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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Lonesome Dove


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!

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry p. 368

"The girl was a handy person to have along on a trip, he had to admit. On the other hand, she was a runaway, and it would all be hard to explain to July."

Roscoe is speaking here. He is really not good on a trip so just about anyone else would be good but this girl seems resourceful as she just ran away from an elderly man who considered himself to "own her," beat her and raped her. July is the sheriff, and Roscoe is his deputy and has gone after him to give him some important news about something that happened in Fort Smith after he left in search of the man who killed his brother the mayor. It may seem complicated but it's not really. I'm finding the book to my surprise to be occasionally funny!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky


I had never read a Russian novel before and was really looking forward to finally knocking that off my list this year. This isn't the one I would have picked but my book club did, and alas, I wish I had begun with another.

Basically there is the story you've heard of, of the love between Doctor Yuri Zhivago and Lara, both married to others, in Siberia. But if you boiled it down to that actual story, it'd be about 40 pages. Not 600+. The other 560+ pages are a confusing and boring political treatise. Ugh.

The book begins when both Yuri and Lara are small children (never a good sign in my book) and from there gives excruciating detail about absolutely everything and everyone they run into growing up. As young adults Yuri and Lara's husband Pasha go to war (it was at least 50 pages before I figured out what war - turns out it is WWI.) Lara becomes a nurse to find her husband and she then meets and becomes friends with Yuri. Her husband is reported dead but really isn't and has taken another name and now it's during one of many revolutions in Russia in 1917-1919 and he's leading a very successful and scary group of revolutionaries. To make things more confusing, the revolutions and civil wars in Russia don't involve just two sides, but instead there are four, so good luck keeping them straight. Yuri and his family get into trouble in Moscow so they decide to go to Siberia to avoid it and coincidentally his wife has family in the same town in the middle of nowhere, where Lara is from. Also coincidentally Yuri and Lara met each other twice as small children (and remember it!) And several times, in a very Dickensian fashion, Yuri runs into people he met 200+ pages ago (except that it's hard enough to believe in Dickens and England is itty bitty and Russia is ginormous so it's totally unbelievable!)

Every single character we meet is described to the nth degree - a librarian is wearing a black silk blouse and has a cold and holds a tissue to her nose the whole time and feels better after Lara talks to her, and this librarian is a non-entity who is never mentioned again and matters not one whit to the novel overall. By giving us such amazing detail about every encounter, the author gives the reader no help at all in distinguishing between important and unimportant characters, and so readers spend a lot of time and effort remembering these ancillary characters for absolutely no reason, and it ends up being exhausting. And boring. Who cares about the librarian? (No dissing on librarians, this is just an example.) What does it matter what color and fabric her shirt is? Why do we care that she has a cold? Not only do we need none of these details, I'd venture that we don't need her at all, she could be cut entirely and not only would the book be just as good without her, it would be better without so much extraneous and pointless description.

We argued a bit at bookclub about whether or not the translation had to do with how much we didn't like it. I spoke with a friend, H, a few weeks ago who had read it in college 3-4 years ago in the previous translation and she also had not liked it at all (she called it "a slog.") Someone else in bookclub had read it in college 30+ years ago and remembered liking it then. She started reading this one and didn't like it but isn't sure if it is the translation or simply the passing of time. One of our members has read pretty much all of the famous Russian novels now so she knows it's not an unfamiliarity with the style and conventions of Russian novels that is the problem. But none of us were willing to give another translation a try to see if it was as bad. I personally though the translation was great. The book read very smoothly and easily, and wherever there were puns or rhymes or plays on words, which can be very difficult to translate, they were done beautifully. Unless the translators had edited liberally (and added half the book!), I don't see how they were the problem. They didn't insert all the pointless detail and all the blather about politics. We heard that in their zeal for accuracy, they lost some of the beauty and poetry of the novel, but none of us felt that if it were more beautiful and poetic, it would be better (in fact, it could even make it worse, I think.)

So sadly, my first Russian novel was a bust. I did not enjoy it at all. I wouldn't have gotten past page 30 if it weren't for book club. It did not improve as I read it. I had to continually refer to wikipedia to figure out what was going on. I even looked for the Cliff's Notes at the library! At this point, I'm not even sure I'd be willing to sit through the movie. A disappointment.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore.

