Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

Just some random stuff in my head:

  • Apparently I have yet to master Edelweiss. I keep thinking I'm requesting books and then never hear anything about them. Once again, when I checked my account the other night it showed I had never requested any books. Huh? So I requested four books. And they're showing up now. We'll see.
  • I forced myself to finish a book this week. I hate doing that and I hate that I made myself do it. It started so fantastically, I just couldn't give up on it. I feel like I ask this about every six months, but how do you decide when to give up on a book?
  • I've been going back through the Netgalley books I've requested over the years but never got around to reading and reviewing (yeah, there was a whole problem with me "getting" that system as well). I thought I'd order several of them  when I found that I could order them through Barnes and Noble for a couple of bucks apiece. Until I realized that shipping from the various sources they'd come from would cost me more than $80! Needless to say, I backed that whole order out! Luckily, Better World Books had a sale for Memorial Day so six new books are on their way to my house, including three that I'd previously requested on Netgalley.

  • I am so in the doldrums reading-wise that I am seriously considering a reread just so I KNOW I'll like it. The Sparrow is parked in my brain lately and really wants to be read again. 
  • But so many books I haven't read yet!

  • Less than a month left to complete the Once Upon A Time challenge. I need to get started. Perhaps some fairy tales are just the thing to bust out of a reading slump.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett
Published May 2013 by Penguin Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for a long overdue honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

My Thoughts:
There's a lot going on in this book: a love story, a tale of grief, and more than one mystery told through multiple characters and points in time. Parts of it worked better for me than others. I had a hard time buying into the idea that Peter was as crippled by social anxiety and friendless as Lovett portrayed him; because that came up again and again throughout the book, it kept niggling at me. And the main love story piece didn't work as well for me as the mystery pieces, although it might have made a touching story on its own. That might have been because it kept taking me out of the Shakespeare mystery which I did enjoy quite a lot. In fact, I found myself racing through the book in the final 100 pages.

Having read Lovett's First Impressions, and enough other mysteries to know that things usually aren't what they appear to be, I was certain I knew where the story was going. Lovett makes a big point of trying to steer readers in the wrong direction and any reader of mysteries will know that they need to be looking in another direction. Still, he managed to surprise me, maybe because I was so certain I knew who would end up being the bad guy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of one book's journey through time and being immersed in the world of bibliophiles. The politics, the deceit, and controversy all made for a good read even though it was often difficult to remember all of the names and where I was in time. If you read it, you will come across a list in a book that Peter discovers. I highly recommend you tab that so you can refer back to it as you read. I would definitely recommend The Bookman's Tale to those who love reading about the history of books and the book world.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Absolutist by John Boyne
Narrated by Michael Maloney
Published May 2011 by Doubleday Publishing
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will—from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France.

My Thoughts:
First - the three covers. Hardcover, paperback/Nook, and audiobook. They're all great covers but that hardcover, which I'd not seen until I started to write this, is absolutely perfect.
"Chiefly a phenomenon of Britain, white feathers were typically handed over by young women to men out of uniform during wartime, the implication being that the man concerned was a 'shirker' or a coward. The co-called 'Organisation of the White Feather' was initiated by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald in the opening month of the war and was encouraged by a number of writers, including Mary Ward. The organisation was founded as a means of applying pressure to able bodied men to enlist with the British Army." -
The movement was based on the 1902 novel by A. E W. Mason, The Four Feathers, in which a young man who quit his regiment during war received four white feathers as a sign of cowardice. For the soldiers in the field, men who declared as conscientious objectors became known as feather men and were looked down on as cowards, according to Boyne. During the First World War, these men were given noncombat duties (very often duties that put them in the most danger, such as stretcher bearers). An absolutist was someone who refused to serve the war in any way.

Second - the narration. Michael Maloney is fantastic. He manages multiple character voices and reads with emotion and animation. I'll definitely be looking for more of his work.

