between.

I chose to read this book because it was short listed for the IFFP; I feel no need to read any of the other contenders. It is so completely satisfying, so beautifully told, so multi-layered and rich in meaning that I am hoping already it is declared the winner.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.09
576 used & new from $1.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What started out great..., August 26, 2012
This review is from: Gone Girl (Hardcover)
I loved this book. Until about three-fourths of the way through. By then I'd had enough twists and turns to make me carsick and enough development of a bad marriage to make me heartsick. I was left feeling worn out and disappointed that two people could manipulate and malign each other so much that neither one is left with integrity. Instead, what we have is a thriller turned into a travesty. Instead of scary? It's so sad.


Disgrace
Disgrace
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $0.78

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Danish detective sequel to Mercy, July 23, 2012
This review is from: Disgrace (Paperback)
"People saw only her cracked lips and filthy hair. Edging away from the repulsive bundle in her hands and her sleeves stained brown by dried blood, they didn't see a fever ravaged fellow human in need. They didn't see a person falling to pieces."

Disgrace is the second in the Department Q series, following the prequel Mercy. It is everything that those who love Nordic crime could desire: tension, suffering, action and mystery. We follow Detective Carl Mřrck through the investigation to solve six murders accompanied by his loyal and somewhat inept assistant, Assad. We follow Kimmie who has assumed the identity of a homeless woman because that is the only choice left to her by those more powerful than she. And we follow with mounting horror the antics of her former classmates: Ditlev, Kristian, Torsten, Ulrick and Bjarne. These prestigious business men hide a gruesome past behind a facade of success in modern day Copenhagen. But they cannot escape being the hunted, when once they were the hunters.


Evel Knievel Days: A Novel
Evel Knievel Days: A Novel
by Pauls Toutonghi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.41
64 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Be Deceived By The Title If You Think This Will Be Trite, July 23, 2012
I've been waiting for this book all summer. I didn't know it, of course, while I was wading through heavy tomes by Eric Metaxes, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Salman Rushdie. Thick as the air I've been breathing this month, they are worthy books in their own right. But, June has been a month of drudgery for me, not a month of reading something exceedingly slowly so as to savor every word.

You can't imagine what a breath of fresh air this book is. It is charming, and fascinating, and speaks to my heart as if Pauls and I have long been friends. He writes of what I know, from Evel Knieval's stunts to feeling like a stranger in this world. He writes with a wit and a tenderness which had me smiling, or blinking away a tear, from one page to the next.

Let's start with this quote: "See: I think Tolstoy was wrong. Unhappy families are all alike. They're all alike in this moment-in this pause before something happens, in the pause before someone reacts. And that pause: It can last seconds or minutes or days or months or years." We have an unhappy family here. Amy Clark and her son Khosi Saqr are happy together; the discordant note comes from Khosi's father. A man with an addiction to gambling, he left her with huge debts to be paid by her family. He left their son with no father to remember.

Now Khosi is an endearing young man who is twenty years of age. He is obsessive-compulsive, but in a way that makes sense to a person who relishes control: lining up his pencils in ascending order, or hanging up his shirts according to color family. He likes order, he needs order, but by the end of the novel he comes to realize that order does not save anyone. "It's such a heinous cliche: Life is fragile. But in America, our entire lives seem to be set up around denying this fact, this utterly undeniable thing. We are breaking, decaying bodies: we are fallible, imperfect machines. We cannot order our lives: order fails. Order always fails. It is undone by something as tiny as Aedes aegypti, a creature whose body weighs a fraction of a gram."

When Khosi sees his father in his hometown of Butte, Montana, one day, he decides he must follow him to Cairo, Egypt. He must discover who is father is, he must discover the story which lies beyond the boundaries of his mother's penchant for Egyptian cooking. "What's it like to be the child of an immigrant? I know and I don't know, both. I have a family tree somewhere, but I don't know where, and it's probably in Arabic, or possibly French, or possibly both. The past, the history of my family, is a strange and hybrid beast. On the one side: exhaustively documented. I live and work in its midst. But on the other side: nothing. No body, no clothes, no cane, no toupee, no set of dentures, no artifacts whatsoever. Only a vocabulary that vanishes as soon as it's fashioned into language. Only the vocabulary of exile and disappearance."

What Khosi discovers in Egypt is his father's life about which he had no knowledge, deadly looking knives and mosquito-borne diseases. But, he also discovers compassion, forgiveness and a tunnel of sorts which goes from America to Africa. A "tunnel" capable of uniting a family in its own unique way.


