Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

There are three major characters in this book: Henri, a young soldier with an ardent desire to serve Napoleon and receive the honor of “serving” the nightly roasted chicken to the self-appointed Emperor; Villanelle, a daughter of a Venetian boatman, who spends her evening cross-dressing as a young man; and the other main character, is passion itself.  Passion is discussed, displayed and analyzed in its many forms. The story is part mystical realism, part historical fiction and thoroughly enjoyable.

Interspersed in the story are little, mystical, anecdotes. One is of a man who has a set of old boots which are thumb-nailed sized from an encounter with goblins.  Another of a diamond necklace made from a woman’s tears and an icicle that doesn’t melt. 

Ms. Winterson’s prose are mesmerizing. She has a way of stating the most mundane things in ways which cause you to squirm and think.  A few of my favorite passages:
This is about young men arriving to the war zone for the first time, “Most of these recruits aren’t seventeen and they’re asked to do in a few weeks what vexes the philosopher’s for a lifetime; that is, to gather up their passion for life and make sense of it in the face of death. They don’t know how but they do know how to forget, and little by little they put aside the burning summer in bodies and all they have left is lust and rage”

“To survive the zero winter and that war we made a pyre of our hearts and put them aside forever. There’s now pawnshop of the heart. You can’t take it in and leave it awhile in a clean cloth and redeem it in better times.”

“Snow doesn’t look cold; it doesn’t look as though it has any temperature at all. And when it falls and you catch those pieces of nothing in your hands, it seems unlikely that they could hurt anyone. Seems so unlikely that simple multiplication can make such a difference.”

Overall, I really loved this book, but I have to give it four stars instead of five just for the violence and sex.

4 stars (Rated R – for a lot of violence and bawdy sex.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fairy Tale Blues by Tina Welling

On the night of her twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, AnnieLaurie leaves her Jackson Hole, Wyoming home for Hibiscus, Florida (near her Father and sister.)  She decides she needs a six-month sabbatical from her marriage. He husband Jess is clueless as to why she left.  As she sets up a new life for herself, what she discovers along the way is fun, and surprising.

I really enjoyed the journey, and wanted to give this more stars but the story was kind of weak.  There was a sub-plot of spies and espionage, that while was enjoyable to read did not seem to fit into the story.

What I LOVED about this book was its moral message.  While most books of this genre would have the couple divorce, or at least have an affair, neither do! They both are tempted and see where it would be easy to do, but back away because they love their spouse and honor the vows they made.  The author in the conversation in the back of the book states that she wanted to say, “See! Look what you can do instead of divorce.”  Great message!

3 stars (wish I could give it 4) (Rated PG – just for adult situations)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young

Cyrla's neighbors have begun to whisper. Her cousin, Anneke, is pregnant and has passed the rigorous exams for admission to the Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies. But Anneke's soldier has disappeared, and Lebensborn babies are only ever released to their father's custody-- or taken away.

A note is left under the mat. Someone knows that Cyrla, sent from Poland years before for safekeeping with her Dutch relatives, is Jewish. The Nazis are imposing more and more restrictions; she won't be safe there for long.

And then in the space of an afternoon, life falls apart. Cyrla must choose between certain discovery in her cousin's home and taking Anneke's place in the Lebensborn--Cyrla and Anneke are nearly identical. If she takes refuge in the enemy's lair, can Cyrla fool the doctors, nurses, guards, and other mothers-to-be? Can she escape before they discover she is not who she claims?

I had heard about the Lebensborn program before and so when I saw what this book was about I knew I had to read it.  It is a part of the Nazi program for world domination that is not much talked about.  This book was eye-opening and very fascinating.  While I thought some of the characters did not ring quite true, the plot more than made up for it.  I pretty much devoured the book.

4 stars (Rated R – there are just a couple sex scenes that, while not crude, are very steamy)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Thoughts: The Classics Club Challenge

I came across  The Classics Club web site the other day. 

The premise is inspirational.  It is a challenge for book bloggers to read at least 50 classic books in the next five years and blog about them.  I'm up for the challenge and I think I will limit my list to 50:

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  5. Stranger by Albert Camus
  6. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  7. Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
  8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  9. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  12. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
  13. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  14. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  15. Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
  16. Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
  17. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
  18. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  21. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  22. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  23. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  24. Doll’s House by Henrick Ibsen
  25. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  26. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  27. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  28. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  29. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  30. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  31. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  32. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  33. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  34. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  35. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  36. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
  37. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  38. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
  39. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  40. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  41. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
  42. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  43. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  44. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  45. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  46. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  47. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  48. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  49. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  50. Nana by Emile Zola
Wow! That's a lot of reading. Most of these are new books for me (no judging!). If I have read it, it was so long age that I do not remember much.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Starting From Scratch by Susan Gilbert-Collins

