TLC Book Tour: Waiting for Robert Capa

Waiting for Robert Capa

Susana Fortes

Harper Perennial

208 pages

Artists, Jews, nonconformists, exiles. Gerta Pohorylle meets AndrÉ Friedmann in Paris in 1935 and is drawn to his fierce dedication to justice, journalism, and the art of photography. Assuming new names, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa travel together to Spain, Europe’s most harrowing war zone, to document the rapidly intensifying turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. In the midst of the peril and chaos of brutal conflict, a romance for the ages is born, marked by passion and recklessness . . . until tragedy intervenes.

Product description from Amazon.

I don’t generally post a synopsis of a novel that is not my own, but I had such trouble with this book that I couldn’t really write a cohesive synopsis.  I went into this book expecting to enjoy it, and the storyline was not what I had problems with.  It was the writing style.  I hated it.  There was absolutely no streamlining–it was too fluid, as if the author was just rambling.  There was really no plot, but instead just a bunch of jumping to and fro.  I kept reminding myself “tragedy . . . there is a tragedy coming.  Just hang on, it’s sure to be good.” But even the promise of a good tragedy couldn’t keep me going.  I finally admitted defeat at page 71.  I would have given up defeat earlier but the fact that I had agreed to participate on the tour made me want to push through it.

I am definitely interested in reading other reviews on this one, to see whether I am alone in my reaction.

About Susana Fortes

Susana Fortes graduated in Geography and History at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, and in American History from the Universidad de Barcelona. She has recently spent time in the USA, combining teaching Spanish in Louisiana and participating in university conferences at the Universidad Interestatal de San Francisco. She currently teaches at a secondary school in Valencia. She has won many awards, including the 1994 Premio Nuevos Narradores, the Premio Primavera, the Premio de la Crítica, and, for Waiting for Robert Capa, the Premio Fernando Lara 2009. Her novels have been translated into almost twenty languages. She is a regular contributor to EL PAIS, as well as various cinema and literature magazines.

Susana’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, September 27th: nomadreader

Wednesday, September 28th: Life In Review

Thursday, September 29th: Books Like Breathing

Friday, September 30th: Reviews By Lola

Monday, October 3rd: Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, October 4th: Rundpinne

Wednesday, October 5th: Life is Short. Read Fast.

Thursday, October 6th: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, October 11th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, October 12th: Alison’s Book Marks

Tuesday, October 18th: Lit Endeavors

Thursday, October 20th: In the Next Room

Book Review: The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree

Erin Kelly

Pamela Dorman Books

336 pages

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
and he knew that it was mine, –

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

Karen Clarke is the type of college student that fades into the background.  You wouldn’t notice her.  She never gets into trouble, she completes her work on time and everyone knows what to expect from her.  That all changed one summer during the 90s when she meets a free spirit on campus named Biba Capel.  Biba lives with her brother Rex and the two of them leave a bohemian lifestyle.  They are very carefree, enjoying wine and music every night in the family home they share together, with not much else mattering.  Karen is enamored by their lifestyle and she quickly abandons her old life to move in with the siblings.

We know from the very beginning that something awful happened that summer, resulting in someone’s death, although we know not who the victim is.  We also know that Rex has been imprisoned for a decade for the crime and that he and Karen have a daughter together.  The rest of the circumstances remain a mystery that slowly unfolds throughout the book.

If you haven’t read the book, I would suggest skipping the next paragraph, unless you enjoy spoilers**

I could see why Karen had such a fascination with Biba, but as the book wore on, I began to loathe Biba. In fact, loathe may not be a strong enough word to describe the dislike I felt for her.  It was so ridiculous that Rex gave up ten years of his life for her, and I wish he would have thought it over before he decided to shoulder the blame.  I suppose there is little chance that he would ever be able to fully realize what a selfish brat she was though.  I was so happy that Karen was able to realize it though.  I was GLAD she killed Biba at the end.  I very rarely wish for someone’s death in a book, but the gall she had to try and come back to a daughter she abandoned with no thought for anyone but herself really irritated me.

End spoiler**

My cousin has been after me to read this book for weeks.  We often share book recommendations but I have never been hounded by her to read a book the way she did with The Poison Tree. After reading it, I can see why.  It was a great psychological thriller and Kelly’s writing was perfect at keeping me invested in the story.  Every chapter left me wanting more, so I would keep tearing through the book, unable to put it down.  And as the story kept unraveling, it got more and more interesting.

