Aug 25, 2009
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)
Genre: Christian philosophy
Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl is an unusual book that explores the nature of the universe from a poetic/artistic standpoint. N.D. Wilson examines topics such as the origins of the universe, the issue of good and evil, death, after death, life and beauty. His viewpoint is inspired by philosophers, poets, preachers and his own observations of the natural world. Underpinning it all is his belief in God as an artistic creator. Wilson's philosophy is presented to the reader in the form of metaphors, stories, questioning, observations and meditations. It is a quirky book that is both serious and humorous, insightful and simple.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is my favorite kind: it has a distinct rhythm to it. It would be perfect for reading aloud. Whether or not you believe in divine creation, this book engages your mind to think about the world from a different perspective. It is clear that N.D. Wilson is very engaged and in love with life. His observations of the natural world; the seasons and the insects were really intriguing. It took me a long time to read the book, because it is one that needs to be read slowly in order to take it all in. Wilson writes in his introduction, "This book attempts to find unity in cacophony. The barrage of elements (philosophy, poetry, theology, narrative, ad nauseam) may at times feel random." Personally I liked the way everything swirled together, but it may be irritating to some people who like a clear cut structure.
"This universe is a portrait in motion, a compressed portrait in motion, a miniature, inevitably stylized, for it is trying to capture the Infinite. The galaxies are each one fraction of a syllable in a haiku of the Ultimate." (p.108)
Note: To purchase, read other book blogger reviews, or watch the book preview click here.
Aug 23, 2009
Aug 22, 2009
Title: Old Friends and New Fancies
Author: Sybil G. Brinton
Publisher: Sourcebooks (2007)
Original Publication: 1914
Genre: Fiction, Jane Austen Sequel
Old Friends and New Fancies has the distinction of being the first sequel to Jane Austen's novels. It is also unique in that it manages to entwine characters from all six of Austen's novels into one story. The opening paragraph length sentence sets up the premise of the whole novel.
"There is one characteristic which may be safely said to belong to nearly all happily-married couples - that of desiring to see equally happy marriages among their young friends; and in some cases, where their wishes are strong and circumstances seem favourable to the exertion of their own efforts, they may even embark upon the perilous but delightful course of helping those persons whose minds are as yet not made up, to form a decision respecting this important crisis in life, and this done, to assist in clearing the way in order that this decision may forthwith be acted upon."
The story centers around Elizabeth Darcy helping Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam to each find a suitable spouse. Originally engaged to each other, they decide to break it off due to a mutual lack of romantic attraction. Colonel Fitzwillian then meets a beautiful woman named Miss Crawford who has a mysterious past. They fall in love, but end up being parted by misunderstanding and unfortunate accusations by Lady Catherine. It is only after a lot of time has past and a serious physical injury to Colonel Fitzwilliam that Miss Crawford learns to open back up to him. Meanwhile Georgiana is rejoicing in her good friend Kitty Bennett's good fortune at forming an attachment to a young navel officer William Price. But is the attachment mutual?
I had better stop there with the synopsis before I give too much away. Their courtship rituals back then certainly seemed to leave a lot of room for misunderstandings to arise. It was interesting to read the first Austen sequel but it was rather difficult to figure out who was who. There were a lot of characters who all somehow knew each other. In the start of the book there is a page that tells who all the original Austen characters are that Brinton includes in her story and it is quite a long list. I ended up just trying to get into the plot without placing all the characters in my mind. I could tell that Brinton really put effort into keeping the characters true to their natures as described by Austen. Another positive for me was that the writing style was quite authentic to the time period. Being written in 1913, it was at least a bit closer to the original writing style than the sequels being written today. The cover is really lovely and the story was sweet if a little unrealistic. For someone who is thoroughly familiar with all of Austen's novels, Old Friends and New Fancies would be really enjoyable.
Check out this Times Online review of Old Friends and New Fancies if you are interested.
Aug 20, 2009
Robert Frost was an American poet who was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. Today I visited a farm in Derry New Hampshire where he lived for eleven years (1900-1911). His poems often depicted rural New England life and examined philosophic themes. Frost grew up in the city of San Francisco. His grandfather purchased the Derry farm for him and his family, but Frost did not prove to be successful at farming. He did find a wealth of inspiration for his poems on the farm though, and wrote 41 while residing there. The 30 acre farm with its pasture, woodland, orchard, and brook was an important aspect of Frosts development as a poet. Through his meticulous observations of nature as well as his study of the New Hampshire people, Frost was able to draw inspiration for many of his poems.
