Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bittersweet Teenage Years--Book to Movie!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Stephen Chbosky

Genre: YA Fiction

I read this book in preparation for the film which comes out in September, starring Emma Watson (the smart and lovely Hermione)! Watch the trailer here . And guess what? The author of the book is directing the movie.

Review: This novel, which has become a modern YA classic since its publication in 1999, is written in the epistolary style, as letters from Charlie to an anonymous friend about the ups and downs of his freshmen year of high school. Two Seniors, Sam and Patrick (sister and brother), befriend Charlie and induct him into a world where he can move from being an observer of life to a real participant, who experiences the beauty and pain of life. The voice and style of the novel sound authentic to a teenage boy, but the novel also touches on issues related to Charlie's experience that would be difficult for even an adult to handle. Follow Charlie on the best and worst year of his life.

Song to Read By: "Asleep" by The Smiths, as featured in Charlie's mix tape in the novel

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Disturbing Tale of Rural Sweden

by Therese Bohman

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Review:  This mystery is different from crime novels readers have come to expect from Scandinavia. In this novel, twenty-year-old art history student Marina visits her older sister, Stella, in the countryside of Sweden. The sensual descriptions of the garden, the pond, and the woods make the novel a delight to read; the setting descriptions are as savory as any poem. However, this tale has a darker layer. Something is not quite right with her sister's relationship with the reclusive author, yet Marina finds herself drawn to him. The novel has wonderful layers and symbolism and foreshadowing, clues given in poems and paintings.

Song to Read by: "Fragile No. 4" by Dustin Halloran

Some Kind of Fairy Tale

Some Kind of Fairy Tale
by Graham Swift

Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery/Suspense

Review: Tara arrives home on Christmas Day, surprising her family who has not seen her for twenty years. She looks almost the same as when she disappeared when she is sixteen. Most unbelievable of all, she claims to have been spirited away to the land of the fairies. Her brother Peter insists on getting to the bottom of this, and the novel follows the story of his family and children as well as Tara's sessions with a psychiatrist and her ex-boyfriend Richie's life. The reader is taken to a bizarre land of the fairies, a beautiful yet disturbing place.

Overall, this book was strange but an interesting mystery and well-written.

Song to Read by: "Orinoco Flow" by Enya

Monday, August 27, 2012

One of the Best Books I've Read This Year!

The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

Genre: Literary Fiction

Review: This is one of the best books I've read this year. The premise and writing are both wonderful, almost breathtaking. This book makes you pause and appreciate the world you live in, while anticipating, "What if?"

We follow eleven-year-old Julia and the unraveling of her family and friendships as "the slowing" of the Earth's rotation affects their daily life. Julia must navigate middle school, "the age of miracles," while dealing with an unprecedented event on Earth. At the same time, she struggles with shifting friendships, her first crush, and the weight of being an only child.

Song to read by: "De Usuahia a la Quiaca" from The Motorcycle Diaries soundtrack

Monday, August 20, 2012

Red, White, and Black: An Enchanted Circus

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Literary Adult Fiction

Review: What is "the game"? The novel of an enchanted circus centers around Marco and Celia, two young people who grow up isolated, groomed to perform real magic with their minds. They become mysterious opponents in a puzzling game with a strange venue: the Night Circus. The descriptions of the circus chronicle this delightful confection of an entertainment, with delightful sensory images and magical creations. 

However, near the end, the plot really began to slow, and there are so many characters, it is hard to feel closely tied to one of them and care what happens. 

Conclusion: The novel is well-written, but was not fully engaging for me personally.

Song to Read By: "A Great Divide" by Dustin O'Halloran

Beachcombers: Three Sisters and Satisfying Resolution

by Nancy Thayer

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: If you can't get enough of light summer reads set on Nantucket, then I recommend this novel. Thayer's tale of three  sisters returning home for a summer sounds familiar, but it is that familiarity that will make you feel at home in your vacation reading. Each sister is still coming to terms with the loss of their mother, growing up, and recent problems in their lives. Emma is reeling from the loss of a career and engagement. Lily must decide between a safe proposal or exploring the world. Abbie must chart her own course after mothering her sisters for years. 

