February 2012Monthly Archives

Walter’s Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto

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Reason for Reading:
  • I love titles like this. Walter’s Muse – it just sounds so.. perfect.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

It’s the first summer of her retirement and librarian Maggie Lewis is relishing the unfolding of sweet summer days on Vashon Island: walking on the beach, reading the classics, and kayaking. But in June when a sudden storm hits the island, Maggie’s summer becomes about as peaceful as navigating whitewater. Not only does her wealthy sister arrive uninvited with a startling announcement, but Maggie finds herself entangled with her new Baker’s Beach neighbor, Walter Hathaway. A famous children’s author and recovering alcoholic, Walter has a history with Maggie they would each like to forget.

My Review:

There are some books that just give that bit of a tingly feeling inside when you start to read them. That feeling that signals that what you are about to read requires several items: a warm blanket, a cup of tea, rain pattering against the window and lots and lots of time to invest.

That’s the feeling I got when I cracked open Walter’s Muse. I was immediately drawn into a world with mature adults, mystery, intrigue, lure, and promise and I loved it so very much.

The characters in this book were incredible. From the very first instant I was introduced to Walter I felt as if I wanted – no, needed to know more. I needed to know even about his dog! That’s some intriguing character writing there.

I did have a few issues with the book (namely pacing issues) but overall, I thought it was a solid, good comfort read and one that I enjoyed very much. It did what I ask of books – let me escape my crazy, stressful world and go somewhere that came alive for me.


About the Author

  • Information regarding Jean Davies Okimoto:

For more reviews on Walter’s Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto, please follow the book tour.

 

 

Heft by Liz Moore

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Reason for Reading:
  • The cover caught my eye.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene s unexpected phone call to Arthur a plea for help that jostles them into action. Through Arthur and Kel s own quirky and lovable voices, Heft tells the winning story of two improbable heroes whose sudden connection transforms both their lives.

My Review:

I was taken aback by this story. It seemed interesting enough, and I thought I would enjoy it – but I didn’t expect to fall in love with the story.

Liz Moore has really captured what it is like to deal with the shame of being overweight – morbidly so. Arthur Opp’s emotions, how he deals with his feelings, his love of food (and the reason he loves it so), and his interactions with the people around him are spot on.

While I connected more to Arthur than with the other characters in the book, I did find the interweaving story lines kept my interest – no, they grabbed my interest and held. My only complaint is that I ended up wishing the story had been more about Arthur and Yolanda, rather than Arthur and Kel (Kel was interesting, don’t get me wrong – but he really was overshone by both Arthur and Yolanda).

I highly recommend this book if you are wanting a read that will get you engrossed in the story, and help you understand other perspectives more.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

She Is Too Fond of Books

The Uncanny by Sigmund Freud

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Reason for Reading:
  • We’re applying Freud’s theory on the uncanny to texts we’re reading in my Monday night seminar at school. It’s fun!

I also recommend:

  • I really can’t think of anything to liken this to.

Summary from GoodReads:

Freud was fascinated by the mysteries of creativity and the imagination. The groundbreaking works that comprise The Uncanny present some of his most influential explorations of the mind. In these pieces Freud investigates the vivid but seemingly trivial childhood memories that often “screen” deeply uncomfortable desires; the links between literature and daydreaming; and our intensely mixed feelings about things we experience as “uncanny.” Also included is Freud’s celebrated study of Leonardo Da Vinci-his first exercise in psychobiography.

My Review:

I’m going to start this review out by saying… I think Freud was a little bit of a whackadoodle. Just putting that out there.

That said, there are some things in this book that make sense – in an uncanny way (see what I did there?). The first essay on Screen Memories had me scratching my head and questioning my childhood memories. The essay on Creative Writing and Dreams had me looking at all those creative sorts around me with a new insight.

Then there is the Uncanny essay.

First, let me say that for being such a “big” name, Freud defies the stereotype of boring essays by making these remarkably approachable and interesting. In a way, they almost read like fiction – what with all the “subjects” he casually throws into the conversation.

Now, the uncanny essay – I am studying it so much this summer and it is a treasure trove of delights. Stop for a moment and think about it. Can you define uncanny? If you can’t – this essay is for you. (You might want to skip the first part, although if you read it I can talk to you and let you know just how the first part is uncanny in and of itself!).

