Archive for June, 2012

Giveaway Winner

Thanks for visiting and commenting during the Literary Blog Hop and Giveaway. You have talked about some favorite books and some new ones. I hope to do a special “Caught My Interest” from your comments. The winner of the giveaway is Stephanie (@dreamindream)

“I would pick something off my huge wishlist – maybe 1Q84. It seems like a really interesting book. Thanks for the giveaway!”

Stephanie – I am sending you an email for your address. If I don’t hear back by 10:00 pm July fourth, I will choose another winner.

On an unrelated note, Lucy, my laptop, is a very unhappy compter. It may effect my postings as I will not be home until Sunday at which time I hope that Himself will be able to fix her.



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Words for Wednesday

From The River Warren by Kent Meyers

You have seen how a semi looks coming over a hill. Like it’s coming out of the earth, some chrome, and smoky bug emerging. There it was then, flat and big, the sun all of a sudden whambright on the windshield. And I stopped walking. He came over the hill, and the diesel smoke kept right on pouring out of the stacks. Kept right on pouring. I stood there and thought, What the hell? What the hell? It was one of those things where you can’t even name what’s wrong, but your whole body knows it is. I didn’t put it together like two plus two equals four, but more like the answer came first, four equals two plus two, except the answer didn’t make any sense, and the equation could have been a lot of other things, like three plus one, or two and thirteen-sixteenths plus whatever. New corn was growing in the fields, and a meadowlark sang on a fence post, and that diesel smoke went straight up into the sky, and I knew what was going to happen before I quite had the reasons I knew why.

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Train Dreams

Many nights they heard the northbound Spokane International train as it passed through Meadow Creek, two miles down the valley. Tonight the distant whistle woke him, and he found himself alone in the straw bed.

Gladys was up with Katie, sitting on the bench by the stove, scraping cold boiled oats off the sides of the pot and letting the baby suckle this porridge from the end of her finger.

“How much does she know, do you suppose, Gladys? As much as a dog-pup, do you suppose?”

“A dog-pup can live by its own after the bitch weans it away,” Gladys said.

He waited for her to explain what this meant. She often thought ahead of him.

“A man-child couldn’t do it that way,” she said, “just go off and live after it was weaned. A dog knows more than a babe until the babe knows its words. But not just a few words. A dog raised around the house knows some words, too – as many as a baby.”

“How many words, Gladys?”

“You know,” she said, “the words for its tricks and the things you tell it to do.”

“Just say some of the words, Glad.” It was dark, and he wanted to keep hearing her voice.

“Well, fetch, and come, and sit and lay, and roll over. Whatever it knows to do, it knows the words.”

In the dark he felt his daughter’s eyes turned on him like a cornered brute’s. It was only his thoughts tricking him, but it poured something cold down his spine. He shuddered and pulled the quilt up to his neck.

All his life Robert Grainier was able to recall this very moment on this very night. (pg. 8-9)

Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson was one of three finalists which was declined by the 2012 Pulitzer Jury with the other two being Swamplandia and The Pale King. Evidently the jury could not reach a majority vote on any of the three hence no Fiction Pulitzer was awarded for  the year.  I picked it up at the library on a whim to see at least what some of the fuss was about.

Robert Grainer is a day laborer working on the railroad or in a logging camp in the early 1900’s. He came to the Northwest as a youth, an orphan placed on a train west to make his way as best he could to an aunt and uncle in Idaho. Robert eventually marries and has a baby daughter. He and is family homestead in an isolated valley north of Sandpoint, Idaho. Robert spends his time away to earn a living, traveling back to his family on a train. Robert loses his family, goes a little crazy, recovers, and lives the rest of his long life as himself – just as he is. All in ninety pages.

