Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole

Book: The Castle of Otranto
Author: Horace Walpole
Narrator: Tony Jay
Format: Audio Book from the Library
Published Date: 1764

I just finished listening to Horace Walpole's classic gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.  It's considered the first gothic novel in the English language.  Back in 1764, Walpole must have been a character.  He first claimed that he found this manuscript, printed in 1529 and translated it.  Later on, after it became widely popular did he say "ha ha I actually wrote it" or something like that.  Wow, that so wouldn't fly today.

What did I think of this novel?  Eh.  I first picked it up because it's a classic gothic novel perfect for the R.I.P. V Challenge.  It's also on my ongoing challenge to read the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  But I was a little disappointing.  At first I was enthralled but then it just drooped off.  It kind of reminded me of Hamlet...but not as good.

Anyway, here's the story:

Manfred and Hippolita are lord and lady of castle Otranto.  They have two children: Matilda and Conrad.  Conrad is scheduled to be married to lady Isabella in haste because Conrad is a pretty sickly boy.  However, on the day of the wedding, Conrad is crushed and killed by a giant helm (I Googled it and it seems to be a giant helmet worn by a knight).  Now without an heir, Manfred decides to pressure Isabella into marrying him.  He makes a silly plea that Hippolita and him should get a divorce because they are cousins or something of the sort (reminds me of Henry VIII does it not?).  Isabella flees the castle and is helped in her escape by a peasant who happens to be handsome and well versed.

Ok there is a bit more left to the plot but I'd be giving away the whole story.  Up through Isabella's flight I was all for the story.  But after that it got a little predictable, slow, and well...eh.   There are a few supernatural things - ghostly figures, paintings and sounds but not enough for me to enjoy it.

Also Reviewed by:

Books I Done Read
Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books
Things Mean a Lot

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A few photos of desert life

I've been lax in posting recent photos since I moved to Las Vegas.  For those of you wondering, I LOVE the desert, the sun, the heat, and well, I'm just a Western girl at heart.  So here's just a few random photos:

This was taken with my iPhone while walking the dogs at sunset:

This is a little hill/mountain by our new home:

The entrance into our new community.  I love those big trees:

Some beautiful flowers growing in the yard of the place we are renting right now:

A close-up of Charlie Dog.  (Yeah those little people statues aren't ours):

Some stuff from the garden where we are renting.  Yeah, seriously.  We are going to try and grow a garden at our new home:

That's about it!

Will take more photos soon, I promise!

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King

Book: The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Paperback: 341 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published Date: 1994

I can't believe I've never read this before.  This book is the first in a series that introduces young Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes.  I love the Sherlock Holmes stories and even have an original illustrated collection which I've read front to back.  I first heard of this series when I read Heather's review over at Age 30 + A Lifetime of Books and she became a huge fan.  She even got to meet the author (I am incredibly jealous).  So I decided it was high time to check this one out (literally at the library) and read it for the R.I.P. V Challenge

The story starts out with Mary Russell walking with a book to her nose and she literally walks right into Sherlock Holmes who is sitting on a grassy knoll studying bees.  It's 1915, right before WWI and Russell is just 15 years old.

Wait wait, that's not really how the story starts.  There's an Editor's Preface written by Laurie R. King which tells of the discovery of this story.  One day she is sent a mysterious huge package.  It is an old steamer trunk and among the various articles inside is a manuscript.  She finally decided to publish it and thus starts the true life of Mary Russell.

So, Mary (or Russell as Holmes calls her) impresses Holmes with her incredible intelligent and starts what becomes to many outsiders as an odd apprenticeship/partnership.  She's an orphan being raised by an incredibly evil aunt but she has a substantial inheritance waiting for her when she comes of age.  Eventually Mary goes to Oxford and grows up into an attractive young lady.  She's almost six-feet tall, blond and wears glasses.  Here's a photo of Mary Russell taken from Laurie R. King's website (I think all the paperback versions have Mary in this pose with different dressing gowns. I want this dressing gown.):

I absolutely love that she's such a book worm and spends hours in Bodleian Library (wish my university had that kind of library). This book ends in 1918, Mary is 18 years old and the two solve about three mysteries in this book - a practice case, a tough kidnapping case, and then attempted murder of the two. 

