Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - September 29

Another Teaser Tuesday from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins:

Men! They are enemies of our innocence and our peace - they drag us away from our parents' love and our sisters' friendship - they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel. And what does the best of them give us in return?
(page 171-172)

Very Victorian, wouldn't you say? Find more teasers at Should Be Reading, hosted by Miz B.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Short Story Monday: "The Necklace" and a new collection

If you're at all interested in short stories, then you won't want to miss this great discussion that occurred over at Farm Lane Books a few days ago. Rob from RobAroundBooks encouraged Jackie (not a fan of short stories in general) to read "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant. He claimed the story would "touch her heart and soul". Jackie willingly obliged (it's only 8 pages long), then offered an excellent dissection of the story containing her reasons for not liking it.

There are naturally spoilers in her analysis, so take a few minutes and read the story here first. I hadn't read it since high school and was glad for the refresher. "The Necklace" is not one of my favorite stories, and Jackie's criticisms certainly have merit.

It was the discussion that really captured my attention, though. Commenters offered thoughts on what a short story is and what it should try to accomplish, as well as several suggestions for future reading. If you've got a few minutes, I encourage you to read though it...it will be time well spent!

In other short story news...
Yesterday while browsing at Barnes & Noble (I had some free time while Twin A was at her SAT prep class), I came across The Virago Book of Ghost Stories. The cover immediately caught my eye but, on closer inspection, I found that it contained tales of the supernatural written by 34 top female authors from Elizabeth Gaskell to Angela Carter. How could I resist?

Since I recently imposed a ban on buying books that I wasn't going to start reading the same day, I did quickly read "Napoleon and the Spectre" by Charlotte Bronte. While it didn't really capture my imagination, it did fulfill my self-imposed condition of purchase. I plan on sharing stories from this collection throughout the month of October. Stay tuned...

Visit John at The Book Mine Set to see who else is talking about short stories today.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TSS: When Writers Speak

Good morning, readers. I'm very excited this weekend... my book club is getting season tickets to the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series! This is the largest library-related lecture series in the country, it's something we've talked about attending for years, and it is finally becoming a reality! A combination of children getting older and a truly outstanding season line-up has pushed us, at long last, into action. Eight of us have purchased season tickets - six great authors and maybe even six dinners beforehand. I couldn't be happier!

This year's line-up includes:
Khaled Hosseini
Geraldine Brooks
Pete Hamill
Richard Russo
Sara Gruen
Jeffrey Toobin

I've read, or at least own in Geraldine Brooks case, books by all of these authors... except Pete Hamill. If anyone is familiar with Hamill's work, suggestions would be welcomed.

I love hearing writers speak! About ten years ago, I remember being on the edge of my seat the entire time Pat Conroy was on stage. My face actually hurt from smiling and laughing at An Evening David Sedaris last winter. Now, I can't wait to see what a talk by Richard Russo or Khaled Hosseini will bring!

Do you ever go to events like this? A few months ago, I wrote a post (When Writers Read) about authors reading their own work for audiobooks. It sparked a great discussion, and now I'm wondering about writers as speakers. Have you heard many authors speak? Obviously some must be better than others. Who have you enjoyed? Who's funny? Have they simply read from their work, or did they have a prepared talk? Do you ask questions, or hope someone else will ask them for you? How long are you willing to stand in line to get a book signed? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

by Dorothy Whipple
413 pages
first published 1953 by John Murray
2008, Persephone Classic Edition

J.B. Priestly once described Dorothy Whipple as the "Jane Austen of the 20th century". After reading Someone at a Distance, I think this may be a pretty fair comparison. The novel takes a look at a post-WW II upper middle class family in England. Almost all the action revolves around the domestic drama that occurs when a young French woman (Louise Lanier) takes a position as a live-in companion to Old Mrs. North, and gradually insinuates herself into the North family.

