Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?



It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


I hope you all have had a wonderful weekend!

Read Last Week:

      

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason: This was our book club book. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't my favorite ever. 

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard: I received this from NetGalley and I read it in one gulp practically! I loved it. The end was a bit rushed, but I didn't care. 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: A friend recommended this to me, and I really liked it. I am left feeling a little unsettled. 

Reading This Week:

      

The Clover House by Henriette Lazardis Power: I intended to read this last week, but read Never Let Me Go instead.  I am off this week, I am excited to read!

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black: I checked this out a long time ago, and never read it. It is time now.

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch: I won this from the Southern Reading Challenge hosted by Jen at Introverted Reader. I am looking forward to reading it! I had to wait for some warmer weather here in Michigan, in order to start it. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

History of a Pleasure Seeker - Review

Title: History of a Pleasure Seeker
Author: Richard Mason
Source: Library

 Goodreads Summary:


Piet Barol, the titular pleasure seeker, is a priapic, ambitious young man come to seek his fortune in belle époque Amsterdam. Unlike Frédéric Moreau in Flaubert's L'Éducation sentimentale (to which this book owes no meagre debt), Piet is magnificently gifted, not only "extremely attractive to most women and to many men," but also a fine pianist, draughtsman and lover. We first meet him interviewing for the role of tutor to the son of the wealthy hotelier, Maarten Vermeulen-Sickerts. All is not well in his gilded household. Egbert, the son, is agoraphobic. The matriarch, Jacobina, hasn't been touched by her husband in almost a decade. Into this highly strung atmosphere comes Piet, charged with the task of freeing Egbert from his paralysing fear of the outside world. We soon realise, however, that Egbert isn't the only one in need of help. Piet sets about liberating the libidos of the repressed family through music – championing bawdy Bizet over abstract Bach – and oral sex. While the setting is Dutch, the influences are French – think Bel-AmiLes Liaisons dangereuses and Gide's L'Immoraliste.

My thoughts:

I had so many thoughts on this book, that I wrote them down, and took them to book club with me.  I am not sure where to even start.

Let me start with Piet - a supposed hedonist, but I found his version watered down and joyless. I was comparing him to Dorian Gray, and he just didn't measure up in the hedonist category.  I thought a hedonist was supposed to revel in their pleasures, but I thought Piet was like whatever about it all. Like if it happened cool, if not, then whatever.  I didn't feel that he received any happiness or joy from much, not really.  Maybe over winning or succeeding in something he put his mind to doing. But otherwise I found him lacking self confidence and empty.  His relationship with Egbert and Maarten were the most real, in my opinion.  He cared for them and what they thought, and not just for the sake of  wanting anyone to think highly of him.  Piet did have his moments however - he did magically "cure" Egbert's OCD, and let Didier down gently.

I found it slightly absurd that every male in this book instantly wanted to have sex with Piet.  It just became unsurprising, and I think we were supposed to feel more than, oh of course, another dude wants Piet, with an eye roll.  Every male servant in the house he worked in, then every guy he met on the cruise.

Did I like this book? I did.  I liked the first part of the book, and Piet's interactions with the family.  There is a scene where he gets in over his head with the daughters, who are smart and and kind of like mean girls- they set Piet up, and he inevitably fails, miserably. I felt this was the scene we learned the most about the character Piet.  The girls were the most lively characters in the book, witty, smart, sassy.

This book definitely gives you something to talk about. It was an interesting choice.

Jill listened to this book with an interactive Apple app - the book was also read by Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey if you are a fan.

March Book Club

Hostess: Jill
Book: History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason
Food:  Veggie Pizza and New York White Pizza, veggie tray with dip, artichoke dip and chips, Caesar Salad, huge cupcakes from Just Baked (coconut, almond, german chocolate, Grumpy Cake, samoa, rocky road)
Month: March
Wine of the Night: Apothic Red

As usual, we gathered around the table of food while we waited for everyone to get there - Chrissy claiming the broccoli from the veggie tray, while I scarfed down the carrots. I am pretty sure Jill cut up extra carrots since she knew I was coming and I love carrots so much. 