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:
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Up next:
War and Peace: Original Version by Leo Tolstoy
The Eight by Katherine Neville
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Sister Queens


“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:

Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox

Synopsis from the publisher:
The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

Publishing on 1/31/2012 by Ballantine Books.

Wondrous Words Wednesday : Doctor Zhivago


Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

tarantass 6
"In the summer of 1903, Yura and his uncle were riding in a tarantass and pair over the fields to Duplyanka..."
a large, four-wheeled Russian carriage mounted without springs on two parallel longitudinal wooden bars. (see picture)

zemstvo 7
"In the Pankovo area they cut a merchant's throat and a zemstvo man had his stud burned down."
one of a system of elected local assemblies established in 1864 by Alexander II to replace the authority of the nobles in administering local affairs after the abolition of serfdom: became the core of the liberal movement from 1905 to 1917.

muzhiks 7
"Give our muzhiks their head, they'll throttle each other, it's God's truth."
a Russian peasant.

modistes 24
"mme Guichard bought a small business, Levitskaya's dressmaking shop near the Triumphal Arch, from the seamstress's heirs, with the right to keep the old firm intact, with the circle of its former clients and all its modistes and apprentices."
a female maker of or dealer in women's fashionable attire.

cheviot 31
"Fuflygin was wearing an expensive fur coat, unbuttoned, trimmed with railway piping, and under it a new civilian suit made of cheviot."
a woolen fabric in a coarse twill weave, for coats, suits, etc.

mandril 34
"A thousand times he's been told, first bring the mandril under, then tighten the stop, but no, he's got his own way."
a shaft or bar the end of which is inserted into a workpiece to hold it during machining.

papakha 40
"...suddenly the man who had been walking backwards ahead of the marchers and conduction the singing by waving a papakha clutched his hand, stopped directing, put his hat back on, and, turning his back to the procession, began to listen to what the rest of the leaders marching beside him were saying." (see picture)

a tall hat, usually of lambskin and often wuth a flat top, originating in the Caucusus.

nenuphars 47
ephebes 47
"And now it's these fauns, nenuphars, ephebes, and 'let it be like the sun.'"
The great white water lily of Europe.
a young man, especially an ephebus. And an ephebus is: a youth of ancient Greece just entering manhood or commencing training for full Athenian citizenship.

galimatias 49
"She comes in the morning, sits till dinnertime, and for a whole two hours tortures me reading that galimatias."
confused or unintelligible talk.

sophistry 55
"She entered on the path of sophistry."
a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.

bashlyks 58
"Yet the ends of their bashlyks were tied at the back with such knots that it gave them away as children and showed that they still had papas and mamas." (see picture)

cineraria 64
"...the almond-scented blue-violet cineraria in baskets seemed to excite the appetite."
any of several horticultural varieties of a composite plant, Senecio hybridus, of the canary Islands, having clusters of flowers with white, blue, purple, red, or variegated rays. (see picture)

catafalque 74
"In appearance and size it resembled a catafalque or a royal tomb."
a raised structure on which the body of a deceased person lies or is carried in state. (see picture)

stearine 91
"The flame choked on the stearine, shot crackling little stars in all directions, and sharpened into an arrow."
the crude commercial form of stearic acid, used chiefly in the manufacture of candles.

mummers 94
"...clowning mummers played at hide-and-seek and pass-the-ring."
a person who wears a mask or fantastic costume while merrymaking or taking part in a pantomime, especially at Christmas and other festive seasons.

rostrum 158
"Thus inconspicuously she became a real speaker from the rostrum."
any platform, stage, or the like, for public speaking.

withes 165
"From the mud long fences of woven willow withes stuck up, looking like nets thrown into a pond or baskets for catching crayfish."
any tough, flexible twig or stem suitable for binding things together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Lonesome Dove


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!

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry p. 184

"I don't see why we don't just take over northern Mexico, now that Pedro's dead, "Augustus said. "It's just down the dern street."

