"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TTT: Bookish Items I'd like to Own

Yesterday's TOP TEN TUESDAY topic: Bookish items I'd like to Own
Thought I'd make a list even though I am a day late.

The only problem with this wish is what seven books would I pick?

 Just about anything Jane Austen.
Here are a few bookish JA items that I think are especially cute:

2. Bennet Sisters Clothes Pin Dolls
To add to my doll collection

3. Captain Wentworth and Anne Clothes Pin Dolls
Since my first name is Anne, I have always been partial to Anne Elliot things.
4. Jane Austen Playing Cards
I bought these to use as a prize for the winner of Jane Austen week.
Now I want my own set. They contain quotes from four of her books.
5. Pemberley Collection Tea Cup and Saucer
I am very partial to blue and white china.
If it says it came from Pemberley (home of Mr. Darcy), I'm sure it did! Ha!
6. Pride and Prejudice Purse
All of the sudden I've decided that I MUST have this super impractical purse.

7. Bookish T-Shirts
This sentiment seemed to match my mood today since it is raining.
I'm from the Seattle-area. You know what that means about me and coffee.
Coffee, Book, and Rain. "Oh What a Perfect Day."
8. Bookish Charms and Necklaces
This is my favorite quote from The Fault in Our Stars
"We fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly and then all at once."

9. Book Earrings
I actually have two pairs already but, hey, I'm a librarian, so it is not weird. Right?
These are The Hobbit book earrings.

10. Book Art
OK. I admit. This particular piece of art is pretty weird.
But you get the idea of where I am going with this.
I really do like things printed on dictionary pages, especially if they relate.

11. Clear page holder
OK. I confess that I have seen this on just about every other list and I stole your idea.
But honestly.
I need this.
When I eat my lunch and read it is hard to keep the page open.
Pop this puppy over an open book and, voila, I can read and munch at the same time.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A review of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Where to start?

Let's see, first should I identify the genre? Not sure I can do that. If I had to pick one genre I'd say it was a gothic romance, but it was also a mystery, set in a historical time frame. It has ghosts, or at least rumors of ghosts. And in a strange way, it is a coming-of-age story.

We meet our protagonist, Daniel, when, as an eleven-year-old, his father took him to the cemetery of forgotten books. There he was instructed to select one book and to make it his. Daniel selects the book, The Shadow of the Wind by a relatively unknown author, Julian Carax. After reading his book, Daniel sets out to learn as much as he can about the author. What he learns frames the rest of his life. It changes the whole trajectory of the course his life takes. It places him in harms way, but also leads him to love's door.

The plot of The Shadow of the Wind is labyrinthine, containing spirals within spirals. For this reason, this should not be a book selection made by a casual reader. If a person is looking for an easy-to-read book that is straight-forward, this is not the book. But even as I say these words I am picturing the first student I will recommend this book to. Many high school readers are mature enough to enjoy complex novels, especially ones with spooky plots and complicated characters. In fact, it was a high school student that suggested that I purchase it for the library several years ago.

I was enthralled with this book right from the first line, "I still remember the day my father took me to the cemetery of forgotten books for the first time." I couldn't figure out the mysterious bits. I cheered for young love and wept for love lost. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that few reviewers writing for newspapers around the world liked it. Or, more accurately, these reviewers liked aspects but were very critical and had issues with parts of the book. Once again, I want to reiterate that this book is not for everyone. But I also think that book reviewers have to be a bit controversial to appeal to their readers. If you want to see what I mean, take a look at the review by Andrew Riemer from the Sydney Morning Herald. Then come back for a less complicated but more complimentary review, right here!

I listened to the audiobook of The Shadow of the Wind. Jonathan Davis narrated it beautifully. Perhaps I loved this book because of Davis and his marvelous reading skills. I don't speak Spanish so I appreciated his pronunciations and the way he handled names and locations that I would have botched on my own. For example, I didn't know that Barcelona is actually pronounced Barthelona, sounding almost like the speaker has a lisp. Interesting. One aspect of the audiobook that I adored was the music in the background. I understand that it was written by the author. Impressive.  If you pay attention at the very beginning of this audio clip on YouTube you will hear a little bit of the music. Unlike most audiobooks, listeners are treated to the music at various intervals throughout each disc, not just at the beginning and end of each.