I loved this book and the interaction between the two characters.  These two get each other.  And since Holmes is getting on in age, it gives him a purpose in life to train Russell.  Mary gets a sort of family that she lost with Holmes, Uncle John (Watson) and the housekeeper Mrs. Hudson.  And I love Mary's observation of Holmes.  A beautifully written book and I will be reading the rest. 

I love alternative covers to this book as well.  I might start collecting these.

This is the UK version.  I think it's beautiful, depicts the right time-line but it makes Mary too flowery.  She wears men's clothing I think more than women's:

Here's a newer popular version:

Here's the mass-market paperback version with Mary on the cover.

Wow, I just found that Laurie R. King likes this stuff as well.  Check out her website's page called Art in the Blood: a Beekeeper's Gallery for fan photos, art, and tons of other cover art.  Her website is very cool.  You can also read the first two chapters of The Beekeeper's Apprentice if you want to get hooked into the story.  I'm off to explore her website!

Also Reviewed By:

Age 30 + A Lifetime of Books
Things Mean a Lot

Friday, September 17, 2010

A little help from my friends

I was reading Melanie's blog Southern Comfort in a Northern Life and I absolutely loved her idea of painting her dining room black.  You totally have to go check out her post to see what I'm talking about.

So we were emailing a bit and I decided to ask her and all my readers their opinions of how I should paint my room.  Yep...I get a whole room to myself...something I was not expecting coming from a one bedroom NYC apartment.

Here's photos of my area.  Take into consideration that the furniture isn't ours as there are renters still in it.  Also, I will have dark wood bookshelves and desk. 

I get the loft and that small room off it.

What do you think? I was contemplating turquoise like these:

But red is my favorite color and I think it's cozy.  So what do you all think?

***After going with my gut and hearing Melanie's response, I'm veering towards red. (Hahaha she commented and I'm definitely NOT going with Hooker red.)

To Celebrate BBAW

Since today is the end of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I thought I'd clean out my Google Reader's Starred category and celebrate all those wonderful bloggers who made me laugh, chuckle, grin, ponder, and well, made me put a star on your post.  This way you all can find maybe new-to-you blogs or just have a laugh.  Enjoy!

I'm going to start with this post by Jen at Devourer of Books where she told me of Fyrefly's new Book Blogs Search Engine.  How cool is that?

Another favorite blogger, Pat at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist (who may stop blogging, arg) has a great list of Favorite SFF Characters.  I love that he has Mat Cauthon from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.  He's one of my favorites as well.  He also has a list of Most Hated SFF Characters.

I love finding new artists.  Like Books I Done Read, her sister Rebekah Joy Plett is an amazing artist.  Seriously, go look at her portfolio......I love the Words Take Flight one.

I love Masha's blog, really crazy cool drawings and lovely posts about beautiful book illustrations.

Lists.  Who loves lists? I do.  Like Page Turners post on the Angus and Robertson Annual Top 100.  Or Skemommle and Skedaddle's wish list.  Or Tedious and Brief's Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read.

And videos...I love funny/cool videos.

This one's from Bookshelves of Doom

Or how about another one from her blog, Jane Austen's Fight Club.

Or this bookish song from The Book Lady's Blog.

Or this video which is making the internet rounds about, let's say one's girl's obsession with Ray Bradbury (here's the link).  Pat of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist also posted on it, including the photo or Rachel Bloom meeting Ray Bradbury.

My Fluttering Heart is such a cool blog for beautiful things.  Check out her post which includes this video:

I have T-shirt lust over at The Tome Traveler's Blog.  And galley lust over at The Book Lady's Blog.  Seriously how cool is that packaging?

Some blogs have me dying to read a book.  Like the reviews for Day for Night at The Book Lady's Blog and Capricious Reader.

This photo at A Striped Armchair just cracks me up.  How adorable is it?

Bart's Bookshelf reviewed The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart and made me order it at the library.  Basically because this video got stuck in my head.

Speaking of a really cool dark movie, check out this short film, Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man.  I found over at EPBOT: Geekery, Girliness, and Goofing Off.

I would have never thought to read this book but am contemplating it considering A Reader's Respite review.

I enjoyed Chris's post at Book-a-rama on reading alone.

I found this knitting blog called Eat.Sleep.Bog and am bookmarking this post on choosing a yarn.

I found a ton of new blogs during BBAW so I thought I'd share one.  Go over to Regular Ruminations and check out her interview with One Librarian's Book Reviews.  I love her favorite book picks.

