February 6, 2008 archive

Theft of the Master – Book Review

And so this masterpiece, itself commemorating an ancient slaughter, five centuries later will become the trigger for bloodshed and betrayal… -From Theft of the Master, page 4-

Priceless works of art and cultural artifacts were stolen by the Nazis before World War II ground to a halt.  Edwin Alexander’s debut novel – Theft of the Master – is based on this historical fact. The novel opens in 1493 in Estonia with the commission of a carving of Christ. It then fast forwards to 1992 where the reader is introduced to The Templars – modern day Nazis intent on preserving “German cultural heritage.” Alexander sets up the novel carefully – structuring it after a game of chess – while he moves from Germany to the coast of Northern California where a young woman is drowned under suspicious circumstances. Enter Al Hershey, a private investigator small in stature but big in street smarts and Marine experience. Hershey is a likable character who is adept at getting himself out of tight situations. Hired by the dead girl’s parents, Hershey wastes no time unraveling the mystery from California, to Paraguay, to Estonia to Germany and back to California.

While the novel faltered at times with some cliche  characters and plot gaps, Alexander’s ability to tell a story with plenty of twists and turns keeps the reader flipping the pages. One of the strengths of the book is its reliance on historical fact to support the fictional elements…and I have to admit that was my initial interest in the book.

Alexander has a web page which includes an interview with him about this book, along with some additional information about the history of the novel. He is currently working on his second Al Hershey novel.

Theft of the Master was a quick and ultimately satisfying read and I can recommend it to readers who enjoy thrillers and historical fiction.

WINNER – Valentine’s Day Book Giveaway

February 15th

Congratulations to Karin who won the drawing for the book!! Karin, I have sent you an email to get your snail mail address so that I can get your book in the mail!


As a way to show my appreciation to my faithful readers, I’ve decided to give away a brand new, soft cover edition of:

Lisey’s Story
, by Stephen King.

If you would like your name to go into the drawing, please leave a comment here by midnight (PCT) on February 13th. I will be drawing a winner on the morning of February 14th!

The Orange Prize Project

No Time Limit

In the spirit of some of the other award winning perpetual reading challenges, I decided to host this long-term project in which the participants will read all books that have won or been short listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction AND the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers. There is no time limit.

For those readers who want to go further than the short lists, I have also provided a list of the titles which appeared annually on the long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Reading from the long lists is not required, by could be viewed as “extra credit!”

I have started a blog dedicated to this challenge which is open for contribution by challenge participants. Please go to The Orange Prize Project blog for further guidelines and to join up!

My Progress List and goals:

Below the books I’ve read from winners and shortlists are highlighted in orange. The books I’ve read from the longlists are highlighted in green; ratings, links and reviews as indicated.

I’ve gone through my current stacks of TBR books and found a number of Orange Prize winners and nominees. In the lists below, I have italicized those books I hope to read in 2008.

The Orange Prize for Fiction


Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – WINNER (Read January 7, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Arlington Park, by Rachel Cusk
The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai (Read March 17, 2007; rated 4.25/5; read my review)
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo
The Observations, by Jane Harris
Digging to America, by Anne Tyler

From the Longlist:
What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn


On Beauty, by Zadie Smith – WINNER
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel
The Accidental, by Ali Smith
Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany
The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters (read February 12, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

From the Longlist:
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (read in 2006; rated 2/5)
Minaret, by Leila Aboulela


We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver – WINNER
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam (read May 29, 2007; rated 3.5/5; read my review)

The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman
Liars and Saints, by Maile Meloy
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka

From the Longlist:
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson


Small Island, by Andrea Levy – WINNER
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (Read in 2006; rated 3.5/5)
The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard (Read August 9, 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Read January 24, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Ice Road, by Gillian Slovo
The Colour, by Rose Tremain

From the Longlist:
The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler


Property, by Valerie Martin – WINNER
Buddha Da, by Anne Donovan
Heligoland, by Shena Mackay
Unless, by Carol Shields
The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt

From the Longlist:
What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt


Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett- WINNER
No Bones, by Anna Burns
The Siege, by Helen Dunmore
The White Family, by Maggie Gee
A Child’s Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters

From the Longlist:


The Idea of Perfection, by Kate Grenville – WINNER
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (Read August 4, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
Fred & Edie, by Jill Dawson
Hotel World, by Ali Smith
Homestead, by Rosina Lippi
Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley

From the Longlist:


When I Lived in Modern Times, by Linda Grant – WINNER
If I Told You Once, by Judy Budnitz
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
The Dancers Dancing, by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (Read in 2003; unrated)

From the Longlist:
The Translator, by Leila Aboulela (Read March 23, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)


A Crime in the Neighborhood, by Suzanne Berne – WINNER
The Short History of a Prince, by Jane Hamilton
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
Paradise, by Toni Morrison
The Leper’s Companions, by Julia Blackburn
Visible Worlds, by Marilyn Bowering

From the Longlist:


Larry’s Party, by Carol Shield – WINNER
Lives of the Monster Dogs, by Kirsten Bakis
The Ventriloquist’s Tale, by Pauline Melville
The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Patchett
Love Like Hate Adore, by Deirdre Purcell
The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve

From the Longlist:


Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels – WINNER
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (Read May 14, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
One by One in the Darkness, by Deirdre Madden
Accordion Crimes, by E. Annie Proulx (Read 2006; rated 2/5)
Hen’s Teeth, by Manda Scott
I Was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn

From the Longlist:
Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Read April 28, 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)


A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore – WINNER
The Book of Colour, by Julia Blackburn
Spinsters, by Pagan Kennedy
The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan
Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
Eveless Eden, by Marianne Wiggins

From the Longlist:

Orange Prize for New Writers


The Lizard Cage, by Karen Connelly – WINNER
Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allan
Bitter Sweets, by Roopa Farooki


Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman – WINNER
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, by Yiyun Li
The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin


26a, by Diana Evans – WINNER
Lucky Girls, by Nell Freudenberger
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

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