Archive for September, 2013

Sunday Caught My Interest

Rarely, very rarely, I have what I call a written dream where I am both reading the dream and having it at the same time – it is a fairly surreal experience. What sparked this one – Constance by Patrick McGrath. His dialogue style is pretty unique and my dream was all in that same style. I was reading the novel before I went to sleep and, needless to say, I am finding it a little unsettling. I also read Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell and the latest in a new mystery series for me – Death of a Dean by Hazel Holt. I wasn’t at a loss by starting at the new end of a series but I am not sure I liked it enough to go back to the beginning.

It has gotten cold here and the heat has actually kicked on – some rain but nearly as much as those of you in Oregon. My mom’s new dog and the cat are actually making strides in their relationship because it is too wet for a kitty to spend the day outside. Himself had a good first week of school and is busy getting ready for the next (such are weekends for teachers). I have been putting the house back together after tearing it apart for multiple projects as well as spending time with friends having been gone so much lately.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

This one may need to be put on your used bookstore list (or inter-library loan list) The Matriarch by G.B. Stern reviewed by The Book Snob. While it is being reprinted, it seems the reprint is not available in the United States. Stern was an extremely prolific English author who was well connected with other literary figures of her era. She is perhaps best known for a series of novels loosely based on her own family – The Rakonitz Chronicles, of which includes The Matriarch. Anastasia Rakonitz is the matriarch of a fabulously wealthy family ruling with an iron will and brooking no dissent. After years of this, the family circumstances change with the new 30th century. Sounds fascinating.

Sam Still Reading is an Australian blogger I follow. She has wonderful posts about books and one that she has reviewed is available in the US via electronic readers – Mr. Wigg by Inga Simpson. Mr. Wigg is a widower living in a rural area during the 1970’s. It is a quiet book about the passage of time and his relationship with his grandchildren. This one might be best with a nice cup of tea.

Finally, Chrisbookarama has some of the nicest bookish links including this one of bookstore windows – wish I could visit each shop.

Happy reading!


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Sunday Caught My Interest

This has been an odd week for me – I had to fly to Salt Lake on Tuesday and home on Wednesday so I could go with my father to an appointment. The flight home was through Las Vegas in the evening and delayed which made the whole trip home a touch surreal. I had no idea you could buy a drink in the airport there and carry it around with you. You just can’t carry it on the plane which didn’t stop my seat mate who had two water bottles with him – one obviously filled with vodka. I did get some reading done, I finished Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse and Alison Anderson (which I was slightly disappointed in) and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. While in Salt Lake I visited the Weller Bookstore and picked up two books. I was a little disappointed with it as well as I have very fond memories of visiting Sam Weller’s old store. Oldest and I also went to a library book sale where we were very successful getting there only fifteen minutes after opening. It was getting pretty picked over by the time we left.
Here is what caught my interest this week:

Matthew of A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook has reviewed what sounds like the perfect travel book for when you are stuck on the tarmac with some over-imbibed people – Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop. Guy writes of Crispin’s book:

This book can be found on three mystery novel “best lists”: the Independent Mystery Bookseller Association’s 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century, the Mystery Writers of America’s Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time, and the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. This 1946 novel is still in print today and is generally considered Crispin’s best novel.

I have never heard of this author who wrote nine detective novels (from 1944 onward) but how could I resist a detective who is an English professor and Don at Oxford. The Moving Toyshop features a poet stumbling into a toyshop and discovering a body. He is hit on the head and moved but when he returns to the store, it is now a grocery. It sounds wonderfully absurd and totally entertaining.

Another book that would have been good to have in my bag is Troubled Daughters, Twisted Sisters: Stories from the Trail Blazers of Domestic Suspense edited by Sarah Weinman. This is a collection of stories by female writers from the early to mid 20th-century that specialized in the domestic or suburban crime. There are stories by some well-known authors (Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson) and a whole slew of people I have never heard of . Both The Book Snob and Chrisbookarama liked the book.

