August 26, 2010

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. 

Kostova''s masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

I really wanted to love The Swan Thieves as much as I loved The Historian but it just didn't capture my interest the way The Historian did.  Novels that incorporate art of any kind and art history usually fascinate me.  Some readers do not like a multitude of technical details and find they bog down the storyline, but for me I find they only enhance a story and make it more interesting. I thought The Swan Thieves would have such content for the size of the book but it really doesn't, though being lushly detailed its much more about the emotional journeys, obsessions and passions of the main characters in the story, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Unfortunately the mystery was not very suspenseful, more of a slow burn, darts of menace rather than a blaze of shocks.

Kostova's prose and development of plot and characters are first rate though. It was satisfying to read a novel where a lot of care is taken with the development of the characters, background events, description and dialogue.  On a side note this book had all sorts of interesting new words I have never encountered before like ecumenical and numinously. If you want to read a finely crafted novel, with intriguing characters, that you can immerse yourself in, and explores the darker human emotions of obsession, fear, entrapment, jealousy and deception, I would recommend The Swan Thieves.  If you are looking for an exciting, suspenseful read I would take a pass.

August 7, 2010

NPR Link Love - Nancy Pearl & Killer Thrillers

First of all if you have not heard of Nancy Pearl and you blog post book reviews you really need to check her out.  A long-time librarian, Nancy can be found doling out her book recommendations on NPR, in podcasts and in her own publications, as well as her website. She's wonderful to listen to and archives of her podcasts on various radio stations can be found at the iTunes of all they are free!!

What I really wanted to mention though was Nancy's most recent article at the NPR website on "Under the Radar Reads". There are some books on the list that are on my to acquire list, Under Heaven and Blood Harvest and from Nancy's recommendation I'm adding The Lotus Eater's to my list.

Another article on the NPR website caught my eye, "Top 100 Killer Thrillers".  Here are the Top 20.

1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson
4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. The Shining, by Stephen King
8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
9. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
12. The Stand, by Stephen King
13. The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver
14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
15. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown
16. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
18. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane
19. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
20. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

So I have read 1,2,3,6,11,13,14,15,16 and 17. Watched 1,2,3,4,6,9,10,11,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 in either movie or tv format. I also own 1,2,6,10,11,15 and 20 in book format.

So do you think Silence of the Lambs deserves to retain the number 1 spot or should it have been overtaken by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

NPR is a great organization. Check them out sometime. Happy Reading!

August 2, 2010

Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb

They were best friends, driven by one shared vision - to rule the world of virtual reality games. Cill, hard-edged and beautiful, Var and Benny, brains and business acumen, and Bart, the genius behind the idea. Their newest invention, developed to transport the player into a fantastical virtual world, is just about to be launched. Then, suddenly, Bart is found brutally killed, defeated by their own game. Their close-knit group is torn apart. Who could have engineered a virtual death with such devastating consequences? Even Eve Dallas, New York City's most cunning investigator, is hard-pressed for an answer. But as she digs deeper, peeling back layers of secrets, revenge and misplaced allegiances, she realises with growing dread the depth of the killer's master plan. And she knows his game is far from over...

In Fantasy in Death the majority the progression of the storyline seemed too staged for me and some of the dialogue too canned. Since the victim has his head cut off there was quite a few one liners about being beheaded, detached, etc., and these just seemed unnecessary filler and silly. The scant action and overabundance of discussion made the plot stutter a bit, but the last 75 pages or so made up for the slow start. A lot of the ideas on "holonetics" were pretty frosty, as Peabody would say, and I found this aspect and the theories of the science, fictional and otherwise, super interesting. Fantasy in Death did not really reveal anything new about Eve and Roarke's relationship, other than that they would rather die together than have one of them live on after the other's death. I would recommend Fantasy in Death to fans of the series and those who have interest in gaming systems.

Next up in the In Death series is Indulgence in Death, to be released in hardcover on November 2, 2010.

My Rating: 4.0


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