Mailbox Monday

After reading everyone else's Mailbox Mondays for awhile now, I finally had enough books (in other words, more than none) to join in on the meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. So here is what I received last week in the mail (Feb 16 - 20th):

Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom
A World Never Made by James LePore
The first 6 books in the 'Kitty' series by Carrie Vaughn:
Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Kitty Goes to Washington
Kitty Takes a Holiday
Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
Kitty Raises Hell
The Local News by Miriam Gershow

Review: THE LAST TESTAMENT by Sam Bourne

After a year in Washington, DC, Maggie Costello is smothering under the control of her boyfriend, Edward, and her job as a divorce mediator. Until Washington she had been another kind of mediator, one involved in big stakes in the high-pressure world of international politics. When the US government needed someone to bring two opposing sides together, they called Maggie. And it worked well until something went very wrong and real people paid the price with their lives and so she ended up in Washington with Edward mediating fights between couples instead of countries.

One morning Maggie receives a visit by a government agent who convinces her to return to her first natural talent and she quickly finds herself in the midst of a tense standoff between Israel and Palestine. When a murder of a prominent right-wing activist stalls the talks, Maggie steps in to investigate. What she finds leads her on a spine-tingling, intensive hunt for the murderer and where at times she becomes the hunted. Along the way Maggie has the help of Uri Guttman, a man who is trying to discover what role his father played in the sensitive mid-east peace process.

A blurb on the back cover of this novel says it is “The biggest challenger to Dan Brown’s crown”. I can see why. It’s similar in that there are two characters who follow the trail of an ancient artifact knowing that what it reveals will change the course of history. And like Dan Brown’s book, The Last Testament also has plenty of short chapters with most having cliff-hangers at the end of them. But the similarity ends there. It does after all take place in the Middle East. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that if you liked the Da Vinci Code you will also enjoy this book.

I WON!!!

I'm very excited that I won The Little Giant of Aberdeen County from Avis! I love contests - well, especially when I win them, which is not all that often. Thanks Avis! I’m really looking forward to reading this book. It’s got such great reviews. You can read Avis’s review of this book here.

Review: REPLAY by Ken Grimwood

Jeff Wintson dies at work of an apparent heart attack at the age of 43 while talking to his wife on the phone. She had been telling him what it was that they needed but he died before she had a chance to say exactly what that was. No matter though, because as he lay slumped over his desk, dying, he knew what she’d been about to say; something mundane like picking up milk or bread.

Jeffs wakes to the realization that he hadn’t died after all; he must be in a hospital because he was thinking he couldn’t breathe. Realizing that his head was deep into his sheets, he turned and looked at the room around him. That’s when he discovers he is back in college and eighteen years old again. The story follows Jeff through life again – hindsight does actually help him in his second chance but, as he learns, it can also hurt.

This book is a page turner – you can’t help wanting to know what is going to happen next and how it will all turn out in the end. The possibilities of what Jeff could accomplish with the opportunity of having a second chance are intriguing to say the least.

Review" ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood

Barely surviving in a devastated and de-populated world, a man called Snowman recalls the events of his life that have led to what he is now: a shadow of his former self, slowly starving to death. Snowman thinks about his best friend Crake, an intellectual (otherwise known as a geek), who, despite his perplexing and secretive manner, was nevertheless on the road to greatness. Oryx, the only person of his generation Snowman could truly love, seemed so unreachable. His mother, a riddle, vanished, and though he tried to put her memory behind him, he continued searching for her for years. His father, cold and distant, considered his only son an afterthought.

As snowman searches through his memory, he looks for clues, the what ifs, to help him understand how the world changed so suddenly. He ponders how if he’d only read the signs, had not ignored the portentous dropped phrase from Crake here and there, he might have known what was coming. But then what? Could he have stopped it? Now all he has for company are the Crakers, a race of beings who are dependent on Snowman for answers to their questions about a world that they were born into, a world innocent of war, famine, violence and all the other outrages and misfortunes the human race brought upon itself.

Review: UNLESS by Carol Shields

Fear of the unknown suddenly plays a significant part in Reta Winters’s life as she struggles to cope with her eldest daughter’s odd behaviour. This nineteen year old woman, Norah, abandons her life – university and her boyfriend as well as her parents and two sisters to sit on a street corner in downtown Toronto begging. She wears a sign around her neck with the word ‘goodness’ written on it. No one in Norah’s family, including her boyfriend, knows why she is doing this. They try to talk to her and Reta does attempt to forcibly remove Norah from her perch, and fails miserably when her daughter begins screaming. Reta, in dismay and embarrassment, flees in her car, alone.

Reta’s ruminations on her daughter’s behaviour causes her to reflect on her own experiences dealing with the male-dominated book publishing world. She sees in Norah’s stance an acting out of her own frustrations in dealing with a society that relegates women to an afterthought. As Reta and her family try to carry on their day to day activities in view of Norah’s self-placement in society, Reta undertakes a series of letters to various male writers for columns, reviews and in one case, an obituary, thereby soothing herself for the wrongs she is feeling. She never mails the letters and in fact, signs them with a variety of pseudonyms, signaling her intentions not to send them out.

This is not a book for someone who enjoys fast-paced reads but it is definitely thought-provoking.

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