Last but definitely not least, is a favorite of mine, Publish or Perish. Look at his gorgeous photos and then dream of visiting Australia. 

Ok folks, that's it for now.  I haven't totally cleaned out my star folder so until next time.  Enjoy!

BlogWorld Expo

So I noticed a little post on Blogger today about BlogWorld Expo.

Have any of you heard of this or are attending?  I noticed it is in Las Vegas and hmmm, I now live in Las Vegas....

Let me know!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne Author Interview

Teddy Wayne, author of Kapitoil gratuitously offered and answered some questions I posted to him.  If you haven't read my review of the book, check it out.

Here's a little bit about Teddy Wayne:

Teddy Wayne is a graduate of Harvard and the Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also taught fiction and creative nonfiction writing. The recipient of a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, his fiction, satire, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, Vanity Fair, Esquire, McSweeney’s, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. He lives in New York.

Without further ado, here's the interview:

1. Karim has an interesting outlook on life and way of writing. How did you create his voice? Do you know anyone like Karim?

I had a job after college editing business-school application essays over the Internet (not a very fun task). Most applicants were ESL speakers from Japan, China, and South Korea who had learned English through finance and technology, which partially inspired Karim's voice. I don't know anyone quite like Karim, but I've always found the way non-native speakers implement English interesting and pay close attention to their linguistic patterns.

2. I loved your fairly realistic depiction of the financial firms in NYC. How did you do your research into financial life in NYC?

Well, I'm from New York and have lived here since graduating from college, and know plenty of people in finance. As for the day-to-day operations of working at a firm, I asked people, read up on it through both fiction and nonfiction, and used my own experiences in a range of offices (I've temped in dozens of them).

3. I've noticed that a big theme of the book was how NYC can change a person. As a New Yorker, do you see that a lot?

The cliche is true: New York often does harden people and make them more cynical, competitive, and ambitious to a fault. I was grateful for my own break of three years in St. Louis for grad school, though I'm also glad to be back.

4. After writing this book, has your perspective changed any? For instance, when you read the news, such as the proposal of the mosque near Ground Zero, has this book changed or enforced any of your perspectives or opinions?

I'll get a little polemical here, which may lose me some readers and will indicate what my perspective is, though it likely would have been this way before I wrote Kapitoil. This controversy is one of the more upsetting political machinations of recent years. First, no one cared about this proposal back in December, when it was first reported, or in May, when it was approved. It was only recently, with midterm elections on the horizon, that conservative groups and leaders rallied around the "cause." I have nothing but sympathy for victims and families of September 11, yet here are some basic, irrefutable facts:

--It's not a mosque; it's a community center with a prayer space. (Even if it were a mosque, that shouldn't matter, but somehow the word "mosque" has been turned into a slur.)

 --The location near Ground Zero was chosen by the founder of the proposal to symbolically oppose the actions of the terrorists on September 11 by creating a space that promotes inter-religious harmony; “We want to push back against the extremists,” he told the New York Times.

--Likewise, the name of Cordoba House is meant to evoke the unity of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Cordoba, and does not represent, as Newt Gingrich would have it, "a symbol of Islamic conquest."

--There were mosques right near the World Trade Center before 9/11, and there were Muslim prayer rooms within the buildings themselves.

--Muslims have been praying at an overflow prayer space in the abandoned Burlington Coat Factory building two blocks from Ground Zero since September 2009, which no one seemed to mind.

The mainstream media have falsely equated Muslims--including peaceful, Americanized Muslims--with fundamentalist terrorists. We are rejecting an olive branch from a moderate wing of Islam and, in so doing, only contributing to the recruitment of real terrorists. And it's all so that politicians speaking against the community center can gain office; I'm highly skeptical of their claims to care about the families of 9/11 victims.

I'm not Muslim and I'm not Middle Eastern. I'm a white native New Yorker who has never suffered an ounce of persecution in this country based on my beliefs or how I appear at first glance. This debate doesn't affect me on any personal level other than reinforcing my disgust that ethnic and religious scapegoating and demonization continues to be used for political purposes in America in 2010.

Rant over.

5. Karim is from the Middle East country of Qatar. Why did you choose that country and what type of research did you do to create a Middle Eastern character like Karim and his family.

