Friday, May 10, 2013

Would you live your current life over again?

Life After Life
By Kate Akinson
Reviewed by Stephanie
5 stars out of 5

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?”

Would it?

I believe everyone would love a chance to go back and change things in their past.    Correct mistakes in order to change their life or their loved ones lives for the better.   But changing one thing may only lead to a new problem……then you have to go back, change the first mistake, then the second one, and so on.  I don’t know about you, but this sounds exhausting to me.

Ursula gets the chance to get it ‘right’ over and over again.  She is born on a snowy night in February 1910, but since she is born with no doctor present, and with the umbilical cord around her neck she never breaths a breath.  Ursula is born on a snowy night in February 1910; the doctor makes it in time to save the little girl from nearly straggling on her own umbilical cord.  Through it all, Ursula lives many lives and dies many deaths.  Each time she is reborn in the same life, same date, same circumstances but each time she has a certain amount of recall from former times around and she is able to make choices to avoid catastrophe….but  new catastrophes, and new deaths,  always crop up and they need a fixing the next time around.

Every time she made the right decision and avoided some horrible fate it I would be so happy and I’d hope that maybe this time would be the last time for Ursula, that she would finally get to rest (even though I didn’t  want the book to end), but no, there was always the snow.

This book is just beautiful.  Painstakingly researched and sublimely written, Life After Life has found a place on my Favorites shelf.  Kate Atkinson wrote about life in WWII England and  in WWII Germany in such a human way that I don’t believe I ever really felt, or understood, what it was truly like until I read this book.  What it was like to live with the threat of being bombed every single night, horrifying.  Or what it was like to live under the rule of a crazy man, loving him and worshiping him as the savior of your country only to realize, too late, who he really was.

I love this book and this quote that I hate to admit hits a little too close to home.

“Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn't even begin to solve.”

The Gates

John Connolly
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewed by: Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Halloween which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Road. The Abernathys don't mean any harm by their flirtation with the underworld, but when they unknowingly call forth Satan himself, they create a gap in the universe. A gap in which a pair of enormous gates is visible. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out...

Can one small boy defeat evil? Can he harness the power of science, faith, and love to save the world as we know it?

Bursting with imagination, The Gates is about the pull between good and evil, physics and fantasy. It is about a quirky and eccentric boy who is impossible not to love, and the unlikely cast of characters who give him the strength to stand up to a demonic power.

John Connolly manages to re-create the magical and scary world of childhood that we've all left behind but so love to visit. And for those of you who thought you knew everything you could about particle physics and the universe, think again. This novel makes anything seem possible.

My Review

I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy nearly 30 years ago and don’t remember finding it all that funny. I also never cared for Monty Python. Maybe it’s the British humor I don’t get, but Fawlty Towers cracks me up, no matter how many times I see each episode. Humor is such a personal thing, and sometimes I just don’t see humor in things others find funny. And other times I laugh hysterically at things people don’t understand. So I’m cautious about the humorous fiction I read, mostly preferring titles that are unexpectedly funny rather than those which claim to be funny.

I wasn’t too sure I wanted to read The Gates, particularly after reading a few reviews claiming it was laugh-out-loud funny, but I’ve heard many good things about the author, so I thought I’d give it a try.

This story takes place in a small town in England. 11-year-old Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, witness their neighbors summoning strange beings though a small, glowing hole in their basement. Meanwhile, two scientists in Switzerland in the middle of a Battleship game are bewildered by a rotten egg smell and a bit of energy that escaped from a particle accelerator. Together, these events have freed all kinds of nasty beings intent on destroying the world. It is up to Samuel to stop them, that’s if anyone would believe him.

The physics stuff in the beginning slowed me down a little, but I thoroughly enjoyed the quirky characters, the nasty demons, and the banished demon, Nurd, who becomes Samuel’s unlikely ally. I loved the fantasy and horror elements, the lighthearted humor, and the enlightening footnotes.

This is a fun story that I’d recommend to young and old alike.

Also posted at Goodreads