Monday, August 31, 2009

Life According to Literature

I saw this at Book Psmith and BooksPlease this morning. It looks like fun, so I though I'd play along.
Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)

How do you feel: like That Old Cape Magic (Richard Russo)

Describe where you currently live: The Big House (George Howe Colt)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Austenland (Shannon Hale)

Your favorite form of transportation: The Red Convertible (Louise Erdrich)

Your best friend is: Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)

You and your friends are: Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)

What’s the weather like: The Enchanted April (Elizabeth Von Arnim)

You fear: The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

What is the best advice you have to give: Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Thought for the day: The Hour I First Believed (Wally Lamb) ...the best I could come up with

How I would like to die: Fire in the Blood (Irene Nemirovsky)

My soul’s present condition: Change of Heart (Jodi Picoult)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

TSS: Hey, It's Good To Be Back Home Again...

Good morning! Our family adventure is over. We returned home late Friday night, spent Saturday tackling the mountain of laundry and packing Daughter #1 for her return to college, and will be leaving shortly to drive her back. The week went far too quickly.

We spent the first night in Boulder, Colorado before moving on to Vail. The drive through the Rocky Mountains was absolutely spectacular! It's been over 25 years since I listened to John Denver but, much to my family's dismay, it was impossible to resist the urge to sing a chorus or two along the way. Being the off-season, Vail was fairly quiet but we enjoyed the mountain views, hiking, and great restaurants. From there we took the scenic route south to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The picture above was taken as we were leaving the Rockies.

Santa Fe is a very artsy city in the high desert. The Native American crafts and galleries long Canyon Road were amazing. We also enjoyed a few museums and, of course, the great restaurants. There will be some photos to share for the next few weeks of Wordless Wednesdays.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was the only book completed on this trip. It's the first YA title I've read since I was a young adult (did they even have this designation back then?)... and what a great starting point it was! My 16 year old daughter will be reading this shortly and I look forward to discussing it with her. It is also my book club's September selection, so I'll wait and combine a review with the group's reaction. Let's just say high school is a lot different now than it was 30 years ago!

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, a Persephone Classic, is my current book. I only managed about 75 pages while on vacation, but can't wait to pick it up again later this evening. Paperback Reader and Verity did a marvelous job hosting the Persephone Reading Week Challenge. Hopefully I can carve out some time later in the week to visit all the participants and read their reviews. It was certainly bad timing on my part to be away all week. Next time, I will schedule my travels around it!

A quick reminder - I will draw a winner in the Two Guys Read Jane Austen giveaway on Tuesday. You can still enter here.

For the week ahead, I will be reviewing That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo, wrapping up the summer vacation reading challenge, reading Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, and getting the twins ready for the start of their school year. My blogging routine should begin to return to normal this week and, once school starts, the rest of my life should fall back into place too.

Enjoy your reading time today, and I look forward to visiting all your blogs again soon!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TSS - From the edge of the Rockies...

Good morning from the edge of the Rocky Mountains! We arrived in Boulder, CO last evening and will be driving to Vail this afternoon. The beauty of the mountains is breathtaking! No offense to the Adirondack Mountains in New York, but these are the first real mountains I've ever seen. The two hour drive up to Vail may take all day! There's internet access at the hotel, the girls are still sleeping, and my husband went out for a run. Since I'm drawn to the laptop, here's a quick Sunday Salon post.

This week I finished That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. I was tempted to finish it last Sunday afternoon, but decided to slow down and savor it for a few more days. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was the book for yesterday's flight. This is the first YA novel I've picked up since high school and, even though I only read half of it before deciding to take a nap, it's obvious that Anderson really gets it right! It makes me glad I'm not there any longer. This book should lead to a great discussion with my sixteen year old twins!

I also posted my review of A Thousand Days in Venice. This was the final stop of my virtual Italian vacation, but now there are plans for a real one...maybe in another year or two!

