A Change of Pace

Sasha: My Winter Adventurer

Monday, April 21, 2014

Do Read The Lie, If It's on Your 2014 List!

I loved the experience of reading The Lie by Helen Dunmore. (Please see my previous entry for the book cover, links, and other comments.) I've heard comments from people who have not liked the ending, but I can sweep the ending aside, because it was only a few lines long and not the point of the book, not at all! But, you folks are right, I would've completed this novel in a different way, and I like to think of that ending so much that I can forget the few words about the real ending.

But I implore you not to cross this book off your list, solely because of the ending. I think it's exquisitely written, sensitive, incredibly "subtle," as one reviewer noted, and well worth the time spent. I liked it nearly as much as her previous novel, The Greatcoat, which is high praise from me, because it was one of my top reads of 2013.

Where do I head next?
I'm working on the gothic I mentioned a couple of weeks ago--The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. I'm reading it on the Nook and must say that it is very well done. Set on the wild, windy shores of Lake Superior in the U.S.  Marvelous setting and plot!

And I'm continuing to be enthralled by books revealing 17th-century colonial New England. This is my first time examining this period of time, and it is so fascinating. I'm particularly interested in the cataclysmic event of that century, King Philip's War, the Indian war that killed more English colonists (percentage-wise in terms of population) than Americans in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II). Furthermore, this war, sadly, decimated the Native American population in New England. To think I studied American history in junior high school, high school, and college and never heard it mentioned. What a heinous omission.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Helen Dunmore's The Lie was waiting for me at the library much sooner than I expected. And the book is due on April 23rd with no renewals! I would so like to read it and finish it, if not by the 23rd then soon after. But I've been overwhelmed by more projects--writing jobs, leading many nature hikes at Garnet Hill in April and May that involve research and scouting beforehand, and preparations for my Children's Lit summer class that begins May 19.

Back to the book: The Lie, as many UK readers already know, is set in France in the First World War and in England afterward. It has received excellent reviews. I so loved Dunmore's The Greatcoat, which I read last summer, that I'm very eager to read this book. I can't believe the vast number of books published this year about World War I. At my library, there's an entire six-foot-long bookshelf dedicated to new nonfiction focused on this war. If I were an historian and expert on this war, I would not want to publish a book in 2014. All these titles are getting lost in the crowd.  I feel so badly for the authors, who've put so many years of work and research into them. Have you read any of the nonfiction that you would recommend, or do you know of any that have been highly recommended?

What about other fiction focusing on the First World War? Do you know of any or have you read any to be published this year? And of course, there are the reissues of older titles.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Truly Gothic Reads Heating Up and a Bit of Nonfiction

The traditional gothic is gaining in strength and numbers, I've observed. As I've mentioned before, Victoria Holt's Mistress of Mellyn, which I read as a high school sophomore, was my introduction to modern gothic and that was in 1968. Little did I know then that "gothic suspense" and "gothic romance" were on their way OUT. It was too bad, because after a few more Victoria Holts, some Joan Aikens, and Mary Stewarts, I was certain I wanted to write one myself. But that was in my immature years, and when I finally had the wherewithal to actually apply myself to writing one, the genre was dead and gone.

So my latest contemporary gothic read is The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. I adore the cover, and it's all too possible that I've shown it to you before. All the same, I'm thoroughly enjoying the book on my Nook. It's a very satisfying read for a modern gothic nut.

Wendy Webb wrote an interesting post on her publisher's blog last year concerning her gothic-novel writing.

Nonfiction: I'm whizzing through HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I managed to borrow this from the library and that's why I'm zipping through it. It's about Clinton's transformation from New York State senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate running against Obama to a position that she never saw herself filling: U.S. Secretary of State. Yes, there's political intrigue, here, but lots of detail of her management of the State Department and all the crises that arose during Obama's first term. Love her or hate her, it doesn't matter, this is a very, very interesting book. I'm learning lots about the State Department and the U.S. handling of foreign affairs, and ok, a little about political dynasties.

I'm also reading lots of books about 17th-century New England, but I won't bore you with that!!

We still have lots of snow, but this week we'll have temps in the 50s all week. I went on a snowshoe trip today with Sasha, but our days as winter adventurers could be counted on one hand.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Going Back to Reading

Just the briefest of posts to say that I've finished two projects that have kept me from reading: one was a writing project and the other an editing job. I'm returning to reading immediately, but to which book I'm not definite--hence, the abbreviated post. I'd like to read one of my TBRs, but I have more than $60 in Barnes and Noble credit to divert me. Now that is exciting! I'd like a fun, frivolous read to start.

Spring is trying to approach, but temps will fall to 22 degrees tonight, then up to the 40s tomorrow, a bit on the cold side for April, but not unheard of. We hope we stay in the 40s and low 50s for a while so that all the snow can melt gracefully. Also praying for no big storms. We've had huge snowstorms in April. I will return soon with something much more substantial, I hope.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dealing with Utter Blog Neglect and The Ivy Tree

In truth, what I'm dealing with is what I'm hoping will be a temporary divergence from reading for pleasure. I do read before bed for about a half hour, but that's nothing compared to my January and February reading.

 I became immersed in several projects this month, during this so very long month of waiting for spring in the North Country, where we have continued to have near zero and zero nighttime temperatures. But the sun! The glorious sun warms the house in the afternoons. This weekend and next week we will be boasting about temperatures in the 40s. I pray we don't become too warm too soon, so that we can have our multi-feet of snow melt gracefully.

