Book Review: Slade House

The Booklover’s Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 

David Mitchell is one of my favorite writers, so when Slade House came out I had to pick up a copy right away and read it.  While I enjoyed the read, I can only give this book three hearts and not the usual five I would award for a David Mitchell novel.

Slade House is Mitchell’s take on the classic ghost story and is a good read for this time of year, when it gets dark early, seems to rain everyday, and a chill sets in early in the evening.  Slade House spans five decades from the 1970s to the present.  Every nine years a guest is either invited or happens to find Slade House on the same day late in October.  Every nine years, there are unexplained disappearances.

Slade House has a tie in with The Bone Clocks, which makes the book interesting for those readers that have read The Bone Clocks.  Slade House is a worthwhile read, but isn’t quite up to Mitchell’s usual standard.  The book uses the same plot over and over again, only changing at the end.  One feels a little let down at the end, the author could have done so much more with this.  It really could have been fabulous.

Book Details:  Published by Random House (October 27, 2015), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0812998689.

Book Review: The Bone Clocks

The Bone ClocksThe Booklover’s Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Let’s start with the outside of this book — the cover is enticing and the title is subtle and wonderfully descriptive. The whole package makes you wonder what is inside. The book is written in five sections spanning several decades from the late twentieth century to the mid-twenty-first century. Each section is written from the point of view of different characters.  The story begins with teenaged Holly Sykes, the protagonist of the novel, finding her boyfriend in bed with her best friend.  Holly makes an appearance in each section in the middle of the book with the last section also told from her point of view.

David Mitchell is a superb storyteller and can take the reader to the scene like no other writer. This is especially exciting and interesting for the reader when Mitchell invents a post-apocalytic world as in the final section of The Bone Clocks or in Cloud Atlas or when Mitchell invents a place that exists only in his imagination and then takes the reader there. His descriptions are vivid and detailed.

The Bone Clocks is not my favorite Mitchell novel. That position is still held by Cloud Atlas. Although The Bone Clocks is probably the best book I’ve read thus far in 2014, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and The Bone Clocks are tied for second place in my personal ranking of David Mitchell novels.

My only gripe about The Bone Clocks is Mitchell’s propensity for sharing his personal viewpoints through his novel. (Note: Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2007.)  For example, the reader can surely glean his feelings about religion from the last section.  Or can they?  Does Holly consider the horologists gods when she says a prayer asking for salvation for her two charges?  Is her prayer answered?  You can decide when you read The Bone Clocks.  It is worth your time and your effort at over 600 pages.

Book Details:  Published by Random House (September 4, 2014), 640 pages.

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night FilmThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads has begun their voting for the 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards, so I thought it might also be a good time to review my favorite book of 2013.  As you may recall, my favorite book last year was The Orphanmaster’s Son by Adam Johnson.  This book went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.  I don’t expect as much for Night Film, but I am certainly going to name this book my favorite for 2013.

Night Film revolves around the work of an investigative journalist who becomes obsessed, as so many have, with a legendary and reclusive cult-horror-film director named Stanley Cordova.  The book opens with the death of Cordova’s daughter in a warehouse in New York.  Her death is a ruled suicide, but McGrath suspects otherwise.

McGrath, along with two strangers, begins a nightmarish descent into the world of the Cordova family, at what may be the cost of his own.  Driven by revenge and curiosity, McGrath encounters a truly frightening world inhabited by the reclusive film director.  As McGrath begins to lose sight of what is real and what isn’t, the reader is drawn into this nightmarish world and begins to wonder what is real in the novel as well.

This book made me want to sleep with the lights on.  It has been a long time (to say the least) since that has happened to me.  Perhaps I am just a ‘fraidy cat, but this book is scary.

Book Details:  Published by Random House (August 20, 2013), 602 pages, ISBN: 140006788X.

Secret Societies and A Mystery Solved

The Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

A friend of mine has been extolling the virtues of Matthew Pearl for quite some time, she ia a true fan and was always encouraging me to read his books.  She just knew that I would enjoy them and she was right!

The Technologists is a thriller about the very first class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at a time when the idea of teaching science and technology was considered a danger to society.  A series of scientific disasters spreads throughout Boston, and a small group of students from the class of 1868 come together to uncover the source of the menace. They form their own Secret Society known as – you guessed it – The Technologists.  Included among the members of the Secret Society is Ellen Swallow, the very first female student at MIT who is hidden away from the public like a “dangerous animal.”   The fight to discover the cause of the disasters soon becomes a fight for the very life of MIT.