When circumstances eventually force an extended stay at the home of Avery (Old Mrs. North's son) and Ellen North, the situation deteriorates. Louise, recently dumped by her lover for a woman of higher social status, is in desperate need of a new conquest to bolster her self-esteem.

"To live dangerously became the most exciting of games to Louise. The double life she led, the lies she told, the necessity of deceiving, became almost second nature to her... Also, her inclination to despise people had been fostered by finding them so easy to deceive. They were stupid to be so gullible. If you were clever enough - and she was - you could get away with anything." (page 134)

Ellen North's entire life revolves around her husband Avery, her children Hugh and Anne, her home, and her garden. She is sweet, gentle, and down-to-earth.

"He [Avery] took Ellen for granted and that was, Louise considered, Ellen's own fault. She was altogether too open and simple. A woman needed art and subtlety and Ellen had neither." (page 164)

"The foolish creature [Ellen] didn't seem to realize that it was necessary to fight. The battle was joined and would be over before she knew there was one." (page 202)

Whipple's writing exquisitely shows the pure, raw emotional responses of all parties involved as this domestic drama unfolds... and it is riveting! I'll simply let the author's words complete this review. They could not be more beautiful.

"A family is like a jigsaw puzzle. If a piece is lost, the rest no longer makes a pattern." (page 254)

"These women were old, time had softened them, they had learned something from loss, helplessness, loneliness; they knew almost anything can happen to anybody. They were kinder than when they were young." (page 359)

"Life is like a sea, sometimes you are in the trough of a wave, sometimes on the crest. When you are in the trough, you wait for the crest, and always, trough or crest, a mysterious tide bears you forward to an unseen, but certain shore." (page 413)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Pass the tissues

Today's Question:
What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?
(Is any body getting bored with this series of “recent” questions? Because I’m having fun!)

My answer:

I'm a crier. Whether it's books, movies, television, even the odd commercial...if it's sad (or sometimes even if it's happy), I'll shed a tear. So, it's not surprising that there are a number of books could serve to answer this question.

My choice, however, is a book that surprised me in it's ability to cause tears to flow. Ethel & Ernest is a graphic novel by Ernest Briggs, of The Snowman fame. It tells his parent's story from their chance meeting in 1928, through marriage, child-rearing, the war, political squabbles, and on into their golden years. I'm very new to graphic novels (have only read a handful), and was very surprised to have this genre evoke such emotion. You can read my review of Ethel & Ernest here.

Visit today's BTT to see more responses.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The ABC's of Me

Here I am last month at one of the galleries in Santa Fe. It was going use it for a Wordless Wednesday photo, but thought this meme from Molly's blog would be a good post-BBAW introduction.

Available or Married? Married

Best Friend? Sounds corny, but my husband

Cake or Pie? Cake, preferably chocolate!

Drink of Choice? Coffee in the morning; water in the afternoon; wine or tea in the evening

Essential item for everyday use? my laptop

Favorite color? sage green - in a room, it's soothing and relaxing; on me, it makes my hazel eyes look green

Google? Of course...doesn't everyone?

Hometown? moved around a lot when I was younger, but graduated from high school in Canastota, NY

Indulgences? pedicures, books, chocolate

January or February? February - it's shorter, closer to spring, and there's usually a vacation involved!

Kids? Three daughters - 19 and 16 year old twins

Life is incomplete without..... my family

Marriage date? November 30, 1985

Number of siblings? I'm the oldest of six kids. I have 3 sisters (including twins) and 2 brothers.

Oranges or Apples? Apples ...and apple pie, apple crisp, apple bread, apple cider, apple juice

Phobias and Fears? snakes and bats

Quote of the day? Live long, laugh often, love much

Reason to smile? a beautiful sunset over the lake

Season? Fall...the colors, crisp temperatures, sweaters

Tag 3 people? I won't tag anyone, but if you're interested, consider yourself tagged! (Please let me know if you play along)

Unknown fact about me? I left a career in clinical pharmacy fifteen years ago to be home with my daughters...and have never regretted a minute.