I have read many reviews of Constance by Patrick McGrath but Sam Still Reading is the first one that makes me put the book on my list. Perhaps it is her mention of Richard Yates (author of Revolutionary Road), perhaps it is her mention of Gothic undertones which sounds perfect for a rainy day with a touch of coolness in the air. Constance is about a young woman in Manhattan with a tortured and unhappy childhood. She meets a professor of Poetry twenty years her senior and marries him. Then her father drops a bombshell on her and everything falls apart.

Finally, A Work in Progress has a lovely list of spooky stories and The Mookse and the Gripes has a post on the 2013 National Book Award long list.

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Sunday Caught My Interest

Hello from the Hinterland. Himself and I spent some really nice days at Arches and Zion National Parks, went to SLC to take my father to a doctor’s appointment and then headed home after reading the weather reports for Yellowstone – we had enough rain in Utah and were not interested in continued camping in wet circumstances. We were very grateful that our Colorado part of the vacation was before the floods but feel for all those effected by the devastation. Dog, cat, and Eldest were glad to see us – it is nice to be missed even if it involves being sworn at by a displeased kitty.

One of the perks of a driving vacation is that I got a lot of great reading in during the past two weeks: The Family Man by Elinor Lippman; The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag; The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta; The Passport by Herta Mullere; and Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrom. I am also about a third of the way through Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. I have to fly back to Salt Lake for a two day trip this week so I am hoping for even more reading time.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

I am always on the lookout for a short-story collection and who could resist Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino after reading The Insatiable Book Slut’s review. It is not just the theme of hearts/homes, or female characters, or even magical-realism done the right way. No, I wanted to read it solely because of this line from the review, “…prose so juicily poetic you’re stippled with it when you lift your head from the pages.” The rest was icing on the cake. And then I went to the Cassie’s review (Books and Bowel Movements) and read this:

Safe as Houses.  Little makeshift, cardboard creations at the intersection of floor repair and reverie.  Not homes, houses.  Safe as Houses.  These are not the places we grew up, but the memoirs of our life.  The tiny bits, the sequences, the chapters, houses.

Definitely going to look for this one.

Reading Guy’s review (His Futile Preoccupations) of Others of my Kind by James Sallis (which sounds very interesting), I also looked at his review of Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrøm (which I purchased at The Tattered Cover and read on my trip. A comment on that post led me to Philippe Grimbert and his novel Memory. I like stories about family secrets and their impact on members of the family. Days in the History of Silence is about negative effects of not telling the family history and Memory – an autobiographical novel is the same. Grimbert is the child of Holocaust survivors and the subject was never mentioned. After a discovery in the attic of the family home leads him to realize the truth of his family story. The first paragraph is haunting – so I imagine the rest of the book is excellent as well.

With Fall weather approaching and Halloween coming nearer, Danielle of a Work in Progress recommends a novella by Susan Hill. Hill is better known for her Simon Serailler mysteries but she also has a reputation as having a deft hand at the old-fashioned ghost story. The Man in the Picture features an elderly professor, his former student, a storm rattling the house, claret and stories, and a mysterious painting of the Carnival in Venice. Reviews say that while the story may not be the scariest, Hill does a good job at conveying the scene and subsequent chills.

Another ghost story that caught my eye is The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James and reviewed by The Indextrious Reader. Set in the 1920’s down-on-her-luck Sarah Piper gets a temporary assignment from her agency to assist a well-to-so ghost hunter. Maddy, the ghost, has a hatred of men and will only talk to women – hence the need for Sarah. Unfortunately Maddy is real and she is angry. This sounds like pure fun.

Or perhaps the autumn weather puts you in the mood for a mystery. I haven’t read much Ngaio Marsh. I think I did read one of her Roderick Alleyn mysteries many years ago but I can’t remember it. I do know she is considered one of the Queens of Crime. Fleur in Her World reviews on of the Alleyn novels, Clutch of Constables which features Alleyn’s wife Troy on a cruise in the English countryside. Constables refers to the artist John Constable and the mystery revolves around a painting and a murder. I may have to have this one on hand for a rainy day read.

Finally, some bookshop eye candy courtesy of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

And the 2013 Booker Prize short list has been announced.

