Tag Archives: books

Book Review: The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

the dante club

3/5

The Dante Club is a historical fiction novel set in Boston after the Revolutionary War. This bustling city has been jolted to a screeching halt when one of the men of higher standing is brutally murdered. Judge Healy was due to be away from his home. His wife was expecting him to be away from home for four days. A few days after the Judge left his maid noticed a swarm of red eyed flies buzzing around a particular window. She followed the swarm of flies to the naked body of Judge Healy. His head had been busted in and was covered in a maggots, flies, and wasps. The Boston police are completely baffled at the gruesome murder.

It isn’t until another man of higher standing is brutally murdered that the five members of the Dante Club become involved. The Dante Club consists of five members; each member is called by their last name throughout the novel: Longfellow a poet and a professor at Harvard, Lowell a writer and a professor at Harvard, Howell, a doctor and writer, Fields, a publisher, and Green, a doctor. Longfellow started the group for the purpose of translating Dante’s Inferno from Italian into English. Each week he and the other members take one canto of the poem at a time to interpret. When the group gets word of the murders they realize in horror that the murders are exact copies of the horrors that they translate from Inferno. In order to make sure that the murders aren’t traced back to the innocent Club, the members take it upon themselves to try and find the murderer.

Although the identity of the murderer comes as a complete surprise, the novel itself has a lot of ‘filler’ pages; a series of background information that didn’t necessary pertain to the main plot and was only inserted to make the novel longer. The dialogue was also a bit repetitive. The Dante Club members talk to each other by using the phrase, “my dear Longfellow, etc”.

There is a reader’s guide section in the back of the novel where Matthew Pearl answers some questions about his work. One of the questions brings up the gruesomeness of the novel’s murders. For some readers who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno, but there are a lot of gory scenes depicting hellish scenes as the main character descends further into Hell. In my senior year of high school, I did read parts of Inferno so I was familiar with some of the torture that would have been featured in the novel. Those who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno may find the murders in The Dante Club extremely disturbing.

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Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

LostSymbol

4/5

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is set up very similar to his other novel, The Da Vinci Code. Robert Landon is summoned suddenly to decipher a series of clues set up by a single antagonist. In the early morning hours of a quiet Sunday, Robert receives a call from his dear friend, Peter Solomon. Peter’s secretary informs Robert that Peter is hosting an event at the Rotunda in Washington D.C., but the main speaker has canceled at the last moment. Peter was hoping that Robert would fill in. Startled at the short noticed, Robert agrees. Peter’s secretary is relieved and sends a personal jet and limo to escort Robert to the Rotunda.

Robert arrives in Washington D.C. just minutes before his speech is due to start. When he arrives at the Rotunda, he is shocked to discover that there is no event scheduled. Confused he seeks answers from the security guard. After receiving no news, Robert’s cell phone rings. An unknown caller rings Robert’s cell phone telling him that Peter Solomon will die unless the Ancient Mysteries are deciphered. The Ancient Mysteries is a legend told by the prestigious Free Masons. Robert knew that Peter was a Mason, but he couldn’t fathom why he was being ordered to solve a century old puzzle. Chillingly, the caller proclaims that Peter uttered Robert’s name, insinuating that he had been tortured for information. As the caller hangs up a piercing scream echoes through the Rotunda.

Heart racing, Robert follows the direction of the screaming. A woman is trying to calm her young son who continues to scream. To Robert’s horror there’s a human hand placed in the middle of the floor, its thumb and pointer finger form an arrow pointing to the ceiling. To his horror he recognizes the Masonic ring on the ring finger, Peter’s severed hand begins Robert’s harrowing journey to solving an age old mystery.

Having not read The Da Vinci Code in a few years, the antagonist in The Lost Symbol seems to be much more sinister and dangerous. The man goes by the name Mala’ka and is obsessed with becoming a perfect being by transforming his body in order to sacrifice to the demons. He has covered his fit, muscular body with symbolic tattoos all relating to centuries old Masonic symbolism. There is only one patch of skin that is free of any ink which is on the crown of Mala’ka’s head. He is looking to fill that space with the Ancient Mysteries that Peter Solomon has information about. In Peter’s possession is a small pyramid that has been passed down through Mason brothers for generation. Once solved, the pyramid would reveal a map that would lead to a place in Washington D.C. that houses the Ancient Mysteries. Mala’ka will stop at nothing to get the information he wants. He is willing to dismember, torture, and kill without an ounce of remorse.

