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Showing posts from March, 2014

The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett (♦♦♦)

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It’s the summer of 1914. Revolutionist ideas are burgeoning in Europe. In England, women have demonstrations to gain the right to vote. Russian people are at odds with the Czar. Germany is gaining momentum as a preeminent European power, and there are talks among the British elite that an attack on France by Germany is imminent.
In Switzerland, a group of anarchists meets in secret. Their job is to print a newspaper with the latest revolutionist ideas; later they smuggle that publication into Russia where it’s devoured by hungry intellectuals. Among those anarchists in Switzerland is a man named Feliks Kschessinsky, a Russian from St. Petersburg, who volunteers to kill a Russian prince in talks to form a Russian alliance with the British if Germany invades France.
Feliks travels to Britain and gets an opportunity to kill the Russian prince almost from the beginning, but his attempt is frustrated. Instead of giving up, his resolve is strengthened and he tries again…and again…Hot in Felik…

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (♦♦♦)

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Authorities of a South American country throw a birthday party for the head of a Japanese corporation. The party takes place at the mansion of the vice-president. The president of said country has excused himself from attending at the last minute. Hundreds of people of different nationalities are in attendance. The hallmark of the celebration is the singing by a world-famous soprano. When she finishes one of her arias, the lights go off and a group of guerrilla fighters enter through the air conditioning vents and take everyone hostage.
I had mixed feelings about Bel Canto. As the book opened I was enthralled and enjoyed very much the plot because I sort of recognized the setting immediately. Ann Patchett never identified the country by name but she planted clues along the way to pinpoint its identity: she spoke about the production of drugs such as coca and heroine, so I focused on perhaps a composite between Bolivia and Peru and perhaps Afghanistan. Then she mentioned that the presid…

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (♦♦♦♦♦)

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Claire Roth is a struggling young painter who earns her meager living copying masterpieces for a renowned website. Her expertise is in Edgar Degas’ works. Claire is very talented, but she has a muddled past thanks to an affair she had with a professor in graduate school who attributed a painting of hers. Hence, Claire has become an outcast in the art community--who was very fond of said professor—and has been denied opportunities given to lesser talents.
Out of the blue, gallery owner Aiden Markel makes contact with Claire wanting to see her latest work. In reality, he is after her expertise in copying masterpieces. Aiden proposes Claire a one-woman show in his gallery in exchange for her forging a stolen Degas’ masterpiece titled After the Bath. Claire accepts.
Only after being in the magical presence of the painting, she begins to realize that this painting may itself be a forgery. Armed with Degas’ sketchbooks and her “unique combination of knowledge and skills”, she concludes that t…

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna (♦♦♦♦½)

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James McCloone, Jamie for short, is a forty-one year old bachelor who lives in a farm in the Irish countryside. Jamie, together with his sister, was abandoned as a baby by his mother at the door of an orphanage ruled by nuns. Jamie grew up abused both physically and sexually, and used as a child slave until he was adopted by Alice and Mick McCloone when he was about ten years old. Only then he knew kindness.
It's no wonder then that in middle age, Jamie is severely depressed and hasn't been able to connect at a deeper level with any woman. When the wife of a friend suggests that Jamie places an ad in the "lonely hearts" section of a newspaper, he does so and meets a kindred spirit, but with so much emotional baggage, will he find the happiness he deserves?
I really liked The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna, but it was the saddest book I have read in a long while, though very well written.
The plot consists of two parallel stories: one with Jamie as an adult, the …