Highly, highly recommend, especially if you are a fan of the horror or “uncanny” genre of book. Will give you fantastic insights into just what is making those hairs on the back of your neck raise.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Ozzycda

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

How is it the start of a new week already?  I’ve been buried beneath thinking up various theses for papers due this week and next, reading like crazy, pledging a sorority, playing for recital + rehearsals… life has been CRAZY!

Books I’ve read this past week (Links to reviews):

  1. Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
  2. The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans
  3. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
  4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Books reviewed this past week:
  1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  2. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt
  3. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
  4. Delicacy by David Foenkinos

Books to read this week:

Same Sun Here by Silas House

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

Pure by  Julianna Baggott

The Darlings by Cristina Alger


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Reason for Reading:
  • I have had this book pre-ordered for months.  I was SO happy to see it the day it arrived.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

My Review:

If perfection can be achieved in a book, then The Fault in Our Stars has achieved it.

I am overwhelmed by how much this story affected me. Even more so now that I’m studying many of the techniques used by John Green in writing this book.

I’m not sure why I would ever feel compelled to pick up a story about a teenager who is struggling with terminal cancer, but John Green’s name has carrying power, and so I did. What I did not expect was the bittersweet humor that was injected into every. single. page.

Seriously, for a book that (you would think) has a foregone conclusion (this is exactly what I thought when I picked it up – no spoiler here), would you expect to be laughing while wiping away tears? I expected the tears, but not the laughter.

Hazel’s voice is so genuine that it gives me this pleasant pain in my heart to remember it. I get the pain because I miss her. She is someone I want to know, and I somewhat resent the fact that she is merely a figment of Green’s imagination. It isn’t fair.

What else isn’t fair about this book is the brilliant method in which Green puts a book into the book, and the idea.. well, read the book. I was astonished. My jaw literally dropped. So, so brilliant.

Filled with twists and turns – you cannot take any moment for granted in this beautiful book. I highly recommend you check it out as soon as possible.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

A Literary Odyssey

Bookhooked Blog

Ranarok by A.S. Byatt

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Reason for Reading:
  • I keep wanting to get through one of A.S. Byatt’s books – so I decided to give this one a go since I love Norse mythology

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new life, whose dark, war-ravaged days feel very removed from the peace and love being preached in church and at school. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods ? a book of ancient Norse myths ? and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. She feels an instant kinship with these vivid, beautiful, terrifying tales of the end of the gods ? they seem far more real, far more familiar during these precarious days. How could this child know that fifty years on, many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct? War, natural disaster, reckless gods, and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that Byatt weaves into this most timely of books.

My Review:

I am so torn on this book.

I desperately wanted to love it. Why? Because A.S. Byatt has a grasp of the English language that I lust for – it’s sensuous and beautiful and haunting and every amazing word you can come up with to describe words … but it’s so dang difficult to read.

The tiniest little thing would distract me as I read this one. I love learning about Norse mythology, so there wasn’t a lot new in that respect for me – but the story of this girl in wartime, and her favorite book – I wanted it to drag me into the story and make it come alive for me. But it didn’t.

Instead, I felt as if I was reading something beautifully written, but very clinical (? I think that’s the word I want to use). Instead of feeling like the pages were letting me indulge in chocolate, I felt like maybe I was eating fat-free candy instead. It’s hard to describe, because I really, really admire Byatt’s writing skills, but I think the storytelling was a bit lacking. However – I also don’t know if this was intended to actually BE a storytelling book, or if it was instead a frame for education on the mythology.

Anyways – if you are a fan of Byatt, I’m sure you will love this one. If you have lots of time and enjoy the feeling of rolling beautifully crafted sentences around in your mouth, then do what I did and just enjoy this one for that sensation.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Red Breasted Bird

Cities of Flight


Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

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Reason for Reading:
  • The reviews got me on this one – as well as the description.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

As she sits in her Bloomsbury home, with her two birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her acquaintance, nearly four decades previously, with Ned Gillespie, a talented artist who never achieved the fame that she maintains he deserved.

It would appear that I am to be the first to write a book on Gillespie. Who, if not me, was dealt that hand?

Back in 1888, the young, art-loving Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter, she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in all of their lives. But when tragedy strikes – leading to a notorious criminal trial – the promise and certainties of this world all too rapidly disintegrate into mystery and deception.

My Review:

Gillespie and I is one of those rare books where all those raving reviews? They are spot on.