Robert Langdon does not work alone during the novel. Peter’s sister, Katherine, is frantic about her brother’s predicament and is more than willing to help Robert find him. She is also being pursued by Mala’ka because of her research. Katherine is researching a new type of science. Her research is based around finding whether or not humans have souls and if the souls do exist is it a measureable matter. Mala’ka does not want this information to become public. Robert also works alongside another of Peter’s friends, a Mason brother named Warren Bellamy. Warren has also been contacted by Mala’ka to assist Robert in deciphering the clues. The most surprising involvement comes from the CIA. Like Robert, Katherine, and Warren, the CIA was also contacted by Mala’ka. He has video of his Masonic initiation showed the faces of other Mason brothers which included many men with very high authority in Washington D.C. CIA Director Inoue Sato is a tiny, Japanese woman who, despite her size, is a fiery force that is not to be reckoned with. Once she comes in contact with Robert Langdon it’s difficult to ascertain whether she’s working for or against Mala’ka.

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is extremely hard to put down. Each chapter brings new information on how these sinister events started. Robert Langdon is not only racing against time to save Peter Solomon’s life, but it’s not too long until he realizes that he may not survive through the night.

Fall Into Reading–Book Haul

Summer has faded away. Fall has officially started here in Pennsylvania. The leaves have started to change color before they fall from the branches. Tis the season of sweater weather, pumpkin flavored everything and library book sales!

Last year I posted my findings at a local library book sale; a tiny stack of books for a small price. Two weeks ago I headed out to the old roller staking rink to spend a few hours walking through the labyrinth of used books. Armed with comfortable shoes and a reusable Target bag I combed through the hundreds of books to take home eight books for less than $10.

Listed below will be a picture of the books I found with the synopsis and the publishing date (does anyone else actively look for the publishing date just to see what year the novel was written? Or is it just a second nature for me since I had to cite so many books for essays in high school and college?). Enjoy my findings and happy reading!

the little book

The Little Book by Selden Edwards—2008

When Wheeler Burden—banking heir, rock idol, baseball hero, bestselling author—suddenly finds himself dislocated in time from 1988 San Francisco to Vienna in the year 1897, he’s arrived at a pivotal moment in history, philosophy, art, and culture. It is a time when the coming twentieth century looms before the world with great promise and peril, and when Vienna is enjoying its magnificent swan song as the epicenter of modern thought and the seat of European intellectual and political life.

But what’s most important to Wheeler from the earliest moments of his arrival are finding an appropriate set of clothes and discovering the identity of the luminous young woman he encounters early in his stay. These simple actions set in motion a series of events that will ultimately reveal the incredible truth at the heart of Wheeler’s adventure and will illuminate the eccentric Burden family’s unrivaled impact on the very course of human history.

the dante club

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl—2003

Boston 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dante’s Inferno. Only an elite group of America’s first Dante scholars—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields—can solve the mystery. With the police baffled, more lives endangered, and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find the killer.

spells

Spells by Aprilynne Pike—2010

“I can’t just storm in and proclaim my intentions. I can’t ‘steal’ you away. I just have to wait and hope that, someday, you’ll ask.” Tamani said.

“And if I don’t?” Laurel said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Then I guess I’ll be waiting forever.”

Although Laurel has come to accept her true identity as a faerie, she refuses to turn her back on her human like—and especially her boyfriend, David—to return to the faerie world.

But when she is summoned to Avalon, Laurel’s feelings for the charismatic faerie sentry Tamani are undeniable. She is forced to make a choice—a choice that could break her heart.

the library of shadows

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard—2007

Imagine that some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings through reading. They can seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, but also manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to.

When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon has not seen his father for twenty years, since the mysterious death of his mother.

After Luca’s death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family’s past. Unbeknown to Jon, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret. It is the meeting place of a society of booklovers and readers, who have maintained the tradition of immense power passed down from the days of the great library of ancient Alexandria. Now someone is trying to destroy them, and Jon finds he must fight to save himself and his new friends.

la cucina

La Cucina by Lily Prior—2000

Since childhood, Rosa Fiore—daughter of a sultry Sicilian matriarch and her hapless husband—found solace in her family’s kitchen. La Cucina, the heart of the family’s lush estate, was a place where generations of Fiore women prepared sumptuous feasts and where the drama of extended family life was played out around the age-old table.

When Rosa was a teenager, her own cooking become the stuff of legend in this small community that takes pride in the bounty of its landscape and the eccentricity of its inhabitants. Rosa’s infatuation with culinary arts was rivaled only by her passion for a young man, Barolomeo, who, unfortunately, belonged to another. After their love affair ended in tragedy, Rosa retreated first into her kitchen and then into solitude, as a librarian in Palermo. There she stayed for decades, growing corpulent on her succulent dishes, resigned to a loveless life.