We sat around eating pizza, sharing any news that we have - Billy got a new job, Chrissy got a 97% on her 22 page paper she wrote for her Masters class, Kelly went to Kindergarten round up with her daughter, Mary's bathroom broke, Jill started her classes at the hospital. This is always the best part of book club, catching up with all our friend's lives. Alyssa and Jennifer couldn't make it; Alyssa had an eye injury and Jennifer had a school function with her son.

We had an interesting book discussion this month - Jill and I were the only ones who read the book, and we had a completely different opinion of Piet and the book itself.  Is this book erotic or homoerotic or is there even a difference? Is Piet really a hedonist, or do things just happen to him that he goes along with apathetically? We talked about Egbert and Maarten and how OCD must have been confusing and scary by the people back then, and misunderstood.

From here the conversation took a turn - from the book to Supernatural and Sam and Dean Winchester. We talked about them for a long time, and Chrissy and I are the ones who have seen it. I am only on Season 5, Chrissy is on Season 8, and we talked about our favorite character (Dean!) and tried to convince everyone to watch this as well. By showing them multiple photos of the two characters. We were all reduced to giggling girls at a sleepover; gone was any intellectualism that we may have had earlier. But that is ok too, we are all these things. We can be mothers and educators and students and serious and silly and all those other things that we are, and its best when you can be all those things in front of friends. 


This Public Service Announcement is brought to you by Dean..


Next month is Jennifer's month. I will let you know what we are reading when I find out!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Mourning Hours - Review

Title: The Mourning Hours
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
Source: NetGalley

A family's loyalty is put to the ultimate test in this haunting and unforgettable debut. 

Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn't been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years-not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny-the high school wrestling star and Kirsten's older brother. No one knows what to believe-not even those closest to Johnny-but the event unhinges the quiet farming community and pins Kirsten's family beneath the crushing weight of suspicion. 

Now, years later, a new tragedy forces Kirsten and her siblings to return home, where they must confront the devastating event that shifted the trajectory of their lives. Tautly written and beautifully evocative, The Mourning Hours is a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.


My thoughts:

I could not put this book down.  I started reading it at 11:00 pm last night, read until 1:00 am, when I forced myself to stop reading and go bed, since I had to work in the morning. When I got up, I picked it right back up and kept reading as I brushed my teeth, did my hair, and got ready for the day. When I left for work, I popped my iPad into my bag, so I could read at work. I actually reviewed my morning in my mind on the way there, trying to figure out if I would have time. I read it here and there, and then finished on my lunch break.  The story was riveting, the language and writing expressive.

This book was gripping, suspenseful, a real page turner.  I don't want to give much away - I will say that I when I started I just had to read until I found out just what happened, what was the big thing the characters were alluding to, that the reader felt coming from the very beginning.  Situations build with tension, you can feel it like a rope being pulled taut that you know is going to snap sometime soon.

And this is mostly from the point of view of a 4th grader, at least 75% of the book is through the eyes of Kirsten as a child. You would think things would get lost, that you wouldn't get the full picture, but DeBoard writes the story so that you get just enough, the right enough, that you understand the situation even though Kirsten may not.

This book reminded me a bit of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, and of We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. Especially the Mulvaneys, although the ending in The Mourning Hours doesn't leave you feeling like you were hit by a truck, unlike all Oates books. It is a story of how loyalty can be tested, even with your family that you love like your ownself - you may think that you would stand by a brother or a sister, a mother or a father, no matter what, when the chips are down and you are all at the lowest point you can go, but you never really know what will happen if you were in that situation.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good suspense thriller book. But be prepared - once you start reading it you can't stop, so clear your calendar first!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Curse of the Thirteenth Fey - Review

Title: Curse of the Thirteenth Fey
Author: Jane Yolen
Source: Library

A reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from a master storyteller

Gorse is the thirteenth and youngest in a family of fairies tied to the evil king's land and made to do his bidding. Because of an oath made to the king's great-great-ever-so-many-times-great-grandfather, if they try to leave or disobey the royals, they will burst into a thousand stars.

