Pryday #7

Hello, everyone! It’s the end of another work week and the end of another month. As we plunge into fall it’s hard not to start thinking about the ending of another year. We’re through nine months of reading so far in 2011 and at the risk of getting ahead of myself I started to review the books I’ve read through this year and couldn’t help but rank them. Have you done the same?  If so, I’d like to know:

What books are candidates for being your favorite read of 2011?

Here are mine:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Emotionally wrenching and beautifully written, this Pulitzer Prize winner is most definitely in the running for my favorites list.

Edith Wharton

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I was very strangely under the impression that I didn’t like this novel, but it has stayed with me through the year and I will never forget its brave and honest storytelling.

Michael Ondaatje

Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence. The frustrating characters and relationships in this novel made me want to throttle Lawrence, but I was entirely engaged with the story and appreciate the ideas he was trying to propound. Also, I have this book to thank for the title of my blog.

D.H. Lawrence

How about you? What books are candidates for being your favorite read of 2011?

Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton

Reading Blood Harvest was like a breath of fresh, though unpure, air after my recent struggle with The Night Circus. Fast-paced, economically written and never losing my interest for a minute – it was just the book I needed after the density of my previous read.

Trying to describe this novel would involve too many snarled threads so I’ll keep it simple. There is a house near a graveyard, children seeing and hearing spooky “monsters”, unexplained disappearances of little girls, harvest rituals, an unconventional vicar, a beautiful and handicapped psychiatrist, madness, insularity, crypts and nights on the moors.

These threads all miraculously fuse together to form a riveting and truly spine chilling novel. This is the first book I’ve read in quite a while that had me looking over my shoulder and seriously wishing I hadn’t read it before bed. Bolton has a way of injecting the supernatural into the story in a very believable way.

Her characters are not quite lovable, but sympathetic and their motives are understandable. Her writing is like a wildfire burning its way through the pages – she is skilled at crafting page-turners.

I will warn those of you who are distressed by descriptions of violence or harm against children to stay far away from this book as this issue is one of the central themes of the novel, though I don’t think Bolton exploits it for entertainment purposes.

I haven’t read a good thriller since the spring and I thank Helen at She Reads Novels for introducing me to S.J. Bolton. I can see that I will now have to devour her three other novels!

Corn Dollies

“It’s a Pennine spiral,’ said a voice. Harry and the boys turned at the same moment to see that Tobias Renshaw had joined them. ‘Corn dollies are traditional all over the UK,’ the older man went on, ‘but each region seems to have its own particular design. The spiral is considered one of the most difficult to craft. My granddaughter’s brains all went into her fingers.’

– S.J. Bolton

Blood Harvest is my first book by S.J. Bolton, but I loved her before I began because of this from the book jacket: “Her fascination with British folklore, especially the dark and haunting side of those legends, fuels her writing”. Sounds fantastic.

More soon from Blood Harvest….

Pryday #6

Hello and welcome to the weekend! My three day respite from work is much welcomed and anticipated. I plan to spend it reading, de-cluttering, and unpacking boxes that are still awaiting my attention from the move. Thinking about houses and domesticity led me to this week’s Pryday question:

Which author’s birthplace or home would you like to visit? Or, which one have you visited that you can recommend?

As much as I’d love to visit Haworth Parsonage or Monk’s House, the place I’m most eagerly interested in visiting  is The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Wharton was well-known for her passion and talent for interior design and her home illustrates her love for creating beautiful spaces. If ever I’m on the East Coast, The Mount will be on my agenda of places to visit.

Though non-literary, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, Abiquiu, in New Mexico is also on my wish list to visit some day. It is also much closer to home.

How about you? What literary (or artistic) destinations are calling your name?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Creating a world unto itself that entices, enchants and beckons you inside its caramel-scented lair is the forte of The Night Circus. This fanciful novel excels at begetting a secretive and illusive environment that is mirrored by the invention of Le Cirque des Reves, the circus of the novel, that only opens at night and never advertises its appearance.

Set during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the story twists around the pillar of magic that is at the heart of the tale. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair are chosen as youths to engage in a lifelong battle of magicians. Celia is born with her magical gifts, but Marco is trained to be an illusionist. The circus is created to be the venue for their contest and in the course of its creation it absorbs many other talented magicians and entertainers whose lives become forever entwined with the circus.

As the years pass and the circus moves from city to city, Celia and Marco duel by inventing ever more fantastical and original displays in tents around the circus, trying to understand the competition and how they can end it. The descriptions of the Le Cirque des Reves and of its tents and performers make up a large part of the enjoyment this novel provides. Morgenstern is a master of manipulating the reader’s senses, making us feel that we are in the midst of the circus and witnessing the amazing feats of illusion and drama and beauty and mystique that she conjures.

There are faults, however. The pacing is extremely slow, too slow for my liking. With 100 pages to go, I lost interest in the story and debated whether to finish or not. The spell was broken. The characters are also not entirely developed, especially the two main characters whose fate seems a paltry solution to such a colossal dilemma.

