Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eat, Pray, Love: By Elizabeth Gilbert


Eat, Pray, Love:  One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia


Eat, Pray, Love: 
One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
By
Elizabeth Gilbert


This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds 
by 
H. G. Wells

The Island of Doctor Moreau By H.G. Wells

The Island of Doctor Moreau


The Island of Doctor Moreau

By
H.G. Wells


Although it is less often read than such Wells novels as THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, the basic story of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU is very well known through several extremely loose film adaptations. Pendrick, a British scientist, is shipwrecked--and by chance finds himself on an isolated island where Dr. Moreau and his assistant Montgomery are engaged in a series of experiments. They are attempting to transform animals into manlike beings.

Wells, a social reformer, was a very didactic writer, and his novels reflect his thoughts and theories about humanity. Much of Wells writing concerns (either directly or covertly) social class, but while this exists in MOREAU it is less the basic theme than an undercurrent. At core, the novel concerns the then-newly advanced theory of natural selection--and then works to relate how that theory impacts man's concept of God. Wells often touched upon this, and in several novels he broaches the thought that if mankind evolved "up" it might just as easily evolve "down," but nowhere in his work is this line of thought more clearly and specifically seen than here.


At times Wells' determination to teach his reader can overwhelm; at times it can become so subtle that it is nothing short of absolutely obscure. But in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, Wells achieves a perfect balance of the two extremes, even going so far as to balance the characters in such a way that not even the narrator emerges as entirely sympathetic. It is a remarkable achievement, and in this sense I consider MOREAU possibly the best of Wells work: the novel is as interesting for the story it tells as it is for still very relevant themes it considers.It is also something of an oddity among Wells work, for while Wells often included elements of horror and savagery in his novels, MOREAU is not so much horrific as it is disturbingly gruesome and occasionally deliberately distasteful. This is not really a book than you can read and then put away: it lingers in your mind in a most unsettling way. Strongly recommended.




Notes from the Underground By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes from the Underground


Notes from the Underground

By
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


`Notes From The Underground' is a formidable work of philosophy and of psychology, not to mention its worth as a novel. In the space of around one hundred pages, Dostoyevsky manages to expound theories on reason, alienation, suffering, and human inaction. The book's importance and influence on generations of writers cannot be over-emphasised; Sartre and Camus are only two examples of people who have been directly influenced by this book.

The book is presented in two parts. Part one `Underground' is written in the form of the nameless narrator's rambling thoughts on reason and his claim that throughout history, human actions have been anything but influenced by reason. Underground Man's charge is that man values most the freedom to choose to act in opposition to reason's dictates. Dostoyevsky's critique of reason then, although it demands attention and is somewhat difficult to follow, sets the philosophical foundations for the rest of the book.

Part two `A Propos of the Wet Snow' is much easier to read, as the narrator recounts three episodes which happened when he was fifteen years younger and working as a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The first considers an incident in which an army officer insults him and goes on to detail Underground Man's subsequent internal anguish at his inability to commit an act of retribution. The second episode takes place at a farewell dinner for an acquaintance named Zverkov. The narrator is utterly disgusted with the company in which he finds himself but despite this, he is unable - even though he desires it - to make them realise this. The third episode details Underground Man's brief, painful and emotional relationship with a prostitute.

Dostoyevsky is refreshing in this book thanks not only to his incredibly powerful prose, but also for the intense but subtle way in which the stories reflect and indeed embody his philosophical theories. This dark and pessimistic portrayal of the nature of man may not sit very comfortably with many readers, however the ideas expressed in `Notes From The Underground' are as relevant and worthy of deliberation now as I am sure they were in 1864.



Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future By Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche


Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future

By
Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche's mature masterpiece, Beyond Good and Evil considers the origins and nature of Judeo-Christian morality; the end of philosophical dogmatism and beginning of perspectivism; the questionable virtues of science and scholarship; liberal democracy, nationalism, and women's emancipation.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Bourne Deception by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Deception  by  Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum


 The Bourne Deception 
by 
Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

Shadowy master assassin Jason Bourne spends too much time offstage in bestseller Lustbader's cliché-ridden fourth thriller in the Ludlum franchise (after The Bourne Sanction). Having pushed his latest archenemy, Russian Leonid Arkadin, off a tanker into the ocean, Bourne assumes his foe must be dead. Not long after, Arkadin ambushes Bourne, hitting him with a rifle shot that would've killed a normal man. Seriously but not mortally wounded, Bourne decides to keep his survival a secret. The duel between the pair gets submerged in a plot line about a corrupt U.S. defense secretary's efforts to use the downing of a civilian airliner in Egypt by an Iranian missile as a casus belli. The action sequences and inevitable betrayals are old hat.


