Friday, May 31, 2013

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro – The Early Trials of Life

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - book cover
As children, we all probably remember at least one of our teachers, at one point or another, telling us how special and full of potential we were… and it wasn’t exactly inaccurate. It is something every child needs to hear in order to have the motivation to move onwards in life and make something out of their potential.

However, in Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, the “special” kids who live at the mysterious boarding school of Haisham in countryside England are more than your regular type of special… however, none of them knew how or why. Once they lived through all the strange rules and mysterious occurrences, three friends from that school, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, reunite once again and begin to discover what made them worth keeping in that school in the first place.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

“Crossfire” by Jim Marrs – The Kennedy Encyclopedia

Crossfire by Jim Marrs - book cover
The Kennedy assassination is a topic which I've already prodded on a number of occasions here, and not without reason. After all, it was perhaps one of the most high-profile killings of the century, and after all these years, let’s face it, we aren’t any closer to getting any conclusive answers. If anything, the web of intrigue has become ever more convoluted, with questions piling up with nobody to answer them. Nevertheless, people haven’t given up on trying to find out what happened and perhaps unearth some kind of breakthrough, and many would argue that Crossfire by Jim Marrs is, at the moment at least, the best source of information on the subject.

Naturally, I couldn’t stop myself from giving one of the most prominent conspiracy books a shot, and frankly-speaking, I had somewhat mixed reactions to it. For starters, I was definitely impressed by the way Marrs decided to tackle the event; the six hundred pages of the book are dedicated to exploring it from every angle and perspective possible, highlighting and analyzing all the known details along the way.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

“Wool” by Hugh Howey – Ignorance is Bliss in a Toxic Wasteland

Wool (Silo Saga - Book 2) by Hugh Howey - book cover
Wool by Hugh Howey, like many novels today, takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, though thankfully it’s pretty void of zombies. More precisely, it follows the lives of certain people living in an underground silo, a few hundred stories deep. None have gone to the surface for ages now, and it has come to the point that not going outside is the most important rule to follow.

One day, however, Sheriff Holston, an old-fashioned and strict lawman, decides to break the rule and exit the silo. That decision causes a series of events to occur, each one upping the ante from the last. As Juliette, a mechanic, is appointed to replace the Sheriff, she begins to see just how terrible their silo world is, and the silo’s inhabitants have started to consider committing the greatest crime of all, an uprising.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie – The Birth of Freedom

Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie - book cover
Though we like to believe that humanity has become relatively civilized during the twentieth century, there are many instances of immoral and uncivilized actions perpetrated by first-world countries, such as England’s desire to maintain its dominion over India, one it achieved through brute force.

Fortunately, it seems as that eventually, in some cases, good does prevail over evil, as it did in August 15, 1947 when India finally obtained its independence. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a humorous and yet eye-opening look at the events which transpired in the next seventy years, through the story of Saleem Sinai, a child who was born at exactly midnight, when India gained its independence.

The curious part about the story is that Saleem’s life mirrors that of India in every aspect… or is it the other way around? His health reflects that of his country, his actions are mirrored by the decisions politicians make, and in some cases, his life seems to be a literal re-enactment of the country’s history.

Monday, May 27, 2013

“Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Entertainment and Us

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - book cover
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is a very ambitious (and might I say, successful) attempt at creating a comedy on a grand scale. It takes place in a not-so-distant future where entertainment is literally everything people strive towards… in other words, a successful life is one during which you have been entertained as much as humanly possible. Reflecting the absurdity of the world are the characters, and though Wallace glosses over many of them, the main ones we follow are in an addicts’ halfway house and a tennis academy.

To make this very long story short, the whole book is basically a reflection on entertainment through the empty and erratic lives of a bunch of misfits trying to make sense of the world and their lives. Now, that is not to say Infinite Jest is only a philosophical reflection on our need for entertainment and what can be classified as such... it is equal parts a screwball comedy stemming from the crazy adventures lived by a very diverse and colorful cast of characters.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

“A Delicate Truth” by John Le Carre – A Tragedy Lost in Time

A Delicate Truth by John Le Carre book cover
A Delicate Truth by John Le Carre begins as a secret counter-terrorist operation is being prepared in Gibraltar, with its purpose being the capture of a high-level jihadist target. The main participants of the plot are a foreign office minister, a private defense contractor, and a shady CIA operative.

The operation is so secretive and sensitive that even Toby Bell, the minister’s own secretary, is not allowed in on it. Everything goes without a hitch, the heroes return home and all is well… until three years later, when a disgraced special forces operative comes back to haunt everyone, bringing up the possibility that rather than being a success, the operation was a complete disaster and a tragedy, one that has been carefully covered up. As Toby Bell is summoned to a manor house by a retired British diplomat, he must make the ultimate choice: does he prevent the triumph of evil, or does he stick to his duty?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 4

The Rise of a Great Illustrator


Hello everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Gliding Over the World of Literature, more precisely, the fourth issue. Once again I have scoured the internet to bring you some news from the book world worth your attention, starting with a rare phenomenon, a legendary children’s book illustrator, Kate Greenway. Though most illustrators get lost in time with the text authors reaping all the rewards, Kate Greenway’s career took a different and exceptional turn, one that made her name ring through the ages.
Kate Greenaway: Legendary Illustrator of Children’s Books

"One of the few artists to gain true celebrity from illustrating children’s books, Kate Greenaway was one of the most influential illustrators of her age. Greenaway, along with Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane, revolutionized illustration. Popular in both Europe and the United States, Greenaway has remained highly sought after, even among contemporary children’s book collectors."

