Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

I don’t remember why I put this on my FITG list. Probably because it was on Oprah’s book club list. Anyway, I’d heard good things about the Pilot’s Wife and I’m glad I took the time to read it.
It was a fast read. I read it in a day. It was very engrossing. Kathryn is married to Jack, who’s plane crashes while leaving London. Kathryn has dreaded this day. The story follows Kathryn’s grief and discovery of things Jack kept from her.
Overall I enjoy the characters. Kathryn was very understandable. Julia, Kathryn’s grandmother, was wonderful. I couldn’t make my mind up about Robert of Jack. Both were hiding things from Kathryn so neither of them will really likeable.
This would be a terrific book for a plane ride or a beach read. You won’t want to put it down.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Darlene's List for Project "Fill in the Gaps"

Hi, everyone!

I am so excited to join you all in this fantastic challenge! I recently started a book blog, and I would invite you all to visit me: http://darlenesbooknook.blogspot.com/.

I had a really hard time narrowing down my list to just 100. My TBR pile is HUGE! I could have easily just made an entire list of classics that I want to read, but I thought that might be too daunting! I tried to mix it up a bit.

I ended up paring down my list to:
  • Classics that are on the top of my TBR list.
  • Popular books that were on bestseller lists.
  • Recommendations from others.
My lists runs to 105 because I needed to get the entire Outlander series in there, and I could not figure out which five books to eliminate!

If I manage to get through this list, I clearly will need to start another one!

Wish me luck! This list is in no particular order, other than grouping authors/series together. I do not pledge to read them in this order.
  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  8. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 1)
  9. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 2)
  10. The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 3)
  11. The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 4)
  12. Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 5)
  13. The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 6)
  14. Merrick by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 7)
  15. Blood and Gold by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 8)
  16. Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 9)
  17. Blood Canticle by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, Book 10)
  18. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  19. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  20. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  21. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  22. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  23. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  24. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  25. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  26. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (Robert Langdon Series, Book 1)
  27. The da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Robert Langdon Series, Book 2)
  28. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Robert Langdon Series, Book 3)
  29. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  30. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  31. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  32. ‘Tis by Frank McCourt
  33. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  34. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  35. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  36. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  37. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  38. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 1)
  39. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)
  40. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 3)
  41. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 1)
  42. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 2)
  43. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 3)
  44. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 4)
  45. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 5)
  46. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 6)
  47. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series, Book 7)
  48. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  49. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  50. Emma by Jane Austen
  51. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  52. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  53. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  54. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  55. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 1)
  56. The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 2)
  57. The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 3)
  58. The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 4)
  59. The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 5)
  60. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children Series, Book 6)
  61. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  62. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
  63. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  64. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
  65. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  66. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  68. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  69. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  70. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  71. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  72. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  73. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  74. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  75. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  76. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 1)
  77. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 2)
  78. Joy’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 3)
  79. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 1)
  80. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 2)
  81. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 3)
  82. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 4)
  83. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 5)
  84. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 6)
  85. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 7)
  86. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 8)
  87. The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 9)
  88. On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 10)
  89. West from Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series, Book 11)
  90. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  91. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  92. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  93. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  94. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  95. Lord of the Flies by Sir William Golding
  96. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Series, Book 1)
  97. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Series, Book 2)
  98. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Series, Book 3)
  99. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 1)
  100. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 2)
  101. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 3)
  102. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 4)
  103. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 5)
  104. A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 6)
  105. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series, Book 7)
Challenge Due Date: May 28, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark

“When I recall what happened to me and what I did in 1949, it strikes me how much easier it is with characters in a novel than in real life. In a novel an author invents characters and arranges them in convenient order. Now that I come to write biographically I have to tell of whatever actually happened and whoever naturally turns up. The story of a life is a very informal party; there are no rules of precedence and hospitality, no invitations.”

So says Fleur Talbot, intrepid heroine and narrator of Muriel Spark’s Loitering With Intent.

