Saturday, June 26, 2010


Pages: 367
Date: 25/06/2010
Grade: 5
Details: June read for bookclub

This is a heartbreaking yet beautiful and very powerful story. Spanning thirty years the story is set in Afghanistan and takes us from before the Soviet occupation, through those years, the Taliban reign and the post Taliban rebuilding of something vaguely resembling normal life, all as experienced by two women.
Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a rich man who already has three wives and a poor, servant woman. Although her father provides for her and visits her, he won't officially acknowledge her. She's only a teenager when her mother kills herself and Mariam finds herself quickly married of to an older man who takes her from everything she knows to Kabul where he soon proves himself a bully and abusive, especially after Mariam suffers several miscarriages.
Laila is about twenty years younger than Mariam and has grown up in Kabul in an atmosphere that encouraged her to be educated and independent. Her best friend and later first love is Tariq who abandons her to flee the country with his parents just as they are getting really close.
When a mortar kills both her parents, Laila is taken in by Mariam's husband. Knowing herself to be pregnant and believing that Tariq is death, she agrees to become his second wife.
At first Mariam deeply resents the young, beautiful and fertile intruder, but soon the abuse inflicted on both of them turns hostility into a deep friendship, making the two women a force to be reckoned with, despite repression both inside their home and in the society outside.
This book was such an eye opener for me. I like to think that I'm well informed and have a good idea of what's going on in the world. However, this book really showed me what life in an extremist (Muslim) country is like for the whole population, but especially for the women. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to try and live under circumstances as described in this book. And although I'd love to think that the events as described in this book are extreme, I doubt that that is the case.
I'm filled with admiration for Hosseini who managed to describe these women, their lives, emotions and thoughts in such a way that they came to live for me. 
I'm in awe of this book and know that its story will stay with me for a long time.


If a play is being performed in one of the leading theatres in Ireland, The Abbey theatre in Dublin, and it happens to be called bookworms and deals with events during a bookclub meeting, it is almost obligatory for any self respecting bookclub to go and see it. And thanks to County Cavan's head librarian, Josephine Brady the members of the three bookclubs the library hosts in Bailieborough, Cavan town and Cootehill all had the opportunity to go and see the play last Wednesday, June 23rd.
A bus was organized to bring everybody from County Cavan to Dublin and back again afterwards. I wasn't able to join those on the bus since I had to be in Dublin that day anyway for private reasons, but I joined the group about half an hour before the play started in a pub across the street from the theatre.
The play was laugh out loud funny, very well acted and held a few cautionary notes for those of us running bookclubs.
The story, without wanting to give anything away, centers around what happens one night when a bookclub meets in a private home where drink flows freely and for the first time ever, the husbands of the members are invited as well.
The woman in charge of the bookclub takes the whole thing very seriously. The books discussed (To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) are serious fiction and to be treated as such. Members should give their general opinion first, one after the other, followed by a in dept discussion. However, it's not the books that cause the controversies but rather the relationships between those present. 
As the alcohol levels rise, so do the repercussions and it's anybodies guess where it all might end.
Like I said, it was very funny. On several occasions I found myself laughing until I had tears in my eyes. And the play proved that there is a lot to be said for having the meetings in the library, where the strongest beverage served is coffee. Having said that, the one husband that is a member of my bookclub has so far managed to not cause any problems for the rest of us.
Because I didn't travel back with the rest of the group I don't know how much everybody else enjoyed the play, but I'm sure I'll find out coming Tuesday when my bookclub is meeting again. It makes me wonder though what we will find ourselves talking about; will it be the play or will it be A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, the book we read this month. Or maybe I should just follow the example of the woman in the play, put my foot down and insist that we, seriously, talk about the book, with personal impressions first please...


For once my blog does not contain a book review, but it is definitely book related.
On Tuesday June 22nd last, a plague commemorating the James family, and especially their famous author descended Henry James, was unveiled in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan. It was from this town that Henry's grandfather emigrated to America in 1789.

This event was organized by Bailieborough Development Association's Forward 400 project, as part of the year long celebration of Bailieborough's 400 years as a town in Cavan, Ireland.
The association and all those present were both very pleased and honoured that Colm Toibin had agreed to perform the unveiling as well as give a talk on the life of Henry James and his family. Colm Toibin has to be considered a leading authority on the work and life of Henry James and has published a book on this subject entitled "The Master".
Also invited to the unveiling were the last living descendants of the James' family still living in the Bailieborough area.
After the unveiling all those present went to the local Church of Ireland church where Colm Toibin gave a very interesting talk about Henry James, his life and his family. Amongst many other facts we learned that although Henry had visited Ireland three times during his life, he had never felt the need to visit his ancestral home town and that he had a rather ambivalent view of his Irish roots. 