When accident-prone Gorse falls ill just as the family is bid to bless the new princess, a fairytale starts to unfold. Sick as she is, Gorse races to the castle with the last piece of magic the family has left--a piece of the Thread of Life. But that is when accident, mayhem, and magic combine to drive Gorse's story into the unthinkable, threatening the baby, the kingdom, and all.

With her trademark depth, grace, and humor, Jane Yolen tells readers the "true" story of the fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty.

My thoughts:

The boss lady and I are planning on adding new titles to our fairy tale retellings collection.  In preparation, we are reading a bunch of them. We picked based on our personal favorite fairy tales: for me, that is Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and the Wild Swans. Curse of the Thirteenth Fey is one of the ones I read, and I really thought it was cute!

 It is a retelling of sorts about Sleeping Beauty,  but from the perspective of the fairy who (accidentally) cursed the princess.  Gorse is the thirteenth born fey in her family, and when she was born she was thought to be the One, who would have special powers beyond the rest of her family and rescue them from a mysterious prophecy.  Gorse however, is clumsy and often ill.

Gorse and her family are sworn to do the bidding of the royal family that rules their lands. If they do not, the forsworn fey will burst into a thousand stars. When the Queen gives birth to the Princess, Gorse and her family are all summoned to the palace, where they are bid to gift the Princess with blessings and beauty.  Gorse falls ill, and her family leave her behind, although this could cause their demise, as all the fey would not be present.  Gorse wakes up and grabs the last bit of her family's magic, a spindle and thread that measures out one's life.  She races down the forbidden path, and falls deep into a hole.

This is where the adventure begins: in the hole there is a whole other world, with an arrogant prince, his loyal servant and cousin, and cheerful trolls, called McGargles. All are trapped in this cavern, and are relying on Gorse to get them out.

Not to give anything away, but Gorse succeeds. Kind of. Regardless, she finally is able to get to the palace, where she bestows the spindle and thread upon the princess, to find that the thread has broken - instead of giving the princess a long life, instead Gorse gives her a short life, of 15 years.  Gorse's mother steps in to fix this, and voila - the Sleeping Beauty tale.

I thought this story was cute, although not really about Sleeping Beauty.  Sleeping Beauty was just a small tiny part of the story, and not from the point of view at all.  I still really liked the story, and will probably order it for our library.




Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


Read Last Week:



Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen: A cute look from a different point of view of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. Review up Wednesday.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: I loved this movie as a child, and I still love the story as an adult. Lovely and beautiful. Review up Tuesday.




Reading This Week:

        

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason: Book Club is this week, so this book is getting finished!

And when I finish, I will be reading from this group, although I won't get to them all.

The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power: I won this from Librarything, I love the cover.

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard: From Netgalley.

Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill: As part of my homework for work. 




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This Rough Magic - Review

Title: This Rough Magic
Author: Mary Stewart
Source: Library

Goodreads Sumamry:


British actress Lucy Waring believes there is no finer place to be "at liberty" than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea.
Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide ...





My thoughts:

The most important thing to remember when reading a Stewart book, is that they were originally published in the 60s. This was one was published first in 1964, and because of this, parts of the book are pretty dated.  Nevertheless, I still enjoy them.

This book follows the Stewart formula - youngish woman, who is brave. plucky, quick witted, and most of all heroic.  Lucy Waring is taking a break from her life as an actress in England to stay with her well to do sister in Corfu, off the coast of Greece. The descriptions of the sunny warm weather and the everyday swimming bummed me out a bit, as I am in frigid gloomy Michigan right now. I am not a beach person normally, but reading this book may have changed my mind about that. And this woman is always trooping around in just her swimsuit! I am not sure I would go that far.

