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RCM "beckahi" (Chicago)

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In the Castle of the Flynns
In the Castle of the Flynns
by Michael Raleigh
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Of Lost Time, July 19 2004
"In the Castle of the Flynns" is a novel that deals with the life-shattering changes a young orphan must adjust to after the death of his parents. When Daniel Dorsey's parents are killed in a car crash, he is taken in by his grandparents and raised by them along with various aunts and uncles, his whole extended Irish immigrant family. The story is set in Chicago during the 1950s, a time when innocence was on the cusp of being lost in an ever-changing city.
Michael Raleigh paints a vivid picture of young Danny's life. At age seven, he is an intrepid narrator, eagerly questioning everyone about life. At the same time, however, he is also suffering from losing his parents and his fears that all those whom he loves will be taken away from him as well. During these times the reader recognizes the adult voice in Danny - his childlike perceptions of the adults who populate his world are spiced with the wisdom only age can bring.
"In the Castle of the Flynns" is a well-written novel, that often reads as a collection of vignettes involving the Flynns and the Dorseys. Raleigh's characters are realistically voiced and believable. The reader is immediately wrapped up in the happenings of this eclectic Irish-Catholic family who never lose sight of what young Danny needs. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others bittersweet with sentiment, "In the Castle of the Flynns" is a thoroughly enjoyable read about the bonds of love and family.

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
by Stanley Weintraub
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.63
79 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Quiet Episode in War, July 14 2004
Throughout the history of war, numerous myths have arisen to tell tales of the daring exploits that our men in uniform perform. Many of these myths are exactly that - they are exaggerated, convulted stories of possible happenings. It is remarkable that one of those stories, which is almost too improbable to be real, actually occurred; and that is what Stanley Weintruab recounts in "Silent Night".
"Silent Night" is the exploration of the Christmas Truce of WWI, which occurred in December 1914. On both sides of the fighting, soldiers called for an uneasy truce in order to celebrate Christmas. It was time for celebration, not for fighting; not to mention the fact that the war had reached a terrible stalemate along the Western front, and no real progress was being made. During those few glorious Christmas days, soldiers on each side participated in gift exchanges, games of football and the clearing of "No Man's Land" so that they could bury the bodies of their fallen comrades.
Weintraub weaves the tale of the 1914 Christmas truce with eye-witness accounts from soldiers, and supplements it with pictures and drawings that prove it actually happened. Sometimes his storytelling fluctuates too much; numerous accounts are given and it can be confusing as to the time frame and setting in regards to the whole picture. At the end of his portrayal of this remarkable event, Weintraub offers up a "What if..." chapter - while this may seem irrelevant due to the facts of WWI, it is always a question that will remain in our minds. Weintraub offers some startling possibilities and does justice to a truth of mythic proportions.

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.94
51 used & new from CDN$ 12.08