In 1965 the home and 12.6 acres was bought by the State of New Hampshire and the restoration process began. At this time it was operating as an auto junk yard and Frost's beloved pasture was strewn with car bodies. They later purchased adjoining land in order to preserve the scenic beauty of the Frost farm. It was open for public viewing in 1975. Frost's eldest daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine helped to restore the farm to the way it was when the Frost family resided there. She helped to find the period wallpapers that were in each room, the party line phone, the wood stoves, the kitchen sink, the furniture and many other details to represent the original home.
The Frost farm is an important historic, literary landmark due to its direct and undisputed connection to Frost's writings. Frost writes, "I might say the core of all my writing was probably the five free years I had there on the farm down the road a mile or two from Derry Village toward Lawrence. The only thing we had was time and seclusion. I couldn't have figured on it in advance. I hadn't that kind of foresight. But it turned out right as a doctor's prescription."
--(From: Selected Letters of Robert Frost, Lawrence Thompson, ed. New York: Holt, 1964)
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Aug 18, 2009
The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.
I would like to pass the Zombie Chicken Award on to the following dedicated bloggers:
1. Al at Publish or Perish (who recently continued to post to his blog while suffering from the dreaded swine flu - Click Here to read about it. Now if that is not a "Zombie Apocalypse" like occurrence, I don't know what is.)
2. Michael of A Few Minutes With Michael (who has been commenting on my blog and recommending it to others since right after I got going- Thank you kindly!)
3. ___________ of Heidenkind's Hideaway (Not sure of this bloggers actual name but I think of her as Heidi; I hope she doesn't mind! - She is an art historian cross book lover. A great combination)
4. Lilithcat at Reading My Life Away. (I have always enjoyed the posts and reviews to be found on Reading My Life Away - and I can relate to the blog title a little too well.)
5. Kay of The Infinite Shelf (Whose blog has consistently great content. I find her reviews to be very helpful.)
By the way, If any of you don't like to do the whole pass on awards thing that is fine by me... it can be very time consuming.
Aug 17, 2009
Book Synopsis: Tom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush.
Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn't sure if he should trust this new friend.
Tom has preoccupations other than his book and Nelly and his missing dog, mainly concerning his mother, who is suffering from the various indignities of old age. He is constantly drawn from the cerebral to the primitive--by his mother's infirmities, as well as by Nelly's attractions. THE LOST DOG makes brilliant use of the conventions of suspense and atmosphere while leading us to see anew the ever-present conflicts between our bodies and our minds, the present and the past, the primal and the civilized.
Author Info: Michelle de Kretser is a Sri Lankan who has lived in Australia since 1972. Her previous book, The Hamilton Case (L,B 2004) received the Commonwealth Writers Prize (SE Asia and Pacific) and the Society of Authors' (U.K) Encore Award for best second novel of the year. It was also first runner-up 2004 for B&N's Discover Award in Fiction and a New York Times Notable Book. THE LOST DOG is her third novel.
Terms: The winning books will be sent directly from Hachette Book Group. Their terms are: No PO Boxes, USA and Canadian addresses only. (Sorry to my faithful international readers) Hachette is offering five copies.
Please enter before August 31st.
To enter please leave a comment with your email address.
Extra entries are available as follows:
+3 add a link to this giveaway page anywhere on your own blog.
My Personal Notes: Thank you to Hachette Book Group for providing the books and paying the postage, and than you for entering. This looks like a great book. I have started reading it and hope to have my own review up as soon as I can. As an Australian myself and a big fan of Henry James this book stood out to me as one I should really enjoy.
How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?
I love watching movies made out of my favourite books. I am especially partial to the classics being made into movies and love comparing the different versions. It is fun to see characters that I feel I know really well come to life. The period costumes and sets are an extra source of pleasure to me because of how they evoke a different time and place. I have probably seen most BBC classic drama that is in existence. My main gripe is that they constantly re-make Austen and Dickens when there are already good movie versions available. I wish they would use the funds to make movies out of some of my other favorite classic authors that have not been done for years. I did enjoy the Elizabeth Gaskell selections they made into movies recently, especially North and South. Check it out from your local library some time.
Okay, enough pushing the classics. I do also watch contemporary books made into movies. A favourite would be The Girl With Pearl Earring. Even though there were some differences between movie and book, I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was very atmospheric like the novel and did a great job of portraying the story. Back to the questions now ... I generally read the book before seeing the movie. Though occasionally I have done it the other way around. Some books that I read I feel I would not like to see the movie because of one reason or another. Generally though, if I loved the book I am want more, more, more and movies help with filling that need.