The book gives a history of the Northwest, of America, of technology in spare but evocative language centered around a loner, a hermit at times, who is just as spare in his language as the author is in his writing. Throughout his life, Grainer is troubled by an event he participated in – the attempted killing of a Chinese laboring to build the railway. The laborer escapes cursing as he flees. These curses haunt Grainer as surely as the train whistles he hears even in his sleep.

This book has a lot going for it that I love in books – it is spare and descriptive. It is more about character than plot. It touches upon the theme of memory and the theme of loneliness – both internal and external. It is set in the area of the country in which I live – many of the places mention I have been to or seen (in my case from a car window instead of a train). It is extremely well crafted with each word having a rightful place in the structure.

And yet, the book made me uncomfortable and I am not sure I liked it. I haven’t been able to figure out why. I don’t think it is gender based (i.e. this is a book more suited for men) because, for one thing, women have liked it. Ann Patchett says in her New York Times Op Ed about the Pulitzer indecision, ““I don’t think there is a sentence in that book that isn’t perfectly made…” And Kate Tuttle of Boston.Com (The Boston Globe) calls Train Dreams, “a meditative, often magical book.”

It is an intense book but I have liked intense books before. It is a violent book although more violent in spirit than deed. And I generally don’t have a problem with that. Each hint or act of violence fit seamlessly into the story line and was also balanced by touches of tenderness. The relationship between Grainer and his wife is particularly touching. Anthony Doerr speaks of Johnson’s ability to balance in his review in the NY Times writing, “The novella also accumulates power because Johnson is as skilled as ever at balancing menace against ecstasy, civilization against wilderness. His prose tiptoes a tightrope between peace and calamity, and beneath all of the novella’s best moments, Johnson runs twin strains of tenderness and the threat of violence.” Perhaps it was its starkness, Johnson has a way of stripping things to a bareness which goes beyond spare.

So after much reflection , I have come to the conclusion that I may not know why this isn’t my book. I can tell you that its positive attributes are clearly prevalent, attributes that I can appreciate and I am glad I read it. And while it didn’t suit me, I can recommend it. Perhaps the Pulitzer jury also had a similar ambivalence regarding the book…I haven’t read the other two selections so I cannot compare the three works together. Has anyone read all three or any? What is your opinion?


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If you are here for the blog hop, you can reach the giveaway post here, or just scroll down.

Another Sunday in Salem. My mom and I have had a busy week of lunches out, giggling, dealing with a family of voles that has moved into the neighborhood (which consists mainly shrieks and more giggling), eating fresh strawberries and trying to outdo each other with card games (and more giggling). I think having a mother to giggle with is one of the best things in the world. Last night we watched The English Patient which is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje. It was so, so good. I highly recommend the book as well. Not much reading this week as I spent most of my time on blog related things. I finally am using a blog reader and while it took a while to set up, it will greatly make my life easier. I also blog hopped and had a wonderful time reading different blogs.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

Fluer Fisher has given me another British Mystery writer to look at in her review of Elizabeth Ferrars’ Murder in Time (originally published in 1958). Ferrars was a prolific author writing 74 novels from 1932 and 1995, a fact I find amazing. Some of her novels are parts of series with the majority, like Murder in Time, stand alones. Murder in Time has a slight resemblance to Christie’s And Then There Were None, but Fluer says that there are some distinct differences as well. Basically in this work we have a murder, invitations to a mysterious house party in the country, and another murder. Sounds like pure classic fun.

A brief mention by Francis of Nonsuch Book sent me to investigate a writer I have never heard of, Enrique Vila-Matas, who is described as “one of the most prestigious and original writers in contemporary Spanish fiction”.  Francis is looking forward to reading Bartleby & Co. a novel which details the observations of a retired writer in a “series of footnotes of an invisible -unexistent- book”. Written in 2001, it is a tour of contemporary literature – an examination of why writers write and why writers don’t write. Reviews I have read call it “friendly”, and “wonderful”. Another review talks of all the notes he has jotted in the margins – this may be a book to own rather than a book to borrow.

