Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Middle of the Third Planet's Most Wonderful of Oceans by Everett Peacock

Following up with more of the same crew from The Parrot Talks in Chocolate, we delve a little deeper into the magical jungles of Maui. From Tiwaka's Tiki Bar & Grill to the Happy Rainbow Sunshine Festival it's a celebration of life rarely found in today's literature.

What a fun, fun book!

This one is the sequel to The Parrot Talks in Chocolate, and it is just as full of color and Hawaiian magic as the previous one. I swear that after putting it down my hands smell a bit like coconut.

The story takes off where we left the characters last time and they all appear in their full glory: Sandy with her crazy ways, Coco with her strange eyes, charming Tiwaka and many, many other characters. Of course, the main character, the one who takes center stage, is Maui itself. The descriptions are vivid enough to smell and taste, and the reader is hard pressed to remain sitting without trying to imitate some of the wilder dancing moments.

There are a few loose ends which left me wondering a bit, mainly about the almost possession that the narrator encounters in a Hippie retreat. That could have been explained a bit more, but it doesn’t take away too much from the story so it’s not a deal breaker.

More than anything, this novel is a love story. One between humans, animals, the ocean, and mainly, a love story sung to the bright piece of Earth that exists in the Pacific. I highly recommend this book, preferably if you’ve read the first one.

Raise you Coco Loco Moco and learn to squawk like a parrot! Come join us at Tiwaka’s!

The Fisher King by Hayley Kelsey

Control over the last great natural resource—the untamed ocean—is the bitterly contested prize in this family drama that pits three brothers, their waterman father, and a generations-old way of life against each other.

Set on fictional Trappe Island in the Chesapeake Bay, the novel revolves around the complex issue of overfishing and the depletion of the blue crab harvest during one summer’s devastating drought. Patriarch “King” Kingsley has continued a time-honored fishing tradition, but by doing his job too well he and other watermen have emptied the bay and destroyed their own livelihoods. Many species have been fished to extinction, others are on the brink, and the island is sinking.

After years of failed attempts to conceive, Gail keeps youngest son Sonny’s infertility—a result of decades of eating from a watershed teeming with pesticide and fertilizer runoff flowing downstream from, among others, her father’s farm—a secret. But she’s convinced that a child would finally get Sonny out from under his father’s thumb.

State-of-the-art computerized nautical technology led them to overcapitalize in the 90s and now their mountain of debt threatens to sink them. When a spectacular blue crab harvest floods the market, driving down the market price, watermen are forced to strike for the first time in their lives. A domino effect puts Gail, a crab picker, out of work. Packinghouses and local restaurants are next, and as the whole island shuts down, creditors come knocking.

Into this conundrum come Don, CEO of a multinational seafood conglomerate, and Peter, an environmental activist. Each brother takes a different, indeed opposite, path to end rampant overfishing and protect the bay he loves. Don tries to push legislation through the statehouse that would corporatize fishing by introducing a commodities-based quota system, but Peter mounts a campaign to stop him.

As president of the powerful Waterman's Association, it's up to King to rally the troops around a unified agenda, but he can't bring himself to endorse either side since it would mean choosing between his sons. He waffles until a splinter group forms, tearing the association in two and destroying its power in the statehouse. As the son who stayed behind and stood to inherit the watershed, Sonny believes he has the most to lose.

As the summer heats up, the depth of their desperate situation unfolds, compounding the already strained relationship between Gail and King, who are locked in a lifelong battle for possession of Sonny.

With no fish left to catch and no way to earn a living, King’s health, damaged by the same pollutants that destroyed Sonny’s fertility, and guilt-stricken over decades of strip-mining the bay, declines. Ill and embittered, King fears losing his hold on Sonny, the very thing he has tried to avoid but unwittingly brought about by unintentionally robbing his son of his inheritance--a healthy fishery. In a last-ditch effort, he divulges Gail's betrayal, but it backfires--with devastating consequences. The long simmering rivalry between Gail and King erupts and in its aftermath, she awakens to a spark of compassion for him, inquires after his illness, and at long last rain begins to fall.

As the Kingsleys slowly rip apart, Gail steps in to bind both brothers to her, hoping to get pregnant and hold the family together. As each man tries to persuade her to intercede on his behalf, she in turn tries to convince them to abandon their campaigns. But she dangerously underestimates their commitment to their ideals. Tensions escalate until everyone squares off in the courts and the legislature—brother against brother, and father against son, as the fate of the watershed hangs in the balance.

