Thursday, February 26, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - February 26

Today's BTT questions deal with collectibles:

-Hardcover? Or paperback?

This question gets right to the heart of one of the few sources of disagreement in my marriage.
I prefer to read trade paperbacks, while my husband prefers hardcover. The problem arises when deciding which books get stored in the large built-in bookcase in the family room (the one the builder said we would never fill up, but was actually overflowing the day after he packed up his tools and went home). My husband believes only hardcovers belong here and that paperbacks should be relegated to the bedroom bookcase.

For the most part, I have given in. His collection does look better (and, yes, he does read the leather collectibles we have accumulated over the years), but if you look closely there are still a few shelves of some favorite paperbacks. My tbr stacks and others I can't bear to part with reside in the bedroom. Perhaps more built-ins are in order!

-Illustrations? Or just text?
Illustrations generally aren't that important to me. However, I really enjoyed the original illustrations included in the 2008 Persephone Classic edition of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson.

-First editions? Or you don’t care?
I've never been much of a collector, so I don't care.

-Signed by the author? Or not?
Getting a book signed by the author would be great, but I haven't had many opportunities. Earlier this winter, my daughter and I went to see David Sedaris (her creative writing class just read Me Talk Pretty One Day). We had hoped to get a book signed, but the end of the line was out of sight and a monster ice storm was just getting started. Oh well, another time...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My first award!

Don't you just love this button? I've been admiring it on several blogs lately and now Molly, from My Cozy Book Nook, has tagged me!

It's been four months since I very tentatively embarked on this blogging adventure, not exactly sure what I was getting into. My plan was to make this an on-line book journal, interspersed with recipes, photos, and thoughts about family and life. Slowly I've figured out how to do the basic tasks, but the content still feels very much like a work in progress. I'm both inspired and awed by all the "fabulous" blogs out there, and it's truly an honor to have someone else think of this blog as award worthy. Thank you, Molly. You've made my day!

I'll pass the award on to Darlene at Roses Over A Cottage Door. Her lovely blog is filled with book reviews, beautiful photographs, and tales of Deacon, the border collie. Stop by and say hello to her!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seeking Sunshine

We're leaving cold, snowy upstate New York and heading south to Sanibel Island, Florida. I'm looking forward to walks on the beach, biking, and reading. See you in a week....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Austenland by Shannon Hale

by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA/2007
196 pages

Pure fun! After reading Bookfoolery and Babble's review last week, I knew this was a book I had to read -right now! From the opening sentence, to the very last page, Austenland by Shannon Hale was an absolute delight.

Publisher's blurb:
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her life. No real man can compare.

When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Decked out in empire-waist gowns, stripped of her modern appliances, Jane throws herself into mastering Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen - or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them.

It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet, the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to vanish. Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Starting with the dedication page:
For Colin Firth,
You're a really great guy, but I'm married,
so I think we should just be friends.

and continuing on to the prologue:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in
possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very
little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought
to have little to distress her.

How can you help but smile? There was one on my face for the entire 196 pages! I could gush about this book all day, but instead, I'll just say that if you're a fan of Jane Austen, or Pride and Prejudice, you ABSOLUTELY MUST read this book. My only regret was that the book was not my own. After turning the last page, it had to go back to the library.

Almost instantly, an idea popped into my head. I could buy the book for my college-freshman daughter for Valentine's Day! She's a JA enthusiast (like Mom) and is even taking a Jane Austen in Film class this semester. In the bookstore, I was looking for the sky blue cover, but instead found the paperback edition with something quite different.
I was initially disappointed, but it is growing on me. My daughter will probably prefer this one, but perhaps that is part of the marketing strategy...and the basis for another post. I'd be interested in hearing which you prefer. Regardless of the cover, as far as Jane Austen based fiction goes, it just doesn't get any better than this!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Year of Reading Dangerously

After much consideration, I've decided to join in the fun. Here's the challenge:

Read 12 books you deem "dangerous." between January 1st and December 31st 2009. They may be banned or challenged books, new-to-you genres, books that seem to inhabit a permanent space on your stacks, or authors you're afraid of. The possibilities are endless! If it's dangerous to you, it's challenge-worthy to us!