Vegetable you hate? Lima beans

Worst habit? impatience, perfectionism...I'm sure my family could list a few more!

X-rays you've had? too many

Your favorite food? fresh bread, or maybe chocolate

Zodiac sign? Cancer

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - September 22

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

My teaser:

"The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window - and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps - and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer - and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly!" (page 28)

by Wilkie Collins

Fall Into Reading 2009

Remember how much fun we had with The Spring Reading Thing? Well, Katrina is at it again with Fall Into Reading 2009. This is the perfect low-stress challenge to help get your reading organized for fall. Just like the season, it runs from September 22 - December 20.

Here are the basics:

-Create a list of some books you’d like to read or finish this fall. This is the only real requirement for participating in the challenge.

-Feel free to set some additional reading goals (such as reading to your kids two hours per week, getting through your pile of magazines, etc.). However, this is not required; setting additional goals is completely optional.

-Write a blog post that includes the list of books you want to read (and any additional goals you’ve set), and get ready to post it on your blog on September 22nd.

-Visit Callapidder Days on September 22nd to sign up for the challenge. I’ll have an official launch post up that morning, complete with an area for you to submit a link to your personal Fall Into Reading post, where it will be added to the master list of participants.

-Read! Work on your goals throughout Fall 2009.

-Report your results. Write another blog post in December to let everyone know how you did.

-Have fun! Visit other participants to see what they’re reading. Write reviews if you’re so inclined. But most of all, enjoy your fall reading!

These are my goals:

Books to read:
1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins for the R.I.P. IV Challenge
2. After Dark by Haruki Murakami for the Japanese Literature III Challenge
3. the November selection for my book club (to be determined)
4. the December selection for my book club ( to be determined)
5. two books for the Everything Austen Challenge

Additional goals:

1. read at least one short story per week and participate in Short Story Monday
2. listen to at least three audiobooks
3. get through the stack of New Yorker magazines (they're piling up again!)

Thank you, Katrina, for hosting another fun, low-pressure challenge. I'm ready to fall into reading!

***********progress update**************

1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - reviewed here
2. November book club selection - Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks reviewed here

Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Sisters" by James Joyce

It's time to get back into the Sort Story Monday routine. Sometime last week, I stumbled upon Tony's Reading List and his review of Dubliners by James Joyce. It reminded me that my own copy, which I'd purchased more than a year ago figuring it would be a 'gentler' introduction to Joyce, was still waiting on the shelf. Tony convinced me to take it down and at least read the first story.
I found themes in "The Sisters" that I expected (death, religion/priests), but was surprised at its accessibility. It starts:

"There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I has passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse."

The narrator soon learns the old priest has indeed died and, as he listens to a conversation between his aunt, uncle and Old Cotter, tries not to betray his emotions as he hears them say the priest taught him a great deal and had a "great wish" for him. In the evening, he visits the "house of mourning" with his aunt. They are received by the priest's two sisters. A detailed account of the conversation follows.

This story was like a fascinating snapshot - a picture of an event/moment that just ends abruptly. I will be reading more stories from Dubliners this week.

Visit John at The Book Mine Set to see who else is talking about short stories today, or leave a link to your own.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

TSS: A Sigh of Relief and Some Awards

Good morning, fellow saloners! Did you all hear that collective sigh of relief echo across the blogosphere yesterday? Book Blogger Appreciation Week officially ended Friday night. I think we were all relieved Saturday morning when there were no more posts to write or new blogs to visit. It's been quite a week, for sure.

