Thursday, May 29, 2014

There and Back Again

If you've been wondering why there have been no posts of late, I've been away for the past two weeks, visiting Israel. I'll put up some pictures in a future post, along with my review of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, by Israeli author Shani Boianjiu.

In the meantime, here are some books I finished before the trip.

19. Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

In my post on book topics I wanted to see more of, I included the India/Pakistan conflict. Then, I came across this book in the library. It's a story set against the backdrop of the India/Pakistan Partition, although that does not at first seem to be its main focus. At first glance, it's a fairly simple star-crossed lovers' tale, but the basic plot takes on a deeper significance within the larger context of the time period. This is a story about what it really means for people to be ripped apart, about what happens when you can't change the past, and there are no easy answers.

20. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

I laughed aloud several times while reading this book. I used to follow David Lebovitz's blog regularly, and should probably do so again. His writing is as sharp and delicious (literally) as I remembered, and as I found it in the book. The book is well worth reading apart from the blog, it includes original and tweaked recipes and stories that you won't find online. Lebovitz's account of his interactions in Paris are amusing due to the cultural disconnect, and will have Americans laughing at French foibles, but his writing also conveys a deep respect for French culture and suggests that we Americans have much to learn about the finer things in life (namely, cheese).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review: Behind the Gem

17. Behind the Gem by Ken Hart

An ordinary man finds himself suddenly transported across space and time and romantically pursued by a beautiful, gentle alien. Such is the conceit of Behind the Gem, and the plot's fast pace and simple wording make it read at first like bizarre fantasy.

But it is so fast and easy to read, with event piling cleanly upon event, that one is drawn in. Gradually, explanations are revealed for the hasty beginning and the plot becomes both more interesting and more subtle. The outdoorsy, outspoken protagonist, Ray, is hard not to sympathize with. He is a masculine everyman with plenty of heart, soul,and brain. The female protagonist, known as Amber, is sympathetic, but less interesting aside from her alien nature. Despite her odd appearance, stereotypical femininity is her chief trait. This apparent stark delineation of the sexes is called into sharp relief when Hart pulls a twist that undermines the very structure of gender. I wish that more had been done with it, but even so, it provided some interesting avenues of thought.

While the earlier parts of the book seem fantastical, it later follows more classic sci fi threads. Even the writing style, simple and straightforward, calls to mind more classic sf. It hearkens back to the days when ideas were all that were needed to captivate the readers. Although I personally prefer a more luxuriant writing style, those who enjoy classic sci fi adventures should definitely check out Ken Hart. This is probably not a book for those who are not already sf fans, but those who are will appreciate the old school style and active plot.

Received for review from the author.