Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

This is what the back cover reads:



When Sister Evangeline finds the mysterious correspondence between Mother Innocenta of the Saint Rose Convent and legendary philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, it confirms that angels walked among us- and their descendants, the cruel Nephilim, still do.

Indeed, the Nephilim are hunting for artefacts concealed by Abigail Rockefeller during the Second World War- objects that will ultimately allow them to enslave mankind- and they have so far been prevented from reaching their apocalypse goal by one, clandestine organization: the Angelology Society.

And if the Angelologists are to stand any chance of winning this new battle in the ages-old war, they must find the artefacts first. But their fate rests in the hands of the innocent Sister Evangeline, who holds the key to unlocking Abigail Rockefeller's hiding places...and whose own destiny may yet find her prey to the terrifying Nephilim army, with horrifying consequences for humanity.

I had really high hopes for this book especially now that vampires are out and angels are in. I wanted to read a can't-put-downable book about angels. But I could put this book down. Alot. It took me almost 3 agonizing weeks to finish it.
This book reminded me of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code in that the characters are secondary to the plot.The main character, Sister Evangeline, the young nun, just didn't resonate with me. I wanted to like or be able to relate to the MC, but I couldn't even sympathize with her as she was vapid. I didn't hate her- it was much worse- I felt ambivalent towards her. Every time she was around it was like watching paint dry. The premise is that she was dropped off at this convent by her father for boarding school and became a nun. There's never any sense of vocation.
The supposed? hero Verlaine was a character that I couldn't get a grasp on- he was so slippery. Was he young? Was he old? Was a nerd? Was he workaholic? After reading 450 pages of the book, if you were to ask me to describe him, I couldn't.
I've come to the conclusion that I prefer character driven stories.
The story goes back and forth between 1999 NYC and World War II Paris. The story in NYC takes place over a day, day and half period, so it is suspenseful in that sense. The story in Paris against the backdrop of Hitler's tanks rolling in is quite good and that would have to be my favorite part of the whole book.
There is the inevitable twist in the end but the reader is left with some loose ends, mainly in regards to Evangeline. Perhaps there will be a sequel. I prefer some resolution at the end in regards to the main character.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Favorite Quotes from Books I've Read

Of all the books I've read over the years, there are certain books that will stay with me forever, be it a line, a passage, an image or just a real good laugh. Here are just a few:

"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge."

The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood

'You've got to stop being so spineless,' Freddie said, trying to sound stern. 'Oh, this is so cool,' he squealed excitedly, spoiling the effect. 'I feel like the head nun in The Sound of Music, telling Maria to get back and nail the Captain before the Baroness gets her mitts on him.'

The Disengagement Ring
Clodagh Murphy

Then she sat down at his table, and put her head on it, and was silent, with the patient suffering of black women, with the suffering of all oxen, with the suffering of any that are mute.

Cry, The Beloved Country
Alan Paton

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Predjudice
Jane Austen

"I mean that you paid us more than if you'd been telling the truth," he explained blandly, "and enough more to make it all right."

The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett

He is coming and I am here.

The Time Traveller's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

‘Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything.’

Gone With The Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.

Daphne DuMaurier

He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.

The Old Man and The Sea
Ernest Hemingway

The garden was still wet with last night’s rain and the black earth was streaming in the sun, while between my toes the ground was soft and squishy-I had taken off my shoes and left them on the garden path so they wouldn’t get caked with mud-and I remember thinking how much fun it would be to go barefoot all the time.
Seventeenth Summer
Maureen Daly

He looked up with a face filled with yesterday. “I want her to know the feeling of being in love,” Tomas said, “if only once and if only for a little while. It might help later on to know that for one little time there was a boy desperate for her. She’s got to have that much,woman, she’s got to have that.”
Leon Uris

For sixteen days, Tomas Larkin, son of Kilty, lay in a coma…On the seventeenth day, the giant fell.
Leon Uris

Monday, April 19, 2010

Write Away

Perhaps you've noticed my new 'wordometer' to the left of my blog. It will keep track of my new WIP-work in progress, tentatively titled, A Blast from the Past.

I've spent the last 14 months laboring over a paranormal YA and it has come to the point where I have to retire it to a drawer for the time being and move onto another project. I'm stuck. The characters still bang on in my head but I've stalled at 40k words. When I got stuck the first time at around 40k, I put that draft aside and wrote a completely different version, 2nd draft and became stuck at 40k. You'd think if you'd put them together you'd have 80k and a book- (is it too much to ask?) and everything would be golden but it didn't work out that way. At the end of the day, I still had 2 very different drafts of the same book. However, I don't see it as a waste of time. Instead, I choose to look at it as a writing exercise. I loved writing it and I loved the characters, but for now it's time to move on.