The church has several, very beautiful stained glass windows, one of which was erected by the James family, as shown in this picture. 

After Colm Toibin finished his talk a booklet about Henry James and his family which had been researched and compiled by members of a cross community group was presented to Mr. Toibin, the descendants of the James family and to both Cavan and Bailieborough libraries, where the copies will be available for all who wish to do research on this subject.
The evening ended with refreshments in the Church hall giving everybody the opportunity to have a look at the booklets and share their impressions of the evening with each other.
All I can say is that this was a very informative and interesting evening with a turnout that certainly exceeded my expectations however well deserved it was.
My compliments go to the organizing committee and the master of proceedings for the evening, Mr. Peadar Reynolds.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Pages: 321
Date: 20/06/2010
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 4 Sookie Stackhouse

Another instalment in the series featuring a mind-reading cocktail waitress, vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters and an ever increasing cast of other supernatural creatures.
Sookie is still upset after her break-up with Bill, her vampire neighbour ex boyfriend when she sees an almost naked man running along a road in the middle of the night.
The man turns out to be Eric, the leader of the local vampire community. The normally sexy and dangerous Eric is not himself though. A witch has put a spell on him and he has lost his memory, leaving him vulnerable and sweet. He is also in severe danger because the witches who took his memory also want to kill him. 
Against her better judgment Sookie agrees to let Eric hide in her house, an act which lands her in the middle of a battle between witches, vampires and werewolves. And as if that doesn't complicate her life enough, her brother disappears, she finds herself irresistibly attracted to Eric and face to face with a shifter determined to kill her.
As always this was a fun, thrilling and sexy story. Charlaine Harris succeeds very well in making all her creatures part of our every day world, making me almost believe that I might just run into one of them one of these days.
This was the perfect book to read in between to heavier ones.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Pages: 388
Date: 19/06/2010
Grade: 4
Details: Received from Eason's Bookclub on             Facebook,the book for June

When the story starts we find ourselves in Berlin in 1933 just a little while before Hitler will come to power
Martin Kirsch is a psychiatrist who becomes fascinated by a girl who is admitted to the hospital where he works. The girl had been found in the woods outside Berlin, naked, near death and without any memories. The only thing found with her was a handbill, advertising a public lecture by Albert Einstein.
Martin Kirsch who had actually seen the girl before in Berlin and finds himself attracted to her, takes on her case and soon fascination turns into obsession. His quest to find out who the girl is takes him to a psychiatric hospital in Zurich where he meets Einstein's youngest son Eduard who is under treatment there.
With the girl having amnesia, Eduard suffering psychiatric problems and Martin Kirsch also having health problems that affect his grip on reality, this is a story in which the truth is never clear and the trustworthiness of the narrators must be questioned at all times.
This is a fascinating story given that it deals with mental illness, Einsteins theories and Hitlers rise to power. However, I feel that at times those were almost too many heavy subjects for one story. I felt the human side of the story took too much of a backseat to the theoretical subject matters on several occasions, which interrupted the flow of the story a bit for me.
On the other hand, the creeping progress of the theories and darkness that would grow and grow and destroy so many lives during Hitler's 12 years in power was very subtly yet clearly conveyed on these pages.
This was not an easy or a quick read for me. It was however a very interesting one, leaving me with lots to think about and reflect upon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Pages: 231
Date: 13/06/2010
Grade: 5

Oh boy, what a book, what a main character and what a story. This will stay with me for some time to come.
This book tells the story of 15 year old Charlie who has just started high school when he starts writing letters about his life to someone who remains unidentified.
In many ways Charlie is a typical teenager with typical teenage hopes, desires and insecurities. But there is something extra about Charlie; he is extremely intelligent, very sensitive and has been seeing a doctor because of emotional problems.
Charlie is not one of the popular kids in school and watches life mostly from the sidelines. But when he does find himself part of a group he discovers that comes with a whole new set of rules and issues.
During Charlie's freshman year there are ups and downs, valuable lessons learned and upsetting revelations. But ultimately there is friendship and family and love and a life just waiting to be lived.
I loved this book so much that I will have to go and buy it. This is a book I need to own.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Pages: 279
Date: 11/06/2010
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 2 Sookie Stackhouse