Then, one day, she meets the mysterious chef, known only as l’Inglese, whose research on the heritage of Sicilian cuisine leads him to Rosa’s library and into her heart. They share one sublime summer of discovery, during which l’Inglese awakens the power of Rosa’s sensuality, and together they reach new heights of culinary passion. When l’Inglese suddenly vanishes, Rosa returns home to the farm to grieve for the loss of her second love. In the comfort of familiar surroundings, among her growing family, she discovers the truth about her loved ones and finds her life transformed once more by the magic of her cherished Cucina.

leonardo's swans

Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex—2006

Isabella d’Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black eyed blonde and an art lover and collector. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella’s match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny; to reign over one of the world’s most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. Isabella vows that she will not rest until he wins her true fate, and the two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe.

the house of velvet and glass

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe—2012

Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in a elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.

But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Derby, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass.

the mercy falls collection

The Mercy Falls Collection by Colleen Coble—2009, 2010, 2011

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter

A storm brings an injured stranger and a dark secret to Addie Sullivan’s California light house home. The man insists she is not who she thinks she is, but rather the child long lost and feared dead by the wealthy Eaton family.

Addie secures employment in the Eatons’ palatial home, keeping her identify a secret. As dusty rooms and secret compartments give up clues about her past, Addie finds faith and a forever love.

The Lightkeeper’s Bride

Working the phone lines one evening, Katie Russell overhears a chilling exchange between her friend Eliza and a familiar male voice. Katie soon learns that Eliza has disappeared, and the crime may be linked to another investigation headed by the handsome new lighthouse keeping, Will Jesperson. Katie and Will soon form and alliance—an alliance that blossoms into something more.

The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-those considered the most distinguished in America. But their wealth has evaporated and now their security rests upon Olivia marrying well.

Using her family’s long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth. There she plans to marry Harrison Bennett, a wealthy bachelor. Harrison soon falls for her, but it turns out they’ve both been hiding something.

Book Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

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4/5

Overview:

Jacquetta, a descendant of the river goddess Melusina, has a special gift; a gift that has been passed down through generations. She possesses the ability of sight. With the help of tarot cards, a charm bracelet laden down with about two hundred charms, or by looking through a scryer’s mirror, she can see into the future. However strong her gift is the images she sees don’t always make sense, like the image of a Queen riding a horse with backwards horseshoes. Other images terrify her like a winter’s snow stained red with blood.

As a young girl, Jacquetta visited her uncle. There she met Joan of Arc who was imprisoned in her uncle’s castle. Jacquetta’s great aunt, Lady Jehanne, the Demoiselle of Luxemboury, horrified that Joan was taken prisoner with the accusation of performing witchcraft, convinces her son to release Joan into her responsibility. Taking Joan under her wing will ensure that Joan’s safety is assured. Jacquetta and Joan strike up a quick friendship, they are brought together by a common gift. However, Joan believes that the Almighty God speaks to her and guides her rather than Jacquetta’s family belief of the river goddess. Like her great aunt, Jacquetta tries to warn Joan against proclaiming her spiritual beliefs to a government ruled by men, but Joan is determined to see her journey through to the end, knowing that God has laid out a path for her. Jacquetta watches in horror as her friend is beaten down emotionally during her intense trails. The men convince her to admit that she is just a raving lunatic and a disgrace to her country. In a moment of weakness she gives in. She admits that everything she believes in is lies. The men are intensely satisfied that they have broken down a young girl. In their joy they burn Joan at the stake as a common witch. Jacquetta learns a very harsh lesson; a strong-willed woman cannot hope to succeed in a man’s world

A few years after Joan’s execution, Jacquetta is married to John the Duke of Bedford. Immediately after they are married the Duke reveals that he only pursued Jacquetta for her mystic abilities and that he can’t give her children. He exposes her to the mysteries of alchemy and astrology while strengthening her abilities to his advantage. Periodically the Duke sits her in front of a mirror and asks her to see into the future. Will he be successful and powerful? Will war tear apart England? Jacquetta tries her best to oblige the Duke, but is confused at what her visions mean.

Her marriage to the Duke is short lived. He passes away unrepentantly, leaving her alone in the royal court. Jacquetta finds solace in the arms of Richard, her late husband’s most trusted knight. The two leave the royal court in order to live a life full of love and happiness together. Following the birth of their first child, which they go on to have eleven throughout the novel; they are both summoned back to court to serve King Henry and his new, young wife Margaret. Serving the young King and Queen becomes a tumultuous road for Jacquetta and Richard. With the entire country on the verge of war, Richard is constantly sent to gather men, command soldiers, and keep the kingdom safe. On the other hand, Jacquetta becomes the Queen’s closest friend and advisor. She helps the young Queen in a sisterly compassion. The two women face endless troubles, the biggest occurs when the King suddenly falls into a deep sleep that lasts for over a year. No one knows quite what caused the mysterious sleep, but it causes a rift in the already quarrelling country. Again Jacquetta sees the difficulty that a powerful woman has in a world ruled by men.

