April 10th, 2012


Book 14: Wallworks

(dangit, I haven't been cross-posting these to this community. hopefully I will remedy that now, and will remember!)

"Wallworks: creating unique environments with surface design and decoration"
by: Akiko Busch

It took me a surprisingly long time to read through this book- even though it is relatively thin, and has lots of pictures, it would do it a disservice to NOT read through the sparse text and descriptions of the work pictured inside.

This is one of those 'how decorators treat walls' kind of books, and it's certainly fun eye-candy and interesting to read on a casual level, but it is actually deeper too- it talks a great deal about WHY people use the techniques and styles shown... what artists or historical examples made them popular?

It wasn't the best of it's kind, but I still enjoyed it- I think it would be fun for most anyone who likes 'decor' books, but especially to those curious about WHY some styles are the way they are, what defines them, and why they are popular. (or were!)

I gave it a 3 out of 5, and really, maybe it's worth a two for most folks- about as interesting as some magazines, but more encompassing of a wider range of styles, with more information on them.

Books 11 - 20.

11. Faulkner - As I Lay Dying (the corrected text)
Although this was a slim book, I had to concentrate a bit to follow. Still a great book and my first of his books.

12. Hawking - A Brief History Of Time: From The Big Bang To Black Holes
Recent print, an interesting read on subjects I've been interested in for a while. Worth it. :)

13. DeCaussade - Abandonment To Diviine Providence: Loving God In The Present Moment
It was 95 pages but felt much longer, and slightly repetitive. Also not much new to me though easy to follow.

14. Salinger - The Catcher In The Rye (197 pages)
Decided to re-read this since it's been years (like, definitely read pre-2000) from last time. Liked it for different reasons this time... feel amused remembering the enthusiastic amazament of the first time(s?). XD

15. St Francis De Sales - Set Your Heart Free
Daily readings in poetry form with a daily sentence to ponder on. Now I just read through but I might use it later.

16. Frost & Steketee - Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding & The Meaning Of Things
Read due to watching a CSI episode about hoarding (which was decent), this was informative and worthy reading even if I don't know anyone like this (including myself :P ).

17. Anderson & Chávez - Our Lady Of Guadalupe: Mother Of The Civilization Of Love
About the history of this, the details, its effect and things it points for us to think about. Not a devotion I'm likely to take but one I still like anyway :)

18. Collins - CSI: Sin City
Reading like a decent episode even though I was spoiled of the ending (which I didn't mind).

19. Allen - Pray, Hope & Don't Worry: True Stories Of Padre Pio
Stories of people's meetings with him, miracles that happened because of devotion to him, etc. Worth reading.

20. Schwartz - The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less
For some reasons this writer's writing style or how he puts it didn't quite make me feel comfortable even when everything told was informative and worth it. Made notes on tips about choosing and put this in the 'going away to the library' pile. Good to read first before buying.
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#36 A Map of Glass - Jane Urquhart (2006)

This is the fourth novel by Jane Urquart that I have read, and once again I am impressed with her beautiful evocotive prose. I was drawn in immediately to the Canadian landscape in particular as well as into the lives of the people who inhabit it.

Sylvia is a middle aged woman, married to a country doctor and living in the house she grew up in. She has what is referred to by everyone as a “condition” although what it is, is never specified, she cannot stand to be touched, she seems to see the world differently to other people. Her husband Malcolm understands her, he accepted the limits the condition placed upon their marriage. Yet years earlier Sylvia had met and fell in love with Andrew. They parted and then came together again, before Andrew’s own illness parted them forever. Andrew’s body is found frozen in the ice along the shore of a small island near Lake Ontario by a young artist Jerome. When Sylvia reads of this in the paper she feels compelled to visit the city where Jerome lives and talk to the man who found her lover. She takes with her Andrew’s note books that tell another story, the story of Andrew’s family on Timber Island. Starting with his great grandfather Joseph Woodman who started a business selling the timber that surrounded them.

The story of Sylvia and Jerome is told in two parts, with the story related by Andrew in his note books narrated in between them. This second story which is mainly about Andrew’s grandfather Branwell and his sister Annabelle is just as engaging and beautifully written as Sylvia’s story, however it did interrupt the flow of the main narrative for me to begin with. The prose is beautiful, rich with the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian landscape and the history of the region.

This is an enormously readable novel, engaging and very well written it explores poigantly love, loss and memory and how the past so often can reach out and touch us in the present.

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#37 Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther - Elizabeth Von Arnim (1907)

Having discovered not long ago that Elizabeth Von Arnim novels are available free from such sites as Project Gutenberg, Many books.net and Girlebooks, I promptly downloaded four. I am puzzled how Amazon can justify still charging for these kindle books . I think however that these are the sort of books I might like to own in book format and will continue to keep an eye out for reasonably priced copies. In fact I found a nice Virago green edition of The Enchanted April just yesterday while in Hay on Wye.

