Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bookshelf envy...

Don't you just want to curl up in this perfect little corner with a good book and let the world outside slip by? I love the picture window, and the view, and, of course, all the lovely bookshelves. To be in this peaceful corner with all my favorite books around me, watching it snow, or rain, or shine outside...sounds a bit like heaven. Don't you agree?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Bookish Pair...

From F. Scott Fitzgerald's first love to his last...these two books just seem to go together. Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler are both worth checking out.

Before he fell in love with Zelda, F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with Ginevra; he was attending Princeton, she was a high school girl at Westover. Their courtship was brief and consisted of a few visits, a few kisses, and a lot of passionate letters. When Ginevra broke up with him, Scott told her, "No one will ever love you as much as I do."  Was he right? Caroline Preston has written a fictionalized account of Ginevra's life, from 1916 when she first met F. Scott Fitzgerald, through the Roaring Twenties, to Scott's death in 1940. It's an interesting and well-written novel, and a fun mix of reality and fiction.

Can you think of any literary couple more fascinating than Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald? Therese Anne Fowler's excellent fictional novel captures the era of the flappers and Scott's and Zelda's tempestuous and passionate love affair. Money poured through their fingers as fast as champagne from a bottle; they lived always in the moment...soul mates to the bitter end. Fowler took a lot of her material from their letters to each other, which added a nice authenticity to her narrative. If you've never read anything about Zelda or Scott Fitzgerald, this book is a great introduction to their roller-coaster lives.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Once upon a summer...

Memorial Day always signals the start of summer for me, even though it's technically still spring, and school isn't out yet, and summer vacation hasn't officially begun. Today just feels like summer. Which has me thinking about what I want to do (and read!) this many delicious possibilities....

With no money in the bank for an exotic vacation or far-flung adventure this summer, I'll be staying closer to home. But that's okay. Utah has a lot of beautiful hiking trails and I can't wait to put some miles on my new hiking shoes. (Lake Blanche here I come!) I think it'd be fun to do some zip-lining this summer, and I also hope to spot a few more new birds when I'm out bird watching, maybe even an owl, or a turkey vulture, or a woodpecker, or two.

And my summer reading plans? I'm not sure yet. I have a list of book titles gleaned from my favorite bookish blogs over the last year that I really want to read--a list that seems to grow longer each day. Then there's that stack of books sitting on my shelf, some that I've had for years and years, just waiting to be read. And I kind of want to check out Game of Thrones and Tana French's latest book, as well as a couple of non-fiction books about 1914 and the start of World War I. So many books...I'm not sure which to choose first. But it's a nice problem to have.

What about you?  Got any fun summer plans?
I hope so!
Happy Summering!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fifth Classic of 2014...

"...these foolish books have turned her brain!"

In The Female Quixote, Charlotte Lennox pokes fun of romance books and the effect they have on malleable young girls if read too often and taken too seriously. So it is with her main character, Arabella. The daughter of a Marquis, Arabella is young, beautiful, and lively; she has a quick wit and a kind heart. There's just one problem:
From her earliest youth she had discovered a fondness for reading, which extremely delighted the marquis; he permitted her therefore the use of his library, in which, unfortunately for her, were great store of romances, and what was still more unfortunate, not in the original French, but very bad translations....Her ideas, from the manner of her life, and the objects around her, had taken a romantic turn; and supposing romances were real pictures of life, from them she drew all her notions and expectations. By them she was taught to believe, that love was the ruling principle of the world; that every other passion was subordinate to this; and that it caused all the happiness and miseries of life.
While this novel is subtitled "The Adventures of Arabella", it should be subtitled "The Follies of Arabella". She is always imagining passion in the young men she meets, always fearing she's about to be 'carried off' by a scorned lover, and always taking offense where none was meant or given. For every situation she encounters, she has some crazy example taken from a bad romance novel which she then quotes from...extensively. It's funny, at first, then a little tedious. But overall, this novel made me laugh. Even the chapter headings are amusing. Like this one: Contains several incidents, in which the reader is expected to be extremely interested. I did feel bad for Mr. Granville, the young man who wants to marry Arabella, but who can't quite live up to her foolish rules and unrealistic romantic notions. Why he sticks it out through all her whimsical follies I'll never know. But then, I stuck it out to the very end, too. (All 423 pages!) And I'm glad I did.

