Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. White ladies playing bridge and sipping ice tea. Colored maids cooking, cleaning, and loving the white babies. The separate, intertwined paths of these worlds are going to collide. Audio is THE way to be inside this story, brilliantly cast with four voices. The separate casting of the three voices of Stockett's debut novel is astute. Jenna Lamia embodies Miss Skeeter, the young aspiring writer who starts a project that disrupts her privileged and predictable world. Lamia's genteel Southern tones can pass off ingrained prejudice with chilling comfort, screech with outrage, and subtly reflect Skeeter's growing resolve and self-discovery. Bahni Turpin and Octavia Spencer contrast the voices of hot-headed Minny and thoughtful, inspiring Aibileen. Their musical speech and emotional connection to the characters are riveting. Listeners are swept up in the story--shocked and reminded by the times; inspired and proud of these women.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett could easily end up being my favorite audiobook of the year. The novel has already gotten rave reviews from many bloggers (check out Sandy's review from You've GOTTA Read This or Molly's review from My Cozy Book Nook). I will just add my two cents by saying that the audio version was fabulous!
The readers' southern accents were perfect and added so much to my overall enjoyment. Not a single minute of this eighteen hour book dragged. As many of you know, I listen while I'm driving alone in my car...and while listening to The Help, I'll admit to to taking the long way home more than once. Whether you're already a fan of audiobooks or are searching for the place to start, I highly recommend The Help!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Due to the Memorial Day holiday here in the US, here is another Tuesday edition of Short Story Monday. This week's short story served as my introduction to the work of Alice Walker. Everyday Use was written early in her career and appeared in the collection In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women in 1973.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
"Two weeks in the days have a comforting sameness to them: mornings at the Bluff, afternoons at the Big Cove, evenings on the piazza. We live in our bathing suits. Our feet, callused from going barefoot all day, no longer cringe on the rocky shore. Rubbed by the sun, wind, and water, our city edges are wearing away. I feel as weathered s driftwood, as smooth as sea glass. When I woke this morning, I couldn't remember what day it is." (page 173)My reality is that summer does, indeed, have a different rhythm, but I wouldn't exactly call the days leisurely! The set of activities changes from year to year as the girls' interests evolve. I've chauffeured kids to summer reading programs, a multitude of lessons, games, dance or sports camps, and various friend's homes. This summer, with 16 year old twins, our main focus is on Driver's Education. Two mornings a week will be spent in the classroom and two mornings behind the wheel. I will supplement their driving experience, too....they will do nearly all my driving this summer! My 19 year old is gaining what she hopes will prove to be valuable work experience at as she interns at a local university press.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Adding to today's happiness....
I won a book! Testimony by Anita Shreve is coming from Nise' at Under the Boardwalk (via Hachette). This is a book I've been coveting for quite some time. Now I can no longer claim to "never win anything". Thanks so much, Nise'!
...and an award! Molly at My Cozy Book Nook has given me The Friendly Blogger award. This is an award that can easily be passed on to everyone that has ever commented on this blog, and to nearly every blog I've visited. Book bloggers are the friendliest people! If you don't know Molly (but doesn't everyone?) stop by and say hello.
Now, it's off to the market...
Friday, May 22, 2009
Ethel & Ernest: A True Story
by Raymond Briggs
1999, Alfred A. Knopf
Three sentence review from Time:
A best seller in Britain, this winsome little book is one family’s twentieth century, told as a comic strip that fast-forwards through the decades. Briggs’s artful rendering of his parents’ striving captures the English working class, and as the tale progresses, you find yourself slowly sucked into their daily patter, amused by their cooing voices, impressed by their bravery. At the end,you’re hardly prepared for the emotional wallop.
Last week, my experiment with graphic novels taught me that there is much more to the genre than science fiction, fantasy and super heroes. This week, thanks to Nan's recommendation, I learned that graphic novels can be as touching, moving, and beautiful as any story told solely with words.Ethel & Ernest is classified as a biography, but it is really much more. Raymond Briggs has used his remarkable artistic talent to compose an affectionate tribute to his parents. How else would you expect the author of The Snowman to convey his love (and, at times, frustration)?
The book opens with Ethel and Ernest's chance meeting in 1928 (he was a milkman and she worked as a maid) and follows them through marriage, child-rearing, the war, and on into their golden years. We observe their political squabbles, as well as their wonder at advancing technology. I was amazed at this little book's ability to allow us to get to know Ethel and Ernest
as they make their way through life. We see their quirks and foibles as they interact with each other and with their only child.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Today's Booking Through Thursday asks simply:
What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?