Qatar has the second-highest GDP per capita in the world, and about half of its revenues come from oil and natural gas, making it a hyper-capitalistic and relatively Westernized country for the region. Also, it doesn't have the same kind of fraught history as most of its neighbors, so Karim wouldn't be beholden to its past the way he might if he were from, say, Iran. I read up on Qatar and on Islam and interviewed a few Muslims, too.

6. Kapitoil is your first novel. Do you have any plans or ideas for writing another one?

I'm working on one now, though it's going kind of slowly. Maybe I can do another interview with you when it comes out, in 2018 or so.


Woohoo!  I really enjoyed interviewing Teddy Wayne.  I loved his rant if you want to call it that because I totally agree with what he said.  I can't wait to see what he will come out with next!

**What did you think of this interview and his answers?
**Do you have anything to ask Teddy Wayne?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kapitoil - Teddy Wayne

Book: Kapitoil
Author: Teddy Wayne
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published Date: April 2010

Short and sweet, I loved this book.  It's flown to one of my top favorites this year.  But I have a back story so just stick with me...

I sometimes get emails from the wonderful Harper ladies about books that I can choose to review.  I pick some while others I leave alone.  I've become pretty picky about what I want to read.  This one looked and sounded pretty interesting, was set in New York City, and involved a NYC financial company.  Back when I lived in NYC, I worked for one of those high profile companies.  So I picked this one to read and review.  A few days after I got the book, Teddy Wayne himself emailed me.  Wow.  I was excited.  He was very polite and nice and said if I wanted to do an interview or whatever after I read the book to let him know.  Wow!

So I picked the book up, read the first few pages and had a huge sense of dread.  I hated the main character.  After just a few pages, he just annoyed me and I put the book down.  O no!

It took me a while to finally get around to reading it.  My husband read it, dog-earred it (yeah I know) and still I was procrastinating.  Finally I read it and I am so glad I did because around page 32 the book hooked me and I finished it in two days.

Here's the story:

It starts out in October 1999 and Karim Issar, a computer programmer, is flying to NYC to help Wall Street with the whole Y2K bug.  It's his first time to the US and the first time he'll be so far away from his home in Qatar, his family, and his favorite sister Zahira.  At first he's just a cubicle drone until he thinks up a program for predicting oil prices, a program he names Kapitoil.  This program propels him into the high-life where he meets the company head, uses the company jet, and basically lives the fancy NYC life.  However, once he meets a girl named Rebecca at a party, he starts to realize some of the moral consequences of living this type of life. 

Ok, that's the story in a nut shell.  What I had a hard time at the beginning but what I ended up really enjoying about the book is the oddity of Karim.  He has such a different way of viewing the world and interacting with the world.  At the beginning he really sounds like a computer.  I read one person's review on GoodReads comparing him to the autistic character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  While I don't think it's that extreme, Karim is has a different outlook and not all of it is his trouble with the American language.  For instance, he uses the word consume for eat.  He uses the word stimulated for excited.  He keeps a voice recorder on him at all times so that in the evenings, he can jot down in a journal the new things he learns.  The story is written journal style and at the end of every chapter, there are words and phrases listed that he's learned.

Here's an excerpt from when Karim is at a party:

She smiles but does not respond to my observation. Instead she says, "I feel badly that we're not talking to the others."

The others are also not talking to us.  "Is your tactile sense inefficient?"

"What do you mean?" she asks.

"You used the adverbial form of "I feel bad" to express a negative emotion and said 'I feel badly,' which means your sense of touch is performing poorly."

Again she smiles and says nothing.  I certify that this is the last time I will note anything about usage or grammar to an American.

What bugged me first about Karim started to really endear me him.  As the story progresses, he learns more American phrases.  I started to really understand his moral quandary because I've seen it happen to people in New York City.  I remember seeing summer analysts come in all green and nice from college and within a few weeks they've totally changed into little monsters with far too much money available to them in expense accounts and going to far too many parties on week nights.  So it happens.

I loved watching Karim's learning progress.  I loved watching his Cinderella story with the Kapitoil program.  I loved watching him fall in love with Rebecca.

After I read this my husband and I discussed it over pizza one night.  I think this would make a great book club pick and at least a great discussion book.  I did shock my husband though when I told him about the interview and he realized that the author wasn't from the Middle East.  Here's the author:

Teddy Wayne is a graduate of Harvard and the Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also taught fiction and creative nonfiction writing.  His fiction, satire, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, McSweeney's, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere.  He lives in New York.


