Friday, July 24, 2015

Finally Reading a Classic This Year

Just as I was about to dig in to another suspense thriller, I was overcome with a hankering for an English classic. My fingers immediately pried the Penguin edition of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from an overstuffed shelf in my treasured bedroom floor-to-ceiling bookcase. I climbed into bed and dug in on a late coolish summer evening, with owls calling all around me. Perfect atmosphere. I was hooked by page 8.

The print is so small, though. The book is 485 pages, so I guess they needed to do that. My eyes are straining, but I can make it. Already, at page 37, I'm bemoaning that soon I will have read both of Anne Bronte's books. Such a spell it casts.

Are you or have you been involved in a classic read this summer. Do tell!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some Good Books in 2015: Part I

Currently enjoying The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble. I'm almost positive that JoAnn at Lakeside Musing blogged about this book in the past 2-5 months or so. It's been on my mind ever since. I'm more than halfway through...  I do get a kick out of Drabble, always have. This one is no exception! Recommended.

Some exceptionally good books have tracked me down this year. I have had very little time to browse in libraries or shop or cruise online, but I've managed to find some greats.

The best book of 2015 so far for me has been: Black House, the first book of The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May. (It's in my 2015 blogroll.) This book was much more than mere "crime fiction." The Isle of Lewis is its own character. And the pinnacles of rocks, in the middle of the ocean, to the northwest, where men and special older boys go for a bird hunt annually, is portrayed so realistically, so unfathomably well, that I don't need to visit the Hebrides, or the Isle of Lewis. I was so immersed. The plot was unstoppable, twisting and turning and developing, I was in awe. The characters were portrayed with a keen, psychologically astute insight. You'll notice I've awarded it 5 stars. Very, very impressive. Have you read anything by Peter May?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Trying Hard to Be Back Again

This will be a very brief, modest post. Although this year has seen me hectic and busy virtually all the time, I will say my usual, "Thank goodness for books, thank goodness for the reading habit," which has made it possible for me to endure the tempest. As I stated in a post earlier this year, I am undergoing a career change, and as much as I'm welcoming it, the switch has not allowed me time to do anything but study and prepare. Enough of that for today.

Believe it or not, I've never read Maisie Dobbs, nor a single one of Jacqueline Winspear's series or her other WWI novel published last year (2014). Just this afternoon, after eight hours of work, I relaxed with the very first in the series, entitled Maisie Dobbs, and almost couldn't stop reading. It's a surprise to me I've never read one, but when I think of all the books in the world I've read since its publication in 2003, I understand. Maureen Corrigan, the premier book reviewer for National Public Radio, had this to say upon the publication of the tenth anniversary edition of the original Maisie Dobbs.

My birthday in early June brought with it a Kindle Fire to add to my Nook HD. The Fire may seem superfluous, but it comes with lots of Amazon Prime goodies and incredible Amazon music possibilities (!), which made the $99 for the Fire too hard to pass up. I still love the Nook, but Kindle Fire has its uses, so I'm using both. It has come to the point where I begrudge the public library's loan periods and fines. I'm such a mood reader, always have been, that with e-books, many of which I can get very, very inexpensively, it only makes sense to read e-books. I never thought I'd hear myself say it, but it's becoming increasingly true that I only want e-books. The prime exceptions to this new rule are dense historical works with footnotes and bibliographies, dense historical novels, and science non-fiction.

I hope to be catching up with all of you soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Year of Reading...Very, Very Badly

After a horrendously long hiatus, I hope to blog a post in the next few days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January Reading 2015

This January my mind has been so full of financial decisions and resultant career maneuvering that I have not had the energy to blog at all.

I'm so sorry to say that I have not been able to host a Russian Literature Month this January, as I'm certain all readers must be aware by now. I still want to host it, but the month and opportunity are not on the horizon for now. Thanks for understanding, and I regret the false advertisement!

So what have I been reading?
I recently finished Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, the very first title in Cornwell's Anglo-Saxon/Viking series. I did enjoy the time period and the history, and I really liked the character Uhtred, son of Uhtred, but I had less appreciation for the frequent battle scenes, at least not as much as others might. But I must say that the novel has enhanced my interest in the Viking-period in English history. I want to know more! Bernard Cornwell's latest novel in this series (#8, I believe) has just been published in the U.S.--The Empty Throne.

