Eager reader of history, mystery, biography, YA, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, paranormal, and etc. My reviews are usually positive--there are too many books I adore to finish those I don't.
Amy Helmes, one of the co-authors of the wonderful YA Twisted Lit Shakespeare updates, is celebrating the Bard's birthday with a list of celebrities and the Shakespeare character they most closely match.
I am no expert on pop culture but I recognize all of these people and there are some great choices! Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalind, of course, Robert Downey Jr. as Prince Hal, Kanye and Kim as MacBeth and his Lady, and:
Angelina Jolie as Cordelia
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Just like King Lear's respectfully disobedient daughter, this screen siren and humanitarian award winner came to an equally tragic impasse with her "Hollywood royalty" father, Jon Voight, from whom she remains estranged.
It’s no exaggeration to say this is a lovely little book, evoking the heady scents and exquisite colors of antique roses as the author recounts his quest to learn the identity of the delicate pink rose, smelling of raspberries and peaches, that grows wild all over his family’s now abandoned country estate near Venice. That rose was brought to Italy from France by the author’s great-great-great-great grandmother, though the rose’s original ancestry is in China.
His grandmother got her interest in roses from Josephine Bonaparte, a dear friend, and the book is rich with fascinating rose related history stories about Josephine and other rose aficionados from 18th and 19th century Europe, a time when collectors roamed the world looking for the loveliest flowers. Readers are also introduced to Eleonora Garlant and her husband Vincent, a charming Italian couple who are spending their retirement tending to the thousands of rose varieties they have planted on their property.
I read an advanced review copy of this book so the illustrations, while beautiful, are black and white, but in the book for sale the watercolor sketches will be in full color and that should be breathtaking. The author has also written several other books including Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon , a biography of his great-great-great-great grandmother, which based on what I learned of her in this volume I am eager to read.
Here's a link with 99 problems only book nerds have starting with:
1. You’ll never get to read your favorite book again for the first time.
And ending with:
99. Nobody ever wants to help you move.
How would you like to attend a masked Carnival ball hosted by a shady dude called “The One Who Kills and Is Thanked For It” when you’ve packed only grubby clothes and you’re flanked by two omni-gorgeous goddesses? Zoë isn’t crazy about it, but it’s all part of her job editing travel guides for the undead and immortal. It’s a job she’s very good at and while, yes, it can be a little nerve-wracking overseeing writers who’d love to eat her brains, smite her dead, or drink her blood, times are tough and Zoë needs the steady income. Plus she now has a water sprite, a death goddess, and a Valkyrie as her best friends, which can sometimes be unsettling but is still pretty cool. At least that’s what Zoë thinks most of the time.
I can’t resist this witty urban fantasy series and one of the best things about it is Zoë, a non-paranormal human who recently discovered she isn’t quite as ordinary as she thought. It turns out she can talk to the souls of cities--a trick that may come in handy for a travel editor if she can figure out how to master it. In this book she and her team of writers take a high speed ghost train to New Orleans to gather material for their next city guide, but Zoë is also hoping to help her new boyfriend Arthur find a voodoo-like herbalist somewhere in the swamps who may have medicine to stave off Arthur’s zombie infection.
Right from the start there are difficulties. Zoë is relegated to coach while her writers ride first class because the paranormals in charge don’t consider humans quite equal, their train is robbed by a bunch of ghosts in badly fitting cowboy costumes, and Arthur is refusing Zoë’s help and has knocked himself out with Benadryl for the trip so they can’t talk about it. Once in New Orleans Zoë starts assigning stories, but the sultry, playful, paranormal-rich ambiance of the city is not helping anyone’s focus, though it is quite entertaining to read about.
Zoë has mostly embraced her unusual job and new experiences, plunging ahead with all the determination and common sense she can muster even when it’s hard to tell ally from foe. While she sometimes has an attitude, Zoë always (almost) tries to do the right thing, even wanting to console a deeply depressed vampire co-worker who’s tempted to use her for comfort food. With great characters, ongoing suspense, plenty of surprises, and lots of laughs I finished Ghost Train to New Orleans longing for Zoë’s next adventure.
With a small town Victorian setting, the fictional Barsetshire, and an appealing somewhat Austen-like cast of characters, Trollope's novel The Warden illustrates just how complicated reforming a centuries old church policy can be, even when everyone involved has valid concerns and mostly the best of intentions. When John Hiram died in long ago 1434 his will left money and property for the support of twelve impoverished older men retired from the trade of wool-carding, the men being replaced by others as they passed on to the better world, all of which was to be overseen by a warden compensated for his work. The charity has prospered in the 400 or so years since it was established and has been able to continue its mission unabated.
Obviously by Victorian times though things had changed--there were no longer wool carders in Barsetshire for instance--so terms have had to be adjusted, but maybe they have strayed too far from the original intent? Currently the twelve elderly recipients are housed in comfortable lodgings, receiving all they need to live and allocated a small amount of money for their own use. Rev. Harding, the just and compassionate warden, also gives the twelve an extra stipend from his own pocket, and the men enjoy both his company and the beautiful music he plays in the evenings.
