Book Review: The World Without Us by A. Weisman

Thanks to Dar, at An Exacting Life and her monthly round ups, I added The World Without Us to my reading list, and seeing it wasn’t already on loan from the library I picked it up almost straight away.

source: en.wikipedia.org
source: en.wikipedia.org

Before I lose any readers, this end of the world book isn’t about zombies, aliens or the like. It’s quite simply about the way the world would ‘survive’ without humans. It looks at what animals might take over, and which might become extinct without our nurturing – and also assesses what mega fauna existed in the past. Why did this megafuana die almost universally, but in some cases, survive in some small pockets?  How would soil, farms and forests regenerate?

The book explores how built environments would crumble – how the constant cooling and heating of the seasons, particularly in places where there’s snow and a thaw – cause havoc on concrete. I loved how it talked about the constant battle to keep the New York Subway from being flooded. This seems positively harmless in comparison to the thought of the 441 nuclear plants slowly shutting down, and with them, a radioactive, boiling hot sludge spilling outwards combined with releasing radioactivity into the air. That’s nothing to say about the storage of all the nuclear waste we have to date, which wouldn’t survive without constant maintenance on the structures that hold it, and the power to keep it cool.

I’m tempted to use superlatives with every sentence, such as ‘the scariest part’ or ‘the most worrying thing’ but in reality, so much of this book was alarming and enlightening. How about all the plastics? This book talked about the micro plastics inserted into shower gels, which, after exfoliating the user, are destined for waterways, and the mouths of small animals – something Beth Terry recently campaigned about. The statistics are harrowing. I’d started to think that my ‘recyclables’ and ‘compost’ were ok, and then this book comes out and says the newspapers don’t biodegrade away from air and water, proving the point by saying there’s a reason we have some 3,000 year old papyrus scrolls from Egypt, or perfectly readable newspapers from landfills dated in the 1930s.

It ends with details of how we could make the world sustainable, with the question on population (something Lois touched on yesterday after Jed Bush’s comments).  It suggested a world wide cap of one children per female (obviously we’re talking about humans here!) By 2100, the population would be at 1.6 billion.  It’s something that’s unlikely to be popular, but it’s interesting to think that with this simple step, we could return the world to the 19th century times, but with all the technological advancements.  We’d cherish every birth, even more so than today.  And we’d know that whilst sacrificing a bigger family unit, we’d be healing the earth gradually.  (That being said, I’m not sure I’d be ok with having an only child…)

I loved this book (it won out to the negotiation book, but I did also finish the very Australia centric Cheapskate book I mentioned last week).  It was eye opening to understand how great an impact we’ve already made on the world, and how long it would take for different things to return to a natural equilibrium.  I’d recommend you read this book if you’re at all environmentally minded, or like to think ‘what if’ in terms of the future of the world.  It’s incredibly well written, with a light touch whilst incorporating so much data and research.  This book, to me, is an example of how I’d enjoy all non fiction to be written 😉

Book Review: 1/4 Bible

So, I have three non fiction library books on the go at the moment –

  • The Yes Book: the art of better negoiation by Clive Rich, 
  • Debt free, cashed up and laughing: the cheapskates way to living the good life by Cath Armstrong and Lea-Anne Armstrong and finally 
  • The World without Us by Alan Weisman.  
Source: booktopia.com, wikipedia.ord & cliverich.com
Source: booktopia.com, wikipedia.ord & cliverich.com

I’m liking the multiple book method – the first was in my handbag, the second is my breakfast reading and the third is my favourite, I read before bed, and it’s also migrated into the handbag…  Anyhow, none of these are finished and ready for a review. So, what have I got for you today?  As some may recall, my 12 in 2 list included reading the bible.

