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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments is told in a series of emails alternating with prose.  I liked the way Reginald Hill included emails in The Price of Butcher's Meat, and I always like epistolary novels.  Letters are so rare now, however, that emails and texts have become the modern replacement.  The novel is an ARC from Dutton Publicity and Marketing--thanks to Katherine Burns for sending me this one!

Lincoln, shy and reclusive, is paid to read flagged emails at the Courier; Beth and Jennifer are friends and coworkers at the paper whose emails are often flagged.  Without ever having met them, Lincoln is captivated by Beth and Jennifer's exchanges.  Instead of turning them in, he finds himself looking forward to their witty repartee.

Although he has never even seen Beth, Lincoln begins falling for her.  The two friends are funny, literate, and kind, and Lincoln looks forward the flagged emails with more enthusiasm than he musters for much of anything else. Beth and Jennifer are modern young women, but not insipid, not shallow.  No, they bound off the page. They are smart and well-read, and their back-and-forth banter kept a smile on my face as I read.

Lincoln, a bit of a computer nerd, has spent years getting over his first romance, and now that he really likes someone (sight unseen), he is trapped by the fact that he has been reading the emails, peering into Beth's private life and thoughts.  What to do?

I loved these characters.  The novel is light-hearted fare, but books that keep you smiling are worth their weight in gold.  Attachments isn't deep or unpredictable.  You are pretty sure things will work out for the best, but because these are people you'd love to have as friends, you just enjoy the ride.

The novel is fresh and funny and upbeat--even as all three characters face their individual difficulties.  If you are looking for a book to make you smile, try it! 

Attachments Website....

Fiction.  Light Romance/Humor.  2011.  323 pages.

The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Golden Child is Fitzgerald's first novel.  I decided to begin with her first novel because it is a mystery and involves a museum.

I'm feeling quite guilty about this one because Fitzgerald's reputation is so high and so many bloggers have loved her books... and I didn't love this one.  

It is a satirical novel about the museums and museum personnel, but I found the satire more on the bitter, biting side than I like.  

Here is a bit from Amazon reviewer Kerry Fried:
Penelope Fitzgerald's first novel is packed with institutional follies and fiercely territorial old trouts. Set in a London museum whose officers only appear august, The Golden Child literally proves that authorities are clowns and clowns authorities.
I completely agree with the phrase "authorities are clowns and clowns authorities" portion because Fitzgerald employs this technique of reversal.  Unfortunately, nothing much about the characters or plot engaged me as I'd hoped..

Fiction.  Mystery/Satire.  1999.  188 pages.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Whisperers by John Connolly

The Whisperers is a mystery, crime, and supernatural novel.  And an overdue library book.  I finished it a while back, but since it must be returned, it is time to review it.

First, I didn't realize when I checked it out that John Connolly is also the author of The Book of Lost Things in which a young boy is lost in the realm of fairy tales.  I read and reviewed it in 2007 and liked it very much.

This novel, however, is part of Connolly's Charlie (Bird) Parker series and a very different style.  Drawn by the cover, I really had no idea what to expect.  The novel is an intriguing mixture of a crime novel and the supernatural.  The surprising thing is how well Connolly makes it work.

P.I. Charlie Parker is asked to look into the suicide of an Iraqi war veteran, but discovers that the death has much wider implications.   The plundering of antiquities from the Iraq National Museum,  information about Post Traumatic Stress, treatment of war veterans, and villains, human and supernatural, are all mixed together.

Sometimes brutal, the novel still engaged me from beginning to end.  I know I read a blog entry somewhere that mentioned this series, but can't remember whose blog it was.  If you've read the series, let me know what you think.  This is the 9th in the series, so I've begun at the "end," so to speak. 

Fiction.  Crime/Mystery/Supernatural.  2010.  409 pages.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another Poem by Jane Yolen for National Poetry Month

Once again combining poetry and Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge:

             "Once Upon A Time," She Said

                          by Jane Yolen

"Once upon a time," she said,
and the world began anew:
a vee of geese flew by,
plums roasting in their breasts;
a vacant-eyed princess
sat upon a hillock of glass;
a hut strolled through a tangled wood,
the nails on its chickenfeet
blackened and hard as coal;
a horse's head proclaimed advice
from the impost of an arch;
one maiden spoke in toads,
another in pearls,
and a third with the nightingale's voice.
If you ask me,
I would have to say
all the world's magic
comes directly from the mouth.
(via Endicott Studio)

I've been so busy this last week with one thing or another that I've not been keeping up with my blogging.  

