Art Transends

5144kpzedal._sy400_.jpgI was disappointed in The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro. Having enjoyed Shapiro’s previous novel, I had high expectations for her latest book.

Set in modern times, the novel is about a young woman named Danielle who works at Christie’s auction house where she discovers paintings hidden on the back of completed works of art which have been submitted for authentication. The reader quickly discovers Danielle believes the paintings are long-lost works created by her aunt who disappeared during the Second World War while working for the WPA works project as an artist in New York. This is a mystery, which in my opinion, bounced back and forth in time so often that it caused me to lose interest in the story.

I saw it through to the end, but it was tough. I have read so many books about the World War II era that it is difficult for me not to compare them. I wish I had been able to enjoy this book much more than I did.

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I Want

41ks7ryjl3l._sy400_.jpgHenderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow was published in 1959 and is another of the Top 150 Novels of the 20th century.

Henderson is a wealthy American pig farmer in his mid-fifties who is discontented with life.  He is a burly, brusque character whose inner voice repeatedly chants “I want …” He is physically strong and habitually acts before he considers the consequences – an impulsive man.

One day, he gets the notion to take a trip to Africa with a newly married couple. He soon realizes he’s a third wheel and takes off with a guide on a journey which will change his perspective on life forever.

This is a novel bathed in ancient knowledge and African beliefs. It is beautifully written.  It made me think of the unanswered questions whispering in my head. I enjoyed it immensely.

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I Spell My Name Danger

maltese-falcon-dvd-cover-art.jpgThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett has long been one of my favorite movies. The novel by the same name is one of the Top 150 Novels of the 20th century.

This book reads almost verbatim to the movie and I loved it!  There are a couple of differences which I noticed and found interesting. The first is that Sam Spade has an affair with Brigid O’Shaughnessy . The second is that Joel Cairo and the young thug Wilmer are apparently lovers as well. Given the era during which the movie was produced, it’s not surprising that these facts were kept from the theater-going public.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the well-known movie, I highly recommend both. They are classics.

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Oh Nicky

51qnfuib5rl._sy400_.jpgFor years, I have been a fan of The Thin Man movies which led me to the decision to read the original Thin Man book by Dashiell Hammett. As many of my readers know, I enjoy reading books which were eventually made into movies. In this instance, I was amazed at how vastly different the book was from the movie. Whoever adapted this novel for the film, I had a hard time believing it was the same story because so much of it was changed.

The main characters, Nick and Nora Charles, are younger in the book than portrayed in the film. Nick is very clever, funny, and quick-witted. I think Nora’s character was enlarged for the movie. In the book, their dog Asta is a female and her role is diminished in the book. The plot is much more involved in the novel and I wish more of the original story would have made it to the screen adaptation.

Still in all, I enjoyed the book. Hammett’s style is delightful and descriptive. His characters are just that – characters in every sense of the word! I had fun reading this book and believe you will too!

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Hard Knocks

9780812996722_custom-65eaf8f14b02c3425f43fe675a775b43893a4610-s300-c85.jpgThirteen Ways of Looking is a new short story collection by Colum McCann. Oh how I love the way this author has of expressing his thoughts on life.

The first story in the book it’s about a retired Jewish judge in his early eighties who is grappling with physical limitations brought on by age, the loneliness he feels for his deceased wife, and two grown children with whom he shares little connection. McCann writes about the last day of the judge’s life.

The second story is about a female marine in Afghanistan alone just prior to midnight on New Years Eve and her inner thoughts.

The third story is about a divorced mother raising her deaf, adopted son along the coast of Ireland. She wakes on Christmas morning to find her son and the wetsuit she gave him as a present missing.

The final story in the novella centers on an elderly nun who recognizes a face on the television screen. It is the face of a man who kidnapped and brutalized her many years prior. He is now acting as an agent of peace at a conference in London.

All of the stories are powerfully told and made me think and feel deeply emotional. McCann’s work never ceases to amaze me. Excellent!

Please visit the author’s website to read about a personal incident during which he went to the aid of a woman under attack and became a victim himself. colummccann.com

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Serendipity

71rt14ox3xl._sl1500_.jpgLove in Lower – Case by Francesc Miralles is a fictional novel written by an author who was born in Barcelona. It has been translated into 20 languages. After reading it, I understand why it is so popular.

As the story begins, we find the main character, a lonely young lecturer named Samuel, preparing to celebrate New Years Eve all alone in his apartment. Little does he know that his life is about to change by the entrance of a stray cat clawing at his door.

I really loved this book. As I read it, it reminded me of a time many years ago when my pet cat Starshine fell from my balcony on the third floor to the balcony below which led me to meeting my neighbor who eventually became the godmother to my daughter. What I will never figure out, is how that cat landed on the balcony below unscathed. I say this because the balcony of the apartment did not protrude from the building in any way. A cat jumping or falling from the balcony faced a straight drop to the ground far below. My friend and I joked that my cat introduced us.

There were other strange coincidences in the story which kind of blew my mind. David Bowie is mentioned and another character in the book has a name very similar to one of the characters in Harry Potter. It was not the character played by Alan Rickman, but brought his recent death to mind. Weird!

I digress… in addition to the strange connections to real life, the book is full of words of wisdom about life in general and the importance of being connected to other people. I just devoured it. I know this is a book I will reread and contemplate for years to come. It is wonderful!

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A Fish Out of Water

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lla-test-jc-books-this-week-20150923-055.jpgee is a recently released novel about a group of Americans living and working in Hong Kong. The story centers on several characters who are trying to familiarize themselves with a foreign country and new way of life.

The story is told through the eyes of a few women and shifts back and forth throughout the novel. Two of the women are married to men whose jobs transferred them overseas for indefinite periods of time. Margaret, is married and has three children. Hillary is married and childless. Mercy is single and the fly in the ointment of the story.

I was disappointed in this book. The main characters are unhappy for one reason or another, but I never felt much for any of them. Subsequently, I had a hard time sticking with the book. This is another one where I kept waiting for it to get better. From a writing perspective, my head kept telling me I might have felt a stronger connection with the characters if the story had been told in the first- person. All the time I was reading this book I felt disconnected. I just couldn’t put my finger on why. I think the story had potential, but it didn’t impress me in the way it was told.

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