This past Sunday 16 June, marked 1/4 way through this plan (which has a different ‘book’ for each day).  Why am I reading the bible?  Well, I’ve never read all the lesser known books, even though I know other stories so well, from years of religious schooling and Sunday school.  Even if you’re not a christian, it’s hard to deny that the bible is a part of popular literature, and a lot of cultural references are from the bible (or wrongly attributed to the bible).  I also felt the need to know what’s really said in passages that are regularly used in topical issues, like gay marriage, sex before marriage and many other contentious issues.

Let me assure you, it’s not all easy reading.  I struggled with all ‘someone begat someone’ and this tribe fought and killed all of that tribe/city.  That being said, the Psalms can be truly lovely.  Job is a great story, and I believe many people would identify with this back and forth struggle with God, and worthiness, and what they deserve.  I’ve started to list the interesting passages on the book marks I’ve created (one for each day), so that I can come back and know which were the parts I’d like to reread, or reference.  I was defaming the book with pencil underlining, but once the pencil went walkabout, I decided against a permanent scar in the bible :s (I’m sure librarians are in horror I even used pencil!)

Last night, whilst ‘catching up’ on Sunday’s reading, I found this:

And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head–it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

1 Corinthians 11: 5-6

Seems my bare, shaved headed ways in church might not have been ok! Oh well, lucky I didn’t know this passage :p  Thankfully, no one at church has been impolite enough to share this insight with me.

Defaced bible
Bookmarks showing, and some childish colouring in :p

I do however, think reading the actual bible is interesting, especially after reading A year of living biblically by A J Jacobs last year.  His experiment eventually summarised that it’s impossible in modern society to stone a man (though he tried), and maintain other more drastic passages of the bible.  And I think that’s the key – so many people quote passages of the bible as their reason in an argument, without tempering their biblical decision making with all the biblical activities that are now illegal or barbaric.  Simply speaking, everything that’s written in the bible can’t be taken 100% literally.

So, now for the remaining 39 weeks of reading!

Book Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

After abandoning a slow moving book, I was pleased to quickly get hooked on my latest book Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.  Set both in the modern day and a fairy tale time, which slowly becomes real (namely the second world war).

Ah I didn't notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image! source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155
Ah I didn’t notice the butterfly til I uploaded this image!
source: http://www.bookdepository.com/Winter-Garden-Kristin-Hannah/9780312663155

I love a great World War 2 story, but only European stories. The book I gave up on was about the second world war, but based in the US, and I just couldn’t get into it. I think I prefer the depths of despair and suffering the war inflicted on Europe (and it’s fictional storytellers like Kristin Hannah).

The book is set in an apple orchard in the US. (I’m sure it probably mentioned the state, but the information seems irrelevant to my memory.) It gets cold enough to snow, which draws parallels to the fairy tale world of the matriarch, Anya. Anya has two daughters, Nina and Meredith. Nina’s the photo journalist who’s forever in some remote corner capturing wars and poverty. Meredith has followed in her father’s footsteps, managing the apple business and bringing up her daughter Jillian and Maddy with her husband Jeff. The story starts with the patriarch’s death, where he urges his daughter Nina to connect with his cold and distant wife Anya, and asks Meredith to care for her mother.

Meredith takes the request to heart and works tirelessly to look after her mother, Anya, who seems to be losing her mind after a few interesting incidents the most common of which is sitting the Winter Garden in the cold snowy nights. Meredith works herself into the ground between maintaining her father’s orchard and caring for her mother. Suddenly, Nina returns from the far flung assignment in Africa and finds Meredith’s put their mother in a nursing home. Nina, being the impulsive child, discharges her mother and takes her back home to the orchard. Nina’s conviction lies in her promise to her dying father to make sure she hears the entirety of her mother’s fairy tale.

The childhood fairy tale enchanted Nina and Meredith as children, though they never heard the end of it.  One year, in an effort to attract the love and warmth they missed from their mother, the children acted a play of the fairy tale.  Their mother became further isolated, and Meredith vowed never to seek the love or affection of her mother.  Nina, being younger, felt the same, but committed to her father’s request, continues to ask for her mother to return to the fairy tale in adulthood.

