Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday--Books Hard to Read for Various Reasons

Happy Tuesday! I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish where the task is to name ten books that were hard to read for various reasons. Some of the titles I've reviewed on this blog.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain deals with World War I, and there were times when the book was so gripping. At the same time, I almost dreaded how hard it would be to read.

I was in the minority on my review of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, but it was tough going to read about a seemingly intelligent woman making so many bad choices.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald was hard to read because it promised something it didn't deliver, and the writing was bad.

I wanted to like Leonard Woolf's short stories, but Stories of the East became a bit of a slog to get through.

I still haven't written a review for Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out. The novel is full of long passages and so many characters that the story can get confusing. It was possible to see flashes of Woolf's brilliance, but finishing the book required persistence.

I'm going back to my college days and my nightmarish experience of trying to get through Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce. I keep thinking I'll try reading the book again one day but haven't gotten around to it!

The Hours was a book I found challenging. I understood what Michael Cunningham was trying to do. Part of the problem was that I'd seen the film first which really engaged me from the start, but the book didn't do that.

Nancy Mitford's book, The Sun King, was on my summer reading list, but I only got a third of the way through. The book is filled with information, maps, drawings and art work about Louis XIV at Versailles and French history. The book contains almost too much information.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is another book that I didn't finish this summer. I got through a few chapters, but the story of a young woman moving to France to work as a librarian in a small village did not engage me.

I have read several of Edith Templeton's books, so I was excited to find her last novel from the 1992, Murder in Estoril. The synopsis of the book about murder in an English colony in Portugal seemed interesting. I stayed with the book for one hundred pages and nothing much had happened with the somewhat rambling plot. That was as far as I got.

What books have you found hard to read?

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros--Big City Eyes

Happy Tuesday! I'm participating in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros at Bibliophile by the Sea. My selection is a recent purchase at a used book sale, BIG CITY EYES by Delia Ephron, published in 2001.

The first chapter:

"I moved to Sakonnet Bay to save Sam. I woke up with the idea. It had been one of those problem-solving nights. Having fallen asleep in a state of intense distress, I awakened with the notion that if I uprooted my life for three years, I could avert disaster."

What do you think? Should I continue?

Back From My Worldly Travels

Hello! I'm back from my worldly travels. We sailed on the Queen Mary 2 up the eastern seaboard from New York City to Quebec with some stops along the way. I'm working on a post with highlights which I'll be putting up soon. 

I hope all is well with you. I had some time to read on my vacation and am looking forward to talking to you about those books. What have you been reading?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall Reading List

Happy Tuesday! Today, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and The Bookish in which we are asked to name the top ten books to be read on our fall reading list. I'm excited to tell you about the books I plan to read:

1. Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes (2014). I loved Haynes' debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, and I'm excited about Under A Silent Moon which is the beginning of a new mystery series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith.

2. The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle (1941). I love the 1944 classic film based on this novel about a sister and brother who leave London for a beautiful house in Cornwall which happens to be haunted. I'm curious to see if the book is as good as the film.

3. Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1997). This is another book that has been gathering dust on my bookshelf for far too long. This is the story of Undine Spragg, from the Midwest, who wants to be part of New York society.

4. Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (1985) I'm excited about reading these ghostly tales by Edith Wharton. This collection has gotten good reviews.

5. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (2012). I came across this psychological thriller last year and got it after reading an interview with Jojo Moyes who highly recommended it.

6. The Wedding by Dorothy West (1996), takes place in the 1950s and is the story of a prominent black family who gathers for the wedding of their daughter, Shelby, who is marrying a white jazz musician. 

7. Watermelon by Marian Keyes (1998). I've come to Keyes' books about the Walsh sisters beginning with Rachel's Holiday, but Watermelon is Keyes' first book and the first book about the Walsh sisters featuring the story of Claire.

8. Night and Day by Virginia Woolf (2003) is a novel set in London before World War I about a group of people beset by questions of love and marriage. The novel is supposed to have a fair amount of drama along with humor.

9. Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (2001). I've managed to collect a fair amount of books either by or about the glamorous Mitford sisters, and this edition with two of Nancy Mitford's humorous novels satirizing pre-World War II British society has been on my to be read list for awhile.

10. Daphne by Justine Picardie (2008) is a novel of historical fiction about the author Daphne du Maurier.

What books are on your fall reading list?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Have A Lovely Weekend!

Paul Cezanne, The Bend in the Road, 1900/1906
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: I Need To Read More Books by These Authors

Happy Tuesday! I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and The Bookish where the task is to name the top ten authors I've only read one book from but need to read more. With the exception of Jojo Moyes and Maggie O'Farrell, the authors on my list will look familiar if you visited my blog before. In no particular order, here is my list:

1. I read Me Before You a couple of years ago and found it very moving, as did a lot of people. Since then, I've managed to pick up several of Moyes' books at book sales, but I haven't gotten around to reading any of them.