She’s a captivating heroine – clever, witty, vivacious and perceptive. You’d love to have her as a friend.

And she’s a book-lover and an aspiring writer.

“I always desired books; nearly all of my bills were for books. I possessed one very rare book which I traded for part of my bill with another bookshop, for I wasn’t a bibliophile of any kind; rare books didn’t interest me for their rarity but their content. I borrowed frequently from the public library, but often I would go into a bookshop and in my longing to possess, let us say, the Collected Poems of Arthur Clough and a new Collected Chaucer, I would get into conversation with the bookseller and run up another bill.”

(It wasn’t this Fleur’s name that inspired mine, but after reading that paragraph I wished that it was!)

The story begins with Fleur living in a bedsit in south-west London and working on her first novel, Warrender Chase. She need a job to get by, and a friend points her in the direction of a job that sounds perfect for her: secretary to the Autobiographical Association.

The Autobiographical Association? It’s the brainchild on the supremely pompous Sir Quentin Oliver; a society that will support and assist people in writing their biographies and preserving them until all of those mentioned are dead so that they can be safely published. Because, of course, they will be of interest to the historians of the future!

It’s a wonderful concept, and it gives Muriel Spark a free rein to create a wonderful gallery of characters. She uses it quite brilliantly!

Fleur gets the job, and so she finds herself writing memoirs – which may be more fiction than fact – by day, and working on her novel. And gradually the boundaries get blurred. Are Fleur’s characters growing to resemble her authors. Or are her authors turning into characters? Just where is the line between fiction and fact?

The story is intricate, clever, and not one that I can easily sum up. Fleur carries you along with her, and it is a wonderful journey.

Loitering With Intent is the kind of book that the more you think the more you realise is there. And it may just be my favourite Muriel Spark – praise indeed!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Virago Modern Classic #50

Such a little book. Just 36 pages in my (earlier) Virago Modern Classics edition.

But what those 36 pages hold is extraordinary.

A nameless woman tells her own story. Her words are sparse but her voice comes through clear and direct.

She and her husband have a short-term lease on a large country house. She has recently given birth and appears to be suffering from what we know to be post-natal depression.

But one hundred years ago it was seen rather differently. She want to move freely, and most of all to write. But her husband, a doctor, prescribes complete rest and isolation in an attic room. A room with an iron bedstead, bars on the window and peeling yellow wallpaper.

Why? Because she cannot play the role of submissive role of wife that society – including her friends and family – has cast her in.

She has no outlet for her intellect. No means of expressing her emotions. And minimal human contact.

She becomes obsessed with the room’s hideously patterned yellow wallpaper. At first she simply dislikes it. But she grows to hate it.Then to fear it. And finally she become fascinated, absorbed by the wallpaper and the lives she within and behind it.

It is a stunning portrait of one woman’s descent into madness. And a clear indictment of a particular society’s oppression of women.

So much has been and could be written about The Yellow Wallpaper. But I feel so deeply for its narrator that I cannot write about her words intellectually.

A compelling and deeply unsettling piece of storytelling.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: Possession (in audio) ~ by A. S. Byatt



Review by Shellie:  Possession ~ by A.S. Byatt  (in audio, performed by Virginia Leishman)

A multilayered award winning tale of interwoven romances. Set in two different centuries and connected ingeniously through letters and journals. It has elements which include faeries, myth, poetry, science, feminism, lgbt, and Victoriana.

Setting:  Primarily set in the late 1980s in London we have a variety of academics whose interests lie in a celebrated poet’s life and work - Randolph Henry Ash. He is a source of intense exploration and historical interest for these scholars, as they research his body of work in their highly competitive environment. From their findings on his life during the mid to late 1800’s it appears Ash led a very quiet and uneventful life. But as one researcher finds out via misplaced letters, they are very wrong.

Thus begins the recovery of the missing pieces that will fill in the blanks for this group of academics, who become ever more obsessed as they struggle to be the first to piece together the juicy details that are alluded to in the new findings. As two of the scholars try and answer their questions they find themselves traipsing to various areas in England and France to find the answers.

