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Sunday Caught My Interest

This has been a difficult week for our community – at the beginning of the week, two beautiful fifteen year old girls died in a car accident. They went to our sister high school in our district, our big rivals, at the onset of spirit week leading up to the rivalry football game, the week leading up to their school’s homecoming. A week that should be spent in spirit activities and dance preparations has been spent in shock and mourning. Our own high school, who suffered a loss of their own in the death of a recent graduate earlier this summer, stepped up to a plate they didn’t want to face. Instead of “Beat U-High” the motto became “Unite”. Instead of “We are CV” it was “We are CVSD”. Instead of wearing our colors, our students choose to be decked out in their rival’s crimson and gold. When one of the student’s father requested donations to Toys for Tots, our students sprang into action with “Toys for Titans”. At the volleyball game, our girls gave their team hugs and roses. We had students go to the candlelight vigil, go to the soccer game to stand with a team having to take the field for the first time since the loss of one of their players. Our football team and theirs wore a matching “Unite” sticker at the game, and our Marching Band skipped preliminary warm-ups at a competition on Saturday so they could be in the stands to support U-High’s Band during their performance. There have been tears, multiple moments of silence, shared food, shared hugs, and at the end, an entire gym floor was filled with new toys.

As I was going to sleep last night and thinking of the past week – of two girls just beginning their lives now forever frozen in photographs, of students struggling to understand the whys that are beyond comprehension – two words came to my mind.  I think of all the schools throughout the Hinterland that contributed toys and sent banners of support, and I think of all the giving, not just of material goods, but also of the intangible – the sharing of grief and the sharing of spirit. An entire community wrapped their arms around this school, these students, these families. When I think of that, the word that comes to mind is grace. And when I think of these teenagers, these children (for they are still children) and how much of what happened in the past week came from them; how it was student led and student driven, peer to peer. And then I think of all the young people I know, how they can focus and commit to something larger than themselves, how they can step outside of the self and see others around them. I see how they have such an awareness of both the immediate present and of the greater world. And when I think of that, I think of hope.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

Susanna Kearsley is more known for her books involving time travel but her latest, reviewed by Danielle of A Work in Progress, is more of a mystery with a dual timeline set both in the present and WWII. Every Secret Thing features journalist Kate Murray who is approached by a man talking of a long-ago murder and in the next moment, he is dead at her feet. This leads her to her grandmother’s mysterious past during the war and soon she is off trying to find answers.

Another suspense novel that caught my eye is only available on electronic readers but it is very affordable and sounds, if you like suspense, like fun. The Nearest Thing to Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes and reviewed by Fleur in Her World, is about a married woman, Cassandra, who finds herself alienated from her friends and family by seemingly unknown reasons. This all starts after a glamorous new neighbor moves in and now Cassandra finds herself missing appointments, misreading social cues and situations, and misinterpreting conversations. Gossip runs rampant and people begin to question Cassandra’s sanity. I have some thoughts about what is happening and now I want to find out if I am right.

A more serious novel came to me from Reading Matters, Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke and translated by Cindy Carter. Lianke is a Beijing novelist whose work is frequently banned in China. After the first edition was sold out, Dream of Ding Village was also banned, even though the author admitted self-censoring his writing to avoid such a fate. In the early 1990’s, the Chinese government encouraged rural villagers to donate blood plasma to supplement their incomes. Poor hygienic practices, corruption, and safety issues led to an estimated one million plus people in Henan Province alone with HIV/AIDS. These rural villagers have received little to no support or health care and Lianke’s novel sets this larger tragedy in a small Henan village bringing it to a human level. I remember reading a little about the AIDS crisis in the paper several years ago and I now want to know more.

Once again Chrisbookarama sent me into the internet with another one of her posts – this one features The 50 Scariest Books. I spent some time on the list. I was a little surprised as I traditionally don’t do scary but I have actually read 9 of the 50 and I want to read House of Leaves by Mark. S. Danielewski which would make it an even 10.

And Farm Lane Book Blog has a short synopsis of this year’s shortlist for The Booker Prize.

Happy Reading!

Sunday Caught My Interest

We have ended the week with beautiful sunshine and open doors for the dog and cat. Now if I would just remember to turn the heat back on at night. Himself has been very busy prepping for putting trees to bed for the winter and we are also planning on a surprise for Eldest’s birthday in a couple of weeks. He spent the weekend in Seattle running Tough Mudder and for the second year in a row agreed that his mother knows what she is talking about when she says run more to prepare for the race. Time will tell if he will really listen to me this next year. Youngest had three exams and a paper due so he had his nose to the grindstone.