2. I read Euphoria earlier in the year and really loved it, and I'd like to read more by Lily King.

3. Apple Tree Yard was not one of my favorite books, but I would like to try another of Louise Doughty's books. 

4. Patricia Highsmith was such a prolific author. The only book I've read of hers is Carol, but I'd love to read some of the Tom Ripley novels and her short stories.

5. A couple of years ago, I read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. It made me curious about her other books, and I have The Hand That First Held Mine on my bedside table. 

6. Vera Brittain is most famous for Testament of Youth, and it's an amazing book. But she wrote other books, and one I want to read is Brittain's book about her friend, the novelist Winifred Holtby, entitled Testament of Friendship.

7. I recently reviewed Eleanor Moran's The Last Time I Saw You and loved the book which has made me want to read more of her books.

8. Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West was quite short and didn't give me enough of a taste of Rebecca West's writing, so I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. 

9. This Side of Paradise was not an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel I connected with, but I'd like to try some of his later work to see how it compares.

10. Like Fitzgerald, Bonjour Tristesse is an early work of Francoise Sagan. I'd like to read some of her later work to see what it's like. 

What authors are on your list? Also, if you have any recommendations for the authors in my list, I'd love to know what you think!

Monday, September 15, 2014

And Away We Go!

I wanted to let you know what's happening with the blog. My husband and I will be celebrating our anniversary with a cruise up the New England coast! I've scheduled some posts but am also planning to pop in and say hello from time to time with some bookish news and whatnot. Until then, have a great week!  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Have A Lovely Weekend!

John La Farge, The Last Valley--Paradise Rocks, 1867-1868
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros--Daphne by Justine Picardie

Happy Tuesday! Today, I'm participating in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros over at Bibliophile by the Sea where readers share the first paragraph of a book that they are reading or thinking about reading.

I am thinking about reading a 2008 novel which seems like non-fiction but is actually historical fiction--Daphne by Justine Picardie.

From the book jacket:

"It is 1957, and author Daphne du Maurier, beautiful and famous, despairs as her marriage falls apart. Restlessly roaming through Menabilly, her remote mansion by the sea in Cornwall, she is haunted by regret and by her own creations--especially Rebecca, the heroine of her most famous novel. Seeking distraction from her misery, Daphne becomes passionately interested in Branwell, the reprobate brother of the Bronte sisters, and begins a correspondence with the enigmatic scholar Alex Symington as she researches a biography. But Behind Symington's respectable surface is a slippery character with much to hide, and soon truth and fiction have become indistinguishable.

In present day London, a lonely young woman, newly married after a fleeting courtship with a man considerably older than her, struggles with her PhD thesis on du Maurier and the Brontes. Her husband, still seemingly in thrall to his brilliant, charismatic first wife, is frequently distant and mysterious, and she can't find a way to make the large, imposing house in Hampstead feel like her own. Retreating instead into the comfort of her library, she becomes absorbed in a fifty-year-old literary mystery . . .

The last untold Bronte story, Daphne is a tale of obsession and possession, of stolen manuscripts and forged signatures, of love lost and love found: a tantalizing literary mystery that takes its reader into the heart of Daphne du Maurier's world."

And now, the first paragraph:

"Menabilly, Cornwall, July 1957

To begin. Where to begin? To begin at the beginning, whatever that might be. Daphne woke, too early, just before dawn, when the sky had not yet come alight, but was as dark-grey as the Cornish sea. The beginning of another day; another day, how to bear another day? She heard the rats running behind the walls and in the attics; she felt the weight of last night's dreams upon her chest; the nightmares hung over her, heavier than the sky."

What do you think?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sketches in Pen and Ink by Vanessa Bell

In the past few years, I've managed to collect several books by or about the members of the Bloomsbury Group. It seems that there are some in the group whose work and lives have demanded a great deal of attention while the painter Vanessa Bell has been somewhat in the background. I've wondered what she was like and what it must have been like to be the sister of Virginia Woolf. Sketches in Pen and Ink has answered those questions.

Sketches in Pen and Ink, published in 1997, is a collection of autobiographical writings by Vanessa Bell, edited by Lia Giochero with an introduction by Bell's daughter, Angelica Garnett. Some of the writings are informal recollections while some pieces are what Bell wrote and presented as a member of the elite Memoir Club.

In 1920, writer Mary MacCarthy formed the Memoir Club, primarily as a way to get her procrastinating husband, Desmond MacCarthy, more serious about his writing. The club was made up of twelve members, most of them members of Bloomsbury, like Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, and Roger Fry. The meetings consisted of the members reading their own autobiographical writings to one another. My first thought when I read about the Memoir Club was how brave Vanessa Bell must have been to stand up and present her writing to such an illustrious group!

