Archive for April, 2013

Life After Life

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

By Kate Atkinson

The Short Take:

This is the best book I have read this year. A book about a baby/girl/woman who repeatedly dies and then is reborn into some slight variation of her old life might not sound like a brilliant read, but it is.


Set largely in England, between the two great wars, this highly-readable novel basically embraces the concept of the “do over.” If things aren’t going right the first time, you can try, try again. But it is not a book version of the Bill Murray comedy, “Groundhog Day.” Each subsequent life is not necessarily better or worse, they’re just different.

Ursula, the protagonist, has a sense of her previous lives as a child; something her family’s superstitious maid calls second sight, and which her mother categorically refuses to believe. Sometimes Ursula takes actions to change fate, sometimes things just change on their own.

This might sound tedious, but the book is so fascinatingly written, the characters so interesting, and the pain of life during and after the war years so clearly depicted that you are swept up, through, and away.

This is no mere fantasy. It is so much richer than that. At one point, the child Ursula is sent to an psychiatrist who shares with her enlightening doses of philosophy and religion. These themes appear repeatedly throughout the book. Life After Life gives you much to think about and much to enjoy. That’s a double helping of good reading.

A Little Plot:

Born on a snowy night when the doctor can’t get through, Ursula is born strangled by her own umbilical cord. Born on a snowy night that the doctor bravely gets through, the cord is cut and Ursula lives.

This is how the books works. However, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t start with that snowy night each time (even though Ursula does). Instead you work your way through Ursula’s lives, her mistakes, her deaths, her careers, her good and bad choices; up to the point at which she wonders if it’s possible to take an action that could result in saving millions of lives.

For more about Kate Atkinson and her books, click here.

The Demonologist

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

By Andrew Pyper

The Short Take:

It’s a scary as any Dean Koontz novel but peppered with quotes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. If that’s the kind of thing you like, this one’s for you. I certainly enjoyed it. In fact, I couldn’t put it down.


I picked this one up because it had quotes from Gillian Flynn, Jeffery Deaver, and Kate Moss among others. That seemed pretty promising and I was not disappointed. It’s more than a bit supernatural, though it takes awhile for both you and the main character to believe that.

This is a work of horror, but not the blood and gore kind. The psychological underpinnings of both the protagonist and antagonist play important roles, as do the enduring bonds of friendship and love. But what made it most interesting to me were the frequent Paradise Lost quotes and how they were woven into the plot so elegantly. I’ve never read the entire epic poem, but I will now.

A Little Plot:

Milton expert, David Ullman, is losing his wife to another man and his beloved daughter to the same melancholy he suffers from. He’s an expert when it comes to devils, both in literature and religion, but not a believer in either devils or gods.

When he is approached by a thin woman who wants him to go to Venice to witness something strange and then report on what he sees, he is skeptical and inclined to pass. However, that very night his wife asks for a divorce so he decides to go, taking his 12-year-old daughter, Tess, with him.

In Venice, something terrible happens to Tess, and David is in a race against time, a demon, and other powerful forces in order to save her — and hopefully — himself.

To learn more about Pyper, click here. I must say, his website shows a sense of humor.


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April 2013