Read full article: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) - Kate Greenaway: Legendary Illustrator of Children’s Books

Horatio’s Revelations


Though the Horatio Colony Exhibit may look like it was put together by someone with an unnatural love of brightly-colored patterns, it has a lot more than pretty motifs to offer. More precisely, this is a collection of 1,300 books which belonged to Horatio Colony 2nd, who was a known collector of many things, books being amongst them. Though some of the books aren’t exactly remarkable, others are considered to be antiques and unique specimens that can be found nowhere else.
Horatio Colony exhibit

"The bright colors and gold-leafed edges of the objects in the display cases look like something you’d see inside a candy shop. The latest exhibit at Horatio Colony House Museum might not be good enough to eat, but it is a feast for the eyes.

Contained inside those cases are some of the 1,300 books that belonged to Horatio Colony 2nd (1900-1977). He was a collector of many things, books being one, and according to museum Curator Anita Carroll-Weldon, he read them all.
"

Read full article: SentinelSource.com - Horatio Colony exhibit

Sixty Years of Spying Later


Finally, to finish things off, I feel as if James Bond deserves a birthday wish from all fans, no matter how belated it may be. April 13th 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the first James Bond publication by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale.

Contrary to what many suspect though, James Bond is actually a case of the author not only using himself as inspiration for the character, but also being more badass in real life. Indeed, Fleming was part of the British Navy and worked as a spy himself on some occasions, perhaps making him one of the most interesting authors of the twentieth century.
Sixty Years of Ian Fleming's James Bond

"April 13th marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. The book would be the first of twelve Bond novels and two short-story collections that Fleming wrote himself, and the first in a long line of Bond novels by multiple other authors like John Gardner and Raymond Benson."

Read full article: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) - Sixty Years of Ian Fleming's James Bond

“A Curious Man” by Neal Thompson – Living as an Oddity

Though I imagine most of us like to limit our societal contributions to paying our taxes and not breaking the law, there are other people who have gone far beyond that, as Robert Ripley did for instance.

Those of you who have heard the name probably know him as either a famous cartoonist, or that guy who hosted the “Believe it or Not” shows. However, as Neal Thompson showcases it in his biography of Ripley, titled A Curious Man, the man was more than just an artist… he was a living oddity.

As it turns out, Ripley’s life reads more like a fairy tale rather than a biography. From birth he had the makings of an unlikely hero, gifted with the great blessings of being shy and buck-toothed. Nevertheless, he didn’t let anything deter him and at only eighteen years of age he got his first cartoon published in Time magazine. Soon after he struck gold with his “Believe it or Not” show which has served as an inspiration for countless programs today.

Friday, May 24, 2013

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien – War’s Close-Up Shot

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien - book cover
There are different kinds of war novels out there, and generally I prefer to classify them into three distinct categories: works of fiction, novelized and dramatized writings based on facts, and completely dry and factual accounts of military events and operations.

To be frank, I prefer the second type of novel, as it offers the best of both worlds; it keeps you interested in the events all while feeding you real and interesting information at the same time. I have read a fair share of these novels, and I have to say that very few of them can claim to reach the level of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

Tim O’Brien is a Vietnam War veteran himself, and The Things They Carried is basically a long and detailed account of the lives and fates of the men of Alpha Company, which he was a part of. The writing style in this book is a bit different from the rest of the genre; though the story is somewhat novelized, the style remains very concise, descriptive and factual, with personal notes and observations dispersed here and there.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

“The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway – The Death of All Illusions

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway - book cover
Very few of us have managed to grow up without hearing the name Ernest Hemingway being thrown around, especially in high school. Regardless of whether you have come to love or hate him, you cannot deny the impact he had on American literature, nor can you deny that some of his books can be objectively described as timeless classics and masterpieces. The Sun Also Rises is definitely one of them, and first published in 1926, it not only pushed literature forward, but it also had an impact on people as a whole.

To give you a brief idea of what it’s about, The Sun Also Rises follows Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley, a rather unusual couple that undertakes an odyssey of self-discovery around Europe, right after the end of the First World War. However, the book is much more than the adventures of its main characters (though they are definitely entertaining as well), basically being a social commentary on the way things were after the First World War, the one many dubbed as being “The war to end all wars”. It was a very strange, difficult and confusing time for humanity, one during which people started to expand their consciousness, exploring what the world really had to offer, and most importantly, try and break the traditions of the past.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

“Impossible Odds” by Buchanan, Landemalm and Flacco – The Life of a Hostage

Impossible Odds by Buchanan, Landemalm and Flacco - book cover
Some of you may remember Jessica Buchanan’s name from the news, and with good reason; while on a humanitarian aid mission in Somalia (and hoping to settle there), she and a colleague were kidnapped by Somali pirates and held hostage for ninety-three days until a rescue operation was ordered. Determined not to remain silent about her experience, Jessica Buchanan, along with Erik Landemalm and Anthony Flacco wrote a first-hand account of the experience, and titled it Impossible Odds.