Slowly the fairy tale shows signs of truth.  Of real places.  Of grandmothers who smoke – and who smokes in a fairy tale?  The sister slowly unravel the story from their mother, and in the process, discover the depth of suffering and pain their mother endured in a life long before them, and even their father.  This book captivated me – I read it in the short minutes whilst I waited between activities.  I was a little slack on reading and commenting on my favourite blogs, even though they are a little more time sensitive than a novel!  But it was well worth it – I now have a stronger desire to see Russia and I’m even thawing to the idea of going in winter.  Call me insane, right?  An aussie in a Russian winter? I don’t know what I’m in for!

Film Review: Identity Thief

**Firstly, thank you to all those new readers out there. I’m not sure how or where you came from, but you’re most welcome! Tuesdays are review day – usually books, but today a film**

Somehow, reviewing a film is far less academic that reviewing a book.  And then I picked a comedy… sigh.  Apologies – I just haven’t been getting into the latest book on my reading pile Unbroken by Laura Killenbrand (who also wrote Seabiscuit). I did get a little more read on Sunday night, but there’s no hope for a Tuesday review!

Sunday week ago, the BF and I went and saw Identity Thief.  I’m not widely known as a comedy movie fan, but for some reason, the premise of a female stealing a male’s identity just seemed, quirky!  And given the BF LOVES comedy, well I figured I should offer up the films I was willing to see before I became a negative Nelly, always nixing films that I absolutely positively would not see!

Identity Thief Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024432/
Identity Thief
Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024432/

Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) receives an innocuous sales call offering credit card fraud insurance from absolutely free.  Naive as he is, he hands over his identifying details to Melissa McCarthy, who then becomes none other than Sandy Patterson!  From here on in, I’ll use the actor’s names, otherwise, this will get totally confusing!  Jason only suspects something when a beauty salon in Florida calls to confirm his appointment.  Next, the police arrive at work… It just snowballs as one would expect.

Jason is unable to escape the ‘crimes’ of his double and is told that the laws (being across states etc) make it difficult and lengthy to resolve identity thefts.  However, if Jason was to bring Melissa back to Colorado  then everything could be tidied up, including Jason getting his job back.

Whilst this movie is a comedy with so many great lines and laugh out loud moments, it brushes past some interesting issues.  Melissa uses the money to buy friends, and happiness, however fleeting.  She had multiples of the SAME appliance (at least her taste stayed the same?)!  Consumerism, to her, seemed to be the solution. However, in true Hollywood style, Melissa finds a friend in Jason, and his family.  Everyone say ‘awww’ in unison now!  Sometimes, a little light hearted comedy is just what you need.

Interestingly, my aunt was a victim of identity theft a few years ago.  It seemed to me that the bank tried very hard to discourage her and her hopes of recovering the funds taken.  However, as my father is in banking he assured her that the bank had insurance for these events and she would not (in the end) be out of pocket, which proved to be correct.  The thieves were incredibly crafty – setting up Paypal accounts in my aunts name, selling non existent products on Ebay.  My aunt got some very interesting calls from buyers who never got their paid for products.  As a result, my aunt had to change and pay to un-list her number.  She also had to change her work email address, given it had been publicly listed and the disgruntled customers were able to find it and contact her.  I’m not sure how the theft occurred – but given my aunt lives in a high density building and area, it could have been as simple as mail being stolen from her letterbox.  It certainly makes you wonder…

Any film recommendations? I know I’d like to see Warm Bodies, and Trance.  Even Zero Dark Thirty (but perhaps not in a cinema, somewhere I can pause!) Perhaps Anna Karenina, but I feel I should read it first, but that might never happen. In any case, I think the BF might sit that one out! Or any brushes with identity theft?