I want to mention the fact that this book is translated into English from Spanish by Lucia Graves.
I didn't notice that it was a translation until the translator was mentioned in the credits.  What? That was a shock. Usually I am aware of language nuance issues with translations. Not with this book. Lucia Graves did an excellent job.  She obviously understands the subtleties of both languages equally.

Lastly I want to highlight a few quotes from the book. In a lot of ways this book is just a love story to literature. No wonder I loved it.
“Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.” 
“In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.”
“Time goes faster the more hollow it is. Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don’t stop at your station.” 
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside of you."~Julian Carax” 
“Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”  
Exquisite, simply lovely.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Salon, April 13, 2014

Weather: Uncommonly lovely! Sunny and warmish! Great dog-walking weather.

Musical selection of the week: Josh Groban, Higher Window. Cue the music and listen while you read the this blog post.

Yesterday: We drove up to Seattle and took a walk around Green Lake. It is a lake in the middle of Seattle that has a park all the way around it. There were hundreds/thousands of people enjoying the beautiful weather. Every year, on a sunny day in spring, our local news station will send someone to Green Lake to film all the people exercising and just spending time outdoors. I've always wanted to go see what all the fuss was about. We called and invited our daughter, who lives in Seattle, piled the dog in car and drove. Parking was an issue, it always is in Seattle, but we found a spot and had a lovely afternoon. (See photo above and below.)

Perfect root beer: Our town has a store that only sells root beer. It has hundreds of brands of root beer (and root beer flavored stuff.) We have set out to find the perfect bottle of this delicious beverage. Rules: 1. we limit our intake to one or two shared bottles per week, recognizing that delicious isn't necessarily healthy. 2. we serve it cold without ice. 3. Each person grades it on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being best. After sampling eight different concoctions in as many weeks we have found a perfect ten: Bulldog Root Beer made by the Orca Beverage Soda Co. right here in Washington State. Look for it! Yum!

Books read this week:
  • Maddie on Things by Theron Humphrey, a photo journey of Maddie, a coonhound, on things all over the USA. Very clever and fun. Check out the website.
Currently reading:
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I thought I'd be finished with this book by now because I have been obsessive about listening to its audiobook this all week. But alas I am only on disc 15 of 16. Look for the review sometime this week.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Almost done. I've been reading this in bite-sized pieces in a read-along format.
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer. Just started this book then got the audiobook from the library. Will commence reading in earnest after I am done with the Shadow of the Wind.

Holy Week: Today is Palm Sunday, a day on the church calendar that celebrates Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This week represents the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. During this week Christ held his last supper with his disciples, was imprisoned, tortured, crucified, and finally, was resurrected on Easter. This week I am dedicating myself to prayer and fasting, each day with a different focus:

  • April 14th (Monday)- The children and youth of our church and community
  • April 15th (Tuesday)- The leaders of our community, state, country, world
  • April 16th (Wednesday)- Unity among those who disagree (in families, schools, churches, community, and workplace.)
  • April 17th (Maundy Thursday)- For those people I love
  • April 18th (Good Friday)- For those people who find themselves in a dark place
  • April 19th (Holy Saturday)- For family and friends who are grieving a recent loss of a loved one.

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mansfield Park Read-along, the sixth

Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, Miramax Films 1999
We are over 3/4th of the way through our read-along of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I'm actually not sure if anyone has joined me on this reading adventure but I am sure enjoying it, whether you are with me or not. Plus, I hope that you are enjoying my weekly updates.

50+ page goal met. Yes, I read over 50 pages this week. (Hope I am not leaving anyone in the dust! Ha!). I am up to XXXVIII. (I just love Roman numerals.)

Action: Henry Crawford asks Fanny to marry him and she refuses. Sir Thomas Bertram, her uncle, tries to talk her into marrying Henry. She still refuses. Edmond tries to convince her, though he tells her she shouldn't marry if she doesn't love Henry. Mary Crawford tries to convince Fanny to change her mind by telling Fanny what a catch Henry is and how many other women are chasing him. Edmond confesses to Fanny how much he loves Mary Crawford and implies that he will seek her hand. Fanny is miserable. When William once again comes for a visit, Sir Bertram decides that Fanny should visit her parents in Portsmouth, since she has an escort home in William, thinking that a few months of living with their poverty might help her change her mind about marrying Henry.