Aug 14, 2009
So I went down to my local library and picked up two books to get started with. The third book I have to read for my book club as well. Then we are going on an outing together to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. I am not sure what other books I will pick. I figure I will see where these first three lead me. So my theme is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
1. Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (an exhibition catalog)
2. The Art of Scandal: The Life and Times of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Douglass Shand-Tucci (biography)
3.The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser
Aug 13, 2009
Title: The Day The Falls Stood Still: A Novel
Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan
Publisher: Voice (2009)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Note: Scheduled for release in September 2009
The Day The Falls Stood Still is a beautiful love story set at Niagara Falls in the year 1915-1923. Cathy Marie Buchanan's debut novel is written in first person from the perspective of Bess Heath, a young woman who's life becomes tragically altered with the death of her beloved older sister. At the tender age of seventeen she is also forced to deal with the disgrace and financial ruin of her family. In amongst these tribulations she develops a deep love for a local riverman Tom Cole and finds the courage to marry him against her family's wishes. When Tom goes to war Bess supports herself and their young son by dressmaking. When Tom returns psychologically damaged it is his connection to the river that sustains and heals him.
The Day The Falls Stood Still is a novel that explores the era when hydroelectric plants were being built at Niagara Falls. The character Tom knows the river intimately and is concerned about the damage caused by the power plants. Contrary to Tom's concern for the natural environment, Bess finds herself in conflict about the benefits of progress versus her loyalty to Tom. These issues are further intensified by Tom's periodic rescues of victims of the river at serious danger to his own safety. Will Bess's worst fears concerning Tom's safety be realized? While Tom assures her that his mystical ability to read the river and its dangers will protect him, Bess remains skeptical.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Cathy Marie Buchanan has an accomplished writing style. She has put together just the right mixture of historical detail, psychological character portrayals, family drama and social conscience dilemmas. My personal favorite element of this story was the thread of Bess's faith. She begins the book with strongly held religious beliefs that do not seem to survive the tragic loss of her sister. As she kept revisiting the issue throughout the years it became apparent that her faith was not completely dead but more like a seed buried underground awaiting the right conditions to sprout. Cathy Marie Buchanan has created in Bess a complex character who learns from her mistakes and courageously deals with loss, poverty and loneliness.
(The book includes some black and white historic photos to do with Niagara Falls at the start of some of the chapters. The presentation of this novel is lovely. You can see that the cover is beautiful and the inside layout is really pretty also.)
Also check out Andreea of Passionate Booklover's recent review of The Day The Falls Stood Still.
Aug 12, 2009
Title: Lady Macbeth's Daughter
Author: Lisa Klein
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2009)
Genre: Teen Fiction
Note: This book was an ARC provided to me for review purposes by Book Divas. It is scheduled for release in October.
In Lady Macbeth's Daughter Lisa Klein has written a beautiful story that is based on Shakespeare's Macbeth. She has imagined her tale based upon the idea of a lost daughter banished by Macbeth and raised by three sisters in the Wychelm Wood. Named Albia, this young girl does not know her true parents or the strange circumstances surrounding her origins. As she grows into her teenage years, Albia begins to piece together information about her past. It is difficult for her to come to terms with the crimes of her mother and father, but she realizes that she can make her own choices. She falls in love and eventually fights for what she believes is right for Scotland.
Lady Macbeth's Daughter is a great way to gain exposure to the themes and characters created by Shakespeare. In an author interview, Lisa Klein explains that she started out wanting to retell Macbeth for a young adult audience and decided that she needed a young character that her readers could identify with. In creating a daughter with her own story, she has tried to make Shakespeare accessible to a young contemporary audience while incorporating the themes and emotions present in his original work. With the intended audience in mind I found it to be an interesting book that would be fun to look at alongside Shakespeare's Macbeth. I am not too familiar with the original, but I assume that the plot and characters tie in fairly accurately.
Lisa Klein is a skilled writer with a talent for creating a mysterious atmosphere that pulled me into the story and had me wondering how it would all work out. It portrays the difficulties of growing up and distancing yourself from your childhood while recognizing and appreciating your loyalties. The themes are ones that would ring true with teenagers and young adults. The story was complex enough to keep me interested, but not too complex that it was hard to follow. I enjoyed the ending. Albia is a heroine that shows amazing courage and who puts the needs of her country before her own. In this way she is a true princess. I hope that young people who read Lady Macbeth's Daughter are also inspired to read Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Aug 10, 2009
Title: Best Friends Forever: A Novel
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria Books (2009)
Jennifer Weiner's new novel Best Friends Forever tells the story of two women who were inseparable childhood friends. In amongst some difficult high school events their friendship gets broken by betrayal. Years later, on the night of their high school reunion, a crime is committed that brings the two friends back together. Thus begins the outrageous adventure of Addie and Valerie running from the cops and restoring their lost friendship. The chapters skip between past and present to tell the story from the girls childhood, through to their present predicament.