There are so many things I want to praise about this book. So let’s start with the title – it’s perfect. It’s eye-catching, it inspires curiosity, and it’s quirky enough to be completely unique.

Then there’s the cover – perfectly fitting the story, and – frankly, it’s gorgeous. The color palette, the arrangement of symbols, it’s all just plain perfect.

Now.. the insides of this beautiful book..

So many twists and turns, y’all. I loved, loved, loved where this story took me. Instead of a cliche love story, I got a fascinating mystery that involved absolutely no love story at all and it was so incredibly perfect. The style of narration kept me on the edge of my seat, and the twists – I’m not even joking I shivered right now because they are so delicious.

I’m not much of a mystery lover, but I’ll tell you right now – this is a book that would have me converting to reading the mystery genre full-time if more were like it.

About the Author

For more reviews on Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, please follow the book tour.

 

 

Delicacy by David Foenkinos

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Reason for Reading:
  • The cover has Audrey Tautou on it.  That’s a big hook for me.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Reminiscent of novels by Nick Hornby, Muriel Barbery, and Jonathan Tropper, internationally acclaimed novelist David Foenkinos delivers a heartfelt and deftly comedic tale of new love brightening the dark aftermath of loss–and of wounded hearts finding refuge in the strangest of places. After her husband’s unexpected death, Natalie has erected a fortress around her emotions–and Markus, clumsy and unassuming, will never be her knight in shining armor. Yet slowly but surely, an offbeat romance begins between these two mismatched, complex souls, and contrary to everything Natalie knows of affection, her perfect suitor may turn out to be love’s most unlikely candidate–the fool, not the hero, who is finally able to reach her heart.

My Review:

This is a beautiful, touching, whimsical, heartbreaking, and oh so very French story.

What do I mean by that last? It’s hard to describe – but I think it’s the combination of refined/whimsical/slightly stuck-up mixed with not-so-neatly wrapped endings.

Delicacy was all that. And, much like it’s title suggests, it’s a delicate story.

I loved so much about this book – I loved the way the relationships are wrote about, and the breaks in the story to feed the reader random facts about what is happening. I found it utterly charming, and laughed and cried my way through it all.

For such a thin little book, this one packs a punch, and I hope you give it a chance – now.. I need to get my hands on the film!

About the Author

  • Information regarding David Foenkinos:
David Foenkinos (born 1974) is a French author and screenwriter. He studied literature and music in Paris. His novel La délicatesse is a bestseller in France. A film based on the book was released in December 2011, with Audrey Tautou as the main character. (From Wikipedia)

For more reviews on Delicacy by David Foenkinos, please follow the book tour.

 

 

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Oh my goodness – I am so tired, and I have so many reviews to write, and I’m in the middle of reading seven, yes SEVEN novels! School is catching up to me – but there is good news too!  My recital is all memorized, so the next several weeks will just be polish. This is the perfect position to be in right now!  Last week I linked a sample of some of what I’m working on, and I’m going to do the same this week - here’s a piece I recorded just a few days ago (forgive the errors, it’s newly memorized!).

While you are here, be sure to check out the information on my 2012 Western Genre Challenge - have some great prizes happening there!  Spread the news, I’d be so grateful!

Books I’ve read this past week (Links to reviews):

  1. Romantic Fairy Tales by Goethe, Tieck, Fouque, and Brentano
  2. Delicacy by David Foenkinos
  3. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
  4. The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney
  5. Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo
Books reviewed this past week:
  1. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  3. The Shining by Stephen King

Books to read this week:

Same Sun Here by Silas House

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans

Pure by  Julianna Baggott

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris


The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

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Reason for Reading:
  • One of THE most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a long time.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.

My Review:

This is quite the story.

I’m always a big fan of books about royals which are told from the point of view of someone who’s been placed near them. While it’s interesting if the author can capture the actual royal voice, more often than not I find that the technique used by Stachniak in The Winter Palace is a better one to use.

So I knew little to nothing about Catherine the Great before picking up this book – as most of my reading about Kings and Queens has been focused on England – but holy cow, I think now I’ll be checking more into Russian history. I was thoroughly charmed by this book and caught up in so much drama – because it had it in abundance!

Stachniak’s writing is strong, and she really creates the scene well. I felt as if I was being whisked away, and along with Sophia, felt so much sympathy for Varvara – while also SO much respect for Elizabeth, because that Queen, I’m tellin’ ya, she’s got a story as well.

Highly recommend for historical fiction fans.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

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