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This book came onto my radar thanks to reading www.71toes.com  Actually, I think it might have also have been mentioned on another blog I read too, and so with that sort of serendipity, I added it to my reading list: A tree grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

source: www.colbypubliclibrary.org
source: www.colbypubliclibrary.org

Despite not really being a reprieve from the doom and gloom of my last few books(here, here and here), I did thoroughly enjoy this book. I’ll admit that I’m usually a little reticent to read ‘history’ books – I’m not great at adjusting my imagination to yesteryear, at least that’s what I thought. But I didn’t have any trouble reading, and enjoying this book set in the 1910s. The book, I believe, was meant to be an autobiography, but fears that it wouldn’t sell turned it into a character narrative.

The book focuses on the tween to teen years of the main character, Francie, and her life with her mother (Katie), father (Johnny) and brother Neeley. Evidently, all the other characters of the neighborhood and extended family are also woven in the narrative. Francie lives in Brooklyn in relative poverty – which was hard to grasp in some respects, as it’s hard to know what a penny then is worth in today’s money! But from the tales, it’s clear that anyone who collects trash in exchange for pennies is surely not living a prosperous life.

There are some delightful observations – of Aunt Sissy who changes after “adopting” a baby (after 10 stillbirths). Francie only seems to be able to establish that when you have a child you stop smelling so heavily perfumed?! There are some great quotes I want to share – some because they are topical to my life, but others for their sweetness. Here’s some of the ones I liked enough to write down:

‘She puzzled as to why learned people didn’t adopt chemistry as a religion’

On work/life balance
‘You work eight hours a day covering wires to earn money to buy food and to pay for a place to sleep so that you can keep living to come back and cover more wires. Some people are born and kept living just to come to this. Of course, some of these girls will marry, marry men who have the same kind of life. What will they gain? They’ll gain someone to hold conversations within the few hours at night between work and sleep’

And isn’t that all life seems sometimes?

On hairstyles (for those who read 6 reasons I shaved my head will understand why I added this!)
‘Why do you want short hair like a boy?
It would be easier to take car for.
Taking care of her hair should be a woman’s pleasure.

A woman’s hair is her mystery. Daytimes, it’s pinned up. But at night, alone, with her man, the pins come out and it hangs loose like a shining cape. It makes her a special secret woman for her man

When you’re eighteen you can shave your scalp for all I care

Overall, the book paints a wonderful portrait of living in the tenements in Brooklyn, and the naive life of a young lady, hoping to make more of herself than those before her. There’s a wonderful spirit to the book – of rejecting charity, and ensuring education of the two children to elevate them above the generations before them. I can understand why this book is still being read today!

Oh my – the innocence of youth (mine!) – this was turned into a film in 1945. Rest assured, if anyone had told me, or offered to let me see it, I would have said no – now that I’ve read this, I might open myself up to seeing the film adaption of this ‘olden days’ period.

Book Review: Grotesque

Tuesday has become (book) review day, it seems.  Although, if I slow down with the reading, or don’t complete a book in time, it may soon become a movie review post too – so I hope you’re happy to come along for the ride!  Oh, and I feel the need to preface this book review (and probably all I write!) with:  I’m HOPELESS with names.  I totally forget who is who, and most certainly what their name is.  Occasionally I read a whole passage of text and get totally perplexed who did what.  I’m not sure what’s missing in my brain, but hopefully it won’t make for a totally disjointed review!

For another review, follow the image linksource: winstonsdad.wordpress.com
For another review, follow the image link
source: winstonsdad.wordpress.com

Grotesque makes the third Japanese book I’ve read in the last few months.  It’s an unintentional theme – and next up is something homely and American, for a change.  Grotesque written by Natsuo Kirino, wasn’t all that grotesque.  But it certainly stirred up some memories of my competitive schooling!   The narrator leads the story – starting with the death of her sister and a school acquaintance, both who’ve graduated from a prestigious elite school to become prostitutes.  The book then deviates into separate sections, that outline the narrators upbringing, the journals of both the dead girls, and brings everything together from the various character’s perspectives.