I learned that:
-it's a good idea to have at least a rough draft of the week's posts done ahead of time
-it's impossible to visit everyone writing BBAW posts
-it's even more impossible to leave comments on all the blogs you do visit
-not much reading happens during BBAW

What I did last week (in addition to BBAW):
-posted a review of French Milk by Lucy Knisley
-started reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (a very popular choice just now!)
-continued listening to Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

This week I plan to:
- get back into the Short Story Monday routine
-post my review of Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
-finish Little Bee
-continue reading The Woman in White
-read a couple of short stories (possibly from The Dubliners)

And now for the awards:
Kay from Chapter Chit Chat, one of my newest blogging friends, gave me this Spread the Love Award.
"What makes you feel an affinity to another blogger when visiting their blog? Their unique or fun design? Their blog content? Their personality? How about all three?"

I'm so happy to have discovered Kay's blog and look forward to following her reading adventures. This award goes to:

Stacy at Book Psmith

The Zombie Chicken Award
"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

This award came my way from DS at third-storey window. I love third-story window for the wonderful writing, but there is so much more! If you haven't been there, do stop by and take a look. I'll send this Zombie Chicken Award on to:

Verity at The B Files
Simon at Savidge Reads

The Your Blog is Fabulous Award stands for: Integrity. Commitment to Excellence. Stubbornly Optimistic!
This award came from my friend Ivy at Willing To See Less, another blog I love to visit regularly. And it goes to these new-to-me bloggers:

Rachel at Book Snob
Madeleine - a brand new blogger at Wordbird

And finally, The Heartfelt Award
"Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when your relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside."

This award came back at the beginning of the month from Laura at Laura's Reviews. Check out her blog for great reviews of books, audiobooks and even movies. She's a fellow Jane Austen fan and is having a great time with the Everything Austen Challenge!

The Heartfelt Award goes to:
Karen at BookBath

This turned out to be quite a bit longer than I thought, but thank you, again, to the four bloggers that gave me these lovely awards. And thank you, too, to the bloggers receiving the awards...you've all added so much to my reading and my life!

Now I'm going to settle in with another cup of coffee and read The Woman in White. What are you reading today?

Friday, September 18, 2009

BBAW: Setting Goals

Today's task:
It’s time to show off! Tell us and this is really important, in 50 words or less what you love best about your blog! And then in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW! Ready? GO!

As most of you know, I love the lake! I'm happy that it's featured prominently, both in the name and header photo of my blog. I like that I've found some sort of pattern for my posting (although it's been less than evident these past few weeks). I also like that responding to comments has lead to some great conversations.

There are so many technical aspects of blogging that elude me, so one goal is to improve my basic skills. Another is to find a better balance between reading and blogging. I love blogging and visiting other blogs, but most of it is done at the expense of reading time. I'm sure a happy medium exists ...I just need to find it!

BBAW has been a great opportunity to both celebrate blogging and reflect on the part it plays in our lives. A year ago, I never thought I'd even have a blog, now I go through withdrawal if I am away for a day. What a great community, thank you!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


BBAW: The task today is to highlight the book discovered only because you read about it on a book blog and then you realized you couldn’t live without it!

As it turns out, the book I was going to feature also answers today's Booking Through Thursday question!

Today's question:
What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?
(Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

My answer:

I didn't have to think long for this one! French Milk by Lucy Knisley is an incredibly creative graphic travel journal/memoir. Even the cover is fun!

Karen from Bookbath brought this gem to my attention. She read it in preparation for her own trip to Paris (she checked in from Ireland yesterday). Although I won't be traveling there any time soon, I enjoyed visiting vicariously through Knisley's book.

My review was posted on Tuesday and you can find it here.

Click over to today's BTT to see more answers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBAW: Reading Meme

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
I mostly drink ;-) ...coffee, water, tea, wine (depending on the time of day)

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you?
write in books??? horror!

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Bookmark... preferably related somehow to the book

Laying the book flat open?
Don't break the spine!

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Variety is the spice of life

Hard copy or audiobooks?
see above

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
It depends on how tired I am.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Sometimes... if a dictionary isn't available, I'll write it down to look up later.

