Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

I decided to read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys because of Twitter. Yes, that's right. Because of Twitter. I follow @WNBA_NRGM which is National Reading Group Month from the Woman's National Book Association. They mentioned this article from NPR. Confused yet?

I had no idea that this novel had anything to do with Jane Eyre [my review]. **If you've never read Jane Eyre and are planning to, you might want to stop reading here. **I happened to see it the other day at the library and picked it up. So here we go.

Wide Sargasso Sea imagines the background of "Bertha" the first wife of Rochester from Jane Eyre. It's supposed to clear up the mystery of why she ending up being the crazy lady in the attic.

And I say "supposed" because it didn't really clear up anything to me. At the end of the book, I still feel that "Bertha" a.k.a. Antoinette Cosway, the wealthy Creole girl from the Caribbean, is still such a mystery.

Let's be honest. I didn't really like this book. Classic literature it may be but here's why I had problems with it.

1) Rochester doesn't really seem like the Rochester from Jane Eyre. That said, if he's supposed to come off as an evil man who enslaves her in his kind of failed. You could see where he seemed just as stuck in having to marry her as she was to him. And there was no logical reason for him to start calling her "Bertha", it was out of character, and it just bugged me. (A large portion in the middle of the book is written from Rochester's perspective. I DID like that.)

2) The book jacket made it seem as if she had no choice in marrying him. As if against her will she was forced. But I didn't really see that in the book either. I couldn't really see WHY she had to marry him or why she did.

3) She remains a complete mystery. If she's supposed to be strong-willed, I don't see it. If she was supposed to be an innocent who was manipulated, I don't see it. I'm just not sure where the author was wanting to take this character.

4) The characters were confusing, the writing was confusing...I'll just leave it at that.

What I did like about this book:

1) The very beginning is very vivid. It's the part where Antoinette is a child, growing up as a Creole without a father, and the social changes that happen on the island where she lives. I'd tag this as "classic" just from that small section. Then the book just goes down-hill from there.

2) In a weird way, I could never get a picture of what Antoinette looked like. Maybe it was purposeful since Antoinette was caught between worlds, not fitting into either one. I thought that was a really powerful writing tool she used.

3) I did like the parallel between Jane's upbringing and Antoinette's. Lots of similarities.

4) Jean Rhys. I am kind of fascinated about the author herself. I'd love to read a book just on her.

***Has anyone else read this? Did you like it? If so, what was I missing?

Also Reviewed By:

Books I Done Read (Jane Eyre vs Wide Sargasso Sea)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

I wasn't going to jump on this bandwagon. If you haven't heard, The Hunger Game Series is huge. I mean HUGE. The Hunger Games is the first novel in the series and the second book, Catching Fire, just came out.

So I put a hold on the book at the library and it came in just in time for me to read it for Dewey's Read-a-thon. And O. MY. I loved it. It honestly reminded me of one of my favorite books growing up, Invitation to the Game. If you or your kid like The Hunger Games...check out that one.

Anyway...the story (and please ignore the oddity of the names, because I think most of us think they're a bit silly):

It's the future and what was the U.S. has been demolished and what exists is the Capital (I'm thinking it's Denver) and 12 Districts (District 13 was destroyed). Katniss is 16 years old and lives in District 12 (Appalachia...think Tennessee). She's basically taking care of her little sister and mom because her dad died in a mine explosion/cave-in. To stave off starvation, Katniss sneaks out of the Districts fences and poaches for food with her friend Gale, an 18 year-old guy-friend.

Enter THE GAMES. Once a year the Capital holds The Hunger Games which basically reminds the people that the Capital rules over everything. Every kid ages 12-18 has an entry into The Games. A boy and girl from each district are randomly chosen to represent in The Games, which a duke-it-out Death Game with only one winner.

We know where this is going. Obviously Katniss is the girl representing District 12. To add to the problem, the boy chosen is handsome and nice Peeta who helped her years ago after her dad died.

Why did I like this? I think Katniss rocks. She's taken the hunting skills her father taught her (including her prowess with the bow and arrow) and is now using them to save her life. She knows a heck of a lot about foraging for edible and medicinal plants. It just reminded me of all the books I liked growing up about self-sufficient kids. You know, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphin, and of course Invitation to the Game.

