Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“A Caribbean Mystery” by Agatha Christie – A Murder Fit for a Vacation

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie - book cover
Jane Marple may very well have one of the sharpest minds in the universe, but the fact remains that she is still subjected to the toll taken by old age and cannot escape its wrath. Just like everyone else, miss Marple is in need of a vacation, and in A Caribbean Mystery that is just what the doctor prescribed... literally. Jane finds herself sent to a paradise vacation island by her nephew Raymond, and everything is so still and perfect that she finds herself bored to death.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

“Memory Man” by David Baldacci – The Curse of Remembrance

Memory Man by David Baldacci - book cover
As life goes on and we get older, we begin lamenting about our fading memories, and some have the misfortune of starting that phase of their lives earlier than prescribed. Many of us even wish that we had impeccable memories, capable of carrying all the information it absorbs and retrieving it in the blink of an eye. However, upon a more objective review of such a proposal, never forgetting entails a huge drawback; you'll remember the smooth, just like you'll remember the rough.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 72

Greetings to everyone, and welcome back for the 72nd issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, where we take our break from the traditional book review in order to bring to you something new, fresh and exciting. Today, we will being our little adventure by checking out from what some of the most famous literary characters out there were inspired from. Following that, we will go back in time to the Second World War and behold some good-ole Dr. Seuss propaganda. Finally, we will finish things off today by looking at the very concrete benefits free libraries bring to their neighborhoods.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

“Journey to Ixtlan” by Carlos Castaneda – Stopping the World

Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda - book cover
The world as we have come to perceive it on a daily basis is something we refer to as reality, something that we take for granted and established. We cannot even fathom the idea that things are not as they appear to seemingly all of us, and yet that is the underlying philosophy of a warrior that hunts for knowledge: what they perceive is referred to as a description of the world, rather than being a reality. In his series of books drawn from his field notes accumulated during numerous years under the tutelage of Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian, Carlos Castaneda delves deeper than anyone before or since into the culture of ancient Mexican spirituality, and in the third book, Journey to Ixtlan, things take a bit of a different turn from what was before.

In the first two works of literature, The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality, Castaneda placed a much greater focus on the notes which revolved around the usage of psychotropic plants, giving very vivid, detailed and awe-inspiring accounts of the many experiences he lived with them. In this book, however, the focus shifts further away from the plants themselves (his original subject of interest as an anthropologist) and towards Don Juan's spiritual world. This book is a review of the many notes Castaneda assembled which were pertinent in one way or another to the concept of “stopping the world”. Without going into too much detail, it refers to a technique Don Juan is attempting to ultimately teach Carlos, a technique that allows one to see the world in one's own terms.

Monday, April 20, 2015

“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler – Rediscovering One's Life

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - book cover
Many of us have the benefit of having been raised in normal families (well within the range of what is considered normal behavior), without too much unnecessary turmoil and drama. When it comes to literature characters however, a calm and steady upbringing surely won't qualify you for the role of protagonist...something Rosemary seems to understand perfectly well in We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

“Doctor Death” by Lene Kaaberbol – A Pathologist's Start

Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol - book cover
Detectives today are blessed with a myriad of various tools that help them draw their investigations to successful and doubtless conclusions... science has indeed progressed by leaps and bounds in the past century. As much fun as it may be to watch them work today, there are plenty of arguments in favor of the older detectives being more entertaining.

From a literature enthusiast's point of view, finding the smallest of clues and drawing between them a logical chain that eventually leads to the whole mystery unwrapping is one of the most satisfying experiences imaginable. That is pretty much what we get in Lene Kaaberbol's Doctor Death.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

“A Spy Among Friends” by Ben Macintyre – A Crimson Betrayal

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre (Book cover)
The silver screen would have us believe that for the most part, being a spy involves car chases, shootouts, bomb defusals, and the occasional document theft. For entertainment purposes it certainly does the trick, but those who are even just a bit acquainted with the topic know things to be very different.

Upon even a superficial review, the life of a real-world spy is rather different than what is presented in most works of literature, being centered mostly on acquiring information through any means necessary, with persuasion and manipulation being the favorite ones.  History has given place to a large number of great spies, that much is certain, but it can be argued that none have had as tremendous of an impact as Kim Philby, and in A Spy Among Friends, Ben Macintyre endeavors to tell us his story from A to Z.

Monday, April 13, 2015

“The Siege Winter” by Samantha Norman and Ariana Franklin – Men of God

The Siege Winter by Samantha Norman and Ariana Franklin - book cover
Though the twelfth-century had very few places where a modern person would wish to be, it is safe to say that England would certainly never be one of them. Engulfed in a civil war driven by greed, hatred and oh so much piety, the country faces a great internal turmoil as leaders struggle one against the other, with all the rest stuck in between, suffering and dying like flies for no cause.  The Siege Winter by Samantha Norman and Ariana Franklin is a piece of historical fiction literature set during that time, and it tells a story as grandiose as you would expect it.