5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Classic, July 10 2004
This review is from: The Catcher in the Rye (Hardcover)
"The Catcher in the Rye" is such a flagship book of American literature that even without reading the book, one must be familiar with the plight of Holden Caulfield. Any book/story/movie that deals with teenagers' coming-of-age angst has undoubtedly been influenced by Salinger's dual portrayl of the troubled Holden, at once insanely immature; at the other, wise beyond his years.
"The Catcher in the Rye" gives us a weekend in the life of its main character, a troubled sixteen-year-old who has just been thrown out of another school for failing all subjects, except English because he is a master at writing compositions. He also credits himself to be a master at lying and always finds himself spinning wonderfully impossible yarns to strangers. Holden is disaffected and somewhat emotionally withdrawn. Through his flashbacks to the past, we learn about the death of his brother Allie and his experiences at other schools. Allie's death has affected him more than even Holden realizes and he finds himself unable to connect to anything or anyone permanently. And when he finds himself kicked out of school again, he fears having to confront his parents at home so he goes on a whirlwind trip to New York City, which only enhances his feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Salinger has created a prototype character with Holden Caulfield. He is witty and wise, but at the same time foolishly naive and over-sensitive. Yet his insights into the adult world and the phonie ways that people behave are bitterly correct. Holden knows at once what he doesn't want to do or be, but couldn't tell you what he wants to do. And when he realizes what that is, it truly is one of the most eloquently written pieces of dialogue in American literature.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident - Book #2
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident - Book #2
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Paperback
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Double, Double Fowl and Trouble, July 10 2004
I read the first book in the Artemis Fowl series last summer and sometimes wonder why it took me so long to read the second installment. Through the very first pages of "The Arctic Incident" I was instantly transported into Colfer's imaginative world, and underworld, peopled with fairies, goblins, and an evil boy genius, who seems to have matured. I was pleased to discover that the second book lived up to the impression that the first one made.
"The Arctic Incident" begins with a look at the young Artemis Fowl stuck in a dreadful boarding school, "killing off" counselor after counselor that tries to asses what is wrong with him. Meanwhile, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon police force has to deal with a smuggling problem that involves humans and the intelligence-challenged goblins. Believing Artemis to be the culprit, she kidnaps him and his mountain of a bodyguard Butler, to little avail. They are not the suppliers but they make a deal with Holly. They will help her discover who the smugglers are if she will help Artemis find his father, who is being held hostage in the Arctic Circle. Holly is not looking forward to helping Artemis after their encounter in Book One, but she has no other choice. Their journey to fulfill both of their missions is filled with tension and humor and further explores the inner-workings of these two fascinating characters.
Colfer has created an imaginative world that is peopled with rich and vivid characters, and witty asides to the reader. Artemis is a boy genius trying to surpress his evil ways in order to find his father and turn over a new leaf; his struggle is that of any teenager's angst. But the best characters are those who inhabit the lower elements; Foaly the centaur, Captain Short, Commander Root, and best of all, the returning Mulch Diggums, the thief dwarf. And while the Artemis Fowl books may be labeled as children's books, you don't have to be a child to enjoy the wry humor that Colfer dishes out.

Mozart: A Life
Mozart: A Life
by Maynard Solomon
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 8.35

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Mozart, July 4 2004
This review is from: Mozart: A Life (Hardcover)
I was looking forward to reading Maynard Solomon's biography of Mozart, since I've wanted to know more about him, especially after reading and seeing "Amadeus". I know Shaffer's play is largely based on speculation, and I wanted some facts. Since this biography was generally well reviewed and praised, I believed I would be of the same opinion. However, Solomon has taken perhaps the most outrageous character of classical music and placed him in the most tame and boring of tales.
Solomon's biography is thoroughly researched. He is profoundly adept at analyzing Mozart's music and the various shifts as the composer searches for his own unique style. Even if you are not familiar with the pieces mentioned, you can still recognize the genius of the notes on the page, provided for you. And even his analyses of Mozart's character, although mere speculation, are well-written and thought-provoking.
However, Solomon spends too much time on the seemingly insignificant. Yes, Mozart's relationship with his father is important in the course of Mozart's development, but do we really need the speculation as to what Leopold Mozart "may have earned" on their musical travels? Too often Solomon's research reads like a laundry list of gifts, events, and musical compositions. The reader hardly knows what to make of Mozart by the end of this biography; since Solomon himself never presents this mythic character in a clear light. Upon finishing, I felt I had learned more about Mozart's father than I had about the composer himself. In wanting to give us the entire "life" story of Mozart, he ironically gives us a biography that is lacking exactly that - life.