For some reason I kept imagining The Games to take place in some sort of arena, instead of them being dropped off in the wilderness. And obviously the deaths can be pretty gruesome because, well, you've got 24 kids killing each other in the wilderness.

I immediately made my husband read it. He liked it but I don't think as much as I did. I put the next book on hold at the library and of course we're both going to read it.

Here's an alternate cover which looks more YA:

Here's their idea of Katniss and Peeta. I think they look too young. More 12 years-old than 16+

And I have to say that GalleySmith and My Friend Amy crack me up. They made Team Peeta and Team Gale buttons.

So I'll admit I'm on Team Peeta, although I wish Suzanne Collins had written him as a brunette rather than blond. Just my preference :)
Also reviewed by:
Tedious & Brief
Book Lust
The Literate Housewife
All About {n}
My Fluttering Heart
Devourer of Books
S. Krishna's Books
Medieval Bookworm
Great Books and Fresh Coffee
Muse Books Reviews
Stephanie's Written Word
Books I Done Read
Ticket to Anywhere
Booking Mama
At Home With Books
Maggie Reads
Books and Bards
Nothing of Importance
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
Regular Rumination
Today's Adventure
Maw Books Blog
Phew...what a list! Let me know if I missed yours!

Street where I live

Last Saturday during Dewey's Read-a-thon I realized that I had a package to pick up at the Post Office (check out the blog post from The Streets Where We Live for great photos of that post office). So I grabbed the umbrella, put on my iPod to listen to Gourmet Rhapsody, and trekked off.

On my way home I thought I'd take a couple photos with my phone of my street with the fall rain.

Here's looking South...

Here's looking North...

And here's looking down...
It's dumping rain today so I thought these photos were appropriate for a rainy fall day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Dickens Giveaway Winners!!

Sorry I've taken so long to pick the winners. I am impressed how many Dickens novels you all have read. But without further ado, the winners of The Last Dickens are:

Anonymous (email bgcchs)
Who wrote:
I've read many of Charles Dickens' books, primarily in school-A Tale of two Cities,David Copperfield, Great Expectations, etc.but sadly I haven't read any Matthew Pearl yet.
Who wrote:
I read Hard Times (loved it!), David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Barnaby Rudge (didn't like it that much), Great Expectations, and the first chapter of Bleak House.
Congratulations! I will be emailing you for your contact information!

Real Murders - Charlaine Harris

I found a paperback copy of Charlaine Harris' novel Real Murders in the freebie shelf in our apartment's basement. I haven't read her Sookie Stackhouse series yet but plan on giving it a go. But I thought this short mystery novel would be a great book to read for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. And I was right!

This is the first book in the Aurora (Roe) Teagarden series. Instead of vampires, this series follows Roe, a librarian in Georgia with roundish glasses who is almost five feet tall. Cute, right?

Well, in this book, Roe is part of a group called the Real Murders club which meets to discuss various real life they did it, why they did it, and all that controversial stuff. You know...Lizzie Borden, serial killers, etc.

All is going boring and predictable in Roe's life until one night at the Real Murders meeting, Roe finds the dead body of one of the members who's been murdered. And this murder replicates a famous past murder. Enter a serial killer in this tiny Atlanta suburb who seems to be focused on the various members of the Real Murders club.

Also, of course, Roe is in the middle of a love triangle. Should she date the handsome, short, muscular cop or the tall, red-headed mystery writer?

I thought it was a quick cute book. Although I will admit the ending was pretty surprising (did not see it coming) and it was pretty terrifying....I mean for a cute mystery book like this.

***I know the Sookie Stackhouse books are pretty popular right now, but has anyone read this series?

***If they made this a series, I see Christina Ricci as Roe...with round glasses.

Personality Test

I saw this over at Bibliophile By the Sea's blog.

Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)

Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men

You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dewey's Read-a-thon Update 4

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Charlaine Harris - Real Murders (Murder mystery series staring Aurora Teagarden, a librarian!)