The Bourne Sanction by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Sanction  by  Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum


The Bourne Sanction 
by 
Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

Globe-trotting secret agent Jason Bourne returns in the third installment under the helm of Lustbader, who struggles to captivate as convincingly and effectively as Ludlum did in the original novels.


The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum


The Bourne Betrayal  by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Betrayal 
by
Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

     In Lustbader's workmanlike second novel to continue the saga of Robert Ludlum's amnesiac assassin and spy (after 2004's The Bourne Legacy), Jason Bourne joins the war on terror. Troubled by visions of a woman dying in his arms, Bourne seeks psychiatric help, unaware that the doctor is an imposter who has tampered with the rogue agent's already messy and incomplete memories. That mental sabotage is part of a diabolical plan by Islamic terrorists to strike at Washington, D.C., led by Karim, a human chameleon who has fooled the CIA—and Bourne—into believing that he's actually deputy CIA director Martin Lindros. 
      Aided by an attractive fellow agent who manages to overcome her distrust of Bourne, he races the clock to uncover the traitor within the intelligence community. Lustbader is less successful than Ludlum in dramatizing Bourne's inner torment—a feature that distinguished the character from many similar thriller heroes


The Bourne Legacy by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Legacy  by Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Legacy 
by
Eric Van Lustbader & Robert Ludlum


      Veteran thriller maestro Lustbader (Black Heart, etc.) seizes the reins of Robert Ludlum's bestselling Jason Bourne series, proving that even Ludlum's death can't stop the ex-CIA operative. David Webb, a mild-mannered Georgetown professor, harbors his old Bourne identity deep within his psyche—except in moments of danger. A mysterious assassin, Khan, has targeted Webb. Seeking counsel from his old CIA handler, Alex Conklin, Webb arrives at Conklin's home to find him, along with Webb's psychiatrist and friend, Mo Panov, murdered. Unsurprisingly, it's a setup, and Webb is declared a rogue agent and the prime suspect. His only clue to the real killer is a pad of paper with a faint impression of the notation "NX 20." Meanwhile, in Reykjavik, preparations are underway for the upcoming summit on worldwide terrorism. 
       Even the dimmest thriller reader will immediately intuit that Bourne, pursued by the world's leading intelligence agencies, will end up in Iceland confronting some evildoer out to wreak havoc on the international terror conference. And thus it comes to pass. Lustbader has wisely eschewed mimicking Ludlum's signature style—short punchy paragraphs with lots of exclamation points. His own prose, often cliche-ridden ("Khan felt as if his brain was about to explode. He was shaken to his very foundation"), is perfectly serviceable, effectively conveying the myriad cinematic hairsbreadth escapes, crosses, double crosses, explosions, furious fisticuffs and careening plot twists. It's a hearty serving of meat and potatoes action adventure, just the sort of fare that both Ludlum's and Lustbader's fans relish. 

The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Ultimatum  by Robert Ludlum


The Bourne Ultimatum 
by
Robert Ludlum

The literary faults and stylistic excesses that characterized The Icarus Agenda , The Gemini Contenders and other of Ludlum's works are present in his latest mammoth thriller, but fans will nonetheless cheer the return of his most popular character, David Webb, aka Jason Bourne, the assassin who never was. When the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal penetrates his civilian identity, Webb must again assume the Bourne persona to protect his wife and small children. In their renewed struggle, the two master assassins uncover the revived existence of Medusa, the sinister alliance that originally led to the establishment of the Bourne identity. In action that moves from the U.S. to Montserrat to Paris before concluding in Moscow, Bourne and his allies prove incredibly inept, barely escaping the Jackal's traps and failing in their repeated attempts to ambush him