I think the part that spoke most to me was the sections devoted to the schooling, and the hate between the narrator and her sister Yuriko. (Not that I have a sister, or hate my siblings).  I do relate to her desire to get into a school to escape the curse of her breathtakingly beautiful sister, and her malice when her academically challenged sister gains admission to the school, largely based on her looks.  The narrator also makes ‘friends’ (and I use them term loosely) with Kazue and Mitsuru.  Both relationships are fraught with competition, maliciousness, deception and plain meanness – extending beyond the school years.

The book is dripping in hatred.  Prostitution is a large theme, that perversely brings everything full circle at the end of the book – which surprised me, and perhaps it should have.  However, the story did seem to get more and more desperate as it unfolded (not the writing, but the character Kazue’s life in the second last chapter).  It was a well written, cleverly developed story.  Interestingly, it’s a ‘crime’ book, but not at all like other crime books – I can hardly recall if police were ever involved.  The court scenes are minimal, and a lot more time is dedicated to the context of the crimes.  Overall, it was an engrossing, heavy and perverse book – all in the best ways – it really did lower you into the depravity of prostitution!

However, next up, give me some lightness and joy in a book, please! I look forward to something a little brighter next! (I’ve started on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and I’m about half way through, so I should be ready with a new review next Tuesday!)

Goals Updates – March

To see the start of this series, click here, and then there’s Jan Update and Feb Update.  My weeks are based on Monday through to Sunday.  But where a week ends mid week, I do funny things as you’ll see below!

Financial

$20k target by 22 Dec – on target with planned contribution of $165 per week.

Last month: $12,130
This month: $12,950 *Despite borrowing from this for my ‘generosity’ target, I’m still on track for my $20k goal :D*

Generosity target of $100 p/w – 100%+ achieved

Last week of Feb: additional $20 (+ 9hrs volunteering)
week 1 – $25 to church +$100 petrol in someone’s car, $50 for beer (which I don’t drink) <- this last one might be a stretch!
week 2 – $70 to church (+1hr volunteering)
week 3 – $20 to church + $10 for sympathy flowers + $465 to a friend in need (this was calculated to get me to a complete $100 in this month and the last)
week 4 – $20 to church + $70 gift

Exceeding my planned per week goal, for the year. Having a set ‘amount’ per week makes me less resentful than I used to be. So whilst it might seem perverse to track my generosity, it IS helping me to feel and BE more generous, and that’s exactly what I wanted!

Health

Cook at home twice a week: I’ve started tracking the spend on my part for meals out – some I’m paid for, others I pay for both/all

Last week of Feb- ?? (Thu)
?? (Fri)
Steak and Mash at BF’s (Sat)
Mac/tuna/cheese with Roast Vegies (Sun)

Tuna bake mmmmsource: taste.com.au
Tuna bake mmmm
source: taste.com.au

week 1 –
leftovers (mac&cheese) (Mon),
Thai out$10 (Tue),
Sushi out – thank you dinner $0 & beef curry made(Wed),
Pizza out $50 (Thu)
Mexican out $20 (Fri),
Pub food $0 (Sat), KFC $18 (Sun)

week 2 –
leftovers (curry) (Mon),
Dinner at parents (Tue),
Beef, bacon and egg pies (Wed),
Omlette’s at BF’s (Thu)
Mexican pub food $15 (Fri)
Pizza at BF’s (Sat)
Indian out with parents $0 (Sun)

week 3 –

Tuna pasta bake (with GF substitutions for me!) (Mon)
Dinner out at a South American resturant $45 (Tue)
Cheesy garlic pizza (Wed)
Chorizo & Leek risotto (Thu)
Brazilian BBQ out (Fri)
Homemade pizzas (store bought bases!) (Sat)
Sausages at a friends (Sun)