I am struggling this week to re-read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. It is this month’s book group read and I am not enjoying reading it the second time. Unfortunately I read it so long ago that I felt I had to reread it. I have also restarted My Fathers’ Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron. I started it at the beginning again and find myself wanting to reread the first chapter over and over again – in a good way. I love how he is setting up the novel.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

I feel like I need a dose of atmosphere that actually takes me away so I was pleased to read the review of Henry Dunbar by Mary Elizabeth Braddon on I Prefer Reading. I enjoyed her novel Lady Audrey’s Secret and this novel looks to offer the same – atmosphere, deliciously vicious villains, old houses, revenge, missing people, and a possible love story all set in 1840’s England. This is available free on electronic readers and is on my download list.

If you are looking for a modern example of the sensational novel – Capricious Reader is reading The Seance by John Harwood. Set in Victorian England, Constance takes her mother to a seance seeking comfort after the death of Constance’s sister. The mother soon dies, leaving Constance with the crumbling manor house. In the fashion of the sensational novel, there are apparitions, strange happenings, blackmail, and assorted evil doings. Harwood’s first novel The Ghost Writer also sounds good and his latest novel The Asylum received a lot of buzz when it was published in May. Harwood is Australian and, according to Wikipedia, is more known for his poetry. Definitely someone I will be looking for.

One book that caught my interest as a possible read for Himself is The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making by David Esterly and reviewed by S. Krsihna. Esterly is a woodworker who was inspired by artist and woodcarver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721). Many of Gibbons techniques have been lost and Esterly has to rediscover them when he is giving a commission to help restore Gibbons’ work at Hampton Court that was destroyed in a fire. I love the title of this memoir which seems to emphasize the “making” rather than the object itself – the journey one goes through in any creative undertaking.

Another non-fiction book that caught my eye is Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz (mentioned by LitLove at Tales from the Reading Room). Schulz guides “the reader through the history and psychology of error, from Socrates to Alan Greenspan…” examining the history and influences on error and celebrating the inevitability of error. That sounds a little off-putting but I think what she is trying to say is that being mindful of the potential of error and seeing the other side of things leads to growth opportunities.

Finally, thanks to Stefani of So Many Books comes this delightful link to 25 Jokes only Book Nerds will Understand. I must admit to more than one “laugh out loud moment” and posted the David Foster Wallace on on Facebook for youngest to see and show his friends.

Danielle of A Work in Progress has another wonderful reading list – this one centered on London.

And on a more serious note, for those of you who enjoy poetry I strongly suggest you read Dove Grey Reader’s review of Her Birth by Rebecca Goss. Each quote from the collection of poems was wonderful – the quote from the end poem blew me away with its clarity and acceptance of the new in life.

family man

The Family Man by Elinor Lippman

Henry Archer, a divorced gay man in New York City, is dealing with a newly widowed ex-wife, a step-daughter he has been separated from for years, and a hole to fill in his life. Once again Elinor Lippman has created an madcap situation, peppered it with witty dialogue (one of her strengths), and created a hero I absolutely fell in love with. While some of the plot seemed far-fetched (particularly some of the resolution), I forgave all just to read about Henry’s life. I thought he was a wonderful person and I rooted for him the entire book. Despite the book’s issues, it has become my favorite Lippman novel so far.

hope street

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

Alba is distraught and in despair about her once brilliant academic career and wondering the streets of Cambridge. She finds herself in front of an extraordinary house and an invitation to stay for ninety days. The house is magical with talking portraits (shades of Harry Potter), ghosts, and other odd happenings; in fact, the house has specialized in helping women find hope when they are at the end of their rope for many, many years. I had high hopes for this book based on the reviews and while I wasn’t disappointed; I wasn’t thrilled either. I liked the premise a great deal, it was a mystical and whimsical idea. I just thought the plot could have been a little tighter. The “mystery” surrounding Alba’s disgrace was fairly evident to me so the continued silence about it made no sense. However, it was a quick read – perfect for those who don’t mind a magical element in their fiction and want to have an easy few hours of reading.

quiet twin

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta

I discovered this novel after reading reviews for Vyleta’s subsequent book The Crooked Maid which takes place after the war with some of the same characters and in the same apartment complex. The Quiet Twin is set in Vienna during the war when life was full of complications and suspicions. No one was safe and no one was to be trusted. In an apartment complex, a doctor is faced with the murder of a dog, a little girl, a young lady with who may be a hypochondriac, and a string of unsolved murders. Who and what is connected and how does one function in such a dysfunctional society makes up the narrative of this book. After first reading, I was on the fence. I liked it but not so much that I was going to rush out and get the second book. However, after time, the book has grown on me and I want to see where the author takes both the characters and the apartment house as Vienna and the world try to put themselves back together.

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!

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.

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.

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!