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Showing posts from November, 2010

Review: Cosmic

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One can identify the intended audience for a movie or book by the gas jokes: hamster gas jokes are written for children, and a "dart" gun that emits a noxious gas (but never uses the rhyming word) was intended for a general audience.

Cosmic follows the same logic.  Rather than play to the lowest common denominator, Frank Cottrell Boyce takes the game up a notch with a boy on the cusp of adulthood who tries to understand the baffling world of dads.

Liam is tall for his age and has started to sprout wisps on his chin, so he often is mistaken for an adult.  Worse yet, he can pass as the father of his contemporary, Florida.  This is a nice problem for a 12-year-old to have when he wants to ride the Cosmic rollercoaster or sit in a Porche — but not as good when the car salesman tosses the conscientious pre-teen a set of keys to said luxury car.  Liam doesn't quite understand how the adult world works, but so far it has proven to work to his advantage from time to time.

Teens …

Review: The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise

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Imagine living in the Tower of London as a Beefeater, a member of the military who has overseen the Tower for centuries.  You'd think it would be exotic and exciting, wouldn't you?

So, I imagine, did Balthazar and Hebe.  
However, what they got was much different than they expected.  (It always is.)
In The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise, author Julia Stuart creates a unique world in which these two people live, with their hurt and anguish, their hopes and dreams — and a tortoise that saw the reign of Queen Victoria.
First of all, do not read the book jacket.  Don't remove it because the illustration is just fun and lovely to see every time you pick up the book.  However, resist the urge to see what the publisher wants you to see on the inside flaps: it will spoil some of the fun.
The best part of the novel isn't the story, which is absolutely incredible, intense, surprising and entertaining.  For me, it was spending time with Balthazar and Hebe — not to mention Amanda an…

On Veterans Day, Looking at War in Fiction

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Fiction is ripe with conflict and war, and I've read a few volumes that can attest to that on this Veterans Day.

Ian McEwan's controversial, excellent novel Atonement captures the before and after of war, of tragedy, of irrevocable words.  Briony is a blossoming writer on the cusp of womanhood in the years before England joined World War II.  One stifling summer day, she witnesses private scenes misinterpreted through her youthful filter and comes to a disastrous conclusion.  We see the war through the eyes of a foot soldier on the way to Dunkirk through the French countryside and through the eyes of a student nurse in a London hospital.  It's been named "the book most likely to be thrown across the room," so be prepared.

In Blackout and All Clear, Connie Willis shows the heroes of WWII were not just the ones on the front.  In this two-part novel, Professor Dunworthy sends his Oxford historians to Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Dunkirk and London to confirm the informati…

Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

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Audrey Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, left me feeling very disconcerted, betrayed, sad and hopeful.

As the story opens, Elspeth dies, leaving behind Edie, a twin she hasn't seen in two decades, and Edie's children: Julia and Valentina, identical twins who actually are mirror images of each other.  Julia and Valentina are the main beneficiaries in Elspeth's will and can receive their inheritance when they turn 21 (which is months after the aunt's death).  However, for them to receive their inheritance, they must move to London and live in their aunt's flat for one year — and never let their parents step into the home.  After a year, they may do what they want with the flat, and the rest of the inheritance is theirs.

Elspeth also leaves behind a bereaved boyfriend, who was about a decade younger than his lover.  Robert is writing his dissertation about Highgate Cemetery, a Victorian cemetery with a rich history.  He purchased the flat below El…

Review: One Day

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A day in the life is not a new concept, and I was skeptical that David Nicholls could create anything more than the one-trick pony the concept had become.  However, Nicholls gave it dimension and a sweetness, then loaded it with a few surprises and make it wholly original.

Emma and Dexter meet on graduation day in college.  Despite the setting, they are not lovers, but possibly can develop into friends.  However, it won't be easy: he's planning to take a year or two to travel, she's going to do something with her English studies (though exactly what has yet to be determined).  It's 1988 in the UK, and these two are about to launch their lives in totally different directions.

Nicholls doesn't take the safe route, even if he uses tools familiar to most readers.  Em and Dex weave through each other's lives in a myriad of ways and surrounded by a wide array of people.  Nicholls does not pass judgement on these two: they simply find themselves in situations that are…