I will definitely be including this one on my Best of 2011 list.

Other Reviews:

Linus’s Blanket

Beth Fish Reads

I purchased this book used from a book sale. 

This book counts towards the RIP VI challenge.

Mailbox . . . Tuesday?

Yay!! I got some books.

Mrs Craddock, by W Somerset Maugham: You may remember that I got a copy of this book for my birthday BUT it was in German.  A language that I cannot speak, let alone read.  So my mom graciously offered to order another copy for me.  I got it this week!

Cloyne Court, by Dodie Katague is for a blog tour in November.  It is supposedly similar to Animal House, and the salaciousness of a good college story is more than I can pass up!

Everything We Ever Wanted, by Sara Shepard is also for a blog tour.  It deals with hazing and the cover is deliciously fall like, with the beautiful orange-y colors of leaves.

If I Tell and I’m Not Her, both by Janet Gurtler: These are both YA fiction sent to me by the publisher. I feel like I haven’t read much YA fiction in the past few months, so I was glad to receive these.

The Devil’s Star, by Jo Nesbo: I have finally done it! I bought a book of Nesbo’s.  Now I just have to read it.  I gave up trying to determine the order of Nesbo’s books, so when I saw this one at the table at Barnes & Noble, I grabbed it.

The Lantern, by Deborah Lawrinson: What can I say . . . this has been on every blog lately, it seems.  I was not sure whether or not to pick it up at first, but then I got curious.  Plus, Carl is hosting a readalong for RIP, so that was just the push I needed!

So tell me, which of these books have you read? Which would you like to read?

The Sunday Salon: 9/25/2011

So it is now officially fall.  I am half happy about that and half not. I love the fall weather but it just means winter is right around the corner and winter and I are not friends! I hate the cold, and don’t even get me started on the snow and ice.

The fall weather induced me to stop my housecleaning yesterday and snuggle on the couch to finish The Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly.  First off, it was amazing.  My cousin has been after me to read it for weeks and now I see why.  But anyway, I feel like this type of weather inclines me to read a lot more.  In the summer, I would rarely just pick up a book in the middle of the day and read for hours, but I find myself doing it a lot more now.  I am loving it.

My book club met this past Thursday to discuss Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles.

*spoilers*

As you may remember, I loved this book, so I recommended it to my book club.  As is always the case when I recommend a book, I was nervous that they would all hate it (ahem, The Elegance of the Hedgehog anyone?), but the response was overwhelmingly positive.  They really enjoyed the time period, as well as Katey’s story in general.  I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t a big fan of Katey.  One minor reason was the way she let Tinker go and failed to tell him her true feelings, but my fellow book clubbers did point out that she likely would have acted differently were it not for the accident.

At the same time, they really hung Tinker out to dry, where I sympathized with him more.  They were disgusted that he “whored” himself out to Ann, whereas I didn’t see it as quite that negative.  I am not sure why my reaction wasn’t of the same magnitude as theirs, because Tinker’s situation does sound like that of glorified prostitute, but while reading the book and being immersed in their lives, I just didn’t have that reaction.

*end of spoilers*

Next month I suggested we read something that goes along with Halloween, and the choice was made to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. I am really excited by the the selection, but also a little nervous because it is a longer book.  I hope they all love the series as much as I did!

As for today, I am reading some paranormal YA fiction, which is very different for me–Cold Kiss, by Amy Garvey.  I don’t know that I will get a ton of reading done, since I have to work later, but I am enjoying the change of pace and I am flying through it.  How do you plan on spending your Sunday?

Book Review: The True Memoirs of Little K

The True Memoirs of Little K

Adrienne Sharp

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

348 pages

Mzathilde Kschessinka was prima ballerina of the Russian Imperial ballet company, but she is remembered not only as a ballet icon but as the concubine of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.

The True Memoirs of Little K are the (fictionalized) memories of Mathilde, which she is writing down decades later after the history of Russia has already been cemented.  Having grown up in a family of other ballerinas, Mathilde relishes life on the stage, but she soon is overcome by the desire for the opulence and wealth that is embodied by the Imperial family.