Teddy Wayne answered some questions for me so stick around and tomorrow I will post my interview with him. 

Also Reviewed by:

The New Dork Review of Books
The Olive Reader (The Worst Biz Jargon Ever)

Book Bloggers Appreciation Week

If you've been reading other book blogs, you might have noticed that it's Book Bloggers Appreciation Week or BBAW for short.  Obviously it is full week dedicated to Book Bloggers and finding and appreciating new bloggers.  For a fun list of book bloggers, check this out.  Wow, a TON of book bloggers out there, right?  To participate, every day there is a new item to do.  While I think I acknowledged it last year, I didn't really participate other than reading new blogs.  So I think I'll join in the festivities this year. 

Today's topic?

For those of you who participated in BBAW last year, what’s a great new book blog you’ve discovered since last year’s BBAW? 
For those you new to BBAW, what was the first book blog you discovered? 

Since I don't remember who I discovered last year, I'll go peruse the list:

I chose Zee from Notes from the North - I love that title!   I was curious where she is from and it looks like Sweden! How cool is that?  I love international book bloggers.  It looks like she started blogging in 2009 and is full into the swing with challenges and one of my favorite (I should really start doing) is Weekend Cooking.  What does she read?  Classics like Emma, biographies like John Adams, and one of my favorite The Graveyard Book.  Nice!

So if you want, participate or just peruse the fabulous list of book bloggers.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Small Death in the Great Glen - A.D. Scott

Book: A Small Death in the Great Glen
Author: A.D. Scott
Paperback: 393 pages
Publisher: Atria/Simon and Schuster
Published date: August 2010

Last night I had a bit of insomnia, woke up, and finished reading my second book for the R.I.P. V Challenge.  I requested a review copy of A.D. Scott's debut novel A Small Death in the Great Glen through Shelf Awareness.  I thought the cover was absolutely gorgeous and since it's a murder mystery that takes place in Scotland, I thought it might be a little bit like Tana French's novels.  I wasn't really similar but it is still a beautifully written book.

Here's the story:

Small Scottish town in the Highlands in 1950's: a small boy is found dead/drowned in a canal lock one morning.  First thought to be an accident, it comes out that he was murdered.  Although there is not much evidence against him, a Polish man is accused of the accident.  He jumped ship and was trying to escape going back to his wrecked and war-torn homeland.  The only ones in town really trying to uncover what really happened is the small local newspaper staff.

That's the basic gist of the novel but it was so much more than that.  The 1950's small town mentality is really apparent in the story.  Joanne, a part-time writer for the newspaper, mother and abused wife can't leave her husband because of the shame and the fear.  The town's obvious prejudice and outright accusation of any "others" becomes apparent as they accuse the Polish man, shun his Polish friend, and outcast the town's local Italian newcomers.  It's also apparent how bad most of the social systems are: orphanages, elderly people's homes, and prisons.

I think I enjoyed this book though because of the characters and am so glad that there is going to be at least one sequel to the novel which, according A.D. Scott's website is called Tales from the Highland Gazette and will be coming out next year.  Joanne's plight and her care of her two daughter who were the last people to see the small boy.  The cast of the newspaper: Don, McAllister, and Rob - such great characters.  There's a snippet into McAllister's life where his bachelor abode has piles of books everywhere.  When Don comes over to his house, here's a quote:

"...grateful that Don hadn't asked if he had read all the books - McAllister had to drop an acquaintance for asking such an inane question..."

Isn't that awesome.  I totally get that.  There's also a part I loved where at a party they get introduced to American Rock n' Roll and it was just a fun part of the story. 

I also loved the Scottish lore, history, and just atmosphere the book has pared with beautiful writing.  I will admit that were quite a lot of words and references that I did not understand but it made me read the book more slowly than I might have which I actually liked. 

Definitely check this book out.  It's a perfect read for the R.I.P. V Challenge - murder, mystery, and the Scottish Highlands in the winter.

Let me know if you read it and I will link your review here.

R.I.P. V Challenge Pick

Just because I am home....

I just celebrated my hubby's birthday this past night.  I've been married to this wonderful man three and a half years and I can't wait for the next 70-ish years.  Yeah, I'm an optimist.  One of the things I've always told him (since growing up my family was a wonderlust and I seem to be following in those footsteps but hopefully not for long since we just bought a home) is that he is my home. Wherever he is I am home.  So I stumbled on this song, and well it is just app:

Friday, September 10, 2010

New additions

Guest what came in the mail two days ago.