A bit of mind candy after my previous, much more serious read. These books are just plain fun, exciting and very easy to read, and sometimes that's all I require from my reading.
Sookie is still working as a cocktail waitress, trying to keep other people's thoughts out of her head and dating vampire Bill. Her life is still filled with strange creatures, strange events and danger.
It all starts when a co-worker of Sookie's is murdered and found by her in the back of a car belonging to a local policeman.
Then Sookie finds herself face to face with a horrible and poisonous mythical creature who injures her as a message to the local vampires. 
In order to safe her life, the vampires have to suck the poisoned blood out of Sookie and give her a transfusion, after which she owes them. And soon she finds herself travelling to Dallas with Bill paying her debt through using her telepathic skills for another group of vampires.
Little does she know that having to read a few minds is the least of her problems. Life is about to become extremely dangerous...


Pages: 468
Date: 11/06/2010
Grade: 4.5

This book is a work of fiction, yet it is scary how close almost everything in this story comes to what we read about in Irish newspapers everyday. It is all here, the developers doing as they please even if it means ignoring the rules, politicians at best turning a blind eye and people just not wanting to know.
Early one evening in the beer garden of a Dublin pub a young man with known connections to a gang, Noel Rafferty, is shot and killed. Later that same night the young man's uncle, a developer, also named Noel Rafferty dies in an apparent car accident.
Although most people are prepared to accept this sequence of events as a horrible coincidence, Gina Rafferty can't do that. Convinced that there has to be a connection between the two deaths she starts looking for one. And the more she's told to leave well enough alone, the more determined she becomes to get to the bottom of whatever is going on, while those who are behind the deaths are getting ever more desperate to keep their secrets safe. And having killed before, what's to stop them from doing so again?
This is a good thriller, made even scarier by the fact that it seems so close to what actually has been going on in Ireland.
The only minor disappointment is that the reader knows from the start who is behind the murders. You will have to read the whole book though to find out how deep the corruption runs and how long it has been going on for.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Pages: 1110 (E-Reader)
Date: 07/06/2010
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 Sedona O'Hala

Sedona O'Hala is working in her lab in a high tech company when she hears screaming. Rushing out she sees how a company executive and a secretary are being attacked by some very dangerous looking and armed men. Without stopping to think Sedona rushes in and attacks the attackers, who flee but not before engaging her in a fight.
On the back of this incident, Sedona is asked by the company and a consultant named Steve Huntington (who looks very much like on of the attackers) to help them catch who ever is behind the money being stolen from the company. This plan involves her being promoted to executive level and living in the accompanying style. The hope is that she will be approached to help those stealing the money.
At the same time Sedona gets involved with Marilyn, a woman being abused by her husband. Sedona desperately wants to help Marilyn, although the woman doesn't appear to want any help.
And then there is the issue of Steve Huntington. Can he be trusted? Is he dangerous? He sure is attractive.
There is a lot happening in this fast paced book. It hits the ground running right from the first sentence and really never comes up for breathe. There is a good mix of action and fun with a few laugh out loud moments.
Even the fact that I worked out a lot (but not all) of the solution before Sedona did, didn't spoil my fun.
It's always nice to give a book a good review. It's even better when the book's author is someone you know and like. I'm looking forward to reading more of Sedona's adventures.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Pages: 379
Date: 06/06/2010
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 12 Alex Cooper

I do enjoy this series. Not only is it obvious how knowledgeable Mrs. Fairstein is about the justice system, her passion for the subject and for helping the victims of sexual assault jumps off the page.
This book starts with a shipwreck of New York's coast. The ship is full of illegal immigrants from the Ukraine, most of whom make it to land safely. Some however don't and among the dead is a young woman who nobody on the boat recognizes and who has a tiny rose tattooed on the inside of her thigh.
At the same time a political scandal erupts when a congressman crashes his car while under the influence of alcohol. It emerges that he'd just been in a fight with his mistress about his illegitimate baby daughter.
Alex Cooper is investigating the shipwreck but can't help worrying about the congressman's mistress, and with good reason. Before long, the young woman is found murdered and the little girl is missing.
And the plot definitely thickens when a tattoo of a rose is discovered on the inside of the mistress's thigh.
As the two cases merge, Alex finds herself up against powerful people with a lot to lose who don't mind getting rid of anyone who stands in their way.
A good story and a real page-turner. My only, minor, complaint is that there were so many players in the story that I did occasionally lost track of who was who and how they fitted into the picture.
On the other hand, the historical detail was, as always, fascinating.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Pages: 371
Date: 04/02/2010
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 3 Chief Inspector Wilkins Mystery
            Large Print