My answer, without hesitation, is Pride and Prejudice. Although it's been many years, I'll never forget the feeling I had reading it for the first time. Not being familiar with the plot, foremost in my mind was wondering whether Elizabeth would end up with Mr. Darcy. Now that I know the story and can practically recite many passages by heart, reading the novel brings a different type of satisfaction and comfort.
Summer plans include a re-read, so I need to settle on which book I'll read. My three choices are pictured here. A leather bound edition from The Easton Press is on the bottom of the pile. It was a Christmas gift from my husband several years ago. Next is a hardback Everyman's Library edition, which I bought long ago to replace a battered paperback. And finally, the one I'm leaning toward at the moment, is The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (edited by David M. Shapard) which came home from college with my daughter.
This question also reminded me of Daughter #1's first reading of Pride and Prejudice. Initially, she had trouble with the language, so I read the first chapter aloud to her. The rest, as they say, is history. She's gone on to read most of Jane Austen's novels, received a trip to London and Bath for her high school graduation last year, and just completed a Jane Austen in Film class at college. Twin A (16) is planning to read Pride and Prejudice for the first time this summer. I hope she, too, finds wonder and delight in the world of Jane Austen.
To see more answers, or add your own, visit today's Booking Through Thursday.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Harcourt-Brace & Co., 1924
Reprint 1996, Academy Chicago Publishers
Monday, May 18, 2009
Willa Cather (1873 - 1947) grew up in Nebraska and is best known for her tales of frontier life. Double Birthday, set in Pittsburgh, is part of a group referred to as the Pittsburgh stories. It was first published in The Forum in 1929 and opens:
"Even in American cities, which seem so much alike, where people seem all to be living the same lives, striving for the same things, thinking the same thoughts, there are still individuals a little out of tune with the times - there are still survivals of a past more loosely woven, there are disconcerting beginnings of a future yet unforeseen."
Albert is a middle-aged man who has spent his inheritance on travel and opera tickets, and is now content to live a simple life filled with classical music and books with his elderly uncle (also named Albert). He is planning an 80th birthday party for his uncle, which happens to coincide with his own 55th birthday, when he runs into Judge Hammersley, an old family friend. The Judge says champagne is needed to properly celebrate the occasion, and invites Albert to his home to pick some up. It should be noted that this story takes place during Prohibition.
The Judge instructs his widowed daughter, Margaret, not to invite Albert to stay since he is a man "whom one is...a little embarrassed to meet, because they have not got on as they should." When Albert arrives at the house, he and Margaret reminisce about time spent in Rome during their younger years.
Days later, Margaret decides to drop by Albert's home for the double birthday party. They have a lovely time and she proposes a toast "to the future; to our friendship, and many dinners together. I like you two better than anyone I know." The story then closes with a wonderfully poignant conversation between Albert and his uncle.
Willa Cather delivers a near perfect short story experience and reminds me, once again, how much I have enjoyed her novels. Death Comes For The Archbishop is on my shelf, and I'm considering adding it to my list for the Classics Challenge. I know I'll be reading more of her stories, too.
Visit John at The Book Mine Set to see who else has a shorr story to share today...or link to your short story post.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Life is very different this year. Daughter #1 started college, Twin A transferred to a local private prep school, and Twin B became the family representative at the public high school. Summer, as it turns out, will be a gradual process in our household.
Daughter #1 had her last exam on Tuesday, loaded up the Jeep, and headed home to begin her summer. That meant sleeping until almost noon, mountains of dirty laundry, and piles of 'stuff' all over the house. The rest of us, still on the school year schedule, got up between 5:45 and 6:15, tripped over daughter #1's stuff, and headed to the kitchen to pour our coffee. Twin A and Twin B were quite envious, but Daughter #1's vacation is over. Her summer internship starts tomorrow morning.
Twin A has two weeks of classes left, followed by three days of finals. Her summer begins June 3. Twin B won't finish her last exam until June 23 or 24. I don't think it's really registered that she'll be going to school for weeks after her sister is done...and I sure don't want to be around when it does!
As far as reading goes, I took a slight detour and experimented with graphic novels last week. After browsing though a how-to book (did you know there was such a thing for graphic novels?), I read and reviewed American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Lang. I also finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett and will post a review this week. A review of The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield should also be up in a day or so. Tomorrow I'll have a story by Willa Cather for Short Story Monday.