It seems like Lucy is enjoying a dream trip, but it soon turns into a dangerous mystery. A suspicious accident, a body washes up on the beach, shots are fired in Lucy's close vicinity while she is out in the water. Like all Stewart heroines, Lucy lands smack dab in the middle of the mystery.  There were even some tense animal rescue moments in it for me!

My only complaint is that I personally was not familiar enough with the politics of that area at that time to really be interested in parts of the plot. But that was just me. And I have to fess up - that cover up there? That was not the cover on the book I read. The one I read looked like this...



For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I think it is best read though on a beach under the sun, with a cool drink beside you and the ocean waves as the soundtrack.

I read this as part of the European Reading Challenge.









Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?



It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme brought to you by Sheila at Book Journey where you share what you have been reading and what you plan to read.


Read Last Week:


This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart: Gothic set in Greece. 

I am having such a slow reading month! I checked my Goodreads history, and it seems I really slow down this time of year. I wonder if it is spring fever, I just can't seem to concentrate lately.

Reading This Week:

We are planning on beefing up our fairy tale retellings in our library, so we are spending some time doing reading homework.  Be prepared to see lots of fairy tale retellings for a bit. Lol. And if anyone has any suggestions for a K-5 school library, I would love to hear them!

    

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: I figured while I was doing homework I would read this too. This wouldn't be for work though, just me. Lol.

The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen: Homework book #1. 

Still Reading:


History of  a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason: I am almost finished! It's pretty good, I just wasn't in the mood. 


  






Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Club Field Trip!


Book Club Steps Out..


We pulled ourselves away from our favorite reading nooks and crannies, from our jobs and obligations, and got together for a completely un-bookish night out at a local Paint and Pub, called Pip’s Painting.  And we had a blast!  


The premise of the painting night is easy, and similar to paint by number but you are following the instructions of an actual artist and teacher.  Perfect for me, since my creative talents do not lie in the drawing and painting medium.  The class was painting peacocks the night of our class, because I reserved our date months in advance and the teacher let me pick the painting. 


But we will get to the painting in a minute. We first met at the sushi bar across the street, except for Mary who couldn't make it to dinner. We had sushi and the most delicious drinks ever, strawberry saketinis. And talk about service! We ordered these drinks and the restaurant was out of one of the ingredients, so the owner ran to the store to buy the stuff that was needed, so that we could get our drink on.  (actually, we only drank one of these each – they were strong!) Also a highlight of this restaurant is one of the owners, who looks like James Franco. Seriously. 


After, I raced ahead to the painting place across the street, since the sushi place was taking forever with the bill, and I apparently have some sort of OCD issue about being late.  Lol.  Slowly our group all trickled in, bottles of wine in hand. Pip’s graciously supplies cups, napkins, and a corkscrew- they awesomely allow you to bring your beverage of choice.  Kelly and I had both forgotten to bring anything, so she called her husband to bring us something up.  When we got to our seats, the employees of Pip’s had everything all set up for us. Paint was on a plate between every two people, brushes were in a glass of fresh water, and our canvas was on our easel, with the outline of the peacock sketched in for us.  I was very relieved about this – I had been worried my peacock was going to look like he was really messed up.  




Our instructor started us out by drawing in the eye, saying she did want us to at least draw one thing ourselves. This sparked panic throughout the room, but we all did pretty good! From here on out it was following the instructions on how and what colors to fill in with our paint.   Everyone in my book club had their own style of painting.  Mary, normally a talker, was concentrating fully on her work and was in her own world; Kelly disregarded the color instructions and made her own, based on her own design sense.  Jill, who is working on embracing her own creativity, made bold splashes of color across her canvas, and Chrissy, the perfectionist, worked intensely, and had the sharpest outline and best peacock eye. The only thing I can say about myself is that I was the messiest! I had paint on my hands, on my face, and in my hair.  I am not sure what this says about me. 







We all seemed to have a great time, and want to go back and do it again! We missed our friends Jennifer and Alyssa, hopefully the next time we go they can make it.  It was good to step out of our everyday and do something different, and I think we all did a great job painting, considering none of us have ever really painted a picture before.  I also want to give props to our teacher, who did a great job leading us through our painting. I can't wait to go again!