This was such a fun mystery. I really enjoyed reading it and will have to try and find the two previous titles.
The mystery is written in the classical format. A murder in a country house setting, with only a limited amount of possible suspects, most of whom have something to hide and an investigator who appears to be relaxed and not very clever but of course turns out to be quite the opposite.
Lord Burford really doesn't want to host another house party at Alderly since on two previous occasions they lead to murder. But when the occasion is the funeral and the reading of the will of an elderly relative, he has little choice but agree to let his distant relatives stay in his house.
Of course things go horribly wrong. After the will has been read one of the guests angrily exclaims that she knows secrets about all those present and won't hesitate to make the public. When the woman is subsequently found murdered in her bed, Lord Burford is very relieved that it is Chief Inspector Wilkins who is in charge of the investigation.
Gerry, the lord's daughter however is excited at the opportunity to conduct her own investigation. An undertaking not without risks.
As I said, a very likable cozy mystery, even if I had the murderer figured out fairly early on.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Pages: 302
Date: 03/06/2010
Grade: 4.5
Details: no.9 Elvis Cole

Another action packed and heart-stopping thriller featuring Elvis Cole and Joe Pike by Robert Crais.
The story starts with Ben, the ten year old son o Elvis' girlfriend Lucy being kidnapped from Elvis' house. The subsequent phone call blames Elvis' past actions in Vietnam for the abduction.
When Lucy's ex-husband arrives in L.A. he's more than happy to blame Elvis for what has happened and has Elvis ordered from the case. However, Elvis feels guilty about Ben having been taken while he was looking after him and refuses to stop investigating. With a still weakened Joe Pike as his partner, Elvis starts digging and becomes even more determined to find the boy and return him to his mother when they find out that they're dealing with ruthless mercenaries.
This book was interesting on several levels. First of all because the book was used as a vehicle to give us some insight into Elvis boyhood and years in the army. Secondly, the book featured Carol Starkey from Crais' earlier book "Demolition Angel" (which I own but haven't read yet), who is now working Juvenile cases. And finally it was, like the previous books, a fabulous thriller and addictive reading.
I'm slowly catching up with this series, and it won't be long until I'm completely up to date, especially because I've already ordered the next book in the series from my library. Of course, once I do catch up I'll be like all other Crais fans, waiting for the next book to come out and cursing him for not writing faster. But, at least I still have a few books to go before I read that point.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Date: 31/05/2010
Grade: 4
Details: Memoir & Opinion Columns

This is a book in two parts.
When some of her opinion columns from the Irish Times were to be bundled in a book and published, Nuala O'Faolain was asked to write an introduction to them. She did, and the end result was the memoir that forms the first two hundred pages of this book.
Her life story is fascinating as well as shocking. Brought up in a large family with two totally incapable parents it's down to both good fortune and sheer determination that O'Faloain made a success of her life. However, reading her memoir I couldn't help wondering if that success was limited to her professional life. On a personal level she came across as lonely, desperate and lost.
All the nuances she can see in life in general appear to vanish when it comes to looking at her own life, the decisions she made and the consequences they carried.
I don't want to get into the details of her life story here. I do want to say the following though, something which occurred to me about half way through the memoir and which I wrote down at that time: "Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living". This book though makes me wonder about the "over-examined" life. It seems to me that for O'Faolain things are never just what they are, never happen just because they do. Everything she does, says, experiences has to have a deeper meaning, an ulterior motive or profound explanation. Which leads to the question, can a life, lived under a self-imposed microscope ever leave you simply happy in the moment, smiling at a memory? (See page 112: "I'm sorry I hurt you." Why turn it into a manipulative move by Seamus Deane when she could have just accepted the apology).
Overall I was more impressed by the columns than the memoir. The first seem far more balanced. Of course it is easier to be balanced about general issues than about your own history, but even taking that into consideration, reading the memoir was hard work, far harder than the columns.