Surprises: I was surprised that Sir Bertram seemed more perplexed than angry about Fanny's refusal to marry Henry. Both Mansfield Park movies show him very angry with Fanny. In the 1999 version, it is this anger that causes him to send Fanny home to her parents making her even more wretched. I was also shocked by Mary's entreaty of Fanny to reconsider. It really was delivered in a gentler and kinder way than I would have expected. I am not surprised by how much I enjoy reading Austen, even this not-so-well-known book.

Quote: Fanny to Mary, about Henry:
I am persuaded that he does not think as he ought on serious subjects.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Posts

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't dig for their favorite book, the coolest, or the most intellectual. They use the one they are currently reading.

Book: Cress by Marissa Meyer, 3rd book in The Lunar Chronicles series.

Book Beginnings:
     Her satellite made one full orbit around the planet Earth every sixteen hours. It was a prison that came with an endlessly breathtaking view---vast ocean and swirling clouds and sunrises that set half the world on fire.
Friday 56:
     Nainsi, Kai's android assistant, appeared in the office doorway, holding a tray with jasmine tea and hot wash clothes. Her sensor lights flashed. 'Daily reports, Your Majesty?'
... Nainsi set the tray on Kai's desk and turned to face him and Torin, launching into the day's reports that blissfully had nothing to do with wedding vows or eight-course dinners.
My Thoughts: This is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles series, which are based on fairy tales is the partial retelling of Rapunzel. I couldn't imagine how the author was going to imprison Cress until I read the first line. Of course. Her tower is a satellite from which she cannot escape.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn won the Morris Award, Which honors a book written for young adult audiences by an author previously unpublished. I read the book as part of my own reading challenge to read all the ALA Youth Services Award books.

The ALA News page describes the book and explains why it was the winner:
     Drew, aka “Win,” has been isolated at boarding school since age 12. While he outwardly excels, a horrific secret pushes him toward madness. With the help of friends, can he conquer the beast within? Win’s rawness and vulnerability illuminate the teen experience in ways both unflinchingly honest and frighteningly familiar.
     'Kuehn’s use of physics and emotion, drama and misdirection creates a dark and moody journey. This story resonates with every read,' said Morris Award Chair Dorcas Wong. 
In chapters that alternate between matter (present day) and anti-matter (the past) the reader gets small glimpses into what makes Drew/Win tick. But nothing is clear. Most glimpses just bring more questions forward. Why is he so angry, and at such a young age?  What happened to his family and what role did he play in the event? Why doesn't he eat? And why hasn't he outgrown his motion sickness? Why can't he get along with his roommates? Is he going mad or is this another supernatural story? Little by little each question is answered even as more questions appear. Fortunately the book ends on a note of hope, one that that leaves the reader with a sense that Win will discover some of the answers that he needs to move forward.

I'm a bit dense so I missed all the physics references and didn't really understand the title of the book until I read another review where it was explained that both charm and strange are types of quarks. Don't ask me to explain quarks, but I do know they have something to do with physics. But now that I think about it, the story is explained by physics or perhaps, more correctly, Win thinks he is plagued by conditions which only physics could explain. Either way, the story didn't suffer because I missed all this as I read it.

This is a book which gives the reader a lot to think about. I read it fast, finishing it in one day, because I HAD to know what was going to happen next. I hope my teen readers will be as anxious to read consume it as I did. It should be particularly popular with students who like books with a psychological aspect to them.