These guys are in very, very far southern Texas. In fact as they discuss the possibility of going to Montana, one guy notes that he's only even seen frost twice. He can't even imagine snow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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:
none! again! Why am I reading two enormous books simultaneously?

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Up next:
The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Keeping the House: A Novel by Ellen Baker

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: An Available Man


“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:

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer

In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around.

When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, is widowed, he finds himself ambushed by female attention. There are plenty of unattached women around, but a healthy, handsome, available man is a rare and desirable creature. Edward receives phone calls from widows seeking love, or at least lunch, while well-meaning friends try to set him up at dinner parties. Even an attractive married neighbor offers herself to him. The problem is that Edward doesn’t feel available. He’s still mourning his beloved wife, Bee, and prefers solitude and the familiar routine of work, gardening, and bird-watching. But then his stepchildren surprise him by placing a personal ad in The New York Review of Books on his behalf. Soon the letters flood in, and Edward is torn between his loyalty to Bee’s memory and his growing longing for connection.

Gradually, reluctantly, he begins dating (“dating after death,” as one correspondent puts it), and his encounters are variously startling, comical, and sad. Just when Edward thinks he has the game figured out, a chance meeting proves that love always arrives when it’s least expected. With wit, warmth, and a keen understanding of the heart, An Available Man explores aspects of loneliness and togetherness, and the difference in the options open to men and women of a certain age. Most of all, the novel celebrates the endurance of love, and its thrilling capacity to bloom anew.

Publishing by Ballantine Books on 1/24/2012.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Flight of Gemma Hardy


“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 Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel by Margot Livesey

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Acclaimed, award-winning author Margot Livesey delivers her breakout novel: a captivating tale, set in Scotland in the early 1960s, that is both an homage and a modern variation on the enduring classic, Jane Eyre.

Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands. But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed.

Publishing January 24, 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Lonesome Dove


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!

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry p. 42

"Accustomed as she was to hard doings, it had still taken Lorena a while to get used to the way Lippy slurped when he was eating, and she had once had a dream in which a cowboy walked by Lippy and buttoned the lip to his nose as if it were the flap of a pocket. But her disgust was nothing compared to Xavier's, who suddenly stopped wiping tables and came over and grabbed Lippy's hat off his head."

So why do these people hang out with the well-named Lippy if they don't like him? McMurtry is very good at simple but on-point descriptions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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:
none

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Up next:
Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunée
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday: Lonesome Dove


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.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

"When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake - not a very big one."

Kind of creepy. Blue pigs? Are they really blue? If the snake was bigger would they not be eating it? This line is intriguing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Thinking Small


“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:

Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle by Andrea Hiott

Sometimes achieving big things requires the ability to think small. This simple concept was the driving force that propelled the Volkswagen Beetle to become an avatar of American-style freedom, a household brand, and a global icon. The VW Bug inspired the ad men of Madison Avenue, beguiled Woodstock Nation, and has recently been re-imagined for the hipster generation. And while today it is surely one of the most recognizable cars in the world, few of us know the compelling details of this car’s story. In Thinking Small, journalist and cultural historian Andrea Hiott retraces the improbable journey of this little car that changed the world.

Andrea Hiott’s wide-ranging narrative stretches from the factory floors of Weimar Germany to the executive suites of today’s automotive innovators, showing how a succession of artists and engineers shepherded the Beetle to market through periods of privation and war, reconstruction and recovery. Henry Ford’s Model T may have revolutionized the American auto industry, but for years Europe remained a place where only the elite drove cars. That all changed with the advent of the Volkswagen, the product of a Nazi initiative to bring driving to the masses. But Hitler’s concept of “the people’s car” would soon take on new meaning. As Germany rebuilt from the rubble of World War II, a whole generation succumbed to the charms of the world’s most huggable automobile.

Indeed, the story of the Volkswagen is a story about people, and Hiott introduces us to the men who believed in it, built it, and sold it: Ferdinand Porsche, the visionary Austrian automobile designer whose futuristic dream of an affordable family vehicle was fatally compromised by his patron Adolf Hitler’s monomaniacal drive toward war; Heinrich Nordhoff, the forward-thinking German industrialist whose management innovations made mass production of the Beetle a reality; and Bill Bernbach, the Jewish American advertising executive whose team of Madison Avenue mavericks dreamed up the legendary ad campaign that transformed the quintessential German compact into an outsize worldwide phenomenon.