As I went through this collection, I felt really excited to read Bell's own words. Her writing had a refreshing quality to it. She wrote in a conversational style that was at times humorous, poignant, or could be mischievous, and that made the book fun to read. 

Included is the text of a speech she gave at her son's school which has some genuinely funny moments, but I also found the speech interesting because of what she wrote about her experience of being an artist and what art is. In the other writings, she gave recollections about her grandmother, memories of her childhood with Virginia Woolf, the beginnings of Bloomsbury, and there is a lovely piece about her relationship with Roger Fry.

I would recommend Sketches in Pen and Ink to anyone who is interested in Vanessa Bell or the Bloomsbury Group.

Have you read Sketches in Pen and Ink?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury

Although I don't read much in the way of science fiction, I am a huge fan of Ray Bradbury's fiction, especially the books that comprise his Green Town Trilogy. The Green Town in the Trilogy is based on Bradbury's own hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.

I had some unfinished business with Bradbury. A couple of years ago, I read Dandelion Wine (1957) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). The third book of the Green Town Trilogy is Farewell Summer (2006), which has the distinction of being Bradbury's last novel. I had a chance to read Farewell Summer recently, and it was a great book.

Farewell Summer continues the story of thirteen-year-old Doug Adams and his brother, Tom, whom we meet in Dandelion Wine. It is the end of an Indian summer in 1929, and Doug doesn't want the summer to end. What he wants is to find a way to stop time so that nothing will change.

Doug, Tom, and their friends declare a war of sorts. This war is against the older gentlemen of the town, especially the head of the school board, the irascible Calvin C. Quartermain. The boys take drastic steps involving the town clock.

Doug lives around the corner from his grandparents. His grandfather is the sage of the story. He guides Doug in a loving and wise way without saying too much but just enough so that Doug makes decisions about how to right the wrongs that the boys commit through their pranks in the course of their war.

The Civil War is a theme of the book, and Farewell Summer is divided into three parts, each named after Civil War battles. What is at the heart of the book, though, are the themes of youth, death, coming of age and friendship.

Bradbury is adept at telling a good story, and he relies on those universal kinds of truths we learn as we grow up. He also throws in a bit of nostalgia, making Green Town the kind of place anyone would want to visit.

Each book of the trilogy is a bit different. If you haven't read Dandelion Wine or Something Wicked This Way Comes, you could still enjoy Farewell Summer on its own. It's a quick read with Bradbury's brand of effective imagery and dialogue. I highly recommend the book.

Have you read Farewell Summer or any other works by Ray Bradbury?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Lunch with My Favorite Characters

Today, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish where the task is to name the top ten characters from books that I'd like at my lunch table. Here are the characters who would certainly make lunchtime fun:

Gemma James from Deborah Crombie's series of mysteries solved by Scotland Yard detectives Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid.

Nell Stone, anthropologist, from Euphoria by Lily King (2014).

Livvy from The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran (2013).

Tuppence Beresford, a stylish sleuth and always up for a good party, from Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1929).

Elizabeth and Jane Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813).

Rachel Walsh from Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes (1997).

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811).

Ellie Somerset from Who's Afraid of Mr. Wolfe by Hazel Osmond (2011).

Who are the characters at your lunch table?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

Last year, I read an interview with Eleanor Moran where she talked about her book The Last Time I Saw You and its similarities to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (one of my all time favorites). Moran spoke of the "Rebecca Syndrome," something I'd never heard of before, which refers to a love story where one person doubts he or she can live up to a past love of the other person. I got the book last year from Amazon UK, and it has been gathering dust on my bookshelf until now. 

In The Last Time I Saw You, published in 2013, Livvy struggles in a stressful PR job in London and lives with her flatmate, former boyfriend and now best friend, James. When Livvy gets the call that her former best friend Sally has died in a car accident, she is devastated. 

Livvy first met Sally at university, and their relationship was a bit of a roller coaster, ending in a terrible betrayal by the erratic but charming and beautiful Sally. It has been years since Livvy has spoken to Sally, and in that time, Sally married the successful and handsome William and had a daughter, Madeline. 

Sally's mysterious death brings Livvy into William's life in ways she never imagined. Each of them is looking for something--he wants to know about Livvy's memories of Sally while Livvy is looking for some kind of closure. She finds herself piecing together Sally's last days and solving a mystery that reveals Sally's secrets.  

Eleanor Moran's writing had me from the first few pages, and I had no trouble getting involved in the story. The past and the present alternate in chapters where Moran tells the story of Livvy and Sally's volatile friendship. This book is a modern take on Rebecca, and it has an interesting twist with the mystery along with a love story.

I enjoyed the  book and highly recommend it.