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21 April 2013 / getrus

National LIbrary Week

So,  I have been neglecting writing anything up for the past while and I missed National Library Week.  (It was last week  April 14 – 20.)  Admittedly I was extremely busy with work, but I should have remembered.  I even told myself in early April to pre-write a post so I wouldn’t forget, but alas I forgot even to do that.  I hope everyone enjoyed their library this past week and will continue to enjoy it throughout the year.  I love mine (even if I can only make it there once a month or so.)

4 April 2013 / getrus

TransAtlantic — Colum McCann

transatlanticI was lucky enough to be able to receive this as an ARC.  (Thank you Librarything and Random House!)

To say this book was marvelous is a slight understatement.  It was majestic and sensational (much better words to describe it.)  Starting with the story of the flight across the Atlantic by Alcock and Brown, followed by a seemingly unrelated story involving Frederick Douglass.  Then onto one involving Senator George Mitchell.  All of them with the only connecting piece being the trip from the United States to Ireland.  Until we read the rest of the novel and find out it also followed the story of a family of women starting with Lily Duggan and ending with her great-granddaughter Hannah Carson.  The first one who met Douglass, her daughter and granddaughter who met Alcock and Brown.

The way he described various places made you feel as if you were actually there and enjoying the time along with the person in the novel.  You could feel their emotion and the way everything around them was reacting.  Having heard good reviews of his books, but never having read one before this makes me want to read the rest of his works.  If any of his other novels are as memorable as this one than I will be exceedingly happy.

**** (Four Stars)

FYI:  Book is on sale in June.

31 March 2013 / getrus

Passing — Nella Larsen

passingI picked up Passing on a whim at a booksale.  It is a good Penguin Classics soft cover and it sounded intriguing.  (I had taken a class in college on African American History and every once in a while reading something which correlates in some way with what I at one time was studying is pleasing.)  Written in 1929 Larsen conveys the thoughts and feelings as well as the turmoil and animosity toward African Americans that were prevalent to the times.

Irene is a light skinned negro who at many times can pass for a white person, provided she is not with people of her own race.  It is on one of these such days that she takes tea by herself and finds a woman staring at her.  Who she comes to find out is a friend from her past, also very light skinned.  This woman, Clare, invites Irene to come to her home for a small party one night and after much hesitation she accepts.  Here Irene, Clare, and Gertrude (another light skinned negro whom they both grew up with) enjoy each others’ company until Clare’s husband comes home.  He is white and extremely racist and has no idea his wife is part negro.

This novella is about how Clare and Irene find their own identity apart from what has been branded on them.  As much as it is about them finding their own identity it also deals with how the rest of the world sees them.

Reading about the racism which I had learned so much about in college is unsettling considering some of the things Clare’s husband says.  It is an absolute must for those who want to try to understand how it was to live as an African American in the 1920s.

**** (Four Stars)

19 March 2013 / getrus

The New York Trilogy — Paul Auster

trilogyI was not very impressed with this collection of short novels.  It was beautifully written and was quite interesting, however the stories seemed to be lacking.  I could not find myself immersed in the story and I am with so many others.  Perhaps it was what the story was about which caused me not to like it so much.  That of trying to find someone, or watch someone else, and in the act of doing so the first person loses their own self or finds their self.

City of Glass is about Quinn, a writer of mysteries, becomes involved in a mystery himself.  He is asked to help a young couple and ends up following around an aging man who then disappears.  While the young couple also disappears.

Ghosts is about Blue who is hired to watch Black.  All Black does though is sit in his room and write all day.  He hardly ever goes out.  When all is said and done Blue has lost most of what he had when he began his assignment.

The Locked Room is about Fanshawe.  A young man who disappeared.  His wife calls upon his childhood friend to help her with some of his writings.  The two end up getting married after she is officially divorced from Fanshawe, but there still lurks the feeling that Fanshawe is not dead and his friend needs to have closure, or something like it.

Auster has a way with the English language that few writers, which I have read, have.  But the stories seem at times uninspired.  They lack emotion.

*** (Three Stars)

14 March 2013 / getrus

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards — Kristopher Jansma

leopards   Another book I received as an ARC.  This is the authors debut novel and I expect to see more in the future.

I knew from after reading only a couple of pages that I was going to fall in love with this book.  And I did.  I almost read all of it in one sitting, except it got extremely late and I had to get up early the next day.  I was warned however.  The first page of the ARC I received had a note from the Editor with a disclaimer.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is essentially a book about writing a book.  The narrator tells about his life in how he has written and the various books he wrote and then managed to lose. The first one when he was a young boy waiting in an airport terminal for his mother to finish from work as a flight attendant.

Jansma writes (in terms used from the book) on a slant.  He does not write fiction, but he does not write the truth.  He writes the truth on a slant.  The way he does it though is what makes this novel so great.  He manages to make one feel as if they are standing next to the narrator looking at the scene unfold or they are in the mind of the person who is speaking.

As mentioned before, I wanted to finish reading this novel in one sitting.  It is an outstanding debut which most likely I will read again and again, merely because I enjoyed it so much.

**** (Four Stars)

Expected publication is March 21, 2013.

