Review: The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

The title and the cover of this novel piqued my interest even before I knew what it was about. A faceless man dressed in period clothing standing or walking in the doorway of a library holding a pocket watch. And, after a closer look, what I thought was a fog or mist appears to be an angel hovering behind him.

The Map of Time - the title holds all sorts of possibilities as well. The word ‘map’ indicates travel to exotic and mysterious destinations and the word ‘time’ – well, obviously, there’s some time traveling going on inside those pages. How fun is that!? Waiting for this book to arrive in my mailbox, I felt that shiver of anticipation I always get when I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be lost in a great story.

I had all sorts of imagery running through my mind about angels and ghosts but as it turns out I’m very bad at puzzling plots out based on covers! Happily, despite my incorrect assumptions, I quite enjoyed The Map of Time. The book is divided into three distinct, yet connected, parts and there is a nameless narrator (the figure on the cover?) who addresses the reader directly, and at times, humorously, at the beginning of each section and occasionally within the sections. Time travel and H. G. Wells figure prominently in each and one or more of the protagonists in one part will make an appearance in another. It always fascinates me when an author manages to tie a plot together using this story-telling device. It must be difficult to pull off but Mr. Palma does it exceedingly well.

Each character is well-fleshed out. There is background story and context and motivations are clear. The story is filled with the atmospheric squalor that was sometimes Victorian London. Prevailing attitudes regarding women are spot on and speculation by the characters about what the distant future would be like was interesting and sometimes quite funny.

If I were to categorize this book I’d put it in with Drood by Dan Simmons and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – just for the attention to detail and the ability of the writer to take a reader on an adventurous journey not soon forgotten. The Map of Time is loaded with atmosphere and imagination and I highly recommend it.

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal

I don’t read a lot of true crime fiction but The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal had me interested from the moment I found out about it. I recalled hearing about the man who called himself Rockefeller and his actions concerning the kidnapping his own daughter. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that the little girl had been found unharmed (well, at least physically; I imagine her father’s behaviour would leave some sort of mark on her).

The story written by Mark Seal is fascinating. He takes the reader back to the beginning of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter’s life and the spark that may have been the start of his lifelong addiction to being someone who he is not. This imposter played various roles so well he fooled literally everyone around him. He told so many lies, it’s amazing how he was not caught sooner. Though when the people around him did start to suspect the truth, he would simply disappear from their lives and reappear elsewhere sporting another fake persona.

Mark Seal did his homework. One remark here or a document there led him across the United States and even to Christian’s hometown in Germany where Mr. Seal spoke to locals who remembered the imposter and knew his family. The author followed every lead that came his way (and I suspect much more was edited out for publication). I can’t say enough how amazing it is that Christian Gerhartsreiter was able to fool almost everyone - including his wife, the upper-crust denizens of New York City and Boston to name just a few. He was, as various people interviewed for this book said, very good at what he did. This is identity theft at its worst.

The sense and feeling of the imposter came through in the telling of this story. And though in the end the imposter is brought to justice, I have a feeling the world has not heard the last of Christian Gerhartsreither.

Tuesday Teaser: Alice Bliss

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences from somewhere on that page and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser is from Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. From page 102:

There are still Transformers on the shelves and the complete set of Harry Potter. She knows if she opened the drawer to her left, Henry's collection of arrowheads would be there, perfectly labeled, right next to the tackle box with all his stuff for tying flies.

Mailbox Monday June 20, 2011

In June Mailbox Monday is being hosted by The Bluestocking Guide.

Last week I received The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock. From the back cover:

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. Willard Russell is a tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific who can't save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blodd he pours on his "prayer log." Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, troll America's highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. The spider-handling preacher, Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, are running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte's orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.

Tuesday Teaser: The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences from somewhere on that page and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma will be published on June 28, 2011. From page 157:

"Joseph is happy here," declared Treves, in a suddenly thoughtful voice. "The examinations we carry out on him from time to time are fruitless, but that does not seem to worry him.

Mailbox Monday June 6, 2011

In June Mailbox Monday is being hosted by The Bluestocking Guide.

Instead of books received in my mailbox, I thought I would highlight some notable books I picked up at BEA.

The first book is When Tito Love Clara by Jon Michaud and published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. About the book (taken from the publisher's website):

Clara Lugo grew up in a home that would have rattled the most grounded of children. Through brains and determination, she has long since slipped the bonds of her confining Dominican neighborhood in the northern reaches of Manhattan. Now she tries to live a settled professional life with her American husband and son in the suburbs of New Jersey—often thwarted by her constellation of relatives who don’t understand her gringa ways.

Her mostly happy life is disrupted, however, when Tito, a former boyfriend from fifteen years earlier, reappears. Something has impeded his passage into adulthood. His mother calls him an Unfinished Man. He still carries a torch for Clara; and she harbors a secret from their past. Their reacquaintance sets in motion an unraveling of both of their lives and reveals what the cost of assimilation—or the absence of it—has meant for each of them.
This novel was published in March and is getting excellent reviews.

The second book I'm featuring is The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy. It's published by Hyperion. From their website the description of this novel reads:

A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier’s Wife asks “What would you do for your family?” “What should you do for a stranger?” and “What would you do for love?”

As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship—and her family—safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.

This one has an interesting Q & A with the author at the back (I don't know why but I often read these before the book to get a feel for the background story).

That's it! I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone got in their mailboxes last week.

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