Matthew Pearl has made the seemingly uninteresting beginnings of one of the world’s premier educational institutions into a thriller worth reading.  His incorporation of MIT’s William Barton Rogers and other historical figures makes the science and technology aspect of the novel interesting rather than a drag, which I must admit I feared!  If you like historical fiction, this is a must read.  If you haven’t read Matthew Pearl, but like Caleb Carr and Stephanie Pintoff, pick up a copy of The Technologists soon.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book free from Random House. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Details:  Published by Random House (February 21, 2012), 496 pages, ISBN: 1400066573.

A Confirmation of the Value of Capitalism and Freedom

The Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book made quite an impression on me.  I can’t think of a single other novel set in North Korea, so I was excited to read the book.  It confirmed everything I suspected about communism and North Koreans.  Communism creates cruel and/or desperate people.  This novel confirms for me that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity and freedom.

The story centers around Pak Jun Do, who begins the story with his own identity.  In the second part of the novel Pak Jun Do assumes the identity of a “yangban” (elite) of North Korea, boldly walking into the “yangban’s” home and assuming the role of husband and father.  The most interesting aspect of Johnson’s portrayal of Pak Jun Do is that we spend an entire novel reading about this man, but never truly know him.  I think Johnson’s point is, “Can anyone really know anyone else in such a place?”  This is also evident in the story of the interrogator who cares for his parents, but paranoia and fear of the state permeate the family.

This is a book I will read again some day and one of my three favorite books read in 2011 (although this book will not be published until early 2012).  I like it that much.  I would also like to see it read in high school and college literature classes.  Adam Johnson’s novel is sure to become a classic.  Don’t let this scare you away though – it is a must read!

Book Details:   Published by Random House (January 10, 2012), 464 pages, ISBN: 0812992792.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book free from Random House.  I was not required to write a review (positive or otherwise) and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Our First Book Giveaway

This giveaway has ended!  Winners will be notified shortly…

The Random House Publishing Group has been kind enough to provide two copies of Gail Caldwell’s bestseller Let’s Take the Long Way Home for our first ever book giveaway!

From the back cover of the book:

They met over their dogs.  Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp (author of Drinking: A Love Story) became best friends, talking about everything from their love of books and their shared history of a struggle with alcohol to their relationships with men.  Walking the woods of New England and rowing on the Charles River, these two private, self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen.  Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with cancer.

This book was named as one of the top 10 nonfiction books of the year by Time Magazine and was selected as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, O: The Oprah Magazine, and others.  You can read more about the book at npr.org.

Now for the giveaway!  There are two ways to enter, first you can leave a comment on this post letting me know the name of your favorite memoir.  The second way to enter is by subscribing to this blog.  My current subscribers are already entered!

I will use random.org to choose two winners and will contact them by email.  It is important that you leave your email address if you leave a comment.  Note:  There are a maximum of two entries per person.  The giveaway ends on Thursday, September 1st and the winners will be contacted by email on Friday, September 2nd.

Good luck!

Looking to Leave Your Cartel?

The Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Recently I read “At the Devil’s Table” by William C. Rempel.  This is a terrific non-fiction book that reads like a novel.  Rempel’s book tells the story of Jorge Salcedo, an engineer, who is recruited by the godfathers of the Cali Cartel to oversee operations to take out Pablo Escobar.  Salcedo agrees to help the Cali Cartel in the belief that he is doing his country a service.  It is not too long before Salcedo has gotten himself into something he may not be equipped to handle.  He wants to leave his “employers,” but there is only one way to leave your job with a cartel.  That’s right…dead, not alive.

Salcedo provides security for the cartel and this provides the one way he might be able to get out —by helping U.S. Federal agents capture the godfathers.  The story of Jorge Salcedo’s deception is fraught with close calls, tension in conversations with godfathers, and periously dangerous situations for all those involved (even his and other cartel member’s families). 

One other tidbit for my readers: I became very interested in cartels and their opertations and wondered how similar the Mexican cartels were in their operations.  I found some great information in a CRS Report for Congress.  This is one of the great benefits of reading of all kinds, it leads you to explore a subject further.  The internet has become a great tool for actually viewing the locales you are reading about or seeking more information.  Take a look at the CRS report – it is much more interesting that you might think!

Back to Rempel’s book – this is a great summertime read.  It gives insight into Columbia in the 1990’s, the Medellin Cartel, the Cali Cartel and the corruption these organizations spawned in the South American country of Columbia.  An insider’s view of a world I hope never to experience first hand!

Book Details:  Published by Random House (June 21, 2011), 368 pages, ISBN:  1400068371.