I came to the realization this weekend that I am not necessarily in a reading slump. Instead, I am in a finishing slump. I have at least four books strewn around the house in various stages of completion and I find myself looking for something to start rather than finishing what I have. Hopefully further breakthroughs will happen and I can get back to the joy of reading. I spent a lot of time this weekend looking at blogs from the Literary Blog Hop. While I like entering the giveaways, what I appreciate most about the blog hop is seeing what other people read and value about books. Several of the bloggers were offering books I have read and enjoyed. A few showed me some new books that definitely caught my interest and there are at least a few blogs that I will be visiting again. Here is what caught my interest this week:
Sam Still Reading is an Australian Blog and the book she is giving away is Villain by Shuichi Yoshida. A young insurance saleswoman is murdered at Mitsuse Pass in Southern Japan. The novel, the first of Yoshida to be translated into English, is part thriller and part cultural study into the loneliness and isolation of Japanese young adults. The more I read about the author and the book, the more I want to read it. Hopefully I will win the giveaway – if not I hope the novel isn’t too hard to find.
I found two books for my list at Cat’s blog, Tell Me a Story, and they couldn’t be more different. The first is a thriller, Black Flowers by Steve Mosby. Who could resist a mystery that is advertized as, “This is not a story of a girl who disappears. This is a story of a little girl who comes back. And this return has ripples years and years later moving between three time periods and multiple narratives. The second is a quieter novel, Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop, and it explores, in the words of Hilary Mantel, ” where and how we choose to draw the line between innocence and guilt, ignorance and complicity.” Mantel goes on to state, “Obedience also asks us to consider what ghastly harm is committed in the name of love. It”s rare to find a book that is seemingly so simple, but is really ambiguous and thought-provoking.” In present day France, 93 year-old Sister Bernhard is leaving her closing convent with her two remaining fellow sisters. As they wait, they reflect on the past and Sister Bernhard thinks back to the war when, in an eagerness for love, she commits an act that has devastating consequences for everyone around her.
I must confess I have a fondness for end of the world scenarios. It all started with reading Neville Shute’s On the Beach in high school (I had bad dreams for weeks) and of course many re-readings of Stephan King’s The Stand. Last night I was able to combine this love with my fondness for bad TV watching Ice Age 2012 (which stands very high on the list for world’s worse movies). And today Gavin of Page247 gives me a book of short stories to read, After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh. The reasons for apocalypse in this collection are varied: bird flu, computers gone a muck, dirty bombs, problems with food supply. All of which are quite plausible which makes it all the more scary. Gavin write, “These stories are about how American people cope, or fail to cope. Simple, spare and devastating, sometimes even funny, they are filled with the unexpected and completely mundane. These things could really happen, maybe even have happened.” Fortunately this one is on the shelf of the local library and I plan on picking it up on Tuesday.
On a lighter note, Danielle from A Work in Progress showcases a memoir highlighting a love of Paris, New York, and all things sweet. Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas sounds like one of the best food memoirs since Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone. Amy leaves Manhattan to take a job in Paris with Louis Vuitton. During her time there she explores all the sweet things the city has to offer and struggles with being torn between two great cities. I have long wanted to visit New York and I hope to see Paris next year when youngest is in Austria. Since I love to make desserts, this sounds like a perfect light hearted read.
Finally, when two of my favorite book bloggers love a book, I take notice. Jenny of Shelf Love writes:
…the overarching new story, of healing and change, is deeply powerful, and it’s so beautifully and sparely written that it almost comes as a surprise to find out how tense it is…”
And, from Eva of a Striped Armchair:
…then I picked it up, and found it was one of Those Books; the ones that I’ll always remember exactly how I was sitting as I began to read, and how I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and the mix of desire to turn the pages ever faster to find out what was going to happen next with the desire to slow down and reread every sentence because they were all so wonderful. One of Those Books that feel like sheer perfection, and that have me internally exulting: “This is why I read!”,
it immediately hits my radar. Then I come to find that the original recommendation comes from Gavin of Page247 and I am already sold. This is an unusual novel, tense, and at times angry, but it seems to be well worth the effort to read. Sherman Alexie calls it, “Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature. It is one of the greatest novels of any time and place.” Tayo, a Laguna Pueblo Indian, returns from WWII, the Bataan Death March, and interment by the Japanese, as a damaged man who doesn’t quite fit seamlessly into the pueblo life. A medicine man talks to him about the power of stories, and the importance of being able to change our stories. He tells Tayo that the old rituals are not working for him because those rituals haven’t changed with the times. These are themes I grew up with (it is nice to have a mom who is a Jungian) so I am incredibly drawn to this book. I will leave you with a quote from the second page of the book as it seems so fitting for a weekend filled with bookish thoughts. Happy reading.
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
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