What are you currently reading?
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (started last night)
Little Bee by Chris Cleave (audio)

What is the last book you bought?
French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time?
one book (sometimes two), one audio

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
I'll read whenever I can carve out a half hour, but always in the evening before bed.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Again, variety is the spice of life.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
It depends on who I'm recommending to.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
Books I've read are organized by genre, but the tbr pile is a mess!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk
by Lucy Knisley
195 pages
Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster), 2008

It's impossible to walk past this book without having the cover call out! If you give in and pick it up for a closer look, you'll find one of the most creative travel journals imaginable.

Lucy Knisley, nearing graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her mother took a six-week trip to Paris in celebration their milestone birthdays (her 22nd and her mother's 50th) . French Milk is Lucy's journal of the trip, as told through drawings, photos, and text.

We follow their daily excursions through the city - from the Eiffel Tower, art museums, and boutiques, to cafes, bistros, bookstores (where she's delighted to find many familiar 'friends' so far from home), and even Oscar Wilde's grave.
Knisley shares what she's thinking, reading, and worrying about, but mostly we learn what she's eating! The book is full of drawings and descriptions of meals, restaurants, markets, wines, and the delicious French whole milk. Evidently there's no such thing as skim milk in Paris!
We also catch very honest glimpses into her relationship with her mother.

This book provided a light, fun look at a Parisian adventure. It would appeal to anyone interested in travel journals, graphic novels, or food. It might also be a good introduction to graphic novels in general.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that some of the photos were not as clear as I would have liked. But then again, these were personal snapshots and it did add to the 'homemade' look. So, go ahead and spend a couple of hours with French Milk. I doubt you'll be disappointed!

(click on the photos to enlarge)

Monday, September 14, 2009

BBAW #1 - The Deserving Dozen

How to begin listing favorite blogs? I cringe just thinking about this, because I know I will remember one more just as I hit the publish button. Perhaps if I explain my blog reading system (or lack thereof), it will help.

I discovered book blogs almost two of years ago, read a few for about a year, and then finally created my own blog and posted a review of The Painted Veil the day before Halloween last year (I had to check).

Slowly, I discovered more blogs and even got a follower or two. Thank you, Bellezza, for being the first! I decided to give 'following' a try. There are now 34 blogs that I follow, and I'm thrilled to see many of them shortlisted for awards. I love all 34 of these blogs...each in a slightly different way and for slightly different reasons.

Many, many more blogs are bookmarked and visited a couple of times a week. Updating my 'follow' list is a high-priority fall project! The idea of setting up specific folders for blogs to visit each day is appealing, too.

Google reader has been something of a failed experiment for me. I found that I missed visiting the actual blogs. The visual experience was more important than I'd realized. If you have blog visiting system that works and are willing to share, I'd love to hear it!

Today I've decided to list some favorite blogs I currently follow that were not shortlisted for awards.

My Deserving (Baker's) Dozen includes:

Bibliophile by the Sea - Diane reads a lot of books! In addition to the reviews, she lets me know when my favorite authors have new books coming out (she had me at the bookstore within hours of Richard Russo's latest release!) and features great audio reviews, too.

Book Psmith - I met Book Psmith through Short Story Monday, and she quickly became one of my best blogging buddies. She's introduced me to some great short stories (Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" stands out in my mind), and has added countless authors and titles to my tbr pile. As you can guess from her name, she's reading a lot of Wodehouse this year!

Books and Movies - It wouldn't be Saturday without Carrie's weekly links round-up. I may have missed something important, but she never does! Her periodic lists of favorites always have me adding to my tbr pile, too.

Dolce Bellezza - Bellezza's was on of the first blogs I discovered. She was also my first follower! I love her beautifully-written reviews and, thanks to her Japanese Literature Challenge, I will finally get me to read Murakami.

Farm Lane Books - Jackie writes great reviews...and lots of them! Her journey through the Booker list was nothing short of amazing.

