Grafton changes it up

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Title: U is for Undertow

Author(s): Sue Grafton

Genre: Fiction

I’ve read most of the alphabet, so it is safe to assume that I’m a Sue Grafton fan.  However, as with any series, I find that I need to spread out my reading of her books or else I can get bored with the formula that she uses for this series.  So, I was really surprised when I got into Undertow because it is really a step out of the typical PI mystery.

This story takes place in two different times – the 1980’s and the 1960’s.  It is an interesting way to approach solving a mystery and gave me a renewed interest in Kinsey Millhone.  If you haven’t picked up a letter of the alphabet lately, maybe it is time to dive back in.

Mayfair Witches

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Title: Taltos

Author: Anne Rice

Copyright: 1994, Alfred Knopf

ISBN: 0-679-42573

Pages: 467

Date completed: 6/21/11

Genre: Fiction

 It has been a while since I’ve read Anne Rice, so when someone donated this book to us, I temporarily borrowed it to read.  Taltos is about the Mayfair Witches.  Kind of.  I guess it is really about the Taltos and the Mayfair Witches.  The Taltos is a race of beings who live on earth and have a life span of more than 1,000 years.  They aren’t like vampires.  Killing isn’t their primary purpose in life.  They are much more like humans. They will kill if they have to, but they’d rather live in harmony with the others on the planet.  Also, Taltos are not fond of witches.  They don’t trust them and will do what it takes to stay away from them. 

 I didn’t realize that this is the second book in the series until after I had finished it.  It didn’t seem to matter – everything in the story made sense to me without knowing the background of the first book.  But, I give you warning in case you want to read Lasher, the first book in the series, first. 

 The way this book is written, it keeps you turning the pages.  There are several very interesting characters that you want to know more about.  Besides the seven-feet tall Taltos and the Mayfair Witches, there is a man of about three feet tall who is gruff and troll-like.  He and the Taltos are best friends.  There is also a secret society of humans who protect the history of all of these non-humans.  Any good book about non-humans has to have a secret society.  I always wonder how people in a secret society make a living.  But, I digress.

 In Taltos, our main character believes that he is the last living Taltos on earth and has given up on ever finding another of his kind.  But, when he finds out that the Mayfair Witches may be able to point him toward another Taltos, he has to overcome centuries of mistrust and work with them.

A Monkey and a Donkey

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Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

Copyright: 2010, Random House

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8154-4

Pages: 197

Date completed: 6/13/11

I generally do not gravitate toward fiction, and even less toward literature.  The difference, in my mind is that fiction is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, whereas literature is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, but it demands more of you.  In music terms, fiction is Bon Jovi; literature is Tchaikovsky.  Beatrice and Virgil is literature.

I’ve never read anything quite like this book.  It is a fiction story of prose with a play contained inside.  It is a truly disturbing story in the very best sense of the word.  From page to page, I never knew what to expect, and that is what kept me from putting it down.  I usually think of literature as ‘not an easy read,’ but this book was very easy to read.  A disturbing story that is very easy to read.  Seems not possible, yet Martel has accomplished it. 

I always have a hard time writing a review of fiction because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.  So, I will do my best to intrigue you enough to read it without telling you the entire story.  Henry, the main character is a successful author who has taken a sabbatical from writing and moved to a new city where he promptly gets a job as a waiter in the local café.  Life is going along nicely, when he receives a letter from a fan of his book who has written a play.  As it turns out, the fan lives in the same city as Henry, so he stops by to see him in person.  The fan is a taxidermist by day who has written a play of Virgil (a monkey) and Beatrice (a donkey).  He asks Henry for help finishing the play.  Although he is a little weird, Henry agrees to help him, and an unusual relationship is formed.  And, here is the plot twist: this is a book about the Holocaust. 

Intrigued?  Pick up Beatrice and Virgil and read for yourself!