Left to right: Jill, Chissy, me-hidden because I had to hold my painting up and I am not tall, Kelly, and Mary




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Farewell, Dorothy Parker - Review



Title: Farewell, Dorothy Parker
Author: Ellen Meister
Source: LibraryThing

Goodreads Summary:

When it comes to movie reviews, critic Violet Epps is a powerhouse voice. But that’s only because she’s learned to channel her literary hero, Dorothy Parker, the most celebrated and scathing wit of the twentieth century.
If only Violet could summon that kind of strength in her personal life.

Gripped by paralyzing anxiety, Violet visits the Algonquin Hotel in an attempt to pull strength from the hallowed dining room, where Dorothy Parker and so many other famous writers of the 1920s traded barbs. But she gets more than she bargained for, and the feisty spirit rematerializes . . . hitching a ride onto Violet’s already troubled life.

An irreverent ghost with problems of her own—including a refusal to cross over to the afterlife—Mrs. Parker helps Violet face her fears, becoming mentor, tormentor, and, with any luck, friend.
Wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant, Farewell, Dorothy Parker perfectly re-imagines one of America’s most iconic voices in a touching and unforgettable tale.

My thoughts:

One of my long time dreams is to be able to stay at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, the very home of the Vicious Circle.  To see the (in)famous round table[i], and imagine those literary wits lunching and drinking and bandying back and forth. Even to walk the same rooms as they did would be like visiting a museum, in my mind. I could sit at the bar and drink whiskey sours, and pet Matilda. Perhaps I would hear some echo throughout its walls of Parker and her crew, but I can pretty much guarantee I would not be bringing her ghost home with me in a stolen guest book.

Which is what happens to Violet Epps.  Violet is a timid woman, who has lost her voice when speaking for herself.  She is able to be free when writing her movie reviews, which are often biting in tone, but when it comes to her and relationships, whether romantic or other otherwise, she is meek, a “shrinking violet” if you will. (I couldn’t resist!) An avid reader of Dorothy Parker, Violet , in efforts to bolster her confidence, often thinks to herself, WWDPD? 

When she suddenly finds herself host to the a spectral Dorothy, Violet’s careful world is thrown into chaos. Violet has been grieving the loss of her sister, and is fighting a custody battle for her niece, and suddenly there are gin bottles and cigarette butts everywhere.  The independent and mischievous Parker also encourages Violet to be stronger and fight for what she wants, although sometimes Parker’s methods cause more harm than good.   

Both characters have inner hang-ups that are holding them back; together these are explored, both helping the other in their own ways. To be honest, I didn’t think either were that traumatic or moving – maybe they just weren’t discussed deeply enough? I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t think their problems were a big deal, mainly Violet’s. I was kind of like get over it girl, whatever. 

The book also included facts about Parker’s life, and incorporated some of her most famous quotes and witticisms. I have to be honest; I was very worried about this aspect of the book. I didn’t know how it was going to be tackled, and I thought it could go very wrong. It was handled with a light hand though, and was not overdone. 

This book was whimsical and light and charming. Probably the opposite of Parker’s works in that way, but enjoyable none the less, as the book was more about Violet finding her strength with the help of Parker, than about Parker herself.  If you read and liked Kinsella’s Twenties Girl, this book was similar.  

Now I want to visit the Algonquin more than ever.  

And seriously, what was Dorothy Parker's favorite drink? I have heard so many versions of this answer, scotch or gin or whiskey sours?


[i] If it is even still there!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It' Monday, What Are You Reading?





It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:




Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister: This is a whimsical take on a timid woman's life and the spirit of Dorothy Parker. I really enjoyed it! Review coming soon.

Reading This Week:


    

This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart: This is another of my go to comfort reading authors. 

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason: Still working on this for book club. 

Coming up this week!
Review of Farewell, Dorothy Parker
Book Club Field Trip post
Review of This Rough Magic