Anyways, I was already to start my first 'Irish' themed book centering around 3 very different women from one housing estate. It's presumptuous of me to think I could pull it off being an American but I thought I'd give it a try. That is until an off the cuff comment from my fellow writer friend and published author, Clodagh Murphy (The Disengagement Ring, Girl in a Spin) said, "What about that one book you were writing about the detective?" Jesus, I'd forgotten all about that. It was a story about a 30 something woman whose questionable uncle returns after a 30 yr absence. I opened that document up this morning and reread it and still loved it and what's more I knew how that story had to end. Oh yeah, this is what I want to write!

It was a simple conversation with Clodagh Murphy and Trina Rea about where we were and what we were writing next and I mentioned about the Irish themed book when Clodagh asked me about my previous WIP. It was serendipity at it's best.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor

375 pages

This book set in contemporary London, revolves around Lucy Brown who dies in a freak accident the night before her wedding. Distraught at leaving her finance Dan, she is given 2 options while in Limbo. She can either go straight on to Heaven and leave Dan or remain behind, accomplish an assigned task and become a ghost and stay with Dan forever. She chooses the latter and joins the House of Wannabe Ghosts where the 2 other 'dead' residents are the angry Goth girl, Claire and the smelly, trainspotter, Brian. Lucy's task is to find love for someone. But there are two pressing problems: she only has 21 days to do it and she's distracted by the fact that one of her supposed best friends, Anna, is getting ready to go in for the kill in regards to Lucy's fiancee, the heartbroken Dan.

The book is a funny, breezy read and I really admire Taylor's imagination regarding the undead and limbo. Her characters are so likeable that before you know it, you'll find yourself caring not only what happens to Lucy but to Claire and Brian as well. The ending was a shock but in a completely satisfying way.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The plot of this amazing tale is simple and straightforward: 3 women come together, 1 white and 2 black to collaborate on a book depicting the experiences of black women serving white women. Straightforward, right? But set it during the backdrop of the 1960's sad, segregated Deep South with its Jim Crow laws, the murder of Medgar Evers and the civil rights movement and you've got a lit match on top of a powder keg of dynamite.

But it is her characterization that makes the book shine. The story is about 3 very different women, Aibileen, the noble black maid raising white babies, the sassy Minnie whose mouth loses her one job after another and Skeeter the cotton trust fund college girl who starts to question the boundaries and prevailing attitudes of the day. It's a beautiful tale of how strength and a voice can come from the most unlikely of places. I am reminded of a passage from Alan Paton's Cry, The Beloved Country: "Then she sat down at his table, and put her head on it, and was silent, with the patient suffering of black women, with the suffering of oxen, with the suffering of any that are mute."

It's the type of book that makes you resent the things you have to do: go to work, cook, clean, etc., when you know that this book waits for you, needing to be read.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up this new 'classic.'


Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Love of Words Part 2

I remember distinctly the moment in my life when I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I was 9 and my best friend, Lisa and I had just finished watching an old B&W movie( name escapes me) where the storyline line revolved around 7 sisters with boyfriends but their widowed father had a rule that no one gets married until the oldest one does. Of course, the oldest one was a spinster sort type of bookworm. After that movie, I felt compelled to write something similar but better.

I wrote short stories for school and at high school graduation, my senior English teacher, Mrs. Hagelin, came up to me and said, "I hope someday that I read about you winning an award for your writing." She made me feel very proud of myself at that moment as well as reinforced the belief that I had in myself that I could write. I never forgot her kind words. Throughout high school, I wrote, mostly civil war dramas ala Gone With the Wind. I knew more about the Battle of the Bull Run than any other teenager I knew.

I floundered in college the first time around and rudderless, dropped out during my senior year. I didn't know what I wanted to do or become. The only thing I was sure of was writing but was told to put it on the back burner as I wouldn't be able to support myself. Young and impressionable, I took that advice. Finally at the age of 27, I went back to college for my nursing degree- I'm a carer at heart and although it wasn't my first choice, nursing was definitely my second and I would always have a job- I was told. While I completed my degree in nursing and worked full time, I wrote a manuscript called Blood is Thicker Than Water. This was in 1996, the year I graduated from nursing school. Off it went to different agents. A lot of rejections came flying back. But two agents said if I polished the manuscript up, they'd look at it again. I threw it in the drawer. Talk about a missed opportunity. Reading that manuscript now, I see how fundamentally flawed and unpolished it was, but there was a little spark of potential.