The Girl on the Train! Yes, I have succumbed to all the hype, and the novel is indeed a page-turner which will appeal to readers deprived of sunlight and thrills. I set aside the hour from 4pm-5pm with reading for fun, and this one has made the hour whiz by.







Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Reads for Your December Escape

December brings my energy to its lowest ebb of the year. But I love December! I love the long, dark nights and the dim light that creeps in by mid-afternoon. I thrill to the sun that borders the horizon. I only want to read and reflect, though there is much more that I must do.

Light reads are so comforting during this time. This is when I indulge in Christmas novels and stories. As you can see from my "Books Read in 2014" list, I have enjoyed Anne Perry's 2014 annual Christmas mystery novel, A New York Christmas. It was a quick read, fun, and yes--go for it--frivolous. I thought it was more interesting than last year's Christmas offering. I didn't know until last month that Anne Perry spends most of the year living in Scotland, though she was not born a Scot.

I then devoured Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron, one in a series of Jane Austen mysteries. Generally speaking, I don't like to read contemporary novelists' fictionalized accounts of long-ago authors, but I did enjoy this one. The first five chapters were stellar, but I thought the middle sagged. But, notice, this fact did not stop me from finishing and enjoying.

I must confess I felt sad when I came to the last page of Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. A young woman wunderkind in the New York advertising biz travels to the Snow Crystal Resort in what seems to be northern Vermont. There she hopes to escape her horrid Christmas history and sink her teeth into getting a sinking winter and summer resort back on its feet. Although she's successfully protected herself from relationships for years, she surrenders to Jackson O'Neil, the grandson attempting to save the resort. This is HOT contemporary romance. Note! Just one hot pepper. Morgan's incredible talent lies squarely in the niche of creating incredibly moving, loving, sexual scenes. I admit I succumbed, but only because it was plain old HOT contemporary romance, minus the extreme graphics of SUPER-HOT romance. I heartily recommend this novel for the author's skill in crafting such scenes. Very, very well done. Also, I loved the warm extended family that made up the O'Neil clan. Yes, certain themes were overly repetitive. But just scan and flip the pages.

Right now I'm halfway through Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter, her second novel, which is set in England during the mid-late 1870s. Goodwin is an English author, and is extremely popular in the US. Her first novel was The American Heiress, which I haven't read yet. But I must say that the pages fly by for me in The Fortune Hunter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Only One Day Left in German Literature Month!

Our weather swiftly nose-dived into deep winter around the 15th of November. And how busy we were all of a sudden: prepping the car and truck, clearing snowshoe trails of debris left from early November's rain and windstorms, prepping the snowblower, searching for and hastily unpacking and washing all winter clothing and gear--not to mention the taxing physical adjustment from moist, warm temps to extremely cold temperatures. Unusual cold for November, truly! And our oil burner is not working up to snuff and needs replacement.

Don't get me wrong; I adore winter. But my muscles go haywire when the temperature changes are abrupt and deep.

I'm saying all of this as a moan and groan that my participation in German Literature Month fell far short of my hopes. Less time to read, and in a busy teaching month, that's a significant, and a to-be-mourned over lack.

I'm still trying to finish a book that's due for comments by tomorrow: Flight without End by Joseph Roth. I still have 90 pages to go--sigh! But I'm enjoying it immensely. I need to conduct more research into Roth's life and check into his other novels. This novel is extremely interesting, and I've also found the protagonist's involvement with the civil wars in Russia following the Russian Revolution fascinating.

I have also not finished Julia Franck's West, much to my horrified dismay. The novel is deeply compelling, but I just haven't had the time to devote serious attention to it past the first three chapters. My loss! But I'll be catching up with everything left unfinished in the next month or two.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving Day, we received a foot of snow on top of the few inches we've already accumulated. Time to get out in the snow before climate change or a warm-up ruins it. So Saturday's photo of cross-country skiing with friends at Garnet Hill is here. I'm the big one on the right of the photo.






