Thursday, April 30, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Worse

Today's Booking Through Thursday question asks:

Which is worse?
Finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or
Reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?

I, thankfully, have never had the experience of finding a book I love and then hating everything else an author has written. I have occasionally been disappointed in a novel by an author I love. John Irving comes to mind. I've enjoyed every book of his I've read, but was never able to get through Until I Find You. When it was first published, I had to run right out and purchse a hardcover copy. This could be a case of "right book, wrong time", so I'll give it another shot at some point...but at 800 pages, it won't be right away!

Additionally, some authors seem to have different styles of books. I love Margaret Atwood's 'female relationship' books, like Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride more than her 'science fiction, dystopian' books like The Handmaid's Tale.

To see more answers or play along, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - April 28

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To play :
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:
Until the terrifying but really unavoidable breakdown of this evening, no one had ever seen her weep, heavy and poisonous as were the bitter tears she so frequently held back. She never forgot to say "thank you" and "please". Her heart swelled with an angry sense of how far beyond criticism she was. Come what might she would do her duty to the utmost. (page 42-43)

The Home-Maker
by Dorothy Canfield

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

It's quickly shaping up to be 'one of those weeks', so here is my Tuesday version of Short Story Monday. Yesterday was a gorgeous day - birds chirping, bright sunshine, record heat - and, for some reason, it was Edgar Allen Poe that caught my eye as I was leafing through the Norton Book of American Short Stories. I must have read The Tell-Tale Heart in high school, but decided to revisit it anyway.

Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) wrote The Tell-Tale Heart in 1843.
It was originally published in The Pioneer, a Boston-based magazine. This Gothic classic is one of Poe's most famous stories.
It is told in the first person by an unnamed narrator who lives with an old man. The narrator is insistent upon convincing the reader of his sanity. The story begins:

"TRUE!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I have been and am. The disease has sharpened my senses-not destroyed-not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I have heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily how calmly I can tell you the whole story. "

The old man has an eye that distresses the narrator:

"One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture - a pale, blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever."

The narrator then carefully details his account of of killing the man and offers up the eight-day, time consuming ritual as proof-positive against his insanity. A scream heard during the night by a neighbor prompts the police to investigate. The narrator has meticulously cleaned the crime scene (the chopped up body has been hidden beneath the floor boards) and is happy to invite the police in to look around. He hears a faint noise, which becomes increasingly louder, and is convinced it's the dead man's beating heart. Sure that the officers also hear and suspect his crime, he confesses and instructs them to pull up the floor boards.

There was an "Oh, yes, I remember now!" moment when I'd finished. The Tell-Tale Heart is a great story, but probably better suited to a dark and stormy night. You can read it here.
Visit The Book Mine Set to see other Short Story Monday posts.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Sunday Salon (Monday Morning Edition) - April 27

Welcome to the Monday Morning edition of the Sunday Salon! I had hoped to get this posted last evening, but was away at Twin A's volleyball tournament. The team played well and kept winning into the semi-final round, but by then we were thankful to have them lose and take third place so we could begin the nearly 3 hour drive home!

It's been a good week of reading, mostly focused on short stories and essays. The essays, which I am thoroughly enjoying, are from John Updike's Due Considerations. There may be a short story post later today, but it could prove to be a Short Story Tuesday week instead.

The novel I am currently reading is The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Although it was published in 1924, the issues it addresses seem surprisingly contemporary. I hope to finish sometime this week.

My book club met on Friday to discuss William Paul Young's The Shack. It was an interesting meeting and I'll be posting my review along with the group's assessment later this week. I'm also still trying to get my thoughts down on The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever.

I'm nearly half-way through the 15 CD audio of The Help and loving every second! It occurs to me that since it's actually making me wish for more time in the car, it should probably be listened to while exercising instead!

Finally, Zetor at MOG'S blog has awarded me the Super Comments Award! Comments received here are much very appreciated, so I try to leave a comment whenever I can, even if it's just to say, "Great review!" or "I loved that book, too." Thank you so much, Zetor!
I will pass this award on to these Super Commenters:
Book Psmith
Lisa at Booknotes by Lisa
Lezlie at Books 'N Border Collies
Molly at My Cozy Book Nook
Darlene at Roses Over A Cottage Door

My thanks goes out to Fleur Fisher at Fleur Fisher Reads for the One Lovely Blog Award. She also has 'one lovely blog ', so I'm very glad to have discovered it! I passed this award along at last week's Sunday Salon.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and have a productive reading week ahead!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Book Review: Novel Destinations

Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West

by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon
National Geographic, 2008
344 pages

So the economy is bad, your job security is questionable, and that trip to London and Bath is no longer in the cards for this summer. Why not browse the pages of Novel Destinations instead? It is surely the next best thing. If you aren’t overly concerned with the economy and have a trip planned, get your hands on this book and incorporate a literary landmark or two into your itinerary. Novel Destinations: Literary Landmark’s from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West is a must read for both the seasoned traveler and the armchair adventurer.