Bibliosue reviews a book that sounds like a good beach read, Passing Love by Jacqueline Luckett. Nicole-Marie Handy loves all things French and is finally persuaded to visit Paris by her dying friend leaving behind her life including her married lover. A second story takes place in the 1950’s and features Ruby Mae, a young woman who flees the south for Paris with a saxophone player. Eventually these stories are connected giving us a look at identity, lost love, living your own life, and the sights, sounds, and joys of Paris.

After loving David Malouf’s beautiful book Ransom, I have been on the lookout for another book of his and may have found it in Fly Away Peter reviewed by Danielle of A Work in Progress. Set before and during WWI and focused on Jim Saddler, a young man of poor means, an observer, a birder who lives in rural Queensland, Australia. He is befriended by Ashley Crowther, an educated landowner and together they put together a reserve. Eventually the war intrudes and the story continues on the Western Front Danielle writes the book is, “a slim understated novel (really just a novella) about WWI that manages to convey much in few pages…” and adds, “There is a beauty and simplicity to the story, too, which might at first seem at odds in a war story, but it really works here.” This was my experience with Ransom and I am looking forward to reading this slim novel.

Finally Simon, of Stuck in a Book has a wonderful list of Booker Finalists that didn’t win. I am very interested in Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs (short listed in 1992). I haven’t heard of  this McEwan book and the subject intrigues me. Churchill refers to his depression as a black dog and in this novel, the black dogs appear during a couples honeymoon as well as symbolizing the evil in the world – images that resonate for me. The book describes a son-in-law’s attempt to understand his wife’s parents and their relationship by writing about them.  Both parents are intelligent but have different views on life – reflective versus rational, spiritual versus political and this leads to an estrangement in the marriage from almost the first moments.

Happy Reading.

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Welcome to the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop put together by the admirable Judith of Leeswammes Blog. I hope you enjoy hopping around and seeing the great giveaways and the even better blogs. With more than 60 blogs participating, you are sure to find something that will suit you.

I decided to do something different for this giveaway – rather than a book, I will be giving away a $25 gift certificate from my local independent book store – Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane, Washington. Aunties is the center of reading in Spokane featuring book lectures, book group support, an eclectic selection of new and used books, a great staff, and the best “buy a book” donation program at Christmas. Not to mention the old building that house Aunties including the absolutely beautiful staircase to the second floor. Now I know you all can’t actually come and visit Spokane (although it would be fun to have you), but the bookstore has assured me that you can purchase any book available in the United States through its website – http://www.auntiesbooks.com. This way I get to show a little support for independent book stores!

Aunties Bookstore
Photo Credit

The rules:

  1. Anyone can enter. You do not need to have a blog.
  2. You must include an email address so I can contact you
  3. In your comment please tell me which book you think you might order and why (I need more suggestions for my TBR list because over 200 books isn’t enough)
  4. You need a post-office recognized address, anywhere in the USA where you can receive a letter.
  5. You do not have to be a follower or become a follower, although if you like my blog I hope you will!
  6. You can enter the giveaways until Wednesday June 27th at 10:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.
  7. Note that double or invalid entries will be removed.
  8. I will notify the winners by email. The winners need to answer my email within 3 days, or I’ll announce a new winner.
  9. That’s it! Good luck and thanks for playing.

Again, just leave a comment to this post and tell me which book you are thinking of purchasing and why and include your e-mail address.

For more giveaways – start hoping using the list below.

EDITED TO ADD: It has come to my attention that some of the links below are not participating in the Giveaway. If you are hopping from my blog – please go to Leeswammes’ Blog for an updated list.

