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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The World of Downton Abbey


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

Synopsis from the publisher:
A lavish look at the real world--both the secret history and the behind-the-scenes drama--of the spellbinding Emmy Award-winning Masterpiece TV series Downton Abbey

April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't.

Millions of American viewers were enthralled by the world of Downton Abbey, the mesmerizing TV drama of the aristocratic Crawley family--and their servants--on the verge of dramatic change. On the eve of Season 2 of the TV presentation, this gorgeous book--illustrated with sketches and research from the production team, as well as on-set photographs from both seasons--takes us even deeper into that world, with fresh insights into the story and characters as well as the social history.

Publishing 12/6/2012 by St. Martin's Press.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins


Wilkie Collins was a literary genius. I was already pretty convinced of that after reading The Moonstone a few years ago, but now after reading his other great novel, it's been solidified for me. In The Moonstone, he invented the mystery novel, and obviously was a great influence on Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In The Woman in White, he invents the thriller. Oh, and he pioneered the multiple-narrator style as well. (A lawyer by trade, he thought that a trial - with its multiple witnesses who each know their segment of the overall story - was the only perfect way to tell a story fully.)

The Woman in White is sometimes called a mystery, but it isn't really, any more than a John Grisham is a mystery. Yes, there is a Secret and we don't find out what it is until the end, and there is a Bad Guy (well, two really) and we also don't know how our hero will outwit them and make it so they are no longer a danger to our victim until the end, but there's no real mystery. We know who the bad guys are pretty early on, we know the secret exists early on and also who knows it. It's a story of bad things happening, racing to find out the secret, and hiding from the bad guys and their thugs. It is long, but it's also relatively fast-paced.

Walter, an art teacher, falls in love with the beautiful Laura but sadly she is already engaged to Sir Percival. Walter has been warned by the mysterious woman in white (aka Anne) that Sir Percival is a bad guy and that Anne shouldn't marry him but she sticks to her word and does so. After the honeymoon, Sir Percival shows his true colors and things start to go very bad, very fast. Her devoted and practical sister Marian tries to look out for her to no avail, Sir Percival's flamboyant and sneaky friend Count Fosco foils plans, and Anne, who knows a big bad secret about Sir Percival disappears before she can tell Laura.

Each section of the book being told by a different narrator doesn't always work, but here it truly shows Collins's brilliance as you can feel the change in tone and voice within just a couple of lines. He switches from the middle-class art teacher to the fussy hypochondriac uncle to a housekeeper to the Count without losing a beat - each voice is truly the character's own, even minor and brief narrators, they are three-dimensional and make it so simple to picture the people. I also love reading older books because I don't have to worry about anachronisms such as when a character says, "Drop it!" to someone belaboring a point. If this book hadn't been published in 1860, I would never have believed that such a modern-sounding phrase wasn't an authorial error. Yet it must have been in use then and that is such a neat thing to learn.

While I didn't whip through the book, it was very easy to pick right up where I'd left off even after a couple of days. The book wasn't hard to get into or follow, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I only wish I'd read it years ago! I highly recommend it.

I won this book from a fellow book blogger's drawing.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Paris Wife


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain p. 41

"I was desperate to get to Chicago again and see the big old room at Kenley's - the piano, the Victrola, the knobbly rug pushed aside for two people to dance. I wanted to look into a pair of impossibly clear brown eyes and know what that beautiful boy was thinking."

I was a little surprised she is calling Ernest Hemingway a "boy," but he was 21 and she was 29, so it's pretty accurate.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
'Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (audio)
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Up next:
Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery


I liked this book quite a bit for the first quarter or so. Gilbert's Aunt Mary Maria has come to stay with the Blythes, apparently indefinitely, and she makes everyone's lives miserable. And everyone comes together to work against her, although subtly, as you can't just be rude to an elderly aunt (or apparently ask her nicely to go home.) Even Susan and Anne are rubbed wrong by her and find her irritating. In the past I have found Anne too perfect but here she was much more real in being thoroughly fed up with Mary Maria. But once Mary Maria was out of the way, the book became a series of stories each centered around a different one of the children. They would last 1-3 chapters and the child would get in some little scrape and get back out, with the loving care of their mother always behind them. Sigh.