For the week ahead - Persephone Reading Week Challenge starts tomorrow! My chosen grey-covered book is Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. There may not be much reading time on this trip, but at least I'm there in spirit. What books will you be enjoying this week?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Persephone Reading Week Challenge

The Persephone Reading Week Challenge hosted by Paperback Reader and Verity of The B Files begins on August 24. It didn't look like participation would be an option, since I'll be away on vacation and the library book I'd had on hold for literally months showed no sign of appearing any time soon.
All of that changed Friday with one phone call from the library. Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple had arrived and was ready for pick-up! I'm still heading out of town momentarily, but now there's a Persephone book tucked away in my bag. I'll try and check in, depending on internet access. We'll get home just in time to take Daughter #1 back to college. The twins don't start school until after Labor Day.

See you in September...

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Thousand Days in Venice

A Thousand Days in Venice
by Marlena De Blasi
Random House Ballantine Publishing Group, 2002
270 pages

Summary from Library Journal:
Venice is almost synonymous with romance, and in this charming account de Blasi spares no detail in telling us how she fell under its spell. A journalist, restaurant critic, and food consultant, de Blasi left her home, her grown children, and her job as a chef in St. Louis to marry Fernando, a Venetian she barely knew. In defiance of the cynics who think true love in middle age is crazy, her marriage flourished, as these two strangers made a life together. Food comforted the newlyweds when their conflicting cultures almost divided them, and in the end marital harmony reigns. Is this book a romance, a food guide, or an exhortation for us to come to Venice and experience the magic? Ultimately, it is all three, and there is even an appendix that includes recipes for dishes described in the text.

My thoughts:

The Italian adventure continues. After loving every moment of The Enchanted April, leaving was impossible. My trip was lengthened with this nonfiction excursion to Venice. Again I was treated to the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes (recipes are included!) of Italy.

De Blasi writes of seeing Venice for the first time:
"Shimmering water glints from the canal below. I don't know where to put my eyes. The Venice of myth is real, rolled out before me. In straw hats and striped shirts, the gondolieri are sculptures of themselves fixed on the sterns of glossy black boats under a round yellow sun. The Bridge of the Barefoot is off to the left and the sweet facade of the church San Simeone Piccolo hails from across the water. All of Venice is tattered, resewn, achingly lovely, and like an enchantress, she disarms me, makes off with the very breath of me." (page 2)

In middle age, Marlena De Blasi left her grown children, beautiful home, and job as chef, to move to Venice and take a chance on love with a "stranger". This book chronicles her Venetian journey. We observe how Venice, after one thousand days, becomes her city, too. Along the way De Blasi must deal with church bureaucracy (to get married), Italian tradesman (to remodel their apartment), cultural differences, and a slight language barrier as she forges a new life with her husband.

Her relationship with 'the stranger' grows, with her knowledge of Venice:
"Perhaps no one ever gets to know Venice as much as they remember her, recall her from an episode in some other dream. Venice is all our fantasies. Water, light, color, perfume, escape, disguise, license are gold spun and stitched into the skirts she trails across her stones by day and spreads out over her lagoon in the never-quite-blackness of her nights. I follow where Venice leads me. I learn which benches stay shady, where waits the most potent espresso ice, when the afternoon bake is ready at at which panificio, which churches are always open, and which bells can be pulled to summon a shuffling sacristan from his pisolino, nap." (page 128)

No book has ever given me such a sense of place. I feel like I've been to Venice. It was a joy to follow De Blasi's voyage, both of her heart and through the Italian countryside. She has gone on to write three more Italian memoirs, A Thousand Days in Tuscany, The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story, and That Summer in Sicily. I will surely seek these out when the need for further Italian adventure calls.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Recent Best

Today's question:

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
(Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

My answer:
by Richard Russo

Are you getting tired of me mentioning this book yet? This may be the third time it's been pictured here in the last week! I could have finished it Sunday, but have slowed down to make it last longer. Russo has been a favorite for years, and his new book only reaffirms that status.

A passage from last night's reading:
"Dear God, not Williams," she told Laura. "Do you know the kind of people who send their progeny to Williams? Rich. Privileged. White. Republican. Or, even worse, people who aspire to all that." Not unlike your other grandparents, she meant. "Their kids aren't smart enough to get into an Ivy but have to go somewhere, so God created Williams." (page 182)

See more BTT answers here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My first giveaway: Two Guys Read Jane Austen

I've decided to host a giveaway! My gently-read copy of Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill is the prize. This was an enjoyable book, and the 'two guys' offered an interesting perspective on our beloved Jane. My review is here.