Thinking Small is the remarkable story of an automobile and an idea. Hatched in an age of darkness, the Beetle emerged into the light of a new era as a symbol of individuality and personal mobility—a triumph not of the will but of the imagination.

Publishing on 1/17/2012 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder


I was so blown away by Tracy Kidder's previous book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, that I didn't think twice about picking up this one (in fact, I think I will search out more of his books, he's such a great writer.) And while the story of Deo's escape from civil war in Burundi to New York City with only $200 and not a single contact or word of English is inspiring, he's a little more of an enigma than Dr. Paul Farmer. I never really feel like I get to know him, and he always hovers slightly outside of my line of vision.

Deo grows up in a family of cowherders. He goes to school most of the year (except when he's needed to work) and eventually goes to medical school. In his third year war breaks out between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Deo didn't even know which he was until he was in his teens, as it was a non-issue in his life until all this happened. With slaughter all around him, he manages to hide and be overlooked and then walks to Rwanda, where the exact same civil war (but with the dominant racial group reversed) broke out a few months later. He returns to Burundi and eventually, with help from friends, is able to secure a visa and a flight to Kennedy. A customs official (a fellow African emigre) pities him and takes him to his flop house in the Bronx and helps him figure out the subway system and get a job delivering groceries. At one delivery at a church, he meets a woman who adopts him as her cause. Through her he is eventually de-facto adopted by an older couple in the Village. Meanwhile he begins to attend Columbia University as an undergraduate (his paperwork from Burundi is hard to come by and some of it claims he is dead.) One day he goes to hear a lecture by Dr. Paul Farmer and afterward he speaks further with Farmer who offers him a job at his foundation in Boston. The foundation works to open medical clinics in Haiti, and Deo has the idea that maybe one day through it he can open a clinic in Burundi.

Inspiring, although filled with breathtaking violence, this book does make you wonder what you would do in Deo's shoes. Would you give up and die as so many did in his home country? Would you have found the resources in New York? Would you have been able to put a life together as he has with such terror and tragedy in your history? Deo is a persistent, driven, caring man who is making a definite difference in the world. The writing is effortless, smooth, and even with jumps back and forth in time and continents you are never confused or jarred in the transitions. Kidder is a masterful author.

I bought this book at a used bookstore.

Teaser Tuesdays: Doctor Zhivago


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!

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky p. 132

"Before Galiullin's eyes was the habitual spectacle of a unit attacking. They were supposed to advance quickly, almost at a run, across the space that separated the two armies, an autumn field overgrown with dry wormwood swaying in the wind and prickly thistles motionlessly sticking up."

I didn't know there were battles in this book, but I am very pleased by the writing - I was told this new translation is excellent and this sample does seem so, very smooth and poetic.

Monday, January 9, 2012

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:
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Up next:
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

Friday, January 6, 2012

One More Reading Challenge


From Books in the City:
For the second year, I am proud to host the Immigrant Stories Challenge. As I said in the post announcing the inaugural Immigrant Stories Challenge last year, I am the child of immigrants and have always been drawn to immigrant stories in my reading. As I started to pay attention to the theme, I realized it is actually very prevalent in literature. Across many genres, books features immigrants from and to many nations in addition to the stories of their children as they try to fit in.

The Challenge
The only requirement of the challenge is that the books read for it include an immigrant story. The immigrants can be coming to or from any country - expand your horizons!

How Many Books Do I Need to Read?
There are three levels for the challenge:
Just off the boat: 1-3 books
This land is my land?: 4-6 books
Fully assimilated: 6+ books

What types of books are eligible? Only fiction? How about audiobooks?
All types of books are eligible - fiction, non-fiction, short stories, audiobooks, e-books.

Other details?
Re-reads are acceptable as are cross-overs with other challenges.

What are the dates for the challenge? January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012.