Monday, April 7, 2014

TTT: Unique/Quirky books

Hosted by Broke and Bookish
This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about unique books. I tell people that I like quirky books with quirky characters so my list replaces the word "unique" with "quirky", though they may end up being the same thing.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
By 2045, the exhaustion of Earth's fossil fuels has led to longstanding global scarcity and violent unrest. People take refuge in the OASIS, a massively multiplayer online virtual reality simulation that dominates all human activity. Its creator James Halliday had died five years earlier. His fortune and controlling ownership of the OASIS will be awarded to the first person to find an Easter egg inside the simulation, which he has hidden behind a series of three gates unlocked by hidden keys. Those searching for the Egg are referred to as "gunters". Gunters become devotees of 1980s pop culture, with which Halliday had been obsessed. -Wikipedia
2.  The Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
Instead of an epic journey with a ring, this book starts in Portland, Oregon when a few fellows have to move a couch from their apartment to Goodwill. A trip to Goodwill never happens because they find themselves leaving town with the couch and all kinds of unexpected adventures happen on and because of the couch. I laughed my way through this quirky book but it got me thinking, too.
3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This is the funniest, silliest, zaniest Science Fiction book I've ever read. It is Monty-Python-laugh-out-loud-funny and one of my favorite books to recommend to those senior boys who are tired of the kid stuff I have in the library.
4. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Stuffed full of the quirkiest set of characters in all literature this book is a must-read for anyone who likes unique/quirky reads. Ignatius J. Riley is the most despicable, gross character but his voice is unique and contagious. Oh my gawd, you have to read this book because of quotes like this: “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
5. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
'Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens.'-Goodreads. This book is seven interconnected stories which tie together with ever tightening threads. More unique than quirky.
6. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore combines elements of fantasy, mystery, friendship and adventure as a way of looking at the modern conflict and transition between new technology (electronic) and old (print books). The main protagonist is a laid off Silicon Valley tech worker who begins working at a dusty bookstore with very few customers, only to start discovering one secret after another. The mysterious old books, along with the store's owner, lead to a 500 year old secret society.-Wikipedia
7. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide. -Goodreads (This is the first book in an 8 book series.)
8. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
A book full of poems about God as if he were present in our everyday lives and actions, like going to the beauty parlor. This book has been recently reworked and republished with a new title: God Got a Dog.
9. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Milo mopes in black ink sketches, until he assembles a tollbooth and drives through. He jumps to the island of Conclusions. But brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis war over words and numbers. Joined by ticking watchdog Tock and adult-size Humbug, Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to enjoy life.- Goodreads 
10. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence.-Goodreads 
*  Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (Jamie over at Perpetual Page-Turner reminded me of this one!)
Here's one of the things I said in my review of this book that makes it really fit this TTT post:
uniquen., adj.      I have never read a book like it before.  It is the sole example of a tale written as if by a dictionary, to my knowledge. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Salon, April 6

The bike spokes in the foreground are actually a big bike rack.
Weather: rainy. What is it they say about April showers?

End of Spring break: today is the last day of Spring Break. Back to work tomorrow. It was a good week, though, visiting my sister and parents in Eugene, and taking a short trip to the Washington Coast with the hubby earlier in the week. The photo (above) was taken in front of a restaurant in Eugene where my sister and I shared a yummy black bean burger and I pondered the question, does Eugene attract hippies or create them?

Day of reading was a success: read my update here. I spent most of yesterday just reading (or listening to books being read aloud.) Don was at National Guard and it rained all day. Why not stay in and read?

National Poetry Month: April is poetry month. These lines come from the poem A PRAYER by Max Ehrmann. The poet seems to be looking at his life gratefully and thanking God for His many blessings. This verse, from the end of the poem, really struck me because it does seem that we chase after "the castle of my dreams" not often finding it.

And though age and infirmity overtake me,
and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me
still to be thankful for
life, and for time's olden memories that are good
and sweet; and
may the evening's twilight find me gentle still.

By the way: Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), author of the above poem, was the poet who wrote "Desiderata", a poem which was widely distributed back in the 1960s/70s and was mistakenly attributed to a work from the 17th century. If you haven't read that poem recently it is worth a good reread. (The link is to the SNOPES description about the mistaken attribution of the poem.)

Here is a rather cheesy YouTube video of Desiderata set to music:

Books read this week (remember, it is Spring Break):
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Don and I listened to the last two discs of the audiobook en route to Pacific Beach, then talked over the whole book as we ate a delicious salmon dinner at Lake Quinault.
  • Your Food is Fooling You by David Kessler, MD. A YA version of his popular and helpful book, The End of Overeating, which I haven't read but should.
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. The last fifty pages tipped my opinion into the positive column but just barely.
  • Relish by Lucy Knisley. A graphic memoir by an artist about her very foodie family and life. It was a strange juxtaposition to read this right after Your Food is Fooling You. Knisley is a very talented artist and I enjoyed the book and recipes very much.
  • A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. The #3 Flavia de Luce mystery. This was my audiobook selection for my trip to Oregon and back.
  • Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. This was the Morris Award winner this year for debut author. I hope to write a review of it soon.
  • The Jane Austen Companion to Life. With illustrations by C.E. Brock. This shouldn't count since it is just short sayings with an illustration per page.
Books currently reading:
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Described as a love story to literature.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. This is my read-along book, two more weeks and I'll be done.
  • 100 Poems to Lift Your Spirits, edited by Leslie Pockell. My favorite way of reading poetry with the help of an editor that makes good selections and comments on them.
There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.                      ― Gustave Flaubert
50 Quotes about poetryCheck out the website.