This book was a magician’s hat. I never knew what other wonder would come from inside its pages. I was very fortunate to read it.

The characters are real and complex, no one is good the good guy, no one the bad guy, which is what makes the story so effective. The reader can understand and reason through the characters’ actions, no matter how harmful they might be towards another character. I love that tugging of emotions that leave us looking around for who the “hero” really is. Nothing is black and white in this novel, just as it’s not in our lives.

The writing is wonderful, with no grammatical issues, and the reader can tell the amount of careful editing that grazed the pages before the book was released into the world. The story itself is a good one, although it does drag a tad in some places. I learned so much about fishing and yet I was never bored by the explanations, since they were always balanced by astute writing and a skill for keeping the plot always nearby. There is a sense of oppression that roams the pages, from the very beginning when we begin to see the problems that plague Sonny and Gail’s marriage, to the very end. It builds as the story moves along, until the reader is left gasping, turning the pages to see what else can happen. The plot also delves deeply into environmental issues caused by over-fishing and mistreating our water, which adds yet another terrifying layer to the already complex plot lines.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and I can recommend it to pretty much anyone who loves books that make you wonder what you’d do if it were you.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the largest your personal library has ever been? What’s the greatest number of books you’ve ever owned at one time? (Estimates are fine.)

Is your collection NOW the biggest it’s ever been? Or have you down-sized?

What’s the fewest number of books you’ve ever owned (not counting your pre-reading years)?

The largest it's been is right now. I never give books away so they seem to multiply day by day. I must have close to 2000 books right now, spread out in many different bookcases in two separate rooms.

The fewest...that's a hard one. Probably when my family and I had just moved to the US. We had lots of books, but not nearly as many as we used to have in my native country.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently I'm reading The Stranger by Albert Camus

And Townhouse by Brian Rowe

I just finished Counter Camouflage : Serbian urban story by Bojan Miladinovic You can find my review here.

Next, I'll probably read From Vegas With Blood by Jonathan Sturak

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

•Grab your current read
•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From The Fisher King by Hayley Kelsey
"I couldn’t stop thinking about what Ray Tate had said about how the water belonged to the state. It had never occurred to me to think of the bay in those terms, as belonging to an entity, someone or something, like an item you could buy in a store."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…

Have you ever read a book that inspired you to take up a cause? What book was it, and what is/was the cause?

What an interesting question. One book that did impact me tremendously was Just a Dog: Understanding Animal Cruelty and Ourselves by Arnold Arluke I always had a personal war with people who abuse animals, but after reading this, I started to get even more into it. I walked for animal rights and I try to help as much as I can. It's something that is very close to my heart.

Counter Camouflage : Serbian urban story by Bojan Miladinovic

Incapacitating a home alarm makes you a skillful thief. Creating an alarm which can be incapacitated by special remote and installing it- makes you skillful and a very impudent thief. Branko's team for alarm installment becomes greedy, so, to avoid the jaws of the law, Branko takes the advice his old professor once gave him:" Sometimes when you don't know how to avoid danger camouflage yourself, perhaps the danger will avoid you." A few years later, he meets a girl who is crazy about medieval jewelry. Wishing to fascinate her, he tries to buy her a copy of medieval ring. However, he figures out pretty quickly that the only convincing copy is - the original. Once a thief - always a thief. Branko steals the ring from the museum, presenting it as a prefect copy. Once again, he tries to use the old trick the professor taught him, but this time he is forced to - counter camouflage.

This was an interesting book to read, full of complex personalities and a setting that has as much attitude as the characters. There were many captivating moments, although unfortunately, it suffers a bit in translation.

There are a number of syntax errors which I’m sure are not the author’s fault, but rather that translator’s. It’s a shame, really, because there seems to be a fascinating, astute novel hidden under these mistakes.

Branko, the main character, is a complicated person. He is well-crafted, fleshing out as the story goes along, and becoming a full blown person. Other characters don’t fare so well, and they become a bit of a jumble for the reader to pick apart.