I'm currently reading The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt. It is my bookclub's May selection. I've listened to a few lectures from The Teaching Company's Classic Novels course this week and have decided that I really need to read Wuthering Heights. I don't have an audiobook in progress at the moment. Can you suggest one that you've enjoyed?
What are you reading today?
Friday, May 15, 2009
Summer vacations are meant to be relaxing and fun - not stressful. However, some people interpret "fun" by doing nothing but going to the beach and vegging out -- while others like to maximize their sight-seeing adventures. To that end, I have developed two different levels of participation:
Beach Bumb: you will read 3 books during this time frame (a leisurely book-a-month); cross-over book selections from other challenges may count; and you do not have to list books in advance -- after all, summer vacation is a time for spontaneity.
Globe Trotter: you will commit to reading 6 pre-selected books during this time frame, but you may substitute up to 3 books due to changes in travel plans. Cross-overs for 5 out of the 6 books are allowed, but ideally one book will be read for this challenge alone.
Sounds great, right? I've decided to sign up at the beach bum level and my plan is to vacation in Europe. The tentative itinerary includes:
1. Venice - A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
2. Paris - Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick
3. London - Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City by Anna Quindlen
If things go well in Venice, however, I may end up spending the entire summer in Italy. I'm very anxious to get to Elizabeth Von Arnim's The Enchanted April, and I see that Marlena deBlasi has a new book set in Sicily. We'll see where I end up!
Read more about the challenge and sign up here. Thanks for hosting, Molly!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Heather left a comment directing me to her very informative post. She pointed me toward Graphic Novels: Everything You Need To Know by Paul Gravett. My library didn't have this title but, thanks to inter-library loan, I was able to pick it up just a few days later. It is an excellent primer on graphic novels. Gravett lists 30 of his favorite titles and goes on to show sample pages (complete with suggestions on how to read them). He also points out themes, keywords, and special features. By leafing through this book, I found I was drawn to color illustrations...and preferred to steer clear of the sci-fi, super hero, fantasy world.
So, I checked out American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It won the Michael L. Printz Award, was a National Book Award finalist, and was mentioned by at least a couple of bloggers. American Born Chinese tells three separate stories. First is the Chinese fable of the Monkey King trying to rise above his heritage. The story of Jin Wang, a lonely, Asian American middle school student trying to fit in is next. Finally we have Chin-Kee (purposely the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype) who ruins his popular cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits. Yang then weaves these stories together and delivers a powerful message of self-acceptance. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read American Born Chinese and will be suggesting this title to my nephew in middle school.
This experiment with graphic novels was definitely a success. I feel like I've gained a (very) basic idea of what they're all about and an understanding of their appeal (especially to 11 year old boys). They won't become a favorite genre, but I will consider reading another. I hear there is a Pride and Prejudice graphic novel coming soon....
Mariel suggested this week’s question:
Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?
My name is JoAnn.....and I am a book glutton. There, I've admitted it! I buy books faster than I can possibly read them, but I am getting better.
The stack on the left are books I've bought in the past couple months and am either reading now, or plan to start soon. There are others that I've recently purchased and read, but far more that have been purchased long ago and remain unread on the shelf. Taking a picture of all those books would depress me, so I'll skip it.
My book buying has slowed considerably in the past year. First, I'm using the library much more, and second, I try to buy a book ONLY if I'm going to start reading it within the next few days.
While this has helped, I really need to dedicate a year to reading books I already own. Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm is not buying or borrowing books this year. She has recently posted a progress report on her project. I don't have the will power to carry it that far, but I can at least strive to curb the purchasing and read from my stacks.
You can read more answers or add your own here.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
-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!
Everywhere there is change. Perhaps that's why I continue to drive this way: it reminds me, by contrast, how little the house we are gong to has changed. Indeed, the Big House has always been a place whose very goal is never to change. Now it is on the verge of changing forever. (pages 7-8)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Now for the bad news...I didn't like either story. The first story is The Other Woman by Sherwood Anderson. It appeared in The Little Review in 1920 and opens:
"I am in love with my wife," he said - a superfluous remark, as I had not questioned his attachment to the women he had married. We walked for ten minutes and then he said it again. I turned to look at him. He began to talk and told me the tale I am now about to set down.