In the end, Jacquetta and Richard discover where their loyalties truly lie. They leave the royal court to finally spend time with their children and grandchildren. The novel ends with Jacquetta returning to the river near her home to see what Melusina has in store for their oldest daughter, Elizabeth.

 

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Amazing Finds At A Local Book Sale!

I’ve been extremely busy the past three weeks with my volunteer job, but I was able to make some time to check out my local library’s book sale yesterday. After being to a previous book sale a couple of years ago, I wasn’t expecting to find too many books to sort through. Yesterday was an exception. There were rows upon rows upon rows of used books available. It was overwhelming! The prices were ridiculously reasonable as well. Paperback books were $.50, hardcovers were $2. While some of the newer releases were individually marked, none were priced higher than $5. I purchased six books for $11! I’m so tempted to make another trip this evening.

Check out your local library to see if they’re hosting a book sale. Not only will you find awesome books at a low price, you will also be supporting your library! Purchase a bag full of books for a good cause :).

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Book Review: Titanic by Tony Aspler

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Rating: 3/5

I purchased this novel from a used book store a couple of years ago. While not one of my favorite finds, the title intrigued me. I love anything about the Titanic.

Mystery…murder…money on board the world’s most famous and tragic ship.

This fictional story is centered around Henry Blexill, an English butler who was plucked from his life long place of work in London by a rich American banker. Accustomed to being treated like family from his previous employer, Henry is treated very differently at his new place of service. His boss, Thaddeus Tarr, is a brutish man intent on making even more money to add to his substantial wealth. One of the things that he stresses to Henry is loyalty. Anyone working for Thaddeus Tarr must be loyal to him and only him.

Henry soon realizes that not only is Tarr the most greedy man he has ever met, but also the most ruthless. Tarr becomes furious when people have things that he doesn’t; a characteristic that hurts his reputation more than he knows. He is intent on matching the wealth of his main competitor, J.P. Morgan.

Despite Tarr’s insistent rules of royalty, Henry is fired for breaking this key rule. Henry flees from the Tarr’s summer residence after being caught in bed with Tarr’s mistress. Before leaving the grounds, Henry discovers a bloodied fire poker and realizes that Tarr has blood on his hands. Fearing for his life, Henry returns to New York and snags a job as a wine steward with the White Star Line.

Not long after joining the White Star Line, Henry is able to secure a job on the company’s newest ship, the Titanic. The Titanic was said to be the biggest and grandest ship that had ever been built. There were even rumors that the man-made ship was unsinkable, not even God Himself could sink that ship. Naturally, Thaddeus Tarr and his family were sailing on Titanic’s maiden voyage. However, Tarr isn’t looking to enjoy rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s wealthiest, he’s looking to uphold his position as a wealthy businessman despite the fact that he is losing millions because of his falling stocks. Despite the dangers that surround Tarr and his unsavory way of business, he can’t escape his pursuers even in the middle of the Atlantic.

When Henry realizes that his previous employer is on the ship he becomes obsessed with bringing Tarr to justice for the crimes he has committed. He attempts to find out who has followed Tarr on the Titanic with the intent on murder. Although he discovers the identity of the assailant, it’s too late. The Titanic had already struck the deadly iceberg and was sinking head first into the Atlantic ocean.

Even though Titanic has an intriguing plot, the storyline doesn’t bring many results. Some scenes tend to become a bit dry and even seem out of place. One particular example was the emphasis on Henry’s relationship with a woman named Kittie. They meet after Henry becomes a wine steward for the White Star Line. The explanation of their relationship is short, but Henry secures a position for her on the Titanic as a second class stewardess. The last we read of her occurs when the crew is desperately trying to board passengers on life boats. With one last kiss and the promise to meet up in New York, Kittie is places on a life boat and lowered into the frigid Atlantic. The novel ends abruptly with Henry being hoisted out of the ocean not long after the ship is completely submerged. We never find out if he makes it to New York to start a happy life with Kittie.

Books I’m Currently Reading

Reading has always been one of my favorite pass times. Ever since I learned how to read there has always been a book beside my bed so that I could read myself to sleep. A good book can take you on amazing adventures without you ever leaving the comfort of your favorite reading spot. In my 23 years I have read my share of amazing novels that have taken a permanent residence on my bookshelf for years. I have also read my share of books that have left me wondering, ‘how in the world did this get published’?

At the beginning of the year I decided that it was time to reread the books on my shelf. So for the past few months I’ve done just that. After I finished a novel, I’ve been writing down my thoughts: what I liked, didn’t like, favorite, characters, plot interpretations…that sort of thing. The next few posts will be reviews on the books I’ve read that have been on my shelf for years. Some of the spines haven’t been cracked since the first read through, others are well worn.

Novels that I’ve read:

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Shining by Stephen King
The Green Mile by Stephen King
The Good House by Tananarive Due