Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Reading Roundup

Every year that I have been teaching I am sick around Halloween without fail. This year has been particularly icky (really, who am I kidding last year was icky too). I dragged myself out of bed to be at school for the costume parade and party on Friday and then dropped back into bed for the entire weekend. As a result I have done a lot of questionable reading in between sleeping and coughing.

This was a cute and predictable Christian chicklit/romance type book. Being sick, tired, and cranky I appreciated the happily ever ending and low stress plot.

This one is a quick reading YA that I both liked and disliked. I loved Bianca's voice and the plot's pacing. This story was so compelling and I was totally swept away by the writing. I had to know what was going to happen next. But I really didn't like Wesley and I could have done with less s-e-x! This is not a book that I would recommend to really anyone because of all the casual encounters going on. It is a thought provoking story though and it was another perfect book for this sickie to read.

Another YA, this one is a supernatural. I had heard about this on several blogs. I was a little surprised by the cover art. To me it looks like a fantasy or sci-fi book marketed to grownups not teens. It reminds me of the Illona Andrews covers. To be quite honest, this was just mildly entertaining to me. I got bored at the half way point and just kept wanting it to be over. Which is why I have such scintillating commentary now!

And last but certainly not least a book I loved! This book was a perfect blend of modern day academic mystery with historical spy romance. I am a huge Scarlet Pimpernel fan so this was right up my alley. I loved the humor throughout the story and the well written characters. Lauren Willig is so reminding me of my other historical romance love, Julia Quinn. I'm so excited to read the rest of this series. And how could I not love a writer who describes a character's apartment as "a little gnome hole".


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert

"...we become compulsive comparers- always measuring our lives against some other person's life, secretly wondering if we should have taken her path instead. Compulsive comparing, of course, only leads to debilitating cases of what Nietzsche calle Lebensneid, or life envy: the certainty that somebody else is much luckier than you, and that if only you had her body, her husband, her children, her job, everything would be easy and wonderful and happy." p.46

"All these choices and all this longing can create a weird kind of haunting in our lives- as though the ghosts of all our other, unchosen, possibilities linger forever in a shadow world around us, continuously asking, Are you certain this is what you really wanted?" p.46

"Real, sane, mature love- the kind that pays the mortgage year after year and picks up the kids after school- is not based on infatuation but on affection and respect." p.102

"it was not an infatuation, and here's how I can tell: because I did not demand that he become my Great Emancipator or my Source of All Life nor did I immediately vanish into that man's chest cavity like a twisted, unrecognizable, parasitical homunculus." p.106

Dr. Shirley Glass walls & window theory p.108-109

"She had finally married her own life, and not a moment too soon." p.171

Christmas Remembered, Tomie dePaola

I love so many of Tomie dePaola's picture books and was so excited when I heard about this book of his holiday memories. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I feel like I start celebrating (at least in my mind) earlier every year. Yesterday I ended up buying new Christmas piano music and being overwhelmed by all the Christmas decorating magazines that were already for sale at Sam's Club so I think I can say that my own personal Christmas season officially began October 23rd this year. So it makes sense that I would read this cheerful little book this morning while drinking hot cider in bed listening to the rain outside.

I plan to add this book to my Christmas book collection as well. My favorite stories he shared were those of his childhood especially the ones with Nana Fall River and the Christmas Sing at the high school. I had never heard of Fred Waring before and thanks to youtube here is the song that was the big finale at Tomie's school each year:

I loved hearing about the family decorating the Christmas tree and that moment when all the other lights are turned off to reveal the glowing tree. I also enjoyed reading about Tomie's mother's Christmas village which makes me wish I had somewhere to put my own little Christmas houses. And sent me to find this website I had bookmarked awhile back full of vintage villages.