The book is divided into two sections. Part One, entitled Travel by the Book, includes sections on writer’s homes and museums, literary festivals and tours, and literary places to "drink, dine, and doze". Locations both here in the US and abroad are featured. Part Two is titled Journey Between the Pages and focuses on ten specific literary destinations.

I wish I’d had this book before our trip to London and Bath last summer. We managed to hit most of the highlights in Bath (Jane Austen Centre, the Jane Austen walking tour, and lunch at the Pump Room), but who knew there was a Museum of Costume so nearby? In London though, we barely scratched the surface. This book has me convinced that another trip is definitely in order. Now if I can only sell it to my husband! It won't be possible this summer, but we could certainly visit Salem, Massachusetts to see Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables.

The only problem I have with this book is that it belongs to the library and must be returned. I will certainly be purchasing a copy of my own.
Thank you Book Psmith for bringing this book to my attention.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Library Loot - April 23

At the library this week, I focused on short stories and essays. It's funny to note that until a couple months ago, I would never have dreamed of checking out a story collection. In fact, I was able to count the number of stories read since high school on my fingers! Then I began to notice the bright yellow button for Short Story Monday and read of some the reviews. A few weeks later, I decided to play along. I've read some truly wonderful stories (you can see the list and links in my sidebar) and now find myself searching them out.

Essays have never been a big part of my reading either, but one of Wendy's mini-challenges has us reading a couple essays from the same collection. These are two that caught my eye. Do you have a collection of essays to recommend?

Miss Marple - The Complete Short Stories
by Agatha Christie
Can you believe I've never read Agatha Christie? Book PSmith reviewed several of these stories and they sound like fun.

The Thurber Carnival
by James Thurber
I loved The Unicorn in The Garden and wanted to read more Thurber. This is a collection of stories and cartoons.

The Best American Essays 2007
David Foster Wallace, editor
This seems like a good place to start reading essays.

Due Considerations - Essays and Criticism
by John Updike
I wasn't wild about my last Updike novel, but loved his short story When Everyone Was Pregnant. Now I'll try his essays.

I won't be reading any of these books cover-to-cover, but I do look forward to sampling each of them. What was is your library bag this week?
Library loot is hosted by Eva and Alessandra.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yeah, Olive!!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction! Hurray! I loved Olive Kitteridge and rated it 5/5 when I reviewed it in January. It was my book club's February selection; I wrote about the meeting here.

Winners were announced this afternoon. A complete list can be found here.

Short Story Monday - April 20

For this week's Short Story Monday, I decided to read a couple stories other participants have recommended. Both John and Eva read stories by Saki last week. I've never read Saki and this
seemed a good time to start. Since Eva posted a link for "Quail Seeds" along with her review, I printed it out and began reading. The story is about a small grocer lamenting the fact that shoppers seem to need more than just food. They need a shopping 'experience'... and he decides to give them one! This fun, light-hearted story was a delight to read. Other Saki stories will certainly be featured in future Short Story Monday posts!

Susan Glaspell's story "A Jury of Her Peers" really got me thinking! This is a story BookPsmith rewieved a couple weeks ago. It would be too simplistic to say it's a murder mystery, although that's what it appears to be. A woman awakens to find her husband strangled in their bed. She is put in jail as the prime suspect. The county attorney, sheriff, and a neighbor who discovered the crime scene visit the home to search for clues. The sheriff's wife and neighbor's wife also go along.

The story, published in 1917, shows quite a bit about the relationship between men and women at the time.
As the group enters the kitchen:

"Nothing here but kitchen things," he said, with a little laugh for the insignificance of kitchen things....

"Well, can you beat the woman! Held for murder and worrying about her preserves!"

"Oh, well," said Mrs. Hale's husband, with good-natured superiority, "women are used to worrying over trifles."

The men leave the women in the kitchen with instructions to 'keep your eye out...for anything that might be of use' as they continue on with their search:

"But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?" he said.