The story delves into a lot of the emotions that women experience as they interact with others, both good and bad. It explores the pain of jealousy, betrayal, loss and rejection. It also portrays the strength that comes when you have someone to belong to. Best Friends Forever is set in a small town in Illinois. Addie paints pictures for greeting cards and Val works as a weather girl on TV. Addie struggled with a weight problem for her teenage and 20's that leaves her lacking in self confidence and unable to find love. Val appears to have it all together but actually feels jealous of Addie's family and stability. It is while working through the crime problem together that Addie and Val come to a deeper understanding of each other and learn to forgive each others shortcomings.
I found this book to be a mildly entertaining light read. The characters were easy to relate to and the crime aspect of the plot was far-fetched enough to provide a comic tone to the novel. Jennifer Weiner writes in a very straight-forward style that makes it easy to engage with the story. The story opens with the crime scene. It sets the stage for the plot that ties all the parts of the story together. The author aptly portrays modern American family life, the pain involved in growing up and the troubles of finding self-identity. It was not a book that I would read more than once but is an insightful light read that achieves an interesting mix of comedy as well as serious themes.
A Quote: "We stood there for a minute, Valerie on the threshold, all freckles and scabs and tangled hair, me with my hand on the doorknob, my starched skirt rustling around my knees."(p.31)
Title- The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship
Author- Sarah Zacharias Davis
Publisher-Waterbrook Press (2009)
Genre: Non-fiction, Christian
Note: This book was provided to me as part of a Waterbrook blog tour. Click here for book info.
Sarah Zacharias Davis has written a meditation on friendship which draws upon her own experience, stories from other women and relevant literary references. She shares with her readers the results of her own quest for understanding why friendship is such an integral part of a woman's soul. She discusses the negative aspects of damaging friendships, why women long for friends, the temporary versus the long term friendships and how to let go when necessary. By examining the negative emotions that crop up in friendships the book outlines how trust and respect make for safe relationships where both parties can reveal there true selves without fear.
I found this book to be very realistic and relevant to the understanding of something that is often taken for granted. It would be a helpful book to have around if you are experiencing difficulties in your relationships, or are interested in enriching your current friendships. By gaining understanding of how gossip, jealousy, competition and co-dependence can ruin trust your friendships you can be on guard if you find yourself falling into these negative states. The book also prompted me to think about the importance of friendships and how they have shaped my personal life experiences. It was easy to read and a beautifully presented book. My only complaint was that there were too many rhetorical questions throughout the writing.
A Quote: "Our need to tether our hearts to a soul friend only grows deeper as we grow older. Years of experience only bring a deeper awareness to our longing to belong." (p.97)
Aug 9, 2009
Aug 7, 2009
My own ( late) selection for some beautiful cover art are the following classic literature titles in the Dover Thrift Series:
Aug 6, 2009
August 14th is the release date of the movie The Time Traveler's Wife based on the book by Audrey Niffenegger. My book club plans to see the movie together and so I decided to read the book before seeing the movie. If I don't read the book before seeing the movie chances are I will not bother to read the book afterwards.
Considering that this is such a popular book that has already been reviewed many times on the blogs and read by many, I thought that instead of reviewing it I would just contemplate a few of the questions from the reading group guide in the back of my copy. Feel free to join in with your thoughts by posting comments or by emailing me if you would like me to add your answers to the post.
1. How does the author manage her novel's fantastically intricate time scheme?
The structure of the novel was very complex and left me wondering how the author kept up with all the dates. I liked the way that she sometimes visited the same scene more than once, telling it from either Clare or Henry's "present" perspective. I felt that Niffenegger was very successful at keeping a consistent narrative thread even with all the changes of time and place. I did not get too confused or feel that the story lost its momentum. It was very important to pay close attention to the dates, ages and person of each segment. Without this data the story would have been impossible to follow. Though the story jumped around a lot and there was a lot of foreshadowing to the point that we often know what was coming, it also kept suspense. Rather than merely wanting to know "what happens next", this book had me wondering how Clare and Henry responded to events that we already knew were going to happen.
The novel's intricate time scheme was integral to the themes of the novel and the complexity of the time scheme is what made it such a fascinating book. By merging the past, present and future in the way she did, Niffenegger was able to develop her themes of free-will versus predestination and active choice versus passive waiting.
2. How does the author use time travel as a metaphor: for love, for loss and absence, for fate, for aging, for death? To what extent are Clare and Henry a "normal" couple?