I Do. I Did. Now What?!: Life After the Wedding Dress
I Do. I Did. Now What?!: Life After the Wedding Dress
by Jenny Lee
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars not for all brides (or wives), June 29 2004
I was recently given this book as a gift at a wedding shower. As a bride-to-be I thought it might be fun to take a spin on the humorous side of post-wedding life, i.e. what happens after the honeymoon is over. Jenny Lee claims that no one ever told her what life was like after the wedding and so she set out to write a book to right the wrong she felt. "I Do. I Did. Now What?!" is at times funny; at other times the reader feels like the eavesdropper of a dirty-laundry airing session.
Lee sets out by telling the history of her relationship with her husband and fills her memoirs with both humorous and bland anecdotes. Several of these are ones that readers can relate to - coping with the adjustments of living with another person and their not-so-neat habits. And the book does have several chuckle moments. Yet perhaps because I've never been the stereotypical girl who loves to shop and loves shoes above all else, I found Lee's "humor" sometimes ingratiating. And that also means that this book isn't a "one size fits all"; not all women are like what is portrayed in Lee's writing.
"I Do. I Did. Now What?!" is a quick, sometimes witty read, something like a memoir in the chick-lit genre. Yet in spite of her dedication to her husband, I found myself feeling sorry for him sometimes. In several of her anecdotes she mentions how her husband takes her and all that she does for him for granted. I doubt she realizes that her husband must also be a saint in order to put up with some of her habits and idiosyncracies that grated on my nerves just reading about them. There's no new, big stand-out advice that hasn't been said at one time or another; yet Jenny Lee sometimes manages to make the old somewhat entertaining.

A Modern Mephistopheles
A Modern Mephistopheles
by Louisa May Alcott
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.00
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Hardly Devilish at All, June 22 2004
"A Modern Mephistopheles" is supposedly meant to be shocking and harrowing. One reason, because it was written by Louisa May Alcott, best known for docile moral tales such as "Little Women". One other reason, is because it contains descriptions of drug use and nefarious affairs. Yet there is little shocking about "A Modern Mephistopheles" except for how disappointing it truly is.
I was intrigued by this novel through the desciption given on the back. It seemed to be, and is, a departure from what we've known from Alcott. It is a tale of a failed poet Felix Canaris, who mysteriously takes up with Jasper Helwyze (nice play on a name) and is a "modern" mephistopheles because the poet has made a deal with the "devil". Canaris eventually marries and Helwyze even has control over his wife. In the end they want to escape his clutches, but it may be too late for them to be saved.
"A Modern Mephistopheles" is a poorly written update of "Faust" in disguise as a mysterious and shocking thriller. The characters are poorly written and developed. One never feels any connection with the four main characters; that of the two men and the ladies who inhabit their world. Helwyze never seems devilish enough even if he "ruins" the life of Canaris and his wife Gladys. It is filled with quotes from various sources (that are never given) that don't allow Alcott's story to speak for itself. Perhaps the reason that it can't speak for itself is because it is trying to hard to be "Faust"; since the main characters directly refer to this masterpiece several times. One is much better off reading the original than settling for this less-than-second-best remake.

Poet And The Murderer
Poet And The Murderer
by Simon Worrall
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.33

5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Forgery, June 13 2004
This review is from: Poet And The Murderer (Hardcover)
Even though I am not an admirer of Emily Dickinson's poetry, the premise of this book intrigued me enough to purchase it. "The Poet and the Murderer" sets out to tell the life story of Mark Hoffman, a master forger, who fooled top authorities and key members of the Mormon church hierarchy. Simon Worrall begins this tale in Amherst, Massachusettes, Dickinson's hometown, where a library raises money to buy a newly discovered poem by Emily Dickinson. Little did they know that the poem was a forgery by a man already in prison.
Worrall then spins the narrative of Mark Hoffman's life. Raised in the Mormon faith that is steeped in secrecy and mystery, Hoffman early on becomes a sceptic of the Mormon foundations. He grows to hate the Mormon church and sets out to create a series of documents that undermine some of the key principles and teachings of the Mormon faith. He wants to expose Joseph Smith as the con-artist Hoffman believed him to be. And since the Mormons are so secretive, he knows that his forgeries will be bought to ensure silence that could make the church look back.
Worrall goes into an abundance of detail regarding the art of forgery, detailing how it was possible for Hoffman to create these new documents that looked like they were from the correct time period. If Hoffman can fool even the most celebrated forensic experts, who wouldn't believe him? But as the tales and lies that Mark Hoffman weaves become bigger and broader, so do his debts, and he finally resorts to murder, which lands him in jail for life.
Perhaps the title of this book is mere titilation, because there is little material regarding the life of Emily Dickinson herself. Yet Worrall does point out some consistencies in character that may have drawn Hoffman to attempt to create a work of poetry that Emily herself may have written in her secretive seclusion. "The Poet and the Murderer" is well-written and relatively fast-paced. It makes one wonder if what one actually believes to be authentic can ever be proven to be so.