I'm nearing the end of The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. I was perplexed with the characters at first, and I'm still at sea with Mary Grey who is posing as Annabel Winslow, one of the likely heirs to Whitescar in Northumberland. It is summer there now, which is lovely. I am enjoying it, though I have been scratching my head over all the characters who remain elusive, even at this late point of the novel. There's Con, the cousin, who is determined to inherit the estate,  his sister Lisa the housekeeper, Adam Forrest on the neighboring estate, Lisa (Annabel's cousin and another likely inheritor), and Mary Grey herself posing as Annabel. Who is Mary Grey, anyway? Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Yes, I recommend it wholeheartedly, though you'll be perplexed the entire time!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reading Upheaval and Flynn's Sharp Objects

When you pick up a novel and the back cover includes a lengthy blurb from Stephen King, explaining how terrifying the book was for him, you know you have a horror novel in your hands. I did not even see the quote until I was more than halfway through the book, because I was reading so compulsively. Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects is very accomplished and extremely well-done, a much finer novel than Gone Girls, to my mind. The horror toward the end--well, yes, it gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I was prepared. Mind, I can't even get near the third chapter of a Stephen King novel, so Sharp Objects was definitely not a Kingish or Kingian-Horror type of novel. Just good ol' family horror and very well done. Please refer to my previous post as well. Do note: I don't read horror, but I could so appreciate Flynn's considerable skills--character development, strong plot, well-handled setting. Yes, I recommend it, without doubt. If you tend to be a squeamish reader, though, I would recommend reading a detailed synopsis before trying it.

March Priorities and Reading Upheaval:
I am most certainly reading March, the Civil War novel by Geraldine Brooks for Caroline's month of March Literature and War Readalong  I must post my thoughts by March 31. Geraldine Brooks's The People of the Book is a peak favorite of mine. So incredibly well done. I adored it. So I have high hopes for March, which won??? Was it a Pulitzer or the National Book Award? It won something big.

My reading upheaval is that I've catapulted myself into a children's book writing project, so I'm spending lots of time reading children's books. No question about it: This cuts into my adult book reading time, but carry on with grown-up books I will! Currently I'm reading The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. The novel feels strange to me, 70 pages in, because I don't find any of the main characters likeable, including the protagonist, Mary Grey. Yet what I'm noticing is that I'm becoming more interested in her as the pages fly by.

We were dumped with 18 inches of snow and frigid temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday. The snow will extend the winter sports season, which is fine with me, but near zero temperatures are not welcome.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Wind is Not a River (Great Read!)

I so appreciated the research and painstaking care that Canadian writer Brian Payton put into his 2014 debut novel, The Wind is Not a River. As I mentioned in a previous post, John Easley is a journalist who fakes his way into the World War II combat zone in the Aleutian Islands in order to inform Americans about a brutal North Pacific war they know absolutely nothing about. When the combat plane he's on is gunned down and crashess into the ocean, John is the sole survivor who floats ashore onto one of the Japanese-occupied Aleutians. His incredible struggle to survive on a wintry, barren North Pacific island in the midst of thousands of occupying Japanese is interlaced with the struggles of his wife in Seattle to find him and bring him home. The writing is near-perfect, the characterizations full of deep emotion--exquisite! I highly recommend this book. Payton casts a spell.

I've nearly finished Gillian Flynn's debut novel Sharp Objects and will report on it soon. I don't have far to go now, and it's easy to see why Stephen King had so much admiration for this novel. (!) I can honestly say that I have found it difficult to put it down, yet the Kingsian elements are making me hope I make it through to the end in an intact emotional state! Gads. While I'll agree that Gone Girl had some great surprises, I believe that Sharp Objects is a better novel from the point of view of the characterization of Camille, the protagonist, and the incredibly tight infrastructure of the plot. Gone Girl has some supreme plot points. But if a new novelist is to be published, he or she must  have a flawlessly tight plot, excellent pacing, and high drama. And that's Sharp Objects. Yes, Gone Girl has been on the bestseller list since forever, but super-hyped great surprises sell more books than better debut novels.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Nicola Upson Temporary Disappointment, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, & Progress

Oh, drat!
I don't know what's wrong with me, but, for the time being, I have had to set aside Nicola Upson's Fear in the Sunlight, after reading all the way to page 75! How discouraging! For some unknown reason, I'm not able or my brain is simply not willing to deal with the complexities of all the characters that populate what I'm sure is an excellent murder mystery. I have no doubt it's exemplary; I'm just very disappointed that the huge cast, each member with his or her accompanying emotional baggage, was driving me to distraction. I hope I feel in the mood again soon! This was to be another TBR read. I bought the book last spring when it was first published. To be continued...I hope!

So, I've started reading another TBR, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, which is to be my crime novel/murder mystery read of the moment. This novel, published years before Gone Girl, seems to be rather grim, with young girls being slaughtered in a southern Missouri backwater town by a serial killer. I'm continuing reading because fortunately there are far fewer characters and I can keep a grip on the plot. The young female journalist is a steadying presence, although she has mental health issues that date from way back. Intriguing.

I'm continuing to be fascinated by The Secret Rooms and I'm nearly finished with the exquisite The Wind is Not a River, which has been a rewarding read. More on this later. Please do consider Nicola Upson, I do think she is a great writer.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Speed Reading May Be Necessary: Brian Payton's The Wind is Not a River

Today I picked up two books that came up for me at the library and they're due in two weeks because other readers are waiting. I know I can read a book a week, but it makes me nervous, as in the days when I had a publisher's deadline. Anyway, I'm very much interested in both books. First is the Canadian writer Brian Payton's The Wind Is Not a River, a WWII historical novel set in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. The Aleutian Island wilderness fascinates me, and, of course the Japanese were dead-set on occupying the Aleutians, so off I go. But it's not just about soldiers--it's about a war reporter and his struggle to survive, and the life of the wife he leaves behind in Seattle.

Brian Payton also wrote another book that's right up my alley: Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness, which received a number of awards, including the National Outdoor Book Awards Book of the Year.