What follows is the brief account of an encounter that takes place shortly before the man's wedding and how it has affected him. He had never before spoken to the 'other woman' (who is ten years older), yet she captured his imagination. I'm not sure why I read this story, since I didn't really like Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio either...perhaps it was the title.
Next I read E.B. White's The Second Tree From the Corner. This story appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. It opens:
"Ever had any bizarre thoughts?" asked the doctor.
Mr. Trexler failed to catch the word. "What kind?" he said.
"Bizarre," repeated the doctor, his voice steady. He watched his patient for any slight change of expression, any wince. It seemed to Trexler that the doctor was not only watching him closely but was creeping slowly toward him, like a lizard toward a bug.
There are several more sessions. Trexler tends to identify with the doctor, virtually transferring himself to the doctor's seat. The story ends with Trexler's thoughts when the question "What do you want?" is posed. I've never read anything else E.B. White has written for adults, but I doubt I'll be searching for more.
Visit The Book Mine Set to see who else is sharing thought on short stories today.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I'm happy to report that this has been a somewhat more productive reading week. After two busy weekends on the road, we are finally spending one at home and I have finally finished a book! My review of The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield will be posted later this week. This week's short story, The Lady's Maid's Bell by Edith Wharton, was a wonderful surprise. I was expecting a story of New York's Gilded Age, but found myself wrapped up in a ghost story instead!
I started reading The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt. It is my bookclub's May selection and already has me wishing for a long, leisurely summer on the Cape. I also printed out Virginia Woolf's essay How Should One Read a Book? to read later this week.
Two new books were purchased this week. The first, The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike, was totally an impulse purchase. If you've been reading this blog for any time at all, you'll know that I rediscovered short stories this year. A Short Story Monday post has become a regular feature here and I've discovered some very talented writers. This collection was just too appealing to leave behind. As soon as I got this book home, I sat down and read two stories for tomorrow's post.
The other purchase (the one that I went to the store armed with a 30% off coupon to make) is A Jury of Her Peers - American Women Writer's from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx by Elaine Showalter. This is a book I brought home from the library, but quickly decided I needed to own it instead. I'm not sure yet if this will be a book to read straight through, or whether I'll pick it up to read a chapter here and there. Either way, I know I'll enjoy working my way through it!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Suggested by Vega:
Last Saturday (May 2nd) was Free Comic Book Day! In celebration of comics and graphic novels, some suggestions:
- Do you read graphic novels/comics? Why do/don’t you enjoy them?- How would you describe the difference between “graphic novel” and “comic”? Is there a difference at all?- Say you have a friend who’s never encountered graphic novels. Recommend some titles you consider landmark/”canonical”.
My answer this week is short and sweet. I have NEVER read a graphic novel! It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I am so overwhelmed with the choices and haven't got a clue where to start. I am also in the dark about the very basics - are graphic novels the same as manga?
I welcome your recommendations!
Visit today's BTT to see other responses and play along!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
By Wm. Paul Young
Windblown Media, 2007
Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.
Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.
In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book.
My book club met last Friday at the local coffee shop (which we tend to think of as our community living room) to discuss The Shack by William Paul Young. There were nine members present and seven had read the book. The discussion started off very tentatively. We knew this to be a book people have strong feelings about and were trying to gauge where others stood. As it turned out, the member that raved about the book and suggested we read it was not present. The rest of us were somewhere between mildly positive and take-it-or-leave-it.
Even though there were no especially strong/vocal opinions on the book, it ended up being one of the best discussions we’ve had in recent memory. We recognized how this could be perceived as an uplifting, even life-changing book for some and how it challenges our perception of God. A couple members even shared personal experiences they’ve had with God/Jesus. One talked about reading very quickly through the beginning of the book, then having to slow down and take a break to let it all ‘digest’ as things became more ‘philosophical’. I voiced the most negative comments – mostly having to do with the writing (which I thought was mediocre at best) and the ‘outer’ story. Within the first few pages, I had the urge to throw the book across the room, but quickly remembered that I was on an airplane, and this was for book club…so, instead, I read on. The ‘inner story’ presented many ideas to think about and discuss – why bad things happen to good people, the idea of God and heaven, what happens to people after they die, etc.
Christian/Inspirational fiction is a category I have very little experience with and would consider to be outside my normal comfort zone. Though this is a book I never would have picked up on my own, I am not sorry to have read it. In fact, I was very glad to be able to participate in the discussion. That said however, I will not be recommending The Shack to anyone (except possibly my mother).
My rating 3/5