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Candle Beam Book Blog
  3. Musings of a Bookshop Girl
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Book Journey (US/CA)
  6. breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  7. bibliosue
  8. heavenali
  9. I Read That Once…
  10. The Parrish Lantern
  11. The Bibliomouse (Europe)
  12. Tell Me A Story
  13. Seaside Book Nook
  14. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  15. Sam Still Reading
  16. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  17. Readerbuzz
  18. Books Thoughts Adventures (North America)
  19. 2,606 Books and Counting
  20. Laurie Here (US/CA)
  21. Literary Winner (US)
  22. Dolce Bellezza
  23. The House of the Seven Tails
  24. The Book Diva’s Reads (US)
  25. Colorimetry
  26. Roof Beam Reader
  27. Kate’s Library
  28. Minding Spot (US)
  29. Silver’s Reviews (US)
  30. Book’d Out
  31. Fingers & Prose (US)
  32. Chocolate and Croissants
  33. Scattered Figments
  34. Lucybird’s Book Blog
  35. The Book Club Blog
  1. Lizzy’s Literary Life
  2. The Book Stop
  3. Reflections from the Hinterland (US)
  4. Lena Sledge’s Blog
  5. Read in a Single Sitting
  6. The Little Reader Library (UK)
  7. The Blue Bookcase (US)
  8. 1morechapter (US)
  9. The Reading and Life of a Bookworm
  10. Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  11. My Sweepstakes City (US)
  12. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  13. Exurbanis
  14. Sweeping Me (US/CA)
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Beauty Balm
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book (US/CA)
  19. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  20. Nose in a book (Europe)
  21. Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews (US)
  22. Giraffe Days
  23. Page Plucker
  24. Based on a True Story
  25. Read, Write & Live
  26. Devin Berglund (N. America)
  27. Ephemeral Digest
  28. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  29. Annette Berglund (US)
  30. Book Nympho
  31. A Book Crazy, Jane Austen Lovin’ Gal (US)
  32. Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

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Newly Published May

Newly Published looks a little different for May because five well-known authors published books in May, most of which have gotten a lot of press. I am looking to reading most of these books (I haven’t ever taken with Richard Ford’s work). Emily St. John Mandel is a favorite author of mine, John Irving’s new novel is said to be exceptional, Morrison’s book looks like a winner, and Peter Carey remains on the top of my must try list. Since these novels are getting a lot of attention, I will just list them with some links to reviews and then spend the majority of the post on other novels published in May.


The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel: S Krishna and Caribou’s Mom

In One Person by John Irving: Literate Housewife and Between the Covers

Home by Toni Morrison: Savidge Reads and Washington Post

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey: Kevin from Canada and Seeing the World through Books

Canada by Richard Ford: Booktopia and All the Books I Can Read


The Book of Summers, a debut novel by Emylia Hall: When Beth is nine years old she and her father leave her mother in Hungary and return home without her. Beth is devastated. She is able to spend summers with her mother and this is a magical time for her until (after seven years) something happens which ends the trips and her relationship with her mother. The title refers to a book that an adult Beth receives which documents her trips. This sounds like a great summer read.


From The Bookreporter: In every page of this breathtaking novel is a strong sense of place and humanity. Readers will really appreciate the solid, artistic, beautifully descriptive quality of Emylia Hall’s writing…Those who enjoy fiction and family dramas should love THE BOOK OF SUMMERS, a touching, emotive read about love and the value of family.

From Kim the Bookworm: The way that Emylia Hall writes paints an intense, bright and colourful picture of Hungary that makes the place come alive…With quite a twist towards the end, which was most unexpected, it kept the plot fresh and extremely interesting.  I completely lost myself to this book, it was a wonderful read and I felt emotionally exhausted by the end. And I think that’s the sign of a fabulous book!

An Uncommon Education, a debut novel by Elizabeth Percer: This is a coming of age story about Naomi Feinstein. It starts during Naomi’s childhood, her photographic memory, her clumsy and loving parents, and the fact  of being a social outcast. Naomi decides to become a doctor to protect those she loves and she goes to Wellesley. While there Naomi learns to think of herself as her own person instead of in relationship with others. This one seems to encompass many of the themes I love.


