Thursday, September 25, 2014

Currently reading: Maine and Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life

Maine, a family saga, was recommended to me for summer reading a few years ago by a publishing friend and then again this summer by Caryl. Since I was between books, reading the book that a friend places in your hands is super easy. This novel is told in the alternating voices of four characters that represent three generations of women. The matriarch is clearing out the family’s summer home in Maine where her granddaughter has retreated as she comes to terms with her unplanned pregnancy. Joining them is the matriarch’s daughter-in-law, who is building a dollhouse (a metaphor for her empty marriage) for an international competition. So far, I find all the characters despicable. Where is the love? Yet, the book is enjoyable to read, which I find is a weird juxtaposition. 

In June, my family spent a week in England’s Lake District where we rented Yew Tree Farm, a farmhouse built in 1693 and owned by Beatrix Potter in the 1930s. Naturally, we saw as many BP sights as possibly, and now, in an attempt to hang onto memories,  I am reading Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life, which is a delightful biography framed by Potter's love of the natural world. I love Potter's children's book illustrations and her watercolors so this book is such a treat. She was a complex and admirable woman! In addition to Potter's biography, illustrated by archival photographs and artwork, there are sections on her gardens through the seasons and a travel guide to visiting the places she habituated.

Up next: Margaret Atwood's highly anticipated new story collection, Stone Mattress. Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recently finished

Last week, I finished the 23rd and most recent Brunetti mystery, By Its Cover. And, with that, I became a Donna Leon completist! All caught up until book 24 lands, most likely in April 2015. This episode involved the theft of rare books, which was so juicy. The balance of mystery, Brunetti's family, and the police station was perfect. As always, Leon's portrait of Venice takes me right back, and I wish I were there. Sigh. Looking for the next mystery series to dive into. I require a compelling protagonist and interesting setting. Both are a must. Some candidates include Ian Rankin (Glasgow), Louise Penny (Montreal), and Daniel Silva (various).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Recently finished

Over the weekend, John and I took a road trip to Ely to pick up the boys from their respective Y camps. On the drive, we listened to Lethal People by John Locke (the New York Times-bestselling author, not the 17th century English philosopher or the Lost character named after the English philosopher). Mr. Bibliotonic happened to have the audio file on his phone, probably to keep him company on walk/runs, and since my car stereo is bluetooth-enabled, we were able to listen to the book on his phone through my car stereo. Brave new world, indeed!

Aside from the technological marvels, Mr. B and I don't even remotely read the same books. So I was pleasantly surprised by this thriller. As I was logging our progress on Goodreads, I glanced upon the most recent review, which indicated a crazy statistic about the book: the first self-published e-book to hit #1 on Amazon, and the first self-published author to sell a million copies on Amazon. Wow! These statistics wouldn't drive me to pick up the book, but I find them intriguing after the fact.

The novel stars Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin, who now kills terrorists for Homeland Security with odd jobs in between contracts. This story was filled with outrageous characters, including a midget and circus clowns, and laugh-out-loud situations, many of which were inappropriate for our children. But what the hey?! I would listen to more of these.

Over the weekend, I also finished My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, which I had started on our UK vacation earlier in the summer, but only got a little way into before the electronic library loan ended. Initially I had checked out the book because it was available. As I started reading it, I found I enjoyed Rakoff's voice. And, I made a strong connection to the author's experience in publishing, which brought on a nostalgia for working in the industry that formed my early adult professional (and personal) life. The Salinger angle amuses me but I think any cult author in which I had a passing interest would. I liked Catcher in the Rye and many of his stories, but don't have a fangirl love for Salinger, and neither did Rakoff, which endeared me to her.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Currently reading

Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles (Katherine Pancol): Last week, in anticipation of recuperating after oral surgery (root canal; the thought of it made me want to curl up and sleep for a year), I went to the bookstore and browsed for an appropriate book. Something light, cheery, slightly trashy. The bright orange jacket and catchy title of Katherine Pancol's book--an international bestseller, translated from French--caught my eye. I'm enjoying the novel, though the first 70 pages are still "set up," and my recovery was not nearly as feet-up as I had feared. A pleasing combo of Diane Johnson and Raffaella Barker.

Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles (Margaret George): A few weeks ago, I helped Son #1 with a history project in which he wrote a report on a country, Scotland. Part of the report included a biography, and Simon chose Mary, Queen of Scots as a subject because her story kept coming up and he thought fascinating the story of the child queen who was married off and sent to France at a young age. Soon it became clear that I needed to read Margaret George's sweeping historical novel about Mary. A quick search of the shelves revealed that I did not have a copy, which I found strange. This book was one of the bestselling backlist titles when I repped for SMP. I felt fairly confident that I had at least one copy, but no, and so not the first book I've had to re-purchase. I'm on page 12, and so far, the book is easier to read than Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell series and nearly every bit as enjoyable.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

nearing the end

Only 50 pages left in Wolf Hall. The end is in sight! I have enjoyed every single word of this well-crafted historical novel, and I marvel at the prospect of two more volumes. Earlier this week I purchased Bring Up the Bodies in anticipation of diving in soon.

Saturday, February 09, 2013


Earlier this week, I sat down for my hour-of-power morning read, but couldn't find Wolf Hall...and, it's not a small book. A good twenty minutes of precious reading time was sucked up while I ripped apart the house looking for a chunkster with a red cover. No luck. So I cut my losses and started Kate Atkinson's forthcoming Life After Life. Wow. Just wow. Her new novel is a stand-alone about a girl who relives her life over and over. I blew through the first 50 pages and found it very much in the vein of Atkinson's earlier books Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet but with a much more developed writing style. By the end of the day, I found Wolf Hall under the sofa . I'm currently at the 400 page mark and hope to finish over the weekend. While I'd really like to launch right into Bring Up the Bodies, which I've heard from a few readers is even better than Wolf Hall, I do need to get back to the Atkinson, which my book group is discussing at the end of the month.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January '13 stats

For most of January, I was on break from school. Although, half of this time was spent at my internship, I felt I still got a fair bit of reading done. One goal was to finish some books that I had started months earlier. The first of these stragglers was Syndrome E, the international thriller by Franck Thilliez, which had been a birthday present from Mr. Bibliotonic. Syndrome E was instantly engaging. Short chapters made the novel a page-turner. For the most part, Syndrome E delivered a unique storyline and two strong characters, but it was not without flaws. Perhaps something was lost in translation. A few plot turns were hard to stomach and suspend disbelief for, but I also believe Thilliez's voice is promising, especially if he brings back Lucie Hennebelle and Franck Sharko.

By contrast, Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, a collection of modern stories, knocked my socks off. The coldness of technology and human psychology form a thread running through all these stories. In fact, most seem to be about rockets or astronauts. The Veldt is prescient in the way it reveals technology and permissive parenting gone amok. This story has been a favorite since I first read it as a high school junior. Many of these stories read like Twilight Zone episodes. I'm looking forward to reading more long-form Bradbury, such as Fahrenheit 451, as well as more stories.