Carin:
I noticed this challenge last year (even suggested a couple of titles for it) and it intrigued me again this year but I was trying to sign up for fewer challenges. But then I realized that the very first book I am reading in 2012 qualifies, and one other book I am definitely reading this year also qualifies and darn it, I am up for the challenge! But I am signing up for Just Off the Boat, 1-3 books.


Books I might read for the challenge:
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (currently reading)
The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes
The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War by David Laskin
Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest by Hobson Woodward

Book Beginnings on Friday: Doctor Zhivago


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.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

"They walked and walked and sang 'Memory Eternal,' and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind."


Hm, not a famous first line like you expect from Russian lit, but not bad. Makes me wonder where they are going.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Winter Palace: A Novel of 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:

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

Synopsis from the publisher:
From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

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.

With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia.

Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.

Publishing 1/10/2012 by Random House.

Books Make Great Gifts



I could have written this post before Christmas as I'm pretty sure out of my fairly large family, only my mother reads my blog (hi Mom!) but on the off chance, I waited.

In recent years, I found I could no longer give books as Christmas gifts, as my friends and family A) had gotten used to getting books from me randomly so it didn't feel special and B) they were sure I'd gotten the books for free - even when I hadn't! So I gave up for many years while I was a New York editor and when I worked at the two book wholesalers, for the most part. There were occasional exceptions but mostly I was frustrated. Every year, I could have done ALL of my Christmas shopping at a bookstore which would both support one of my favorite stores and also allow me to finish my Christmas shopping in one pleasant trip, but alas, it was not to be. This is one of the wonderful things about going out on my own as being self-employed, the assumption that all my books are free has basically gone away. So this year, books were gifts again! And my local independent bookstore was very happy. I did 80% of my Christmas shopping there. Here is what I gave!

My nieces:
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Wings and Dreams: The Legend of Angel Falls by Irania Macias Patterson
The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee
(darn it I am forgetting one!)

My pseudo-niece:
Septimus Bean and His Amazing Machine by Janet Quin-Harkin

My boyfriend's niece:
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(and a princess picture book but I've forgotten the title)

My boyfriend's nephew:
Cars: Ultimate Sticker Book by DK Publishing
See How They Go: Cars by DK Publishing

My brother:
That Is All by John Hodgman (I gave him the 1st two Hodgman books last year)

My Dad:
Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll

My brother-in-law:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Watership Down by Richard Adams

My boyfriend:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman

My mother (from my boyfriend):
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

My mother's boyfriend (from my boyfriend):
An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug, Cocaine by Howard Markel

And what I received:
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt (from my step-mother)
Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus (from my mother)
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk (from my boyfriend)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bookseller Recommendations

I recently read in an old Shelf Awareness (I'm catching up!) about a series of interviews with independent booksellers and one stuck with me about recommendations, an area that online booksellers are notoriously bad at. So I thought about books I'd had recommended to me that really surprised me (in a good way) and I really had to think back to a time before I was really in the publishing industry, and oddly that was when I worked at Bookstar.

Even though I worked at a bookstore, I wasn't half as aware of books as I am now. I was pretty good at recommending books for customers, but I wasn't always great at finding books for myself. One book on the Staff Recommends shelf just screamed out at me, and I eventually decided to give it a shot, but only after I had left Bookstar and a co-worker at Ingram recommended it as well: Louisiana Power and Light by John Dufresne. It was brilliant. And I kicked myself! I hadn't liked the Bookstar co-worker who had recommended it, so I assumed I would also not like books he liked.

Shortly after, I ran across a free abridged audio of Naked by David Sedaris, which had ALSO been Staff Recommended by the same guy. I laughed so hard on my trip I nearly drove off the road more than once. I immediately got the print book and spent Thanksgiving reading chapters aloud to my mother as she cooked. I wracked my mind to think of other books recommended by that old bookseller, and they were winners (About a Boy by Nick Hornby and The Inn at Lake Divine by Elinor Lipman) but sadly, I had made my discovery too late. He also no longer worked at Bookstar, and I had lost my most reliable recommender of wonderful, funny books.