Though the book has been spruced up here and there to be exciting for the reader and retain your attention, everything is based on facts and first-hand accounts. The whole ordeal is chronicled from start to finish, beginning with the events in Buchanan’s life prior to the kidnapping, going through the torturous three months, and ending with the harrowing and nail-biting hostage rescue during which SEAL Team Six killed nine pirates without harming the hostages or suffering casualties themselves.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

“Hunting the Jackal” by Billy Waugh and Tim Keown – Shadow Wars Illuminated

Hunting the Jackal by Billy Waugh and Tim Keown - book cover
Though we know about as much as the government is willing to allow us to about the wars that it is leading openly, those of us who have bothered to look into the matter know about the phenomenon of shadow wars; operations executed with complete discretion and under everyone’s radar.

As you can guess, the United States has been suspected of leading its fair share of shadow wars, and if anything, Hunting the Jackal confirms the suspicions of many. It was written by author Tim Keown and CIA legend Billy Waugh, who himself dedicated a major part of his life to eliminating the country’s worst enemies in complete secrecy.

In Hunting the Jackal, Keown and Waugh mostly discuss Waugh’s career, describing many of his harrowing operations with incredible detail. For instance, the seven months he spent behind enemy lines during the Vietnam war truly feel like a flaming inferno and the part about the capture of Carlos the Jackal was nothing short of intense and thrilling. It’s basically the autobiography of a man who has spent most of his life doing super-human things, the kind of man who is one in a million.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 3

Hello once again and welcome back to a new issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, where there are always news to catch the curious eye. In this issue you are going to experience the twenty most majestic libraries in the world, learn about twenty-one books from the XXI century you simply can’t miss out on, and we’ll conclude with a look at a somewhat shocking decision made by Stephen King in regards to his new book, Joyland.

Famous Vaults of Knowledge


Though libraries may not be as frequented today as they once were, they still stand as giant, majestic, and organized warehouses where an incredible amount of human knowledge is stored, with some of the more famous libraries even having a large number of unique and unpublished books.

If there is one aspect at which libraries have always excelled at it is the aesthetic one, and as you can see for yourself in the link below, the world’s most famous libraries could very well rival the greatest palaces and Cathedrals.
20 of the World’s Most Famous Libraries

"Libraries are storehouses of information and resources, organized systematically, and maintained by an individual, a group, or an institution, for public use. They were initially known as archives, as they also maintained a record of unpublished books."

Read full article: TopDesignMag - 20 of the World’s Most Famous Libraries

George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland, USA


Library of Parliament, Ottawa, Canada

Modern Books Worth a Look


You’ll hear many people today claim that today’s literature is uninspired, unoriginal, and simply made in hopes of raking in a big check. However, I think this is a bit unfair towards the authors of this new millennium, that have actually come up with pieces of writing that are worth our attention. And so, here’s a brief look at twenty-one books from the XXI century that are indeed worth your attention.

The New Canon: The 21 Books from the 21st Century Every Man Should Read

"Anyone who's been handed a high school diploma can tick off the classic novels from the twentieth century: The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Grapes of Wrath. But cross into this millennium and things are suddenly murkier, Kindle-ier, less classed up with age. Then again, it's been an affirming thirteen years, enough time to breed a whole new body of post-2000 lit we're happy to call the new classics—and we're not afraid to name names.

We spent months chiseling down a list* of not just our favorite books from the 2000s but also the works of fiction that we most readily recommend to our fathers, brothers, and non-blood-related bros. Then we asked a bunch of those authors to pick an overlooked book—stories, poetry, memoir—from that same period of time. Dig in quick: This is your chance to right some wrongs and hit the new musts you missed the first time around.
"

Read full article: GQ - The New Canon: The 21 Books from the 21st Century Every Man Should Read

Jonathan Franzen (2001)

Stephen King’s Change of Heart


Stephen King has always been known as one of the pioneers of digital book distribution, actually being one of the first famous authors to sell one of his works exclusively as an e-book (that story was Riding the Bullet).

However, it seems that Mr. King has reverted back to his roots with the impending release of his newest novel, Joyland, as he claims it will only be available in print and that he has no plans of making it available for downloading anytime soon.

Stephen King delays e-book in favour of print

"Stephen King fans hoping to download his new novel will be disappointed, following a decision by the bestselling horror writer to support the print version of the book.

Joyland, published on June 4 in the US and June 7 in UK, will only be available in print format, a radical decision for an author widely thought of as a digital pioneer. In 2000, he made one of his short stories, Riding The Bullet, only available as an ebook, priced at $2.50. The decision by such a high profile author was considered to be a turning point in e-publishing.
"

Read full article: The Telegraph - Stephen King delays e-book in favour of print

Stephen King: his new book will only available in print


“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter – Crossroads of Fate

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - book cover
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is a bit of an unusual novel, one that takes you on a journey through time and space, beginning in a little Italian town called Port Vergogna and following a young and ambitious man named Pasquel who has big plans for himself and his little quaint coastal village, mainly revolving around his family-owned hotel. As a young and beautiful actress as well as a mysterious man come to stay at a hotel, we begin to learn about how their lives unfolded, who they affected and how they are interconnected.