When I first moved to Ireland, I wrote a romantic comedy, titled, By The Seat of Her Pants. 44 rejection letters later, that too went into the drawer but I still pull that out from time to time to read it as I still love it. Now I've stalled on a novel but I have been writing short stories, which I haven't done in 25 years. I've found some pleasure in that. The first one dealt with divorce, current one deals with dying- these dark themes surely resonant with what's going on in my personal life at this time. If I continue in this vein, I'll be able to pull together an anthology and label it 'Doom & Gloom' or the 'Debbie Downer' anthology ( no reflection on you, Debs)

It was while I was living in Ireland that I became involved in an online writers' group, WriteWords. It was the best thing that had happened to me thus far, writing wise. I happened to be reading Claire Allan's fabulous Rainy Days and Tuesdays and she mentioned Write Words in her acknowledgements. I looked it up and quickly joined the chicklit group and have made fabulous online friends. Suddenly, writing was and is no longer an isolating experience.

But I will continue to write, even if it's just a note on the inside of a card. It's been 26 years since my English teacher made those lovely comments to me and I have not published one thing. Ever. The fact that I'm older doesn't bother me in the least as I've always been a late bloomer with everything in my life. I've decided to take my writing off the back burner and put it front and center. Maybe I'll never get published, but at least I'd have no regrets at the end of my life.

I write, not because I want to, but because I have to.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Love of Words Part 1

My love of words began at an early stage. My mother told me that I came home from kindegarten one day with library books and I cried because I didn't know how to read. However, once I started reading, I never stopped. It wasn't Harry Potter in those days, it was the Little House on the Prairie Series(Laura Ingalls Wilder), and I read every book in the series several times over. My favorite book as a child would have to be Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting. My mother, a reader herself, encouraged my love of books by enrolling me in a book of the month club when I was 9 or 10- thank you Mom. I read the hefty tome of Gone With The Wind when I was 11, and I still remember the passage of Scarlett returning to Tara and that awful dawning realization that her mother was dead. At 14, my friend Elaine and I would go to the Lackawanna library on a Saturday afternoon to get our books. I loved the library, there was not one modern thing about it. It was an old building with high ceilings, hardwood floors and wood panelled walls and shelves that had darkened with age. There was an echo in the library and a wonderful smell of books and an old building. At that time I started reading Barbara Cartland and read her voraciously before passing it on to my sister. I read Leon Uris' Trinity when I was 17 and thus began my lifelong love affair with Ireland and all things Irish. In my last year of high school, I bawled my way through Colleen McCullough's The Thornbirds. But the seminal book of my teenage years would have to have been Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. I recently reread it and I still love it.

In college I took a course labelled Bestsellers and loved it- got to read Philip Roth, Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett and others.

During the 80's and 90's, I began to 'follow' authors and read everything by Sue Grafton, Paticia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George. Anita Shreve, to me, is the best prose writer by far. Her novels, The Weight of Water, Resistance, The Pilot's Wife and Sea Glass still stick with me and the feeling I had when reading those books still resounds with me.

More recently, I read the Pulitzer prize winning, The Hours by Michael Cunningham and could totally relate to Laura Brown, the unhappily married woman who didn't want to be bothered by all things domestic, she just wanted to be left alone to read her book. Months ago, I read Colm Toibin's Brooklyn again could relate to the tale of emigration, homesickness and settling in to one's new life in a foreign country.

I read voraciously and widely. I love the classics, chick lit, young adult, mystery, crime and women's fiction and self help and the list goes on and on. I am addicted to books. Sometimes, I can read 2-3 books in a week. When I was on bedrest for my pregnancy in 2004, I was reading a book in a day and a half.
There have been times that I've picked up a book 3 times in an attempt to read it but failed. But the third time is always the charm and for whatever reason, that book with it's previous failed attempts turns out to be one of the best books that I've ever read. Trinity, The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) How Green Was My Valley (Richard Llewellyn) come to mind.
There is nothing better than to be pulled to into the pages of a great book and the boundaries between your life and the pages blur and you are right in the midst of it. A good book makes you a silent 'watcher' but a great book makes you a silent 'character.'
As the saying goes, 'so many books, so little time.'