But then John Bold, a reform minded young man incidentally in love with the warden’s daughter, takes it into his head that the warden’s yearly salary is too much and that more of the charity's money should be going directly to the twelve men. Which sets up an achingly poignant conundrum. Should such a caring warden’s income be reduced? Everyone has a strong opinion about what is right, including the men themselves, and when the matter is taken up by the press the poor warden is vilified, horrifying him.
There is almost an O. Henry quality to this story, with some surprise twists at the end and most characters having to live with the unexpected consequences of actions they had thought so prudent at the time. Trollope uses The Warden to make lots of observations about human nature and the workings of Victorian society, which are wittily written and for the most part interesting, but they do slow the story down. I had heard The Warden is the weakest of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels, which makes me very eager to read the rest because I loved this one.
Beautifully written and full of period details, this novel features American artist Mary Cassatt and her complex relationship with the talented, sometimes infuriating Edgar Degas, but the viewpoint also switches to Berthe Morisot and her brother-in-law/maybe-lover Edouard Manet, creating a broad intimate portrait of Belle Epoque Paris and the loves, doubts, struggles, triumphs, yearnings, fears, and ambitions of four painters hoping to change the direction of art. I’ve read several books on the era, but nothing that focuses so much on the personal lives of the Impressionists. I usually prefer biography to fiction in books about actual people, but Robin Oliveiera did her research and breathes life into the characters, intriguing me enough that I have biographies of Cassatt and Morisot on hold at my library. One fun fact I didn’t know: Cassatt was a dear friend of Abigail May Alcott--Louisa’s artistic younger sister and the basis for the Amy character in Little Women.
I am not a graphic novel person. I’m not sure why, but instead of artwork on the pages I see something close to a chaos of jumbled drawings spackled with confusing bubbles of print--probably some brain glitch, a kind of graphic image dyslexia maybe. But I’ve read and heard raves about Saga and I certainly liked the sound of the storyline: two humanoids from warring alien races--his with horns & hers with wings--fall in love, have a baby, and then are on the run from both of their peoples. Sort of a space opera Romeo and Juliet. So I got Saga from my library and liked it well enough to read the whole book--a graphic novel first for me--but couldn’t love it.
What I liked:
What I didn’t like:
This is the start of a series and the story is well introduced though it doesn’t go very far in this book, but I can highly recommend Saga to anyone who doesn’t have excessive squeamishness or general difficulty enjoying graphic novels.
I saw the movie, but never read the book--which sounds like it's wonderful.
From the Washington Post:
Australian author Doris Pilkington Garimara dies at 76
Doris Pilkington Garimara — who died April 10 in Perth, Australia, and was believed to be 76 — wrote perhaps the most gripping and personal narrative about the assimilation process. Her 1996 book, “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence,” traced her mother’s escape at 14 from a government-approved native settlement and her audacious, 1,000-mile trek home through the harsh wilderness in western Australia.
Director Phillip Noyce’s acclaimed 2002 movie version of Ms. Pilkington’s book reverberated deeply. It was a crucial factor in then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s decision to issue a formal apology in 2008 for “laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on . . . our fellow Australians.”
A lovely article about the civilized and literary charms of ravaged panoramas with collapsed roofs, crumbling walls, and lush overgrown vegetation by Lewis Dartnell inThe Morning News:
"The present-day lust for ruins is nothing new. In fact, it’s nearly as old as any ruins themselves. From a flattened Louvre to Percy Bysshe Shelley, a journey to the dawn of ruin porn . . .
Ruin lust grew with fervor from the 18th century: the soft, pastel hues of J.M.W Turner’s Tintern Abbey, Hubert Robert’s “Imaginary view of the Gallery of the Louvre as a Ruin,” the ruined cathedrals and shipwrecks of Caspar David Friedrich, and Gustave Doré’s “The New Zealander.” Eighteenth-century English aristocrats even went to the extent of constructing fresh ruins on their estates—follies—for exhibiting their wealth and sophistication whilst picnicking in the shade of the contrived remnants.
It is within this zeitgeist that one of the earliest examples of post-apocalyptic fiction was born, Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man, published eight years after Frankenstein. The Victorians in particular were obsessed with the decline and fall of Rome and conscious that their mighty, globe-spanning British Empire could also succumb to chaos and disintegrate . . ."
Vue imaginaire de la galerie du Louvre en ruine, 1796, Hubert Robert
Imaginative but not completely accurate animal illustrations from the 1200's to the 1800's on the website io9:
An elephant and a giraffe
See more at this Link
Readers already acquainted with the Brontë sisters and their stories will have multiple mini-thrills (and possibly a few snorts) of recognition reading Always Emily, a highly suspenseful cozy mystery featuring Emily and Charlotte as unlikely but determined heroines who put themselves in perilous situations worthy of characters in their juvenilia writing when they join forces to rescue a woman kidnapped and held against her will. The author has done her research about the Brontës and their lives, and though the characters are of course simplified they are spot-on recognizable. Charlotte is responsible, bossy, near sighted, and small in stature, while Emily is a tall wild child who loves to run loose on the moors doesn’t trust doctors.