Leave me a comment with your e-mail address if you're interested. I'll draw a winner on September 1 and will ship anywhere. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - August 18

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

My Teaser:

"After all, much of the Cape's allure was its shimmering elusiveness, the magical way it receded before them year after year, the stuff of dreams. Coastal Maine, by contrast, seemed not just real but battered by reality. Where Cape Cod managed to give the impression that July lasted all year, Maine reminded you, even in lush late spring, of its long, harsh winters, of snowdrifts that rotted baseboards and splintered latticework, of relentless winds that howled in the eaves and scoured the paint, leaving gutters rusted white with salt."
(page 165)

by Richard Russo

I am loving this book! The above passage stood out this morning, especially as I noted the leaves beginning to change color.

Happy Bad Poetry Day!

Bad Poetry Day

When : Always August 18th

Bad Poetry Day is a day to create some really bad verse. But, why you ask? Perhaps, the answer is simply "because you can". Maybe, it exists to allow us to better appreciate good poetry. Or, perhaps it is to be written to irritate someone......

According to, the creators of this day, the intention is to gather a group of old high school friends, and write some really bad poetry. Then, send the poetry to your old high school teacher.

Note: the above post comes from holidayinsights

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Beginning to Hurt by James Lasdun

There wasn't going to be a Short Story Monday post this week, but then I visited Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books and found her review of It's Beginning to Hurt: Stories by James Lasdun. Her words were enough to convince me to add this collection to my library list, but then she included this link to the title story.
It's only two pages long, but so compelling. There's a phone conversation with the wife, a former lover's funeral, and some salmon. I loved it! If you take a moment to read it, let me know what you think.

Are you familiar with James Lasdun? He has also written two novels, as well collections of short stories and poetry. Lasdun was born in London and currently resides in upstate New York.

Thanks, Dawn, for introducing me to a new author. I'm looking forward to reading the entire collection.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

TSS - Two Guys Read Jane Austen

Two Guys Read Jane Austen
by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
Robert D. Reed Publishers, 2008
126 pages

As Matt said recently, the book blogging community seems to be on a Jane Austen binge. I think he's right... and Stephanie, our host of the Everything Austen Challenge, is the one behind it all!

My personal challenge continues with Two Guys Read Jane Austen. Two sixty-ish guys, friends since childhood, decide to read a couple of Jane's novels. This book consists of letters exchanged as they make their way through Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. The format that has worked well for these two guys, as they have previously tackled both Moby Dick and the obituaries.

Steve is reading Austen for the first time, while Terry is a veteran. The two share insights and observations, but the conversation also veers (entertainingly) into the personal, political, and even athletic realms.

Terry tells us:
Truman Capote once said, "All literature is gossip." ... To my mind the great gossip novel had already been published 150 years before Truman started his. And we're reading it with delight right now... But I do draw a big distinction between Capote's and Austen's gossip. When Capote's characters gossip, the reader is meant to be following the stories of those being gossiped about. The gossipers are merely a delivery system. Whereas in Austen, the gossip scenes are deigned to reveal as much about the feelings and character of the gossiper as they are about the subjects of the gossiper. (page 26 - 27)

Steve (the Austen virgin) notes:
It was great seeing you in New York last week and actually seeing the two different versions of Pride and Prejudice you are reading from (one annotated, one not.) You inspired me to get a new second version not annotated and my reading is much swifter and happier now. Amazing how notations cause you to lose the whole rhythm of Jane Austen's wit. (page 33)

Steve - on Fanny's late blooming in Mansfield Park:
Turning to Fanny's new Babe status, I must say from a purely personal viewpoint that I am glad Fanny has just come to bloom at the age of 18. I find I almost never like a woman who was beautiful when she was a girl. For if they are beautiful in their early teens, they are almost invariably ruined for life. They develop the attitude of the Beauty and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. (page 103)

Steve - on Jane's heroines:
Jane Austen allows male readers a secret look into the minds of brilliant, creative, virtuous women. One heroine (Elizabeth Bennet) outgoing, another (Fanny) introspective. But Austen's heroines are each true to themselves and win in the end. Classy women who combine high intelligence with inner strength and virtue. (page 123)

There are countless more passages worth quoting (Terry is very Pro-Charlotte...even Jane herself may not like her as much as he does), but I'll stop here. Reading this book has made me want to revisit Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen. Steve and Terry's letters make me think I may have missed some of the finer points. The Annotated Pride and Prejudice is also on my challenge reading list.

