Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Testament by John Grisham

Remember that Bookcrossing book I found a while back at Greenway in Leuven? Well I just finished it on Sunday. I was down and out with the flu and spent the whole day napping and reading and being taking care of by my husband and boys (they did a good job).

This book was exactly what I expected: a fast paced story, lots of legal twists and turns, colorful characters, and once I got into it, I was unable to put it down. I have always enjoyed Grisham's novels and this was no execption.

The story follows the legal battle over billionaire Troy Phelan's last will and testament - he excludes his six children in favor of giving all the money to a daughter he has never known as she was given up for adoption long ago. Lawyer Nate O'Riley has to track her down in the Pantanal area of Bolivia where she is a missionary, at the same time he has to keep his own demons in check.

The part of the novel that takes place in the Pantanal is well researched and captivating. So I learned something about this part of the world.

I am going to be posting about this book over on Bookcrossing, too, and will be releasing it into the wild sometime soon (although I think my husband wants to read it before I let it go)!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Something to Share

This summer we accidentally discovered a lovely bookstore in Brussels: Passaporta Bookshop. Not only was it open on Sunday afternoon and offered coffee and a place to sit, it is definitely one of those bookstores that invites browsing and perusing and generally getting lost among its stacks of treasures (my sister Christy will tell you this is one of my major character faults - do not take me into a bookstore if you have to be somewhere else on time later, for some reason "bookstore" trumps "not wanting to be late").
One of things I discovered at Passaporta was a new series by Penguin called "Great Journeys": a series of 20 slim volumes of excerpts from history's greatest adventurers' stories. I could not resist - the books have beautiful artwork and are such a dotey size, you can't help but pick them up. I actually ended up buying several of them, for gifts but also for myself, which felt really indulgent. But like I said, books are a real weakness!
I just finished number 16 in the series, "The Congo and the Cameroons" by Mary Kingsley, who writes about her travels in Equatorial West Africa in the late 1800's. It is amazing to follow her up and down the Great Peak of the Cameroons, through mangrove swamps, in all sorts of weather, narrowly avoiding bottomless pits, and doing it all on her own, in charge of her own troop consisting of a cook, boys to carry water and supplies, and several trackers. She was certainly a woman who did not let the prevailing customs of her day stop her in her love of travel and adventure and Africa itself:
Why did I come to Africa? thought I. Why! who would not come to its twin brother hell itself for all the beauty and charm of it!
After her second trip to Africa, she wrote the bestselling "Travels in West Africa" (1897), from which the Penguin book is excerpted. Tragically, during her third trip to Africa, while working as a volunteer nurse in a POW hospital during the Boer War, she died from enteric fever at the age of 37.
The Penguin series is a great opportunity to get acquainted with these obscure but amazing writers from long ago - when travelling was still a grand but risky adventure and there was so much of the world still to be discovered!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back to Bookcrossing?

Yesterday I was so excited. You see, I was having lunch with a friend at Greenways, a nice little vegetarian spot in Leuven, and we accidentally discovered a whole pile of Bookcrossing books sitting on the table next to us. (Well, actually it was after my friend accidentally knocked over the table and we were picking the stuff up, that we discovered the books!) There were several in English, a couple in Dutch and one in French.

I had to explain to my friend what Bookcrossing is because she had never heard of it. It's basically a way to share books you've read and what you thought about them with complete strangers and at the same time be able to follow the book's journey around (ideally) the entire world, by leaving the books to be "found" in public places. First, of course, you register the book on the Bookcrossing website, whereby it gets its own specific number, which you write in the book.

I've been a member of Bookcrossing for about four years, and I love the whole idea behind it, but I gave up on it after a while because I got discouraged, none of my books ever really being "found". I did pass on some books to friends, hoping they might journal about them on the site and pass them on to others, or trade with other Bookcrossing members, but it never really took off for me. Perhaps I will have to give it another shot, now that I know I good spot to leave books in Leuven.

What book did I pick up yesterday? The Testament by John Grisham, left behind by someone from Gent. I'll write more about it here and on the Bookcrossing site as soon as I've read it!