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Sunday Caught Your Interest

Hello from beautiful Colorado. I am writing this on Thursday before Himself and I head off to Southern Utah and have no internet access. We had a long day and half of driving before reaching Rocky Mountain National Park where we had a lovely hike amid gorgeous scenery. We have spent the past two days at my brother-in–laws spending time with his wife and their three children. You can tell this is a house that values reading as children’s books are everywhere. The kids also love to read cartoons and are eating up Pearls Before Swine and Dilbert. My niece is a freshman in high school and we had a nice discussion of To Kill a Mocking Bird as well as the short story Brownies by ZZ Packer which appears in her collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. My niece is really into books and writing so I picked up a copy of Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall for her to read. My big treat today was to go to The Tattered Cover bookstore where I had a lovely time perusing books and then met Himself and his brother at a brewery to have lunch and purchase beer for Eldest.

Here is what caught my interest so far this week:

I have enjoyed every Penelope Lively novel I have read and now, thanks to Nonsuch Book, want to read Heat Wave. The novel takes place in a long, hot summer in the English countryside in a two-family cottage occupied by Pauline, an editor of romance novels and her daughter and son-in-law. Like a lot of Lively books, the plot seems simple – a summer, a possible betrayal – but underneath lies a lot of complexity.

I grew up in a house where it was useful to be handy with words. Not only for the language games we would play, but also because my father would try to argue with you – being quick verbally could save you from a frustrating encounter. So I am reading a review of Lexicon by Max Barry (So Many Books) which sounded so interesting I looked it up and the description reads in part, “Students learn to use language to manipulate minds, wielding words as weapons.” The students do this at an exclusive school in Virginia where they become Poets. There is also a character known as an “Outlier, someone who is immune to the power of the Poets and their words.”  I love the idea of words as weapons and Poets are people with power. Stefanie says of the book, “Lexicon is a fun book, a suspense novel for the bookish crowd. It’s a light, quick read. Not perfect, but enjoyable nonetheless.”

Eve’s Alexandria has a wonderful post about Frances Hardinge and her novel Fly by Night. While this is a book aimed for teens, it seems like it would be suitable for all ages. It has a twelve year old runaway girl (with a bad tempered goose as a companion), guilds in control, and a monarchy that wants to reestablish itself. Like Lexicon, there seems to be a theme about words and books and their importance to people. There is a sequel Twilight Robbery which would make this a good series for Christmas gifts.

Finally, Kinna Reads has an excellent list of African Women writers which would serve as a “good jumping off point” if you wish to expand your reading into this area.

Happy reading!

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Vacation Reading Material


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Sunday Caught My Interest

Life has been very hectic this week – so much so I often forgot what day it was. So not much reading was done and, in fact, I had to turn in two books I was in the middle of because I wasn’t able to finish them and they were not available for renewal. I did do lots of walking in preparation for our upcoming vacation which did take a fair amount of time. And we had our annual picnic at the Symphony last night meeting with friends and having a scrumptious buffet. The weather was perfect, the music fantastic, and the lemon drops over ice – divine.

Programing note: Himself and I leave at crack of dawn for a vacation. We will have internet access during a few short days of it while we visit his brother’s family. But other than that we are planning on camping and hiking. And as I did not get any posts into the queue, content may be sporadic for a few weeks.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

I really enjoyed M.E. Braddon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret (a delicious romp with bigamy, murder, madness, and various other nefarious deeds).  And now I may have to add another one of her novels to my Kindle list based on Guy Savages – His Futile Preoccupations review which will appear in multiple posts. The Doctor’s Wife (published in 1864) is Braddon’s response to Madame Bovary. A dreamy romantic young girl marries a simple, provincial doctor who is unable to meet her emotional needs. Guy mentions that Braddon attempts to rise above the sensationalism of her previous work and strive for something more literary. I want to see if she succeeded.

Available free on electronic readers is what Fleur Fisher calls “a lovely, old-fashioned romance” in her review of The Rose Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer. Widdemer was both a poet and a novelist (one of my favorite combinations) and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (then known as the Columbia University Prize). Written in 1915, the novel is about Phyllis a single children’s librarian and a very positive person. An encounter makes her wonder if there is more out there, especially if she married…Everything I can find about this book raves about how uplifting and fun it is. Sounds worth downloading.

Finally, Eva (A Striped Armchair) has a wonderful post on Ecuadorian Literature.

Happy reading!

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