Two Guys Read Jane Austen was both off-beat fun and informative. It was like eavesdropping on a private book club meeting... and I enjoyed every minute. This book wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if you were not familiar with Austen's novels. But then, why read it if you weren't?

I'll end this just as the book ends. Terry, pointing to Lydia's continued use of the word 'fun' and noting it was very much a slang word at the time, never used by ladies of quality asks:

But here's my question, how many other period-specific clues like this lie in the text never to be discovered by us simply because we're reading her 200 years after the fact?
So the stunning though is this: as much as we've admired Jane's brilliance as a writer - how much are we missing? The point is Jane is an even more brilliant writer than we can realize. And that, I think, should be the final word. (page 126)

*** Note: I've decided to give away my gently read copy. Go here to enter.***

Friday, August 14, 2009

Library Loot - I surrender!

A large stack of books was returned to the library unread. Some had already been renewed a couple of times, others just came home on a whim last week.

I've really tried to curb my book buying this year (and it's been hard with all of your wonderful reviews that appear on a daily basis!), but it's so easy to click over to my library website and put a book on hold. This allows me the chance to take a closer look before deciding whether to read or buy... plus it's completely free. Lately though, it seems all of those holds have come in together and I want to read them all!

Today, I admit defeat and officially surrender.

My new system will be to keep a wish list on paper (I'm thinking moleskin notebook). In addition to title and author, I can also note how I became interested in the book ...much like Staci assigning blame in her recent library loot posts! Ideally, I will have this notebook with me whenever I venture into a library or bookstore.

So after congratulating myself on such a rational new approach to acquiring books, I immediately drove to Barnes & Noble and purchased Richard Russo's new book, That Old Cape Magic. Russo is a favorite of mine, and the list at the library was way too long. I'm already looking forward to hearing him speak in the spring as part of the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series.

What did you find at the library this week?

Library loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Eva and Marg. This week, you can visit Marg at Reading Adventures to leave your link.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - recent worst?

Today's question:

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

My answer:

Maybe it's because I'm more aware of my reading tastes, or maybe it's because I've gotten so many quality recommendations since starting this blog. For whatever reason, I have not read any bad books lately.

There have, however, been good books that have just not suited my mood. For that reason, I have returned them to the library or put them aside to revisit later. The most recent of these is Thomas Mann's Death in Venice.

This was to be my third and final summer vacation reading challenge book set in Italy, but it turned out to be a little heavier than expected. The writing is beautiful (see my Tuesday Teaser post last week) and I have been wanting to read Mann, but the dog days of summer is just not the right time. Thomas Mann, I'll see you in January!

To see more recent worsts, visit today's Booking Through Thursday post here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - August 11

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

My teaser:

From Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill

The 'two guys' are reading Pride and Prejudice. One, for the third time.

"...I've been thinking a lot about Nabokov's reprimand to re-read the great novels and to bathe in them and not wade through them. It would be almost a heroic act to do such a thing in this culture we live in today. To actually bathe in the re-reading of a great novel. Do you know anybody who does that? Who thinks they have the time?" (page 69)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicxulub by T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle continues to fascinate me. I'd been slowly reading his collection, simply entitled stories, when Nymeth brought "Chicxulub" to my attention. It's not included in the collection, so I was very happy she also supplied this link to the New Yorker, where it appeared in 2004.

Boyle has me from the first sentence with this one:

My daughter is walking along the roadside late at night - too late, really, for a seventeen-year-old to be out alone, even in a town as safe as this - and it is raining, the first rain of the season, the streets slick with a fine immiscible glaze of water and petrochemicals, so that even a driver in full possession of her faculties, a driver who hadn't consumed two apple Martinis and three glasses of Hitching Post pinot noir before she got behind the wheel of her car, would have trouble keeping the thing out of the gutters and the shrubbery, off the sidewalk and the highway median, for Christ's sake. . . . But, that's not really what I want to talk about, or not yet, anyway.

