Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman

It's taken me awhile to write my review of this book. It's very difficult to categorize or even summarize for that matter. It takes a number of unexpected turns and frankly I wasn't sure I liked it while I was in the middle of it. By the end however it was a very satisfying read.

The Sisters Mortland is actually the title of a painting of three sisters. A painter comes to do their portrait one summer and it there that that story begins. We meet the sisters one by one. There is Julia who is seemingly the stereotypical "pretty one", Finn the "brainy one" and Maisy the "odd one". Maisy is the narrator of the first third of the book but as you get to the next section you find she is not exactly what she seemed to be. The bulk of the story is told by Dan, the Roma boy, who in his way loves them all.

The story is for the most part tragic but it is told well and doesn't get mired in the darkness of it's story. I was put off by some of the intial turns but I couldn't put it down which to me is always the mark of a good book. The author only gives you enough information to keep you moving along. Letting the story unfold slowly. In the end the biggest secret of the book was the least expected and in my opinion the most real. It seemed as if there was some horrible dark thing that would explain all the events leading up to the end but the secret revealed was a very commonplace one. This made a somewhat ethereal story come back down to earth.

I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I'm not much of a Stephen King fan anymore. I loved his early stuff, Carrie, 'Salem's Lot and of course The Stand. The Stand is in fact on my top 10 books of all time. Occasionally however I will still pick up a King book. Even more occasionally he'll still entertain me.

Cell starts the action right away. Our hero Clay just got a great offer from a large comic house to publish his comic. He is ecstatic and can't wait to get back home to Maine to share the news with his son and estranged wife. He decides to stop at a truck for some ice cream and all hell breaks loose. Basically some kind of pulse is sent through all cell phones so anyone who is talking on one immediately becomes a violent savage creature. I'll spare you the gory details but it's pretty nasty. The book then becomes a survival story with Clay picking up traveling buddies as he makes his way home. Even though he has no idea if there is a home to go to.

Initially I was put off by this book. It seemed so much of a Stand retread but the one thing I have always said is that King may not be a great writer but he is a master storyteller. This book proves that. At some point this weekend I realized I didn't want to put it down. I was dying to see what happens next. In true King style there are no real explanations for what happened, only theories bandied about by the survivors. This is not a flaw however, it's frankly farely realistic. In this type of scenerio the chances of ever knowing what caused the change would be slim at best. The ending was left somewhat up in the air but I didn't find it unsatisfying. It just left me to decide how I wanted things to turn out.

All in all a very good read.