Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I've Read: A Long Overdue (and Overlong) Post

Annette Vallon, James Tipton
I got this book from the bargain section and had no idea what to expect. The jacket said it was a novel about William Wordsworth's first love, a French woman who he fell in love with on the eve of the French Revolution. Not knowing a lot about that time or about Wordsworth meant that I learned a lot and I'm definitely interested in finding out what was fact and fiction. The beginning of the book, which was more of a love novel, was nothing special, but about 1/3 of the way in the Revolution hit full swing, the action picked up, Annette began to figure out what she was about, and I was hooked. For all my readers who like to read about strong, independent women (and I know there are a lot of you), this will be an enthralling read.

The Sealed Letter, Emma Donoghue
Most historical novels show the reader the contrast between the past and the present. The Sealed Letter managed to both highlight the differences but also remind us that some things never change. It's the story of two friends, Emily "Fido" Faithfull and Helen Codrington and how they weather the storm of Helen's divorce from her husband. Just as it is now, the public is fascinated by the gruesome details of Helen's affairs and the couples' personal lives. Although it was slow at points, I enjoyed the twist on a traditional tale.

Interred with Their Bones, Jennifer Lee Carrell
I picked this up on the bargain shelf at the bookstore a few months ago with the idea that it would be a fun read for a trip when I wanted to read a lot without thinking too much. Well, I got one out of two. I read it during a relaxing camping trip a few weeks ago and it was definitely a page turner. The novel is a page turner mystery about people searching for the original manuscript of one of Shakespeare's lost plays. The concept was good but the plot was unbelievably convoluted and I had trouble following it at times.

The Forgery Of Venus, Michael Gruber
The first few times I heard about this popular novel, I thought the plot sounded too contrived for me to enjoy it. But after numerous strong reviews from diverse sources I added it to my list. As a result I was surprised when I found a hardcover copy for $5.98! I'm never one to put down a bargain book so I grabbed it, and as soon as I started reading it I couldn't put it down. It's the story of a painter in present day New York City whose style and technique belong in an older era. When he joins a clinical trial for a new drug designed to increase creativity, he finds himself traveling back first to his own youth and then to that of a famous painter. Soon he's not sure what is real, past and present, and when a painting by an old master is discovered the reader no longer knows who the real artist is. It was an unexpected page turner!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moderately Extreme Makover: Library Edition

Although having my own library is one of my favorite parts of our house, in recent months it has become a bit chaotic and filled with piles of wedding stuff, books to shelf, and papers to put away. In addition, the ancient chair I had was comfy but just not right for reading. All that made sitting in there to read extremely distracting and I was more likely to just read on the couch and get annoyed when I was interrupted.

Recently I saw a daybed/sofa I loved at World Market (where else?). I knew it would be perfect for the library but couldn't justify buying it when the room was messy and I rarely sat there. But a few weeks ago the Dude got new furniture for the man cave and ended up needing to clean out his closet. When I saw it filled with neatly stacked clear containers my type-A, OCD, neat freak side finally overcame my avoidance tendencies and I knew what I had to do. Less than a week later, the clutter is gone and the library makeover is complete!

Unfortunately for you there are no before pictures so you can just use your imagination. Quite appropriate for a room I use to read, don't you think?

The beautifully neat (and way less full) closet.

Note the cleaned off desk and lack of piles on the floor.

And now for the best part...the daybed! I got some bright pillows to lighten up the room and a pretty basket to hold all the books I am waiting to read. The sides of the daybed can either be up (as shown here) or down (for stretching out legs or nap time). The wreath above it was a Christmas present from my friend Heather. It's actually made out of pages from my favorite books! Before you get concerned that she tore up books, don't worry...she printed them onto vellum. How great it is that gift??

In this picture you can see the view as you walk in and see the side of the daybed folded down.

It's so exciting when a room really comes together! I can't wait to spend a long time holed up in the library with a great read.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February Reading

The Piano Teacher, Janice Y.K. Lee
This story is set in Hong Kong in the 1940s and 1950s, which is a place and time I don't know much about. It tells the story of two affairs; one between an Englishman and a Eurasian woman on the eve of World War II, and the other between an married American woman and an Englishman. I didn't know anything about the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and actually ended up doing a bit of research online so I'd have a better understanding of the events. While I did enjoy it, I felt some of the characters were not developed as much as I would have liked. Despite that it was a fascinating look at a society I knew nothing about.

The Story Sisters
, Alice Hoffman
I chose to read this because I had enjoyed another of Alice Hoffman's books, The Probable Future. The Story Sisters was even better. It's the tale of the three Story sisters and the world they weave for themselves as they grow up and deal with life changing events. The story is haunting and cobwebbed with fantasy that feels completely real. The characters are all well developed and I was completely entranced from start to finish. While the main focus is on the girls' emotional development, the plot is strong and often surprising.

Playing the Enemy
, John Carlin
This book was the basis for the recent movie Invictus, which I had seen and enjoyed. The book is less rugby-focused than the movie and focuses more on the political challenges Nelson Mandela faced in ending apartheid in South Africa. I learned a lot about the process which I had never known before. At times the author seemed to be so enamored of Mandela that he lost his way in explaining how this man changed his country, but that is a small complaint. Having seen the movie and read the book, I was impressed (for the most part) with how true to life the movie was. I recommend them both! (Note: apparently the book has been re-released under the title Invictus, but the content remains the same.)

The Greatest Knight
, Elizabeth Chadwick
I've been reading a lot of historical fiction but this novel is set further back than most as it takes place in 12th century Europe. It follows the rise of a knight who serves Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his sons Young Henry and Richard (the Lionhearted). I was thoroughly engrossed throughout. The author did a great job of making William Marshal, the protagonist, seem like a real man and not a mythical perfect knight. There's a sequel coming out March 1 and I will definitely be getting it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snack Time!

I have two events in the next two days for which I need to bring food so tonight I made a big batch of oatmeal craisin chocolate chip cookies. Can you tell what I had extra of in the pantry? As I was taking them off the cookie sheets to cool I saw that one had split and turned into a heart. Too bad I'm a little too late for Valentine's Day!

Of course, I wouldn't want to feed anyone else something that I don't eat myself, so I figured it was my duty to do control. Yeah, that's what it was. I'm happy to report the cookies passed!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Although this is my first Valentine's Day as a married lady, it's actually my 7th V-day with the Dude. This is good since I had to work console and as a result, we aren't doing anything special. Since the Dude prefers not to have his picture on the blog, I thought I'd share this great photo of my dad escorting my mom and the Dude's mom down the aisle. Thank you to our parents for showing us how happy and loving a marriage can be! I hope all my readers are spending the day with someone you love!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

NPR sees you through the Zombiepocalypse

After my previous cannibalism post I figure I've gotten rid of anyone reading this blog looking for intelligent discourse. And so, I bring you "Wait Wait Don't Eat Me," a hilarious parody of NPR during a zombie apocalypse.

Commas and Cannibals

If you laughed or even grinned, go read Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

(Note: I have spent the last three days trying to decide what to write about the NASA budget announcement and I can't make my thoughts coherent. So I decided to go with the lighter side of things.)