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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Ashes To Dust

She often considered death to be a desirable option. Today, however, she hadn’t been feeling that way, which was rather unfortunate in light of the circumstances. When her father had died after a difficult struggle with cancer, she’d wondered what the point of everything was. How short and insignificant a life is when all is said and done, she had thought. Her father had been the lynchpin of their little family, but months later she had trouble recalling how he looked without the aid of a photograph. And she had supposedly been one of the closest to him – how quickly were others forgetting him? Once her mother had passed away, as well as herself and her sister, no one would remember him, and it would be as if he had never set foot on this earth. The thought filled her with despair. Now, as she stared her own fate in the face, she realized that her story would never be told. She would never be able to make a clean breast of it has she had intended. No one else could ever make sense of all this, much less explain the events that had recently overtaken her. Everything was going black, but she managed to snap herself out of it. She knew that when it happened next she might not be able to resist.

So starts Ashes to Dust, a mystery by Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir. If you read this one be prepared for Icelandic names. I was able to skim through them and it didn’t bother me that I had no clue of how to pronounce them but I know some readers where that can be an issue for their reading pleasure.

There is something about Iceland that intrigues me, it has a rich history of literature and poetry which is very close to oral traditional roots – it seems to me, much closer than the rest of the world. It looks like a beautiful and somewhat barren land. It is fascinating that out of such a land arose such a deep culture. One of my favorite books in 2010 was The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley (which focuses on Icelandic literature and takes place, in part in Iceland) and this led me to be on the lookout for books by Icelandic Authors.

Ashes to Dust is set, for the most part on the island of Heimaey and a pivotal point in the island’s history, the 1973 eruption of the Eldfell volcano. I was 13 when the volcano erupted and I remember watching films of the event on the news and in school. I remember how awesome the images were. What I didn’t realize was the near devastation of the town and the total evacuation of the island. The evacuation was aided by the fact the fishing fleet was in the harbor and the government had plans in place if needed. The only people who stayed behind where those tasked with trying to save the harbor (the fleet was responsible for 25% of Iceland’s total catch) and what they could of the town, a large portion of which was covered by ash. The author does a very good job of showing the impact of such a large disaster on the individuals involved, the succeeding generations, and the town itself.

Markus, a former inhabitant of the town of Vestmannaeyjar on Heimaey, is trying to stop the government from excavating his former, ash-covered home using attorney Thora Gudmundsdotter’s help. The government is planing a park with the excavated houses as a centerpiece. Unable to stop the plan, Markus is allowed into the basement to go alone into the basement of the house and retrieve an object. Unfortunately he discovers the bodies of three men and the object is also unexpected. Markus is suspected of the murder of the men who died sometime around the eruption even though he was a young high school student at the time and evacuated with most of the town when the ash started to fall. Thora must find out a way to clear his name and, unfortunately, the girl who can corroborate his story is found dead.

Is the murder of Alda tied to the death of the three men and if so, why? The identity of the men is totally unknown. The towns inhabitants were all accounted for due to the evacuation and no strangers were noted in town. How did the get to the basement and why did they get placed there after their deaths? And if Markus didn’t kill the men, who did and why? Thora has to juggle all these questions and others while trying to get her client released from jail and juggle her family responsibilities, a young daughter, a son, his girlfriend, and their child.

I enjoyed the importance of voice for women which is highlighted through various characters and this is clear from the very first page as shown in the excerpt above. Telling one’s story and being heard resonates through out the novel and I thought the author did a nice job with the “echos” without being blatant. The book also highlights the impact of the past on the present. Many of the characters carried the past around on their backs and the secrets of the past become a significant burden.

Overall I enjoyed the mystery although I did quibble about a few items. A key component of Alda’s life was very clear to me and yet Thora didn’t put the pieces together until almost the end of the book. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and shake her. The other item was I found the author to be slightly repetitive with details from Thora’s personal life. Despite these two issues, I really enjoyed the story and I especially appreciated how all the red herrings eventually tied into the essential mystery. And the author does an exceptional job regrading Iceland’s history (The Cod wars), the land itself, and the differences between mainlanders and islanders.

I should also point out that if you are a fan of Arnaldur Indridason’s work (see my review of Hypothermia) be warned that these are very different novels. Sigurdardóttir writes more of a traditional mystery and perhaps rambles a bit more whereas Indridason’s work is more psychological in tone and more tight in construction. And the two main characters of each author couldn’t be more different.