11 March 2013 / getrus

The Sense of an Ending — Julian Barnes

endingAfter hearing many good things about this novel I knew what to expect when reading it.  It lived up to the hype and definitely deserves the Man Booker Prize it was awarded.

An aging man looks back on his life and the people he used to know from when he was a young man, trying to figure out what it was all for and how his life ended up the way it did.  Barnes examines different situations and how later in life we realize how we should have acted and are ashamed of what we did.

This book left me speechless from the time I began reading it.  Even when I had to put it down for any reason, my mind still seemed to linger withing it’s pages.  Barnes managed to wrap not only a story, but also an awareness in this novel.  That of how we perceive one another and ourselves may not be the same way in which others view us.  This short novel is perhaps one of the most profound writings I have read in my life.  It is a jewel of the written word.

***** (Five Stars)

6 March 2013 / getrus

Elusive — Sara Rossett

elusiveThis book was fast paced and extremely entertaining.  I loved every minute of it.

Zoe is a young woman who lives paycheck to paycheck editing and proof reading books and other materials.  She shares a house with her ex-husband who happens to have steadier employment.  This is until his partner ends up dead and he is presumed dead.  Zoe ends up on the run, because she is thought to be an accomplice in their fraud scheme.

She ends up in Italy, a place she had only ever read about in some of the travel books she had been proof reading and is shot at, stabbed, and lied to too many times to count.  By her ex-husband (who, surprise, is not dead) and people they find themselves associating with.

Rossett does a great job of keeping the pace of the book going and not letting the story drag while still managing to describe what everything looks like and what is taking place.  Unlike other authors who can only do one or the other.

Side note: love that the main character is a red head.

*** 1/2 (Three 1/2 Stars)

4 March 2013 / getrus

Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris — Paul Gallico

arris  Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris is possibly the sweetest book I have read in the last couple of years.  I absolutely adored it.

Mrs. Harris is a char woman in London and gets it into her head that she wants a Dior dress after seeing one in the closet of one of the homes she cleans.  She scrimps and saves her money so she can be able to buy it.  When she finally does get the money she flies to Paris and the House of Dior.  It is here where the real story starts.

The people she comes in contact with and how their lives change because of her is amazing and made me happy to be reading such a loving story.

Mrs. ‘Arris is a sweet old lady and I think that if I ever met her (and I probably do know a couple of old ladies who are like her in many ways) we would be good friends.  Anyone looking for something to bring up their day or for something short and sweet this book is definitely for you.

***** (Five Stars)

*Only because it gave me the warm fuzzies.

26 February 2013 / getrus

Speaking From Among the Bones — Alan Bradley

speakingFlavia de Luce is at it again.  Somehow, the precocious 11 year-old has found herself in the middle of another mystery.  Turmoil, however, is brewing at home.  Will she be able to solve the mystery and save her beloved Buckshaw?

I love Flavia.  She may be young, but she is wise for her years (and she has a laboratory!)  Flavia finds herself at the church when they are set to open the tomb of the patron saint, St. Tancard.  But for some reason the stone will not move.  Looking in Flavia, being the smallest to fit in the crack, sees the body of Mr. Cullicot, the church organist.

An investigation ensues.  Flavia manages to learn more than the police and get herself in as much trouble as she can with the help of Adam Sowerby, a man who had come to see what he could find in the tomb of St. Tancard in the way of seeds and plants which might have made there way in there from when he was buried.

Out of all the Flavia de Luce novels, this one might just be my favorite.  For some reason Flavia comes into her own and you really get to see her interact with her sisters more.  I will say, however, I wish Alan Bradley had not given such a cliff-hanger for an ending.  I almost threw my book across the room.

**** (Four Stars)

FYI:  My review of A Red Herring Without Mustard, book 3 in the Flavia de Luce series.

21 February 2013 / getrus

A Lost Lady — Willa Cather

lost-ladyI have grown to love reading Willa Cather.  The way she writes is simple and yet she manages to convey messages which other, more prolific writes, cannot.

A Lost Lady is about Mrs. Forrester the wife of a railroad man (Captain Forrester) who lives in a small town upon the railroad line always at the ready to greet guests which her husband bring home, or to make sure the local boys who play in the fields or fish in the creek near her house are always welcome.  Told through the narrative of Neil Herbert, the nephew of a local judge and Captain Forrester’s lawyer.

The novel shows how as he grows up he learns more about Mrs. Forrester and she becomes less like the model wife he had thought her when he was a young child.  Although, she stays with the captain until his very end, even through the threat of losing their beloved home and after he has a stroke and must not travel anymore.

Each time Neil found out something more which caused him to lose his love of the Mrs. Forrester he had grown up with my heart grieved.  He might have been a tad naive rowing up, but there are some things which need to stay in the dark and for him to have to find out about these things is saddening.  It is akin to finding out dark secrets about your own parents and then not being able to tell anyone.

As mentioned earlier, I have grown to love reading Willa Cather’s work.  (It all started when I randomly picked up My Antonia at the local library in Junior High.)  I hope all of her other books will bring me as much pleasure to read as this one.

**** (Four Stars)