To be reviewed:  The Shadow Hunt by Katherine Langrish (buddy read with Kailana), The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell,  Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay, and The Whisperers by John Connolly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Darling Jim is one of my favorite books so far this year!  It is a like a helix, or a double helix, or a triple helix all threaded together in this fantastic spiraling fashion, and I LOVED it.  Moerk captures the voices of the characters with an amazing ability to take them fully formed from the page into your head. The delicate balance of beauty and suspense, humor and apprehension, especially through the voices of Fiona and Rosie, kept me enthralled.

From the first few pages that described the experiences of a very minor character--Desmond, the mailman in the community of Malahide, a little north of Dublin--I was Hooked.  Yes, Hooked, with a capital H.  Dangling like a fish on the line, drawn toward the next paragraph, the next page.

"Everybody liked Desmond, even if he might have been a little too nosy for his own good.  He was also a slave to ritual, always noticing if anybody's grass needed tending or whether the paint on a flagpole had   begun to chip.  Taken together with his guilt of having seen details without understanding their true meaning, these otherwise sociable qualities cost him his sanity."

Some books manage to make the opening chapter so intriguing that I find myself fervently hoping that the rest of the novel holds up, and this one does, indeed, hold up.

When Desmond discovers the body of one of the women on his route, the garda quickly descend on the house and find two more bodies, young women who have evidently been held captive for some time.  What has been going on in this house?  Then, the possibility of a third captive, who has evidently escaped....

Stories begin to circulate, but no one really knows what has occurred or why.  When the diary of one of the young women appears and is read by an unassuming postal clerk, the story begins to unravel in the voice of Fiona Walsh.  Niall, the young clerk, learns about a handsome young man on a red motorcycle,a seanchai, a bard or story teller, who initiated the events that ended in the deaths of the three women.  Darling Jim, a catalyst for murder, who wove myth, fairy tale, and reality into the tales he told at local pubs, beguiling men and women alike.

Niall, captivated by Fiona's voice and story, begins his personal quest to discover the events that  led  to the murders.  Both Niall and the reader are mesmerized by first, Fiona's diary, and later, Rosie's recording of the events.  Compelled by the voices of the young women, Niall travels to Castletownbere in search of answers, and perhaps,  to ascertain what happened to the third sister, Aoife.

The only nitpicking  I'll admit to with this story is in the concluding chapters that deal with a connection that was foreshadowed earlier.  Without giving anything away, this portion seemed like an unnecessary addition to what was otherwise, for me, a perfect novel.

I loved the intertwining of story-telling, myth, and fairy tale.  I loved the Walsh sisters.  A joy to read.

To sum up, I'll quote Annie and link to her review:
I adore this novel.  Darling Jim is poignantly funny, enchanting and horrific.  Intrigued?  I hope so!  You’ll be rooting for the Walsh sisters and their knight in shining armor, Niall.
 And thanks again, Annie, for sending me your copy.  Reading Darling Jim was such fun! 

Once Upon a Time challenge (second book)

Fiction.  Mystery/Fairy Tale/Contemporary Literature.  2009.  285 pages.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Yoga/Feldenkrais/Neuroplasticiy/The Vigorous Mind

I've been reading my yoga books again, in between all of the other books.  Maybe the feeling of Spring and regrowth and the beauty of azalea blossoms re-kindled my interest in yoga reading and more devotion in my practice.  I do yoga almost everyday, sometimes skipping Sundays, and usually attend two classes a week, but my yoga reading has slowed down in the last few months.

 Whether it was picking up the grandchild or moving furniture or a too enthusiastic practice, or a combination (most likely) of all of the preceding and the ever-present scoliosis, I've done something to that right SI joint.  As a result, I've been taking slower, gentler, more exploratory sequences of asanas and reading more about  joints, muscles, and lower back problems and choosing asanas that calm and strengthen and omitting those that interfere with strength and ease.

I have had a new yoga center on my radar for several months and finally decided to give it a try.  It was a lovely practice that seemed remarkably geared to what I needed.  The Arodasi Center is located in a wonderful old home in the Highland District, and the teacher, Kristin Hanna, is one of those people who seem intrinsically at home with herself and others.  The practice was slow and gentle and left me with the feeling of alertness and peaceful relaxation that I adore about both yoga and tai chi.
 Kristin Hanna is also a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist and Educator in the Feldenkrais Method.  I'm finding myself with a new fascination and have a one-on-one private session for Functional Integration scheduled for Friday.  

It is one of those synchronicitous discoveries -- when reading The Vigorous Mind (the first time), my interest in the workings of the brain and in neuroplasticity was aroused.  Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself  (one of my favorite "brain" books) mentions Feldenkrais' work and the way it can change brain patterns.  