Fleur Fisher Reads - I love the books Fleurfisher reads. She always manages to find just the right quote to make me add nearly every one to my wish list.

Kiss a Cloud - Claire has excellent taste in books! She writes outstanding reviews that are always enhanced by her skillful photography.

Letters From A Hill Farm - I adore my visit's to Nan's farm! Whether it's a book recommendation (Ethel & Ernest is my favorite graphic novel to date), a recipe (Maple-Oatmeal Muffins...yum), or photos of her garden and the changing seasons, there is something special every time.

Life in the Thumb - Have you seen Staci's new Six Sentence Saturday reviews? I look forward to it every week and, judging from the response she's getting, so is everyone else!

My Cozy Book Nook - Molly is a kindred spirit. We started blogging within weeks of each other, are at the same point in our lives, love dogs, baking, and books (of course). Her summer vacation reading challenge has been one of the highlights of my reading year... my virtual vacation in Italy!

Paperback Reader - I became a follower of Claire's blog the first time I visited. It's obvious she knows a lot about books! My education was very heavily weighted toward the sciences, but I always wanted to be taking the great lit classes. I love all the new things I've learned from reading her reviews!

Roses Over A Cottage Door - Darlene is another one of my first blogging buddies. She introduced me to both Alan Bennett and Dorothy Whipple, has beautiful photos on her blog, and occasionally treats us to the adventures of Deacon, her border collie. The account of her trip to London last spring was another highlight of my blogging year - it was almost as good as going myself!

The Betty and Boo Chronicles - Melissa is a newer blogging pal. We have similar taste in books (she prompted me to buy The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich) and are both mothers of twins. Melissa is a fabulous writer! I'm always happy when there's a new post for me to read.

If some of these blogs are new to you, I highly recommend finding a minute or two to visit each of them this week. New blog friends are waiting...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Oops I Did It Again: R.I.P. IV Challenge

Another challenge...
It looks like I'm the last person on board with this one, but I've decided to join Carl's R.I.P. IV Challenge. By now, you're all familiar with the details. I've signed up for Peril The Third, which entails reading a single book from any of the various categories, but may get more ambitious if I find myself on a literary roll! I'm sure some short stories fitting these categories will be included in my fall reading, too.

Here are the categories:
Dark Fantasy
Gothic Horror

Here is my reading pool:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The challenge runs through October 31...Let the perils begin!

Completed 10/29/09
The Woman in White - reviewed here

Thursday, September 10, 2009

BTT: Recent Informative

Today's BTT Question:
What's the most informative book you've read recently?

My answer:
Despite an unusually small number of nonfiction titles, I've still learned much from my reading this year. Good fiction can be informative, too!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett paints a vivid picture of the 1960's civil rights movement in Mississippi. Writer and budding civil rights activist, Skeeter Phelan, attempts to collect and publish the stories of several black maids. The novel is told in three voices (Skeeter and maids Aibileen and Minnie) and provides a stunning portrait of this era of unrest... from both sides of the issue. The Help will surely end up on my 'Best of' list this year!

Visit today's BTT to see more responses to the question.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Library Loot - oh, no!

No new loot to share today, but I just went to my library's website to renew Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple and it won't let me! Seems that someone else has placed a hold on it. I've got until Friday.

So...no computer today. I'm a little past the half way point of this 400-pager, and thing are really getting good! See you tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - September 8

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

My Teaser:
A visual teaser this week...
-two images instead of two sentences
-click on photo to enlarge!

by Lucy Knisley
A Touchstone Book, by Simon & Schuster
193 pages

I saw this reviewed at Bookbath recently and it went straight to my wish list. With a 40% off coupon from Border's, it was irresistible!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Interpreter of Maladies: an audio review

Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Narrated by Matilda Novak
HighBridge Audio
6 hours 19 minutes

I primarily listen to audiobooks when I'm alone in the car, but with sixteen year old twins learning to drive this summer, there has been very little of that! I listened to Interpreter of Maladies back in May, and hadn't even attempted to start another until a few days ago (Little Bee by Chris Cleave). However, I didn't want fall to begin without at least mentioning this book.