Harriet Said....
Harriet Said....
by Beryl Bainbridge
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from $18.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harriet Said..., July 23, 2012
This review is from: Harriet Said.... (Hardcover)
I found this little Penguin paperback, of only 152 pages, while I was attending the Classical Pursuits program in Toronto. It was on one of the hall tables bearing a sign, "Take One, Leave One," thereby encouraging readers to share their books. Because it was thin, because I was curious about two teenage girls who seem to be spying on someone's house, I took it home.

A bold and bossy Harriet has a loyal follower in her friend, of whose name we're never sure as the story is told in first person through her eyes. We only see that this friend is stout, clumsy, and so enraptured by Harriet, and what she says, that she follows Harriet's every plan.

This summer, Harriet has decided that they will "humble the Tsar", a meek and married man with whom our narrator becomes purposefully involved. They are two thirteen year old girls, who have little idea of the repercussions their behavior would have. The results of their game with the Tsar has disastrous results, and the reader is left wondering if perhaps youth is not so innocent after all.

The novel is written under an exquisite shroud of sorts, slowly revealing each facet of the plot such that one discovers this novel is actually a horror story. I found Beryl Bainbridge to resemble Daphne du Maurier, and even Shirley Jackson, by taking ordinary themes and making them dark and terrible. Some reviewers have called it an "evocation of childhood", but I would go so far as naming it what it is: wicked manipulation. It would make a perfect autumnal read.


Me Before You
Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $1.30

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful kind of tearful..., January 13, 2012
This review is from: Me Before You (Paperback)
It's hard to type a review with tears in your eyes, and on your cheeks, and falling into the keyboard, but I'll try. Because I just finished Me Before You and I have to write about it now.

There are millions of love stories out there but few that get to the core of what the couple means to one another, a meaning beyond physical attraction and personal fulfillment. But the story JoJo Moyes has written of Will Traynor and Lou Clark goes exactly there.

We meet Will when he is a successful businessman, leaving his gorgeous girlfriend to go to his high powered job. It is a brief introduction, for on the second page he is struck by a motorcycle. From then on, we see him as the quadriplegic he has become.

Enter Louisa Clark, who's lost her job at the Buttered Bun cafe. She is employed by Will's mother to be his caretaker, although she has had no experience with the medical needs of a quad. What she does know, however, is how to be witty, how to be colorful, how to bring more than a spark of joy into Will's life.

What she doesn't know is that Will has promised his parents only six months until he goes to Dignitas in Switzerland, a place where he can die because he cannot bear the life he is forced to live. It is a life with no control, no capabilities, no choices left but one.

This is a complex novel, examining much more than the love between two people. It also examines how our lives can enrich one another, and how we can reach beyond our fallibilites and limitations to show how much we truly care. It is very powerful and deeply moving.


The Forgotten Waltz: A Novel
The Forgotten Waltz: A Novel
by Anne Enright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.18
159 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Piercing Book About Relationships, December 10, 2011
Saying that this novel is about an affair is like saying a home is about bricks and glass. That's true enough, in a way, but it's not getting any where near the substance within. 'I have never read writing like that of Anne Enright's. It is powerful, and funny, and thought provoking all at the same time. I read ever so slowly to capture every phrase and reread sentences or whole paragraphs over again to contemplate their meaning which resonated deeply within me. She'll write something profound in a long paragraph, and then bam! follow it with a single sentence as reinforcement.

The Forgotten Waltz is a story about an affair. About marriage. About a family whose child's needs have divided the parents; or the parents' needs which have divided the child, because who can tell, really, what was the cause and what was the effect? It is a story which makes us look at our parents, at our loves, and most importantly ourselves.

It makes us ask if we are willing to accept the responsibility for the choices we have made, and were they, after all, worth the cost?

I loved it.


The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Tantor Unabridged Classics)
The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Tantor Unabridged Classics)
by Owen Wister
Edition: Audio CD
Price: $28.11
10 used & new from $18.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite reads of 2011, November 27, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As a cattleman's daughter, this novel far exceeding my expectations. It is a great Western, filled with characters one can truly respect or abhor, depending on their nature. The Virginian himself is a hero like no other; his story is timeless even though Wister wrote it in 1902. The audio recording is superb as well. You feel as if you're actually listening to him tell you about being a cowboy in Montana with all the dangers and joys it entails.


Because of Mr. Terupt
Because of Mr. Terupt
by Rob Buyea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.80
82 used & new from $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Significant to Teacher and Students Alike, November 26, 2011
This review is from: Because of Mr. Terupt (Paperback)
because of a teacher.

because of a snowball.

because of a diverse class of fifth graders.

love and forgiveness are taught,

because of mr. terupt.

It's a book for students.

It's a book for teachers.

It's a book for anyone who's ever had that special teacher who changed his life.


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