First published in 1752, The Female Quixote seems like a precursor to Jane Austen's satirical Northanger Abbey, another favorite read. There were several things I enjoyed about this novel--for one thing, it's full of some awesome vocabulary. I mean, when did we stop using words like questionless and ravishers in everyday conversation? Some of my other favorites: dolorous, foibles, languishings, vexacious, haply, raillery, and quintescence. If you like books written in this time period, lightheared (if a little long-winded) novels that poke fun and don't take themselves too seriously, and books with some delightfully funny characters, I think you'll like this one, too.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Kings Confess...

Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris is the latest Sebastian St. Cyr mystery; it takes place in Regency England in January 1813. A Frenchman, Dr. Damian Pelletan, is murdered, his heart ripped out. As Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, investigates, he discovers that not only does Pelletan have ties to a secret peace delegation sent to England by Napolean, but he also has ties to the exiled royal House of Bourbon, including Marie-Therese, the daughter of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and her dead brother, the "Lost Dauphin". Pelletan's sister, Alexandrie Sauvage, is also living in England, as is the Frenchwoman he once loved--a woman now married to a ruthless English aristocrat. What secrets will Devlin dig up in the course of his investigation? And who will be the next to die?

I have my own confession to make, I don't read these books for the mystery as much as I read them for the characters. Especially Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. He's such a compelling character--"thirty years old, tall and lean, with a vaguely menacing bearing that reminded one of the time he'd spent as a cavalry officer." He has golden eyes that see in the dark and a passion for making sure that murder victims who would otherwise be forgotten get justice. He's the kind of character a girl can crush on.

If you've never read a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery before, I suggest you start with the first in the series,  What Angels Fear, although I read the third book, Where Serpents Sleep first myself. They're all great reads. I love this series and these characters. And my bookish bonus with Why Kings Confess is that it fills another category for me in the What's in a Name Reading Challenge. Category filled with this book: Read a book with a position of royalty in the title. My current Reading Challenge status: 4 books read; 1 book to go.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Some YA Fun...

Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley                                                                                         

First Line: Back when I was nine, my parents went missing.

My Thoughts: This is a light-hearted YA novel about fairies and genies, rules and magic, Earth and Feyland. In Hanley's world, each fairy or genie has a level of magic from lowest red to highest violet. (The girls are fairies; the boys are genies.) Zaria Tourmaline, who at 14 has just come into her magic, is a violet fairy, which is rare. She has a lot to learn about spells and portals, true friends, hidden enemies, and breaking all the rules. I liked that Hanley veered away from the traditional view of the Fae and instead created her own version of fairies; in her world, the fairies are more like the ones I used to imagine as a child. Hanely did a good job of creating her characters, and I thought this book was a lot of fun to read. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel: Indigo Magic. I hope it's a good as this one.

Added bonus: This book  fills another square on my YA Bingo Card--the square where you need to read a book with a color in its title. Lucky, huh?

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!

L. Frank Baum created the amazing, fantastic, and wonderful world of Oz...a world I loved as a child. I collected all fourteen Oz books and happily read them over and over, especially my three favorites: Ozma of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, and Glinda of Oz. Such great reads! I was enchanted by Baum's unique and fun characters: Billina, the talking hen, the Woozy, the Nome King, Tik-Tok, the wind-up mechanical man, Polychrome, the Rainbow King's daughter, Glinda the Sorceress, and of course, Princess Ozma and Dorothy. But most of all, I loved Oz itself. Who wouldn't love a place where books grow on trees, inanimate objects come to life, animals talk, and magic exists? I always wanted to go there--see the Emerald City and Glinda's palace, take a stroll down the yellow brick road, pick a 3-course nut for lunch, visit Miss Cuttenclip and her town of paper dolls as well as the puzzle-piece people of Fuddlecumjig, spin on the Merry-Go-Round Mounts, and hang out with Dorothy and Toto and all their friends.