There is an instant understanding here. I have three teenage daughters. I live in a safe small town. My daughters could be out walking too late at night...I don't want to continue reading this story! I think I know where it's heading.

But, Boyle is masterful. I can't stop. The story line above shifts back and forth with the narrator's musing about meteors - the Tunguska in Russia one hundred years ago, and Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula some sixty five million years ago.

"Chicxulub" is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful short stories I've ever read. The story is gripping, but it doesn't end the way you would expect. I'm sorry I can't give much more of a summary - this is a story you need to experience for yourself. Boyle includes a sentence near the end that perfectly ties the two aspects of the story together. It made me pause and shake my head in admiration.

Thank you so much, Nymeth, for leading me to this story. It's one I doubt I'll forget!
John, our host from The Book Mine Set, is on vacation. If you've written a post for Short Story Monday, please leave your link in the comments so I can visit you!
(photo from the NY Times)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Back on Track

Finally! We've recovered from the long weekend in Boston, the facebook frenzy has passed, and best of all, I've started to read again. Life is back on track.

Reading for the week ahead will include some stories by T.C. Boyle. These continue to fascinate me, and I'll be sharing one for Short Story Monday tomorrow.

The Everything Austen Challenge continues. Last week I started Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill. The book is composed of letters exchanged between two long-time friends as they tackle Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park together. Some very funny anecdotes about life and friendship slip into the correspondence, too. This appears to be a tried and true format for the duo. Previous books include Two Guys Read Moby Dick and Two Guys Read the Obituaries.

The summer vacation reading challenge will wrap up with Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. While this book is a little heavier than the last two books of my 'Italian tour' (The Enchanted April and A Thousand Days in Venice), the beautiful writing has captured my attention. I hope to spend some time in my chair by the lake with this book ...if the storms hold off!

Finally, a quick thank you goes out to HMSGofita from Gofita'a Pages for sending me this Your Blog Rocks award. Isn't that a great button? I've met the nicest people through the Everything Austen Challenge, and she's definitely at the top of the list! You should see the progress she's made with this challenge - Jane would surely be proud!

Hope you enjoy your Sunday. Where will your reading take you?

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth Von Arnim
New York Review of Books, 2007
(originally published 1922)
247 pages

Molly's Summer Vacation Reading Challenge is in its final days, but I am still lingering over my first review! How can I convey what a delightful story this is?

It all begins with this ad in the newspaper:

To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small mediaevial Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.

Mrs. Wilkins spots it first. "She was the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible; her face was non-arresting; her conversation was reluctant; she was shy. And if one's clothes and face and conversation are all negligible, thought Mrs. Wilkins, who recognised her disabilities, what, at parties, is there left of one?" (page 5)

Across the room at the club, she spies Mrs. Arbuthnot looking dreamily at the same ad. Mrs. Wilkins has noticed this woman at church "marshalling the children of the poor into pews", but the two have never spoken. Mrs. Arbuthnot's face, as usual, "was the face of a patient and disappointed Madonna."

Mrs Arbuthnot has, indeed, been disappointed in life. She "didn't dare think of him [her husband] as he used to be...Her child had died; she had nothing, nobody of her own to lavish herself on. The poor became her children, and God the object of her love. What could be happier than such a life, she sometimes asked herself; but her face, particularly her eyes, continued sad." (page 26)

Mrs. Wilkins decides to approach Mrs. Arbuthnot. After much discussion, the two agree to pool their resources and pursue the dream. They advertise for additional companions to share expenses. With just two responses, their choice is made. First is the elderly Mrs. Fisher, who lives primarily in the past, and then Lady Caroline (aka Scrap), a beautiful socialite trying to escape demands which arise from being wealthy, young, and single. All four women, each in her own way, seek some sort of solitude and healing.

Upon arriving at the castle, the women jockey for position - the best bedrooms, sitting rooms, seat at the dinner table, private outdoor space, etc. Personalities clash and pettiness abounds. But soon, Italy begins to work her magic. Mrs. Wilkins notices it immediately:

"All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword." (page 55)

The reader, again and again, is treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of the Italian countryside.