From the objects in the kitchen, the women are able to deduce the details of the murder....details that continue to elude the men. What happens in that kitchen is, in effect, a trial by a jury of the woman's peers.

After reading this story, I was curious to learn more about it. Susan Glaspell (1876-1948) was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and bestselling novelist. The story "A Jury of Her Peers" is a short story adaptation of her one act play "Trifles". It was inspired by events witnessed during her years as a court reporter. A very similar murder actually did occur. At the time, women were not allowed to be jurors, so Glaspell created a jury of those female peers in her short story.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sunday Salon - April 19

Good morning! As I write this, Dewey's Read-a-Thon is just minutes from wrapping up and I can tell from all the blogs I've visited that it's been a huge success. While I couldn't participate due to several family commitments, I did sign on as a cheerleader. Many comments of encouragement were left at my regular blog stops and I made some new friends along the way, too.

It's been spring break here this week and the girls have been home from school. The highlight of the week was, by far, taking them to get their driver's permit. They are thrilled to be driving, but I am getting more grey hair every minute they are behind the wheel!

As for my reading, I did finish The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. I really liked the book, but unfortunately a two week hiatus in the middle diminished my overall enjoyment. I still plan to read The Wapshot Scandal later this year. I also read Novel Destinations by Shannon Mckenna Schmidt and Jodi Rendon (review coming later this week) and a couple of stories for Short story Monday.

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield is next up, and I look forward to talking about it with Bellezza when I'm finished. I also started The Help by Dorothy Stockett on audio. I haven't gotten very far (not much time alone in the car this week), but I already LOVE it! If I had the physical book, I'd be reading as fast as I can...

There is also this beautiful award to tell you about! Margaret from BooksPlease has given me the One Lovely Blog Award.

The rules to follow are:
1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I discovered many new blogs through the read-a-thon, so if you participated and don't already have this award, please consider yourself tagged. Thank you so much for this award, Margaret! It is truly the loveliest award button ever!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day and all the read-a-thonners get some well-deserved rest!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ready, Set, Read!

Today is the day! Dewey's read-a-thon will be starting in just a few minutes.
Due to family commitments, I won't be participating this time around, but I will be visiting many of the readers.
Check out Dewey's read-a-thon website for all the details. Good luck everyone...and have fun!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A few audios...

Reviewing an audiobook is hard! I don’t have the physical book in front of me, there are no quotes flagged or written down in my notebook, and sometimes I don’t even know the correct spelling of a character's name. Although spelling wasn't an issue this time, it proved to be very problematic when I tried to write about China Road! All I have is my personal reaction to the story and the reader. When you add this to the fact that listening to a book is a very different experience from reading it (at least for me), I hesitate to even use the word ‘review’. So instead, here are some thoughts on a few recent audio books.The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister
Penguin Audiobooks, 2009
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
6 hours 4 minutes

Publisher’s summary:

Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.

I knew I was going to love this book even before I started listening. Molly and Les both raved about it and I've come to trust their judgement. The language was gorgeous; the reader’s voice was as smooth as butter. This was a perfect listening experience! My only complaint was that it was too short. The classes came to an end, but I still wanted more of each of these characters!
My rating: A+

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
Random House Audio, 2008
(originally published in 1961)
Narrated by Mark Bramhall
11 hours 26 minutes

Publisher’s Summary:

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It’s the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other but their best selves.

Listening to this book was like a step back in time. New York City and its Connecticut suburbs of the 1950’s came to life. While I didn’t like any of the characters, I could not stop listening. Eleven hours passed very quickly! I missed the movie when it was at the theater, but will definitely watch when it becomes available through Netflix.
My rating: A

The Story of a Marriage: A Novel
by Andrew Sean Greer
Macmillan Audio, 2008
Narrated by: S. Epatha Merkerson
7 hours 23 minutes

Publisher’s summary:
“We think we know the ones we love.” So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship: how we can ever truly know another person.
It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband's fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived and tried to protect her family are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of a hundred thousand dollars? For six months in 1953 young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, and most especially her husband, Holland.
Pearlie's story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war, with one war recently over and another coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repression - political, sexual, and racial - The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity.

The first-person narration, combined with the reader’s plaintive, deliberate voice made Pearlie come alive for me. Again, the 50's came to life...this time in San Francisco.
My rating: B+

My current audiobook is The Help by Kathryn Stockett and, so far, it's a winner!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Library Loot - April 15

There is some great loot from the library to share this week! I usually just run in to pick up a hold, but this week I had some extra time and came out with four books.