The third sister, Anne Brontë, is mostly offstage visiting friends with their aunt, but their increasingly dissolute brother Branwell is back from London after his Art Academy studies fell apart and he’s getting himself mixed up in all kinds of trouble. Also on hand is their crusading father Rev. Bronte, their long time housekeeper Tabitha Aykroyd, and even an author conceived, very appealing Rochester/Heathcliff character, if you can imagine that combination. Freemasons, striking mill-workers, inheritance laws, greedy relatives, parish politics, and hints of the novels to come all play a part in the plot and help to make this a fun, fast read. I read a review copy of this book supplied by the publisher through LibraryThing. The opinions are mine.
Reading Plato was by far my favorite part of studying philosophy in college, and it was sheer delight to encounter him again in this book. Author Rebecca Goldstein, both a philosophy professor and a novelist, poses an interesting question: Now that the sciences have advanced so far in explaining the inner and outer worlds of our universe--from the subatomic level, to the farthest galaxies, from the genetic codes for life, to the structures of the brain that support thought, emotion, and morality--is there any role left for philosophy? Some scientists think there is not, but it won’t be giving away much to say that Goldstein disagrees. Then there is also the question: Has philosophy since the time of Plato made the same kinds of advances as other fields of knowledge? And: What would Plato make of our modern world--would he have anything to tell us, or, since we’re talking about Plato, it might be more accurate to phrase that question what would Plato ask us to think deeply about?
Goldstein approaches these questions with two methods, used in alternate chapters. First there are the expository chapters, well written discourses examining the questions that have been posed, including any new questions that come up along the way, and also providing some fascinating background history. These take a satisfying amount of mind exercise and it felt good to rejoin the philosophical discussion around a theoretical seminar table, but it’s the chapters following the expository ones that are the real reward for all that thought work. Because in them Plato is back, here in our modern world, and like Socrates he is engaging everyone he meets in dialogue, allowing them all to take another look at their unexamined assumptions.
Plato doesn’t do one-sided lectures, of course, and in these back and forths he is learning too--how to avoid using sexist language for instance. People Plato delves into discussion with include a Google software engineer who thinks crowd-sourcing is the most reliable way to attain information which he equates with wisdom, a book tour escort who is sure she knows how best to live her own life, a Fox news host who’s proud of his rigid beliefs about religion and morality, a neuroscientist who doesn’t believe in conscious free will, and a tiger mom and psychoanalyst who debate with each other and Plato about how best to raise a child. These sections are as substantive as the expository chapters, but they are also sometimes laugh out loud funny. Goldstein has put the fun back into philosophy while making a strong, well reasoned case that it still has relevance in today’s world.
Rebecca Goldstein's Plato at the Googleplex sets that ancient philosopher loose in our world to strip away those modern unexamined assumptions that separate us from true self knowledge. Frank & Ernest have a question for him:
Racing words! With Spritz you read just one word at a time as it flashes briefly on the screen. Why? On the Spritz web page it says:
Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays. Scrolling, pinching, and resizing a reading area doesn’t fix the problem and only frustrates people. Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page.
I gave it a try at http://www.spritzinc.com/ but didn't dig it. I could keep up, just as they promised, but there's no time to ponder, or appreciate an elegant turn of phrase.
A New Yorker blog titled Life is Short, Proust is Long discusses it here: Link
EDIT---Ummm . . . . APRIL FOOLS!?
Tor.com got me. Read on only for the fun of what might have been:
A new Hogwarts series based around Colin Creevey? This was announced by Rowling a few days ago, so maybe I'm the last to know.
Quoted on Tor.com Rowling said:
“I had been wanting to return to the world of Hogwarts for some time,” Rowling explained. “But instead of continuing the timeline forward I wanted to re-approach the relative innocence of the first volumes of the Harry Potter series.” The author went on to explain that she felt stymied as to how to approach this desire until she happened to catch a few minutes of the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie in her hotel room during a convention appearance in the U.S. in 2013.
“Right there, it hit me. Colin Creevey. He’s got such charisma, his innocent impetuousness is clear, and his arc is simultaneously tragic and heroic.” She was further delighted to find a small but fervent fanbase for the character online.
According to Bloomsbury UK, the Adventures of Colin Creevey series will take place in and around the adventures chronicled in the main Harry Potter book series. Readers will see familiar events from a different angle, and Rowling hopes to balance the darker portrayal of Hogwarts in the latter books with Creevey’s more lighthearted view of the school and his classes. “I always regretted that,” the author elaborated. “As the war against Voldemort took precedent I lost the opportunity to portray Hogwarts as a school and a place where young wizards feel welcome.”
I'll take what I can get, but like many other fans I would love to read more about some of the other characters, including Tonks and Lupin.