From Fleur Fisher: All week I’ve been carrying The Book of Summers with me, and opening it whenever I could so that I could be transported into another world…This is a lovely debut novel, and it would suit leisurely reading on a warm summer day very, very well …

From Bookstack: Oh how I loved this book…Elizabeth Percer…  has given us a debut novel that is poignant and full of heart. An Uncommon Education is a wonderful and wise book about learning the lessons we most need, about finding our way in a world where we never exactly fit, about being able to accept our human limitations.

So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore: Three voices are contained in this novel: Thirteen-year-old Natalie struggling with her parent’s divorce and the victim of cyber-bullying; Kathleen, an archivist with an estranged daughter; and Bridget (through her diary),  an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family in the 1920’s. This novel is about an issue that is so prevalent in our culture. It is also about second chances, mothers and daughters, and finding something to hold on to.


From Coffee and a Book Chick: I enjoyed this book and found that it was quite difficult to put the story down. Each character had a distinct voice, even secondary characters…With painfully difficult moments and hard truths of life, I enjoyed the story and writing immensely. It’s clear that Meg Mitchell Moore has a passion for the subject matter, and she is an author I’ll look forward to more from her, and I’ll also be sure to pick up her debut novel, The Arrivals, as well.

From Jenn’s Bookshelves: Moore has so eloquently brought together the lives of three different women who, despite being at different points in their life, still feel a similar pain.  I became so invested in the stories of these three women that I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from this book. Their stories are captivating, I wanted so much more for each of them…So Far Away is a book that without a doubt will be popping up on reading group lists, for it contains a wealth of topics and themes to discuss, including love, loss, motherhood, friendship and more. Highly recommended


The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger: Amina, a Bangladesh moves to Rochester, New York to marry  George, a man she met and wooed on-line. Each has a past that they haven’t mention to the other as well as different religions.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson: Joinson interweaves two stories. The first takes place in 1923 when Eva and her sister Lizzie are on a missionary trip to Kashgar. Lizzie is fervent, Eva less so concentrating on a commission from a publisher to produce a cycling guide. The second is of a modern woman named Freida and her new friend Tayeb, an illegal immigrant. Freida inherits an apartment from someone she has never heard of and has a week to clear it out.

Abdication by Juliet Nicolson: This novel covers the year between King George’s death and the abdication of his son through the eyes of three different people: an immigrant from Barbados who works for an influential family, the Blunts; an American spinster and friend to Wallis who is the god-daughter to  Lady Blunt; and young, idealist university graduate and friend to Rupert Blunt.

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From Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Claire Morrall

There is also a small number of my father’s unsuccessful paintings, which I especially like because they are rejects: a line is not straight, a blue is too vivid, or Dennis the agent just doesn’t like them. It pleases me to see what my father doesn’t wish to be seen, the poor abandoned creations the part of him that isn’t perfect. Like his days in the RAF. I can see through him because I know about his medals and his secret flawed world. (pg. 11)

His paintings are full of colour. He can create Mediterranean light from memory – or possibly imagination, since he hasn’t been there in my lifetime…Has he ever been there? I don’t know. If I ask him, his answers are vague; I’m not sure what he is telling me. Perhaps he doesn’t need to have seen it. Maybe his head is so full of vivid colour that they just spill out of him, splashing down on paper, jumping around until they settle, firmly their own images and patterns. (pg. 16)

My dreams don’t refresh me. I wake up exhausted. If I try to remember the dreams, its like stepping into an alien existence, a world that is parallel to reality, but sinister and twisted, with shapes that expand and distort like a Salvador Dali painting.

I dream in colours, astonishing, shimmering, clashing colours. So manyy shades. Not just red, but crimson, vermillion, scarlet, rose. There are not enough names for the colours in my dreams. I wake up longing for visual silence, looking for a small dark place where there is no light. (pg. 27)

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