**both weekend days, I had lunch out – French 3 course for a Hen’s on Sat ($36) and with a friend from out of town on Sun ($20)**

week 4 –
Udon noodles (Mon)
Chinese out – it’s my bf’s fave place/dish and we’ve not been there since Jan, so I figured it was a good dinner before his week away (Tue)
Birthday dinner for brother at my parents (Wed)
Udon noodles (Thu)
Leek & Chicken Terrain and focaccia (Fri)
Leek & Potato bake (Sat)
Vietnamese noodles with prawns (Sun)

Sugar – I haven’t been ideal for lent. I’ve broken lent for multi course (prepaid) dinners, twice. And nibbled some brownies I made for Easter. And a Caramello Koala passed my lips in a bought of cramps and general frustration with the world. At least each slip up, I was mindful of why I had recommitted to no sugar (Lent) and that’s at least part of the purpose.

Train for polo – 0% on water polo, but encouraging on the exercise front.  So let’s say… 40% achieved. Sigh – no, I decided a house guest got me off the hook, even though she ended up having the night out with another friend. So that’s a no for the first week.  And now the season is over, maybe I should adjust this goal for gym sessions? Given I want to run a half marathon, as part of my 12 in 2 goals, I should really start being accountable to y’all (and myself) with how I’m going!  I did play polo the Sunday of Week 1, then a gym session Mon, Tue and Thu – cardio and weights.  From then on, I’ve been training for my half marathon goals, with a run every second day – which I blogged about last Friday

Cultural

– 2 films a month – 100% achieved

Side effects – great movie, though not the pick me up I was hoping for, seeing it was a lot about depression. That being said, it was cleverly written.

One sure fire way to lighten my life is to see a movie, so on Sunday I wedged in a movie between church and seeing my parents. I saw Goddess which is an Australian musical. Let me say, I HATE musicals, but i LOVED this film. It’s very modern, and hilarious to boot. And Ronan Keating taking off his shirt once or twice wasn’t too shabby either. The story is based around the wife, and her frustration at being at home with 2.5 year old twins, so she starts a web cam to keep in contact with her husband (Ronan Keating) whose in Antarctica. Except he never signs on, but the rest of the world gets in on the action! It was a great feel good movie, and just what the doctor ordered!

– 2 books a month – 50% achieved

I started with The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey, and I have a review should you be interested. Thanks to The Exacting Life, and her comments on the last few books I read, I picked up Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto from the library, and reviewed it here. Actually I picked it to read next as it’s slim, so I knew I could get it finished by month’s end. Review is here I’ve also started on another Japanese book – seems to be an (unintentional) theme – called Grotesque.  Reminding me far too much about cliques and exclusion and cruelty in high school!

Social

Somehow this missed Jan, Feb and mid Mar.  Opps!

Call/connect with an out of town friend – well a friend from Brisbane was in Sydney, so we had lunch.  But I think this is a cheating ‘win’ on this goal – that involved next to no initiative on my part 🙁

Career

– Certification – 400% achieved! OK maybe 200% achieved as I haven’t made them all perfect. I added one further episode, so I have only three outstanding.  The last three are pretty tricky, so I might need to meet with my colleagues who are also doing the certification and get some inspiration.  Then I need to improve the 13 episodes I’ve already written, getting them to at least 500 words, and ensuring they are as good as they can be.

Looking for next role Also something I’ve left off on past months.  I’m happy to report that at a water polo BBQ fundraiser, I discovered one of the parents works for a company that supplies materials to my company.  So I spoke at length to him about opportunities at his company.  He’s already sent me the monthly job list, but the only suitable one needed 15 years experience.  So this parent has decided I should meet an engineer in his company and speak to him about what I might be interested in there.  The ‘talk’ shall happen on 5th April.  I’m not 100% sure this company will get me my ‘ultimate’ career, but I’m not accepting a job there just yet, so it’s well worth investigating a little further.

Happy Easter/Passover to everyone! Looking forward to other goals updates out there – can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through the year!