Tell Me A Riddle by Tillie Olsen

This was the hold I went to pick up. I read Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing for a recent Short Story Monday post and wanted to read more. The title novella won the First Prize O.Henry Award in 1961 and the stories have become staples in literature classes, but I was totally unfamiliar with her.

Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West
by Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon

I first heard about this book from BookPsmith. Now that I've had a chance to read through it, I can tell it's a book I want to own.

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi

Molly at My Cozy Book Nook is hosting a Summer Vacation Reading Challenge. I'm considering Venice as a possible 'travel destination'!

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah

I may be one of the only people around that hasn't read this book. It had been talked about as a book club selection, but didn't make the final cut.
I haven't read any non-fiction this year and I may start here.

Library Loot is hosted by Eva and Alessandra.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When Everyone Was Pregnant by John Updike

My relationship with John Updike has been conflicted from the beginning. I love his use of language, and recognize that he is a truly talented and prolific writer. However, his novels ( at least the few I have read) often disappoint or fail to live up to my expectations. I absolutely loved In The Beauty of The Lilies ten years ago, but didn't think as much of the novels I read after that - most recenty The Witches of Eastwick. In an attempt to leave my relationship with John Updike on a positive note, I have turned to one of his earlier short stories.

When Everyone Was Pregnant, written in 1971, is Updike's love song to the 1950's. It opens:

"I'm in securities, but I read a lot, on the train. Read yesterday that the Fifties were coming back..But my Fifties won't come back.
Kind years to me. Entered them poor and left them comfortable. Entered them chaste and left them a father...Those were the years when everyone was pregnant. Not only kind but beautiful years."

There is a hint of wistfulness from the beginning. The man on a train sends the signal that time is passing. This beautiful, lyrical love song is actually an elegy to the 50's.

"Guiltless. Our fat Fifties cars, how we loved them, revved them: no thought of pollution. Exhaust smoke, cigarette smoke, factory smoke, all romantic. Romance of consumption at its height."
"...How young we were. The men scrawny as boys. Laughable, military haircuts: the pea-brain look. The women with bangs and lipsticked smiles. We look drunk. Sometimes we were."

Surely after the 30' and 40's, the 1950's must have seemed idyllic. The Eisenhower era was good to Updike's generation. But time moved on.

"The babies got bigger. The parties got wilder...Scary tide, strong moon, could see the women had aged...over the ocean, riots. Assassinations, protests, a decade's overdue bills heaped like surf thunder on the sandbar. We were no longer young..."

The sixties have obviously arrived. The man on the train is still making these notes, but his hand is shaking. He is left wondering:

"Did the Fifties exist? ...the train slides forward. The decades slide seaward, taking us along. I am still afraid. Still grateful."

What a beautiful, yet melancholic, love story. Yes, I love John Updike again. Perhaps I should stick to his short stories.
Visit The Book Mine Set to see who else is talking about short stories today.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My First Sunday Salon

In addition to being Easter Sunday, today marks my first Sunday Salon post. The Sunday Salon was the first weekly blogging event I became aware of, yet I was hesitant to join in . There would never be something to write about each week, plus I certainly wouldn't be blogging on Sunday! My plan was simply to write about the books I was reading...maybe twice a week.

Well, plans change. My blogging now includes participation in a couple weekly events (Short Story Monday and Booking Through Thursday),and I have discovered challenges. The Sunday Salon seems like a perfect way to wrap up my week of reading, keep track of challenges, and plan for the week ahead.

Most of this week was spent getting ready for Easter. In addition to activities at church, there was shopping, cooking and baking to be done. Daughter #1 needed a ride home from college, so much of Friday was spent in the car. I did finish The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister on audio, a short story for tomorrow's Short Story Monday, and finally got back to The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. My review of Therese Raquin by Emile Zola for The Classics Challenge was also completed.

It's spring break for the local schools this week. The twins will be home, so my reading plans are modest. I'd like to finish The Wapshot Chronicle, read at least one short story, and start The Help by Kathryn Stockett on audio.

One last Easter surprised to share...Carrie at Books and Movies gave me the Proximaded Award.

“This blog invests and believes in the Proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!”

Thank you so much, Carrie, for this lovely Easter gift! I, in turn, will pass this award on to the blogs I have most recently begun to follow:
I hope you all have a Happy Easter and happy reading for the week ahead.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Numbers Game

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:

For something different, I’m borrowing a question from … here! One of the very first questions ever at Booking Through Thursday. Back from 2005 when Laura owned the blog but, because it was so new, it didn’t get as many responses as it does now … so, why not revisit?