Sound simple? Not a chance - there is so much more. This convoluted story will take you back to a very different time, but there is also a wealth of incredible subplots and threads.

Thoughts:  I started and abandoned Possession several times. Giving up on try number two, I thought the writing to be inaccessible, overly intellectual and boringly academic. Now I am thinking one develops “reading muscles”, and considering my years of hiatus from reading fiction I was out of shape. Having read bits about the book’s elements since, I realized the book fits inside a favorite circle of my interests. I gave it another try in audio.

This unabridged audio version was read by Virginia Leishman, and she moderates her voice for each of the character’s while changing accents - ranging from English to Scottish to American and with a believable voice for changes in gender. Excellently done, my only “complaint” is that the narrator’s voice is so pleasant she lulled me to sleep on various occasions. So listening while tired or sleepy is not recommended.

The novel has some interesting elements and literary techniques interwoven inside it. These include threads about fairies, what appears to be paranormal events, and scientific research – including the collection of insect, plant and sea life (all popular with the gentry during Victorian times). The author also expertly uses several literary devices; for example, the usage of poetry as a preclusion to the chapters called epigraphs. Through this method the author has written and included some complex poetry. Lastly the story is told via letters and journal entries making it epistolary. 

Not a fluffy romance, it is a complex, realistic yet sad romance – where real life choices and their consequences are exemplified and I liked that it does not end with everyone living happily ever after. In summary, Possession is out of the ordinary, intellectual and academic – making it a book that not everyone will enjoy. It is also descriptive, metaphorical, dense and an amazing work of fiction. It deserves a rare 5 stars in my opinion.

US|UK|Canada; Duration: 22 hours, 45 minutes Dec 21, 2004; Unabridged; HarperCollins – HarperAudio  Awards: Best Audio Books - Library Journal; Man Booker Prize for Fiction -1990.

The comments that I received on Layers of Thought around the review are that some readers are put off by the academic aspects of the book, others said it was their favorite book. I get both completely.

Emily if I make any money from this link I will mail you a book of your choice.

Moonrat this five star is all your fault.

I have a few that are in the review construction stage – one since November of 2010. Yes I am a slug: Lolita, Wuthering Heights, and am currently listening to Dorian Gray. So catching up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Title: Hugging the Shore
Author: John Updike
Genre: Non-fiction (814.5)
Challenges: Fill in the Gaps
Rating: B
Published: 1983
Date read: 11/16/09 – 4/30/11
No. of pages - 878

Mostly this tome is a collection of essays, book reviews of books written between the mid-1970’s through the early 1980’s and a Q&A at the end of Updike interviews about his writing and awards he’s won. Not really a book to be read straight through yet that’s what I did with a few breaks while I read other books, listened to cassette tapes and compact discs. For the most part I didn’t recognize many authors because many of them were foreign. There were, however, a number of authors I did recognize or that were referred to. Among these folk are also people referred to like James Garner who was mentioned in the biography of Doris Day by A. E. Hotchner. Garner, when interviewed commented that Day was one of the sexiest screen ladies he’d had the pleasure to be intimate with on-screen.

Other authors I’m familiar with are Mark Twain, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Don DeLillo and Isak Dinesen, Ernest Hemingway and Anne Tyler. Others that I intend to read though maybe not the book Updike reviewed are Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul and Gustave Flaubert. And still other foreign authors like Bertolt Brecht, Milan Kundera and L. E. Sissman.

Updike appears fair in his assessment of author talents or ineptness. He isn’t afraid to call it where it lies. He touts and admonishes, sings praises and pans. Each sentence is one you’ll never read again. And such is the talent of this gifted writer. I plowed each furrow of each review and unearthed more poems, tales and letters from every corner of the world. This isn’t a book for everyone but if you read it, you may find a jewel or two and a better appreciation than I have.