Thursday, November 17

Carol Goodman: The Drowning Tree

From the back of the book-
Juno McKay intended to avoid her fifteenth-year college reunion, but she can't resist the chance to see her longime friend Christine Webb. Though Juno cringes at the inevitable talk of her troubled personal life-and the husband who ended up in a mental hopsital only two years after their wedding-she endures the gossip for her friend's sake.
While lecturing at the Penrose College library, Christine shocks the rapt crowd by reavling little-known details about the lives of two sisters-memebers of the influential family whose name the college bears. Christine's revelations throw shadows of betrayal, lust, and insanity over the family's distinguished facade.
After her speech, Christine seems distant, uneasy, and sad. The next day, she disappears. Juno is alarmed and begins to peel away the layer of secrets and madness that surround the Penrose dynasty. She fears that Christine discovered somethig damning about them, perhaps even something worth killing for. And Juno is derermined to find it-for her friend and for herself.
This tangled combination of historical and modern mystery tales has a strong literary flavour. The pace is slow, the characters complex and the story deceptively straight forward.
My last foray into this author's work didn't leave me partiuclarly impressed but I'm pleased to say this effort was much more enjoyable. There were enough red herrings thrown in to cloud the antagonist's identity without it coming as a complete surprise at the end of the story or worse, being telegraphed loudly throughout the book. A complicated romantic subplot fits in well.
I would class this as a mild modern gothic worth a look for those with an interest in the genre and comfortable with a less sensational approach.-Lynn

Monday, November 14

Kate Mosse: Labyrinth

From the back of the book-
July 1209: In Carcassonne a seventeen-year-old girl is given a mysterious book by her father which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alais cannot understand the strange words and symbols hidden within, she knows that her destiny lies in keeping the secret of the labyrinth safe...
July 2005: Alice Tanner discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave in the French Pyrenees. Puzzled by the labyrinth symbol carve into the rock, she realises she's distubed something that was meant to remain hidden. Somehow a link to a horrific past-her past-has been revealed.
I read all 697 pages of this monster tome and the best thing I can say about this book is that it is crammed with historical detail. Occasional hints of intrigue tease the reader into believing that the story is about to take off but it never does. The modern heroine lives right on the border of too-stupid-to-live and her historical counterpart is firmly in too-good-to-be-true territory.
There is great vagueness as to how the characters from the different time periods are related to each other. It is as if the author couldn't decide whether she wanted the modern characters to all be reincarnations of the historical characters (each modern character has a historical equivilant, to the point of having very similar names) or if she just wanted the modern heroine to be a decendent of her historical namesake.
As for the labyrinth of the title: the reader never really learns the significance of it, why it must be kept hidden or the consequences of its discovery.
Not since Katherine Neville's The Eight have I read a book so pointless through to the end. A major dissappointment.-Lyn

Tuesday, November 1

Richard Ellis:Imagining Atlantis

From the back of the book-
The idea of Atlantis, the lost continent, has tantalized the human imagination since the fourth centuery B.C. when the brilliant civilization and its mysterious destruction were first mentioned by Plato. Is it only a myth, or did a real Atlantis exist? Over the centuries this question has inspired countless theories, from the scientifically challenging to the undeniably crackpot.

Richard Ellis takes us on a fascinating journey through the rich and exotic history of the search for Atlantis, during which we meet characters as diverse as Francis Bacon, Jules Verne, Edgar Cayce, Jaques Cousteau, Charles Berlitz, and even Indiana Jones. Both scholarly and diverting, Imagining Altantis has been hailed as the most important book ever written about the Atlantis legend and its perennial appeal.
This book certainly does give a comprehensive overview of the many faces of Atlantis. Using archeology, seismology, volcanology and mythology, it examines theories and possibilities as to where Atlantis was and how it met its fate. A large portion of the discussion is dedicated to the ancient Minoan culture and the debate over exactly where the Pillars of Hercules were in Plato's time (apparently it isn't accepted that the current Pillars of Hercules are the ones being referred to in the original Atlantis legend). There is also a brief look at modern films about Atlantis included.
This is a good and accessible scholarly work, that while fascinating in places, I found a little dry overall to maintain my full interest.-Lynn