Book Review: Kitchen

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto was recommended by my blogger friend Dar, after I read another Japanese book recently: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Kitchen by Banana yoshimoto
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

The book is written with two stories – the longer ‘Kitchen’ and then ‘Moonlight shadow’.  The stories are similar in themes and feeling, but don’t share characters.  The themes of death and grieving are pervasive, but it’s interspersed with healing and growth.

Kitchen focuses on a university aged girl, Mikage, becoming an orphan, after her grandmother passes away. (The story’s name of the story comes from Mikage’s peace and love of kitchens – spending the first days of grieving sleeping by the refrigerator) Another family takes her in, a transvestite ‘entertainer’ Eriko and his/her son Yuichi.  As the story unfolds,  Eriko dies in a perverse attack at work, and Yuichi starts to experience the same grief as Mikage had when she’d been living with them.

The second episode is about a young woman, whose name escapes me (like most characters’ and I can’t find now!).  She’s suffereing the grief after her boyfriend, Hirage, dies in a freak accident.  In the accident, Hirage’s brother girlfriend also dies. Both the main character, and Hirage’s brother continue to see one another, and explore their grief in differeing ways – either running or cross dressing.

It’s a short book, and relatively easy ready, with some challenging themes.  It was published in 1988 (I would have been 3!), but I wonder where the world was with concepts like transexuality and cross dressing that this book touched on?

Book Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey may or may not have been the book recommended by a friend on Facebook.  The small issue of the author was unknown, but I took the gamble nonetheless.

Source: http://cityofhidalgo.net/hidalgoweb/the-blade-itself
Source: http://cityofhidalgo.net/hidalgoweb/the-blade-itself

Danny, an Irish American living in Chicago, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, with his mate Evan.  In their late teens, they commit a robbery of a pawn shop.  Danny sees a chance to slip away, after Evan turns violent and severely injures two people.  The book opens with this crime, and then fast forwards seven years.  Danny’s still with Karen, but he’s now straight and in the building trade.  Evan has been granted early release (due to prison overcrowding).  You can almost guess what’ll happen next.  Evan’s spent seven years stewing on the fact that he served time and his mate walked free.  Evan, of course, did not implicate his mate in the crime all those years ago, but now the time to settle the score…

Danny, naturally, wants nothing of his old life, now that he’s happily in love, and earning a great living in construction.  But as Evan starts to threaten Karen, there’s no alternative for Danny but to join Evan ‘one last time’.  The plot is tightly written, and carefully sets itself up for the final scene.  Every character serves a purpose to enhance the story.  I thoroughly enjoyed this easy read, and will be looking to see what other things Sakey has published.

Book Review: Leon and Louise

source: www.manningvalleybooks.com.au
source: www.manningvalleybooks.com.au

My mother, bless her heart, sent this book (Leon and Louise) to me from France where she was living last year.  She knows I love a good book about the war, and so this one suited.  Oh, and whilst the book is set in France, and my mother was in France, it is, in fact, in English!

The story centers around two young lovers – who coincidentally meet at the beginning of the war.  Leon is sent to a far off town to be the Morse code expert (which he is not… but picks up quickly with lots of practice on the job, and some magazines!), Louise cycles past him and is absolutely mesmerizing.  The book moves between ‘then’ and ‘now’, and times in between, and it’s clear that despite the early chemistry of Leon and Louise (and the book’s title), that they are not in fact together.  It was an enjoyable book, and like most books, makes me think about ‘what if’ I was one of the characters.  What if the love of my life disappeared without a trace?  Would I keep looking? Would I move on? (Would I continue to be sure they were in fact the love of my life?).  I’m not usually into romance, and I suppose this is what this book is simply about, but it does delve into the dynamics of family and war and separation  and I truly do find that fascinating and inspiring.

Nest us – The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey – I’m well into it, but probably another week til a review is better (less taxing on the memory – it was a while since early Feb when I read Leon and Louise!)