Interpreter of Maladies, published in 1999, is a collection of nine short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. I chose to listen because it was offered in a 3-for-2 promotion at audible.com, and I was so taken with Lahiri's more recent collection, Unaccustomed Earth.

The stories are set in India or the US and, again, involve characters of Indian descent. Lahiri packs so much emotion and feeling into each story. In "A Temporary Matter", an especially poignant story, we observe a young couple whose marriage is disintegrating after the birth of a still born child.

"When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" is told through they eyes of a young girl. It spotlights a Pakistani man in the US, a frequent dinner guest in her household, who watches a civil war unfold, night after night, on her living room television while his wife and seven daughters remain at home in Pakistan.

The title story, "Interpreter of Maladies", is set in India. Mr Kapasi works as a translator for a doctor who is unable speak the language of some of his patients. He supplements his income by acting as a driver for tourists. One day, he develops an 'interest' in a young American woman of Indian descent traveling with her husband and three children. As he imagines their relationship, she misunderstands his primary job and begins to confide her unhappiness to him. A very touching story...

The reader did a very good job in this production, however I did find some of the musical interludes annoying. Overall, I was impressed with Lahiri's writing and enjoyed listening to this collection. However, I liked Unaccustomed Earth even better.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

TSS: Where am I going, where have I been?

Good morning! It's Labor Day Weekend here in the US, a long holiday weekend marking the end of summer, and traditionally, a time for me to access the road ahead.

Daughter #1 has gone back to college, Twin B starts school on Tuesday, and Twin A begins next week. Book club starts again up after a summer hiatus, community organizations begin their new season, and it's time for me to take a look at my reading.

Every summer I resolve to read a lot more and, year after year, the opposite usually occurs. The girls are home, activities are planned, and I'm rarely in the car alone (so no audiobooks, either!). This summer, I purposely chose lighter books and enjoyed each one of them!

Molly's Summer Vacation Reading Challenge was the highlight of my summer reading. The Enchanted April, A Thousand Days in Venice, and That Old Cape Magic made for the best summer reading ever! The wrap-up post with links to reviews is here.

Now... on to fall! It's time to concentrate on challenges. The Classics Challenge ends October 31 and I have two books left to read. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell will be next, but I may join Carl's RIP IV Challenge and use The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson for both!

Next is the Everything Austen Challenge that runs through January. There are four activities left to complete, but I've got about forty that I'll be choosing from! Most likely will be rereads of Pride & Prejudice (the annotated version this time around) and Northanger Abbey (this would also work with the RIP challenge), Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, and a movie adaptation or two.

There's plenty of time left for Bellezza's Japanese Literature 3 Challenge, but I'm anxious to get started! After Dark by Haruki Murakami is where I'll begin.

A few odd and ends need to be tied up for the 2009 mini-challenges, but my Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge is not going well. I'll need to concentrate on that one if I want to complete it.

Sorry for the challenge ramble, but writing does help me think and get organized. This morning, I'll be taking my coffee outside and reading Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. A polar fleece jacket will be needed - it feels like fall! I'm halfway through this 400+ page Persephone Classic (it just occurred to me that this could count for the classics challenge!) and am loving it.

I wish I could sit and read Dorothy Whipple all afternoon, but I've promised to take my daughters and my sister's German exchange student to the mall. Later, everyone will gather here for dinner, so I'll have to be content with the hour or two I have right now.

Are you participating in challenges and wondering if you can complete them all? What will you be reading today?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer Vacation Reading Challenge - Completed!