How gorgeous is that cover?! I think the modern girl looks like Natalie Portman.  Thanks Random House!

I also snagged these books at the library book sale:

Apparently I was really liking green covers at the time.  Odd.

And even though I have WAY too many books at home to read, I thought in honor of the R.I.P. V Challenge, I'd rent from the library one book I've been dying to read:

Do you have any new additions this week?

Sunflowers - Sheramy Bundrick

Book: Sunflowers: A novel of Vincent van Gogh
Author: Sheramy Bundrick
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Avon A
Published Date:  Oct. 13, 2009

I think it's high time I reviewed one of my favorite books from last year.  I can not believe it's taken me this long.  I was reading Sheramy Bundrick's blog Van Gogh's Chair long before I heard she was writing a novel about Van Gogh's life.  When it was finally published, I was going to run to the store to buy the book brand new (something I almost never do) when I learned I had won a copy at Book Club Girl and could participate with others in an online chat with the author.  I was so insanely excited.  Please click on the link if you want to hear that chat with her.

Anyway, to give a back story, I love art history.  It was one of my favorite things in college.  Vincent van Gogh, from the start, was my favorite artist.  I loved his humanity.  I loved his letters and writing.  I loved his emotional output in his art.  Suffice to say that while I was excited for Sheramy Bundrick's novel to come out, I was also a little nervous.  She could NOT ruin my Vincent.  So when I finally soaked up the last page I heaved a sigh of relief. She knew my Vincent van Gogh and had painted a perfect portrait of him in her novel.  Thank you Sheramy!

The novel is written from the perspective of a young Rachel Courteau who works at an Arles brothel.  It's through her eyes, as she becomes acquainted and falls in love with Vincent, that we see his final years progress.  We witness his "friendship" with Paul Gauguin, his depression and "madness," and above all his humanity as he tries to better his world and those around him.  But don't think that this novel is a downer at all.  Even though the main characters have struggles, through it all there is a perception of beauty, lightness, and well, just think of the Sunflowers.

I loved that she took an outsider's and maybe fictional character's perspective of Vincent.  I don't think anyone could actually write from his perspective except maybe through his own words.  He wrote a considerable amount and his brother Theo kept and preserved most of his letters. 

If you want to check out some of Vincent's writings, go to Van Gogh's Letters

This was always a favorite quote of mine of Vincent's (Arles, c.9th. July 1888):

Is that all, or is there more besides? In a painter's life death is not perhaps the hardest thing there is.

For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it. But to look at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots of a map representing towns and villages. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Isn't that just beautiful.  They've recently published a huge illustrated collection of his letters.  It's one of those things I'm saving up to buy:

Wow, searching the internet I just stumbled upon the Van Gogh Museum having an iPhone app.  Interesting.

Anyway, check out Shermay Bundrick's novel.  If you want more perspectives, check out:

Passages to the Past (Amy recommends)
The Literate Housewife
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Reading the Past
Historical Tapestry

Guest appearances by Sheramy Bundrick

Passages to the Past (Author Interview)
Reading the Past (Van Gogh, Reader of Novels)
Scandalous Women (Who Was Rachel)
Historical Tapestry (Why I love Vincent van Gogh)
Writing the Renaissance (Author Interview)
Versailles and More (Van Gogh's Montmartre)
Versailles and More (Author Interview)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Whiskey Rebels - David Liss

Title: The Whiskey Rebels
Author: David Liss
Narrator: Christopher Lane

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

I thought I'd take a break from cover letters and applications to post about an audio book my husband and I listened to a few months ago.  We were taking a road trip through Texas to see his family and I was searching through the library to find a good compatible story.  I saw this one and immediately picked it up.  I had heard about this book last year and had wanted to read it.  I loved it.  I have to say Christopher Lane's narration was amazingly well done.

The story:

This historical fiction is set just after the Revolutionary period in American history.  It flips between two perspectives: Ethan Saunders, a disgraced American revolutionary spy and Joan Maycott, a newly married woman embarking on frontier life in Pennsylvania.

