Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Wrap Up - Where did the month go?

Well, the month of May is over, and it has turned out to be my worst reading month in the last (11) years, since I've been tracking what I've read.  I only read (8) books, and at one time I use to read about (14-17).  It's not like I've been letting my brain go to mush though.

In my defense, I've been quite the wordsmith, having played 382 games of Scrabble on my iPhone in the last (6) weeks, with an 81% win rate.  I'm hoping I can stop obsessing about Scrabble and read more books in June, but I can't guarantee it...sorry...I am weak. So this is what my May in books looked like:
  1. Until Tuesday; Luis Carlos Montalvan - 3/5 (review) 
  2. A Father's Love; David Goldman - 4/5 (review) 
  3. Full Dark, No Stars; Stephen King - 4.5/5 (audio) 
  4. Disturbing the Peace; Richard Yates - 4/5
  5. The Beauty Detox Solution; Kimberly Snyder - 3/5 (review) 
  6. Faith; Jennifer Haigh - 4.5/5 (review) 
  7. School for the Blind; Dennis McFarland - 4/5 
  8. The Pumpkin Eater; Penelope Mortimer - 4/5 
  • Favorite  Fiction Book - Faith; Jennifer Haigh - 4.5/5 (review)
  • Favorite  Childrens Book - n/a
  • Favorite Audio Book -Full Dark, No Stars; Stephen King (4.5/5) - great readers
  • New authors -   5/8 -  YTD - 39/57
  • Review Books - 4/8 - YTD - 23/57
  • 5 star books - 0/8 -     YTD - 15/57
  • 4 star books - 6/8 -     YTD - 36/57
  • 3 star books - 2/8 -     YTD - 4/57
  • 2 star books - 0/8-      YTD - 2/57
~~~~~ Challenge Progress ~~~~~
  • 100+ Reading Challenge - 57/100
  • Reading From My Shelves Project - 26/50
  • Audio Book Challenge - 13/20
  • eBook Challenge - 5/20
June Reading Plans 
I'm planning of just reading what strikes my fancy, as we will be away for a few days, and hope to get to read a few books just for fun. In addition to those, I do hope to read: My New American Life; Prose, Wise Blood; Flannery O'Conner, State of Wonder, Ann Patchett,  and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary; Westoll.

 Hope you had a great month in books!

Richard Yates Giveaway WINNER

and the winner is...........
(hope you enjoy them as much as me)

First Chapter~First Paragraph (s) ~ Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of my current read.  This week's book:

(published in 1952)

" Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the isle at the end of the car.  The train was racing through tree tops that fell away at intervals and showed the sun standing, very red, on the edge of the farthest woods. Nearer, the plowed fields curved and faded and the few hogs nosing in the furrows looked like spotted stones. Mrs. Wally Bee Hitchcock, who was facing Motes in the section, said that she thought the early evening like this was the prettiest time of day and she asked him if he didn't think so too. She was a fat woman with pink collars and cuffs and pear-shaped legs that slanted off the train seat and didn't reach the floor. "

Would you give this book a try, based on the opening paragraph? The writing hooked me immediately.

If you care to join in, feel free to grab the image, and share your current book's first paragraph (s).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mailbox Monday May 30th - New York Review Books Classics NYRB

Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and the host for May is:  Mari @ Mari Reads. 

I've been a bit obsessed with all of the NYRB Classics that I've been reading about lately, and after trying The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer and enjoying it, I decided to treat myself to several more that sounded good.  The covers are so colorful. I think they are gorgeous, and they look so nice on the book shelf as well. After reading the product overviews, I think each one sounds wonderful. I can't wait to begin them. (If you click on the title links, you can read what each is about).

Here are the (6) that arrived last week.

(Spine views of the NYRB Classics)

I hope you had a great week in books as well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Pumpkin Eater; Penelope Mortimer

Author: Penelope Mortimer 
Publication Year: 1962 / 2011 (NYRB)
Publisher: New York Review Book Classics
Edition: softcover
Source: My Stacks
Date Completed: 5/22/2011 
Setting: London
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

The Pumpkin Eater is an interesting story, which takes place in London, and is reported to be somewhat autobiographical. The story begins with an unnamed woman talking with her therapist Mr Simpkin. We learn the woman is Mrs. Armitage. She's been married (4) times, she hates dust and messes, and has (8) children from her previous marriages. She seems to be her own worst enemy. Her current husband Jake and she have been married (13) years and, she wants to have a baby with him, but Jake does not. Jake's a womanizer, and he has a bit of a temper as well. The last thing he wants is another child in the house, in fact he wants to send his wife's (3) oldest boys off to boarding school.  Mrs A seems only to know how to reproduce. Her whole identify has been tied to having babies.  She has servants, so she need not worry about caring for the babies once she has them. When she does become pregnant once again, abortion is discussed, decisions need to be made. Mrs A is forced to examine her marriage and her life.

There was a lot to think about in this book. It covered the age old topics of marriage, motherhood and fidelity in oftentimes humorous fashion. I was a little surprised that abortion was raised in this story, since this book was originally published in 1962 London. While I liked the book enough to recommend it, for a 222 page book, it took me a while to complete it. It was one of those books that I read at lunch on a few workdays, but wasn't obsessed about finishing it when I got home in  the evening.

I couldn't stop thinking about the nursery rhyme by a similar name throughout this read......"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn't keep her  ". I was curious about the origin of this rhyme (according to Wikki). While in the nursery rhyme, Peter .... "put her (his wife) in a pumpkin shell ", in this story, although the Armitages' live in the city, Jack builds a glass tower in the country, for their "happy years", and his wife escapes to the tower for much needed quiet contemplation about her life.  

