October 29, 2014

I'm concerned I might actually BE Bridget Jones

Not that there's anything wrong per se with being like Bridget Jones but you can't say that she really has her life together can you? If you've seen the film adaptation of Helen Fielding's The Bridget Jones's Diary then I have no clue why you wouldn't give the book a shot. They really stayed true to form with the film and it's even funnier on page. Bridget is a Singleton who really just wants to find a guy who is less of a f***wit and more of a Mr. Darcy a la Pride and Prejudice. (Sidenote: It amuses me more than I can say that the characters actually talked about the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and it was this same man playing Mark Darcy in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary. Yes, I AM easily amused.) The book is written in true diary format and at the header of each day's entry Bridget obsessively calculates weight, alcohol units, cigarettes, calories, lottery tickets, etc. I enjoyed the bawdy humor and the writing style of Fielding very much. If you're looking for a quick read that's sure to make you laugh then I highly recommend this one.

I ordered a few Halloween-y books which I was hoping would arrive before I had finished Bridget Jones's Diary but unfortunately they haven't come in yet. No matter! I snapped up a Hercule Poirot mystery, The Clocks, written by the indomitable Agatha Christie (of which I'm a huge fan). This mystery revolves around a murdered man who is found surrounded by you'd never guess it clocks. Poirot is challenged to solve the murder without ever visiting the crime scene or talking with witnesses. Is it possible to solve a crime using the little grey cells and nothing else? Well, I guess we'll shortly find out!!

October 25, 2014

Writing a prequel for a book written years ago and NAILING IT

I think that blog title pretty much sums up how I felt about The Adventures of Ben Gunn. Firstly, the man wrote the book because he was a massive fan of Treasure Island and he had all of these unanswered questions (and also his kids kept asking him questions about their favorite bedtime story). So his solution was to write the prequel himself. GENIUS! Secondly, he was able to write it in the same style as Robert Louis Stevenson so it didn't have that awkward feel of an imposter trying to step into the author's shoes. It felt seamless and true. The characterization was spot on and getting the backstory on Gunn and his impressions of Long John, Hands, Bones, Flint, and the rest of the crew made Treasure Island even more special in my opinion. I think RLS would have been proud of this work and I think anyone who is a fan of the classic pirate story and always wondered about the events leading up to Gunn's marooning should read The Adventures of Ben Gunn.

I've had a book on my TRL for ages now and it's finally become available at my library so I snatched it up without hesitation. If I gave you a few bullet points about it could you figure it out?
  • It was made into a movie.
  • There's a character with the last name 'Darcy'.
  • It focuses on a year in a single woman's life.
Any guesses?

If you guessed Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding then you were absolutely correct! Here we go!!

October 21, 2014

The Mysteries of the Amazon Revealed

The title of this post makes it sound like I'm about to write an expose or an article for a major newspaper. :-P

The Lost City of Z focuses on the mystery of Colonel Percy Fawcett's disappearance in 1925 as well as the myth that there was an ancient civilization which he called 'Z' that was as yet undiscovered in the heart of the Amazon. I've talked before about the rhythm of a story that covers multiple time periods. This book handled the jumps extremely well. Grann covered Fawcett's explorations into the Amazon (prior to his last trip) which made him into a world renowned expert on the area and the Indians that inhabited it. He also discussed the various disastrous rescue attempts that were made. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the entire book (for me at least) was the author's journey researching the man and the myth. For anyone interested in the history of exploration and/or the Amazon this book is a must read. (A/N: I have to admit that the ending fell a bit flat for me after the buildup but this isn't enough for me to dissuade you guys from giving it a go.)

You might remember when I reviewed Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, my next read is a prequel to Treasure Island entitled The Adventures of Ben Gunn by R.F. Delderfield. Did I just blow your minds? Were you unaware that this even existed? I have a dear friend (and frequent reader of the blog) to thank for sending this my way (literally in this case). This is the story of the man named Ben Gunn in his own words (as written in narrative form by Jim Hawkins) as he explains how he came to become a pirate. I don't know about you guys but I bet this is going to be one doozy of a story. Ahoy, mateys! (You know I had to do it.)

October 10, 2014

Gotta love a good adventure story (especially when it's true)

Reading Operation Mincemeat has just convinced me that there are 1. Many more spy novels out there that I have yet to read (example: Ian Fleming) and 2. My obsession with World War II is completely justified because it was so convoluted, intriguing, and shrouded in secrecy (many of these secrets remain today). As the title suggests, this book focused on a singular operation which in itself was just a piece of a much bigger operation entitled Operation Husky (attached to another called Operation Barclay + others that were mere decoys). If nothing else, once you've finished reading this book you come away with an appreciation for the skills and ingenuity of those involved in fighting a war which for the majority of its duration seemed absolutely impossible to win. The taking of Sicily, however, proved to be a turning point in the war and Ewen Montagu and his team had a hand in the victory because they pulled off what many still believe to be the greatest feat of deception ever. If you've ever read The Man Who Never Was or seen the film version of it then you're aware of this story...except it's not the entire story because Montagu was censored by the British government (you'll see why when you read Operation Mincemeat). Sufficed to say, if you've ever fancied yourself a spy then you should read this to find out just exactly what that means. Hint: It's a lot more bureaucracy than James Bond has led you to believe.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann has been on my TRL for a while now. It's the story of a man's quest to figure out what really happened to Percy Fawcett and his expedition party. This question has haunted hundreds of people who have tried to discover the truth by following the clues left behind by the man into the very place that seems to have swallowed him alive. In 1925 Fawcett and his team (including his 21 year old son) set off on a quest to locate the lost city of El Dorado, aka Z. Now it's David Grann's turn to be enthralled by the mystery as he seeks to discover just what happened to Fawcett and his team and maybe find El Dorado himself...

