Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

July 12

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Memorable Scenes Monday (3): Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson

by Ann-Katrina

Every so often I come across a scene that is so potent that it lingers long after I’ve finished reading it. That’s where the idea for this feature came from. Each Monday I intend to share with you a memorable scene from one (or more) of my reads.

If you like the idea I invite you to join me in sharing a memorable scene on your blog and link to it in a comment or just share the scene in the comment itself. (Please remember to include the book’s title and author so our wishlists and TBR stacks can grow. Also, if your scene is a spoiler, please clearly mark it as one.)

Pharos This week’s scene comes from Pharos: A Ghost Story by Alice Thompson.

The next day the pain from the burn developed into a fever and she was forced to retire to bed. Late afternoon, someone knocked on the door and she lifted her head from her pillow to see the young assistant keeper enter. Her heart sank. His looks disconcerted her. He had a very still face with green eyes that reminded her of a snake or wild creature, something from the sea. His hands moved delicately, like anemones. As if they had a life of their own, quite apart from the rest of his body, which was lithe and fluid like an acrobat’s. His body looked as if it were always alert, as if it were about to jump up and do a somersault in the air, that sitting down never quite satisfied it. But he was sitting down in front of her in the small, round room, on a wooden chair, his hands nervously twisting in his lap.

She wondered what she looked like to him. But she hardly cared and neither, it seemed, did he, as he was acting as if it were quite normal for him to come into a strange, ill woman’s bedroom and make conversation.

‘Would you like to see a trick? It might help while away the time for you.’

She tried not to smile. Being cooped up in a lighthouse must make people strange, she thought. She nodded.

He bent towards her and at first she thought he was coming towards her to kiss her, until she saw him keeping on bending, clasping his hands over his head. He moved himself over and round until he was a circle in the middle of the room. He rolled around in the center of the room like a wheel.

‘That’s not a trick,’ she said rather disappointedly.

Then she watched as suddenly, to her astonishment, he seemed to catch fire. Flames were coming out of his body as he was turning, now on the spot, as if he had been transformed into a Catherine wheel. He lit up the room in the encroaching twilight. Bright red, orange flames spun out of his curved body as he turned and she could no longer see where his head met his hands or even his body at all. He had turned into a wheel of fire.

-pg 26-7

This book had been sitting on my TBR stack for a while and for some strange reason, I was struck with a desire to read it. So far, Thompson’s writing has a tactile quality to it, which engages all the senses. It really is rather beautiful. The story is shaping up to be a mind-bending one as clues have been dropped that not everything on Jacob’s Rock is as it seems.

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March 17

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Ides of July Make for Beautiful (If Heartrending) Music

by Ann-Katrina

Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine, I present another edition of Waiting on Wednesday…

This book’s description called out—or should I say sang?—to me. I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. Now, I grow impatient waiting for the day it shall arrive.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy The Long Song by Andrea Levy is scheduled for publication on April 27, 2010 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.


Small Island introduced Andrea Levy to America and was acclaimed as “a triumph” (San Francisco Chronicle). It won both the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and has sold over a million copies worldwide. With The Long Song, Levy once again reinvents the historical novel.

Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her “Marguerite.”

Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist war, followed by the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so that she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her “freedom.” It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her son’s persistent questioning, July’s resilience and heartbreak are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution, freedom, and love.

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