Here’s the question:
Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…
1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
3. Is this normal for you?
4. Where do you keep your current reads?

Right now, I only have one book with an 'active' bookmark.
There are a couple others on my nightstand with bookmarks in them, but if they haven't been touched in a couple weeks, I no longer consider them active reads. There is also a short story collection I've been dipping into.

This isn't my usual habit. I normally have a few books in progress: one fiction, another that is usually non-fiction, plus a short story collection, and an audio book for the car. Yesterday, however, I returned my non-fiction selections to the library and finished an audio book.

Of my active reads, one tends to 'win out'. The winner is the book I'll take along in my bag to read during down time. The second book stays home, either on the nightstand or on the table next to my 'reading chair'. I pick that one up when I need a breather from the main read. The short story collection is on the bookshelf in the family room and the audio book stays in the car.

Visit today's Booking Through Thursday to play along or just to read more responses.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

by Emile Zola
Penguin Classics, 2004
194 pages
translated from French by Robin Buss
(originally published in 1867)

From the back cover:

"In a dingy apartment on the Passage du Pont-Neuf in Paris, Therese Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille. The numbing tedium of her life is suddenly shattered when she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband's earthy friend Laurent, but their animal passion for each other soon compels the lovers to commit a crime that will haunt them forever....Zola's novel is not only an uninhibited portrayal of adultery, madness and ghostly revenge, but also a devastating exploration of the darkest aspects of human existence."

My Thoughts:

I loved this book! Emile Zola is an author I have been meaning to read for years, and I'm glad that my reading challenges provided the motivation to finally pick up one of his books.

Two things that stood out for me in Therese Raquin were Zola's descriptive passages and the psychological development of the characters. From the very beginning, Therese Raquin is teeming with atmosphere. The Parisian street that houses Mme Raquin's shop is brought to life. The reader actually feels the weight of its oppression upon Therese:

"Therese, living in this dank darkness, in this dreary depressing silence, would see life stretching in front of her quite empty, bringing her each evening to the same cold bed and each morning to the same featureless day." (pg.22)

Zola's description of the morgue and the bodies housed within is positively gruesome:
"Often the flesh was peeling off their faces in shreds, the bones had broken through the drenched skin and the face seemed to have been boiled and boned." (pg. 71-72)

The psychological development of the characters is stunning. We see them begin to change as the affair progresses. For Laurent, "a new corner of his unconscious being has come to light. In the passion of adultery, he had begun to dream about killing." (pg.50)

After the crime is committed, the novel becomes even more focused on the psychological state of the characters. Therese"became aware of goodness and gentleness..., and she knew that she could not kill her husband and be happy. As a result, she could no longer clearly see inside herself and she lived in a state of cruel uncertainty." (pg.83)

We are taken on a on a journey with Therese and Laurent through rationalization, denial, guilt and, possibly, remorse and acceptance. The couple becomes nearly mad from sleep-deprivation, as they are haunted by the dead man's ghost. Zola even treats us to the thoughts of Camille's mother, Mme Raquin, who has been rendered mute by a stroke! The psychological drama ends with a very startling conclusion.

Therese Raquin is a book I can heartily recommend to just about anyone. It would also be a good choice for a book club looking for an accessible, exciting, and short classic. I will definitely be reading more Zola and would welcome any recommendations.
My rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - April 7

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
"Classics [clothing] are universally flattering to everyone at any age. They will never be wrong or inappropriate. Spend money on them, and they'll serve you well for years. Add your personal style or current trend in color, line, pattern, texture, and accents that flatter you. That's the key to looking current and attractive, always."

Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45
by Christopher Hopkins

OK...I know this isn't a typical teaser, but at my last book club meeting, we veered a little off topic (surprise, surprise!) and started talking about this book. A couple member were reading it and, since I've past 45, I decided to investigate. So far, he's made some good points and has photos to back them up...always a plus!

See more of today's teasers and play along here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Two Short Stories for Monday

There hasn't been time to read since returning from Puerto Rico, but I did take along The Norton Book of American Short Stories to keep me occupied during Twin A's cello lesson Saturday afternoon. With no story idea in mind, I just let the book fall open.

James Thurber got me with the first sentence of his very short story The Unicorn in the Garden:

"Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicorn with a gold horn quietly cropping the roses in the garden."

The image this conjures up brought an instant smile to my face. It turned into outright laughter when he ran upstairs to share the news with his wife:

"You are a booby," she said, "and I am going to have you put in the booby hatch."