Every chapter in this book begins in a new time, at a new place, and with new characters to follow. For instance, we get to travel to modern-day Hollywood to learn about the lives of a disillusioned development assistant who works for a legendary film producer. Though it may seem as if there isn’t any real connection from one chapter to the next (the confusing chronological order plays a part in that), the stories lived by people begin to intertwine as the book goes on and it becomes apparent how our actions can have consequences so far-reaching no one could predict them.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

“Best Kept Secret” by Jeffrey Archer – The Passing of the Torch

Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer - book cover
Best Kept Secret is the third part of the Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer, and contrary to what some people believed, it isn’t the last one. As a matter of fact, chances are that Archer himself has no idea how many more of them he will be writing.

Just like the second part, this one takes off after the last one’s end as the House of Lords has to vote on who will inherit the Barrington family fortune and Giles prepares to make his case and defend his seat. Meanwhile, Harry Clifton is trying to promote his latest novel in America, his beloved Emma sets out to search for the girl who was found in her father’s office on the night of his murder, and his son Sebastian unwittingly gets caught in an international art fraud scheme.

Friday, May 17, 2013

How Agatha Christie Revolutionized Murder

Many of us only know the name Agatha Christie in association with known works of literature, such as Death on the Nile or And Then There Were None, imagining her as being this entity that churns out one murder mystery after the other without ever seemingly getting tired. Unfortunately, it seems that most schools put very little emphasis on her works or her life, and as a result countless people grow up deprived of knowing anything about one of the twentieth century’s literary titans.

She was part of a rare breed of people, the kind whose lives and professions blend together, making for turbulent lives that are nevertheless rich in history. As you are going to find out a bit later, Christie had a very interesting life, one that perhaps even started to mirror her career as time went by.

Agatha Christie’s Early Life


Just like most good stories, Agatha’s life began in a very promising way when she was born in September 1890 into a wealthy upper class family whose members overcame many hurdles to live as comfortably as they did in South West England. As Christie herself would put it, she had a very happy childhood and from a very young age was consistently interacting with strong and independent women.

She traveled a fair bit around Europe, going from one vacation home to another. Being born into a wealthy family she was provided with a sophisticated home education, learning to read, write, do basic arithmetic and play the piano as well as the mandolin from a young age. As most prominent authors, Christie developed a love for reading from a very young age, with some of her fondest childhood memories consisting of burying her nose in the pages of children’s books.

All of that wealth and comfort didn’t come without a price though; much of Agatha Christie’s childhood was spent secluded from other children, which to a certain extent inhibited her social development. Later in life though she did make friends with a group of girls in Torquay, and starring alongside them in a theatrical production was, according to Christie, one of the most joyous moments in her lifetime.

To make matters worse, her father fell ill quite often and suffered from a number of heart attacks, finally succumbing at the age of fifty-five in November 1901. His death not only came as a heavy blow to the family, but it also left them in a precarious financial situation, and that served as a wake-up call for Christie, one that would grab her by the arm and throw her into the brutal and unforgiving world of adulthood.

In 1902, Agatha received formal education at Miss Guyer’s Girls School, though she never could quite fit into the strict regime the girls were made to follow. Three years later, in 1905, Agatha was sent away to Paris where she was educated in three schools: Mademoiselle Cabernet’s, Le Marroniers and Miss Dryden’s.

Agatha Christie’s Literary Beginnings


Though Christie had written many stories and poems, none of them really had any impact or recognition, that is until she wrote her first short story, “The House of Beauty”, a six-thousand word story revolving around Agatha’s favorite topics, dreams and madness. Though it did have many imperfections it was enough to serve as a start to her literary career, and from that point forward she never looked back.

However, her first novel, Snow Upon Desert, had trouble being published; no publisher wanted anything to do with it, and so it slowly died away. Though Christie did temporarily step away from the literary world to marry Archibald Christie “Archie” in 1912 hoping to return to it shortly, her plans came to an abrupt stop as the First World War broke out in 1914. During the four years that followed Archie was shipped to France to fight off the Germans while Agatha joined the Voluntary Aid Department where she attended to wounded soldiers for the duration of the war.

When all finally came to an end and the Allied Powers waved the flag of victory, Agatha finally decided to write her own detective novel, having been a huge fan of Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And so came to be The Mysterious Affair at Styles and the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, saw the light of day. After several months Christie finally managed to get her book published (under the condition she would change the ending), though it didn’t bring her much in financial terms, neither did her second book, The Secret Adversary. After publishing Murder on the Links as well as some short stories with Hercule Poirot at their center, she started to earn some recognition, and the fact that she and Archie became some of the first Britons in history to surf standing up.

Christie was generally known as being somewhat reclusive, with there being very little in the way of footage or photographs of her. She very rarely gave interviews or made public appearances, and when she was once asked to read her work on the BBC she admitted to be suffering from stage fright. There are still previously-unknown works of her that keep popping up even to this day, with one of the more recent cases being the Harper Collins publication, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making.

The Rise to the Top


As the number of books published kept on rising, so did Christie’s fame. With time, she became recognized as being one of the most influential personalities when it comes to detective literature, and her contributions begin with the creation of Poirot and Miss Marple. Both of them are polar-opposites in terms of character; with the former being arrogant and insufferable while the latter is kind and gentle.

Nevertheless, when it came to solving cases, these were the sleuths people wanted to see at work. It felt as if in every novel, they established some kind of link with the reader and went on the adventure together, rather than it being a case of observing the mystery from the outside. Though Christie did admit she preferred Marple and ended up describing Poirot to be an “ego-centric creep”, they both remain some of the most beloved detectives in literature.