2. How many books have you read so far?
1 - The Hunger Games
Almost done with The Old Man and the Sea but took a break
A good chunk of Gourmet Rhapsody

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
This Real Murders book.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Yeah, arranged with the husband. With Grand Theft Auto and College Football, he's been great!

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Many - breakfast, puppy walk, post office run, bubble bath, and nap.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How hard it is to juggle reading and updates. And I get tired! Hmm.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not yet! Can't think that far ahead.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Hmm...definitely be better prepared. I had to upload stuff to iPod today. Would have done that earlier.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yes. I took a nap.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Not yet. THANKS to all my commenters so far. You've kept me going!

Read-a-thon Break

Ok. So thanks to Nymeth I took a break and checked out this WebComic called No Rest for the Wicked. Which is AWESOME. Go check it out.

Start Reading Here.

It's like a cool amalgamation of all the fairy tale stories into one cool tale. The artwork is just amazing.

Hopefully I can snatch this...this is Red, my favorite character

Go check it out now.

Read-a-thon Challenge

This is for Joystory's Reading is Fundamental's Challenge.

Children NEED to be read to and learn the joy of reading at an early age.

Can you guess which one of these kids is me when I was little??

Check out my old post for a couple more photos.

Dewey's Read-a-thon Update 3

Phew. The walk was good. Much needed. Then I remembered I had to go pick up packages from the post office and then hit up the pharmacy on the way home. So I went on another walk. My audio book kept me company. On 17 of 84 with that. And almost done with The Hunger Games.

So this is for Feed Me Seymour! Challenge over at Nicole's blog:

From The Hunger Games:

I shoot two fish, easy pickings in this slow-moving stream, and go ahead and eat one raw even though I've just had the groosling.


Here's what I'm up to now (cool Shakespeare cup compliments of my big brother):

Dewey's Read-a-thon Update 2

It's been just over five hours of the Read-a-thon. On page 209 of The Hunger Games and on Track 12 of 84 of my audio book.

Need some fresh air. Going on a puppy walk.

How are you all doing? I can't keep up with the mini-challenges but that's ok.

Dewey's Read-a-thon Update

Good morning!

This is my first Read-a-thon post. I'm currently listening to Muriel Barbery's book on CD, Gourmet Rhapsody. I have to admit that I have a hard time listening to books. My mind tends to wander and I have to back track a lot. Does anyone else have that problem? I've taken a break from reading The Hunger Games. Ok...I am really glad I jumped on that bandwagon.

Anyway...time for my photos!

Here's my table of goodies. (Please ignore the pile on the windowsill. I've run out of bookshelf space. I know I know.)
This is one pile of books. These are the kids book section and graphic books.

Here's my second pile. The top one is my audio book. The rest are easier quick reads. Here's my third pile. I went on a library spree and picked up some short classics. You know, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. Then I found a couple un-read ones in our books shelf. The Vonnegut one is my husband's book and the Rilke one is a wedding gift that I have yet to read.
Ok. Time to make some breakfast. The husband is looking hungry and I told him I'd make it today. Scrambled eggs and little smokies. Hehehe....

How are you all coming along?

1. I'm reading from the second half of our living room - the table and computer area. The husband is doing a Grand Theft Auto marathon in the other half. :)
2. I have 21 books. Eek!
3. My goal is five books. I think that's reasonable.
4. Not really a veteran read-a-thoner...failed miserably last year.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Horrible Amanda. I am NOT supposed to be checking out anymore books from the library but trying to go through the numerous unread books I own.

But then I saw The Strain at the library. And I caved. I mean it's PERFECT for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. And then I checked out even more books for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. Ok. I'm weak.

Anway, what a scary book! I had no clue it was a zombie/vampire thriller. I kept on wanting to close my eyes during the gory/scary in a movie. But that obviously doesn't work with a book.

I'll admit that it wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I guess I was expecting a little more, hmmm, originality from the maker of Pan's Labyrinth. That's still a fun book to scare the living daylights out of you.

And I do credit them for making a great merge between zombies and vampires and coming up with an ultra-scary character/monster.

P.S. This is the first book in a trilogy. I had no clue about that. (Apparently I need to pay more attention to these things.) Had I known, I probably wouldn't have picked it up just because I hate hate waiting for the next book in series. But yeah, I'll probably read the next two books when they come out. Because I NEED to know how it ends. Darn you book.