The wife's plan backfires and Thurber leaves us with a comical moral to this short fable. You can read it here.

There was plenty of time for another story, so I chose Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing. This author was totally unknown to me, but the title caught my attention. From the first line, it was obvious that the tone of this story would be very different from the one I had just read:

"I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron."

Olsen (1913 - 2007) was born to Russian Jewish immigrants and spent her childhood in Nebraska before dropping out of school at fifteen to enter the workforce. She joined the American Communist Party and was associated with the political turmoil of the 1930's. She was also one of the first American writers to make the labor and struggles of everyday people the subject of tragedy. Olsen understood how women's voices were oppressed by conditions of time, space , and resources. She was part of the first generation of American feminists.

A woman, as she is ironing, is approached by a therapist or counselor (imaginary?) and begins to ruminate on the choices she made (or was forced to make) during her eldest daughter's childhood.

"You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key? She has lived nineteen years. There's all that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me."
"And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total? I will start and there will be an interruption and I will have to gather it all together again. Or I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, what should have been and what cannot be helped."

This story, published in 1961, was part of Olsen's first collection of short stories, Tell Me a Riddle. The volume contains four stories mostly linked through characters of a single family, with three stories told from a mother's point of view. I will be looking for it on my next trip to the library.

Visit The Book Mine Set to see who else is talking about short stories this week. Why not join in as long as you're there?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

Time for a wrap-up to this busy week...

Puerto Rico was wonderful! It's been years since I've felt that relaxed. This was an absolutely agenda-less vacation. While R was at his conference, my biggest decision was whether to read by the pool or at the beach! The conference was done by 1 PM, so we got to have lunch together and enjoy the afternoon. That usually included a pina colada (my official 'umbrella drink' of the trip) poolside. Since Puerto Rico is home to Bacardi, I figured this would be the most appropriate choice! After two full days of relaxing, R was ready to venture out. Tuesday we explored Old San Juan and visited the fortress El Morro. By Wednesday it was time to return to reality and head home.

I ended up reading The Shack for my book club meeting later this month, got through a pile of New Yorker magazines, and an issue of The Atlantic. My copy of The Wapshot Chronicle is in a hardcover collection of John Cheever's novels, so I ended up leaving it at home. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to open a book since we got back.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a high school classmate who died of pancreatic cancer. Although I only saw him once or twice a year, we had been friends since the second grade. As I've gotten older, the bond with these old friends has become more precious (as we are turning 50, how many people can say they've known you for almost 45 years?). It was a very sad day.

Today emotions are at the other end of the spectrum. We are celebrating our twin daughters' sixteenth birthday! The family is all coming for dinner...I'm off to bake the cake and make lasagna. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring at last...and two awards!

Returning home from a vacation, no matter how short, is never an easy task. This time, however, a few very welcome surprises made the transition back to reality a little less difficult. We flew home from Puerto Rico Wednesday night to find the ice had gone off the lake...a sure sign that spring has finally arrived in central New York. It's so nice to see the sun sparkling on the water and to hear the ripple of the waves again!

The next surprise came Thursday morning when I turned on the computer and found Molly, from My Cozy Book Nook, had given me the very special Blog Friends Award.

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

This award just made my day! I knew I liked Molly from the first time I read her blog, and have since come to consider her a friend. We seem to be at similar stages in life and I admire her for embarking on a new career as her children have grown. In addition to a love of books and reading, we also share a love of dogs and a tendency to get singularly focused on our interests (cooking, crafting, etc.). It brings a smile to my face to know that she considers me a blog friend, too.

Later Thursday evening, in an effort to catch up with my favorite blogs, I visited Dolce Bellezza and discovered I had been given the Sisterhood Award! Bellezza's was one of the first blogs I
stumbled upon and was instantly drawn to the inviting trattoria photo on her header (which, incidentally, has made a reappearance during my absence). When I took the plunge and started my own blog five months ago, Bellezza became my first follower. In addition to books, we share a love of being near the water, the trials of parenting teenagers, and an inability to walk normally in high heels! The Sisterhood Award allows me to nominate up to ten bloggers I consider sisters in the blogging community.

The fact that both of these awards focus on friendship and community make them all the more special to me. I am not a writer, a reviewer, or even an English major (my background is in clinical pharmacy), but I do love to read and talk about books (and life) with new friends I've made through blogging. So, thank you again Molly and Bellezza. I will bundle these two awards together and pass them on to:

These are bloggers I visit often and now consider friends.


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