Stay True To Yourself

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Title: The Witch of Portobello
Date Completed: 3/18/2011
Author(s): Paulo Coelho
Copyright: 2007, Harper Perennial
# pages: 268
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-06-133881-6

This book caught my eye because I’d read another of his books a few years back. This is an interesting book because the main character is presented to us through the eyes of people in her life. We never hear from the main character directly.

This is an interesting concept to me because I’ve always thought about the fact that we all see people from our own perspective, and by default, our impression of every person we come into contact with is actually a reflection on ourselves.

I frequently think about people I work with whom I don’t particularly like. Maybe this guy talks to much, or that woman is always finding someone else to blame her underperformance on. But, I have thought on many occations about the people that these coworkers are married to. I think about their parents, their children, and the people they go out to dinner with on Saturday nights. Any person in my life who I don’t particularly like has multiple people in their lives who love them and want to spend time with them.

So, what does that say about the world we live in? I think it says that we each bring our own version of the truth to light when we understand that our version isn’t the only one.

The Witch of Portobello is a woman who stays true to herself, even when it others don’t understand her. She doesn’t follow conventions of any sort, but holds steadfast to her path in life. In the end, the hardships of being a little different are outweighed by her knowledge that she has always been exactly who she is supposed to be.

Book 11 – Zorba the Greek

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Title: Zorba the Greek

Date Completed: 11/27/09

Author(s): Nikos Kazantzakis

Copyright: 1946, Simon and Schuster

# pages: 311

Genre: Fiction

 I got the idea to read this book from Excuses Begone!, because the author referenced it, and I thought if Wayne Dyer likes it, I’m sure I’ll like it.

 Lesson learned…Wayne Dyer and I don’t always have the same taste in books.  The book was ok, but I think it must be one of those books where everything has a double meaning, and if you don’t get the double meaning, you don’t get the book. 

 It is a book about two guys in Greece in the late 1800s.  They are essentially gypsies who work in a mine to earn a living.  One of the guys (Zorba) is the kind of person who lives life to its fullest every day.  He finds everything he does to be new and exciting.  The other guy is the kind of person who lives his life through his books rather than actually experiencing it.  He spends his time in their hut reading about what life could be like.  However, even with this difference, they are best friends.  It is a Greek nineteenth century Odd Couple. 

 The book was made into a movie…and I think I might watch it to see if maybe I get something out of the movie that I missed in the book.  This could be a case where the movie is actually better than the book.  I don’t watch a lot of movies, so I can’t say that I’ll actually follow-through and watch it, but if I do, I’ll let you know what I think.

Book 7 – Time warp

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Title: Outlander
Date Completed: 10/20/09
Author(s): Diana Gabaldon
Copyright: 1991, Delta Books
# pages: 896
Genre: Fiction

Well, this one was a whopper at 896 pages! This is the first book by Diana Gabaldon that I’ve read. She has written a bunch of books (16 according to Wikipedia), and Outlander was her first.

This is a book about a woman, Claire, who was born in the early 1900s. In 1945, after just reuniting with her husband who has returned from war, she inadvertently sends herself back in time to the 1740s. The book takes place in the Highlands of Scotland, and is a love story, historical fiction, and a little bit of sci-fi all thrown together.

There are a lot of interesting plot twists and sub-plots throughout the book. For example, the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of her 1940s husband is the arch-nemesis of her 1740s husband. At different points in the book she is thought to be an English spy and a witch. Of course, coming from the 1940s, she has a lot of knowledge that those in the 1740s don’t have. For example, she is a nurse in WWII, so in the 1740s, she has more medical knowledge then all of the doctors – all men – of the time. The only possible answer is that she is a witch! Another favorite moment for me was when she told her 1740s husband to stop acting like John Wayne.

I enjoyed the book and have learned that it is part of a series that follows Claire through her life. I’ll be adding the Outlander series to my ‘to read’ list, and look forward to checking in on Claire again in the future.