Mathilde is pretty open to bedding any member of the Imperial family, however Nicholas, aka Niki, is held above all else.  He and Mathilde embark on a blistering love affair that ends once Niki marries Alix, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  Mathilde had held out hope that she could marry into the royal family, despite the impossibility of such a feat.  She is severely disappointed by his marriage to Alix and is constantly flaunting her relationship in Alix’s face at any chance she gets.

Meanwhile, Alix and Niki are having issues, because Alix is unable to produce a male heir.  She has birthed four daughters, and Niki is at his wits end due to the pressure placed on him to have a son. His desperation leads him back to Mathilde, and for a brief summer they resume their love affair.  This time, Mathilde becomes pregnant.  She is elated when she gives birth to a boy, knowing that she now has a stronghold on Niki.  Just two short years later, Alix gives birth to her son Alexei, and Mathilde believes Niki no longer needs her son as

Mathilde

an heir.

Unfortunately, Mathilde doesn’t realize until later that Alexei is a very sick child.  Stricken with hemophilia, he is a “bleeder”, and because his blood can’t clot, any scratch, bump or bruise is deadly.  He is one death’s door several times, and Niki believes that he can just requisition his son with Mathilde, Vova, as the tsarevitch should the need arise.  Then the revolution hits.

I have always held a strong fascination for Russia’s last tsar and his family.  Something about the horrible way in which they were imprisoned and killed just saddened and captivated me, and then the whole idea that Anastasia has somehow escaped execution and is still alive, most believably as a woman named Anna Anderson.  So when I saw The True Memoirs of Little K was this month’s BOOK CLUB choice, I jumped at the chance to read it, especially because I knew about the presence of Mathilde but had no knowledge about her role in Niki’s life.

I had a few minor issues with the book.  First off, I was bored with any lengthy descriptions of the ballet.  I know that was a major part of Mathilde’s life, but it just didn’t grab me.  I was much more interested in the role she played in the imperial family, so part of the book really fascinated me while the other part fell flat.  I am not sure whether that was the fault of the author, as ballet is not usually something that interests me in the first place.

My second issue was the parentage of Vova.  This was also a small issue, as I understand this is fiction and the author has the right to appropriate facts and embellish the truth to make for a better story, but after finishing the book, I did a little bit of research.  The thing is, I have read multiple books on the Romanovs and I had never heard the possibility that Niki had fathered a child outside of wedlock, so I wanted to see if there was a possibility that Vova really was Niki’s child.  From what I read, his paternity was in question, but it was never believed that Niki was his father.  Furthermore, I have never read anything to suggest that Vova ever lived with the imperial family.  So what Sharp suggested in the book was a big leap from the truth.

The Romanov family

I have always had a soft spot for Alix and the way her circumstances led her to being persecuted.  Her relationship with Rasputin was called into question, for good reason, as Rasputin was a certified whackadoo, but when you look what led up to that, you can’t help but feel sorry for her.  She had moved to Russia and married the tsar, leaving behind everything she knew, including the religion she held dear to her heart.  She was never liked by the people of Russia, who saw her as an outsider and a cold, steely woman.  Then she is unable to bear any sons.  When she finally does, she has afflicted her son with the hemophilia that has run rampant in her family, and her son is on death’s door more times than you can count.  The only respite she seems to get is with the help of Rasputin, who she thinks is healing her son.  Despite how crazy he appears, can you blame her for doing everything possible to save her son?  As much as Mathilde couldn’t stand her, she eventually came around to seeing Alix’s attributes, and although Alix didn’t really play a large part in the book, I think Sharp portrayed her in a sympathetic light.

I wouldn’t say that The True Memoirs of Little K is a good history of the Romanovs, but if you’re interested in that time period, it is a solid read.  If you are interested in books that are more in depth, I would suggest the following two, which are my favorite of what I have read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviews:

Devourer of Books

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for participation in BOOK CLUB, hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books and Nicole at Linus’s Blanket.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs

Quirk Books

352 pages

I know, I know.  ANOTHER review for Peculiar Children.  It’s getting ridiculous, but it’s for good reason.  Because seriously, you have to read this book.  If you have previously been on the fence about it, I am about to convince you to bite the bullet and pick it up.

