Thanks for the Memories

May 14th. 2009

Okay, if you saw and loved the book/movie P.S. I Love You, you’re going to love this book, Thanks for the Memories, by Cecelia Ahern. In all honesty, I’d never read a book by Ms. Ahern until this one, but I knew enough people who’d seen the movie P.S. I Love You and either loved it or hated it. So, I bought the book at Barrons and settled in for a good read. I was a bit thrown by the two points of view that seemed so unrelated, but after the blood transfusion it all made sense–from a literary standpoint. **Spoiler alert** I did have a hard time buying the whole blood transfusion leads to a transference of memories concept. Which is the crux of this romance. But, I had a conversation with several pathologists the other night who did indicate that there was some credible (if incredible) documentation that patients who receive transplants (particularly heart transplants) do undergo some freaky changes related to food preferences, deja vu, and personality. Not being a medical professional, I couldn’t respond other than to say “no way!”  So, credibility aside, this is a lovely book about heartache, magic, romance, and blood transfusions. It’s setting is London and Dublin–who wouldn’t want to take a mental vacation there–and my favorite character was Joyce’s father. And the author, I have since discovered, is fairly impressive in her own right. The daughter of the former Irish Prime Minister, she’s dating a movie star and her sister is married to a rock star, every books she’s written (since 2004) has gone into the stratosphere, and she’s the creator of the popular TV show, Samantha Who? So, if for no other reason that to see how someone incredibly blessed functions in the role of writer, read Cecelia Ahern’s newest book.

Miss Julia Delivers The Goods

May 11th. 2009

In a previous blog, I mentioned how I became a fan of Ann B. Ross and her Miss Julia series of books describing the adventures of an acerbic Southern lady. Having read so many of the books in this series, I feel like I could walk into Miss Julia’s North Carolina house, recognize the rooms and give Lillian a big hug before I sat down at the kitchen table to bite into one of Lillian’s famous pies. I’ve been with Miss Julia through almost every one of her scrapes and misunderstandings–to the point I kind of wonder how the people in her world still put up with her circular logic. So, it was with some anticipation that I sat down to start reading the latest book, Miss Julia Delivers The Goods. Well, maybe there was a lot going on in my life these last few weeks (true enough) but I just couldn’t get in to it. I failed to understand the motivations for a lot of what was going on between the pages. I’m not going to say that Miss Julia jumped the shark with Hazel Marie’s pregnancy and Sam’s robbery, but I am wondering how much more can happen before I run out of patience with Miss Julia. Maybe her energy levels just wear me out. One thing I can say is Ann B. Ross is consistent in her characterizations and voice. “Voice” is a big deal with authors. It’s an almost invisible characteristic that imprints itself on vocabulary, sentence structure, pacing and plot development. It’s that indefinable thing that makes you love one author and pass on another. I don’t know if Ann is intimately acquainted with someone like Miss Julia, if that’s why she always maintains her distinction, but its admirable. Series are hard to write. Anyway, if you’re intrigued by how a Southern lady can live like its 1964 in the twenty-first century, then start with Ann’s first novel, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind.

Among the Mad

May 1st. 2009

Several years ago, my bookseller friend, Vickie at Barrons, turned me on to a new author–and a potential character series–by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs, a British WWI nurse returns to London and takes up as a protege to a gifted, and well respected, psychologist and criminal analyst. The character’s backstory is well-written and fascinating, but the circumstances Maisie faces as a self-employed ‘detective’ in between the wars is an interesting social study as well. Throughout the course of four or five novels, Maisie heartaches and passions are revealed in a carefully controlled style we come to expect from the Brits. This latest book, Among the Mad, continues her empathy for wounded war veterans, but takes it to a frightening (and oddly current) level. Maisie, as a former battle field nurse, knows intimately the effects of  “shell shock.” A character in an earlier novel, Birds of a Feather, says “that’s the trouble with war, it’s never over when it’s over, it lives on inside.” She paints poignant humanity on the scarred faces of those homeless veterans who wander the streets, even one who  sends letters to the Prime Minister insinuating utter destruction unless attention is given to war veterans. Though this is all set in the film-noir style of the 1920’s, the themes ring awfully true in our own day of bringing home veterans.  I recommend you read Among the Mad, but please start with the first book, Maisie Dobbs, to best enjoy the journey of this thoughtful and intelligent heroine.