I also was glad to see that Tomie dePaola's own blog had a picture of his Christmas tree with the paper roses he describes in his book.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Wet Nurse's Tale, Erica Eisdorfer

"Susan Rose is promiscuous, loveable, plump, and scheming—especially when it comes to escaping life as a kitchen drudge in Victorian England. Luckily for Susan, her big heart is coverd by an equally big bosom, and her bosom is her fortune—for Susan becomes a professional wet nurse, like her mother before her. But while scullery maids and cooks live below stairs, a wet nurse lives upstairs, and if she’s like Susan, she makes it her business to know all the intrigues and scandals that the upper-crust would prefer to keep to themselves. When her own child is caught up in a family scandal, Susan must use her plentiful street-smarts to rescue her baby from the powerful mistress of the house. The scheme she weaves is bold, daring, and could spell ruin for her if she fails—but Susan Rose has no shortage of gumption. Bright, clever, and with a crackling wit all her own, Susan is an irresistible heroine. THE WET NURSE’S TALE, is a rich, rollicking portrait of love, life, and motherhood in Victorian England—where things are much less buttoned-up than they seem."

I saw this at Costco with the Elizabeth Gilbert blurb on the cover and immediately added it to my library list. This was a solid, entertaining book. I read the whole thing in one sitting and it was a good "get your mind off stress" kind of story. The second half of the book is definitely more lively than the first and the whole thing takes a turn for an adventure story that had me very worried for Susan near the end. Happily, I can report that I loved the ending of the book. The last pages left me smiling and quite impressed with Erica Eisdorfer's clever plot.

"The minute I find a man who can at once hold a baby and hand round the bread and cheese, that's the man I'll fall in love with." Susan Rose describing her ideal man (please be a certain friendly dentist!) p.158

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thank Heaven Fasting, E. M. Delafield

I have a huge stack (spanning my bedroom floor to the bottom of the light switch plate) of Virago Modern Classics that I have not yet read. Thank Heaven Fasting is one of those books. I didn't know what to expect as I began to read and that is probably for the best because reading a book about the harsh reality of spinterhood when you are an actual real life spinster can be a difficult experience and I might not have decided to read this one if I had known about the theme.

This book did three things for this spinster:

1. Reminded me how lucky I am to be alive in the modern world and not stuck in Edwardian Britain like Monica (or any number of places in time when my life truly would have had no other option than marriage). For all I might sometimes wish I was married rather than single I do have an education and career of my own choosing and the freedom to make my own choices. And I'm happy! Society at large isn't convinced that something is deeply wrong with me and no one is thinking I should marry Mr. Collins which is who I kept picturing everytime Mr. Pelham entered the scene.

I'm sad this video won't embed but it is an awesome combination of this scene from different versions of Pride & Prejudice.

2. Made me laugh and force Nora to listen to select passages that apply to pairs of spinster sisters:

On Monica's friends, Cecily & Frederica-
"But women who want to get married, and can't, often turn very queer as they grow older."
Monica felt little beads of cold sweat pricking at the roots of her hair.
"Frederica says she doesn't like men."
"Of course," Mrs. Ingram replied impatiently. "They always say that. She'd sing a very different tune if any man ever looked her way." p.155-156

3.Made me a little sad that even though I live in a different time and place some things never change:

"Her eyes grew misty as she tried, vainly, to recapture something of the glamour and excitement that had surrounded her brief, youthful romance. It seemed, actually, to have happened to someone else, for she could not longer revive in herself any spark of the innocent, ignorant confidence in the right of youth to love and happiness that had been hers at the age of eighteen." p.140

I want to read more of E. M. Delafield's books but is seems lots of them are out of print. I'll have to check out the link+ at the library and see what I can find.

