Tag: Rating: 2.5 stars

Review: Notre-Dame de Paris

Posted 7 July, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Notre-Dame de Paris
By: Victor Hugo
Format/Source: eBook; my copy

At the center of Hugo’s classic novel are three extraordinary characters caught in a web of fatal obsession. The grotesque hunchback Quasimodo, bell-ringer of Notre-Dame, owes his life to the austere archdeacon, Claude Frollo, who in turn is bound by a hopeless passion to the gypsy dancer Esmeralda. She, meanwhile, is bewitched by a handsome, empty-headed officer, but by an unthinking act of kindness wins Quasimodo’s selfless devotion. Behind the central figures moves a pageant of picturesque characters, including the underworld of beggars and petty criminals whose assault on the cathedral is one of the most spectacular set-pieces of Romantic literature.

Victor Hugo is one of those authors I’ve heard of and had been meaning to check out but never really gotten around to until now. Funny enough, I never got around to watching the Disney movie when it came out despite my love of history (one of my early loves) and despite the fact that I owned this book on how to make friendship bracelets featuring Disney’s Esmeralda, lol. But anyways, I was curious about the original story so I decided to read it.

(The review comes with pictures! =D I think I had more fun adding the photos for this one, lol)

This book is part of the Books on France Reading Challenge 2013 that I am participating in.

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Review: Crime of Privilege

Posted 14 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Crime of Privilege
By: Walter Walker
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Ballentine Books via NetGalley

A murder on Cape Cod. A rape in Palm Beach.

All they have in common is the presence of one of America’s most beloved and influential families. But nobody is asking questions. Not the police. Not the prosecutors. And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office. George has always lived at the edge of power. He wasn’t born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefitted from it in ways he doesn’t like to admit. Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy—and shows him what a perilous place it is.

Years have passed since a young woman was found brutally slain at an exclusive Cape Cod golf club, and no one has ever been charged. Cornered by the victim’s father, George can’t explain why certain leads were never explored—leads that point in the direction of a single family—and he agrees to look into it.

What begins as a search through the highly stratified layers of Cape Cod society, soon has George racing from Idaho to Hawaii, Costa Rica to France to New York City. But everywhere he goes he discovers people like himself: people with more secrets than answers, people haunted by a decision years past to trade silence for protection from life’s sharp edges. George finds his friends are not necessarily still friends and a spouse can be unfaithful in more ways than one. And despite threats at every turn, he is driven to reconstruct the victim’s last hours while searching not only for a killer but for his own redemption.

The premise of this novel caught my attention: crime and cover-ups involving a rich and influential family. I’m still on a streak of reading books that are a little more on the easy, suspense/mystery side since I have a number of tests coming up soon for my classes. I was fortunate to have been approved of a galley copy of this novel from NetGalley.

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Review: Trains and Lovers

Posted 5 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Trains and Lovers
By: Alexander McCall Smith
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publisher via GoodReads First Reads Programme

The rocking of the train car, the sound of its wheels on the rails…there’s something special about this form of travel that makes for easy conversation. Which is just what happens to the 4 strangers who meet in Trains and Lovers. As they travel by rail from Edinburgh to London, they entertain one another with tales of how trains have changed their lives. A young, keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a young woman co-worker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an 18th-century painting. An Australian woman shares how her parents fell in love and spent their life together running a railroad siding in the remote Australian Outback. A middle-aged American arts patron sees 2 young men saying goodbye in the station and recalls his youthful crush on another man. And a young Englishman describes how exiting his train at the wrong station allowed him to meet an intriguing woman whom he impulsively invited to dinner–and into his life.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via a GoodReads contest. I’ve heard of Alexander McCall Smith’s works but I’ve never read any of his stuff (though I’ve heard good things of his work). This is a standalone novel and the premise sounded interesting so I greatly looked forward to reading this novel. This book will be available on June 11.

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Review: The Glass Room

Posted 17 April, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Glass Room
By: Simon Mawer
Format: Paperback; my copy

Honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer are filled with the optimism and cultural vibrancy of central Europe of the 1920s when they meet modernist architect Rainer von Abt. He builds for them a home to embody their exuberant faith in the future, and the Landauer House becomes an instant masterpiece. Viktor and Liesel, a rich Jewish mogul married to a thoughtful, modern gentile, pour all of their hopes for their marriage and budding family into their stunning new home, filling it with children, friends, and a generation of artists and thinkers eager to abandon old-world European style in favor of the new and the avant-garde. But as life intervenes, their new home also brings out their most passionate desires and darkest secrets. As Viktor searches for a warmer, less challenging comfort in the arms of another woman, and Liesel turns to her wild, mischievous friend Hana for excitement, the marriage begins to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II. As Nazi troops enter the country, the family must leave their old life behind and attempt to escape to America before Viktor’s Jewish roots draw Nazi attention, and before the family itself dissolves.

As the Landauers struggle for survival abroad, their home slips from hand to hand, from Czech to Nazi to Soviet possession and finally back to the Czechoslovak state, with new inhabitants always falling under the fervent and unrelenting influence of the Glass Room. Its crystalline perfection exerts a gravitational pull on those who know it, inspiring them, freeing them, calling them back, until the Landauers themselves are finally drawn home to where their story began.

I mentioned it here and there but for the past few years I’ve been trying to keep track of the longlists and shortlists of some of the major book prizes. The 2009 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize seemed like an interesting year; I enjoyed reading Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (been meaning to re-read it) and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (commentary). The premise of this novel caught my attention so I decided to check it out. Contains some minor spoilers ahead!

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Review: The Prague Cemetery

Posted 6 February, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Prague Cemetery
By: Umberto Eco

19th-century Europe—from Turin to Prague to Paris—abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay one lone man? What if that evil genius created its most infamous document?

This is the second book I’ve read by Umberto Eco. I read The Name of the Rose a few years ago but have been meaning to re-read it; I don’t think I quite appreciated the depth and scope of the novel the first time around. Anyways, I picked up this novel because the premise sounded intriguing–the 19th century indeed was a period fraught with all sorts of upheavals and turnovers–and knowing now what to expect form an Eco novel, I was prepared to exercise a bit of brain power to understand the novel. Contains some spoilers ahead!

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