Jacob grew up hearing a myriad of creepy, paranormal stories from his grandfather.  Levitating girls, invisible boys and the like.  As a kid, he believed the stories unflinchingly, but as he grew older, he believed his grandfather was feeding him fairy tales and he became a a skeptic.  That is, until his grandfather died.

The death left a void for Jacob, and in an attempt to come to terms with it, as well as his grandfather’s life, he travels to the Welsh island where his grandfather spent his adolescence, at a group home that Jacob thought was for refugee children from the war.

So Jacob’s exploring the island.  He is hoping to find Miss Peregrine, who is the matron of the home, but when he finally finds the home, it is obviously abandoned.  In fact, it was bombed during WWII, just after Jacob’s grandfather left.

So that’s when the weird shit starts to happen.  Jacob is able to travel back to September 3,

One of the many creepy photos.

1940 and all of a sudden, he is in this parallel universe with his grandfather’s peers.  And boy are they peculiar!

It’s pretty obvious by my preface that I loved this book.  It was so atmospheric, as well as deliciously creepy.  The paranormal aspect is not generally something I go for, but I am glad I gave it a chance.  Maybe someday I will be head over heels for the genre.  I thought it was done at just the right pace, with enough realism in it to keep me interested.

My biggest question once I finished the books was perhaps an unfair one.  Would Peculiar Children be as good without the pictures?  Do the pictures make the book? My answer is that the pictures add such a cool element to the story that they take an average plot line and turn it into something special.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without the pictures, but that’s not to say it’s a bad story.  I am just a sucker for pictures.

We’re heading into cooler days (although you wouldn’t know that today.  It feels like the middle of summer again!), and what could be better than to curl up with a good book? With Halloween coming up, this one is the perfect choice.

Other Reviews:

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Good Books and Good Wine

Jenn’s Bookshelves

Fizzy Thoughts

Capricious Reader

I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble.

This book counts towards RIP VI.

Book Review: The Alienist

The Alienist

Caleb Carr

Random House

512 pages

It’s 1896, New York City, and teenage male prostitutes are being brutally killed by a serial killer.  The police commissioner at the time, Teddy Roosevelt (yes, THE Teddy Roosevelt) wants the crimes solved at all costs, and he secretly employs the help of Dr Lazlo Kreizler.  Kreizler is an alienist, which is a fancy name for a psychologist, and he is using his background to determine the criminal’s motives and history based on facts he can glean from the respective crime scenes.  Today, Kreizler would be called a criminal profiler, but back in 1896, there was no precedent, so his work had to be completed on the down low.

Kreizler enlisted the help of a Times journalist, John Schuyler Moore, as well as Roosevelt’s secretary Sara and two brother doctors, Marcus and Lucius.  The five rounded out a team that spent every waking minute poring over the cases and carefully constructing the traits of the perp.  As time wears on, they are in a frenzy attempting to find the killer before he strikes again.  Likewise, they are trying to protect themselves because they are being stalked as well.

The Alienist took me ten days to read.  Now, granted, it is a fairly long book but the mystery keeps you engaged throughout.  So I am not sure why it took me so long to finish the book.  I can only surmise that it was just bad timing, with too many distractions coming along.  In fact, there were at least two or three days where I didn’t have a chance to read a single word at all.  But I digress . . . on to my thoughts.

The Alienist was my very first RIP book and it was a great choice. Very atmospheric.  I loved the setting of New York City at the turn of the century.  Delmonico’s, a famous NYC restaurant, was mentioned frequently, and there were even some in depth descriptions of some NYC slums, so there was quite a bit involved.

As for the mystery aspect, it was different than that of most mysteries, in the sense that you know exactly what the detectives know.  They discover the identity of the madman about halfway through the book but then there is the matter of tracking him down and capturing him.  So there is no AHA moment at the end where you discover who the bad guy is–you’ve already uncovered that!

The Alienist is definitely a psychological thriller.  You really get into the mindset of the killer and you learn why he is driven to kill.  It is hard for most people to fathom, but laid out as it is in this book, there is no question as to why someone like this would need to kill.

I am glad I started off RIP with a bang, even if my reading took longer than I normally like.

Other Reviews:

A Little Bookish

BiblioFreak Blog

I purchased this book years ago, and it has languished on my shelves ever since.

 

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