Monday, November 30, 2009

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

2008 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Let's be honest. Sometimes the book trailer is much better than the book. A lot better. This is one of those times. Its disappointing. The book trailer, look a good movie trailer,leads you to believe in the book, to believe in the promise of the book. It makes you look forward to sitting in your favorite chair with your cup of tea and devouring page after page. But that isn't what happens. Instead, you force yourself to finish each sentence, promising yourself that you are closer and closer to the end. ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was a disappointment that completely failed to fall anywhere near where the trailer took the viewer.

To be fair to myself I did not go into this book blind. I had the book trailer, which was beautiful and reputable book reviews. The book jacket reads:

When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.

With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow he—or maybe his wife, or maybe even Harvey—lies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New
York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo’s erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.

Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the
person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.

Doesn't that sound exciting and new? I thought so. and this book was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Top Ten Book of the Year, a Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Best Book of the Year and a Slate Best Book of the Year.


I don't know. This book is completely unimpressive.

I cant narrow down one thing I dislike most about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES. I don't know if it is the characters. The neurotic, almost psychotic husband was not a good choice for a narrator. The wife or simulcrum seems like a caricature of a woman. She behaves in ways that seem comical rather than loving and concerned. There is the dead/ not dead mentor who adds little to the story other than to add to the confusion. AND the Royal Academy of Meteorology. I don't know what to say about them. Were they necessary? Not to me.

The absolute worst part of the book were the meteorological papers that the narrator (Leo) and Harvey (Leo's psych patient) use to get messages from Dr. Gal-Chen. They were weighty, lengthy and added nothing to the furtherment of the story. I understand that they were supposed to demonstrate the mental lengths that Leo was willing to go to to find his wife and demonstrate the deterioration of his mind but they seemed out of place in the action that the novel tried to portray.

What I really did enjoy about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was the love story. Galchen has beautiful language and portrays Leo and Rema's love realistically and with the proper amount of emotion. Leo running from the 'imposter' wife is sad but beautiful at the same time. He loves his wife so much he is willing to travel around the world to find her but has lost so much of the love he had for her that he doesn't realize when she is standing before him. This book captured well what happens when love fades or changes and the lovers do not change with it.

I would not recommend this book to anyone. There was nothing about it i enjoyed. However, based on the reviews that I found plenty of others did so enjoy it at your own peril.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

2009 Crown Publishers

Historical Romances can go one of two ways for me.I had a burnout moment for a while (OD'd on Phillippa Gregory) but I felt that I was ready for a comeback. I was right and CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was a good 'welcome back'.

Almost everyone knows the story of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. One of the greatest love stories of all time, killed herself so that she wouldn't have to live without him, yadda, yadda, yadda. I dont think too many people stop to ask themselves what happened afterward. I never did. I never even knew Cleopatra had children. But she did. And they had their own interesting and complicated lives.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a delightful mixture of history, love story and real life situations without being lecture-hallish (i love when I get to make up my own words) or long winded. The author was able to create scenes that sometimes allowed the reader to forget they weren't reading contemporary literature and really just enjoy the characters. And Moran managed to avoid the part of historical romance that I dread, when the writer gets caught up in authentic language. Sometimes that can be so distracting. But the language in CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was not overly Latin, Greek or anything else.

By the way, the authors website ( is amazing. There is this really great interactive map that shows Rome in the Selene's day.

From the book jacket:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but only two—the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander—survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters:

Octavia: the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra
Livia: Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife
Marcellus: Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir-apparent
Tiberius: Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power
Juba: Octavian’s ever-watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place —the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the time. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of Imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of history, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh. My. Gods. : Goddess Bootcamp Tera Lynn Childs

Oh. My. Gods. : Goddess Bootcamp by Tera Lynn Childs

Lately, there seem to be an abundancy of young adult books with mythology themes. Maybe, I am just paying more attntion. But I'm not complaining. I love ancient Greek lore and I wish it was taught more in schools.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We are the ship : the story of Negro League baseball by Kadir Nelson

We are the Ship : the Story of Negro League Baseball
by Kadir Nelson

I got this trailer from a teaching website. (Can you tell?) An important and little discussed period in American history.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emily the Strange: Seeing is Believing by Rob Reger

Emily the Strange: Seeing is Believing by Rob Reger

2006 Cosmic Debris


That's my review.