This book is a bit different, but I can see many of my readers enjoying it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Snapshot ~ May 28th

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  If you are interested in participating, just post a photo (new or old), but make sure it's not one that you found online. Add your link to Alyce's Saturday post for all to enjoy.

I'm so happy the snow is finally gone and I can plant flowers.
It was a long, long winter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

School for the Blind; Dennis McFarland

Author: Dennis McFarland
Publication Year: 1994
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Edition: hardcover
Source: My Stacks
Date Completed: 5/17/2011 
Setting: Florida
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

I'm reading a bit less, and my reviews seem to be getting a bit backlogged, but I always make it a point to review (even briefly) every book I read. Two weeks ago, I chose Dennis McFarland's, School for the Blind as my First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Into , so in case you were curious what I thought about the rest of the book, here goes.

"HIS LIFE'S WORK and ambition fulfilled. Francis Brimm believed the only metamorphosis left him was a slow, affable decline toward death, and so at the age of seventy-three he returned to the town of his youth to retire.  He had been a news photographer--a witness, a messenger amid the world's fire and ashes--and he figured he had earned not only the right to let the world go, but also the poise to let it go with authority. He would read, write, sleep, visit the beach, fish, garden a bit, whatever he pleased--the pastimes, he imagined, of solitary old people of some accomplishment. The medley of images he assembled for this retirement included a cottage with a porch on which he might sit and muse over the prospects of the very next hour, but soon after he had settled into just such a place, he found himself absorbed in entirely different, unexpected ways."

Francis Brimm is a retired photojournalist who has traveled the world. With no wife and no children, he decides to return to his childhood hometown to live out the rest of his years. His sister Muriel, also elderly (5 years older), still lives in their childhood home. An intelligent woman, she is a retired librarian, who had worked at the local "school for the blind". As a retiree, she keeps busy with a life of routines. Soon, although not intentionally, her brother's return to the home of their youth, forces both siblings to deal with issues which have long "blinded" them.

For example, soon after Francis' arrival, his eyes begin playing tricks on him. It was not a one time happening. The image on the ceiling was of a young girl from Normandy from some fifty years earlier surface.  Muriel's response to all this:

"Muriel felt certain the apparition he claimed to see on his bedroom ceiling was only a recurring dream, but if it turned out to be a sort of psychic or supernatural event, she wouldn't be surprised. "

Muriel, soon begins to recall events of the summer in 1928. Their father, a doctor, was an mean drunk; their mother was cold and distant.

In addition to the story of a these siblings trying to make sense of their past, there are subplots which include a murder mystery involving two teens that had gone missing from the "school for the blind" where Muriel had worked. A third person, a pregnant, unmarried housekeeper joins the household and strengthens the feeling of family at a time when the siblings need  kindness the most. 

Without giving away too much about how this story unfolds, I'll just say that it was an ambitious novel, that covered a lot. Initially, I had thought adding a murder mystery to a story about growing old, and making peace with one's imperfect past just wouldn't be a combination that would work, but the author surprised me. McFarland knew just when to add a bit of humor, a tad of sadness, and a level of suspense to make it work.  Although, the novel wasn't perfect, it was enjoyable. The author did a great job of slowly revealing the events of the siblings pasts. I will be anxious to try another book by this author in the future.

Waiting on Wednesday - The Grief of Others; Leah Hager Cohen

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's my pick for this week.....

The Grief of Others; Leah Hager Cohen
September 15, 2011 - Riverhead
In the tradition of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a gripping, generous, and provocative novel chronicling the grief that follows the death of a newborn-and that leads to a family's emotional reawakening. 
It begins with loss. John and Ricky Ryrie are stricken by the death of their third child, only fifty-seven hours after his birth. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that nothing was wrong before this baby came so briefly into their lives. Yet in the aftermath of his death, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges concerning what Ricky knew about her pregnancy and concealed from everyone, even John. And the couple's two older children, grappling with the tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely, perhaps courageously, idiosyncratic ways. Ultimately, though, the grief that was initially so isolating brings the four family members to connect powerfully with the sadness and burdens of others- to the grief that is part of every human life and that carries within it the ability to draw us together. And in the end, Ricky and John's marriage is stronger for the transformation their grief has allowed.

Moving, psychologically acute, and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others is Leah Hager Cohen at the height of her talent in what is sure to be her breakout book, one that forces readers to ask themselves: What would I have done? The Grief of Others exposes the paradox that facing tragedy together can in fact awaken us to our better selves and take us from fear to a place of hope and optimism.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

First Chapter~First Paragraph (s) ~ Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of my current read.  Last week's choice was The Pumpkin Eater; Penelope Mortimer (no review yet, but I liked it.)

This week's choice:

June 14, 2011 - Scribner

"She woke to a slow thudding on her bedroom door. She was Lorraine Snyder, aged nine. She'd wasted Saturday night with her parents at their friends' card party and she'd gotten home only after two o'clock Sunday morning.  It was just over five hours later. March 20th, 1927. She feel asleep again, and then she heard a louder thudding and her mother called in a muffled way,  'Lora, Lora, it's me.'

She got up, slumped over to the door, found it mysteriously locked from the hallway, and opened it with a skeleton key that was hanging on a string.

Ruth Snyder was lying on the hallway floor in a short green satin nightgown that was hiked up to her thighs. She'd been softly drumming the door with her head. White clothesline was wrapped many times around her ankles, and her wrists were tied behind her back. "

Would you give this book a try, based on the opening paragraphs? (It's fiction, but based on a true story).

(If you care to join in, feel free to grab the image.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mailbox Monday - May 23rd

Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and the host for May is:  Mari @ Mari reads, 

Several new additions this week:

Hope you got lots of nice books as well.