Let me say right here that these are high on my list of favorite fictional characters.  Ethan Saunders is just a crack up.  Christopher Lane as narrator provide such a witty, sarcastic, and lovable character.  Here's the beginning taken from Google books:

It was rainy and cold outside, miserable weather, and though I had not left my boardinghouse determined to die, things were now different. After consuming far more than my share of that frontier delicacy Monongahela rye, a calm resolution had come over me.  A very angry man named Nathan Dorland was looking for me, asking for me at every inn, chophouse, and tavern in the city and making no secret of his intention to murder me.  Perhaps he would find me tonight and, if not, tomorrow or the next day.  Not any later than that.  It was inevitable only because I was determined not to fight against the tide of popular opinion - which is to say, that I ought to be killed.

He was a spy during the Revolution and unjustly disgraced.  Now a few years after, he drinks more than he ought, is a roguish ladies man, and has only one friend in the world, his slave Leonidis.  However, when the love of his life, Cynthia Pearson asks for his help on the whereabouts of her husband, he jumps at the chance to help her and redeem himself.  While he's helping her out, he gets dumped right into the fray between Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury and his rival Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.  There's much about the Bank of the United States and the beginning of America's stock market and Wall Street.  If you even slightly interested in finance, this might interest you but if you aren't, you won't be lost in the jargon.

Then there's Joan Maycott.  I loved her.  Her story starts right before she meets her husband.  She's so intelligent, loves to read, and is interesting in finance.  After she is married, the young couple decides to head out West and find their fortune but they end up facing hardship and constant struggle.  However, their lives start to improve after her husband decides to join the whiskey distilling business.  While Joan Maycott and Ethan Saunder stories do not appear to be related, their paths eventually cross.

I was absolutely enthralled with this book.  I love historical fiction that always makes me want to look up historical facts about characters and events.   I also loved the juxtaposition of the stories.  Ethan Saunders' tale always made me laugh but Joan Maycott's story was tragic in many ways.  I think this balanced combination was perfect.  Joan Maycott was a lovely and intelligent person and I loved her character.

I think the only problem I had with this book was the length as it was quite long, especially for an audiobook.  I looked it up and the paperback is 560 pages.  So not that bad for me but it was a little too long for my husband.

A few months ago while I was touring the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, I saw a display at Woodford Reserve about this period in history.

And if you're interested in the Monongahela Rye Ethan Saunders mentioned above, check out this plaque:
And just because I'm posting photos:

Also Reviewed By:

Maggie Reads
Devourer of Books
Minds Alive on the Shelves
Writing the Renaissance (David Liss on "Historical Subjectivity")

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Alaska Part Three

I almost forgot what part I was on: Alaska Part Three.

I spent a couple of days in Fairbanks with my newly married friend and then flew down to Anchorage to meet up with my other friends who were road tripping.

Here's the Fairbanks airport:

The airport has grown up a lot since I lived there.  It definitely did not look like this.  My friend and I wondered how much it takes to keep it warm in the winter with all those windows.  Hmm.

It was a bit of an odd flight.  It was one of those random ones where you have to walk to and from the airplane.  Then we learned that former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, along with some others, was killed in a plane crash that day.  Ted Stevens is HUGE in Alaska...even the Anchorage airport is named after him.  It was a sad day.  Then Senator Lisa Murkowski was sitting two rows behind me.  She was recently defeated by Tea Party candidate Joe Miller.  So it was an interesting day to be flying in Alaska.

After I spent the day and night visting my brother, sister, and nephew in Anchorage I met up with my friends just outside of Girdwood.  Our first stop was Portage Glacier.

As you can tell it was a pretty cloudy day.  Back in the day when I first moved to Alaska (1995), the glacier was into the water and there were tons of huge chunks of ice.  I'll have to dig out my hard copy sometime when I unpack and scan it.  It's amazing how much the glacier has receded.  The visitor center used to have an underwater viewing area so you could check out the bergs in the water.  That area, obviously, is not used anymore (well at least by us meager tourists). 

Here's a close up of a nearby glacier to the right:

It's just a beautiful area:

Here's the visitor center:

I love the lushness of this area.  Just look:

I have to post another photo of fireweed, just because:

Glacier fed rivers are so amazingly blue/green. 

I love all the berry bushes around:

Well, looks like this post will be short and sweet. Got to find some missing photo and cook some dinner.  I am starving.  Until later!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Historian Read-a-long

One of my favorite book bloggers, Coffee and a Book Chick is teaming up with a new-to-me blogger, Tedious & Brief, to host a read-a-long for Elizabeth Kostova's book The Historian.
When I heard about this I was so excited.  I read and loved The Historian a few years ago before I had a book blog.  I mean, come on...as a history major and a lover of all things gothic, how could I not? 