There is a great list of suggestions offered, or participants may choose their own dangers. My plan is to include some classics, contemporary fiction outside my comfort zone, non-fiction, a chunkster or two (books over 500 pages scare me!), new authors I've been afraid to tackle, TBR's that have been on the shelf far too long, and maybe even a graphic novel - I've never read one. I'll list them here, then link to the review once it's been completed.

1. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri - short stories
2. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
3. The Shack by William Paul Young
4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (a graphic novel)
5.The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt ( non-fiction)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fire In The Blood by Irene Nemirovsky

Fire In The Blood
by Irene Nemirvosky
(translated from French)
2007/Alfred A. Knopf
138 pages

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky was one of my favorite books read in 2007, so I was delighted to learn from Margaret at BooksPlease of another newly discovered novel by the same author. Fire In The Blood was published in 2007 after two parts of the manuscript were found separately and pieced together.

Irene Nemirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903. She emigrated with her family to France during the Russian Revolution, attended the Sorbonne, and wrote several successful novels. Despite a conversion to Catholicism in 1939, she was arrested in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz where she died a month later.

Fire In The Blood centers around the narrator Silvio, an old farmer who has returned to the village of his youth in hopes of living a quiet life of solitude.

"For sometimes I feel I have been rejected by life, as if washed ashore by the
tide. I've ended up on a lonely beach, an old boat, still solid and seaworthy,
but whose paint has faded in the water, eaten away by salt." (page 6)

Instead, he again becomes caught up in village life and its scandals. He tries to help Colette, the daughter of his cousin Helene, when her husband "falls" into a mill stream and drowns.

"Such madness! When you're twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you delirious.
When it's over you can hardly remember how it happened...Fire in the blood, how
quickly it burns itself out. Faced with this blaze of dreams and desires, I felt
so old, so cold, so wise..." (page 37)

This scandal causes Silvio to reflect on the secrets of his own youth:

"The flesh is easy to satisfy. It's the heart that is insatiable, the heart that
needs to love, to despair, to burn with any kind of fire...that was what we
wanted. To burn, to be consumed, to devour our days just as fire devours the
forest." (page 127)

Beautifully, yet simply written, this book slowly reveals Silvio's past full of long-buried secrets.
My rating 4/5.

This book, borrowed from the library, will fulfill challenge #6 of the 2009 mini-challenges.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Daughter #1

Our oldest daughter is nineteen today! But she is away at college, so I won't be there to see her blow out the candles. This is a first for me - not being with one of my children on their birthday. No balloons, no cake baking, no birthday dinner and family party. Instead, I've sent off a box of presents (they arrived a day early, but she promised not to open them until today) and will rely on the dining service to deliver the chocolate cake. We called this morning to sing happy birthday. I think she was in class, so we left a musical message - further proof of her parents' dorkiness.

I'm sure we will talk to her later today...but this is another reminder that our lives are changing as the kids get older. We are proud of the young women our girls are growing into, yet it's bittersweet. The twins will be sixteen in a couple of months. Two more to teach how to drive and then learn to accept the increased independence it will give them. It seems like yesterday that they got on the school bus for the first time...

Booking Through Thursday - February 5

Today's question:
Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

My response:

Literary biographies are not a type of book I tend to gravitate toward. If I seek one out, I generally already have a positive view of the author and want to learn how their life may have influenced their work. Among the very few I own are Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin and Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee.

I started reading the Jane Austen biography in anticipation of our trip to London and Bath last summer. The Wharton biography was also purchased last summer at The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, but I have yet to read it.

When I do read a literary biography, I like to pair it with an appropriate bookmark (shallow, maybe, but it adds to my enjoyment). The two on the left are from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the one on the right is from The Mount.
So, the long-winded answer to the question is no, I have never been put off an author's books by reading a biography, but I have gained greater appreciation and understanding of authors whose biographies I have sought out.


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