The Oath: A Novel
The Oath: A Novel
by Elie Wiesel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.11
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.36

5.0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Testimony, June 10 2004
This review is from: The Oath: A Novel (Paperback)
"The Oath" sets out to tell the story of the town of Kolvillag, a Jewish community that no longer exists and no one remembers. Exactly what hapened in that town has been repressed and kept a secret by any of those who survived. They will be cursed if they talk about the fateful events that happened in Kolvillag. Yet there is one survivor, Azriel, who finds that he must tell this story, even if it goes against the oath.
Wiesel's story unfolds in the very beginning, as a dialogue of sorts between Azriel and a young man who is ready to take his own life. This "dialogue" is somewhat confusing at first, as the reader is not sure whom is speaking which lines. Azriel is affronted by this man's desire to take his life, an action that goes directly agains the Talmud and the Jewish faith, and he believes the story of Kolvillag may save this young man. He therefore tells the story of his master and mentor, Moshe, the madman of Kolvillag. In the 1920s, a Christian boy is found murdered and the Christians in the community begin to spread rumors, and then to believe these rumors, that the Jews are responsible. (The term Christian could easily fall into quotation marks since it only implies ethnicity, not action; for the actions of these men are hardly Christian.) In order to preserve and protect the Jews, Moshe decides to take the fall and admit to the murder of a young boy he has never met. He hopes that his action will appease those who oppose the Jews. How wrong he turns out to be. The Christians, hungry for blood, might not be satisfied with the blood of one; they might demand the blood of all.
Wiesel is a master storyteller, weaving his faith so artfully with his fiction that "The Oath" reads as a factual event. Perhaps it is because it describes the seemingly endless plight of Jews and the persecution they have endured for generations. The holocaust of Kolvillag is the precursor for the Holocaust of World War II. Wiesel's words are often profound and philosophical and are rooted deeply in faith and tradition. "The Oath" is an incredible story of the ties that bind us to our faith and traditions, and how hard it is to break those ties; it is even more incredible for the very possibility that Kolvillag (or a town just like it) actually existed at one time.

New Way to Be Human: A Provocative Look at What It Means to Follow Jesus
New Way to Be Human: A Provocative Look at What It Means to Follow Jesus
by Charlie Peacock
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars a new way through the old way, June 10 2004
My elder sister gave me this book recently, after having just seen Charlie Peacock give a reading from "New Way to be Human." Peacock sets out his beliefs for what it means to be a Christian, and truly follow Christ, in today's world. For so long, many people have argued that art can have no role in religion. Peacock argues otherwise, saying that our words and our works are connected, and that art is essential to faith. As a long-time singer/song-writer, Peacock ought to know.
The introductory chapters to the book are slightly weighed down as Peacock seems to struggle for where to begin. "New Way to be Human" really doesn't hit its stride until Peacock takes his theories and applies them to our everyday lives, showing how our faith affects every area of our lives. He shows just how interconnected we remain to what Christ did for us. What he is saying isn't necessarily revolutionary; many within various Christian circles and communities have believed this for a long time. (One example: "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1980) Yet it is a message that needs to be repeated, if not shouted, in order for it to resonante with the vast majority. Perhaps Peacock's book will do the trick.

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