So check out the website On the Ledge Readalongs, check out the schedule, and sign up.  You can also grab the cool button for your website:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie

I just finished my first book for the R.I.P. V Challenge.  I read Agatha Christie's book The Mysterious Affair at Styles on my iPod Touch.  I have to say that I am so glad I gave Agatha Christie another chance.  I tried reading her book Death on the Nile and just got confused with all the characters and bored of the plot.  However, I just loved this one.

The plot:
Lietenant Hastings is on holiday visiting some friends at their estate Styles.  His friend John Cavendish lives at the estate with his elder step mother, his beautiful wife, his brother, and a bunch of other servants.  The mother, Emily has also recently remarried and the whole household is against the new husband, Alfred Inglethorp.  One night, the house is awakened by the mother who is dying.  It turns out she was poisoned. Hastings calls on a friend to help: Hercule Poirot, Inspector.

This was such a fun little mystery.  It is only thirteen chapters and has so many twists and turns that it kept me on my feet.  Every time I thought it was someone it would turn out wrong and I would think the villain was someone else.

While writing this post, I found out that this book was Agatha Christie's first published novel, written in 1916 and published in 1920.   So if you've never read an Agatha Christie novel or one involving Hercule Poirot, you might want to start here with this little gem.

If you want to read this free online, check out Bartleby.com

This has been a selection for the R.I.P. V Challenge

Also Reviewed By:

Lost in a Good Story
GirleBooks (where you can download and read for free)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Secret River - Kate Grenville

Book: The Secret River
Author: Kate Grenville
Narrated: Simon Vance
Form: Audiobook
Publisher: Blackstone Audio

A few months ago I downloaded an audio version of Kate Grenville's award winning novel The Secret River.  I'd heard of it because it was a Man Booker Prize nominee in 2006 and received quite a number of other awards

The story starts out in the 19th Century in London and follows the life of William Thornhill.  We see his progression as a bargeman, getting married to his true love Sal, his conviction of a petty theft, and his death sentence.  However, after some pleading and wheedling, Thornhill is sentenced to the small town of Sydney, Australia and he packs up his wife and kids and head out. 

The rest of the book is about his strive to get his family out of poverty, claim new land, start a business and farm, and deal with other settlers and aboriginal people.  The beginning of the novel states that the book is "dedicated to the Aboriginal people of Australia: past, present and future."  The most visual part of the book and the most heart-wrenching part is the interaction between the white settlers and the Aboriginal people. It's one thing to read it in history books and a completely different thing to read it in a novel.

This was an amazing story but my only complaint is that I listened to it instead of reading it.  It wasn't that the narrator did a bad job, on the contrary.  The problem is that this book is so full of beautiful description and little dialogue that it made it hard for me to listen to it.  I really wanted to read the passages, mark them down and remember them.  This is so hard to do as an audio book.

What struck me is how emotionally connected I became to the story.  Thornhill isn't a bad person and through the book I was rooting for him even when bad things happened.  Sal...I loved Sal.  What an interesting and strong character she was in the beginning and I really wanted her presence to continue throughout the story. The settlers all had their own personalities and it was odd to see the interaction of the convicts, settlers, and aboriginal people.  I could see the progression of convicts, many from poverty and abuse, finding the native peoples easy to abuse and use.  I could also understand their desire for land after coming from places like London where it was impossible to become a landowner.  Beware:  The is an event towards the end of the story that is heart-wrenching, horrifying, and if you are one to tear up while reading, this will make you do it. 

While researching this novel, I discovered the reason behind Kate Grenville's writing.  Originally, she wanted to write a non-fiction book on one of her ancestors who settled during this period and area.  However, she ended up writing a fictional account of a fictional person.  Doesn't this make you wonder what information she found on her ancestor?  Wow - as I was writing this I found her book Searching for the Secret River.  I am going to HAVE to read this.  I also want to read her Orange Prize winning book The Idea of Perfection.  Have any of you read any of her books?

Even though it was just written in 2005, I found quite a few different covers for the The Secret River:

Also Reviewed by:

Rhinoa's Ramblings
Book Lust
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time