Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So I borrowed his copy of Dark Star. It's a good spy novel but a bit overwhelming because it's so heavy on the history...and I was a history major in college!
The story takes place pre-World War II, in 1937. Andre Szara is a Polish-born journalist working for the Russian newspaper Pravda. While just doing his job, he gets coerced into working with the NKVD (Soviet secret intelligence). Setting up base in Paris, Szara becomes pretty much a spy for Russia. He travels across Europe as a spy and a journalist, enlisting the help of an agent in Berlin with whom he develops romantic connections.
Ok. So a spy novel. But Furst knows his history...sometimes a little too much. But I loved the cloak and dagger feel of the book and the time period was just crazy. I can't imagine traipsing around Europe right before WWII.
I'm going to definitely check out his other books. I recently won another one of Furst's books, The Spies of Warsaw, over at Medieval Bookworm so I'll let you know how that one goes.
You can preview Dark Star over at Google Books to see if it's something you might want to check out.
Have you read any Alan Furst novels or other good spy novels?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
All I have to say is that sometimes book promotions work. Very well. I get Random House's eNewsletter and they had an excerpt of the first chapter or so of Lee Child's latest Reacher Novel #13, Gone Tomorrow. Like the sucker that I am, I read it and was hooked. I posted the first sentence on my Friday Firsts posts last week.
First off, I must tell you I've never read a Lee Child novel and obviously have never read the first twelve Reacher books. That said, I don't think it makes a big difference if you had. It's like jumping into a Bond movie...you don't really have to have watched the first ones.
Jack Reacher is ex-military. He really lives nowhere. He has no luggage, no change of clothes. He's kind of substance living in the city...a.k.a. cheap hotel rooms and just living day to day. (Really, he is an interesting character. Makes me want to read the first book in the series.)
Anyway, here's Jack sitting on the 6 train heading uptown in the early early morning. Five people are on the train car with him and one is probably a terrorist. He then proceeds to break down the signs of what a terrorist looks and acts like. And she (it's a she) fits the bill to a T.
And that's what hooked me. It was really fascinating. And what kept me interested in the story was Jack's continuous snarky observations of New York and its people. Sometimes they cracked me up and usually I was like "YES!" that is totally what it's like. For instance, as he's scrambling to get away from (or follow someone, I forget), he gets bogged down by one of NYC's many Double Wide baby strollers for twins, triplets, etc. And I was like "YES! Have you ever been to the Upper West on a Saturday morning?!" And apparently he has.
So it was a good action book with a odd snarky lead character and it was fun. And he made fun of tidbits of NYC life which made me laugh.
Have you read any of the Reacher books?
Monday, September 28, 2009
2. The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory
3. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana - Umberto Eco
4. Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
5. Cross Country - Robert Sullivan
6. The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracy Chavalier
7. The Five Forty-Five to Cannes - Tess Uriza Holthe
8. Anthropology of an American Girl - Hilary Thayer Hamann
9. Labyrinth - Kate Mosse
10. The Queen of Subtleties - Suzannah Dunn
Now I just need to find more room in our tiny apartment to house all my loot.
For past Housing Works posts: June 2009 Loot and June 2009 Post
She says that she was new to the Book Blogger Appreciation week this year but she discovered tons of new blogs. And...she votes for a beach fetish on the book covers. I hope you enjoy the books!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I don't have speakers at work so I hope this turns out ok. I usually star things on Google Reader with sound and look at them at home. But I was listening to my iPod on the subway this morning on shuffle and this song came on.
Artist: The New Pornographers
I love love Neko Case's voice. She does her own solo albums as well as belong in the band The New Pornographers.
I just found this video now and think it's beautiful and slightly creepy. I can't wait to go home and check it out with sound. Enjoy!
I did NOT just suffer the chaos, cops, traffic near the Waldorf Astoria to pick up some library book sale books on my lunch break.
Here's what I did NOT pick up:
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This book was not at all what I was imagining it to be. And that's really not a bad thing. I guess the "bride" in the title and the synopsis made me think it was going to be more fiction than historical...or maybe more romance. That is not the case.
Here's what it's about:
There are always two sides of every revolution. Robert Alexander does a wonderful job laying the two sides of Russia's Bolshevik Revolution out in this novel. Each chapter is alternately narrated by the Grand Duchess Elisavyeta (Ella) and by Pavel, a revolutionist. Both sides are justly represented and the character's stories do intertwine a bit, at the beginning when Pavel is helping to plan the assassination of the Duchess' husband and then later at the very end of the story.
While Alexander makes both characters sympathetic, the novel really is a tribute to the outstanding character of the Grand Duchess. Even though she lived a life of luxury, after the eventual assassination of her husband, she devoted her life to God and the sick and needy Russian people. Even though she had the chance to flee, she stayed on became an abbess, and opened a woman's monastery.
The novel is quite sad and touching at points and but Alexander does a great job of making it very historically accurate and engaging. Not favoring one side or the other, he just points out the obvious regret that both sides could have reconciled their difference if only different choices where made.
My copy had an Introduction and a Conversation with Robert Alexander section at the back of the book which was actually my favorite part of the book. I am just in awe of the character and life of the Grand Duchess. She was actually canonized in 1981 and her statue is depicted with others above the Great Door of Westminster Abbey in London.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
We had to get the truck out for the hunt. So we thought we'd bring the pups along. Here's Charlie dog loving the wind in his face:
I snagged a picture of this really cool red bridge:
We drove for a bit and finally made it to our destination:
I had taken the treasure hunt clue from this site and went to where I thought it would be. Would it still be there? It was!!! (I LOVE that it says "#1 Literary Archaeologist)
So I brought it to the lovely ladies at the counter and voila! Woohoo!