As I've mentioned before I like the books that are a series of strung together short stories much less. And we're reading these books because we like Anne (and Gilbert) so much, but huge chunks of the book are just the kids and we don't see Anne at all except in the neat wrap-ups of the child's trials. Some of the stories also felt quite contrived. And some favorite characters from books past, like Leslie and Marilla, never show up at all! And Miss Cornelia only once or twice, briefly. The plot promised on the back of the book (Anne thinks Gilbert is taking her for granted and doesn't even notice her anymore) isn't until the last 20 pages of the book (although I did like it). I would have preferred if that plot was woven throughout and had held the book together more as an overarching plot.

I do like Anne, and I still like her as she's become an adult and actually is my age, but I wish the books were less short story collections and more novels.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: 'Tis


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

'Tis by Frank McCourt

"That's your dream out now. That's what my mother would say when we were children in Ireland and a dream we had came true."


This book is all about Frank's dream come true - moving to New York and getting the heck out of Ireland. Also going to college and bettering himself and getting a decent job. And really, that's everyone's dream isn't it? Which I'm sure is one reason why Frank McCourt's books have resonated so with millions of readers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Catherine the Great



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

synopsis from Goodreads:
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

Publishing November 29th 2011 by Random House.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer


Scott was 18, handsome, a football player, heading off to college, when he was in a terrible car wreck. He was riding in the back of a pickup truck on the toolbox, heading back to his shift mowing lawns, when their truck was side-swiped by an 18-wheeler that punctured one of the trailers' tires causing a blowout. The other two guys in the back were okay but Scott ended up between the two trucks and eventually the trailer ended up on top of him, amputating his right leg. His back had third degree burns from being dragged on the pavement, and his left leg was mangled, with a compound fracture of the femur and his heel bone gone.

His left leg wasn't healing well. The bone grafts weren't taking, he kept getting infections, and the skin wouldn't close. Finally, Scott admitted that prior to the accident, he had been taking steroids, and the doctors then knew why their treatments weren't working. I wished he had addressed whether or not this was significant - would his leg likely have turned out okay if he hadn't been taking the drugs - or if it was just a minor speedbump that caused a small delay towards the inevitable result. And I think this omission, and a few other omissions throughout, are concerning. Such as he mentioned frequently that he had a traumatic brain injury, which caused volatile emotions, memory lapses, and trouble concentrating, and that in the late 1980s when his injury happened, few people including doctors were really aware of TBIs and what they caused. But he never tells us when he was finally diagnosed with that TBI and what impact that diagnosis had on him.

Scott's experience is representative of what typically happens to someone in this type of an accident. He has years of issues, mostly mental, as he gains money and loses it from multiple settlements, he ends up hooked to prescription drugs and depressed. But I wish he had taken more responsibility for the financial losses, the drinking and sleeping around, the lack of direction and follow-through, and the addiction (which never is addressed beyond that he has a problem. What pills and how many are another omission, as is how he got off them.) Instead, they are all blamed on the TBI.

The bulk of the book is mostly about his failures in school, in jobs, in getting on with life. He rarely mentions his amputation at all, and when it does, it's just a passing glance. I was shocked to find, a good way through the book, that he drives using the foot pedals, although it's his right leg that was amputated. He gives no explanation, just skipping along to the next story. Finally, after more than 10 years of dealing with his never truly healed left leg, he decides to get it amputated, which is the best decision he ever made. I can understand that, but I wish along the way that we'd heard more about the problems he was still having with it. Obviously, readers know from the front cover that he will eventually become a double amputee, so in that regard it wasn't shocking, but I think that if we hadn't been set up by the cover, it would have been, as he just doesn't talk about the medical issues much. That said, the second amputation does seem to turn his life around to a large degree.

He sees an article about Sarah Reinsertsen and decides to start running. He dives in without any research or preparation but he figures it all out and does get coaches and sponsors. I was particularly amused when his swimming coach and he are first trying to figure out how this will work and his coach gives him a kick board. Scott went backwards! And finally while preparing for the race, he does give practicalities about his amputations and his prostheses.

This is a fast and inspiring read. You really do root for Scott to get through the race and finally achieve something positive in his life. I think Scott, like all of us, has a long way to go to fully realize his potential, but I'm thrilled he's finally found a place where his skills and talents fit well (public speaking), and that keeps him happy and healthy. I hope he continues on this path to fulfillment.

I bought this from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

Teaser Tuesdays: Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer p. 12

"I'd love to tell you I had all sorts of profound thoughts during what should have been my last moments on earth but in those nine seconds, all I could think was, What's going on? How did I get here? Where am I? Help!"