As a matter of fact, during the Second World War Christie wrote two novels, Sleeping Murder and Curtain, both of them designed to be Marple’s and Poirot’s last cases, to be published at the end of her life. When Poirot’s story was finally published, he actually became the only fictional character to have ever been given an obituary by The New York Times, and it was even published on the front page. Miss Marple was spared such a fate though as her end comes in the form of a dull and regular life in St. Mary Mead.

Impact on the Detective Genre


Naturally, Christie’s contributions to literature go beyond the creation of two memorable characters. More precisely, she is known as basically being one of the pioneers of the whodunit genre, and many of the techniques and devices she used became staples of the genre to this very day. In most cases, the stories even follow a similar structure, starting with the main sleuth either stumbling across a murder or being called to its scene by someone.

In some cases, the detective is asked for help by an old acquaintance who is more than likely involved in the crime. As the detective gradually analyzes the scene and interrogates suspects, he/she starts to form a preliminary picture of what happened. The important part is that the detective always makes note of each clue, actually giving the reader a fair chance at solving the crime.

Further down the line, a suspect generally dies as a result of having discovered the killer’s identity, and at the end, the detective organizes a meeting with all the characters in which the truth is logically laid out, step by step. In some cases (as in Death Comes at the End for example) there are multiple victims before the murderer is unveiled.

Agatha’s stories were no strangers to plot twists, as on two occasions the murderer turns out to be the story’s narrator and on six occasions the murderer escapes any form of justice or retribution. As you may know, these are techniques that have been used time and time again not only by book authors but also by moviemakers.

One Last Play


Perhaps the greatest mystery Agatha left us with was her own, and we’re not talking about her lack of communication with the world. There was a time in the author’s life during which she disappeared for eleven days. In December 1926, her car was found abandoned with her effects still inside. After eleven days of manhunt, a banjo player accidentally discovered her staying at a hotel under the pseudonym Theresa Neele.

Though Agatha claimed to have suffered from a bout of amnesia brought on by recent tragic events in her life, there are many other theories as to what could have happened, and these include vengeance, publicity stunt, insanity, boredom, and even the idea she set the whole thing up to enact a real-life mystery.

Curiously, the event is not mentioned at all in her autobiography. And so, it seems that one of the most celebrated and important authors of the twentieth century could not bear the thought of leaving this world without giving it at least one more mystery to solve.

“Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson – Criminal Triangle

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - book cover
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson opens with a first-hand look at three different criminal cases from the perspective of those who were on the scene. The first one is that of a girl who disappears in the middle of the night. The second case revolves around a young woman becoming the victim of a seemingly-random attack by some kind of maniac. The third case is that of an impulsive husband causing bloody mayhem in his own home. Now, after thirty years have passed since the first case, a private investigator by the name of Jackson Brodie looks over all three of them and starts to make some very interesting discoveries.

While it may seem as if this mystery story is more centered around the plot, the truth is that much of it is dedicated to character development, specifically to Jackson Brodie. As he gets closer and closer to finding out the truth it has a visible impact on him, and the same goes for most other characters, of which there are quite many actually. The plotline itself may be somewhat predictable, but it managed to retain my interest for most of it. However, I have to say that certain parts of the book ramble on needlessly and even feel boring. I even decided to skip over a couple of passages because I felt they were going absolutely nowhere.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

“The Sins of the Father” by Jeffrey Archer – Shackled in Another’s Suffering

The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer - book cover
The Sins of the Father is the second book in the Clifton Chronicles written by Jeffrey Archer, and it picks up where the last one left off as Harry Clifton has joined the Merchant Navy. Unfortunately, his ship ends up being attacked by a German boat and gets sunk, with most of the people aboard drowning.

Fortunately, an American cruise liner passing closely by rescued the remaining sailors, with Harry being amongst them. Aboard that ship Clifton makes the acquaintance of an American officer, Tom Bradshaw, who unfortunately passes away during the night. Seeing the perfect opportunity to get rid of his past, Clifton assumes Bradshaw’s identity, being blissfully ignorant of what awaits the officer upon his return to New York.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

“Clash!” by Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner – Cultural Background and Identity

Clash! by Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner (Book cover)
Researchers have for a very long time now posed the question as to how a person’s mind comes to be formed. How much of the process can be attributed to genetics? How much of it can be attributed to the environment which nurtures that person? Does one’s cultural background and place of birth play a role in it?

Naturally, questions such as these are hard to answer and will require many more years of research to produce conclusive answers, but Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner take a stab at it anyways in their book titled Clash!:8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are.

More precisely, Clash! explores the idea that our cultural background influences who we are. It should be mentioned that Markus and Conner are both cultural psychologists, both having tons of experience in their field.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

“Only Time Will Tell” by Jeffrey Archer – Fate and Heritage

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer - book cover
Only Time Will Tell is the first part of the Clifton Chronicles written by Jeffrey Archer, author of bestsellers Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth. In it, the curious life of Harry Clifton is presented to us, starting with his life as a lowly dock worker in 1920s Britain. Never having known his father, Harry has little hope for a glorious future, but all of that changes when he mysteriously receives a scholarship to a boys’ school.