This is the third of Sigurdardóttir’s books feathering Thora Gudmundsdotter, the first two, Last Rituals and My Soul to Take are also available in English with the fourth, The Day is Dark, is available on Kindle.

Harbor of the town of Vestmannaeyjar

Photo Credit

Houses Buried in Ash

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Eldfell volcano

Photo Credit

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Hello from beautiful Oregon where I am eating home-grown just picked strawberries everyday. I decided to run away to my mom’s for a couple of weeks abandoning my family for giggles and ladies lunches out. My finger is improving (although the typos from the odd typing style still need correcting) and I hope to get the stitches out early next week. I have managed to get some reading done, finished Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley and The Uninvited Guest by Sadie Jones. I have started The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall and Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

Having really enjoyed Red Pottage (especially the last half) so another romp through the period would be fun. Cat, of Tell Me a Story reviews Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon which features death, disappearances, “accidental” bigamy, and general mayhem all while Lord Audley tries to discover what happened to his friend and just what does his wife know about it.  Sounds like great fun.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s children’s book Understood Betsy is a favorite of mine from childhood (and one I still reread as an adult). I never thought about what else she may have wrote until I stumbled across Vishy’s Blog and his review of her adult novel, The Homemaker. Written in 1924, the novel is about a family where the husband and wife are both unhappy with their traditional roles. When an accident forces Lester Knapp to stay at home and his wife Evangeline goes to work everyone in the family is happier. When it looks like things may change back, what will happen. Even though this novel was written over 80 years old, many of what it discuss seems to be true today. Even though it may be hard to find, I am definitely going to read this one.

If you like stories about twins and their relationship with each other, Guy Savage of His Futile Preoccupations has a book for you – The Investigation of Arial Warning by Robert Kalich. The novel is about two identical twins, both authors, who hire a beautiful young woman, a ” femme fatale”. Both twins fall for the woman, which impacts their relationship. One of the twins begins to investigate the woman and her mysterious background. Guy says of the novel: “an entertaining literary Chinese puzzle, is full of twists and turns, allusions to Shakespeare and replete with facts about twins. Primarily a mystery, the book also explores the emotional connections between twins and doesn’t quite fit neatly into any genre.”

Cornflower Books reviews Ferney by James Long and it sounds like a great summer read. Mike and Gally Martin buy a farm in Somerset, a place that for Gally, feels like home. The farm comes with a neighbor, the seeming ageless and enigmatic Ferney. Cornflower writes, “What then transpires is an enthralling story, and one which James Long pulls off beautifully. The strange attraction of the house – for Gally at least -, the even more curious familiarity and ubiquity of Ferney are explained as an extraordinary love affair is described.”

The last book that caught my interest is The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie reviewed by Mary Whipple.  The novel is set in a welsh mining village named Kindly Light which has suffered a terrible accident in the mine, an accident which has impacted everyone in the village. Laddy Merridew, a young boy is sent to live with his grandmother who lives in the village and he makes a friend in the town’s story telling beggar, Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins. Each of the stories Jenkins tells builds provides a picture of the town through the generations and of Jenkins himself.

Finally The Boston Bibliophile has an excellent list of books about Afghanistan.


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Catching up – here is a short list of what was published in April. Expect May’s posting early next week.

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd Boyd is a Scottish author (born in Ghana Africa) who has won some minor prizes as well as being nominated for The Booker Prize. His latest work is set in 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, travels to Vienna to undergo psychotherapy for a sexual ailment. When there he meets two people, a woman with whom he has an affair and a mysterious British diplomat. The woman accuses him of rape and the diplomat extricates him from the mess. However once back in England, Lysander is expected to help the diplomat out and is drawn into the world of war and espionage trying to determine what is real in the murky underworld he finds himself in.While some of the reviews for this novel are mixed, it does soun like a great travel read.

Newspaper and Blog Reviews:

From Bibliophile by the Sea: The story for the most part was fast paced. The writing is well done, very descriptive, steamy and sensual, combined with a bit of mystery, WWI background, lots of intrigue and plot twists.

From The Seattle Times: Oddball subsidiary characters — notably, Lysander’s gay uncle Hamo, just back from explorations in Africa — add to the lively swirl of action…The more somber theme of the novel is stated well into the book: “All history is the history of unintended consequences.” And its central question — “What had really happened in Vienna in 1914?” — stays in play until its last few pages.

Intricate plot points do take over character-driven action in the final stretch. But certain wild-card factors, especially those provided by the blithely perverse Hettie, keep things pleasurably unhinged until the end.