The Oz books fueled my imagination growing up; rereading his books now is like revisiting childhood. Ray Bradbury once described Oz as a place "where the young stay young and the old grow young forever--these books are for readers of all ages." I couldn't agree more. So, here's to L. Frank Baum and the wonderful world of Oz that he created!

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Another Favorite Read...

The Girl in the Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger

Krystyna Chiger is just a child when Poland is overrun, first by the Russians, then by the Germans. The Russians take away her father's business; the Germans take away their home and all their possessions. Before the Nazis can take away their lives, Krystyna and her family escape to the safety of Lvov's sewer tunnels, along with several other Jews.

None of these Jews would have survived the war without the help of Leopold Socha and two other Polish sewer workers. These men find them safe places in the sewers to hide, and they bring them food and other necessary supplies. At first, the Polish men charge the group 500 zlotys a day (about $100), but when their money runs out, Socha finds he cannot simply abandon them. In fact, saving Krystyna and her family becomes Socha's own quest for redemption. And when the war is over and they finally emerge from the sewers, Socha proudly announces to all the amazed Poles watching these thin and ragged survivors rising from the darkness, "These are my Jews. This is my work!"

This book made me cry. It's such an amazing story of friendship, miracles, hope, and survival. I'm glad so many survivors of World War II and the Holocaust have written down their stories so that we can read them. This is one of my favorite books from that time period. For me, this book is a definite must-read! I hope you read it, and think so, too.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
     Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bookish Art for Mom...

William Sergeant Kendall --An Interlude, 1907

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
--Emilie Buchwald

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Bookish Quest...

For the What's in a Name 2014 Reading Challenge, I need to read a book with an element of weather (like wind or rain) in its title. And I just can't find one that I want to read. Does anyone know of a good book with an element of weather in its title? I would love some suggestions.

And then there's my bookish Bingo of the categories I still need to fill on it is for a book written by someone under thirty. Got any ideas? The only book I can think of that fits that category is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and, frankly, I've already read it and don't feel like reading it again right now. So, if you have any suggestions.... Oh, and if anyone can think of a novel that can be classified as a "classic" YA book, or if you have a favorite YA graphic novel, I'm looking for both of those, too. Thanks!

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Strangers on a Train...

First Line: The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm.

Main characters: Guy Haines, an up-and-coming architect, decent and hardworking, who's trying to divorce his wife, Miriam, and Charles Anthony Bruno, an immoral and indolent playboy who loves his mother and hates his father enough to commit murder.
"(Guy) was aware of an impulse to tell Bruno everything, the stranger on the train who would listen, commiserate, and forget. The idea of telling Bruno began to comfort him. Bruno was not the ordinary stranger on the train by any means. He was cruel and corrupt enough himself to appreciate a story like that of his first love."
The Premise: Bruno slammed his palms together..."We murder for each other, see? I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on the train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?"

My Thoughts: So, the movie version of Strangers on a Train is probably my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. I confess, I didn't even know it was a book first until I ran across Patricia Highsmith's novel at the library, and then I couldn't wait to read it. Hitchcock stayed fairly true to the first half of this novel, but then the two stories diverge. Highsmith spends more time exploring human nature and its duality of good and evil. And it's the psychological aspects of this novel, Bruno's obsession with Guy, and the way he torments, manipulates, and ultimately traps him, that makes Highsmith's tale so chilling and disturbing. Bruno is definitely one of the creepier, more despicable, characters ever written. This book isn't exactly a page-turner, the pacing felt a bit slow at times, but it is unforgettable. I think I prefer Hitchcock's suspenseful version of this story, but I'm glad I read the original. And I would definitely read Highsmith again! So, read the book and then check out the movie. Both are worth it!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wouldn't It Be Great....

  • Wouldn't it be great if reading a book burned as many calories as running a mile? (Because then I'd be super skinny!)
  • And wouldn't it be great if you could remember everything you ever read? (Because then I'd be super smart!)
  • And you know how you can earn points towards free stuff every time you use your credit card? Well, wouldn't it be great if you could earn points for every book you read that you could later redeem for cash? (Because then I'd be super rich!)
Happy Reading!