P.P.S. Am I the only one who wasn't too thrilled that the main character's name is Ephraim a.k.a. Eph. Kind of annoyed me in a mild weird way.

P.P.P.S. I LOVE that it takes place in New York City because the whole rat thing was so insanely creepy. If you don't know what I'm talking the book. I seriously get creeped out when I see rats in the park and the dogs try and chase them. Although we have bigger problems with raccoons and skunks (yes...I live in Manhattan). And I also found out, while reading this, about a cool piece of NYC history. I had no clue about the abandoned City Hall subway stop. I had to stop reading and look it up. Check out the cool pictures.

Also Reviewed by:

A Book Blog. Period.
Devourer of Books
Medieval Bookworm
Shelf Love
Minds Alive on the Shelves

Thursday, October 15, 2009


This year I'm going to try and join in on the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I tried doing it last year and failed spectacularly. This year I'm going to be more prepared. I even told my husband and he's supporting me and going to give me the time and space to do it. It's on a Saturday so while I'm reading he can watch college football.

But I have a question.

I recently received an audiobook of Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody from LibraryThing's FirstLook program. And I told my husband that I was planning on popping on the audiobook during the Read-a-thon so I could still go work out and cook dinner, etc. And he said: THAT'S CHEATING!!!

So I'm listening to an audiobook during the Read-a-thon cheating?

***UPDATE: Consensus is, listening to an audiobook is NOT cheating. Whatever my husband says.

Thursday's Tunes

Thursday's Tunes is a weekly music post started by S. Krishna's blog. Go on over and check out her tune today. Thanks for letting me play along!

My artist today is Tift Merritt. I fell in love with her album Tambourine back in 2004. I'd pick up my nephew when he was a baby and dance with him to the video for "Good Hearted Man." I absolutely LOVE the song "Laid a Highway" from that album.

Anyway, the song "Broken" from her newer album Another Country is just beautiful and I love the black and white video that she did.

I can't embed the videos so head over to YouTube to watch the videos for Broken and Good Hearted Man.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Last Dickens & Giveaway!

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl is another book I've been honored to review as part of TLC Book Tours. This is one of those books that is just right up my alley. It's got historical-fiction, mystery, murder, a literary celebrity, and just plain good characters. And don't worry if you've never read anything by Charles Dickens. After reading this, though, you may want to start.

The story starts off just after the death of Charles Dickens. His death has caused quite the stir, not just because of his popularity but because he left his latest novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Back then, many novels were published segments at a time as serials. So everyone knew that the title character, Edwin Drood, had been murdered by his uncle. But how did the story end? This was particularly aggravating to his London and American publishers.

It's left to one of the partners of Dickens' American publishers, James Osgood, to track down and see if Dickens left any notes or papers revealing how the story would end. They are racing against thieves and unsavory characters who will publish their own versions and who will even murder to get their hands on the valuable document.

I enjoyed this novel on so many different levels. First of all, this is a fun mystery adventure filled with thieves, creepy villains, opium dens...all that is great in a Dickens novel. James Osgood and his assistant Rebecca Sands are just an awesome hero/heroine duo. I loved the insight into the cut-throat publishing world of the 19th Century. I had no clue that the U.S. was such a breeding ground for unauthorized printing.

But my favorite aspect of this book was all that I learned about Charles Dickens. There is one segment that flashes back a few years to when Dickens did a whirl-wind American tour. I had no clue how huge of a celebrity he was back then. I mean HUGE. I really want to know more about him. And his story is one of those things where fact really is more crazy than fiction. For instance, he was in this huge train accident and miraculously survived, even helped to save other passengers. But the whole experience haunted him tremendously. Five years later, to the day, he passed away. And this is just ONE of the crazy things I learned about him.

So again, you don't have read any of Charles Dickens novels to enjoy this one. But it inspired me to read some. I'm in the middle of reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood right now and am really enjoying it. It's actually pretty humorous as well.

And now for the giveaway...

