Saturday, February 21, 2009

Song of Names

Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht was the winner of the 2003 Whitbread First Novel Award Mr. Lebrecht is a British commentator on music and cultural affairs and, according to his website (, he has written 11 books about music.

Song of Names was his first novel (obviously, since that’s what he won the award in) and combines the two worlds of classical music and London’s Jewish population, beginning during WW II. It is the story of two boys, Martin and Dovidl. Martin’s father was a promoter of music, working with musicians, arranging concerts, etc. Dovidl and his father came to London from Poland right before the Germans invaded Poland, in order for Dovidl to study classical violin in London. Dovidl’s father wanted to return to Poland and to the family, so Martin’s father agreed to keep Dovidl at his home. Dovidl and Martin grew up together almost as brothers during the war years, while Dovidl was preparing for his premier. The night of his premier, he disappeared.

Martin grew up to take over his father’s company. Despite many efforts over the years, Martin was unable to learn what became of Dovidl. It was not until 40 years after Dovidl disappeared, that Martin hears a young boy play the violin and realized that the boy could only have learned his technique from Dovidl.

The book is 311 pages, but it didn’t really start to grab me until about two-thirds through (page 223, to be exact). I thought that the first part of the book was excessively wordy and had trouble staying with it. However, after Martin began to suspect that Dovidl might still be alive, I became interested. And when the Song of Names became evident, I was hooked. The book was good enough to stay with until that point, but I was surprised how well-written the last third of the story was. I don’t want to tell anymore of the story so I don’t ruin the book for others. It is a very good story and I recommend it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Random Thoughts

The two new books that I ordered arrived today! Hooray! Isn't is just like Christmas when you get new books? I love it! And now, I can't wait to finish the one that I am reading, so I can begin a new one! Right now I am reading Song of Names, which is one of the books that I chose for my self-imposed challenge (reading 5 winners of the Whitbread Award). I'll save my comments about it for my post when I finish it.

I noticed two magazines recently mentioned reading...unfortunately I can't recall what magazine it was that featured bookstores in the Midwest...I will put it in this post if I come across it. I meant to save it, so hopefully it is around here somewhere. In Midwest Living, the editoral page for the January/February edition is about reading. Books that editor Greg Philby mentioned as recommended for "great curl-up reads" were the following:

Home by Julie Andrews

Tinisima by Elena Poniatowska

Any Book By Dorothy Allison

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Read any of the three mentioned specifically? I agree with the Any Book by Dorothy Allison. Her books are great. I haven't read any of the others.

I will be heading to the beach for a week in another month and am already wondering what books to take! I can't even wait to be sitting poolside or on the beach with a's my idea of heaven. Curling up with a blanket and a good book are about the only good things that I can think of about winter.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Change of Heart

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult is a long book…447 pages. I think about twice as long as it needed to be. I liked the book, but was disappointed, just because a couple of her other books have been SO good.

The story is about Isaiah “Shay” Bourne who while working as a handyman, killed a little girl and her policeman step-father. Shay has been on death row for 11 years and is facing execution soon. The little girl’s mother had been pregnant at the time of the murders and her 11 year old daughter is in need of a heart transplant. You can see where this is going…Shay believes that he will be redeemed if he gives Claire his heart after he dies.

The chapters are told by Fr. Michael (Shay’s spiritual advisor), June (Claire’s mother), Lucius (in prison with Shay) and Maggie (Shay’s attorney). Each person does bring an unique perspective to the story, but I just found the whole thing to be too predictable.

If you want to read what I consider her best book, try My Sister’s Keeper. I really liked it. Her past few books have been disappointing to me.

Ok, so now I haven’t read a really, really good book for a couple of months…I have a stack of books waiting for me, so tonight I begin again. Here’s hoping for a great read!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random musings

I read half of the The Reincarnationist and gave up. It just wasn't keeping my interest enough, especially when I have so many other books to read. I was very disappointed.

Oh well, onto other books. I am almost finished with Change of Heart and will review it soon.

I ordered 2 new books from QPBC the other day: The Likeness by Tanya French and Larry McMurtry's Books: A Memoir. The books haven't arrived yet, but they will go on top of my reading pile when they come!