October 4, 2014

It always comes back to death and WWII with me

I practically sped through The Removers by Andrew Meredith. As I had suspected (and you probably did too based on the synopsis), this is a memoir fraught with melancholy. After his world was turned on its head at the age of 14, Andrew was adrift without purpose...that is until he found that he was quite good at the business of death. (I made that sound like he was an expert assassin but in reality he was ensconced in the world of corpse removal and cremation.)  For twenty years, this was his livelihood and it seemed that even when he moved clear across the country he couldn't escape it. Was this his destiny? Was the ability to remove himself emotionally from all that went on around him what made him the perfect fit for dealing day in and day out with mortality? Will he rise like the phoenix out of the ashes of cadavers to find himself formed into something utterly unrecognizable from his former self?  What exactly is his former self? To find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about what some might think to be a morbid profession, take a crack at this book.

Because apparently I'm obsessed with WWII and death, I've decided to read Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre. As I mentioned in a previous post regarding Alan Turing, Britain was a major player in the intelligence game during the war. This particular book focuses on a strategic plan to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Allies would be entering Italy through Greece when in fact they would be coming in through Sicily. The problem was that it was known to all parties that Sicily was the most logical choice for an entry point so the ruse had to be very, very good. It was a multifaceted plan but one of the key elements was Operation Mincemeat. The plan was cooked up by two intelligence offers who had very little in common: Ewan Montagu & Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley if you're wondering). The plan was to drop a dead body disguised as an officer with falsified documents that would hopefully be turned over to the Germans. Does this sound like a James Bond movie? Well, that's because it was originally thought up by Ian Fleming himself. Yeah, now you're getting why I had to read this book aren't you?

Author's Note: I've read another book by Ben Macintyre and if you're interested in reading about that one you can go here.

October 1, 2014

Pasta Prayer Passion Or Alternate Title Alliteration

In my last post, I was already enthusiastic about the prospects of Eat Pray Love and I have to say that my expectations were completely fulfilled. I found myself smiling while I was reading and nodding my head at the nuggets of wisdom she gleaned along her journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. This is a book which will lighten your heart and your spirit. It will also make you want to pick up and immediately begin traveling on your own spiritual pilgrimage. I've been telling anyone and everyone that they need to read this book (and now I'm telling you!).

I didn't even realize until just this moment that my next book is also a memoir (oops?). The Removers by Andrew Meredith is the story of how Andrew's life came completely undone when he was 14 years old. This is the year that his father lost his job due to a scandal and his life was totally altered. Not long after, he joins his father in a new business venture: corpse removal. O_O

I kept these brief for 2 reasons 1) I really want you to read Eat Pray Love and I don't want to spoil anything and 2) I feel like if I go any further with a preview of The Removers I'm likely to spoil this one too. :-D

Let me know if there's any books out there you'd like me to review!

September 28, 2014

Movie and book tie-ins: Embrace them!

Basically, I love a good tie-in whether it's a film based off of a book or a book that was written based off of a movie. Book tie-ins are a great way to delve further into the characters and learn more details about scenes that are blink-and-you-miss-them. In this post, I'll be looking at both variants.

For starters, let's take a look at Star Trek Into Darkness which was written after the movie of the same name was released. For die-hard Trekkie fans, this is definitely a book that you want to pick up. It was so good that I never wanted it to end. For those who haven't seen the film (or who aren't really into Star Trek at all), this is the story of how one man came into his own when pitted against a ruthless adversary who by all accounts was unbeatable. James Tiberius Kirk is the newly appointed Captain of the USS Enterprise but at this stage he's definitely still wet behind the ears and he makes mistakes which come with very big consequences. At the same time, the reader is introduced to a character with motivations that are not immediately apparent and it is uncertain exactly what type of a person he actually is  (his identity is in question as well). There is conflict, intrigue, heroism, tragedy, and courage on every single page.  Go forth and read it!!

I was feeling a bit introspective after reading Star Trek Into Darkness so I picked up Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had watched the film a few years ago and thought it was deeply moving and therefore picked up the book on which it was based. However, at the time I was backlogged with books for school (remember those days, guys?) and it got relegated to my bookshelf. I am so glad that I'm reading it now. I can already tell that I'm going to have to pick up some more of Gilbert's works. Her writing really speaks to me. This is actually her story of how her life transformed through faith in God and in herself. She traveled for a year to immerse herself in three very different cultures in order to discover what it was that she really wanted from life and how she could be happy. This was after a lot of personal tragedy in her life had made her re-evaluate everything and she was basically starting over from scratch. It's not a depressing book though. No, it's actually uplifting in all the best kind of ways. She spent four months in each place where she focused on completely different things. In Italy, it was all about pleasure aka food. In India, she turned her attention to God. In Indonesia, I think you can guess what she focused on. ;-) I'll be updating you guys with my progress soon!