"And meanwhile the beautiful golden days were dropping gently from the second week one by one, equal in beauty with those of the first, and the scent of beanfields in flower on the hillside behind the village came across to San Salvatore whenever the air moved. In the garden that second week the poet's eyed narcissus disappeared out of the long grass at the edge of the zigzag path, and the wild gladiolus, slender and rose-coloured, came in their stead, white pinks bloomed in the borders, filling the whole place with their smoky-sweet smell, and a bush nobody had noticed burst into glory and fragrance, and it was a purple lilac bush." (page 185)

Barriers and defenses begin to fade, and each woman is awakened to new thoughts and attitudes, that can only lead to a happier existence. Italy holds some surprises for each of them.

After reading The Enchanted April, I felt like I'd experienced a little bit of Italy's magic, too. In fact, this trip was so enjoyable, I decided to stay in Italy for the entire challenge. If you long for a trip to Italy, but it's not in your budget at the moment, this book may be the next best thing. I highly recommend The Enchanted April!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Let's Get Serious

Today's question:
What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your most serious boook ever, because, well, it’s recent!)

My answer:

As most of you know, my reading this summer has been anything but serious. I've been on an extended trip to Italy with The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi, and most recently Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (my current read). I've had to go back a couple months to find a 'serious' book, but this is the most recent.

by Cynthia Ozick

The book consists of a very short story, entitled The Shawl, about a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp whose baby is killed by the German soldiers. It is followed by a novella, Rosa, showing the same woman's life some thirty years later in Miami.

While the story is harsh and brutal, it is tempered somewhat by the novella...which even offers a hint of hope. I reviewed it in sections for Short Story Monday. The Shawl can be found here, and this link will take you to Rosa. Ozick's prose is crisp and clear. Her novel Heir to the Glimmering World in on my tbr pile.

Visit today's Booking Through Thursday to see more serious reads, and leave a link to your answer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - August 4

An 11th hour Teaser Tuesday:

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Here's how it works:
-grab your current read
-open to a random page
-share two teaser sentences from somewhere on the page (avoid spoilers!)
-be sure to include the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their tbr list if they like your teaser
-leave a comment with your link at Should Be Reading

"He felt a sudden, strange expansion of his inner space, a rambling unrest, a youthful thirst for faraway places, a feeling so intense, so new - or rather so long unused, and forgotten - that he stood rooted to the spot, his hands behind his back and his gaze to the ground, pondering the essence and direction of his emotion. It was wanderlust and nothing more, but it was an overwhelming wanderlust that rose to a passion and even to a delusion." (page 5)

by Thomas Mann
My Italian adventure continues...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

TSS : A Confession

Good morning! For today's Sunday Salon, I have a confession to make: I have not been reading this week. The only thing I've finished is a single short story from the T.C. Boyle collection I got at the library sale last weekend.

Nor have I been writing reviews. Remember my 'virtual vacation' to Italy? I've still got reviews to write for both The Enchanted April and A Thousand Days in Venice. Plus, I want to read Death in Venice before I leave.

So, what have I been doing this week? I joined Facebook. I've been talking to high school friends I haven't seen in nearly thirty years, catching up with my best friend from 5th grade (we moved away at the end of the school year), and even exchanging notes with the guy that dumped me for my roommate back in college (he regretted it within a couple weeks, and I still have the poetry he wrote afterwards to prove it!).

I seem to be one of the last people on Facebook. In fact, I've been actively resisting it for years. But finally, I caved under pressure and enlisted the help of my kids to get started. They assure me the luster and newness will fade quickly, and normal life will resume. That's happening already, but it has been a fun week.

To keep this somewhat book related... have you seen Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 3? After Dark by Haruki Murakami is the book I have chosen to read. Japanese Literature is a totally new area for me, and I'm really looking forward to this experience.

There are also two awards to mention. Matt from A Guy's Moleskin Notebook has given me the Kreativ Blogger award. I follow Matt's blog very closely. Our taste is so similar, that if he gives a thumbs up, the book goes directly to my wish list (or shopping cart). Take a look at his post - I'm thrilled to be listed with the other talented bloggers he has chosen!

Reagan from Miss Remmers' Review has given me the Blog Friends award for (what else?) friendliness and commenting on her blog. Be sure to take a look over there, too. She has been busy posting a lot of reviews this week!

So, this week my goal is to refocus, get some reviews written, and READ! Do you have any goals for the week ahead?


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