I agree with Scott - in situations like a car wreck, everything happens so fast there almost isn't time to think, and your thoughts usually are pretty basic.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: In a Single Bound by Sarah Reinertsen


Sarah Reinertsen's memoir of growing up and dealing with being an amputee is inspiring and fascinating. I kept reading bits out loud to my boyfriend which is always a good sign.

Sarah was born with a birth defect that left her left leg much shorter and it was never really going to grow. When she was still a little kid, she had the leg amputated. Her parents worked multiple jobs to pay for her many, many prostheses (insurance paid for the first one), and never limited her in any way. However, her father was abusive, both physically and emotionally. Luckily Sarah found a way to deal with the physical and emotional trauma: through sport, as well as therapy.

She began running and represented the United States in the paralympics in the 100 m and 200 m sprints. In para-events, like-disabled compete against like, so the single amputees compete against the single amputees, the double amputees against the double, the blind against the blind, etc. However, Sarah frequently found that in competitions, even at the very top levels, there often weren't enough single amputees and so she would be combined with other groups and end up competing again people with two legs, and sometimes her event would be cut altogether. She decided to switch events and try for distance instead. She signed up to do a 5K and after that, there was no stopping her. After multiple marathons, she figured she'd try for the Ironman, oh and also compete in The Amazing Race along the way.

Her story is of course inspiring, but it's not just a sappy, sweet tale of a cute kid overcoming difficulties. Sarah is a very real and relatable person. She has flaws and issues just like all of us. I liked how upfront she was about the abuse, and also about the amputation. To be honest, many of us two-legged people who read a book like this, it's to find out what it's like to live as an amputee, and Sarah really conveyed that well, from the difficulties with different prosthetics to the practicality of dealing with them daily and how much they break, to the fact that she really doesn't like her partial leg and how uncomfortable it's been for her over the years to deal with in romantic relationships. Sarah may be both tougher (I took 30 minutes longer to complete my first marathon) and wimpier (boy she cries a lot) than me, but in the end, I felt like we could be friends. She comes across as a very genuine, open person.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer
In a Single Bound: Losing my Leg, Finding My Way, and Training For Life by Sarah Reinertsen with Alan Goldsher

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
'Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (audio)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Up next:
The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
If You Were Here: A Novel by Jen Lancaster

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Beginnings: In a Single Bound


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

In a Single Bound by Sarah Reinertsen with Alan Goldsher

"The Great Wall of China is over four thousand miles long, weighs a few dozen tons, and is, on average, about twenty-five feet high. I'm five-foot-nothing, and I weight ninety-five pounds with my ten-pound prosthetic leg included."

So, do you think she's going to climb it? You bet!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: How It All Began




“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

How It All Began by Penelope Lively

A vibrant new novel from Penelope Lively-a wry, wise story about the surprising ways lives intersect.

When Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. A marriage unravels after an illicit love affair is revealed through an errant cell phone message; a posh yet financially strapped interior designer meets a business partner who might prove too good to be true; an old-guard historian tries to recapture his youthful vigor with an ill-conceived idea for a TV miniseries; and a middle-aged central European immigrant learns to speak English and reinvents his life with the assistance of some new friends.

Through a richly conceived and colorful cast of characters, Penelope Lively explores the powerful role of chance in people's lives and deftly illustrates how our paths can be altered irrevocably by someone we will never even meet. Brought to life in her hallmark graceful prose and full of keen insights into human nature, How It All Began is an engaging, contemporary tale that is sure to strike a chord with her legion of loyal fans as well as new readers. A writer of rare wisdom, elegance, and humor, Lively is a consummate storyteller whose gifts are on full display in this masterful work.

Publishing 1/5/2012 by Viking Press.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays; 'Tis


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

'Tis by Frank McCourt
I am listening to the audio so I have no clue what page this is but it's a funny quip that ahows that Frank McCourt is much funnier than he gets credit for. I couldn't get through his books on paper because half the humor is lost on the page, but on audio it all comes through quite clearly.