From The Guardian: What are we to make of it all? Not too much or too little. It would be mean-spirited to focus on structural or stylistic defects to the exclusion of the enjoyments of a story of no great depth or pretensions but good on atmospherics, and which, after a slowish start, will deliver the requisite satisfactions to all generations of readers.

The Bee-loud Glade by Steve Himmer: This debut novel seems to have slipped under the radar. It is a novel which uses a character named Finch to explore various topics. Finch loses his corporate job, gives up on life, and is hired by a wealthy man to be an ornamental hermit. Consisting mostly of internal dialogue, it sounds like a wonderfully quirky novel.

Blog Reviews:

From Leeswammes’ Blog: This was a mysterious and fun read…Very well-written, not a moment boring, this book is for anyone who likes good fiction.

From Between the Covers: The ideas that Himmer explores in The Bee-Loud Gladearen’t new–they have been written about in many different books by many different authors–but Himmer explores these themes of nature vs. technology and solitude vs. society in a modern way (and in a different way than anything I’ve read before) and it was thoroughly enjoyable…The Bee-Loud Glade is a very good debut novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes good literary fiction, and/or to anyone who likes Thoreau’s Walden. It is a good modern-day take on the nature vs. technology and solitude vs. society themes, wrapped in a wonderful storyline.

From Inside of a Dog: The Bee-Loud Glade is whimsical and written with a very light touch, but it has left me    longing for my own hermetic life. But maybe only at weekends.

A Land More Kind Than Home: by Wiley Cash: Another debut novel this time set in a small town in western North Carolina. The story is told by three characters, the town conscious, a young boy coming of age, and the sheriff with his own burdens of the past.  Add in a charismatic pastor with less then good intentions and a grandfather who reappears after a long absence when his family is in trouble and you have what sounds to me, a winner. The quotes from the book that I have read have astounded me – it hits upon some of my favorite themes – the heavy burden of memory and secrets and the tug between good and evil.

Newspaper Reviews:

From The Washington Post: The story has elements of a thriller, but Cash is ultimately interested in how unscrupulous individuals can bend decent people to their own dark ends, often by invoking the name of God. As Adelaide observes near the end of this impressive debut, “The living church is made of people, and it can grow sick and break just like people can.”

From The Florida Times-Union: The underlying themes of A Land More Kind Than Home – loss of innocence, betrayal of trust, manipulation of religion, the search for forgiveness and redemption – are not new to literature. How Cash makes his mark, and makes those themes his own, is through his amazingly nuanced development of character and the story’s wonderfully evocative mid 1980s rural western North Carolina setting.

Absolution by Patrick Flanery: Set in contemporary South Africa aging writer Clare Wald is being interviewed by a Journalist. Clare has several ties to the upheaval of the Apartheid era including the murder of her sister and the disappearance of her daughter. This debut is told in four narrative strands which look back to the past and its connections with the present. The ghost of the past, of deeds done and not done, haunt the novel as well as the need to seek and find absolution.

Newspaper and Blog Reviews:

From The Independent: Patrick Flanery’s debut novel costructs a mosaic of South Africa . . . as powerfully described here as in any book by JM Coetzee or Damon Galgut. . . . This is an exceptionally intelligent, multi-layered novel encompassing politics, history, a gripping storyline, and complex characters. It has absorbing depictions of grief, guilt, parenthood, and sibling rivalry, and is beautifuly written. The prose is lucid and strong, scenes of crime are full of suspense, and time and again phrases haunt with their imagery. . . . Absolution is an exceptional book.

From The Literary Corner Cafe: This is an intelligent book filled with intelligent characters. It’s a book that asks difficult moral questions for which there may never be any satisfactory answers. It’s a book, that like South Africa, itself, contains a beauty – and a horror – that’s truly overwhelming.

Also of Note:

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler: Aaron, a middle-aged man is devastated by his wife’s death and gradually restored by her frequent appearances, a novel of loss and acceptance.

One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson: For children and all dog lovers. All Hal ever wanted was a dog. His parents finally capitulate with a catch – they get a rent-a-dog. When Fleck is returned, Hal must find a way for him and his dog to be together.

Children in Reindeer Woods by Kristín Ómarsdóttir and translated by Lytton Smith: Eleven-year-old Billie lives at a ” home for abandoneded children” which happens to be in the middle of a war zone. She ends up living with a man who kills everyone else including his companions who help him in the murders. It sounds odd but is getting good reviews as a “modern fable” exploring the contrast between violence and innocence. The NY Times describes it as a “daringly droll, wholly perturbing book”

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