"down on your knees, and thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love" -As You Like It, Act III, Scene 5

Book Snob Review

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapbook: Before Jane Austen, Harrison R. Steeves

"At the beginning of the eighteenth century there was no novel. By the end, novels of every description were being published, not in dozens but in hundreds." p.1

"The history of the novel is a history of quick growth, quick because in some respects it is no more than the adaption of other and well-matured literary forms. There are no primitives among the novelists; for plot making had been studied and elaborated in the drama and in shorter narrative forms like the novella; character portraiture had reached the level of accomplished art in the seventeenth-century writers of "characters" and in periodicals like The Spectator; situation and incident had been competently handled in long narratives of the romantic type, even as far back as Malory's Morte d'Arthur- or for that matter the Homeric epics and the Northern sagas, with striking sharpness in the domestic sagas of Iceland. The novel, then, can be regarded as an assembled rather than an invented artistic form." p.2

"...the essential purpose of the novel- if not to create the impression of downright and uncompromising reality, at any rate to deal with what seem to be real people, in situations which have the tang of the life of the time and which pose significant problems related to that life." p.4

"Miss Austen can properly be called the first modern English novelist, the earliest to be read with the feeling that she depicts our life, and not a life placed back somewhere in history, or off somewhere in imagined space." p.4

"I know no way of honestly extending one's knowledge of literature other than by reading it- not reading about it." p.5

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jane, April Lindner

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic
Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

I love the cover of this book- the bright pink title, the period costumed girl, and windswept moors- all so beautiful! This was a new book purchase in spite of my vow to stop buying books for a spell. My life at school is still giving me an ulcer so after a particularly gruesome day I decided a deserved a treat (clearly treats have become my stress survival plan).

After being reeled in by the pretty cover I was completely sold after I read the description. I love the Brontes and I love reading modern versions of the classics so I went home, put my pajamas on (even though it was 5pm) and started reading.

This is one of those books that I could not put down. I read the entire thing in 2 hours and was so mad that it was over. I love finding books like this that are so well written and compelling that I can forget my own stress and just, for lack of a less trite phrase, be lost in a book.

I thought April Lindner did such a good job taking the well known Jane Eyre story and fitting it to modern characters and situations. It had me thinking about Wuthering Heights and what she might do with that plot. It's hard for me to imagine Healthcliff & Cathy in the modern world though. It also had me wanting to reread Jane Eyre.

Angieville review
Tempting Persephone review
Tea Cozy Review

James Martin

This was a great read! I would love to own a copy to have as a reference. I ended up with way too many post it flags to report on in a blog post because Father Martin's writing gave me so much to think about. Here are just a few things:

To read:
The Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux
Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola
Thomas More, Richard Marius
A Marginal Jew, John Meier

"...realizing from experience that some thoughts left him sad and others happy. Little by little he came to recognize the difference between the spirits that agitated him, one from the enemy, the other from God." p.83

"we should not be so attached to any thing or person or state of life that is prevents us from loving God." p. 84

"Can you be indifferent to your need to have things happen on your own timetable? Are you more concerned with how things appear rather than what is really best for you? Might God's timetable be a better one than yours?" p.86

"God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful." - Mother Teresa, p. 170

"I let others waste their time dreaming about what might happen to me... The idea that one would be better off somewhere else is an illusion." -Pope John XXIII, p.186

"More often that not, God is most easily found by simply looking back over your life, or your week, or your day, and saying, 'Yes, there was God'. Finding God is often a matter of simply being aware, or simply remembering." p.355

"...we are called to bring Christ into the lives of others." p.355

"For those with faith no explanation is necessary; for those without faith no explanation is sufficient." p.379

"She's not meant to be Mother Teresa; she's meant to be herself." p.387

"Part of this process means that [you have] to let go of [your] desire to be someone else." p.388

"The beginning of sanctity  is loving ourselves as creations of God. And that means all of ourselves, even the parts of us that we wish weren't there, the parts of us that we wish God hadn't made, the parts of us that we lament. God loves us as a parent loves a child- often  more for the parts of the child that are weaker or where the child struggles and falters. Those weaknesses are often the most important paths to holiness, because they remind us of our reliance on God." p.389

 In the middle of reading My Life with the Saints I checked this short book also by Father Martin out from the library. Searching for God at Ground Zero is Father Martin's journal of counseling the workers at Ground Zero in the immediate days after September 11th. It is very well written and obviously very sad.

I am now a fan of Father Martin's writing and want to get my hands on his other books and writings in America as well.

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