Finally - the writing.  Boyne addresses cowardice versus courage, both on the battlefield and off, loyalty, guilt, and morality through the lens of war and its aftermath. Boyne draws out his secrets slowly...until he doesn't and that's why it comes as such a big surprise. The story moves back and forth between Tristan's 1919 visit to Norwich and his time with Will during the war in 1916. 1919 is quiet, mannered, a land trying to reclaim normal. 1916 is loud, masculine, harsh - a tough place to be anyone other than a soldier. The contrast works marvelously to show how Tristan has come to the place in his life he has reached. Perhaps it was too easy to make Tristan's loutish father a butcher. Perhaps the war itself might have been broader. But I didn't really care. When it was good, it was brilliant.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Life: It Goes On - May 22

It's been a quiet but strange week around here. Mama E flew home on Tuesday which meant that Tuesday night was the first night we'd had an empty house in five days. While it was nice to not worry about what we'd eat for dinner and just crash on the sofa after dinner, we kind of missed having Mama E, Miss S and Mini-me around. 

Plus, with my house still in decent shape and no projects in the near future, it was strange not to really have anything I had to do. You'd think that would mean I'd have gotten a lot of reading done but I just couldn't get into any of the books I had going. I even tried a few pages of several books that should have interested me but didn't just now. 

This Week I'm:

Nebraska's own Hannah
Huston on The Voice
Listening To: Podcasts - I'm so far behind on all of them. I got through about half of the NPR Books episodes, several Futility Closet episodes, and some Story Corp episodes. Of course, I'm still listening to The Girl Who Played With Fire in my car. That will take at least a couple more weeks. Can I just say that it has gotten so complicated that I often have no idea who the characters are? 

Watching: The Voice (sorry for the voting spam on Twitter!), Mr. Selfridge (we introduced Mama E to this one and she was a good sport and acted like she was interested), and baseball. I know you'll find it hard to believe, but The Big Guy actually went two evenings without turning on the television!

Reading: I'm struggling with Adam Haslett's Imagine Me Gone. It's gone an entirely different direction than I was expecting after the first few pages. Dark humor, multiple points of view as it skips through time, no real clue where this is going. I've decided to start Beryl Markhams' West With The Night as well which I am enjoying but won't read as my primary book until I finally finish Imagine Me Gone

Making: I grilled steaks and made a tater tot/cheesy casserole (for you Midwesterners, this was not your grandma's tater tot casserole!) for Mama E's last night but otherwise we've been using up leftovers. Which ain't a bad thing when those leftovers include gingerbread, homemade ice cream, and ham!

Planning: Mini-him's move the end of the month. Again. Didn't we just move him in?  On the plus side, I can finally get the sofa out of my bedroom!

Thinking About: Doing some painting. The powder room is definitely getting painted today. And, finally, I think we've settled on a color for the front door. I think. Well, we're down to two choices anyway - charcoal grey or tomato red. Could we have picked two more different colors?

Enjoying: A beautiful weekend and a visit from BG's cousin and his wife who were here from L.A. We had inherited some old pictures from his side of the family so they had fun going through the envelop we had for them. 

Feeling: Adrift. Not quite sure what to do with myself. It's not like there aren't plenty of things I should be or could be doing. I just can't seem to make myself care about them enough to do them.

Looking forward to: Seasons of Reading's Sci-Fi Summer Read-a-Thon. I know you're thinking "But Lisa, you don't even read sci-fi!" And you're right. But...The Martian. I need to read The Martian. Also, on NPR's list of 100 sci-fi books, The Princess Bride is included. I'm not sure why but I'm going to run with that idea and try to knock off both of those books.

Question of the week:  What do you do with yourself when you fall into the doldrums?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why, Hello There!

After planning and cleaning and prepping for the party, after two graduation ceremonies and one hooding ceremony, the party, and a house guest over a long weekend, I was pooped. And then a little sad because it was all over and the next big thing that will happen is that one of my kids will move far away. 

Best way to get over that is to get back to routines and doing the things I love. Like visiting blogs (I missed you all the past couple of weeks!) and finding a book that will suck me in and MAKE me read it. I've been popping into several books trying to find the book.

Any time I need to remember what fun we had the past couple of weeks I only need to look at that adorable tricycle planter and fuchsia plant that Miss S's mother gave us before she left. How sweet is that? Just as sweet as the young lady and her mother who are now part of our family!