Just as the Labor Day holiday weekend began, I posted the final review for Molly's Summer Vacation Reading Challenge. Three books were required at the beach bum level, and I couldn't have enjoyed them more!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim - reviewed here
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi - reviewed here
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo - reviewed here

The first two titles provided a 'virtual vacation' to Italy. The Enchanted April took me to San Salvatore in the hills of Tuscany. There I was treated to the magic of springtime in Italy... and found that I just couldn't leave!

Original 'travel plans' included stops in Paris (Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick) and London (Imagined London by Anna Quindlen) but, since the itinerary was flexible, I decided to stay in Italy with One Thousand Days in Venice. This non-fiction gem gave a sense of place like I have never experienced! I loved my 'virtual trip' to Italy and have already started saving for the real thing.

On the journey home, I stopped for a layover in Cape Cod to catch up with a favorite author. Richard Russo's latest book was released and it had to be read - immediately! That Old Cape Magic was the perfect way to wrap up my summer reading and this challenge.

Thank you Molly, for hosting such a fun, low-pressure summer reading adventure!

Friday, September 4, 2009

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

That Old Cape Magic
by Richard Russo
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
261 pages

To borrow an expression from my kids, Richard Russo rocks! Back in 2002, I picked up a copy of Empire Falls and instantly became fan, recommending the book to anyone who would listen. Straight Man and Bridge of Sighs only reinforced that enthusiasm so, of course, I was at the bookstore within days (well, maybe hours) of That Old Cape Magic's release.

In his latest book, Russo treats us to some of the familiar themes and character types he has done so well in his previous books. Two weddings, a year apart, serve as the framework for That Old Cape Magic. Jack Griffin, a screenwriter/professor in his late 50's, is struggling to come to terms with his life, his marriage, and the role parental influence has played.

"Late middle age, he was coming to understand, was a time of life when everything was predictable and yet somehow you failed to see any of it coming."

Jack's Ivy-pedigreed parents spent their careers as frustrated professors, languishing at second-rate colleges in the Midwest. They lived for their annual summer escape to Cape Cod and found "That Old Cape Magic" was enough to sustain them for another year:
"After dinner, as darkness fell, they took a long drive with no particular destination in mind, as they sometimes did their last night on the Cape, breathing it all in, filling their lungs with the salt air, as if they could carry it back with them to breath in the Mid-fucking-west." (page 62)

Jack, as his own marriage begins to unravel, realizes that "even as he rejected their [his parents] values, he'd allowed many of their bedrock assumptions - that happiness is a place you could visit but never own, for instance - to burrow deep. He'd dismissed their snobbery and unearned sense of entitlement, but swallowed whole the rationale on which it had been based... Joy's [his wife] contention that his parents, not hers, were the true intruders on their marriage had seemed ludicrous on the face of it, but he saw now that it was true. They were mucking about still, his living mother, exiled in the Mid-fucking-west (justice, that) but using seagulls as surrogates, his deceased father, reduced to ashes and bits of bone, still refusing to take his leave." (page 158)

There is always a soft spot that develops in my heart as I read about Russo's flawed male characters. I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons of the summer sitting in an Adirondack chair by the lake reading the first half of this book. My plan was to finish it the following day, but one weekend wasn't enough time to spend with Jack, Joy, their daughter, and parents. This was a book to be savored, and I slowed down to make it last several more days.

Russo get his characters right every time. Their vulnerability, tempered with just the right amount of bravado, makes them wonderfully believable and, flawed as they are, they manage to muddle through. That Old Cape Magic couldn't have been better!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - September 1

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

"When she recovered from the first shock of hearing what her mother had arranged for her, she decided that she could not miss this unique opportunity of satisfying her curiosity and embarrassing Paul. And how she would embarrass him by appearing in his house. How uneasy he must be already at the prospect! She was filled with savage pleasure at the thought of it..." (page 96)

by Dorothy Whipple

And the winner is...

Congratulations, Staci! My husband just pulled your name from the hat. Send me your address and Two Guys Read Jane Austen will be on its way. Thanks to all who entered my first giveaway.


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