pastself: (Default)

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
Rating: 2/5
Pages: 192
Rec for people who love: Fishing... fishing... oh, and very strange narratives.

Harry Morgan was hard, the classic Hemingway hero, rum-running, gun-running and man-running from Cuba to the Florida Keys in the depression. He ran risks, too, from stray coastguard bullets and sudden double-crosses. But it was the only way he could keep his boat, keep his independence, and keep his belly full. "This active, passionate life on the verge of the tropics is perfect material for the Hemingway style, and the reader carries away from the book a sense of freshness and exhilaration; trade winds, southern cities and warm seas all admirably described by the instrument of precision with which he writes." - "New Statesman"

pastself: (Going to Hell)

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
Rating: 2/5
Pages: 334
Rec for people who love: Crazy, low-class, old englishmen with accents that make Shakespeare roll in his grave. Little-to-no character development. Raging desires to pick up any other book.

Jay Mackintosh, once a literary star, is stalled. He spends his time writing second rate science fiction, leading a hollow media life and drinking: "Not to forget, but to remember, to open up the past and find himself there again." Nice, expensive wines don't do the trick, it's the six "Specials", a gift from Joe, an old friend, that are the magical elixir. Just like Proust's lime blossom tea, they give him the gift of his memories but also unlock his future; Jay escapes the rut of his London life and buys a house in Lansquenet. -

pastself: (QAF - Brian/Justin)

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez
Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 188
Rec for people who love: Character insight, europe, magic, and unforgettable-yet-easy reads.

The Nobel prize-winning author Garcia Marquez has collected a dozen of his stories about Latin Americans in Europe, most of which, although magical, end on an unsettling note. Thus, an expatriate ex-president is recognized by an ambulance driver bent on exploitation; a man travels from Colombia to Rome with a cello case to see the pope; a woman with car trouble finds herself trapped in a mental institution; a prostitute plans her funeral. The plots are simple, but the character study and use of language is incisive. -

pastself: (Default)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 512
Rec for people who love: Barcelona, reading about books, mystery, film noir

Ruiz Zafón's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue à la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide.

Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.



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May 2012

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