This is just the second Elizabeth Von Arnim novel I have read, the first earlier this year was The Enchanted April. This is quite different from that novel, and although I enjoyed it, I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much. There is much to commend it though and the writing is certainly lovely. The novel is an epistalory novel, with a difference, as there is just one correspondent, the Miss Schmidt of the title. She is in Jena a small town in Germany and she is writing to Roger Anstruther in London, a former lodger with her family. As the novel opens she is addressing him as Roger, telling him she loves him., However it becomes clear that the replies she is receiving are not so effusive and the reader fears for Rose-Marie Schmidt, and is sure that Mr Anstruther is not worthy of this lively and intelligent letter writer. It is therefore quite poignant when Rose-Marie’s letter openings change to Dear Mr Anstruther.

The letters continue over the next year and through Fraulein Schmidt’s letters we see the changes that come to both their lives. The fortunes of the Schmidt family change quite considerably, but Rose-Marie embraces life and all it brings and tells all to her friend Mr Anstruther in her most charming letters full of chatty observations, small town anecdotes and worldly big sister type advice.

Rose-Marie Schmidt is a lovely character, it’s a testament to the excellent writing of Elizabeth Von Arnim, that the personality of this intelligent optimistic young woman comes through so sympathetically in the descriptions of her quiet life and interactions with the people around her

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Having been a fan of the Pendergast books by Preston and Child, I decided it was high time to start reading the other works they’ve produced as a writing duo.

“Thunderhead” seemed a good choice, because it introduces archaeologist Nora Kelly, who features prominently in several of the Pendergast novels. Getting more background information on her was appealing to me, because Nora has always been a strong character and added great depth to the novels in which she’s appeared; however, a part of me was curious to see if I would like her as much in a standalone story.

The premise of Thunderhead is this: Archaeologist Nora Kelly is at a crossroads in her career, dissatisfied with her current projects and unsure of how to change that. But when a violent encounter in her childhood home leaves in possession of a letter written by her vanished father, her life suddenly changes.

In the 16-year-old letter, her father claims to have discovered Quivira, the lost city of the Anasazi Indians which is fabled to been a treasure trove of gold. Quickly mounting an expedition and backed by the Institute’s credibility and funding, her team travels deep into the remote desert and harsh canyons.

When the team finally reaches their destination, they discover an archaeological dream which quickly morphs into a horrific nightmare.

Preston and Child have a gift for solidly grounding their fiction stories in fact, which comes from extensive research. “Thunderhead” is no different, and I think it’s because they sprinkle fact within fiction that their stories are highly believable. It’s easily apparent that much time was spent researching Plains Indian culture. Without ever falling into Native stereotypes, they create a culture that could have easily inhabited the Southwest so many years ago. Weaving in accounts of early Spanish explorers helped strengthen that back story.

By the time Nora and her team reach Quivira, the reader already has the mythos of the Anasazi firmly embedded in their minds. As the story progresses and the horror of what truly occurred at the fabled city emerge, it easily meshes with the established history.

Fast-paced action scenes, believable tensions between strong-willed personalities and the ominous backdrop of the harsh Southwest all combine to form a spellbinding tale. When it finally came to a conclusion, I was pleased to discover I liked Nora Kelly even more than when I began the novel.

Readers should note that there are several particularly gruesome deaths throughout the novel, but they are never gratuitous and always serve to further the plot.

*If you liked this review, please check out my new book review blog: ReadThisBook.

Books completed: 6/50

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#38 Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton (1911)

I first read Edith Wharton a very long time ago when I may have been a bit too young to appreciate her writing. I read A House of Mirth earlier this year and loved it. So having determined to read more by Edith Wharton I downloaded Ethan Frome to my kindle after reading a review of it on another book blog.
This is a short novel – a novella in fact. Set in Massachusetts the story revolves around three main characters. A stranger arrives in town and sees the broken figure of Ethan Frome outside the post office – in the coming days he is able to learn something of Ethan’s life and the events which lead to the accident which left him maimed.
Ethan is married to Zenobia, (or Zeena) an older wife apparently sickly she focuses all her energies on her health. Into their poor home comes Mattie Silver, Zenobia’s young cousin. Ethan finds himself trapped in an unhappy unfulfilling life – he develops strong feelings for Mattie who in turn seems to share his feelings. In Mattie Ethan sees the possibilities of a happy life – he imagines how this could be achieved.
Right from the start the reader just knows this story will not be a happy ever after. The tension in the story is perfect as it builds slowly, and the characters beautifully crafted and observed. It is quite wonderful how Edith Wharton has managed to create a sense of past and present for these tragic characters. The ending therefore is horribly inevitable. Set against a backdrop of a Massachusetts winter, the bleak surroundings of the Frome small holding and the bitter dynamics of the three people who live there make for an enormously readable story. The beautiful cold stark imagery that Wharton managed to portray in her writing, will I imagine stay with me for a long time.