As Harry grows, he begins to question the death of his father more and more, until he discovers that he may very well be part of a wealthy family. However, the twentieth century still has a Second World War coming up, and with Hitler staring at Britain from the horizon, Harry is forced to choose between enrolling in the navy and fighting evil, or pursue a noble life at Oxford.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 2

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature; once again I have three pretty exciting book-related stories to share with you, centered around the most expensive book to be sold, a rare exhibit and the sudden retrieval of more than 1,400 books stolen forty years ago from the Lambeth Palace in London.

The Book Worth Millions


To begin with our first piece of news, the most expensive book in the world is about to be sold at a Sotheby’s auction taking place on November 26th in New York. The book is one of the remaining eleven copies of the Bay Psalm Book, and it is predicted that it will be sold for somewhere between 15 and 30 million dollars.
Holy Grail of Rare Books, Hymnal Could Fetch $30M

"The Bay Psalm Book, which is the first book printed in what is now the United States, comes from the Old South Church in Boston, one of two copies of the book in its collection.

“One copy, the copy we are keeping, was bequeathed to us by our fifth minister, the Reverend Thomas Prince,” Nancy Taylor, Old South Church’s senior minister and CEO, told ABCNews.com.
"?

Read full article: abc NEWS - Holy Grail of Rare Books, Hymnal Could Fetch $30M



The Morrison Exhibit


Toni Morrison is without a doubt one of the most celebrated novelists of our time, writing classics such as Sula and The Song of Solomon. Recently, a free and public exhibition has been opened at the Central Library of Vanderbilt University. It presents a rare collection of works, including various first editions, uncorrected drafts, and plenty more unique materials.
Rare Toni Morrison books on display at Vanderbilt library

"“Toni Morrison: An American Literary Treasure,” which includes first editions, uncorrected proofs and other unique and rare materials, is housed in two cases on the library’s fourth floor and one on the sixth floor. The exhibition is free and open to the public."

Read full article: Vanderbilt News - Rare Toni Morrison books on display at Vanderbilt library


Lost and Found


To finish things off, in 1975 a librarian working in the Lambeth Palace Library in London realized that around sixty books were missing from the shelves, but the thief was never caught. Recently though, the Palace received a letter from a former employee right before his death who described in detail where they could find a number of precious books, many of which belonged to the library. They uncovered a total collection of 1,400 rare books.


1,400 stolen rare books returned to Lambeth Palace Library in London

"“The theft was discovered in the early 1970s and the police were informed, the book trade were informed, but the police didn’t catch the thief and the trail ran cold,” director of libraries for the Church of England Declan Kelly told the Guardian."

Read full article: Daily News - 1,400 stolen rare books returned to Lambeth Palace Library in London



Sunday, May 12, 2013

“The Rite” by Matt Baglio – The Dark Side of Faith

The Rite by Matt Baglio - book cover
The Rite by Matt Baglio, also made into a movie with Anthony Hopkins, is a harrowing and yet captivating look into the darker side of the Christian faith, namely, exorcism. The book’s author, Baglio, is actually a journalist who followed Father Gary Thomas from California all the way to the Vatican, where he was trained in the rite of exorcism. In other words, this is a book where Baglio basically chronicles what it is like to become an exorcist, digging deep into an aspect of religion most of us know best through Hollywood fantasies.

First off, if you are looking for undisputable confirmation that the devil exists and that demonic possessions do in fact happen, then I am sorry to say that it really isn’t the point of the book. It is more about the mindset and thoughts of those who are trained to become exorcists, the Church’s approach to the process, and the thoughts of someone who has performed dozens of exorcisms. What I found rather surprising is the difference between how we depict the Church to act in cases of exorcism and how they actually proceed.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

“UFOs, JFK, and Elvis” by Richard Belzer – The Conspiracies that Matter

UFOs, JFK, and Elvis by Richard Belzer - book cover
In UFOs, JFK and Elvis known standup comedian Richard Belzer digs into some of the most popular conspiracy theories that have popped up over the last decade. Before reading on though, keep in mind that this isn’t an attempt to provide a single right answer to them, but rather, an attempt to get you to question authority, especially when it comes to “official stories”. Belzer looks into theories surrounding events such as the death of Elvis, the assassination of JFK, the mystery surrounding Area 51, the Roswell Crash, the discoveries the astronauts made on the moon, evidence of extraterrestrial visits, and of course, the link between Nazis and the United States Space program.

While Belzer spends most of the book making jokes and comical suggestions, which are, by the way, funny as hell, the fact remains that he provides some solid information and interesting interpretations. He doesn’t draw ridiculous conclusions from tiny facts, but rather, Belzer uses common sense and known facts to state his cases, as he does when demonstrating that Oswald couldn’t have assassinated Kennedy alone for example.

Friday, May 10, 2013

“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer – Revisiting the Mt. Everest Disaster

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer - book cover
Though mountain climbing may be one of the most dangerous sports/hobbies in this entire world, we don’t hear much talking about climbers. However, what happened on May 1996 on the Mt. Everest sent shockwaves rippling across the entire world as five people lost their lives to a storm.

Many questions popped up surrounding the events which transpired on that infamous day, with the main one being: whose fault really was it? Well, this is something Jon Krakauer attempts to elucidate in his first-hand account of the events in Into Thin Air.

Krakauer was himself part of that team, and the entire book is dedicated to the events which led them to their doom. Perhaps in an attempt to quiet down some personal demons of his own, Krakauer wants to show us nothing but the truth and depict events and people as they really were, without bias. When the incident occurred many theories popped up as to who was responsible, who was good and who was really selfish and evil.