Friday, November 21, 2014

Young Light by Ralf Rothmann & Julia Franck's West

We abruptly have been submerged into the deep freeze, though it's been colder than normal all November. We are due next week for a very brief warm-up, but it's been super-deep winter around here. I love winter, but my body's muscles go through hell in the transition from warmish fall to frigid temperatures, and hence, my inability to post frequently.

I very much appreciated reading Young Light by the German writer Ralf Rothmann, born in 1953. It's the story of Julian, age 12, whose family resides in the most prominent coal-mining region of West Germany in the 1960s. Rather than a standard novel, the book is more a fascinating, episodic collection of Julian's experiences, in which he plays a constantly ambiguous role between childhood and adolescence. His father is a miner, and is exceedingly uncommunicative with his son. His mother shows no affection for him and literally takes off with his younger sister without a backward glance for most of the summer, so that Julian is left to figure out many puzzling events and feelings for himself. His family is very poor, it seems to me, as evidenced by the constantly empty larder. Julian is very lucky, it seems, when there's a bit of sausage in the house to eat. He is clearly on his own and his father is functioning minimally. Still, there is much to delight in--Rothmann's vividly descriptive scenes bring alive this mining village and its people, unlike any other I've read about before.

The Book Depository was very, very late in sending me my copy of West by Julia Franck. I ordered on October 31st, and I didn't receive it until Tuesday, November 18th, much, much longer than they promised it. I will complain to them about the false advertising.

In any case, I'll admit I was completely shocked by the abhorrent treatment Ms. Senff receives in the first section of the book! In the 1980s the Stasi were that horrific? I'm only confessing my total ignorance here, forgive me, but the Secret Police have nothing on her and they force her to remove all her clothing after an initial interrogation after she attempts to legally leave East Berlin for West Berlin. Surrounded by men, they each fire questions at her while her young children are held in another area. I have read books about this period in East Germany, I've seen films that are set in the 1980s in East Germany, but nothing prepared me for that. Of course, Ms. Senff is Jewish... What the???  

It is my downcast mood, which I suffer from at the darkest times of the year, which makes the reading of this novel all the harder. But it is extraordinarily well done, I think. I just hope I can stay with it!





Monday, November 10, 2014

German Lit and Henning Mankell An Event in Autumn

I finished Christine Nöstlinger's children's book Fly Away Home days ago, and then I immediately started in on my second German Literature Month read, Rolf Rathmann's, Young Light, a YA novel set during the 1960s. The only problem with the Rathmann novel is that I wish I knew in which part of Germany the novel is set. Because several characters have access to music by the Beatles, I would assume that I can narrow the setting down to West Germany.

I truly enjoyed Fly Away Home and the uproariously topsy-turvy world of Vienna and environs at war's end and immediately post-war. Although many in Germany and in other parts of the former  Reich experienced extreme brutality by the invading Russians, it seems that Nöstlinger and her family were spared that. Although the Russians in their midst appeared grossly foreign to Nöstlinger and her parents, the Russians were, for all that, harmless and worked to coexist harmoniously with the vanquished Austrians.

In fact, the author, a child of eight, and her family became very fond of some of the Russians occupying their adopted abode and immediate neighborhood. The author's father, a German army deserter by the final weeks of the war, drank with the Russians each evening into the night. Christine, the author, developed a powerful bond with the Russian cook from Leningrad, a gentle, kindly man, and the two swapped whoppers day by day, by the hour. The book is full of stories that detail the harsh privations the Austrians experienced, but it is equally full of the spirit and gumption of the survivors to overcome anything that threatened their existence. An excellent book, really, and not one I'll soon forget.

Henning Mankell's An Event in Autumn is (or was) a story (some might deem it a novella) written for and published for a Dutch audience as a sort of bonus for other book purchases. In the Kurt Wallendar canon, the story takes place immediately before the final Wallendar novel, The Troubled Man, which I realize I now must read. An Event in Autumn is a spare, simple novel of what happens when Wallendar visits Martinson's family's cottage in the country with the intent to perhaps purchase it. Wallendar naturally finds skeletal remains in the garden, and off it goes. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I must warn readers that it is nowhere near as complex as other Wallendar novels, though it is an enjoyable novella nonetheless. I actually found I appreciated the lack of complexity! That's my mind these days. It's a quick, quick read, so do pick it up if you have the inclination.