Song to Read by: "Life is Wonderful" by Jason Mraz

The Innocents, Re-telling of a Classic

The Innocents
by Francesca Segal

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Review: Rediscover Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence

The Innocents takes this classic novel and sets in modern times, in another well-off, insular community--the snug Jewish haven of North West London. Archer is replaced by Aaron, a confident twenty-something newly engaged to the pink-cheeked Rachel. Ellie, the Madame Olenska character, arrives in town with a sordid and tragic past in America trailing her and Aaron is called upon to help her, yet finds himself bewilderingly attracted to Ellie and all she represents, freedom from his secure place in the community. 

Conclusion: The re-telling is an original piece all on its own, but I hope this book will inspire readers to go back to Edith Wharton's classic as well.

Song to Read By: "An Ending, A Beginning" by Dustin O'Halloran

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Epic Saga of Italy and Love

The Shoemaker's Wife
by Adriana Trigiani

Genre: Popular Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Review: Two hard-working young people from a tiny Alpine village in the Italian Alps must leave their beloved families and travel to America. Their love story is one of just missing each other. When they meet again, it is never the right time for love. They work and they work. 

Little Italy and Industrial Revolution Manhattan are described in beautiful detail. The descriptions of the opera, the great Caruso, and behind-the-scenes at the Metropolitan Opera House were some of my favorite scenes. 

This is a beautifully described and heartfelt love story, which shows a talented author taking her work to the next level.  

Author Website Click to read about some of her other books which I recommend, especially Big Stone Gap and Lucia Lucia. I have also reviewed her YA novel Viola in Reel Life.

Q and A with Author about the Book The story was inspired by her family history!

Song to Read By: "Caruso" as performed by Josh Groban 

Friday, August 10, 2012

An Inspiring Art Book

I am breaking the mold of "100 words or less" to post an Remarkable Women Artists project for my students' art class. 

All quotes from Georgia O’Keeffe, Nature and Abstraction published by the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Vancouver Art Gallery.

Early Work

From the Lake

 New York City Influences

Radiator Building, Night, New York, 1927

The West—Later Years

 book about her New Mexico years

Quotes, Inspiration, Paintings

“Abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint… I found I could say things in color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.”

“I had been taught to work like others and after careful thinking I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done…I decided to start anew—to strip away what I had been taught—to accept as true my own thinking”

About Flower Abstraction—her major early series of flower paintings: “I’m going to paint it big so they will have to look at it…it just amused me, the idea of getting them to see what I saw.”

“Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me, and as I have come to think of painting it is my effort to create an equivalent of paint color for the world—life as I see it.”

Life in the West, 1929

“I never feel at home in the East like I do out here—and finally feeling in the right place again…It is just unbelievable—one perfect day after another.”

1955 Green Patio Door

On painting abstraction from nature
“A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and color put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.”

Black Mesa Landscape, 1930

“The unexplained thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big far beyond my understanding—to understand maybe by trying to put it into form. To find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or over the next hill.”

Ram's Head and White Hollyhock Hills, New Mexico

Finding Inspiration in the World Around Her, In Objects: 
“I have picked flowers where I found them—have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked…I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.” 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Modern-day Jane Eyre

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
by Margot Livesey

Genre: Literary Fiction

Review: Described as a modern-day Jane Eyre, this is the story of Gemma Hardy, an orphan who moved from Iceland to Scotland when her parents died. Her beloved uncle passed away and she was left at the cruel hands of her jealous aunt. Gemma was sent away to a boarding school on scholarship, but she was treated unfairly as an indentured servant. Later she works on the desolate Orkneys as a governess. You keep hoping she will catch a break, but she rarely does, and good things are in disguise. Gemma never gives up and the end was more satisfying than Jane Eyre

My advice: Gemma is a modern heroine, so dig in with a plate of shortbread and a cup of piping hot Earl Grey Tea! 

About the Author: A native Scot, the author has lived in the United States and says the book allowed her to reconnect with her past and that the book is: “infused with my memories of the landscapes where I grew up and of a certain longing for those landscapes.”  

Song to Read By: "We Move Lightly" by Dustin O'Halloran