The story line is a fun one, with an ex-thief who finds himself once more with the urge to steal, this time to impress a pretty girl. Again, the only thing that really distracts and stops this book from being a great one is the translation. If you think that wouldn’t deter you from a good story, then by all means, this one is for you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Bit of Me(me)

This Weeks Question: Were you considered popular in high school? Why or why not? If not, which crowd did you “roll” with?

Since my high school was an arts school (think Fame) the popularity thing didn't work the same as in other schools. If you performed well, you were the star. It was a great atmosphere and I had fabulous experiences. As for popular, who cares?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow Friday

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

Hmm. This is a hard one because there are so many great fairy tales, but probably "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson. I'm a sucker for mermaid or siren stories. Another one that I love is "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Booking Through Thursday

What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

If I have a choice, I'd rather not have any kind of music on. It distracts me a lot, as much as the tv. I like my reading to happen in a sort of cocoon of calm, which of course, happens almost never. Not with dogs barking or asking to be let out, the phone ringing. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading In the Middle of the Third Planet's Most Wonderful of Oceans by Everett Peacock

And Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross

I just finished The Parrot Talks in Chocolate: The Life and Times of a Hawaiian TIKI Bar by Everett Peacock You can find my review here.

And The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. My review is here.

Next, I'll probably read Hull's Landing by James Melzer

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Parrot Talks in Chocolate: The Life and Times of a Hawaiian TIKI Bar by Everett Peacock

A mythical Hawaiian Tiki bar, and it's eclectic patrons help tell the story of our young hero as he discovers love in the tropics. Tiwaka, the parrot, trades chocolate covered nuts for words of wisdom and watches the wild and often mystical adventures unfold. You'll laugh, cry and insist on buying your plane tickets immediately, to Tiwaka's Tiki Bar & Grill.

This book is a wonder. From the moment I started I was caught in the salt spray of the Hawaiian air, the smell of pineapples and the feel of the sun pulsing against my skin. This is one of those few books where I feel that I want to be inside its pages.

The characters are what make the book what it is, even more than the setting. From the narrator, who is honest and lighthearted, to Tiwaka, the charming, loveable parrot who rules over the Tiki bar, to a waitress who might be more than she looks, the pages are crowded with fabulous personalities.

There is no plot, per se, the book is made of a collection of connected experiences in a paradisiacal island that ripples with Tiki music. It is the perfect story to pick up when feeling down, or stressed. The writing style is so soothing that it lulls you into a sense of well being that mimics the feelings of the many patrons of Tiwaka’s.

There’s really not enough I can say about how wonderful this book is. All I can tell you is that as soon as I finished it, I began to read the sequel, attempting to remain a little longer amid the wonders of the beautiful Tiki atmosphere.

Highly, highly, recommend it.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

•Grab your current read
•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From In the Middle of the Third Planet's Most Wonderful of Oceans by Everett Peacock

"Walking over to the kiawi post fence at the cliff edge I watched that funny swirl the ocean gets as a fresh water stream flows into it. It looked like a little kid tickling a big one, then getting overwhelmed when the bigger kid tickled back."

pg. 33

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

What a peculiar story this was. At first, I won’t lie, the western theme was not a huge selling point for me. Hesitation was rampant. As soon as I started reading, however, I fell in love with the entire setting.

The book is mainly an adventure story. Since the characters are killers hired by a mysterious man call the Commodore, the reader expects lots of action, lots of gun-slinging scenes, but there aren’t many of those at all. If any. And that’s what makes this book work so well, it breaks away from every stereotype. The characters are rugged yet vulnerable, with a penchant for depression and melancholy. Eli, the narrator, has a soft spot for his handicapped horse and Charlie, Eli’s brother, has a need to be the leader at all times.

Their misadventures were hilarious. Nothing seemed to go right for the two brothers.
The bond between them is well developed, with the usual ups and downs that siblings experience, only with guns and horses added to the mix. Some scenes had me laughing out loud at the madness. At moments it felt like a comedy skit.

Don’t make the mistake of not picking this book up because of the seemingly cowboy-ish theme, this is definitely a book to own and enjoy.

Musing Mondays

Do you like movies made from books? Which ones do you think have been done well — kept mostly to the plot of the book, etc?

Usually, movies made from books disappoint me. Think of the Harry Potter movies, especially the last two. Not really the most accurate, are they? Or The Time Traveler's Wife? That was horrific. So, in general I'd rather stick to the book than to the movie, especially if it's a book that I love.