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum



The Bourne Supremacy 
by
Robert Ludlum

Ludlum has never come up with a more head-spinning, spine-jolting, intricately mystifying, Armageddonish, in short Ludlumesque, thriller than this. A Peking leader of seemingly irreproachable reputation, secretly a Kuomintang fanatic, has masterminded a plot to take over Hong Kong via political assassination, the result of which would be civil war in China and possibly global disaster. His principal agent is an assassin-for-hire masquerading as the legendary "Jason Bourne," a one-time secret U.S. agent now, under his real name David Webb, struggling with the aid of a psychiatrist and his loving wife Marie to recover from amnesia. Only one man can destroy the conspiracy: Webb, who must be persuaded to re-assume his Bourne identity, track down the impostor and through him lay a trap for the vile Shengthe "persuasion" to be by way of his abducted wife. The action jolts from the back alleys of Hong Kong and Kowloon to a secret government complex in the Colorado mountains to the seats of power in Peking and even the interior of Mao's tomb. Every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger; the story brims with assassination, torture, hand-to-hand combat, sudden surprise and intrigue within intrigue

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum



The Bourne Identity 
by
Robert Ludlum

Jason Bourne.

He has no past. And he may have no future. His memory is blank. He only knows that he was flushed out of the Mediterranean Sea, his body riddled with bullets.

There are a few clues. A frame of microfilm surgically implanted beneath the flesh of his hip. Evidence that plastic surgery has altered his face. Strange things that he says in his delirium— maybe code words. Initial: "J.B." And a number on the film negative that leads to a Swiss bank account, a fortune of four million dollars, and, at last, a name: Jason Bourne.

But now he is marked for death, caught in a maddening puzzle, racing for survival through the deep layers of his buried past into a bizarre world of murderous conspirators—led by Carlos, the world's most dangerous assassin. And no one can help Jason Bourne but the woman who once wanted to escape him. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray  by Oscar Wilde


The Picture of Dorian Gray 
by
Oscar Wilde


A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man's portrait, his subject's frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray's picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, "as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife," Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. "The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden." As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful "When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy." But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel's drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde's supposed aims, not least "no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style." Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: "All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment."

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth  by Ken Follett


The Pillars of the Earth 
by
Ken Follett


Tom Builder's dream is to build a cathedral, but in the meantime, he must scrounge about to find a lord that will hire him. His search pulls him and his family into the politics of 12th-century England, as different lords vie to gain control of the throne in the wake of the recently deceased king. Prior Phillip, a man raised in the monastery since childhood, also finds himself drafted into the brewing storm as he must protect the interests of a declining church. Richard E. Grant seduces readers early on with a soft and deliberate voice that is like a loud whisper. However, his full range quickly reveals itself as he delves into characters with animated voices that exert their true essence. Even throughout the narrative, Grant musters a lively voice that imbues energy into the story. The only shortcoming is that the abridgment of Follett's 1989 novel proves to be too choppy. Though the story appears complete, there still remain abrupt moments throughout the tale.

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


The Return Of Sherlock Holmes 
by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After an absence of three years, when Dr. Watson and the world thought he had perished at the hands of his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes returns from his watery grave, his skills of deduction sharper than ever. No case is too slight for his attention. He uses his skills to find an abducted pupil from the Priory School; to save a young girl who is being stalked by 'a solitary cyclist'; and to search for the missing 'three-quarter' of a Rugby team. He rises to the challenge of deciphering the secret code of the 'dancing men' which leads to a sinister connection with America. High society calls for his services as he saves the Government from the threat of war after a top secret document goes missing, and exposes the murky world of the blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton. With colourful cases involving the Mafia and Russian nihilists, Conan Doyle shows he has lost none of his narrative skills in this collection of stories published in The Strand magazine as 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' between 1903 and 1904. Once again, as in 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Dr. Watson, Holmes's trusted friend and chronicler accompanies him in his pursuit of justice.


The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James



The Turn Of The Screw 
by 
Henry James

The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers

To Kill A Mocking bird by Harper Lee



To Kill A Mocking bird 
by
Harper Lee

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.
Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Lee offers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman to overcome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standing up for what he knows is right; and finally in Scout's hard-won understanding that most people are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations, and deserves to be reread often.