“It's not enough to be American. You always have to be something else, Irish-American, German-American, and you'd wonder how they'd get along if someone hadn't invented the hyphen.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber


Another book I never would have read if it weren't for book clubs, and another reason why I think book clubs are great. I am very glad I read this novel. It is not my cup of tea. I don't read a ton of contemporary fiction and the Middle East has never much intrigued me. I don't think I'm a xenophobe, as I have read a lot of Asian and Asian-American lit but it just doesn't pull me in. I think the culture is so opposite from me personally (whereas I do find a lot to relate to in Asian culture) that I have trouble relating. That said, I always think it's good to stretch one's comfort zones and read books one normally wouldn't.

Sirine is 39 and single, a chef at a Lebanese restaurant in Los Angeles. Half-Iraqi, she barely knew her parents, relief workers, before they died when she was a child, and she still lives with the Iraqi uncle who raised her. But she never felt any connection to her own culture, identifying more as a Californian, until her uncle introduces her to Hanif, a professor, who is handsome, kind, fascinating, troubled, and sweeps Sirine off her feet. While she's trying to decide if she really wants to be swept off her feet, as she's been quite satisfied with her life so far and not looked for anything more, things get complicated as life is wont to do. And for the first time in her life, Sirine finds herself curious about Iraq and Islam, beyond just the food.

I think I did the book a disservice by starting to read it in little fits and spurts. This is the kind of book to get lost in - to start and finish all in one day. It is a book to be immersed in. And once I finally did that towards the end, I liked it much more. The book relies a lot on atmosphere which is so ephemeral that it is easily dispersed and hard to gather, which is why it doesn't work as well in bits. Most of the atmosphere comes in the shape of luxuriously described food (I even looked up a recipe for chicken with pomegranate and walnuts that is mentioned in the book) but also music, poetry, politics, and even architecture are all discussed in setting the feel. Sirine doesn't know much about Iraqi culture and Islam, so we learn along with her. I have read some complaints that those parts feel a little contrived and heavy-handed, which I would conceded except that I don't really see any other way for Ms. Abu-Jaber to introduce those concepts. Not to mention, it is very normal for a second-generation immigrant to know nothing of the country from whence her family came and have to learn about it just like any other American. In fact I think if she already did know all about it, that would have felt less authentic to me, given the second and third generation people I have known.

That said, I think what gave me the best feel for Iraqi culture and was (coincidentally?) the least explained was the story of Abdelrahman Salahadin and Aunt Camille, woven throughout the novel, beginning every chapter. I loved this magical story with its jinns and mermaids and Richard Burton. I thought it was just a metaphor and so was surprised how it wove into Sirine's story at the very end, but I thought that it was very cleverly done.

The book is sumptuously written with well-drawn characters who you really feel for. They feel so real and flawed, I found myself truly rooting for some people and not for others. In the end, it still isn't my kind of book, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to others. And for a book club, there is just so much to discuss!

I borrowed this book from a friend.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
'Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (audio)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Up next:
In a Single Bound: Losing My Leg, Finding Myself, and Training for Life by Sarah Reinertsen with Alan Goldsher
Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer
Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude by David Rozelle

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Silver Lotus


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Silver Lotus by Thomas Steinbeck

Synopsis from the publisher:
Expanding his trading empire, Captain Jeremiah Macy Hammond faces pirates, storms, and illness as he crosses the Pacific seeking new markets in the Orient and falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy Cantonese merchant family.

American merchant Captain Jeremiah Macy Hammond is at the forefront of the New World. His trading empire faces pirates, violent storms, and illness as it forges new paths across the Pacific Ocean, opening new markets in Hawaii, Mexico, and China. It is there he meets the beautiful Lady Yee, the Silver Lotus, prized daughter of a wealthy Cantonese merchant family. A great love is born, and their adventures will shape their lives—their love will transcend borders, oceans, cultures, and their marriage will eventually serve as a foundation for the growth and development of the Northern California coast.

Steeped in the rich culture of the Orient and set against the burgeoning trading routes of the Pacific Rim, The Silver Lotus presents Steinbeck’s most moving and textured narrative to date. Readers of both Lisa See and Patrick O’Brien will be drawn to this rich historical tapestry that examines how industry, adventure, and love served as the building blocks of the thriving California waterfront.

Publishing by Counterpoint on 11/15/11.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Woman in White


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins p. 64

"Judging by the ordinary rules of evidence, I had not the shadow of a reason, thus far, for connecting Sir Percival Glyde with the suspicious words of inquiry that had been spoken to me by the woman in white. And yet, I did connect him with them."

Why was the woman in white suspicious of Sir Percival? Is it in fact Sir Percival she is suspicious of? Who is the woman in white?