Despite its weaknesses, The Night Circus is engrossing, charming, alluring and will bewitch the reader with its fascinating setting.

Reveurs

“Word spreads quickly in such select circles, and so begins a tradition of reveurs attending Le Cirque des Reves decked in black or white or grey with a single shock of red: a scarf or hat, or, if the weather is warm, a red rose tucked into a lapel or behind an ear. It is also quite helpful for spotting other reveurs, a simple signal for those in the know.”

– from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Could this lovely woman painted by Renoir be a secret reveur, a connoisseur of Le Cirque des Reves?

 

More soon from The Night Circus.

 

 

Pryday #5

Hi, all, how has this week treated you? My week has been busy and fulfilling. I had my second baby storytime and it was fab! I definitely feel like I know a bit more what I am supposed to be doing and how to engage the babies. I also started a few marvelous books that I hope to be able to write about soon. This week’s Pryday question is frivolously fun:

Is there a fictional character you’d consider marrying?

There is no thought involved for me in this question. I’ve always been in love with the wise Southern gentleman, Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird. He’s a patient and loving father, a man with high principles, has a strong sense of justice and a good heart. He’s also calm in a crisis, intelligent, kind, and understanding. He’s perfection! And if you visualize him as looking like Gregory Peck, who played him in the film, then there’s just nothing not to like.

I am also fond of Dawsey Adams from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’m just a sucker for the strong, silent type.

How about you? Is there a fictional character you’d consider marrying?

My Own Personal Book Blogger Appreciation Day

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is this week and I completely missed the boat on nominating my favorite blogs for the blog awards. Basically, I am a dufus and couldn’t figure out how to access the nomination form on the website! So many of my favorite blogs don’t quite fit into any of the categories, anyway, so I am going to give out my own very special awards to my favorite book bloggers!

I read many book blogs and appreciate and enjoy them all, but these are the blogs I look for first in my Google Reader account to see if they’ve posted anything new. These are the blogs that most inspire me, persuade me and educate me.

Favorite Blogs whose authors make me REALLY, REALLY need want the books they write about: Fleur Fisher in Her World and She Reads Novels. Jane and Helen are super convincing when they talk about books. Their powers of persuasion are hard to match. I nearly always want to immediately buy or check out a copy of the books they review.

Favorite New to Me Blogs: Miss Darcy’s Library, TBR 313 and The Book Whisperer. Don’t we all like to make new friends and hear different perspectives from time to time? I love reading the comments on blogs and clicking on the link to the commenter to investigate their own spaces. That is how I found Florence, Lisa May, and Boof, three excellent writers who read very eclectically.

Favorite Blog that Reviews Translated Books and is Written by an All-Around Cool Guy: Winstonsdads Blog. I think most bloggers know Stu and admire him. His passion for translated fiction is highly admirable and I love being introduced to books by writers I would otherwise never hear about.

Favorite Blogs Whose Authors Write Beautifully About Classic Novels: Vintage Reads and Books and Chocolate. Whether writing about vintage or modern classics, Nicola and Karen have a way of stylishly and thoughtfully writing about books that always leaves me very admiring of both the books and of them.

Favorite Blog That Celebrates Not Only Books But Travel and Culture Also (Oh, and it is Funny): Pining for the West. Katrina’s posts never fail to make me jealous (of her beautiful homeland), give me a stomachache (from laughing so hard) or expand my brain cells (with her engaging book reviews and cultural observations).

Thanks to you all!

Most of my favorite bloggers are also frequent commenters on my own humble blogging efforts and I truly thank them for it. I’ve felt so warmly accepted by everyone since I returned to blogging in April and I am grateful and thrilled to be part of this fabulous community of book lovers.

Pryday #4

Welcome to Pryday! I hope everyone had a great week full of fantastic reading.  This week’s question:

What non-fiction title has significantly changed the way you view a person, an event or a subject?

One of the best non-fiction titles I’ve read in the past few years was Columbine by Dave Cullen. I was a college student when the terrible school shooting happened in 1999 and I remember it vaguely, but I was so busy and immersed in my studies that I didn’t know all of the details or pay enormous attention to the aftermath. That’s why I immediately grabbed this book when it came out a couple of years ago. I felt it was time to learn more about the chilling rampage that killed 13 people and that led to schools and law enforcement agencies changing major policies and procedures in order to prevent future school shootings. I had read good reviews and was intrigued by tales of the new information that Dave Cullen brings to light in the course of his investigation. Here in an excerpt from a review I wrote on an old blog:

“The chapters alternate between discussing the shooting itself and its victims to detailing the lives of the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and what might have caused them to murder. Overall, it makes for a mesmerizing read that compels the reader to race through the chapters. Cullen’s writing style is brisk and very detailed, yet novelistic in its approach. There is new information provided about the Cassie Bernall myth, the psychopathy of Eric Harris and the blunders and mistakes that the police made and how they learned from them. This is a riveting and fast-paced account of one of the most haunting tragedies in American history. ”

Not an easy read, but one that was highly enlightening.

How about you? What non-fiction title has significantly changed the way you view a person, an event or a subject?