I certainly agree that Niffenegger was using time travel as a metaphor for the aforementioned topics. Her story is a great example of how literature can explore age old topics in fresh and creative ways in order to give the reader a new (vicarious) experience of the universal aspects of life. Though their experience of time was very unique, I would argue that Clare and Henry were quite a normal couple in terms of their emotions. Their experiences of love, fate, loss, aging and death were similar to that of others, just intensified. The metaphor of time travel as portrayed in The Time Traveler's Wife very aptly exemplifies the unpredictability of love.
3. How is Clare affected by meeting her future husband when she is six and seeing him repeatedly throughout her childhood and adolescence? How does the author manage to make their relationship seem eccentric - and even enchanted - rather than sinister?
Clare's occasional meetings with Henry began when she was still developing her understanding of the world. Though she knew that Henry was not normal, she did not realize to what extent. I felt that her meetings with Henry set her apart from others and caused her to grow up to be a very focused person. In some ways this was a negative and confining aspect of her life. Rather than freely exploring the world around her and herself in it, Clare was focused on her future with Henry. Her entire life ended up being defined by an attitude of 'waiting'. It seemed like she was not able to fully embrace her own present because she was always waiting for the fulfillment of her future.
As to how the author made their relationship seem eccentric and enchanted rather than sinister, I would have to argue that I thought it was quite creepy the way they kept meeting at different ages. I personally saw it as closer to sinister than enchanted. There seemed to be an ominous overtone to the entire book.
Aug 4, 2009
I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Mount, the home and garden designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902. It is located in Lenox MA. As the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Edith Wharton's achievement as one of America's greatest writers is unquestioned. She wrote over 40 books including The Decoration of Houses (1897). The Mount was a project into which she could pour all her ideas about home decoration. Once it was completed she was able to entertain her friends (including Henry James) and work on her writing. While living here she wrote one of her most famous works The House of Mirth (1905). She lived at this estate for ten years, when she was unfortunately forced to sell and move to France after the failure of her marriage.
The Mount has been restored and is now open to the public. You can take a guided tour or wander around on your own. There is a gift shop and a cafe where you can sit on the terrace and overlook the grounds. I found the whole place to be enchanting, but my favorite room was the library. The books displayed on the shelves are actually the same books that Wharton had when she lived there, some with her notations and inscriptions. They were returned from Europe to The Mount in 2006.
Henry James described The Mount in a letter to a friend saying, "...I am very happy here, surrounded by every loveliness of nature & every luxury of art & treated with a benevolence that brings tears to my eyes." I couldn't agree more. The gardens are so peaceful and being able to visit in July meant I could enjoy all the blooming flowers.
Wharton's understanding of the power of homes in human lives is evident in her works. For example this excerpt from The Age of Innocence (1920):
"The young man, as he followed his wife into the hall, was conscious of a curious reversal of mood. There was something about the luxury of the Welland house and the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with minute observances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic."
If you care to visit the Mount website you will find a lot more information and much nicer photos.
Aug 2, 2009
Title - The American Nation: Primary Sources
Editor: Bruce Frohnen
Publisher: Liberty Fund (2009)
Genre: Non-Fiction, American History
The American Nation: Primary Sources contains a selection of the most important primary documents within the period from the beginning of the civil war up until America's entrance into World War II. It is a companion book to the first volume titled, The American Republic, which covered the first eight decades of US history. Accompanying the documents there is a minimum amount of commentary in order to establish the context. Bruce Frohnen deliberately does not promote any particular ideology, but rather presents the documents from both sides of the political debates of the time. During the period of American History covered there were many significant debates that have shaped the nations character. A few of the issues covered by the documents in this volume include, the civil war, civil rights cases, immigration policy, woman's suffrage, socialism etc. As far as the types of primary sources, there are many legal documents, acts, bills, amendments, proclamations, annual reports, inaugural addresses, speeches and some photographs included.
This book is not one to read cover to cover but it is a great resource to have on hand. Reading the original words enables you to capture the true nature of the ideas without the bias of a commentators interpretation. This book is obviously an invaluable resource for students, but I would also argue that it is an interesting read for anyone even mildly interested in American history. I have also found it to be an instructive companion when reading historical fiction set in America. When I got this book I had recently finished reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, a historical fiction featuring the issue of polygamy in the Mormon church. It was interesting to discover the documents pertaining to this issue when it was debated in the Supreme Court in the late 1800's. I highly recommend The American Nation: Primary Sources for anyone interested in America history and government. I love the way they used to use the English language. Some of the sentences are so long I have to go over them numerous times to get the gist of what they are saying. I definitely want to get the other volumes.