I find the teaser sentence funny also because it reflects Wilkie Collins's trained profession, a lawyer. The character is a painting instructor, and I don't know if he would know this exactly.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
'Tis by Frank McCourt (audio)

Up next:
The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson


I wasn't sure I would learn much new about Shakespeare from this biography (although admittedly, it is my first Shakespeare biography) and as it is so short, I worried that it would be a light gloss over the facts, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as Mr. Bryson so aptly points out, all the long biographies are the ones we should be concerned about as there are scanty facts regarding Shakespeare's life and therefore his biographies are primarily speculation and assumption. His is short mostly because he tries to stick to the facts. And really, unless one is an academic, this is probably all one really needs to know.

Some interesting bits I took away from the book:


  • Shakespeare was frugal and really didn't like to pay his taxes.

  • The Shakespeares were bad at procreating and his only granddaughter was the last of the line.

  • Contrary to popular belief that he grew up impoverished and uneducated, his father was the #2 man in town and he went to a pretty darn good school (the schoolmaster was paid doubled what the teachers at Eton were paid) and learned a great deal of Latin etc.

  • People at his time complained about the horrible traffic (the more things change....)

  • Whenever plague broke out in London, all the theaters were closed for a year.

  • Shakespeare is mostly described as being Elizabethan but he wrote more than half his plays during the Jacobean era, and in fact his company was sponsored by King James.

  • William Shakespeare did so write his own plays.

  • No really.

  • In fact, it's particularly insulting to presume otherwise. No one goes around accusing Marlowe or his other contemporaries - some of which truly were pretty uneducated - of having not written their plays. And even if he had grown up poor and relatively uneducated, that still doesn't mean he couldn't write brilliantly - look at Abraham Lincoln after all. (That said, I do intend to see the movie "Anonymous" but purely as fictional fun.)

  • He wrote two plays that are lost.

  • Three of his plays (including one of the lost ones) he wrote in collaboration with another author!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really loved Mr. Bryson's narration. Having lived in England for at least 25 years, he now speaks with a British accent, but as he is originally American, his accent isn't strong, and he uses American phrasing and no idioms that are not easily understood in America. And a British accent just seems appropriate for a book about someone as quintessentially English as William Shakespeare. Mr. Bryson was careful to not make this a funny book, as he didn't want to insert himself into the narrative, but he can't help but occasionally be humorous, which is never a bad thing.

This audio also came with a bonus! At the end there was a 20-15 minute conversation between Mr. Bryson and his editor which was excellent. And it's truly nice for once, as an audio listener, to get a little more than the print readers instead of less (presuming the interview isn't also transcribed in the back of the print book which it may well be.) I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in Shakespeare, if you know nothing about him or have read all his plays, you'll definitely still learn a lot and enjoy it thoroughly.

I bought this book from Audible.

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Woman in White


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

"This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and of what a Man's resolution can achieve."

The stilted language of this book takes a few minutes to get into, but once you do, it adds to the atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Little Women and Me


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

synopsis from GoodReads:
Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!)

But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.

Publishing November 8th 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Crescent


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber p. 46

"Most Arab men have always been enimnently proper and polite to her, filled with Old World propriety, so formal they seem almost not to see her but to see an outline captioned: Woman. Han, she's noticed, looks at her."

I have a feeling that as Sirine and Han get to know each other better, there will be some culture clashes, as Sirine has grown up in America.

Marathon Listening!


I am walking a marathon this coming weekend with Kristen from BookNAround, and she's jogging, and she's also doing the half whereas I'm doing the full. So this is my first marathon experience where I will not having someone to talk with while walking (although all of my training is solo so it's not that new.) I will be listening to an audio book on my iPod. I'm wondering which one I ought to go for an so I'm asking for your opinions. I expect it will take me roughly 7 hours to finish (maybe 7.5) and yes, they do allow for people as incredibly slow as me! (I am not slow for a walker, it's just that walking this distance is necessarily time-consuming.)

Here are my choices:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Or, I could get another one from the library or from Audible. At the library I have my eye on
About Alice by Calvin Trillin
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

Any opinions? What will get me going and keep me going? More importantly, what will make me ignore the pain in my feet and ankles that will hit around mile 16? What audio books have you absolutely loved? I don't listen to abridged, and I tend to prefer nonfiction. Extra points if they come in right around 7-8 hours!