However, Krakauer avoids such extremes in his book and provides a balanced and realistic picture of everything. He doesn’t jump the shark and blame Sandy Pittman who brought an espresso maker, nor does he try to hang the blame on the Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev... he simply outlines his mistakes.

So what exactly is the reader meant to learn from the book? Well, it seemed to me as if this was Krakauer’s attempt to express his sorrow to the world over what occurred. He spends much time discusses what he perceives to be as personal failures, explaining how they directly led to the death of a climber and how they may have very well played part in the deaths of others. It almost feels as if this is a guilt-driven outpour of honesty meant to put a controversial matter to rest once and for all, as much as that is possible at least.

All in all, if you are interested in coming as close to the truth as possible in regards to the events of May 1996 on Mt. Everest, then I definitely recommend you check this out, though underneath you will find more than a simple account; it is also a look into the reality of the spectrum of human nature.

Map of camps located along Everest ascent

Map of camps located along Everest ascent


Jon Krakauer (April 12, 1954)

Jon Krakauer


Jon Krakauer is a writer and a professional mountaineer who is known for his numerous non-fiction books about the outdoors and other, perhaps more controversial subjects. They include Into the Wild, Under the Banner of Heaven and Where Men Win Glory.

More of the Jon Krakauer's book reviews:
Into the Wild
Under the Banner of Heaven

Thursday, May 09, 2013

“Control” by Glenn Beck – Guns, The People and Freedom

Control by Glenn Beck - book cover
There is currently a very heated debate amongst Americans in regards to gun control; though The Constitution clearly outlines the “right of the people to bear arms”, the recent mass shootings and gun violence statistics have convinced many people that gun control laws should be made much stricter.

As reforms are being planned, a sizable chunk of the population has expressed its concern that in reality, stricter gun control laws are about controlling the people and taking away their means of self-defense. In Control, Glenn Beck explores this argument using facts and hundreds of reputable sources.

Mainly, Glenn Beck devotes his book to proving most of the common arguments that “demonize” guns to be wrong, such as “No civilian could need a weapon like the AR-15”, or “Just stop your fear mongering these laws are made to prevent psychopaths from having easy access to guns”, and plenty more.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

“Traveling Heavy” by Ruth Behar – What is Home?

Traveling Heavy by Ruth Behar - book cover
Ruth Behar is known internationally as being not only a good anthropologist, but also a great storyteller with plenty of interesting things to share with everyone. More precisely, she describes herself as an anthropologist who specializes in the concept of homesickness, and amongst many things, she discusses her thoughts and discoveries on the subject in an autobiographical novel she titled Traveling Heavy.

The book is mainly a portrayal of her entire life through a bunch of fun and touching stories that make for quite a light read. For instance, she describes in detail her experiences as an immigrant child, her paradox which combines a love of travelling and a fear of flying, the strangers who have made an impression on her life, her own successes and failures, and more.

Basically, it’s a collection of stories, each one detailing an important part of Behar’s life. What I found particularly commendable is that Behar remains impartial through the book in regards to herself, as hard as it may appear to be. She doesn’t cut herself any slack and talks about her downfalls in as much detail as her triumphs.

“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill – A Journey to Evil’s Heart

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Book cover)
Joe Hill is known by some as being one of the best contemporary horror authors, especially when they have supernatural elements to them. In NOS4A2, Joe Hill tells us a story centered around three characters: Charles Manx, Victoria McQueen, and her son. Charles is a somewhat special person who likes to take children aboard his 1938 Rolls-Royce and take them to a downright horrifying amusement park called Christmasland, after which they are never heard from again.

Victoria McQueen is the only child to ever escape Manx, and though she is trying to forget him, he still remembers her and has set his sights on her son. He has already picked him up, but Vic has a couple of tricks of her own up her sleeve and decides that it is indeed time to put an end to such an evil.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

“Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” by David Sedaris – Day to Day Hysteria

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris - book cover
David Sedaris is known in the world of literature as being one of the most unique and talented writers out there, always offering a unique perspective on things, whether they are extraordinary or banal.

Though he hasn't released an essay collection in a few years, Sedaris has recently revisited the genre with Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and as I believe it, he has outdone himself this time around.

While some of the essays are hysterical anecdotes from Sedaris’ own life, others are more of a fictional nature, but really, it doesn’t deter from it. Each of the stories has quite an intriguing plot to it, somewhat akin to reading a novella.

Monday, May 06, 2013

“The Hit” by David Baldacci – Assassins’ Ball

The Hit by David Baldacci - book cover
David Baldacci has made a name for himself over the years for the action-packed thrillers he kept on delivering, and while recently some may have qualified his writing as having declined in quality, he recently came back in full force with The Hit.

Once again, we follow Will Robie, a highly-trained assassin working for the government, as he is sent to take out Jessica Reed, another assassin who has recently gone rogue and proceeded to eliminate her former colleagues. However, as Robbie gets closer and closer to Jessica, he starts to discover that things are not as they seem and that regardless of what he was told, Reed may only be the scapegoat and not the real villain.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

“The Burgess Boys” by Elizabeth Strout – The Blood that Binds

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout - book cover
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, for those who haven’t heard about it, is a very popular New York Times bestseller, with a story revolving around two brothers, Jim and Bob Burgess. While Jim is a successful corporate lawyer who constantly belittles his brother, Bob, being a successful legal aid attorney himself, takes it all quite well.