Why is someone who just defended her doctoral dissertation still wasting her time at her childhood home, two months after her mother’s funeral, making coq au vin and osso buco? Olivia Tschetter, the youngest of four high-achieving South Dakotan siblings, is not returning to “normal”—or to graduate school— quickly enough to suit her family. She wants only to bury herself in her mother’s kitchen, finding solace in their shared passion for cooking.
Threatened with grief counseling, Olivia accepts a temporary position at the local Meals on Wheels, where she stumbles upon some unfinished business from her mother’s past—and a dark family secret. Startling announcements from two siblings also challenge the family’s status quo. The last thing she needs is a deepening romantic interest in a close but platonic (she thought) friend.
But while Olivia’s mother is gone, her memory and spirit continue to engage Olivia, who finds herself daring to speak when she would never have spoken before. Told with humor and compassion, “Starting From Scratch” is a lovely story about finding one’s way after losing a parent. I loved it…and it contains recipes as well!
4 stars (Rated PG – nothing too objectionable)

The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes! By Lynn Truss, Bonnie Timmons

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting with this book.  It’s been on my wish list on PaperbackSwap for over a year.  I read “Eat, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss and LOVED it so saw this book and wanted to read it as well.

Imagine my surprise when what I receive in the mail is a picture book.  This is her book on apostrophes for children.  It’s wonderfully delightful for a word nerd like me. I would imagine that it would be fun to share in a classroom.  I’ll probably give it to a friend that teaches school.

The illustrator, Bonnie Timmons, was also the illustrator from the TV show “Caroline in the City”.

4 stars (Rated G)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobb’s is a private investigator in London in the late 1920’s. She is the daughter of a widowed costermonger (green grocer). He has her go into service as a maid at age 15. She is incredibly bright and the owners of the home invest in her education. When World War I breaks out she goes into the nursing service and spends a few years in France at the battlefront hospitals.

The investigation in this story is about ‘The Retreat’; a place where soldiers with facial injuries go to escape from their deformities.  When Maisie discovers the graves of several of these men, which only list their first names on the gravestones, she starts to feel that something is not quite right.  She goes on to uncover the mystery.

One of my friends in review of this book on Goodreads said, “This was a good story, just painfully slow.”  I would totally agree with this. Part of the slowness of the story, I think, comes in the middle half where the author interrupts the main story to go back and fill in Maise’s story.  Because of this, I will try the next book in the series.

3 stars (Rated PG – war violence)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Raney by Clyde Edgerton

Raney is a young, small-town Southern Baptist and Charles is an educated, large-city, liberal from Atlanta and “Raney” is the story of the first two years of their marriage. Charles and Raney struggle to bring their lives together and meld themselves into a cohesive unit.

I’m not sure what to say about this little book.  All the way through I kept thinking, “Are you sure this is a book about a marriage? It seems like it is more about racism.” And then when I finished the last page and closed the book I found myself chuckling and loving the message about marriage.

There were, however, a few things I didn’t like. The racism in the book highly offended my 21st century sensitivities, but I believe it was probably a fair portrayal of the time and place.  The other things I didn’t like were that Charles convinces Raney to accept alcohol and ‘girlie magazines’ as a normal part of live when she was offended because of religious reasons. I felt like the message was that not wanting these things in your life was ‘backwoodsy’ and not an educated choice, which I do not agree with.

Overall, I guess I’m glad I read this book. It did have a good message about marriage.

3 stars (Rated PG – nothing too offensive except blatant racism.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Bear Mountain by Deborah Smith

Dirt-poor, sensitive as poets, and proud as kings, the Powell family has lived on a Georgia mountaintop for generations. Then, during the 1960s, young Ursula Powell's father convinces the Tiber family, owners of everything in nearby Tiberville, to commission a huge iron sculpture of a bear for the town. Decades later the strange sculpture --- rejected by the townspeople and left to rust on the Powell farm --- symbolizes a family's failure and thwarted dreams. But, unknown to Ursula, it is now worth such a huge fortune that the artist's embittered son, Quentin Ricconni, is coming to reclaim it ... and to change everything Ursula believes about the past, the choices that break a heart, and the redeeming powers of art and love.

This book is a gentle love story, yet filled with action and interesting side story characters.

4 (3.5) stars (Rated PG – mild sex scenes)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

In a busy little city in a forgotten corner of the Baltic, in an office on the square, the beloved mayor of Dot lies on his office floor, peering beneath his door. Tibo Krovic has come to work from his house down at the end of a blue-tiled path. He’s taken, as usual, the tram seven stops, and walked the final two. He’s stopped for strong Viennese coffee. And now, Tibo Krovic is looking at the perfectly beautiful feet of his voluptuous, unhappily married secretary, Mrs. Agathe Stopak. The Good Mayor is badly in love.

And over the course of days, months, and years, amid life’s daily routine—a fallen lunch pail, a single touch, a handwritten note and then a terrible choice—Tibo and Agathe must come to terms with this thing that has seized hold of them both, exploring the tastes of desire and despair, love, friendship, and betrayal…until fate, magic, and their own actions lift them from their moorings toward an unexpected future.

Their tortuous road to bliss is fraught with phantom circus performers, malevolent painters, rotund lawyers, mysterious fortune-tellers—and every single one of love’s astonishing little cruelties and miracles.

I loved this wonderful, meandering love story. The characters are well-developed and Nicoll fills the book with wit and magic.

4 stars (Rated PG – mild sex scenes)