Thursday, July 05, 2007

Reading Journal: The Judas Field

This spread is not very successful at all, but I'm posting it anyway because I want all of you to know about this book. It probably contains the most poetic prose I've ever read, as well as some of the most horrific descriptions of maimed and dying men. As off-putting as that was, and with a thin plot besides, I was compelled to keep reading because of the incredibly elegant writing. Here is a description of the onset of a battle:

"Quick the scarecrow rebel infantry came, running in the killing heat with muskets at the shoulder, eager to possess this land between ridges--every grain of sand, every gully, every wind-shook pine and rag of struggling grass--as if no other land in all the earth could be worth their dying. They lifted their voices, so that over the guns rose a quavering eerie cry like harpies descending, which drowned the manly hurrahs of the yankees and shivered the soul of every man."

And here is a quote of the battle's aftermath:

"Here lies a man who found beauty in all things; in birds, in the uncurling of a fern, in the shadows made by candlelight on a tent wall, and he would say to them, 'Is that not beautiful?' trying to teach them how to see. They had learned from him, and because of him the world would never seem without grace in the smallest things. Now he has no eyes at all."

It's been twenty years since Mississippian Cass Wakefield returned from the war, but he is still haunted by battlefield memories. Now he accompanies a dying woman in a trip to Tennessee to recover the bodies of her father and brother and there his memories reemerge with overwhelming vividness.

Reading Journal: Roma

I have always enjoyed accounts of life in ancient Rome. One of my all-time favorite books is I, Claudius, so I was excited when I heard about this one, expecially since I had liked Saylor's A Twist at the End (featuring O.Henry that is set in Austin.) But, I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed. I think he tried to cover too long a time period. 1000 years in 500 pages ends up reading like a textbook in places. His characters are undeveloped and just seem a device to "explain" historical events to the reader. The first few chapters were okay, but I had to force myself to finish the book.

The picture I took of this spread is poor. It actually looks much better in person. No matter how many shots I tried, I couldn't get rid of the sheen on the lower half, and the yellow sky shows up quite a bit duller than it really is. Oh, well.

Reading Journal: The Fourth Sacrifice

Margaret Campbell, an American forensic pathologist and Chinese detective Li Yan had been lovers who were forced apart by circumstances, but have now been ordered to work together to solve the serial murders of four men who were drugged and beheaded with a ceremonial bronze sword. All were Chinese, but the fourth one had moved to the USA as a teenager and became an American citizen.

In the course of the investigation, Margaret is drawn to Michael Zimmerman, an archaeologist making a documentary about the discovery of the life-size terracotta warriors found buried at Xi'an.

The thing that intrigued me the most about this story was the glimpse it gave into modern-day China, as well as a look back at the horrors of the Cultural Revolution in the 60s when Red Guards persecuted thousands of intellectuals.

I used a Pitt brush pen to write the title in a style that looks somewhat Asian.

Reading Journal: Between, Georgia

Between, Georgia is a tiny town where a long simmering feud holds sway over the life of Nonny Frett. The first chapter immediately grabs you with her dramatic birth and then fast forwards thirty years.

Biologically, she's a Crabtree...but emotionally, she belongs to Stacia Frett, the congenitally deaf and now also blind woman who claimed her the instant she slipped out of her unwed teenage mother.

Stacia is a world-renowned dollmaker with two very eccentric sisters; one who dresses the dolls and the other who runs the business end of things and raises butterflies.

Suddenly, a dog attack escalates the feud as Nonny desperately tries to be the peacemaker while dealing with her feelings for her soon-to-be-ex-husband and unexpected advances from her longtime best friend.

The crazy painted page where the review is written was done with fluid acrylics and glazes. I had glazed both pages of the spread and the glazes kept sticking to each other, so I cut out the facing page leaving a tab. It isn't obvious from the picture, but the butterflies are decal-type stickers which are stuck to a transparency that was attached to the resulting tab. This allows the butterflies to be seen from both sides, and made it seem like there was a real reason for the page stub. As I learned from Bob Phillips, when you make a mistake, feature it!

Reading Journal: Vanishing Acts

Delia Hopkins is an expert at finding missing persons. She and her bloodhound are well known for their search & rescue missions in rural New Hampshire. Suddenly, old photographs and dreams begin triggering flashbacks about people and events that seem vaguely familiar yet disassociated from the life she thinks she knows.

Just as she starts to question her father about her confusing recollections, he is arrested and remanded to Arizona--charged with kidnapping Delia when she was only 4 years old. Andrew confesses to taking her away from his wife Elise, and disappearing into a new life. And with his admission, Delia's entire history is turned upside down. How and why could her adored father have done this? Is her mother really dead, as she was told all these years?

Due to the trial, Delia, Eric her fiance (who is Andrew's attorney) & their daughter Sophie move to Phoenix. Fitz, their best friend from childhood, tags along for support. As the investigation & trial proceed Delia's life story is gradually revealed.

I've read several books by Jodi Picoult and liked every one of them. She always give you so much to think about in stories where a difficult situation has no right answer.

I had been saving this picture just because the little girl was so adorable, but it turned out to work very well with this storyline because she has such a mystified look on her face.

Reading Journal: Piece of My Heart

In the course of twin narratives, the author weaves together the stories of two interconnected murders that occur decades apart. The first takes place in September 1969. Rock & roll, psychedelic drugs and hippies are on the rise in Britain. In the aftermath of a music festival, a young woman is found dead in a sleeping bag, stabbed through the heart.

In the present day, DCI Alan Banks investigates the death of a freelance journalist who had been working on a magazine article about the 40th anniversary of the classic rock band the Mad Hatters, who he gradually discovers had been more than casual acquaintances of the dead girl in 1969.k

I always enjoy the books in this series. Banks is one of my favorite detectives. Peter Robinson writes an engaging mystery every time, always fully developing the characters right along with the plot, both the recurring ones like Banks and Annie Cabbot, as well as the ones unique to each story.