Here is a bit about the Feldenkrais Method and Moshe's Feldenkrais' work as a physicist, his escape from Nazi-occupied Paris with French atomic secrets, his training of British paratroopers in hand-to-hand combat, and more about his method.  Yes, I definitely want to read a biography.
This post on my self-challenge inspired by The Vigorous Mind needs some serious updating, but the journey it set me on has included:  becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher, reading more about the brain and neuroplasticity, deepening my yoga practice, and now, perhaps, a new discovery that will further my understanding of the mind/body connection.
Have any of you had any experience with Feldenkrais? 

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches was a lot of fun, and  I think it works for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge.

The reviews of this one are completely mixed, but although I agree with some of the criticisms, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

There are vampires, witches, and daemons involved in this romp that is part romance, part mystery, and part supernatural, with a dash of history thrown in.  

It IS long, but I never found it tedious (although many reviews cite the length).

Diana is descended from a long line of powerful witches, but as a result of a childhood event, resists using her own powers.  While doing some research at Oxford's Bodleian Library, one of the manuscripts that she touches intrigues her, but she refuses to dwell on it because it exerts a powerful supernatural pull, and Diana resists all supernatural or magical situations. 

As it turns out, many others are interested in this manuscript, and have never been able to put their hands on it.  Magic has made it available to Diana alone.  One of the individuals interested in Ashmolean 782 is the vampire Matthew Clairmont, but witches and daemons are also keeping Diana under observation.

On the whole, the novel is light fare, but I liked the characters and the various settings and characters.  A Discovery of Witches had enough magic and magical creatures to keep me happily turning the pages.

Drawback:  Although not a serious cliff hanger, the reader is left with some elements unresolved and the knowledge that there will be another book in this series.

On the other hand, visiting this world again will be an anticipated pleasure.

Other reviews:   The Bibliophilic, Linus's Blanket,

Fiction. Supernatural/Fantasy.  2011. 579 pages.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Poetry and Books To Be Reviewed

 I love this poem by Denise Levertov and while I know I posted it on the other blog some years ago, I couldn't find that I'd done so on this blog. 

The Secret

by Denise Levertov 
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.
Here is a post from 2008's National Poetry month with a poem that ties in with The Once Upon a Time challenge. How to Change a Frog into a Prince is funny and sly, and I love it!

Waiting to be reviewed:  Darling Jim by Christian Moerk (WOW!), A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell , The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald,  and The Shadow Hunt by Katherine Langrish. I liked all of them, but obviously have a favorite. 

Friday, April 01, 2011

When Tito Loved Clara by Jon Michaud

When Tito Loved Clara is another ARC from Algonquin Books. It is the story of an immigrant family from Santo Domingo.  Clara Lugo has a difficult childhood, but manages to pursue her dreams in several ways.

She is a librarian with a young son, but she desperately wants another child.  Her husband, however, has lost his job and is in a difficult place, emotionally and financially.  Clara's sister is a self-involved woman who chooses the wrong men and has too little concern for her sixteen-year-old daughter.

As a story about an immigrant neighborhood and community, the novel rings true.  However, the plot and the pacing make it a little hard to maintain genuine interest.  

I really wanted to love this novel, but that didn't happen.  While the characters had, for the most part, a sense of reality, they didn't truly pull me in to their lives.  In some ways, it felt like reading a documentary and in some ways like watching a soap opera.  

It took me about a week to get around to reading the last five pages...and who stops at that point?  When I did finish, I had no feeling of closure.  

Michaud's writing flows well, yet I was never able to lose myself in the narrative.

Fiction.  Contemporary Fiction.  2011.  338 pages.

National Poetry Month

I'm still reading The Gift by Hafiz, but I went on line to find a poem that I could copy and paste.  I do like Daniel Landinsky's translations.

The Woman I Love by Hafiz translated by Daniel Ladinsky
     Because the Woman I love lives
                  Inside of you,

   I lean as close to your body with my words
                  As I can--

   And I think of you all the time, dear pilgrim.

     Because the One I love goes with you
            Wherever you go,
         Hafiz will always be near.

       If you sat before me, wayfarer,
     With your aura bright from your many

My lips could resist rushing to you and needing
       To befriend your blushed cheek,

       But my eyes can no longer hide
         The wondrous fact of who 
            You Really are.

       The Beautiful One whom I adore
  Has pitched His royal tent inside of you,

       So I will always lean my heart 
         As close to your soul
                  As I can.