A day of reading ahead... (with update)

This is the last weekend of Spring Break and I was determined to spend one full day reading over break. That leaves today or tomorrow. Since tomorrow is church and a party, Sunday won't work, leaving only today. So I begin. Here are a few reading goals for the day:

1. Finish A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. I've been listening to the audiobook and am now on the last disc. Done. I listened to the last disc as I drove around doing errands.

2. Read the entire book Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kubler. It is short, just over 200 pages. I read over 100 pages on Saturday and finished it this morning.

3. Read 50 pages of Mansfield Park, my weekly page allotment for the read-along. Done. Poor Fanny, Henry Crawford won't leave her alone.

4. Get started with A Shadow in the Wind, make a beginning dent, enough to really launch me into its plot. I listened to three audiodiscs out of 16, which is approximately page 100.

5. Read a few poems in 100 Poems to Lift Your Spirits edited by Leslie Pockell. I started the day with a poem from it, "To a Skylark" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is a fairly long poem but here is a favorite verse:
Teach us sprite or bird,
   What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
   Praise of love or wine
That poured forth a flood of rapture so divine.
I read a few more poems. Unfortunately, I am in the portion of the book full of the Romantics' poems, not my favorites. Here is one I did like, though:

"Dawn Revisited" by Rita Dove

Imagine you wake up  
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares 
and the oak still stands, spreading 
glorious shade. If you don't look back,

the future never happens. 
How good to rise in sunlight, 
in the prodigal smell of biscuits--- 
eggs and sausage on the grill. 
The whole sky is yours

to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on, 
shake a leg! You'll never know 
who's down there, frying those eggs, 
if you don't get up and see.

6. Drop by the library to pick up the book club kit for this month. Peek at the book, Secret Son. Got it and I read the first page of the book which is set in Morocco. I'm looking forward to reading more of it soon.

7. I also read a small gift book called The Jane Austen Companion to Life which is full of illustrations by C.E Brock.

I'm off to read but will check back in later. It was a good day of reading.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mansfield Park Read-along, the fifth installment

Fanny Price with Henry Crawford at the dance.
Illustration by WC Brock
Mansfield Park Read-along is designed to break the book into bite-sized pieces suitable to easy reading and enjoyment.

50+ page goal met? Yes, to the end of Chapter XXX.

Action: Fanny's brother, William, is visiting Mansfield Park on leave from the Navy. The Bertrams attend a dinner party hosted by the Grants. Lady Bertram shows her true colors when she cannot play even the simplest card game and required Henry Crawford to tell her what cards to play every turn. As William's visit nears its end, Sir Thomas decides that it is high time for Fanny to come out and he decides to host a dance in her honor. Both Mary Crawford and Edmond give Fanny gold chains to wear with the amber cross given to her by her brother. The whole rest of the section is devoted to preparations for the dance, the dance, and the aftermath of the dance. Henry Crawford was quite devoted to Fanny the whole evening. The next day Henry and William leave for London where William will join back up with his unit. When Henry returns several days later he confesses to his sister how much he loves Fanny. He admits that he didn't start out with pure motives but he is now besotted by Fanny.

Surprises: Both Mansfield Park movies spend quite a bit of time on the dance and on Henry's attentions to Fanny Price. What surprised me was his lengthy revelation to his sister about how much he loves Fanny and how his motives toward her have changed from the beginning. I suppose that the movies don't have time for true love confessions but it explains a lot. Henry is no longer just trying to make a little whole in Fanny's heart, he is setting himself up for a broken heart himself. Of all Austen's Cads I have always liked Henry the best and after reading chapter 30 where he makes his true confessions it makes me like him even better.

Henry to his sister, Mary...
'Yes, Mary,' said he, drawing her arm within his, and walking along the sweep as if not knowing where he was---'I could not get away sooner---Fanny looked so lovely! I am quite determined, Mary. My mind is entirely made up. Will it astonish you? No: you must be aware that I am quite determined to marry Fanny Price.'