TLC Book Tours and Matthew Pearl are letting me give away TWO books. You must do two things: 1) Leave a comment telling me if you've read any novels by either Charles Dickens and/or Matthew Pearl. 2) Some way of contacting you (blog, email, etc).

Contest is open through Friday, October 23rd, and world-wide.

Good luck!

The cover above is the hardcover edition I own. The trade paperback just came out October 6th with this awesome cover:
Here's another cover I found. I think the trade paperback is my favorite.

Matthew Pearl’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, September 28th: Book Chatter and Other Stuff

Wednesday, September 30th: Raging Bibliomania

Thursday, October 1st: Linus’s Blanket

Monday, October 5th: Life in the Thumb

Tuesday, October 6th: The Brain Lair

Wednesday, October 7th: Bookish Ruth

Thursday, October 8th: A High and Hidden Place

Monday, October 12th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Tuesday, October 13th: Beth Fish Reads

Wednesday, October 14th: S. Krishna’s Books

Thursday, October 15th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, October 16th: Stephanie’s Written Word

Monday, October 19th: The Tome Traveller

Tuesday, October 20th: Book Club Classics

Wednesday, October 21st: Luxury Reading

Thursday, October 22nd: Savvy Verse and Wit

Also Reviewed by:

You're History!

Friday, October 9, 2009

100 Mile Fitness Challenge

I've been needing something lately to get me to get my act together and exercise more. I used to run a lot more and I do Pilates and balance ball workouts at home. Our gym membership over in the Bronx is only $10 a month. So cheap!

So when I heard about Trish's (from Trish's Reading Nook) 100-Mile Fitness Challenge, I knew I had to sign up.

If you want to join up, head on over and sign up!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Man Booker Prize

The winner for the 2009 Man Booker prize for fiction is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. The book sounds so interesting since I love historical fiction.

I love the Man Booker prize since so many books and authors I like or want to read are on the list. I'm not going to make this a "challenge" par say but more of a reading list for future TBR books.

I loved The Last Orders, really liked Blind Assassin, appreciated The English Patient, and did NOT like Life of Pi.

Have you read any Man Booker prize winners and did you like it?

*** Update: S. Krishna's Book blog also has a great post on the Man Booker Award as part of her Booker Challenge. Her list includes the winners as well as the ones that were shortlisted from 2009-1990 as well as the Best of the Booker. Go check it out!

Here's the Winner's list:

2009 Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
2008 The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
2007 The Gathering - Anne Enright
2006 The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
2005 The Sea - John Banville
2004 The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
2003 Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre
2002 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
2001 The History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey
2000 The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
1999 Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
1998 Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
1997 The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
1996 Last Orders - Graham Swift
1995 The Ghost Road - Pat Barker
1994 How Late It Was, How Late - James Kelman
1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
1992 The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
1992 Sacred Hunger - Barry Unsworth
1991 The Famished Road - Ben Okri
1990 Possession - A.S. Byatt
1989 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
1988 Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
1987 Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively
1986 The Old Devils - Kingsley Amis
1985 The Bone People - Keri Hulme
1984 Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner
1983 The Life & Times of Michael K - J.M. Coetzee
1982 Schindler's Ark - Thomas Keneally
1981 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
1980 Rites of Passage - William Golding
1979 Offshore - Penelope Fitzgerald
1978 The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch
1977 Staying On - Paul Scott
1976 Saville - David Storey
1975 Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1974 The Conservationist - Nadine Gordimer
1974 Holiday - Stanley Middleton
1973 The Siege of Krishnapur - J.G. Farrell
1972 G - John Berger
1971 In a Free State - V.S. Naipaul
1970 The Elected Member - Bernice Rubens
1969 Something to Answer for - P.H. Newby

I am adding the shortlist:

The Children's Book - A.S. Byatt
Summertime - J.M. Coetzee
The Quickening Maze - Adam Foulds
The Glass Room - Simon Mawer
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
How to Paint a Dead Man - Sarah Hall
The Wilderness - Samantha Harvey
Me Cheeta - James Lever
Not Untrue & Not Unkind - Ed O'Loughlin
Heliopolis - James Scudamore
Brooklyn - Colm Tobin
Love and Summer - William Trevor