In the beginning, it follows an archer named Gwyl who finds a young red-headed girl, abandoned and left for dead by a most sinister monk with very impure intentions. Dressing the girl as a boy and giving her the name of Penda, they venture onwards to find the beast that hurt her, with only a single piece of evidence to go on. Quite soon though, their quest comes to a strange turn as they arrive in Kenilworth, a fortress belonging to a fifteen year-old girl by the name of Maud... a fortress about to be besieged for the long winter by the murderous Stephen. During this siege where Maude is aided by her troops, Gwyl and Penda, many curious visitors end up in Kenilworth... including that devilish monk.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

“The Death of Caesar” by Barry Strauss – Moving the Gears of History

The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss - book cover
The world of politics is one where blood has flown freely for thousands of years, a ruthless world that cannot hide its true nature despite the appearances those involved in it are constantly trying to put on. Though it is true that today certain countries can pride themselves in having political systems that are actually functioning as they are supposed to, we are still light years away of solving our problems with words and actual fairness.

Still, we have progressed tremendously since the days of Ancient Rome where cunning, deception and murder seemed to be ingrained parts of a politician's daily routine. In the end though, very few, if any at all, have felt the deadly sting of that world more than Caesar himself.

Friday, April 10, 2015

“The Bookseller” by Cynthia Swanson – Ensnared by Dreams

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson - book cover
The real world is a rather tough place for us to live in; regardless of what we want, it takes a certain amount of effort to achieve. Very few things, if any at all, can be taken for granted, not to mention that we must constantly contend with external influences that ensure nothing ever goes as planned.

Why, it would all be so much simpler if we could only live our lives out in our dreams, where our wishes come to pass in the blink of an eye and we are the sole masters of all destinies. Many have understood the temptation of isolating themselves in the unreal, and perhaps on some level, it is a desire we wrestle with every day. As it happens in the case of Kitty Miller in The Bookseller, Cynthia Swanson's first novel, the struggle is a lot more real and engulfing than she ever imagined it would be.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

“The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side” by Agatha Christie – Changing with the Times

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie - book cover
Very few are those who would expect to see their grand criminal mastermind plans fall apart at the intrusion of an old lady, and yet it is a feat that Miss Marple has been able to accomplish time and time again, visibly toughened into iron by all the horrors she must have witnessed ever since her retirement began.

In The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie she is at it again, as the author now takes us back to St. Mary's Mead, Miss Marple's own quaint little village, albeit one that has changed considerably since her last visit. Young couples have moved into the homes, and they even had the nerve to open up a supermarket. Amongst many interesting personalities are the American film star Marina Gregg, and her husband Jason Rudd. It doesn't take long for things to get interesting after Miss Marple's arrival (as is always the case), as a most foul murder takes place. A poisoned cocktail at a party destined for Marina Gregg finds itself into the hands of her admirer, and of course, kills him as dead as can be. With nothing short of a suspicious stare and movie magazines at the hairdresser to go on, Miss Marple does what she does best and ultimately brings the culprit to light.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 71

The future will always yield us with more works of writing, that much is certain, but the same can be said of the past. So many works were lost in time and washed away by centuries, if not millenia, that there are always more fascinating discoveries to dig up. We would like to bid you a warm welcome back to what is the seventy-first edition of Gliding Over the World of Literature, and as you can surely guess at this point, today's theme will be the deep and ancient past. To begin we will be taking a glance at a list of ten of the oldest surviving works of writing in existence. Following that will be a theory as to what the oldest book in world history might be. Finally, our travels will take us to ancient Egypt as an incredibly old handbook for spells and ritual invocations has recently been deciphered.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

“Dead Wake” by Erik Larson – Excavating the Truth from the Pages of History

Dead Wake by Erik Larson - book cover
The sinking of the Lusitania is an event that not only marked an important historical shift for the United States and left many grieving, but it is also one of the more mysterious happenings of the century, for the sole reason that a thick, grey and seemingly never-ending mist surrounds the truth of what happened.

To reconstruct the event from the perspective of all those involved is much easier said and done; the questions keep on piling up while most answers remain shaky in their foundation. However, we still trudge onwards and attempt to shed light on this tragedy, or at least Erik Larson does in his book Dead Wake.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

“Trigger Warning” by Neil Gaiman – Themes of the Universe

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman - book cover
Some works of literature are rather easy to classify, containing all the expected criteria of a certain genre and lying within the guidelines set for it. On the other hand, there are those that blur the lines and by virtue of their sprawling content are not only hard, but sometimes impossible to classify.

However, upon closer review, it is these books that have brought to us some of the most revered works throughout history, some of which ended up spawning their own genres. Neil Gaiman is an author who seems to be a champion when it comes to that, and has done so once again with Trigger Warning, his latest anthology of short stories.