I learned my lesson (well, mostly) about judging people's book tastes based on their personalities. (Also, one of my best friends and I have opposite tastes and I have learned that if she suggests a book I will hate it and vice-versa. On the plus side, when she hates a book I rush out to buy it.)

Have you had any excellent, surprising bookseller recommendations?

Teaser Tuesdays: Strength in What Remains


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!

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder p. 22

"Standing at another service entrance - they all might as well have been fringed with barbed wire - waiting for another brusque superintendent who would hardly even look at him, he wondered whether this could really be the station he had been put on earth to occupy. Not long ago he had been a student so accomplished he'd been offered a scholarship to college in Belgium."

I'm not sure that I could go from medical school to delivering groceries but Deo is an exceptional person. Simply escaping from civil war would have been impressive enough but he arrives in New York with $200, not a word of English, knowing no one, not even a friend of a friend, and somehow ends up a doctor. Makes me feel quite lazy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

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:
The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart (audio)

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Up next:
Silk Parachute by John McPhee
Stitches by David Small
Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book Review: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart et al


I started by listening to this book on audio, but since I had the print book I decided to flip through it too, which I'm so glad I did because even though the audio said it was unabridged, there were parts left out. Mostly photo captions, but sometimes whole sections. And what was omitted wasn't consistent from one section of the book to the next. So with trying to skim the book, I really had to reread the whole thing which was annoying. But you know, it's hard to decide which format was better.

The audio gives you Jon Stewart and buddies. You get sarcasm, sound effects, Samantha Bee, and Wyatt Cenak. The print gives you photos (with captions). The whole thing was hilarious of course. My favorite was a description of the earth, which has something no other planet has: "A marginally successful publishing industry." This book was a good audio for a car trip as it appealed to both my boyfriend and me (in fact he picked it out.)

I got the audio book from the library and the print book was a gift from my brother.

2011: The Year in Reading

Last year I got this meme, but alas I did not note where I found it. Still, it was a fun way to summarize the year, so I thought I'd do it again.

How many books read in 2011? 100!!!!

How many fiction and non fiction? 54 fiction; 46 nonfiction

Male/Female author ratio? 50/53

Favorite book of 2011? When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Least favorite? Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why? No DNFs this year!

Oldest book read? The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)
Newest? When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Sept. 2011)

Longest and shortest book titles? (not including subtitles)
Longest: Home-Based Business For Dummies by Paul Edwards, Sarah Edwards, and Peter Economy
Shortest: 'Tis by Frank McCourt

Longest and shortest books?
Longest: Shogun by James Clavell (1210)
Shortest: Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi (96)

How many books from the library? 3 - one from the public library and two from the library on the cruise ship.

Any translated books? Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Anjali Singh

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author? L.M. Montgomery (7)

Any re-reads? seven
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Karen Kepplewhite is the World's Best Kisser by Eve Bunting
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Favorite character of the year? Mattie Ross in True Grit by Charles Portis

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? Bosnia, Italy, Spain, Australia, Ireland, Korea, England, Canada, France, China, Panem, Hawai'i, Iraq, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber (Sally and Kristen)

Which author was new to you in 2010 that you now want to read the entire works of? Geraldine Brooks

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read? I meant to reread a Jane Austen this year and didn't get around to it. Also, I've been promising my boyfriend all year that I'd get around to Guns, Germs, and Steel, and he's annoyed I haven't yet.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read? The Anne of Green Gables series, The Woman in White

2011 TOP EIGHT Book Events in Carin’s Book Life - in no particular order:
8. Finally read (listened to) Angela's Ashes, only 15 years after everyone told me I should.
7. Finally read several children's classics that I somehow missed: Hatchet, Summer of my German Soldier, The Indian in the Cupboard, and The Little Prince.
6. The librarians actually know who I am now and they call me "Detective" (I search for and often find lost books within the library.)
5. Completed my first (and last) full marathon! Never would have been been able to get through the training without audio books.
4. Finally read the Anne of Green Gables series (except for Rilla of Ingleside which I will read shortly.)
3. I found a replacement for myself (President) at the Women's National Book Association so I got to retire.
2. Reading 100 books this year! And that doesn't include rereads this time!
1. Opened my own editorial business!