Thursday, April 17, 2014

April's Bookish Art...

Carl Larsson - Woman on a Bench Reading

Tension is who you think you should be.
Relaxation is who you are.
--Chinese Proverb 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Galapagos at the Crossroads...

While Carol Ann Bassett focuses on the current challenges facing the Galapagos Islands and their fragile ecosystem--challenges like overfishing, invasive species, colonists, pollution, and tourism--she also touches on their history and the amazing biodiversity of life found here. It's a well-written and eye-opening book.

Here are some of my favorite Galapagos facts:

  • The islands are home to 58 species of birds from flamingoes to penguins, and 27 different kinds of reptiles, including giant tortoises and a cliff-diving marine iguana.
  • The islands are moving east towards South America at a rate of 3 inches a year.
  • Literary pirate William Dampier visited the islands in 1679 and 1684 and later wrote three best-selling travel books about his travels there.
  • Charles Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835, was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln: February 12, 1809.
  • It's the temperature of the nest that determines the sex of turtle hatchlings--if the nest is too hot, it'll be all females; too cool, all males.
  • Land tortoises can survive more than a year without drinking.
  • Flightless cormorants live here, the only cormorant species in the world that has lost the ability to fly.
  • The Galapagos are oceanic islands that straddle the Equator; they are the only oceanic archipelago in the world that still retains 95 percent of its original biodiversity. As Charles Darwin once wrote, the Galapagos "is a little world within itself."

Happy Traveling!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Musings...

  • All the books I want to check out at the library are currently on hold for someone else. Don't you just hate that? I wish people would stop reading the books I want to read!
  • Good thing I have a stack of TBR books beckoning in the wings, including a few guilty pleasures like the last two Nightside novels by Simon R. Green.
  • So, I read in the newspaper the other day that they're removing words like prevaricator and sagacious from the SATs because they're not "practical" words. What are they going to replace them with? Selfie and tweet? What a sad commentary on the dumbing down of America when words like prevaricate and sagacious are deemed too obsolete.
  • 5 things I love about spring: no more frost on my car windows in the morning, robins singing, the redolent scent of lilacs, sunny blue skies, and bright yellow daffodils.
  • Best of all? It's spring break next week and I'm off to the Galapagos Islands for a few days. I can't wait!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

To Those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine.
Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean 
to be Let Furnished for The month of April. Necessary servants remain.
 Z, Box 1000, The Times.

Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? April in Italy. Mrs. Lotty Wilkins and Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot think so, too. They both live in Hampstead, England in the 1920s and both want a change from their humdrum lives. Lotty "was the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible; her face was non-arresting; her conversation was reluctant; she was shy." And Rose, with "the face of a patient and disappointed Madonna" has, for years, "been able to be happy only by forgetting happiness." San Salvatore is the cure they both need. So they, along with Lady Caroline Dester and Mrs. Fisher who help share expenses, rent the Italian castle for an entire month. One heavenly month of beauty, freedom and love.
     "All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet...She stared. Such beauty; and she there to see it. Such beauty; and she alive to feel it. Her face was bathed in light. Lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her. A tiny breeze gently lifted her hair. Far out in the bay a cluster of almost motionless fishing boats hovered like a flock of white birds on the tranquil sea. How beautiful, how beautiful. Not to have died before have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this...She stared, her lips parted. Happy? Poor ordinary, everyday word. But what could one say, how could one describe it? It was as though she could hardly stay inside herself, it was as though she were washed through with light."
I love the lyrical quality of von Arnim's writing, and each of her delightful characters, especially Lotty and Lady Caroline (or Scrap, as she calls herself). I've seen the movie version of The Enchanted April many times, but I'd never read the book until now. And I'm glad I did; in fact, I savored every word of it. It's definitely the perfect book for April.

Happy Reading!
(And don't forget to watch the movie, too.) 

"Were you ever, ever in your life so happy?" asked Mrs. Wilkins.
"No," said Mrs. Arbuthnot.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bookish Medicine...

Having a bad day? Need a laugh? Here are 10 reads that always cheer me up and make me give one a try. After all, laughter is the best medicine!

  1. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (It'll give you a whole new appreciation of Jane Eyre!)
  2. A Room With A View by E. M. Forster (This is Forster's BEST novel; I love it more each time I read it.)
  3. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Just the parts about the bears can make me laugh, not to mention his out-of-shape hiking buddy on Day 1 on the Appalachian Trail.)
  4. The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch (The one picture book EVERY girl should own!)
  5. Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (This tops her Shopaholic books for funny.)
  6. The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips (Such an odd, quirky book...just thinking about it makes me smile.)
  7. The Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher (I love all her books, but this one is a, it takes place on the lovely island of Mallorca.)
  8. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (An epistolary gem!)
  9. The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (Although any Mark Teague picture book will lift your spirits.)
  10. Soulless by Gail Carriger (This supernatural adventure of practical Alexia and her parasol makes me chuckle; plus her werewolf suitor is hunky.)
What books make you laugh?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Favorite Read...

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda

This would be a great book club book because there are so many things to think about and discuss in it. 10-year-old Enaiatolla Akbari's mother takes him to Pakistan from their home in Nava, Afghanistan...and leaves him there. Alone. (As a mother, could you do that? Even if it were to save your son's life?) Before she leaves, Enaiat's mother makes him promise to never do three things: never use drugs, never use weapons to harm anyone, and never cheat or steal.

The rest of the book chronicles Enaiat's journey from Pakistan to Iran to Turkey to Greece and, finally, to Italy where he finds asylum, friends, and a home. It is an amazing tale of survival, especially for a boy so young. No child's life should be this hard. But the most amazing thing of all is how Enaiat never loses hope, and how he chooses to be grateful, never bitter. I cried when I finished this book, but it was a good cry. This book is so thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, and powerful, and moving....and good. I love this story. For me, In The Sea There Are Crocodiles is a definite must-read! 

Similar Reads:
     The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
     The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This book reminds me of that quote by Nietzche, "When you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you."

Stanislas Cordova is a reclusive filmmaker who plumbs the "dark crags and muck of human desire and longing" in his underground movies--his 'night films'. He hasn't been seen in public in over three decades, but he has a strong cult following. Now his 24-year-old daughter, Ashley, is dead from an apparent suicide. Ashley was beautiful and enigmatic and a musical prodigy; so why did she kill herself? And how and where did she spend the last ten days of her life?

Journalist Scott McGrath decides to investigate father and daughter. But looking too closely at Cordova can be dangerous; his life is as dark as his films, the truth about him elusive. And Ashley is just as great a mystery. The last person to see her alive, a homeless hatcheck girl named Nora, joins Scott's investigation, as does a young drug dealer named Hopper, who has his own secret connection to Ashley. In the course of the investigation, as McGrath peels away the layers surrounding Cordova and his daughter and edges closer and closer to the truth, he definitely looks into the abyss. And the abyss looks back at him.

I liked this book, all 500-plus pages of it. It's a well-written mystery, not too graphic or gory, with a touch of the occult and a mixed-media twist: there are photocopies of police reports, images from websites, photos, and newspaper clippings. It's like you're part of the investigation. I just wish there'd been more of the mixed-media aspect throughout the entire novel than there was. But that's my only complaint with this psychological thriller. 

Happy Reading!

And, as a bookish bonus, this book fills another category for me in the What's in a Name 2014 Reading Challenge. (That's 3 books read; 2 more to go!) Category completed with this book: Read a book that has a reference to time in its title.