I didn't get EMILY THE STRANGE. I did some research. I still don't get it. There's a girl named Emily who sees the world in a very unique way. That's it. It's a graphic novel.

From the book trailer for EMILY THE STRANGE: THE LOST DAYS I expected something more. What exactly? I don't know. The book wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It didn't teach me anything or make me laugh. The illustrations were amazing. That's it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austin and Ben H. Winters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
2009 Quirk Productions Inc.

Apparently I missed a new genre in the last couple of years when I didn't read anything new. There's a new book in town in case you missed it: pairing a classic book with zombies and other monsters. Some titles I missed Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Vampire Darcy's Desire, The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, etc. I could go on and on but I wont. The point is; I am mad I missed these books. Based on SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS I would have enjoyed this entire genre and unfortunately, now I just don't have the time to fit them all in .

On August 31st I put the book trailer for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS on this site. In regards to the other book trailers and book reviews that I have posted this is by far the most entertaining trailer that accurately captures the book. This book is Sense and Sensibility as read ad nauseum in high school and college lit classes but it is also the story of the Dashwood sisters and their love lives amid man-eating sea creatures. It takes a book that haunted me throughout college's and made the Dashwoods pleasurable again. I didn't think this could be done. All the original SENSE AND SENSIBILITY characters are there; Margaret, Elinor, Col. Brandon, Marianne, Edward Ferrars, etc. etc. However, there is a twist (and a pretty good one). Man is at war with all sea creatures. This is not FINDING NEMO.

Due to man's war with the sea creatures there is a sea witch that figures prominently in the story, poor Colonel Brandon suffers from an affliction that makes him even more undesirable than his age, and there are a great number of murderous octopus. (I LOVE WHEN THINGS GET DEAD! )

The problem with a lot of these Darcy revisited books is that the language is all wrong or the characters are too modern for their time. Mr. Winters does not seem to suffer from that problem. The Misses Dashwood are properly 19th century marraige market brides but with the edge that one would expect from those fighting for each day. Margaret is made much more interesting with her own storyline, which makes her seem like something more than a pre-teen brat. Marianne is still hopelessly romantic and foolish but it seems much more realistic when paired with the threat of immediate death via angry whale of cross-eyed puffer fish. The following is a sample of the properly Victorian language with a modern twist.
Elinor's office was a painful one. She was going to remove what she believed to be her sisters chief consolation, to give such particulars of Edward as she feared would ruin him forever in her good opinion, and to make Marianne, by a seeming resemblance in their situations, which to her fancy would seem strong, feel all her disappointment over again. But unwelcome as such a task must be, like the scraping of barnacles off a long-neglected hull, it was necessary to be done.

What beautiful and authentic language.

I wholeheartedly endorse this book. I wish I had more time to devote to reading more in this emerging genre and will try to cover more titles as they come across my desk. If any of you read any good new monster literature please send me the title so I can pick it up.

Other Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum
Lisa Schwarzbaum is a film critic for EW
Had Jane Austen observed waterborne horrors like giant octopi and monstrous jellyfish — not to mention the Devonshire Fang-Beast — there's no doubt she would have written prettily about them. As it is, the land-based 19th-century lady stuck to what she knew when writing Sense and Sensibility, leaving Brooklyn-based 21st-century wordsmith Ben H. Winters to provide the fish-tailed portion of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
And here we have a whale of a problem. It may be a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of a hit with the hipster mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies must be in want of a follow-up, pronto. But that doesn't mean the great Jane's novels can be grafted to any high-low premise, or her wry elegance improved by naughty-rude adjustments. Can it be that in the rush to turn a charming book novelty into a renewable resource, the whole Austen-and-monsters series has already jumped the shark? The second project strays much further from the original text than the first did. It's made goofier by the intrusion of a Jules Verne-inspired plot detour during which the Dashwood sisters descend to Sub-Marine Station Beta on the ocean floor. For no real payoff, courteous Colonel Brandon is now a gentleman with squishy tentacles dangling from his face. And suave Willoughby is now accompanied by a defecating pet orangutan.
There are plenty of menaces — androids, bugs, people who text while driving — still available for book packagers to mingle with other Austen masterpieces, but I'll second Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice when he says, ''You have delighted us long enough.''