The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs - Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency - Philip Hensher
A Fraction of the Whole - Steve Toltz
Girl in a Blue Dress - Gaynor Arnold
From A to X - John Berger
A Case of Exploding Mangoes - Mohammed Hanif
Netherland - Joseph O'Neill
The Enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
The Lost Dog - Michelle de Kretser

Darkmans - Nicola Barker
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
Animal's People - Indra Sinha
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
Self Help - Edward Docx
Gifted - Nikita Lalwani
What We Lost - Catherine O'Flynn
Consolation - Michael Redhill
The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng
Winnie & Wolf - A.N. Wilson

The Secret River - Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down - M.J. Hyland
In the Country of Men - Hisham Matar
Mother's Milk - Edward St Aubyn
The Night Watch - Sarah Waters
Theft: A Love Story - Peter Carey
Gathering the Water - Robert Edric
Get a Life - Nadine Gordimer
Kalooki NIghts - Howard Jacobson
Seven Lies - James Lasdun
The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson
So Many Ways to Begin - Jon McGregor
The Emporer's Children - Claire Messud
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
The Perfect Man - Naeem Murr
Be Near Me - Andrew O'Hagan
The Testament of Gideon Mack - James Robertson
The Ruby in Her Navel - Barry Unsworth

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Return - Victoria Hislop

I recently was able to join the TLC Book Tour by reading and reviewing the new Victoria Hislop novel, The Return. This novel is set during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's and involves bull fighters, flamenco dancers, a bit of romance and a lot of history. I really wanted to read this one. The book is available for sale in paperback tomorrow, October 06, 2009.

They synopsis:

In 2003, two thirty-something friends take a vacation to Granada, Spain to enjoy the town and take lessons in flamenco dancing. Sonia is in a love-less relationship with her husband and has taken refuge in her weekly flamenco classes. During her trip, she meets an elderly waiter who proceeds to divulge the torrent history of Granada and Spain during the Spanish Civil War which started in 1936 in an army coup led by General Franco. The story revolves around one family's tale, the Ramírez family who's daughter Mercedes was a talented flamenco dancer and who's son was a famous bullfighter.

The first part of the story was ok. I'm more of a historical fiction fan so I was impatient to get to the Ramírez family's story. But it did drive home a point that many of us are not too familiar with Spain's story during this time period. Even as a history major, my knowledge is fairly limited. For other novels, check out Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Andromeda Romano-Lax's novel The Spanish Bow.

When it was time for the Ramírez family's story, I almost thought I wasn't going to like this book. The story is definitely laid out as a narrative with few actual dialogue pieces. I'm not used to this type of story telling. I thought it was a bit too removed and distant. BUT...then I got into the story. Victoria Hislop paints the town of Granada with such vividness that I can almost see the streets. Mercedes was such a beautiful character living for two things: flamenco dancing and her love for the gypsy guitarist Javier. Long after the story ended I still think on the Ramírez family, just one of thousands of families who's lives were ripped asunder by the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime.

Now I want to see a flamenco dance. Take a look over a Victoria Hislop's website for some gorgeous photos of Granada. I also took a couple photos from the internet just because:

Here's a couple of John Singer Sargent's paintings. He painted in the late 1800s so before Mercedes' time, but I thought they were beautiful:

El Jaleo (The Commotion)
The Spanish Dancer
And here's what I imagine Mercedes looking like in her polka-dotted flamenco dress (from this website):
And of course, here's what I imagine Sonia and the waiter looking at, posters of Granada in the 1930s announcing famous bull fighting matches and beautiful flamenco dancers (taken from this website):
Here's the schedule for The Return tour:

Monday, October 5th – Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Tuesday, October 6th - Starting Fresh
Thursday, October 8th – As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
Tuesday, October 13th – Bending Bookshelf
Wednesday, October 14th – All About Me
Thursday, October 15th – The Tome Traveller
Monday, October 19th – The Scholastic Scribe
Tuesday, October 20th – Dreadlock Girl Reads
Wednesday, October 21st – Write Meg
Thursday, October 22nd – Literate Housewife
Monday, October 26th – Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, October 27th – Drey’s Library
Wednesday, October 28th – Book Chatter and Other Stuff