The brothers have left their hometown long ago because of complex relationships, but quite soon their sister calls them back to Shirley Falls, where they grew up and left a lot of skeletons buried. However, they have no choice but to come back seeing as how their younger brother, Zack, has gotten himself into a whole heap of trouble he can’t get out of alone. And so, the two brothers embark on a journey through the past that will leave them changed forever.

Though this novel isn’t exactly long at 320 pages, it still manages to get a whole lot across to the reader, which is basically a testament to how concisely Elizabeth Strout can write. Despite the fact that much of the book is centered around character development and interaction, it still manages to advance at a relatively fast pace, seldom making for any boring moments. Granted, there are some passages which are either too short or drag on for too long, but they are far and few in between making them quite negligible.

As far as the story goes, though it isn’t exactly extraordinary and action-packed, it still manages to retain the reader’s interest and rather than being the main course, the story is more like a vehicle takes the characters through their development. In the end, this book is an exploration of family, the ties that bind us, and what we are ready to do for our own kin. All in all, it is a fantastic read that I can recommend to anyone who likes realistic stories centered on character development.


Elizabeth Strout (January 6, 1956)

Elizabeth Strout


Personal site

Elizabeth Strout is an American fiction author whose acclaimed novel, Olive Kitteridge, has earned her the much-coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Even her first book, Amy and Isabelle had already shown her capabilities, earning her nominations for the 2000 Orange Prize and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.

More of the Elizabeth Strout's book reviews:
My Name is Lucy Barton

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 1

Hello dear readers and welcome to the first installment of “Gliding Over the World of Literature”. As you can guess, there will be more installments to come in the future, and I will use each one of them to share with you some of the more interesting news and information I have come across, at least in regards to literature. And so, without further ado, let us start the show!

The First Edition Jackpot


First edition books are some of the most coveted literature items on the planet, and that goes double when we are talking about famous pieces of work, such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling or The Silmarillion by Tolkien.

Quite recently, a cache containing more than fifty first-edition books was discovered, and each one of them will be auctioned off, with the proceedings going to charity. Read all about it in the link below!
'Groundbreaking' collection of first edition book spills secrets, regrets and mistakes of world's best authors

"The books each give an “extraordinary” insight into the mind of the authors, which include numerous Man Booker prize winners and two Nobel Laureates.
As well as giving readers inside knowledge about the creation of the books, the notes also reveal the mistakes, regrets and secrets of the acclaimed authors.
"?

Read full article: The Telegraph - 'Groundbreaking' collection of first edition book spills secrets, regrets and mistakes of world's best authors


Getting the Library of Your Dreams


Having my own personalized library was always a huge dream of mine; I wanted my books to be stored the way I thought they deserved it. Thatcher Wine is a man who specializes in the creation of custom libraries and book collections to his clients’ demands, and below you can check out some examples of his handiwork.
Literary Inspiration: 7 Unique Book Collections

"Imagine having a custom-designed library perfectly tailored to your home and interests. Thatcher Wine, founder of Boulder, Colo.-based Juniper Books, makes these types of literary dreams a reality by curating customized book collections and complete libraries that cater to his clients’ unique needs."

Read full article: Time Style - Literary Inspiration: 7 Unique Book Collections


Book Charity


Every single year a school librarian by the name of Bobi Kress goes out of her book-filled room to take on the pavement, and give anyone who passes by a free book to read.

It’s basically a public celebration of literature which stems from Kress’ love for books, and the way it looks, her passion is of the contagious kind. Read all about the World Book Night in the link below.
World Book Night writes another chapter

"World Book Night's organization gives each volunteer 20 copies of chosen book taking from that year's list of featured books (see list below). Last year, Kress chose “Piece Like a River” by Leif Enger. This year's book was "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh."

Read full article: YumaSun.com - World Book Night writes another chapter


And so, this marks the end of the first entry revolving around news from the world of books and literature, and regardless of whether or not the above articles amused or interested you, stick around as there will be plenty more to come to cater to every taste.

“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson – The Forgotten Wave of 1915 to 1970

The twentieth century may very well be one of the most turbulent ones: countless wars and failed political regimes plague the past century, such as both World Wars and the fall of communism. Perhaps it is because we finally developed effective mass media and communication systems, but it remains that the twentieth century has a lot to teach us, with many phenomena still to be explored.

In The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson does just that and looks into a part of American history many do not bother with: the huge wave of immigrants that was pouring in from 1915 to 1970.

However, this isn’t a boring history lesson... Wilkerson knows better than that. Instead, the author preferred to a factual and historically-accurate but novelized story following three separate individuals.

Friday, May 03, 2013

“Paris” by Edward Rutherfurd – Experiencing the City of Light

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd (Book cover)
Paris is one of those cities pretty much everyone has heard of; one of the global capitals of the world, it has a very long, rich and turbulent history behind it. Walking through its streets is like setting foot in a time machine, with practically every square inch of the city having some kind of story to tell.

However, many of us will never have the time to settle in the city and explore all it has to offer, which is the goal of Paris, an epic novel by Edward Rutherfurd which covers over seven hundred years of the city’s history, starting with the building of Notre-Dame in 1261 and going all the way to the riots of 1968.