Here's me outside with my loot.
Thanks Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, New York for participating in the treasure hunt!
Friday, September 18, 2009
Since we are all trying to cram as much summer into the next few days or weeks (at least in this hemisphere), I thought I'd do a summery giveaway.
I have two Elin Hilderbrand novel, Barefoot (paperback) and A Summer Affair (hardcover).
Friday Firsts is a new book blog meme creaded by Well Read Reviews. I love her blog and her tweets.
The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence? To participate in this weekly book meme is extremely easy. Head on over to Well Read Reviews to join in the fun!
My Friday Firsts: Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
I read the first few pages on Random House's website through their newsletter and I was hooked. The guy is sitting on the 6 subway train, early morning New York city and thinks he spots a suicide bomber. Maybe not the first sentence but the first chapter definitely drew me into the story.
Due to a change in my work schedule I was unable to participate in the show but I absolutely devoured this book. It has to be one of my favorite reads this year. This is totally my type of book. I read a few review blurbs on the first few pages of the book. One mentioned the similarity to Isabel Allende (whom I love) while another compared scenes to a Quentin Tarantino flick. Ok, that's just cool.
Here's the plot:
1920's Brazil - remote mountainous region: Two sisters, Emília and Luzia dos Santos, parent-less, have just moved in to live with their seamstress aunt. The aunt teaches them the ways of the trade. Emilia and Luzia are as different as day and night. Beautiful Emília dreams of leaving the small provincial town, reads the fashion/beauty magazine, and designs her own clothing (often to the ridicule of the town's residents. Tall, independent Luzia, with a damaged arm from a childhood accident, has never let it stop her from becoming a confident seamstress. She too has dreams even though she knows her damaged arm prevents her from becoming a viable marriageable interest.
The novel alternates between each sister's viewpoint. At the beginning I loved Luzia's voice and was always impatient to get through Emília's side to get back to Luzia. I just related more to Luzia over Emília's fashionable frippery. But as the story progressed, I fell for Emília's plight and just loved how she evolved. I have to say it did remind me of Isabel Allende but Frances de Pontes Peebles has a voice all her own. It is just vivid and beautiful. Be aware that while the Hawk's group of cangaceiro's often seem like Brazil's Robin Hood or Zorro...there are gruesome atrocities committed as well.
I LOVED this book. I couldn't put it down. I loved Luzia. I love the scenes between Luzia and the Hawk. And Emília evolution from a selfish materialistic girl into the woman in Recife is just beautiful and often heart wrenching to read. Frances de Pontes Peebles depicted the Brazilian landscape and scenes so well that I almost felt like I was watching it. I can still picture in my mind the newspaper clipping and photo depicting the elusive Hawk and Seamstress' band of cangaceiros. The history of the Brazilian land and people is fascinating and I loved finding a book that depicted this unfamiliar time period.
I also stumbled across Frances de Pontes Peebles blog The Art of Waiting and I am addicted. You should check it out. There's an section at the end of the paperback copy that I have which has an interview with Frances regarding her research and travels while writing The Seamstress. She actually went into the remote regions and talked with people in the very places she was writing about. No wonder the imagery is so vivid! And Frances' own ancestral history also takes a part in this story. I want her to write a whole other book/memoir depicting her adventures in writing and researching this book.
Here's an alternate cover. I can't tell which one I like best...they are both beautiful:And I'm a sucker for stories about sisters because I too have a great sister. So I thought I'd include an old photo of us dressed up as cangaceiros. I think I was twelve or so at the time and it was taken at the lovely Casa Bonita in Denver (if you've never been...go!...and take your kids if you have any).
Book Club Girl
Devourer of Books
Thursday, September 17, 2009
So I was at Sam Flax here in the city, a very cool art store near my work. I found a little knitting kit that came with a book, three skeins of yarn, needles, the works. And it is aimed at teenagers so I figured if they could do it, I could do it.
And I can! Here's the book:
It has instructions for six projects. Here's the pretty purple yarn. The first task is to wind the skeins into balls. Dorkily, I kind of enjoy this part. I guess most yarn/art stores will do it for you though if you buy the yarn there. My first project was to make a little pocket purse for coins or whatever. It's a great starter project because it teaches you to knit, purl, stockinette and garter stitch. And how to make a button hole which was pretty cool.
I made it slightly too long so the flap kinda fits weird over it, but hey...I'm learning!My second project was to make a sunglasses case. I normally wear glasses so I don't normally wear sunglasses. I really need to get prescription ones so I don't ruin my eyes. This was a pretty fun project too. I learned how to knit and purl alternately in the same row, which is a rib stitch which is the top of the case. Kind of like the ends of sweaters. Boy did it take me a few tries to figure it out though. It's all in how and where you hold the place the yarn. And voila!Here it is with my glasses. I'm currently using the case to carry around my new phone until I make the third project which is a cell phone case. Do any of you knit or crochet? I'd love to hear about it! Do you have any favorite knitting books or projects? And I discovered Ravelry so if any of you are on the site, please friend me. My user name is: nycbookgirl