Read

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary  by Helen Fielding


Bridget Jones's Diary 
by
Helen Fielding

In the course of the year recorded in Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget confides her hopes, her dreams, and her monstrously fluctuating poundage, not to mention her consumption of 5277 cigarettes and "Fat units 3457 (approx.) (hideous in every way)." In 365 days, she gains 74 pounds. On the other hand, she loses 72! There is also the unspoken New Year's resolution--the quest for the right man. Alas, here Bridget goes severely off course when she has an affair with her charming cad of a boss. But who would be without their e-mail flirtation focused on a short black skirt? The boss even contends that it is so short as to be nonexistent.
At the beginning of Helen Fielding's exceptionally funny second novel, the thirtyish publishing puffette is suffering from postholiday stress syndrome but determined to find Inner Peace and poise. Bridget will, for instance, "get up straight away when wake up in mornings." Now if only she can survive the party her mother has tricked her into--a suburban fest full of "Smug Marrieds" professing concern for her and her fellow "Singletons"--she'll have made a good start. As far as she's concerned, "We wouldn't rush up to them and roar, 'How's your marriage going? Still having sex?'"
This is only the first of many disgraces Bridget will suffer in her year of performance anxiety (at work and at play, though less often in bed) and living through other people's "emotional fuckwittage." Her twin-set-wearing suburban mother, for instance, suddenly becomes a chat-show hostess and unrepentant adulteress, while our heroine herself spends half the time overdosing on Chardonnay and feeling like "a tragic freak." Bridget Jones's Diary began as a column in the London Independent and struck a chord with readers of all sexes and sizes. In strokes simultaneously broad and subtle, Helen Fielding reveals the lighter side of despair, self-doubt, and obsession, and also satirizes everything from self-help books (they don't sound half as sensible to Bridget when she's sober) to feng shui, Cosmopolitan-style. She is the Nancy Mitford of the 1990s, and it's impossible not to root for her endearing heroine. On the other hand, one can only hope that Bridget will continue to screw up and tell us all about it for years and books to come.

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres



Captain Corelli's Mandolin
by 
Louis de Bernieres

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is set in the early days of the second world war, before Benito Mussolini invaded Greece. Dr Iannis practices medicine on the island of Cephalonia, accompanied by his daughter, Pelagia, to whom he imparts much of his healing art. Even when the Italians do invade, life isn't so bad--at first anyway. The officer in command of the Italian garrison is the cultured Captain Antonio Corelli, who responds to a Nazi greeting of "Heil Hitler" with his own "Heil Puccini", and whose most precious possession is his mandolin. It isn't long before Corelli and Pelagia are involved in a heated affair--despite her engagement to a young fisherman, Mandras, who has gone off to join Greek partisans. Love is complicated enough in wartime, even when the lovers are on the same side. And for Corelli and Pelagia, it becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate the minefield of allegiances, both personal and political, as all around them atrocities mount, former friends become enemies and the ugliness of war infects everyone it touches.
British author Louis de Bernières is well known for his forays into magical realism in such novels as The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. Here he keeps it to a minimum, though certainly the secondary characters with whom he populates his island--the drunken priest, the strongman, the fisherman who swims with dolphins--would be at home in any of his wildly imaginative Latin American fictions. Instead, de Bernières seems interested in dissecting the nature of history as he tells his ever-darkening tale from many different perspectives. Captain Corelli's Mandolin works on many levels, as a love story, a war story and a deconstruction of just what determines the facts that make it into the history books.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë



Jane Eyre  
by 
Charlotte Brontë


Early responses to Jane Eyre, first published in 1847, were mixed. Some held the book to be anti-Christian, others were disturbed by a heroine so proud, self-willed, and essentially unfeminine. The modern reader may well have trouble understanding what all the fuss was about. On the surface a fairly conventional Gothic romance (poor orphan governess is hired by rich, brooding Byronic hero-type), Jane Eyre hardly seems the stuff from which revolutions are made. But the story is very much about the nature of human freedom and equality, and if Jane was seen as something of a renegade in nineteenth-century England, it is because her story is that of a woman who struggles for self-definition and determination in a society that too often denies her that right. But self-determination does not mean untrammeled freedom for men or women. Rochester, that thorny masculine beast whom Jane eventually falls for, is a man who sets his own laws and manipulates the lives of those around him; before he can enter into a marriage of equals with Jane he must undergo a spiritual transformation. Should the lesson sound dry, it's not. Jane Eyre is full of drama: fires, storms, attempted murder, and a mad wife conveniently stashed away in the attic. This is very sexy stuff - another reason Victorian critics weren't quite sure what to make of it